Why is it Critical to Determine if “They” as a Pronoun is Scientifically Defensible?

We stand at an interesting moment in our culture, as do other cultures around the world.  Many millions of people are now being invited to identify themselves not as one gender or another—even if the gender does not match their biological sex.  They are being asked if they identify as no gender at all, but rather as an amalgam of female and male.  And they wish or insist to be referred to as “they” by family, friends, teachers, employers or anyone else.

It is among the most urgent frontiers for scientific inquiry to investigate whether there is a scientific basis upon which the “I am they” movement (an extension of the transgender movement) can be defended.  Because if all of science were to be unable to demonstrate underpinnings of firmly believing that one is not male, nor female, then it might be wise to consider whether that belief is a disordered way of thinking that, traditionally, has been considered illness.

Why?  Why would I rank this subject of scientific inquiry on par with, say, cancer research?  It is because the unexamined acceptance of a massive assertion like “I am they” paves the way for adapting our culture—including our language, of course—in massive ways.  It paves the way for people to insist on all manner of things as real, without the kind of foundation that society has relied upon to grow and to confront challenges. As strange as it may seem, a close cousin of “I am they” could be the assertion that one is disabled, when there is no evidence to suggest it, other than that belief.  Another close cousin could of “I am they” could be the assertion that one has had cancer and defeated it, through a new way of dancing.  If a person can be “they,” then a person can believe, without any diagnostic test whatsoever backing up the assertion, that he or she or “they,” had a massive brain tumor causing headaches (without a CT scan or MRI to corroborate that) and that eating Cheerios cereal made it go away.

The “I am they” movement is, therefore, a direct challenge to all of science.  And if science isn’t going to stand up for itself when under assault, it is going to be a thing of the past.  Note, for instance, how easy it has become for an important government agency to assert at one moment that masks prevent infection with Covid-19 and to assert at another moment that they do not, or that they might, under particular circumstances.

With all the news about UFOs lately, how long do you think it will be before human beings begin asserting they are actually aliens and insisting they be addressed as such.  Funny, right?  No.  It will happen.

Why would I, the Founder of Pain-2-Power, want science to address the “I am they” movement?  Because the presence of the “I am they” movement (and others), if untrue and embraced unchecked, can shake what we might call the true self movement.  It can urge people—including those in the “I am they” movement and others forced to accept it—to exit the path leading to toward true, core identity, from which true strength derives, in favor of a fiction that sets the stage for future problems like depression, anxiety and weakness.

Let’s resolve to do what will be, in some ways and for some people, the painful work of determining if there is a basis for an individual to be regarded and addressed as “they.”  That is the powerful way forward.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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PAIN-2-POWER PERSON OF THE WEEK: BALTIMORE ORIOLES’ TREY MANCINI

Trey Mancini knows what it is to come back from adversity.  We could learn something from him.  See, in March, 2020, Mancini was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.  More people die from stage 3 colon cancer than survive it.  Mancini needed surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment to save his life.  He left the game of baseball for 565 days, then stepped back into the batter’s box for his first at-bat of the 2021 season to a standing ovation from the Orioles’ fans.

Mancini is batting a respectable .256 this season and has played in the vast, vast majority of Orioles’ games.  That’s a remarkable enough feat for someone who had to take a-year-and-a-half away from playing professional baseball.  No, not “remarkable enough.” It’s stunning.

But Mancini had something more in store, not only for the fans in Baltimore who already loved him, but for the rest of us who may not have known about him and now can only marvel at his grit, determination and faith.  Trey Mancini just hit 35 home runs in the first round of this year’s Home Run Derby, setting an all-time record.  35.  Let me say that one more time:  Trey Mancini hit 35 home runs in one night after coming back from stage 3 colon cancer that could have killed him.

The fact that Mancini did this while wearing a Baltimore Orioles’ uniform cannot be overstated.  Baltimore is a city that knows all about comebacks.  I know that because I watched the city’s resurgence under the leadership of the late Mayor William Donald Schaefer while I was a medical student at Johns Hopkins from 1983 to 1987.  Just one of the many facts about Schaefer is that, when the city really felt down on itself, he had Charles Street, one of the main retail/residential streets in the city, repaved with tar mixed with crystalline material that glistened in the sun.  One more fact:  Schaefer effectively stole the National Aquarium from Washington, DC. and planted it at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  He was no political slouch.  And he loved the city with every fiber of his being.

I watched William Donald Schaefer cry on television when the Baltimore Colts left Baltimore in the middle of the night.  And I heard him vow to bring a football franchise—which turned out to be the Ravens—back to the city.  I never forgot the determination in his voice, despite those tears.

Now, Trey Mancini, the survivor, the slugger, the hero will be forever part of Baltimore lore.  And more than that, he will be an inspiration to millions of people battling cancer and looking to hit it out of the park.  And that’s why Trey Mancini is also the Pain-2-Power Person of the Week.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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When You Talk, is it YOU Actually Speaking?

Strange question, right?  It sounds almost rhetorical.  But, it isn’t.  Because the voices we use in life—the roles we adopt—are rarely from our core selves.  We say things we don’t really mean, deep down.  We avoid saying things we do believe, but worry will cost us prestige or cause us to be scorned.  We pursue goals we don’t really treasure, in our heart of hearts.  We maintain interpersonal connections when we know those relationships aren’t good for us.  We shy away from relationships out of fear, when they could be transformational.

Using your real voice, anchored deep and firmly in your very soul is the work of a lifetime.  It is the ultimate journey, and it goes a long way to reducing anxiety and alleviating low mood.  That’s because anxiety and depression are often fueled by the underlying sense that we are not speaking with our own voices—that we are playing a roles, not living authentic lives.

How does this happen—this speaking in other voices?  We get scared.  We worry that we won’t be loved by parents if we say what we really think as kids.  We fear that seeing things for what they really are around us will leave us terrified or paralyzed or alone?  We notice that wearing the “right” clothes or having the “right” position or saying the popular things everyone else is will get us invited to the right birthday parties as a kid or the right dinner parties as an adult.

The thing is:  Faking won’t work.  Speaking in a voice not your own will not only be dispiriting to you; it will ring hollow to others.  Because you can’t fake anything in this life.  Not really.  The whole universe is set up to resonate with the truth.

Can you recapture your voice?  Can you own it, once and for all?  You can.  It will take some work, but nothing like the work it is to try to “act” like a character you are not and have others not notice.

You can begin by voicing one firmly-held opinion that you have believed “for the longest time.”  You can begin by buying a single canvas to start painting.  You can begin by reading those books you’ve been meaning to, “since you can remember.”  You can sign up for a course.  You can call a friend you love, but haven’t seen.

You can also just get quiet.  Meditate.  Use fewer words and listen more.  Engage in a healing relationship with a psychiatrist or psychologist or life coach who you can speak freely to, from your core.  The tide of self will come rolling in.  It has to.  It has been waiting for you to take down the dam in its way.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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

Why Your Story Matters

Every one of us has a story.  The roots of each of our stories reaches deeper than we can remember and has chapters in previous generations.  Some of the “backstory” that set the stage for your journey, challenges and gifts involves psychological dynamics that unfolded many years ago, setting the stage for the kind of parenting you received and the messages you heard about whether to follow your dreams or ignore them, take risks or not, insist on truth and real love or not.

Part of your story is encoded in the DNA passed down to you through the generations, too.  Are you muscular and athletic or not?  Are you particularly intuitive or not?  Are you analytically minded or not?  Are you vulnerable to physical illnesses that can disrupt your momentum?  Are you more challenged with weight issues or a tendency toward addiction or a tendency toward obsessiveness?

In order to optimize your life story you need to know everything you can about all the contributions made to it by as many different factors as possible.  What did you live through as a child and adolescent and young adult that shaped your perspectives?  What did your parents live through?  What did their parents live through?  How did the chapters of your life story, to date, reflect unconscious dynamics set in motion by events or influences over which you had no control?

Once you know what has shaped your life story, you have the power to write much more compelling chapters going forward.  You can SEE more clearly how to choose how you wish to act, purely from your core, not as a set of automatic reflexes triggered by conditioning and, therefore, outside your control.

Why put in the work, though?  What difference does it really make whether you get to the bottom of “who you are” and what you are here to do and what you really value?  The answer is simple:  You have elemental, essential worth as part of the fabric of humanity.  You are a thread in the great tapestry of what is being created on this planet.  You and your story matter.

If you free yourself from old, tired influences and habits, in order to be a better listener for your kids, then all the effort of getting to your core self will have been well worth it.  If you burrow to the core of what you value, in order to pursue a profession, or participate in an art form, or put effort into political goals you find meaningful, then not only do you become self-actualized, but all those with whom you interact are elevated.

Only the true, self-actualized you can deliver what the world around you needs and deserves from you.  Yes, it may feel like a risk to burrow to your core and find where your feet feel most solidly planted.  But, I promise you that that perceived risk is a paper tiger.  The real risk is not taking that journey—the journey of a lifetime.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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

Re-Invent Yourself? No. Re-Embrace YourSELF.

People talk about reinventing themselves, as though adopting a new focus for work or a new outlook after a painful divorce or even a new “look” is enough to change the trajectory of their existences.  Certainly, I applaud those who hit rough patches or hurdles and don’t give up, instead summoning new interests and perspectives with which to engage the world.  But, ultimately, there’s no re-creating oneself.  That’s because we are born with a unique self is immutable and indestructible.  The journey of a lifetime, the journey that surely can be painful, but which makes us more and more powerful, is re-embracing our true selves.

What does that mean?  It means that each of us is born with a core ability to think for ourselves, to voice our thoughts, to dream and to manifest those dreams.  We circle this core, in orbits near or far, but what we really need is to embrace it.  We need to go home to it.  That’s where our feet will feel firmly planted.  That’s where our fears will dissipate.  That’s where we can harness intuition and imagination and intelligence to write the best next chapters of our life stories.

There’s nothing left to reinvent once you have truly re-embraced yourSELF.

Re-embracing yourSELF isn’t as daunting as it might sound.  Think of it as a “trust fall.”  Most everyone remembers what it felt like to overcome the anxiety about letting yourself fall backwards, knowing you would hit the ground—hard—if your friend or sibling didn’t do as he or she promised and catch you.  Well, embracing yourSELF is like a trust fall into the unfailing hands of God, or of the Universe, if you like.  It is a trust fall into your own hands, which are, when you claim your greatest potential, the hands of God.

Whether you were “meant” to be a teacher or scientific researcher or entrepreneur or artist or writer or chef, once you accept that fact and re-embrace yourSELF, you won’t be of two minds about moving forward to manifest your greatest gifts.  You won’t be hoping the next wardrobe or job will make all the difference in the world.  You won’t even be thinking that winning the lottery would be the answer to your prayers.  Because wardrobes and jobs and money come and goes.  The self is eternal.  It is waiting for you to live its story.  It is, in fact, the only non-fiction version of your life that you can live.

Do you need to paint?  Do you need to help care for children?  Do you need to cultivate crops, study the stars, defend the innocent as an attorney, invent a new product, reverse an injustice?  If you aren’t pursuing what matters to you, what really matters to you, it’s time to take a step in that direction.  It must be, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.  Because if you are, your SELF is waiting for you to be truer to it, waiting for you to re-embrace it.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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

Pain-2-Power Person of the Week: Cross Kubik

Cross Kubik, 17, of Springfield, Missouri, who some have dubbed the Miracle Kid, returned to the pitching mound this past spring.  That would be remarkable enough, given that he had just beaten leukemia, but there’s a lot more to the story.

See, Cross Kubik was treated for neuroblastoma, a dreaded childhood cancer, at age 2.  He went through a 12-hour surgery to remove the tumor and dozens of rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  He needed other yearly treatments and checkups until he was a teenager and considered “cured.”

Then, during the pandemic, after Kubik’s yearly checkup was canceled, Kubik’s mother Ashley got worried. She had a sense something was wrong.  Really wrong.  She didn’t want to believe it, but her instincts were too powerful to ignore.  So she made sure Cross went to the doctor.  And that’s when he was diagnosed with leukemia triggered by his prior cancer treatment.  That meant more chemotherapy and a bone marrow donation from his younger sister Creighton, to try to save his life.  And he went through it all, without wavering, because of his determination to live and to pitch, again.

Kubik credits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis with saving his life – twice.  And he credits his family.  And he credits his faith in God.

There’s more to the story that speaks to the power of God, by the way.  Kubik plans to attend medical school and become a sports medicine doctor or an oncologist.  Now, take just a minute to think about that.  Is it too much to wonder whether all the pain that Cross Kubik and his father, mother and sisters have gone through for so many years as he confronted cancer might well turn Cross into a powerful healer?  Is there any kid out there who wouldn’t take heart just from visiting with Dr. Cross Kubik, whether at St. Jude’s (Wouldn’t that be something?) or any other hospital, anywhere.  Is it too much to wonder whether the healing in kids facing cancer might actually begin just by hearing the story of the man they are about to meet—the man who will be their doctor?

If you look at yourself or you look at your family or you look at the world and think that there isn’t any sense to it all, think, again.  The whole world is set up for comebacks—one, after another.  And that’s why every kind of pain sets the stage for some kind of power.  We just have to claim it.  That isn’t always easy.  It’s sometimes very, very hard—hard nearly beyond words.  But it is always, always possible.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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

LOVE YOUR FATE

This one isn’t easy.  Love Your Fate.  It’s translated from the Stoic saying, “Amor Fati.”  So, what does it mean?  Well, from the Pain-2-Power perspective it means that life is not random and that the painful chapters of your life story (or the story of your business or your family or your country) are actually opportunities to make you more powerful.  It’s alchemy for the soul.

Here’s a stark example.  Let’s say you were one of 500 warriors on a battlefield.  Across the battlefield you see 10,000 warriors gathering to oppose you.  Amor Fati or Love Your Fate would dictate that you don’t run, that you don’t resign yourself to your certain death, that you don’t even think that there is some chance you might somehow survive.  Instead, you think, “God has set the stage for an incredible show of courage, at the least.  At the most, He has set the stage for a miraculous victory.  I LOVE THIS.”

Now, that’s a really difficult bar to clear, right?  But you will have moments short of bloodshed on a battlefield to love your fate.  Your business can’t seem to win over investors.  Loving your fate might dictate that you celebrate the clear need to refocus, that you love the fact that you are going to have to find the one or two investors who see your vision as you do or even that you love the fact that you’re going to have to slim down the team and work twice as hard.  Whatever it takes.

You can grieve the loss of a relationship or you can love it by dedicating yourself to win it back, by using the loss of it to reflect on yourSELF and emerge stronger or that you will find another relationship and apply all your love and learning to it, in the full expectation that good things will happen from the whole of the journey.

You can bemoan the loss of freedoms in America and the ascent of those who, deep down, hate this country, or you can love the fact that those who despise liberty are making themselves know and that a redoubling of effort on the part of citizens committed to autonomy and human rights will be needed—and will take place.  What a great calling, after all—to be part of a time when every word you speak and every step you take in the direction of preserving what the Founding Fathers intended for this great land actually matters.

My favorite poem is in the same vein as Amor Fati.  It is by Rainer Maria Rilke:

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 

Amor Fati.  Pain-2-Power.  Onward.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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

Pain-2-Power Person of the Week

This week, the Pain-2-Power Person of the Week is every American who is serving or has served in the Armed Forces, upon whom we rely to safeguard the freedoms that allow us to become our true selves.

 

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Dr. Keith Ablow

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

A Short Guide on How to Love

A Short Guide on How to Love is an ambitious title for a blog, but there are essential elements of love that can truly fuel it.  Here are the three key elements:

  • Know that person’s life story.
  • Listen to that person as unerringly as possible, as often as possible.
  • Stand beside that person in the face of adversity.

One, two, three—love.  Does it seem too good to be true?  It isn’t.  And it works for romantic love, for friends you love or for one’s children.

Know the Person’s Life Story

It’s impossible to love a person without knowing his or her life story.  That’s because each of us is a narrative, with chapters reaching all the way back to childhood.  The people and events that shape us become part of that narrative and, without knowing that history, no one can truly “love” the other person.  We can certainly become interested in the other person, “taken with” the other person, even infatuated with the other person. But to love the other person, we must internalize that individual’s journey and, therefore, be a trustworthy custodian of his or her deepest feelings.  And while knowing the high points of someone’s story is nice, true love requires knowing about the low points.  Knowing—really knowing about a person’s pain–binds us most intimately to that person.  It’s easy to read someone’s resume; it’s tougher and far more loving to metaphorically “read” the stories about when that person came up short, felt powerless or acted in ways he or she regrets.  Why?  Because those stories require us to embrace the whole of the other person.  And being embraced wholly is the only way to feel truly loved.

As the late and great author Leo Tolstoy wrote, “When you love someone you love the whole person just as he or she is, and not as you would like them to be.”

Listen to the Person

Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

To love, you must really, really listen to the other person.  That requires getting quiet and focusing, in order to reassure him or her that you’re invested in what she is thinking and feeling and saying.  Human beings want and need to be heard, but it’s rare to truly be heard.  And it feels—as it should—like love.  When you’re really listening you’ll also be ready to ask the next meaningful question and the next one, rather than just settling for the initial, surface-level story you’re hearing.  Those deeper levels of inquiry will allow you to empathize with what you are hearing.  So, when you say, “I’m trying to understand the reasons you’ve not spoken to your sister for years, and something still feels like it’s missing.  Do I have the whole story?  If there’s more to it, I’m all ears.”  People want and need to be coaxed to reveal the deeper levels of what they have lived through and are living through.  The coaxing, when heartfelt, feels like love, because it is.

Stand Beside the Person in the Face of Adversity

Good times are gravy.  Sharing them is part of the joy of life.  And, let’s be honest, it’s easy, too.  Sharing the really tough times is the way you love someone.

To paraphrase an anonymous quote I once read, True love means standing with the other person on good days and standing with him or her even closer on bad days, no matter what.

When you stand with a person against a crowd of detractors, you’re loving that person.  When you show up when he or she is sick, you’re loving that person.  When you note mistakes the person made in relationships or in business or in any other way, but also don’t take a single step away, you’re loving that person.  Painful times are the times that offer your relationship the most potential power.

So . . . there you have it.  Your Short Guide on How to Love.  If it sounds easy, it isn’t.  It’s not supposed to be.  That’s part of the magic, too.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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

TULSI GABBARD: THE PAIN-2-POWER PERSON OF THE WEEK

We have arrived at a time in America when stating the obvious can take tremendous courage.  You probably remember the story of The Emperor Has No Clothes in which only a little child is willing to be truthful and stark and say of the Emperor’s supposedly wonderful attire, “But he hasn’t got anything on.”

Well, only Tulsi Gabbard, the former Congresswoman from Hawaii who ran in the 2020 Presidential election has been willing to say the obvious about Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s repulsive, hateful remark that she is now only willing to be interviewed by black or brown journalists.  Gabbard, who is Hindu and grew up in a multicultural househol said, “Mayor Lightfoot’s blatant anti-white racism is abhorrent,” she wrote. “I call upon President Biden, Kamala Harris, and other leaders of our county—of all races—to join me in calling for Mayor Lightfoot’s resignation. Our leaders must condemn all racism, including anti-white.”

Congresswoman Gabbard is correct—of course.  No politician who refuses an audience with journalists of one race and welcomes an audience with journalists of other races can possibly continue to serve as the mayor of a great American city.  Every day, every hour, every minute she continues to do so is an affront to the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and—to put it quite simply—respect for one’s fellow man.  Lori Lightfoot’s tenure as mayor of Chicago is an affront the principles upon which this nation was founded and an affront to basic human values.  She represents the very worst of divisiveness.

So why would it be that only Congresswoman Gabbard would be so public and direct in her call for Mayor Lightfoot to step down?  Because very few people these days are willing to hazard taking on those who hate others, so long as those others are white.  That’s where we are.  That’s the painful cowardice and hypocrisy that grips us.

Like every painful period in a person’s life or in the life of a nation, however, the pain itself always creates an opening for power.  In this case, that power—to take a risk, to speak one’s mind, to defend fairness and to inspire others to do so—has been exercised by Tulsi Gabbard.

With Memorial Day almost upon us, I should note that Congresswoman Gabbard is a United States Army Reserve officer.  In 2003, she enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard.  In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq, serving as a specialist with the Medical Company, 29th Support Battalion, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.   In March 2007, she graduated from the Alabama Military Academy’s Accelerated Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.  She was deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009 as an Army Military Police officer.  She is a recipient of the Combat Medical Badge and the Meritorious Service Medal and, during 2015, was promoted from the rank of major to that of captain.

With all that service, Congresswoman Gabbard’s most recent willingness to defend liberty is her willingness to challenge the hate speech of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and call for her to resign.  And for that, not to mention her long history of service, she is this week’s Pain-2-Power Person of the Week.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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