Developing a Third Ear

The “third ear” is something counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists spend their careers refining, but others can benefit from developing, as well.  It’s the concept, first introduced by the psychoanalyst Theodor Reik, that human beings can train themselves to listen not just to words that are being spoken by others, but to the deeper meaning behind what is being said—or not said.

The underlying theory is that people often convey important messages about what they are thinking and feeling “between the lines” and that by being both a participant and an observer of conversations, you can “hear” those messages.

This is sometimes referred to as “listening to yourself while listening.”

An example might help.  Years ago, I worked with a woman who was struggling with low mood and relationships filled with conflict.  She spent almost all of our first session describing the complex relationship she had with her mother, a woman who had always made it plain that she was ambivalent about having had a family, rather than devoting more of her time to her career.  And I noticed that I had an uneasy feeling that her initial description of her relationship with her mother might expand to fill that hour and the next one, too—not because the time was absolutely needed, but because other subjects were being avoided.  I “listened” to that sense of unease and then thought about what seemed to be missing from the hour.  At a natural break in the conversation, I said, “I notice that you haven’t mentioned your father at all.  Not once.  Can you tell me about him?”

That question proved to be critical, because the woman’s relationship with her father was profoundly chaotic—so chaotic, in fact, that my client had been attempting to avoid talking about it, entirely.

If you can develop your own third ear, you will not only have a profound tool to connect with others more deeply and meaningfully, you will be training yourself to listen to your inner voice—your instincts and intuition.

Here are some questions to ask yourself while listening to others, in order to exercise your developing “third ear”:

  • I know what we are talking about right now, but is there anything we are avoiding talking about?
  • Why do I feel bored (or anxious or angry or a little bit lost) listening to this individual?  Is he trying to make me cut this meeting short by tiring me out?  Am I resonating with his anxiety?  Do I have the sense he withholding the truth from me—or himself?
  • If I do feel confused, what is it that doesn’t “add up” about this discussion?
  • I’ve asked the same question a few times and can’t seem to get a clear answer.  What might this woman’s motivation be for being evasive?

Depending on what your intuition and instincts tell you about the underlying dynamics potentially at work in the background of a discussion, you can issue invitations to help the person open up more.  You can also ask direct, but empathetic questions open doors to get to know the other person far more.

Here are some examples:

I know you were running late, so we only had half our time to meet.  And maybe it was just the train schedule, but I felt myself sort of wondering if there was any topic you were avoiding bringing up—by cutting our time short.  I want you to know you’re free to schedule, again, if something more is on your mind.

I felt myself wanting to give you a pep talk while you were going over the goals of the project.  Are they worrying you?  Do you have what you need to meet them?

You’ve been so quick to tell me that you have everything covered for your appointment with the doctor.  If there were one thing I could have helped with, that surprised you out of the blue, what would it be?

Developing this sort of “third ear” is a natural outgrowth of the Pain-2-Power process because P-2-P is all about not dodging and weaving around the complex pages or chapters of one’s own life story.  And that journey to the center of oneSELF increases one’s skill and hunger to not remain on the surface of any story.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Avoiding the of Seesaw Repeated Toxic Relationships

I have noticed a negative pattern in many of the clients I work with.  And I want to share it with you, so that you can think about whether it is operating in your own life and try to overcome it.  Here it is:  When a person’s early life history (childhood or adolescence) is marked by a difficult relationship with a parent (or both parents), that person is very likely to respond in one of two ways, as an adult—either by reproducing that relationship with others or by forging completely opposite, but still polarized and painful, relationships with others.

Put simply, when we grow up on a seesaw, many of us will either hold fast to the seat we’re in or run to the one opposite us.  Too few of us find equilibrium at the fulcrum in the middle.

Think about this example: I worked with a man whose father was an authoritarian who took far too much control of his son’s life.  You can picture his son sitting in the seat of the seesaw that was always in the air.  His father vastly outweighed him, emotionally.  So, the man I worked with had come up with an unconscious strategy to avoid being overwhelmed, again.  He chose to marry someone who was so meek that she posed no threat at all of overwhelming him.  She was too dependent on him and too unsure of herself.  What’s more, he chose a business partner who fit the same mold.

You can probably predict the problems that ensued.  These unconscious accommodations to his past pain only set him up for more.  His marriage was lacking because there were times he found himself needing emotional support, but learned that his wife was ill-equipped to give it.  After all, she was probably very unsettled seeing him as anything other than the strong, in-control partner in the relationship.  That was part of the unspoken marriage contract.  Similarly, when he was met with challenges at work that required bold thinking and the willingness to take control during a period of chaos, he was the only one able to summon both.  It was exhausting.  His partner was looking to him for strength, not able to be the source of it.  That was part of the unspoken business contract.  And that left my client feeling alone and very burdened when the business faced any significant challenge.

In order to avoid making similar choices in the future, it was crucial for my client to see clearly how his relationship during childhood and adolescence with his father was “contaminating” his choices of relationships as an adult.  Once he was able to SEE that dynamic and feel some of the pain from being shut down as a kid, he was able to avoid reproducing it.  He started inviting his wife to be more “present” in the relationship, and she took him up on changing their psychological “contract.”  He grew, and she grew.  He actually negotiated adding a third partner—a real partner—at work who was at least as much of a take-control person as he was.

Are you holding on for dear life to the seat of the seesaw you sat in as a much younger person?  Or, just as concerning, have you leapt all the way to the other seat?  If so, it’s time to find equilibrium.  It’s time to find your center.  It’s time to turn your pain into power.

 

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Why Does Everyone Love a Comeback Story?

Some of the most compelling stories are comeback stories.  Take Steve Jobs.  In 1985, he was forced to resign from Apple.  He spent years and hundreds of millions of his investors’ money trying to start a computer company called NeXT.  It didn’t work.  Then, in 1996, Apple bought NeXT and Jobs returned to Apple, making it one of the most iconic companies in the world.

Tiger Woods is another example.  His carefully crafted public persona came crashing down during 2014, with revelations including infidelity.  He suffered through injuries and physical problems that caused his golf game to deteriorate.  He underwent four back surgeries, including spinal fusion and was arrested for a DUI in 2017.  He seemed to have spiraled into darkness from which it might be impossible to emerge.  But on April 14, 2018, in what may be the most improbable sports comeback in history, Tiger won the Masters Golf Tournament.  He was back.

 

           

 

Naturally, I’ve thought about why comeback stories are so powerful a lot since grappling with my own painful challenges over the past few years—challenges that led directly to my founding Pain-2-Power.  And I think the reason is that you can’t come back from a profound defeat, or from spiraling into darkness, or from finding yourself facing a major depression, without finding strength and faith and the will to go on.  You can’t come back without finding yourSELF.  And that journey to self—as the eternal source of one’s true power—reminds everyone that there is a place inside us that remains a well of possibilities and potential and passion, no matter what happens in our lives.  That’s why a comeback story doesn’t move us just to celebrate the person who makes the comeback, it moves us to celebrate the miraculous force that resides inside each of us—a saving force we can dig deep and find, given the will to do so.

The hero’s journey, as described by Joseph Campbell in his iconic book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, makes it clear that the most moving stories of all time include the hero falling into the abyss, experiencing spiritual death and rebirth, being transformed and returning stronger than before.  We are all potentially heroes of this kind.

The parting of the Red Sea, when Moses holds out his staff to make the waters recede so that the Israelites can escape the Egyptian Army, has its metaphor in each of us.  The Resurrection has its metaphor in each of us.

Who among us will not know or has not known suffering?  Who among us will not have to decide whether to take up residence in that suffering or find strength through facing it?  Tremendous power and great potential can be realized when we “decide” not to dissolve into our pain, but, instead, to continue putting forth the effort to walk through it and, thus, be remade by it.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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The Ultimate Self-Help Book, TRUMP YOUR LIFE, Launches June 2, 2020

Morgan James’s new release, Trump Your Life: 25 Life Lessons from the Ups and Downs of The 45th President of the United States by Dr. Keith Ablow and Christian Josi, provides the tools to help people transform their relationships, revolutionize their approach to work, achieve the success they have dreamt of, or revitalize their family, community, or country. Trump Your Life is being released early due to demand and its topic aligning with the political events currently taking place in the U.S.

Nearly 63 million Americans voted Trump into office, making it undeniable that there is much to learn from President Donald Trump and his approach to life. With a foreword from Roger Stone, one of the most famous political operatives in history, Trump Your Life reveals 25 key lessons from President Trump’s life that anyone can master to make his or her life more fulfilling, successful, and powerful. These 25 key lessons enable people to become just as resolute, resourceful, and resilient as the president himself.

Within Trump Your Life, Dr. Keith Ablow and Christian Josi present an in-depth approach that covers a combination of their personal experience with the current president, decades of creative, political, and media work, and their piercing psychological analysis. This approach has allowed Dr. Ablow and Josi to identify 25 key lessons from President Trump’s life that anyone can master to make their own life more fulfilling, successful, and powerful.

Howie Carr, the national radio talk show host, said, “These guys know POTUS and have studied his m.o. up close and personal. Trump Your Life is a great roadmap for personal empowerment!”

Paul Carlucci, former Publisher of the New York Post, said, “Trump Your Life is incredibly entertaining and educational!”

Commander Kirk Lippold USN (Ret) said, “Insightful.  Inspiring.  Unique.  You will not find another book like Trump Your Life.”

And The Mancow (Mancow Muller), of WLS-AM radio, said, “A combination of in-depth personal experience with the President, decades of creative, political and media work and piercing psychological analysis made this book possible.”

 

 

A new website, Trump Your Life Now, features videos from the authors and Mr. Stone.

 

 

Watch Dr. Ablow’s appearance on The Joe Pags Show to discuss the impact of the corona virus shutdown.

About the Author:

Dr. Keith Ablow served for a decade as a Fox News Network Contributor.  He is the author of 16 books, including the New York Times bestseller The 7 Wonders (with Glenn Beck) and the international bestseller Living the Truth. He has appeared as a guest on over 1,000 national television broadcasts, and has written over 500 articles for publications including USA Today, the Boston Herald, the New York Post, Newsweek and Discover.  Dr. Ablow now works with clients one-to-one through his revolutionary new life coaching, counseling and mentoring program Pain-2-Power. He currently resides in Newburyport, MA.

Christian Josi is a leading communications advisor and a veteran of center-right/libertarian politics and non-profit management. He is an author, columnist, internationally known songwriter, and recording artist. Christian has five albums and a host of guest appearances on other artists’ recordings. He is also a documentary film producer, and frequent columnist for a variety of publications. Christian is the Founder and Managing Director of C. Josi & Company, a global communications resource firm based in Virginia Beach and Washington. He currently resides in Virginia Beach, VA.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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What You Create is Forever

There are many reasons to create what your soul calls upon you to create—whether that be a painting, a poem, a blog, or a business.  All of these are works of art.  Whichever one you create is a form of SELF-expression.  And true self-expression is a gift not only to the creator, but to all those who encounter your work.

Another reason to create from your core is that what you create lasts, literally, forever.  Sure, your painting may not be seen by the masses (although it might).  Your poem—even if published—likely won’t be published and republished for centuries.  Your blog may not go viral.  And your business may run only for a time, even if that means it lasts decades.  But here’s the reason what you create lasts forever:  Whether three people or one million people interact with it, those people are changed by it—irrevocably, in some small or larger way.  And, then, every other person they interact with is also changed by it.  The thread of your creative work, once woven into the universe, can never be completely extracted.

This isn’t just true for works of art or a business you start or an idea you generate and share.  This is also true for the family you may have started, for the relationships you played a part in creating, for the opinions you developed and shared, for the kind and encouraging words you speak to others, for the advice you offer.  These are creative acts, too.  And they also last forever.  Because people are works of art and when you alter them, even infinitesimally, the ripples extend to every human being with whom they interact.  On and on and on—forever.  Even when you can’t see or hear or feel the changes your creativity has wrought in the world, please have faith that the changes exist and are immortal.  I promise you this is true.

There’s another aspect to the permanence of creativity to consider.  Do your best.  What you manifest will resonate forever in this universe of ours.  Don’t let that scare you, let it embolden you.  You’re that powerful.

In his stunningly beautiful novel Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger wrote about the way Zooey Glass was taught about this fact by his late brother Seymour.  All the kids in the family went on a television quiz show called “Wise Child” together, regularly.  And when Seymour advised Zooey to shine his shoes before the broadcast, Zooey protested.  The audience couldn’t even see his shoes from where the Glass children sat.  But Seymour corrected him.  He told him to shine his shoes for the Fat Lady, an imaginary woman in the audience who could see everything.  Here’s what Salinger writes (as Zooey):

I’ll tell you a terrible secret.  Are you listening to me?  There isn’t anyone out there  who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady … Don’t you know that?  Don’t you know that secret yet?”

Create. Do your best. What you effort is forever.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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YOU ARE THE CREATOR

So You Had Better Become the Person You Were Always Meant to Be

In order to become the most powerful creative force you can be in the world, you will need to know who you truly are.  What does this mean?  It means you will need to look into yourself, at the deepest levels, to SEE what events, forces, relationships and beliefs in every chapter of your life either contributed to your authenticity as a person or detracted from it.

 

 

Being the person you were meant to be from all time—your authentic self—is the strongest foundation from which to build any creative work.  That is the case because only this authentic self can precisely choose which creative work to focus energy on.  Only this authentic self can summon the creative power to communicate heartfelt ideas and feelings and have them be received at the deepest levels by other people.  Only a real, authentic self can create transformational work that endures over time because it reflects the ultimate creation—the human soul.

To become the person you were meant to be from all time requires some creative work, too.  You need to dispense with denial and explore the early chapters of your life story, shedding the patterns of emotion, thought and behavior that are false fronts—transplants from other powerful (often less than positive) people in your life.  You need to put down the shields you have been deploying to defend against less-than-comforting, or even truly traumatic, events you survived and claim the real person who lived through them.  How else could your creative work be infused with humanity, when humanity is all about feeling and foibles and suffering and surviving?

That’s why Pain-2-Power is a pathway of healing and empowerment I created, in part, for artists, inventors and entrepreneurs to become the most creative forces they can be in our world.  As Carl Jung put it:

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

When you are ready to take this journey, I am ready (and will feel privileged) to take it with you.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Becoming YourSELF Restores True Free Will

We all want to make decisions with a clear mind and take responsibility for them.  Being able to do so is a hallmark of self-determination and also evidence of integrity.  For many people, however, their free will is impinged upon because of nearly automatic patterns of emotion, thought and behavior that may have been set in motion much earlier in life.

Achieving true free will requires identifying these patterns that effectively put your mind on autopilot and actually water down your free will.

Here’s a simple example:  A woman with a father who is very controlling may unconsciously “decide” to never place herself in the position of being overly controlled, again.  All good, so far, right?  But since she was exposed to so much control when very young, her solution is too simplistic:  She unconsciously chooses only men with very low self-esteem who look to her for guidance and support and cannot be full partners in the relationship.  Those men disappoint her, eventually, because they can’t offer support.  And they also resent her because they intuit that she chose them for their weaknesses, not their potential strengths.  The dynamic has resulted in two divorces and several painful one- to two-year relationships.

Was the woman acting with “free will” when she chose her partners.  I would say, no.  Certainly, she was not acting with optimal free will.  She “chose” them, yes.  But she did so based on her extreme need, mostly unconscious, to avoid being overly controlled, as she had been as a child.  Her unconscious solution of finding weak men to partner with overshot the mark—automatically—by a lot.

Here’s another example.  A man who, when he was 13, watched his father descend into a deep depression after losing a business might unconsciously decide to never take the risk of starting his own venture—even if he has a wonderful, creative, promising idea that would likely meet with success.  Is that free will?  I don’t think so.  The man isn’t “free,” because he is enslaved by past events that are triggering automatic self-defeating patterns of emotion, thought and behavior.

In order to achieve true and optimal free will we must rid ourselves of the automatic patterns that too often unconsciously govern our decisions.  We must reclaim our God-given free will by doing the work of identifying the events in our lives that established these patterns and set them in motion.  In so doing we are revisiting the pain in our lives (disappointing or even disastrous relationships) and reclaiming the power of free will in our lives.  Tremendous reservoirs of energy and momentum and self-esteem and success are unleashed in the process.

This is part of the work and the promise of Pain-2-Power, by the way, and one of the reasons it changes lives in such substantial ways.  Pain-2-Power removes resistors in the circuitry of your soul and restores true free will.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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EXPECT GREAT THINGS FROM GENERATION CORONA

We are in the midst of a pandemic that is costing our nation tens of thousands of lives and which has devastated our economy.  What possible silver lining could there be?  Is it impolitic to even suggest one, even as we fight a war against Coronavirus?  I believe it is not only permissible, but helpful, to consider the longer-term effects of this pandemic—not only in terms of the trouble we face and will face, but also in terms of how it will strengthen our nation and our culture.

Consider this:  Adolescents, teenagers and young adults are living through extreme stresses—unprecedented stresses, in a way—while still connecting with their friends through social media, still completing coursework online, still interviewing for jobs (virtually), still going to work at jobs deemed essential and still planning their futures—including starting college, starting careers and moving to other cities.

Yes, all the young people in these age groups are also encountering massive challenges, including anxiety about being infected by the virus, disappointment about missing friends, scuttled graduation ceremonies, the isolation of working from home or losing jobs.  But so many of them -millions of them- are bearing those burdens while remaining optimistic and moving forward, in the ways they can.

Seen this way, we have an army of young people—Generation Corona, if you will—who could turn out to be one of America’s (and the world’s) greatest generations.  They are being tested.  They are experiencing pain.  And they may turn out to be extraordinarily powerful, as a result—realistic, concerned for others, courageous and creative in ways we can only imagine, at this point.

I am not being Pollyanna here.  I know living through crises can also set the stage for emotional challenges years in the future.  I practiced psychiatry for more than 25 years before founding Pain-2-Power.  But why would the pessimistic view of Generation Corona be the more realistic one?  Personally, I don’t think that it is.  I believe in resiliency.  I believe in comeback stories.  And I believe in the potential of these young people.

Abraham Lincoln once wrote a letter to his son’s headmaster that captures some of what I think may be at work in Generation Corona:

Treat him gently, but do not coddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient… let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind. This is a big order, but see what you can do…

No one wanted Coronavirus as a teacher.  Everyone would have us rid of it today, if we could.  But as we contemplate a world changed by it, let’s not forget that the souls of our young are being changed by it, too—and not only in ways they, or we, will forever regret.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Why Your Challenges, Your Strengths and Your Path Forward are Unique

One of the questions that arises again and again as I work with clients—and as I discuss my work with other counselors and coaches—is why one person who lives through major losses in life or whose family dynamics are challenging would find him- or herself very pained by those realities, while someone else with similar losses or relationship issues would appear not to be.

Here’s the short answer:  No one really has anyone else’s life story.  Each of us is truly unique.  There are so many variables that impact our psyches that to try to compare one person’s reaction to any particular stress with that of another person’s just doesn’t work.  Everything matters.

Were you a social person or much more reserved?

Did you have support from a sibling or were you bullied by yours?

Were you physically strong or slight?  Was your family financially stable or were there always financial worries?

Did you move frequently or stay in one town as a child?

Were your parents well-matched or not?

Was there a spiritual dimension to your upbringing or not?

Did you have a best friend to turn to when things seemed especially dark or not?

Did you have a mentor, even for a while, who saw you as special and made that known to you?

Did you find learning relatively easy or have learning challenges?

I could go on and on and on, with hundreds of questions.  That’s the point.  Each and every one of them would matter.  That’s why I frequently say, “Your story matters.”  It really does—in its details and nuances, not just its general themes.  The details significantly influence the patterns you will develop, the challenges you will face and the very personal, individualized path you can take to a more powerful life.

Pain-2-Power is based on this reality:  No one’s life story is anyone else’s life story.  There’s nothing cookie cutter about understanding the forces that operated in one’s past and are influencing one’s present, then harnessing those understandings to become less anxious, happier and more productive, in the future.

Never judge your journey by anyone else’s standards when you struggle to move forward in life or when you design to take the next leap in life.  Invest in understanding yourself.  Yours is a story unlike any other.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Never Settle for Less than Finding The Underlying Cause of Your Anxiety

Science offers us many tools to blunt the symptoms of anxiety.  Benzodiazepine medications like Klonopin and Xanax, though much-maligned as addictive, are also very effective in reducing extremely painful, even paralyzing, symptoms of anxiety.  Ketamine treatments can be very helpful.  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation has its place.  Yet, with all these and other treatments for anxiety, it would be a big mistake to not uncover the underlying source of one’s anxiety.

Yes, genetics can play a role in making a person’s neurochemistry tend toward less serotonin and, therefore, pave the way for a person experiencing anxiety.  But I have never met a single person struggling with anxiety whose life story doesn’t hold essential information about what set the stage for it.  The relevant “pages” of one’s life story could be recent or in the distant past, but they exist and need to be uncovered and understood, in order to create peace of mind.  The same can be said of low or erratic mood, by the way.

I’ll give you just one example.  One of my clients who struggled with profound anxiety grew up in a family that didn’t foster autonomy or independence.  He was discouraged from voicing independent ideas, discouraged from going away to camp, discouraged from going away to college and constantly asked whether he might be feeling ill.  It didn’t take years for him and I to unearth these toxic messages that were the soil in which his anxiety had taken root; we were already talking about these dynamics within a few hours of beginning our work together.  And once we clarified those dynamics and uncovered others, his anxiety began to decrease.  He was able to keep the medicine his psychiatrist prescribed him at very modest levels.  He began working on a business project he had always hoped to pursue.

A psychologist friend of mine has remarked to me that human beings should probably be born at 14-years-old, because being exposed to complex interpersonal dynamics earlier than that creates symptoms like anxiety and mood swings.  Because a child of 6 or 8 or 11 years old can’t look at those dynamics objectively and avoid fallout from them.  To the child, the dynamics seem normal.  How would my client, for example, have known that his mother’s constant questioning of whether he felt ill was anything other than love and concern?  How could he have known that he was being molded into worrying about whether his well-being was constantly at risk?

Of course, he couldn’t have known.  We needed to journey back and uncover that counterproductive pattern of communication and others, in order for him to move past them (as an adult) and pave the way for more confidence, greater optimism and higher self-esteem.

How does this happen?  Why would understanding the toxic messaging or traumatic events or suboptimal communication patterns in one’s life—whether fairly recent or quite long ago—result in an emotional and spiritual reset and set someone free to live a more powerful life?  Here’s the answer:  Human beings are narrative beings.  Having a firm and complete grasp of the life one has already lived—including early chapters of it—is essential to being able to firmly grasp control of one’s life today.  And nothing other than that firm sense of control will do.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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