Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Why Don’t They Stop?

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” This quote from Sigmund Freud says it all when we see people who seem to say or do things that are counter productive to their own growth and happiness. We may wonder why they can’t see that what they are doing is harmful and just stop doing it. We may even judge them to be ungrateful, selfish or weak. The operative word here is ‘judge.’
When we fall into the trap of judging others everyone looses. But when we really try to learn more to understand what is truly happening to someone we know and love an entirely different world opens up to us. Hopefully, it causes us to feel more deeply as our empathy begins to kick in. With knowledge we become more proactive rather than reactive.

Compassion causes us to ‘see the me in you.’ We may at first feel sympathy for someone when we see their suffering but we can only feel empathy when we try to understand and relate by putting ourselves in their shoes. You may be wondering how it’s possible to do this – good question!
By taking the time to observe, listen, read and involve ourselves – even from afar- to really understand what another person is going through it causes us to become more thoughtful, wise and caring human beings. Rather than dismiss a particular behavior as bad or unproductive we push ourselves to try to figure out the ‘why’ behind it.
Maia Szalavitz, author of the recently published book “Unbroken Brain” takes us on a journey that helps us understand the why in addiction and explains the brain changes that take place. We learn that primarily psychological needs rather than just physical desire truly drive addiction but can be changed with learning. She explains why the majority of rehab programs simply don’t work yet gently guides us with first hand knowledge to find those approaches that do work to heal and move forward. 
The topic of addiction is actually more common then we might first believe. Whether we are talking about drinking, using drugs (both legal and illegal) gambling, eating, shopping even cleaning the evidence of addiction is all around us. Some folks with addictions are able to harness their overactive brains and manage their lives. But for many others who have as Freud points out deep seated unexpressed emotions of early trauma they need more time, help and understanding. Approaches that help them see their value rather than their deficits are crucial to overcoming their need for an emotionally escape. It’s obvious from reading her book that Szalavitz has experienced the world of addiction and has devoted her life to helping us understand more deeply and therefore put our tendency of discounting or judging to rest.
When we run across someone who can explain, inspire an educate us so that we become more caring, thoughtful human beings it’s important to pass it on – pay it forward. One thing’s for sure, if you take the time to read this book you will never be the same again. You will never again think to yourself ‘why don’t they just…’ because you’ll be better than that.
Please pass this blog on to anyone you know that might benefit from it. Let’s commit to helping each other on our life journey as we remember ‘A friend walks in when everyone else walks out.’
Have a great few days!

Ready for Positive News?

Often with the 24/7 news cycle we can become dishearten or overwhelmed about so many things that it becomes exhausting. It’s healthy to have a dose of positive news and I have one today! Following up on my blog from last week regarding the extensive use of GMO’s in our foods, it’s time to pat a company on the back for the healthy change they made…without our even knowing it!

Remember the unmistakable taste of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? I’ll bet you can close your eyes and bring back the taste, smell even texture. This product has been a staple for a long, long time in so many American homes. You never had to worry if your kids would eat it…it was a favorite.

The remarkable thing about this story is that over time as the company received concerns from consumers about the artificial favors, preservatives and dyes used in their Mac & Cheese the company listened! Seriously! They quietly responded and changed their recipe in December, 2015 eliminating the ‘artificials’ by substituting them with other healthy spices to make sure this product would taste the same. Using the familiar packaging, they conducted the largest taste tests in history which ended on March 7, 2016. The results are in…they did it! A much healthier choice of ingredients are used in the recipe while still maintaining the same great taste. Congrats to them!!!

If we can change something as popular and long lasting as Mac & Cheese it seems to me that we have hit pay dirt. What this tells us is that as people we can effect change when we truly set our minds to it. It may not be overnight but as my mother used to say, ‘truth always prevails in the end.’ It also shows us that some companies really do listen and care. It puts an image of humanity – rather than mere profit – back into our image of mass corporate culture.

It is reassuring to know that weather we are talking about the food we eat, the politicians we listen to or even the issue of safety in our world…truth will prevail! It gives us hope when we see examples of people, companies even countries trying to make things better rather than simply ignoring us or pointing fingers at ‘the other guy.’ It boils down to caring, responsibility and truth. The Kraft company has raised the bar and little by little others will follow – or be left behind. They must be proud of the positive impact they are having on generations of folks.

With that being said, I think I’ll go fix a box… just talking about it makes me hungry!

Have a great few days!

What are you eating?

When was the last time you could actually smell a tomato in the produce section of your grocery store? Or the last time you ate an egg and it actually tasted like one? How about the last time you were able to truly smell a rose – years, decades? Last summer I blogged about GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) after biking along miles and miles of corn fields in the Midwest that looked absolutely perfect. Every stalk was the same height, fullness, ripeness – you get the picture. Something just felt off. How can this be I wondered? Ahh… there it was a sign indicating these fields were the result of GMO products. More information was necessary.

From 1999 to 2010 farmland in the Midwest lost 80% of its milkweed due to heavy use of the herbicide glyphosate due to widespread planting of GMO crops engineered to resist it. Since milkweed is the food for butterflies there was a significant decline in the Monarch butterfly population. But it’s only butterflies you might be thinking…

Genetically modified organisms are living organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been artificially modified or manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This is not simply a black or white issue… there are shades of gray involved.

In Europe, the U.S. and other countries many people are convinced that GMO’s are bad for the world and pose unknown dangers to human health. On the other hand, proponents say that the use of GMO’s are needed to respond to overpopulation and climate change. There are GMO’s that have caused large reductions in the use of pesticides – a good thing – as well as GMO’s that have made herbicides skyrocket – a bad thing. So what’s the answer?

Actually some foods containing GMO’s have been in our grocery stores since the early 1990’s we just have not been aware of it. As with everything in life awareness is key. But awareness often comes at a cost. In 2012 a bill (Proposition 37) in California was defeated 51% to 49% after 46 million dollars was spent by opponents to labeling GMO products. Monsanto, DuPont, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods and other industry giants did not want to label their products. Whether it is corn, soybeans or the famous (or infamous) GM engineered Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and DNA from the eel-like ocean pout fish that hastens the growth cycle to 1 1/2 years rather than the standard 3 years cycle, effects are evident. Whole Foods and Costco has announced that they will not sell the GM salmon. One has to ask the question – why, why are the industry giants so afraid of allowing us to know what we are eating. Why is labeling such a threat to them? Could it simply boil down to the almighty dollar?

Crops that are bigger, matured faster, and appear to be more perfect specimens seem to be the result of GMO use. As one would guess overall profit is up with these products. But does this make GMO use bad. That’s a complex question that has varied answers. All I know is that when you travel to countries that believe in fresh, farm raised food – without all the bells and whistles that GMO offers – the food tastes different – not just a little bit but a whole lot!

At a minimum we should be aware through labeling if products have been GMO engineered so we can make our own decisions. Congratulations is due to the state of Vermont. As of July, 2016 they will be the first state in the U.S. to achieve through legislation accurate labeling. Any food sold in their state must be labeled if it contains genetically modified ingredients giving consumers the right to know and choose what goes into their bodies.

Maybe the other 49 states will find the courage to stand up to the mega companies and demand the same. One has to question – if there is nothing wrong with GMO’s why the tremendous time and money devoted to hiding the information by refusing to label?

Have a great few days!

Develop a Plan!

Neuroscientists are discovering incredible things about our brains. For instance, did you know that you can’t focus on both a positive and negative experience or memory at the same time? Find that hard to believe? Just try it…our brains simply will not let us hold two opposite or opposing thoughts or feelings at the same time. It forces us to choose. Maybe that’s a good thing because as humans our brains prefer to imprint a negative memory more so than a positive one. Why would this be?

It’s really more logical than we might think. According to Dr. Mark Waldman and other neuroscientists it’s a protective maneuver from our cave/hunting/gathering experiences. Our brains protect us from future threats by storing negative memories which may help us react faster if a new threat approaches than if we allowed ourselves the time to think about something using our conscious mind before reacting. So it’s really a survival technique.

However, we can actually cause our brains to release harmful stress neurochemicals when we continue to perseverate on negative issues. When we think about the negative issues in our lives the brain records them as happening over and over again each time we think about them. That’s why when we ruminate on the possibility of something bad happening we feel more and more exhausted, depressed or out of control. We can fall into the trap of feeling both hopeless and helpless as we spiral downward.

So what’s to be done? Developing a plan to address the issue is essential. Why? We feel more in control when we develop steps to address the concern – a plan gives our brains something to think about rather than allowing it to rehash the problems over and over. We begin to feel hopeful rather than hopeless.

What if the problem is so big and involves someone else who refuses to address it? When we love someone we want to help them and continuing to talk about the need to create a plan may not be heard the first or even the tenth time. Don’t be discouraged or give up. For some they may need to hear the message 30 times or more but little by little you can help them realize that things in life can change for the better – and it takes a plan of action – a belief that success is possible. Just remember the old adage…’inch by inch it’s a cinch’ regardless of the length of the journey it can only be accomplished step by step.

When we develop a plan we change our attitude and our energy. We become proactive rather than reactive as we tap into a reserve of strength from the Universe.

The famous British leader, Winston Churchill said in 1941, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” The enemy comes in many forms but you are more powerful!

Develop and plan and Do It!

You are stronger than you think… take a moment and take stock. Over the past month or week have you had to confront an issue or challenge that you simply did not think would be possible to overcome? Yet, somehow you dug deep to find the strength to carry on and develop a plan to address the circumstance. You persisted until you could and see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel and form a plan. Where did your strength come from… was it there all along just waiting to be tapped?

The answer to the question is yes…simply yes – but the reason behind the yes is even more enlightening because it was due to something called resiliency. Some people develop it early in life yet for others it may take much longer. Resiliency is more closely correlated to awareness than age. All of us can experience greater resiliency by learning what it takes to develop it.

Resiliency begins to form when we know that we are loved unconditionally – that someone (family or friends) are there for us when we need them. Further, when we have people in our lives that believe in us and frequently remind us that we have what it takes to be successful it helps us believe in ourselves and our own potential. In addition, when we are truly accepted regardless of our unique – maybe even challenging – personality traits and know that our ideas and opinions are valued and considered we develop greater personal strength. We begin to develop the real deal – authentic confidence. When we stop to think about it both the verbal and nonverbal messages we received from our family imprinted on our brains – early and often – as we were growing up. Were they messages of inclusion or differences? Another extremely important factor in developing resiliency is the need to live by clear and consistent boundaries in life. While some may think that boundaries are restrictive, unnecessary, or stifle a sense of independence actually the opposite is true. Boundaries give us a feeling of security which helps us develop into confident human beings. When we are growing up we may chafe at them but deep down they bring a calm, purposeful intent to our daily existence. Living with boundaries help us formulate the true North for our lives.

As the above conditions become integral in our life we begin to find our voice, develop positive listening skills and healthy conflict resolutions skills because we have a framework upon which to build.

Think about it this way, resiliency is like a chair with four legs – unconditional love from others, frequent positive messages about our own potential, clear and consistent boundaries, and positive communication and conflict resolutions skills. To be fully functioning human beings and support ourselves we need all four legs of the chair.

The importance of developing greater resiliency in life cannot be overstated. Without it we often see people who feel both helpless and hopeless – defeated before they even started. The good news is that we can become stronger, happier and more secure individuals when we work on developing greater resiliency in our lives and the lives of those we love. There is never a time limit on growth!

Have a great few days!

As children we were raised to always tell the truth – don’t lie, cheat or steal – and to treat others as we wanted to be treated. There was even a time when a firm handshake indicated a commitment – our word – to support an endeavor. Yet, lately these values seem to have been pushed aside by many and truth telling seems to have become a rare commodity. Did this happen overnight or was it a slow creep that we at first disregarded and then came to accept as the new norm? Whether we are dealing with areas such as the big pharma companies, college sports, financial institutions or more recently from some seeking the presidential nod we witness questionable ethics. Truth is being stretched, manipulated or even denied. As people we are left to wonder is truth even attainable and if so how do we access it?

Let’s look at a few specifics. I know of a person who has a serious medical condition that requires daily medication. Over the past four years this same medication has increased from $12,000 per month to nearly $20,000 – same dosage, same regime. Yes, you read that amount correctly – $20,000 – and since she has insurance this monthly cost is primarily picked up by them. That still doesn’t make it right.

Or how about the Southern Methodist University basketball player whose high school academic record was mysteriously altered to make him eligible to be recruited and play at the college level. You may think to yourself – I’ve heard similar stories before so you know the sad ending. The student eventually hits a brick wall but in the meantime, the institution makes hundreds of thousands of dollars off their skills. That’s not right.

Recently, we read reports that some financial institutions had been fined millions of dollars for their highly questionable practices (basically summed up as they win and we lose) yet when they were caught they were allowed to simply pay the fines and continue working in the same field. Seriously! ..that’s not right.

A few of our presidential candidates are even promising to fix everything – by themselves – a sort of one man band – without working through Congress. Do we really believe that anyone working alone can fix any and all ills that presently effect us? Forgetting about cell phone videos one candidate visiting Michigan recently announced at one of his events that due to space limitations, ‘thousands of people are outside unable to get a seat today.’ Ahh … here it comes … the YouTube video of this same event showed about 75 people and not ‘thousands’ were outside – some of whom had come to the event to protest. Why the need to exaggerate? Hmm… bigger is not necessarily better. Again, that’s not right.

Actually, amid all of the chaos we can access fact checkers, videos, and on line information like never before to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. But here is the challenge – we have to make time in our lives – even 15 minutes a day – to check further and not simply believe statements that are purposely repeated and repeated with greater flair each time in an effort to burn into our brains as ‘truth.’ The old adage stands… ‘If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is…’

I’m too old to believe a savior can ride in on a white horse, wave a magic wand and improve things overnight. It has taken years – decades even – to get to this point. But is it too much to ask for our business and political leaders to be held accountable and forced to demonstrate honesty? We need leaders who can be adults and put people above profit and truth above theatrics.

I will continue to refuse to believe that all is lost or that honesty was a thing of the past or accept the oft heard comment … ‘that’s just the way things are’… Instead, I will make a personal commitment to question, to seek the rest of the story, to use my brain to analyze the reality of the situation and be willing to gently but firmly share what I have discovered with others as I listen to their point of view. This takes time but what price are we willing to pay to reestablish integrity and honesty? What type of nation do we want our children and grandchildren to inherit?

I will continue to believe that everything happens for a purpose – that what goes around comes around – and to accept my responsibility in making positive change happen. The energy we put out to the Universe makes a difference. I choose to be a positive force of change, in my own way to the best of my ability. Because truth is not for sale to the highest bidder.

Have a great few days!

Is it Time?

How often have you been faced with what seems like the same challenge and said to yourself, ‘this just isn’t fair!’ When we are able to stop and think to ourselves, ‘what do I need to learn from this latest issue in my life?’ big things start to happen. You are taking ownership for your part in the whole process. One thing is for sure … the lesson has continued to surface for a reason – could it be that you need to address it differently than you have in the past? It’s all about learning the life lessons we have chosen this time around.

When we turn the kaleidoscope ever so slightly to determine why certain things continue to challenge us we are allowing ourselves to discover the pattern, the true lesson involved. You can do this by asking yourself ‘why’ and after the first answer comes to mind take that answer and ask why again.. and again. Do this process three times to get to the deeper ‘Aha’ – which is the real reason and subsequent lesson.

Let’s say you seem to continue to face a lack of money, friends, job opportunities or to have concerns regarding family. When you take the time to analyze the way YOU have been responding – maybe ignoring the issue, refusing to get involved, becoming overly involved, or judging the person (the list of possibilities goes on and on) often your response is the same as it has been in the past and thus you’re getting the same results. The Universe will respond by giving you harder and harder issues around the same theme until you get it. Let’s break this self defeating cycle. Remember the phrase, ‘First God whispers, then talks and finally shouts to get our attention.’

Another way to determine the lesson is to ask yourself ‘what’s the most difficult thing for me to handle about this latest situation?’ You know what I mean, it’s the thing that continues to pop up and you say to yourself ‘the next time I’ll deal with that differently’ but you really don’t – Ahh… yes, there it is … the nugget of truth – the reason behind the reason.

Let’s commit to make a change. Let’s start to view challenges as opportunities for our own personal growth and our road will become easier to navigate with less detours and stops along the way. We have often heard that it’s not the challenges in life that make the difference; it is how we handle them.

Try to measure any difficult issue against the rest of your life to help keep it in perspective. We have many things for which to be grateful and yes we also have many things to learn and overcome. Above all, remember the phrase, ‘this too shall pass’ because it will – sooner or later – the when is up to you.

Have a great few days!