“No One Walks in and Gets a Talk Show, Greg” Why you should take every shot you get.

I still remember about 12 years ago, sitting with my television agent Greg Lipstone at a sandwich shop in Los Angeles. Greg was one of the heads of television for the mega-entertainment agency William Morris. We had a few meetings scheduled with television show runners to talk about a drama series I had thought up, but there was a 90-minute gap between those meetings. We finished our sandwiches in about 15 minutes, then Greg looked at me and said, “You know, I’ve always thought you would be great as a talk show host. Warner Brothers is right across the street. We’ve got some time to kill. Let’s walk over and see if anyone will take a meeting.”

I was fresh off what had felt like a big disappointment to me. Expert Witness, a television pilot I had sold to CBS and executive produced (with Matthew Modine in the leading role), hadn’t been ordered as a series by the network (even though they spent $5 million on the pilot). I wasn’t up for pie-in-the-sky ideas. “Greg,” I said. “I want to stick with projects that might actually get produced. No one walks in and gets a talk show. No one gets a talk show, period, pretty much. It’s one in a million.”

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s true.” He finished his bag of chips, while we talked about my kids and his kids. Then he looked up at me, again, and said, “We might as well just go over there, right? We have too much time to just sit here.”

I decided to humor him. I mean, I figured the whole thing might make for a few laughs on the way back down to the Warner Brothers lobby, after a very quick don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you discussion, with an executive assistant, upstairs.

Greg and I took the elevator up to the Telepictures offices (the television syndication arm of Warner Brothers). He walked up to the receptionist in the lobby. “I wondered if Lisa Hackner might be around,” he said. I didn’t know it, but Lisa Hackner had worked with Tyra Banks and other talk show hosts.

“What can I tell her this is about?” the receptionist asked.

“Please tell her Greg Lipstone is here, and I just want five minutes to introduce her to a psychiatrist who I think would be great on television,” Greg said.

The assistant picked up the phone and delivered the message. I was ready for a semi-polite dismissal. Instead, she looked at us and said, “Lisa’s eating lunch, but if that doesn’t bother you, she said I could show you to her office.”

Well, that hadn’t gone at all the way I’d thought it would.

Two hours later, after telling Lisa what I loved about working with patients and why I thought moments of searing insight could be achieved, even on a talk show, she asked me if I could stay an extra two days in Los Angeles, if she could pretty much promise me a contract for a talk show by the end of the two days.

I decided to humor her, just like I had Greg. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll stay. But if you talk about contracts with, say, 20 percent the people who come by for lunch, when only 1 in 1,000 really happen, then I could go home before the weekend, which would be okay, too.”

“I don’t talk about contracts after one meeting, basically, ever,” she said.

Two days later, much to my surprise, I signed a contract for the pilot of The Dr. Keith Ablow Show, which was taped at Rockefeller Center and ran for a full year—180 episodes, as I recall—in over 90 percent of the nation.

Lesson learned: Do not assume that lightning cannot strike. Do not be afraid to ask for exactly what you want, as a creator. In artistic endeavors, take every shot you get.

What would you love to do? Who are the gatekeepers and stakeholders you need to reach to make it happen? Don’t assume you can’t connect with them or that your ideas won’t move them. And if you want to team up with someone to make that happen, I’m right here. Just let me know. Because I’m convinced now that the universe brings people together, often at just the right times, for just the right reasons.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative, Inc.

Creative Crisis Management

A crisis is a disruption in one’s life story, whether the particular disruption is personal, professional or political. That’s why every crisis requires creative vision, in order to emerge with as little damage as possible—or, preferably, stronger than ever.

In the midst of the crisis, it can be difficult to see the possibility of surviving intact, let alone thriving. And that’s why having someone on board who can see that potential and move methodically toward it is so important.

First, let’s begin with the matter of mindset: I always tell anyone I work with who is faced with a crisis—however daunting it may seem—that the universe intends for the circumstances at hand to partly or substantially remake, not destroy, that individual. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be stress (maybe great stress) involved in the transformation. Life teaches tough lessons, at times. But the end result can always, always be a new beginning.

That mindset should be embraced like an amulet that can protect the person in crisis from becoming paralyzed by panic. The best questions to be asking oneself when crises arise are:

1) In what way am I being asked by the universe (or God, if you are a religious person) to become stronger?

2) How can I use everything that unfolds during this crisis to educate and enlighten people to positive lessons about what I am learning about myself, my company or the world around me?

3) After this storm passes (which it will), what new horizons will I see laid out before me?

Next, start “writing.” I put that word in quotes because narrative isn’t always the written word. Getting to the next chapters of your life story, or your political campaign’s, or your company’s may involve shoring up your connections with key stakeholders, getting your messaging about the crisis in order, putting that message out, thinking about a next galvanizing project and beginning that project. Precisely what that messaging should be, and that project should be, is the heart of the strategic craft of crisis management. Every element of the plan should be authentic to the individual executing it.

There is a real way forward. The creative crisis manager helps define what that path is and then walks it alongside the person or the people who find themselves in a storm.

If this sounds like leaning into the wind, it is. And anyone who has been in a storm knows it is the only way to make progress.

I like the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

Keith Ablow, MD

The All Important “Deck” to Secure Start-up Funding

Starting a business has an inevitable element of storytelling to it. First of all, it all starts with an idea, just like a novel does. The idea is an answer to this question: “What if?”

Here are three examples:

• What if people could . . . ?

• What if cell phones could . . .?

• What if an app could . . . ?

The difference between a new business and a novel, of course, is that the new business has to be completely non-fiction. Any element of the idea or the plan that is wishful thinking is a threat to the venture. That’s why the “deck” you’ll send out to potential investors needs to be as airtight as possible. Because anything that requires too big of a “leap of faith” to believe runs the risk of making investors far less likely to invest.

That’s why I spend some of my time consulting to people creating these decks—because as both a novelist and former bestselling NY Times non-fiction writer and Newsweek Fellow, I resonate at a very deep level with any image or language that suggests the writer or creator has veered toward fiction from fact. And those are the places where entrepreneurs need to lean into their decks to explain more about how (exactly) milestones in product development will be accomplished, why (exactly) the proposed marketing of the product or service will work and when (as exactly as possible) revenues will begin and begin to grow.

Entrepreneurs need to be careful to stay with non-fiction, because they are, inherently, artists. They are creating something that did not exist before. So the temptation to be expansive, to the point of unreality, is a real risk. A prediction based on data is A okay. A dream based on creativity and hope, without data, invites cynicism. And it’s often tough for the “author” of the dream (the entrepreneur) to tell the difference.

Yes, a lot of this sounds psychological. As someone who practiced psychiatry for more than 25 years, I’m sure I tend to focus on matters of mind a lot more than others might. But that is also because I have learned that people unconsciously assess ideas at multiple levels.

Here are just five:

1. Is the idea inherently powerful?
2. Is the idea unique?
3. Is the idea presented with confidence?
4. Is the idea presented with candor?
5. Is the path to profit very credible?

If you need help making sure you address all five questions, don’t hesitate to involve someone outside the circle of innovators and creators who came up with the idea or who stand to gain from it. A well-intentioned cynic, on your side, can be invaluable.

Keith Ablow

DON’T BE AFRAID TO LOOK AWAY FROM THE CAMERA (AND THREE OTHER TIPS FOR TV INTERVIEWS)

For executives, authors, attorneys or anyone who is not a veteran of on-camera work, it can be daunting when a news event or a publicity tour means going in front of the camera. Sitting in a small room for a satellite interview, with an earpiece in your ear and a video camera lens pointed at you, isn’t anything like having a normal discussion. Neither is a sit-down interview with a journalist who has question after question for you. Either situation can end up making you look or sound ill-at-ease.

Helping people get comfortable in front of television cameras is part of the consulting work I do. Providing comprehensive coaching to reach your goals. But I’ll share with you four bits of free advice right now on how to triumph over television as a medium.


1 – Look Away

Don’t be afraid to briefly look away from the camera or from the interviewer when you’re talking, as you would if you were in a regular discussion. Too many people who are interviewed on-camera stare straight into the lens or ceaselessly at their interviewers. You will look much more experienced and far more natural if you glance away from time-to-time, as if gathering your thoughts. Then you can look back into the lens of the camera or back into the eyes of your interviewer.


2 – Energy

Be about 50 percent more energized than you think you should be. Television dramatically reduces the energy level that viewers perceive in guests. In order to appear engaged and engaging, you’ll need to get comfortable using far more emotion in your voice and facial expressions than usual. Hand gestures help, too. The executive producer of my talk show once told me to feel free to occasionally stand up—literally get up, out of my seat—when I felt surprised by something a guest on the show said. “When you’re on camera,” she said, “you’ll need to be more animated than you would ever think to be off-camera. Otherwise, you’ll seem dull.”


3 – Sound Bites

Talk in sound bites, so that your comments are easy to use on television broadcasts. This means making sure that your answers are self-contained (with a beginning, middle and end) and relatively short – say, 15-30 seconds, if possible. It’s even better if the self-contained answers you give include an element of drama that makes them headline-worthy. An example: Ted Smith calls Apple rotten fruit. That kind of thing.


4 – Take a Pause

Pause for effect. You can pause, or pause and nod, gathering your thoughts, especially when you want viewers to sit closer to the edge of their seats. Television reduces energy levels, but it increases the dramatic impact of silence. So, use it.


Use these four tips, and you’ll be 75 percent better than most people are on camera.

What’s the rest of the recipe for success? Coaching. Appearing on television is no different from any other skill. You build it with feedback and fine-tuning. Whether you reach out to me, or to another coach, don’t hesitate to invest the time. Being a pro on-camera doesn’t take many practice sessions and can pay huge dividends, down the road.

Keith Ablow, MD

ONE QUESTION THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

There are lots of people out there who need a bit of encouragement.  And, sometimes, just one thought can turn the tide in favor of fighting a little harder or having a bit more hope.  So I’m going to let you in on one question I share with clients of mine who seem ready to throw in the towel and give up on themselves.

HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED THAT NO ONE WALKS OUT OF A MOVIE JUST BECAUSE THE LEAD CHARACTER IS IN TROUBLE?

Think about that. When a character played by Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts or Will Smith is up against it, when everything seems to be spiraling out of control in that person’s life, do you see anyone mutter, “Well, looks like he’s screwed, let’s go,” then get up and head for the exit? No.  That would be ridiculous, right?  Everyone stays in his or her seat, thinking, “I wonder what’s going to happen.” Or, “How’s she going to overcome this trouble?”  Or people look at their watches, expectantly wondering how everything is going to turn in favor of the lead character before the film ends.

One of the only times we are vulnerable to walking out on an unfolding narrative, losing faith that everything can still turn out for the best, is when the story is our own—when we are the lead characters. That’s when we are at risk to stand up and walk right out of the theatre.

I’ve had those feelings.  I’m human.  Recently, I had to deal with multiple bizarre lawsuits (which were all resolved, thank God) and then go to court and listen to a woman claim I was stalking her (a claim the judge, thank God, threw right out of court).  Watching all that unfold was like watching a double feature of horror films.

But I’m here to tell you that it makes no more sense to walk out on our own possibilities for victory and redemption than it does to walk out on those of a lead character in a film.  As long as we are living and breathing, as long as there is time left on the clock counting down our days on this planet, we have every reason to believe that we can still triumph over adversity.  The necessary ingredient is belief—faith.  Because faith insulates us from despair and fuels the fight inside us.  With faith, all is possible.

Are you feeling like walking out on your potential? On your dreams?  On your family?  On your sobriety?  God forbid, on your life?  I am telling you this, with unwavering certainty:  If you can at least resolve to stay in your seat and take an interest in the evolving narrative of your own existence, leaving the door open to every possibility, then you will be restored.

Now, let me tell you a secret (and if you already knew it, all the better): You can actually create your own storyline through the miracle of intention.  You can resolve that events turn in your favor, just like a screenwriter would script the triumph of a lead character in a film. And your resolve will make it so.

Keith Ablow, MD

Dr. Keith Ablow is the Founder of The Ablow Center.

 

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THE BEST FEDEX DELIVERY, EVER

It was not a good day, in a string of not very good days. I had been battling a series of bizarre legal cases that had made headlines and were weighing me down.  I wish I could say, otherwise, but I’m not entirely immune to worrying about what others think of me, even when I know the truth, so I found myself wondering if I would be held in contempt by most everyone in my home town, until I could make all the facts known.  And that could take years.

I was literally burdened by these very thoughts when the doorbell to my office rang.  I looked out the windows atop my front door and saw a Fedex hat.  I had a delivery.

Now, I can tell you that the specter of overnight mail, in the midst of legal cases, pleases no one, and I am no exception.  I imagine I looked something between burdened and burnt out when I opened the door.  “Hi,” I managed.

The fellow at my door had been to my office plenty of times with plenty of packages, and we’d had just a bit of time to chat about news headlines.  He had known that I had been a Fox News Contributor for a decade, and I had learned he had a keen interest in media. “Hi,” he said.

I searched his hands to see whether it was a Fedex letter he was delivering, which I would have assumed to be nothing good.  A package, on the other hand, might be nutrition bars, to which I am, for all intents and purposes, addicted.  But he didn’t seem to be holding anything at all. I looked at him.  “Need a hand with something from the truck?” I asked.

“No,” he said.  “I don’t have a delivery for you.  I just wanted to check in to make sure you’re doing alright.”

Those words reached something deep inside me, at the level of the soul.  Because I was on the ropes and wondering whether most folks had written me off, and this man had come to my door to check on me.  We weren’t family.  We weren’t even what the world would consider friends.  But we had obviously established an extraordinary connection, though we had exchanged relatively few words, on relatively few occasions.  And if that is not evidence of the fundamental decency of human beings, connected by the Universe, or by God, or by whatever you might like to call the immeasurable force that binds us, inexorably, one to another, then I don’t know what is.

I got choked up, but I think I did a good job of hiding it.  “I’m fighting the good fight,” I said.  I didn’t want to meet his kindness with just bravado, so I added, “Hey, it’s not an easy time, you know?”

“Oh, I know,” he said, looking straight at me.  “That’s why I figured I would stop by and let you know that these things pass.  You have a lot of people in this town who appreciate what you’ve done for them.”

“Thank you,” I said.  I thought of extending my hand to shake his, but that seemed as though it would be awkward.  I even thought of inviting him in for coffee, but that seemed even more awkward.

He must have intuited my discomfort.  “I’ve got to get the deliveries out,” he said. “You hang in there.  I’ll see you soon.  You’re always getting something or other.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Thanks, Man.”

He nodded, turned and walked back toward his truck.

I closed the door.  The challenges I was facing were no less substantial than they had been minutes ago.  But my view of the world in which I would meet those challenges was brighter than it had been. And my sense that I had the Almighty by my side for the journey was stronger, too.

Keith Ablow, MD

 

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Rebirth In This Lifetime

Rebirth is not something I associate only with life after death, nor only with the Christian notion of being “born again.” I see rebirth happening in my counseling clients’ lives all the time, as they achieve new understandings of the ways in which earlier chapters in their life histories have unconsciously limited them and then begin to choose directions in life that are truer to them. This awakening to the self is often profound enough to constitute a rebirth in this lifetime.

 

The Self is Sacred

Each of us is imbued by God or the universe with thoughts, feelings, opinions, dreams and goals that constitute our inner self. This means each of us as has a unique purpose in life and unique potentials.  That fact is nothing short of miraculous.

Seldom does a person realize his or her deepest purpose and most powerful potential without false starts, detours, periods of underperforming and other periods of significant, sometimes profound, struggle or pain.  All of these, however, can set the stage for a rebirth as an individual far truer to his or her core self.

 

Adversity and the Self

It is often, in fact, through adversity that rebirth of the self becomes possible.  Success is wonderful, but generally leads to more cycles of sameness. Human beings don’t tend to change what they are doing, when they are being rewarded for doing it.  When we encounter storms in life, however, we have the chance, sometimes at the edge of utter darkness, to reach deep into our core selves and not only survive, but discover our most pure and powerful paths forward.

It is often when our backs are to the wall that we discover levels of courage we didn’t realize we had inside us.  It is often when our finances falter that we finally choose the richness of our true career intentions.  It is sometimes when our relationships are most challenged that we can finally feel the love that has quietly sustained them, all along.

 

Waiting for Rebirth

When we encounter trials in life, it can feel as though the sun is in perpetual eclipse.  But this is never the case.  The sun always, always reemerges, often illuminating a renewed individual, with more wisdom and with more clarity about how to live life more honestly and completely.  Having faith that this process is underway is what allows a person in a “dark night of the soul” to keep his or her eyes open for new chapters of his or her life story.

According to the Bible (Isaiah 43: 18-19), “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

 

Finding a Guide through the Dark

It can be tremendously helpful to find someone to help navigate the winding road that leads to rebirth.  This is the terrain of psychologists, psychiatrists, pastoral counselors, life coaches and clergy.  In the best cases, any of these professionals are searching for their clients’ true selves.  Because then a non-fiction narrative of that person’s life, going forward, can be visualized and internalized and actualized.  And, for all intents and purposes, a person who comes to be in command of his or her non-fiction story—a story he or she was meantto live out—is a person who has undergone rebirth in this lifetime.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

Founder, The Ablow Center

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WHY TALKING TO YOURSELF ISN’T CRAZY

Somehow, the idea of talking to yourself got a bad reputation as a sign of mental instability.  Think of the television stereotype of the afflicted fellow mumbling to himself at the bus stop. But the truth is that talking to yourself can be a very powerful way to fight anxiety and depression and set the stage for extraordinary personal empowerment.

 

Who’s Listening, Anyhow? 

The reason that talking to yourself can be so powerful is that none of us is just the person we see in the mirror today—with the social skills we have honed, the financial resources we have at hand and a maturity level consistent with being an adult.  In nearly every one of us resides a less well-adjusted self which is still struggling with the disappointments, fears and pain of childhood.  And that self can feel very isolated and alone, because we tend to want to bury it or build thick walls around it.  Let’s call that part of you “the struggling self.”

 

The Struggling Self Often Has No Voice, But It Never Stays Quiet Forever

The struggling self is usually banished from consciousness because all of us want to feel strong.  So we hide the part of us that really feels the full weight of being bullied or unloved—or worse.  We hide it from others and we hide it from ourselves.  And then we push it further and further away using all manner of shields—accumulating power or wealth or being seductive or overeating or drinking too much alcohol or using too much marijuana.

Deprived of being heard, relegated to an echo chamber deep inside us, the struggling self communicates its plight through a lexicon of feelings like anxiety, depression and irritability.

 

We May Refuse to Listen to the Struggling Self, But It Will Listen to Us

When we experience unwieldy feelings of anxiety, or disturbing feelings of depression, or destabilizing anger, one way to overcome them is to identify the most vulnerable time period we’ve lived through—perhaps when we lost someone close to us in childhood, or perhaps when we were powerless to stop someone from hurting us—and literally talk out loud to that younger, more vulnerable self.

What words might you use?  Here’s an example:  Think about a woman in her 50s whose youngest child is leaving for college.  She’s feeling something more intense than empty-nest syndrome, though.  She feels panicked.  And she’s able to identify her father leaving her mother, when she was just 11-years-old, as the source of some of her distress.  She might talk out loud to that younger part of herself and say something like, “Listen, I know I haven’t been willing to think about what you went through when Dad left the house.  You were eleven.  I get it. It had to make you feel completely panicked.  And, then, Dad seemed to stay away forever.  Well, I promise to take the time to go through those feelings with you, to really explore them and listen to them.  And I want to try to comfort you and make you know I care about you.  What might help you out?  What do you need?  Time to think.  Time to walk. Time to read?”

Believe or not, the part of the woman that hasn’t healed since age 11 can hear that kindness and be reassured by it.  And that can be the beginning of reduced anxiety and increased mood.

 

Figure Out How Your Struggling Self Got Created

Each of us who struggles with low mood or anxiety or, for that matter, obsessiveness or problems paying attention, should spend the time to try to discern how the part of ourselves causing this trouble got created and left behind.  Unearthing that storyline is necessary to make the upcoming, healing chapters possible.

 

Need to Be Introduced?

Sometimes it helps to have someone skilled at helping to uncover the struggling self, to define how he or she got created and left behind, and to then make real, healing contact with it.  That’s where a counselor or therapist comes in.  And getting one to make a proper introduction of you to your struggling self will be one of the best investments you ever make.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

Founder, The Ablow Center

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Moses: Personal Empowerment Personified

In the Book of Exodus, Moses encounters a burning bush that was engulfed in flames and, yet, not consumed by them.  It is here that God anoints Moses to go to the Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of slavery, to the Promised Land.

You may not have applied the story to your own life, but it is the very essence of personal empowerment.  Here’s why I think it is worth internalizing:  Moses is quick to tell God why he isn’t the right person for the job.  After all, he’s slow of speech and has personal flaws. But God reassures Moses that he is doubting the immeasurable force that gave him a voice, to begin with, and which now calls him to greatness.  When Moses asks by what name he should call God when he visits the Pharaoh, God tells him (roughly translated) that His name is “I am who I am.”

The point is that Moses has a great journey before him and a great calling.  Both have been put in his heart by God.  It matters not that he isn’t glib.  It matters not that he is imperfect.  It matters that he shows faithenough to believe in his heart that he can achieve a great and worthy mission.

 

Imperfections Are Not Stop Signs

You aren’t perfect, either.  You have likely lived through turbulent chapters of your own life story. You may have fallen short and erred, more than once in life.  But the key is still finding the faith to stay on the road to your destiny—the work you were meant to do in this world, from all time.  Said another way, the key to personal empowerment is faith.

W.H. Murray, the famed Scottish mountaineer and writer who served as deputy to Eric Shipton on the Everest Reconnaissance Expedition of 1951, put it this way:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:  that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way.  I have learned a deep respect for Goethe’s couplets:  “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.  Begin it now.”

 

Your Personal Empowerment Serves You and the Rest of the World

In The Seven Wonders(which I co-authored with Glenn Beck), we wrote about the notion of a polestar, which is spoken of in Hinduism, Taoism, Chinese popular religion, Siberian shamanism and other spiritual traditions.  This star, in direct line with the earth’s axis of rotation, is thought of as the anchor of the entire solar system.  And in ancient Vedic wisdom, the polestar is literally Dhruva—a prince who, at age seven, sought out God, despite being told he was too young for such a quest.  He is undaunted, ultimately meets God and is rewarded with his kingdom’s throne.

Glenn and I wrote, “In this sense, the entire universe, according to Vedism, can revolve around one person’s inner resolve to find truth and pursue his or her destiny.”

One of my favorite books is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  In that book he writes, [If you avoid your calling] “you shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.”

Sure, that sounds like pretty heady stuff.  But it is true whether you teach students with passion, defend legal clients with excellence, write in a way that moves people, heal others through your work in a health profession or inspire children as their mother or father, grandmother or grandfather.

 

Personal Empowerment and The Ablow Center

The blend of spiritual counseling, life coaching and mentoring I offer to clients is designed to find and harness inner resolve—to deliver personal empowerment to clients, no matter the ways in which they may feel limited, no matter the hurdles they may have encountered, no matter how many times they may have tripped and fallen.  All of those challenges are actually part of a person’s singular life story, which is part of a greater plan to hone that person for the important journey ahead.

In a very real way we are all Moses.  We may doubt ourselves.  We may doubt our callings.  But the self is miraculous and our callings are gifts from a higher power.  We need only to believe.

 

Keith Ablow

 

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THE WOMAN WITH BURNING FEET

Years ago, I treated an elderly woman who was sent to me because her feet burned relentlessly, from her ankles to the tips of her toes. She could hardly walk. She wept from the pain.

I wrote about this woman, previously [https://www.foxnews.com/health/the-woman-with-burning-feet], but my latest work, as a spiritual counselor and life coach, has made me aware of how God was operating in her life and in our work together.

Internists and neurologists and an endocrinologist had examined this woman repeatedly and had ruled out the usual suspects: an autoimmune disorder, shingles, neuropathy from diabetes. So, they sent her to me because they suspected her problems had to be “in her head.”

Near the end of our first session, she stopped telling me the history of the severe and unusual pain in her feet and looked me directly in the eyes. “You know,” she said, “You remind me of my grandson.”

I was trained not to dismiss such comments as pleasantries or mere coincidence. Everything in the context of a session might have meaning. “Tell me about him,” I said.

“We’re very close,” she said. “He’s always been there for me. Even now, when he’s away, he writes to me every week.”

“I’m glad you have him in your life,” I said. “Has he moved far away?”

“No, no,” she said. “He hasn’t moved. He’s in the army. He’s serving in the Middle East now.”

“I understand.” I wondered whether his absence was involved in this woman’s pain—if only emotionally. “Is he in great danger?” I asked her. “What does he write to you about?”

“He says he’s safe,” she told me. “He says he’ll be OK. The thing that bothers him the most is the heat. It’s so hot there. The sand is the biggest thing. It gets hot like fire. Even with his boots, it burns his . . .”

I glanced down at her feet.

She glanced down at her feet.

“No,” she said, “That can’t be it.”

“He tells you the sand burns his feet,” I said.

She shook her head and squinted down at her feet, again. “Yes, he does, but . . .”

I sat with this woman for about four meetings over the course of a month or so, and listened to

her tell me just how much I reminded her of her grandson, just how much she really did miss him, how worried she was that he would be killed, how it reminded her of losing her son decades earlier. And, gradually, the pain in her feet went away.

Was that a miracle? Well, it was if you consider the workings of human empathy to be a miracle, which I happen to. I believe that God (or the Universe, if you prefer) is really the healer, and I am helping my clients access that healing energy. I believe it is, indeed, miraculous that a grandmother’s feet can burn because she resonates so completely with the suffering of the grandson she loves. I believe it is miraculous that she could communicate this to a complete stranger (me) with the cautious opening line, “You remind me of my grandson.” I believe it is a miracle that listening to her in a nonjudgmental, “loving” way would help to heal her pain.

The human mind and human body are connected at levels we know precious little about. That’s why this woman’s doctors had sent her to me, even if it was with a dismissive tone, even a bit of contempt that her problems were “in her head.” They knew that mysteries of the soul are behind many mysteries of mind and body.

If a grandmother’s feet can burn like fire because she loves her grandson, and his life is at risk, then certainly we should understand that migraines and stomach pains and back pain and muscle weakness and a host of other physical conditions can have their roots in emotional disturbances. That’s one of the reasons I started www.theablowcenter.com.

Sometimes, the mind—or spirit or soul—makes itself known through the body. And, then, healing has to take place at the level of mind and soul, as well.

Keith Ablow, MD

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