A Way Home

Going home, for those lucky enough to have had a reasonably good childhood or a beloved family as an adult, has a particular feeling to it.  Even for those of us who live alone, entering our dwellings and closing the door behind us can make us feel protected, sheltered or, at least, less subject to the uninvited, unpredictable influences of the world outside.

There is a “home” inside you, too.  That can be harder to navigate to than your dwelling, though.  That home is the unwavering conviction to stand with your principles against any force trying to make you abandon them and to remind yourself that the ceaseless dramas playing out around you need not sweep you up into them.

I think the best way to return to the home inside you is to look a bit quizzically at those events that might, otherwise, have the power to impact you negatively.  The word “interesting” might accompany that quizzical gaze.

“Interesting” gets you home. –Dr. Keith Ablow

Imagine you get news that a project of yours has gone awry.  The person working with you has quit, the customer for the product you were creating together is balking at continuing as a client and the client’s lawyer has left a phone message to call her.  You can either think, “I can’t believe this is happening.  This is a calamity,” or you can simply think, “Interesting.  Well, that’s quite a turn of events.  Let’s figure this out and make it everything it can be.  Maybe there’s a reason all this is happening.  Maybe I’ll even end up better off than before.”

You could think, “This is a calamity!”  Or you could think, “’Interesting.’  This is quite a turn of events.” –Dr. Keith Ablow

Self-dialogue is extremely powerful as a tool to keep from capsizing in the inevitable stormy seas of life.  And “interesting” is a sturdy mast.

“Interesting” gets you home.  “Ugh,” “I’m screwed,” or any other such negative internal dialogue gets you lost.

I’m not pretending that this thought pattern is an easy one to master.  And you wouldn’t want to go too far with it and become a bystander in your own life.  But what “interesting” can do for you is short-circuit the panic that comes with unpredictable, potentially traumatic events.  It isn’t to be used to make you not respond to important challenges or feel the sadness of profound losses, but it is meant to steady you during those stormy events that might, otherwise, drive you far from home—the one inside you.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

Deciding to Begin a Bold, New Chapter of Your Life Story

I chose the word deciding as the first in the title of this blog because I think you can make that decision and make it stick.

Deciding to move forward with a whole new level of energy and optimism isn’t supposed to be “a thing,” as teenagers and twenty-somethings now put it.  It isn’t convention wisdom.  Conventional wisdom dictates that stars need to align or that the mood has to strike you or that any number of internal hurdles must be cautiously navigated in order to move forward, powerfully, in a new direction.

As a psychiatrist, I know, of course, that unresolved, unconscious emotional turmoil can create resistance to change, not to mention profound suffering.  I am not negating the power of the past to cast long shadows into the future.  And, yet, I also believe that the human mind can be given the permission and coaxed to find the courage to resolve to cast off the psychological shackles that would, otherwise, keep a person frozen in place, possibly for a lifetime.

In order to make the decision to begin a bold, new chapter in your life story, it is important, from the start, to accept that moving forward could be painful—maybe extremely painful—but that the pain will not stop you.  That perspective is critical because it creates some separation —cognitively and emotionally—between you and the discomfort of striking out in a new direction or with renewed resolve or despite the risk.  And once your mind is given that breathing room, it can resolve to move forward in spite of the pain.

Yes, psychological suffering can—when you summon real intention—be seen as an outside force to tackle, not something that defines you.  This is often true even for depression, by the way.  It probably does no one any good to say, “I’m depressed.”  That suggest you are that condition.  Instead, it would be healthier to say, “I have a depression right now that’s really painful, but it’s not going to stop me.”  Is that hard to do?  You bet it is.  Is it possible to do it?  I believe it is.

Accept that moving forward could be painful—maybe extremely painful—but that the pain will not stop you.

–Dr. Keith Ablow

Deciding to start a bold, new chapter in your life often brings pain with it because it is unfamiliar terrain, because it tests your self-esteem (Do I really have what it takes to do this?) and because leaving the familiar behind can trigger a kind of homesickness for what once was—even if it was suboptimal, or much worse than that.

Once you accept that moving forward may be painful, but that that won’t stop you, it’s time to let yourself get a little angry.  There’s a kind of bloodlust aspect to moving forward to become a more complete version of yourself.  You have to kill off the resistance in your way.  You have to get pissed off at the tethers binding you to routine.  You need the kind of warrior energy that hockey teams and football teams feel running onto the field to do battle with their adversaries.

Yes, psychological suffering can—when you summon real intention—be seen as an outside force to tackle, not something that defines you.

–Dr. Keith Ablow

Is there an adversary when you decide to begin a bold, new chapter of your life story?  You bet there is.  There’s more than one, in fact.  There’s the self-defeating psychological call to stay in your lane, even if your lane is a rut.  There are those around you who will tell you not to make waves.  There are people who won’t agree your dream is reasonable or who reject your initial efforts or your work product.

Get fighting mad.  And let that healthy anger grow in the space you’ve created between yourSELF and your pain.  Let yourself swear at the resistance in your way.  Tell it to screw itself, out loud.  Get out of bed in the morning like you mean it, like you’re being called to the green to face an invading army.  Because, you are.

Remember:  Breaking the chains that bind you isn’t likely to feel good.  It’s going to feel like your wrists and ankles might snap before the iron links do.  But, being free of the chains . . . well, that’s a whole other feeling.  It’s called feeling alive.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

“Stop Acting. Take Action.”

I settled on the four words above as a prescription, of sorts, for our times.  Why?  Because we are threatened, as never before, with a loss of our authentic selves, along with incentives to remain passive and ineffective as individuals.  The combination is a perfect storm that can dissolve the self and pave the way for inhuman and carnivorous entities—like the state and big tech—to control everything and everyone.

The first half of this prescription for our times is Stop Acting.  That isn’t easy in a world increasingly dominated by fake-happy posts on Facebook, fake friends on Facebook, poor excuses for chatting on Snapchat, overly dramatic posts on Instagram, false background images on Zoom and a host of other tech “tools” that actually are nothing other than ways of taking away our true selves.

Actors and kids during Halloween and bank robbers wear masks.  The fact that half the world is doing it now is a really bad sign.

–Dr. Keith Ablow

Marshall McLuhan, the famous philosopher and author of Understanding Media, put it this way, “The medium is the message.”  When you relate to people through the same 2-D portal (a screen) that carries entertainment, it is that medium that dominates the message—not you.   You may be a very compelling person, but if your message to another human being comes via a MacBook Pro, you aren’t going to be able to overcome that fact.  You’re pixelated and contained in a rectangular glowing surface, whether you like it or not.  You aren’t truly human, in every sense of the word.  You are, in fact, dehumanized, to an extent.

This makes it extremely important to at least try to be as authentic as possible when using technology to communicate.  It also makes it important to resist the little tricks of the trade, like virtual backgrounds, that only compound the problem.  It also makes it important to not confine one’s communications or connections with others to the confines of a monitor, even in the face of Covid—a pandemic which has also robbed people of their faces, by virtue of mask mandates.

Action becomes the cure for what ails us.

— Dr. Keith Ablow

Actors and kids during Halloween and bank robbers wear masks.  The fact that half the world is now doing it is a really bad sign (because the masks aren’t proven to work to stop Covid, but I promise you they work to stop genuine, authentic, close human connections and communication).

The second half of the prescription is Take Action.  And that’s because action is the antidote to acting, anonymity and dehumanization.  When we act from our core—saying what we think, standing up for what we believe and doing what we believe really matters, we reassert our autonomy and individuality.  We flex our muscles as human beings and resist all the forces that have gathered at this moment in history to turn us into fake news, false drama and nothing more.

Action becomes the cure for what ails us, along with thinking deeply, getting outside, using our muscles to walk and breathe deeply, meditating, loving what is real, for real and being centered.

Keep my prescription in mind as the world tries to take you away from you, tries to take you away from others and tries to deliver you in pixelated, data-driven algorithms to faceless entities like Facebook that profit from putting you in a blender and reducing you to clicks and dollars.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

One Important Thing Abraham Lincoln Knew

Abraham Lincoln said plenty of smart and wise things, but this bit of advice from him is one of my favorites, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Real preparation, Lincoln advises us, is two-thirds of getting the job done.  Yet, though many of us might agree with that vision, lots of us will still have trouble operationalizing it.  That’s because waiting to act can cause worry.  Planning and putting pieces in place to achieve a goal may not feel as good as getting underway.

One way to defeat the worry that leads to launching a business, product, campaign, cause or any project prematurely is to actually write down the timeline that will lead to that launch.  When you can see the steps being taken, just as surely as President Lincoln would have seen the edge of his axe being honed, then you can feel steadied as your momentum builds.

Another way to defeat worry related to doing the needed planning to launch a project is to remind yourself that the world has more room in it for excellence than it does for mediocrity.  Competition abounds.  Cutting corners and quality, by rushing to actualize anything, cuts down on its chances for success.

The world has more room in it for excellence than for mediocrity.

–Keith Ablow, MD

I remember meeting with Sebastian Junger, the author of novel The Perfect Storm, years ago.  I asked him how long it had taken him to write the book.  “Seven years,” he told me.  What was he doing the rest of the time?  He was working as a tree surgeon.  There’s beauty in that because the real tree he was working on—to get it just perfect—was his book.  And that’s one reason it succeeded so dramatically and has a chance to stand the test of time.  I don’t think he could he have written it just as well in three years?  I don’t think he could have written it just as well in six.

If you’re old enough to remember the Ernest & Julio Gallo commercials that insisted, “We will sell no wine before its time,” then you will have one more vantage point to see I’m coming from.  I can’t say that brand resonates with me, but their corporate creed certainly does.

Sharpen your axe.  Your dreams deserve it.

–Keith Ablow, MD

What are some of the elements of creating that actually take time?  For one, thinking about serving the audience you are seeking.  It takes time to truly think about exactly how you would like to do for them—whether adding beauty to their world via art or adding convenience to their lives via technology or adding well-being to their lives via a new health care delivery system.

For another thing, it takes time to think about the non-fiction story that must unfold to actualize your creation.  What sort of team will have to be assembled?  What funding is needed?  What marketing will have to be done?

This certainly isn’t about aim, aim, aim . . . before firing.  It’s not about hesitating to begin.  It is about beginning, in earnest, by beginning effective planning.

Sharpen your axe.  Your dreams deserve it.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

001Dr. Keith Ablow's VennSure

VennSure: A New Way to LOOK at Your Life

001Dr. Keith Ablow's VennSure

I’ve always loved Venn diagrams.  I think they make things clear.  Two circles overlap, leading to a shaded area.  But I have taken the concept further, as a tool I use with clients.  I call it VennSure.

There is no reason to think of a Venn Diagram as a black and white or one-dimensional drawing.  In fact, it can be used to think through all of the factors affecting (intersecting and shading)—in a positive or negative way—one’s company, a particular project, one’s life or a specific relationship.

Thinking first of how VennSure can clarify a relationship and set the stage to change it, picture the relationship as a circle.  Next, think of all of the factors that add to the relationship as smaller circles that shade the central circle with green.  And think of all the factors that detract from the relationship as circles that shade the central circle with red.

Each of the small circles can carry the initials of one of the people in the relationship or the other.  Let’s call those two people Jim Smith and Stacey Worth.

 

“The Venn Diagram can be used as a map to the architecture of a relationship, a company or one’s own life.”

–Dr. Keith Ablow

 

Jim is chronically late for plans with Stacey.  That’s a negative factor in the relationship, so that small circle (with Jim’s initials) overlaps the central Jim-Stacy circle and shades it with red.  On the other hand, Jim is a really good listener, so that small circle (with Jim’s initials) shades the central Jim-Stacy circle with green.

Stacey has trouble not flirting with other men.  So that quality becomes a small circle with her initials that shades the larger, central relationship circle with red.  She’s very generous, though, which translates to a small circle with her initials that shades the larger, central circle with green.

You get the idea.

Using this approach, and a variety of other simple ways to use circles and colors, allows a person to visualize the ways in which a wide variety of issues are impacting a relationship or business project or anything else important to that individual’s life.

 

“Many people need to SEE how factors, both positive and negative, are affecting them and then SEE how to accentuate the positive and diminish the negative.”

–Dr. Keith Ablow

 

It also provides a blueprint for positive change.

I work with my clients to create a strategic plan to free themselves from red shading and increase their exposure to the people, resources or influences that create green shading.  That way they can visualize needed changes and can SEE the evolving improvements in their relationships, business plans, habits, or anything else.

If you’d like to learn a bit more and get started, please visit https://www.drkeithablow.com/vennsure.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

A Startling Fact About Mental Health and Natural Remedies

Pharmaceutical companies keep coming out with one drug after another for depression and anxiety, generating massive profits.  Some of these medications are profoundly effective.  But the storm of new medications misses one crucial fact:  Supplements, when properly selected, can be just as effective for low mood, anxiety, low energy or lack of focus as medications—and without the daunting side effects.

Just take Curcumin.  Curcumin is derived from the spice Turmeric, a plant in the ginger family long appreciated for its medicinal properties.  Curcumin belongs to a class of molecules called polyphenols and is known to exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Oxidation and inflammation have been implicated as causative factors in the development of many chronic diseases and conditions.  These include depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and fatigue.

Here’s something astounding:  In more than one clinical trial Curcumin was found to be equivalent in efficacy to Prozac for the treatment of moderate depression.  That’s without augmenting Curcumin with any of the other natural supplements known to enhance mood.  And there’s no reason why Curcumin can’t be combined with these other supplements, just as psychiatrists combine one antidepressant with another to achieve greater effects.

Prozac is a multi-billion dollar drug first marketed by the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.  Many millions of people take the medication on a daily basis.  It helps lots of them.  But it also has potential side effects, including sexual dysfunction, sleeplessness and anxiety.  Curcumin is not known to have any of these side effects, is far less expensive, requires no prescription and has been linked to increased longevity.

Interestingly enough, prescription antidepressant medications may actually work because they are also anti-inflammatory agents.  Hence, Curcumin and Prozac may even share a key mechanism of action.

Other supplements also exert tremendously beneficial effects on mood and anxiety.  These include Resveratrol, derived from red grapes, L-theanine, DHEA and a number of special probiotics.

The Covid pandemic has motivated people to think more than they ever did about how supplements increase immunity.  It’s time to expand that curiosity into the realm of mood, anxiety, energy, focus and cognitive performance.

Natural remedies also extend beyond supplements.  Bright light therapy (literally being exposed to bright light from inexpensive, desktop or portable devices) has been proven effective as a treatment for depression.  In fact, the light can even be delivered through affordable earbuds that stream bright light, since the light reaches the brain through the eardrums.

Psychiatry’s near-monopoly on agents to effectively raise mood, lower anxiety, increase energy, increase stamina and increase focus is now, effectively, at an end.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.

VAMPIRES ARE REAL

Vampires are real.  No, not the ones that wait until sundown and then come out to sink their fangs into you and drain you of blood.  The real ones are far more subtle and far more dangerous—in part, because they are harder to recognize, sometimes until it is too late, and you are left anemic.

The vampires of whom I speak are emotional vampires.  They’re the ones that need to feast on your energy and self-esteem and life force, in order to offset the fact that their own bone marrow isn’t functioning.  That’s because they are avoiding their own pain, refusing to take the deep look at their own life histories that would empower them.  They can’t be reborn, because they won’t do the work.

It’s worth the time and effort identifying the vampires in your life.  You can do that by thinking who in your existence makes you feel depleted, instead of uplifted.  You can do that by thinking who opposes your dreams and aspirations.  You can do that by figuring out who makes you dependent on them, as though you can’t think for yourself, fend for yourself, create for yourself and achieve for yourSELF.

If you’ve become dependent on a vampire or more than one vampire, its essential you stop transfusing them with your blood (substitute, if you like, your energy).  They won’t stop when you’re feeling lightheaded.  They won’t stop when you faint.  They’ll stop only when you are one of the walking dead, like they are.

Surround yourself, instead, with those who tell you that you should pursue your dreams, that you can achieve them and that you can survive and thrive very well without them (even if they’re willing to help you along the way).

Might it be painful to remove emotional vampires from your life?  Sure.  It’s painful to put weight on a healing leg, in order to strengthen it, too.  It’s painful to do plenty of things in life that empower you.  But that’s no reason to avoid doing them.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Click HERE to schedule a complimentary discovery call with Dr. Keith Ablow.