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Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life with Krisstina Wise. It’s Shawn Stevenson’s mission to help others become the strongest, healthiest, and happiest version of themselves. Shawn grew up with aspirations to be an athlete, but little did he know he was incredibly sick. After breaking his hip at the age of 13, Shawn had a string of health issues that soon followed. Finally, becoming sick and tired of being sick and tired, Shawn took action to cure his ‘incurable’ disease.
You can also click on the time stamps below to jump to those specific points in the conversation.
What We Covered
- [02:50] – Who is Shawn?
- [05:20] – How did Shawn break his hip at the age of 13, for apparently no reason? There was something wrong, but the doctors didn’t catch it.
- [10:35] – Hope is very fleeting. Shawn decided he wasn’t going to hope to get better, he was going to take action to get better.
- [16:30] – Physicians are so beaten down and overworked.
- [19:40] – The research shows there’s a lot more lives being lost due to doctors not being able to give dedicated, and real, one-on-one care.
- [22:10] – What was Shawn’s defining moment?
- [26:40] – Don’t wait for something to happen. You have to be the one to take action!
- [29:20] – Get comfortable with discomfort.
- [36:10] – It’s so sad that we’re treating children with ADHD medicine because of ‘who they are’.
- [40:30] – Sometimes it’s okay just to feel sad.
- [43:45] – Join us next week for part 2!
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Read the Transcription!
You are at the intersection of wealth, health, and happiness. Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life.
Hello, and welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life, the show about becoming wealthy without sacrificing your healthy. Each week, I interview a counter-cultural thought leader to bring you a unique millionaire mindset. I’m Krisstina Wise, bestselling author, millionaire coach, and your personal guide to money, health, and happiness.
Today, I tackle health wealth with Shawn Stevenson. Shawn is the bestselling author of Sleep Smarter, a comprehensive guide of 21 strategies to help people sleep their way towards a healthier body. Shawn is the host of the smash hit podcast, The Model Health Show, which gets millions of downloads per year and was once featured as the number 1 Health podcast on iTunes.
Shawn has an amazing story. He was diagnosed with a devastating illness at the age of 20 that caused a loss of function in one of his legs. He was eventually able to make a full recovery through diet, exercise, and mindset changes. Now, he’s one of the most prominent voices in the health community. He’s gone onto become the founder of Advanced Integrative Health Alliance, a company providing health and wellness services worldwide. He’s been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Men’s Health, ESPN, FOX News, and many other major media outlets. As you can tell, Shawn is quite the success story. I loved this interview. I was inspired hearing about his own healing journey and how he’s turned his struggle in educating others about health wealth across the globe. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did.
This is part one of a two-part interview. If you like this episode, be sure to come back next week for part two. Enjoy.
Alright Shawn. It’s so much fun to be here with you today. I recently stumbled across — I mean, a lot of my guests, I either know them or I’m introduced to them in one way or another. But, I just stumbled across your website. I don’t even remember how and I was so impressed with you, your story, your mission, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I have to get this guy as a guest on my podcast,” so I’m really looking forward to getting to know you.
That kind of blew my mind. I had no idea. You know, most people find out about me through the interwebs, but through somebody or another show or something like that, I love that. Google works!
I know. That Google thing, exactly. Yeah, it was all Google. So you have a really, really great story. Would you share it with me and the listeners a little bit about you, your life journey, your story, kind of where you wound up like how it got you here?
Sure. Well, I was an aspiring athlete. You know, that was kind of my goal in life was to play collegiate sports, hopefully go pro. A lot of young guys have that same goal, but I’m also — thank goodness, for some reason, I also developed this very analytical nature or maybe it is just within my DNA to be very analytical. So, I would mathematically break down, “Is this even possible?” and I was being very honest with myself. I had a lot of things to affirm that this was very possible for me.
When I was 15 years old, I ran a 4.5 40 yard dash which is like NFL Combine speed for running backs and defensive backs and all that stuff, and I had letters coming in early on and everything was looking pretty good. Problem was when I was 15, 16 years old, I was at track practice now, because I also ran track, and I was doing a 200 meter time trial, which is half a lap, sprinting, you know you’re behind off, and as I was coming off the curve into the straightaway, my hip broke, and this wasn’t from any kind of trauma, I didn’t fall, but just running and my hip broke. I kind of limped my way to the finish line. I didn’t know what happened. I was almost, my coach kind of pulled me to the side like, “What’s going on?”
I came to practice being a hard headed young guy. I came to practice for the next couple of days before I was forced to go at getting looked at and I go a scanned done of my hips, and there it was, the iliac crest, So, this is like the tip of your hip bone. The top was broken off and just kind of out in space, you know, with the scan, and he’s like “Oh, There’s the problem.”
So, I was treated with conventional standard of treatments, standard of care, which was stay off the leg, take some NSAIDs, and basically, what’s so funny was I’m thinking about that moment in time because my son goes into this high school I went to right now. I got to use the prized elevator in the school for that amount of time because I had my crutches or whatever. It was really awesome. I got to get out of class early.
So, that was the cool part. The problem was nobody stopped to ask “How did this 15 -year-old kid break his hip from running?” It’s very, very abnormal. Having hip fractures is usually reserved for people much much older, you know 70s-plus and oftentimes. it’s skewed much towards women, this happening to. A lot of people think that people fall and break their when they’re elderly, but in fact, they break their hip then they fall because of their bone density. So, number 1, this was huge warning sign that had some hormonal issues and also some huge deficiencies, but conventional medicine did not pay attention to that.
Fast forward the story, that was just kind of just the warning sign, and when I was 20 years old, and by the way that lead to string of injuries after that. I just kept snapping hamstrings, I kept having back problems. I fell apart, letters stop coming, end of the athletic endeavors. You know, as things we’re looking: 20 years old, I’m in college now at this point, academic scholarship, luckily, and I was diagnosed with something called degenerative bone disease and degenerative disc disease. The disc in between the vertebrae and my spine were breaking down rapidly to the degree that my physician, at the time, said I had the spine of an 80-year-old person. 20 with a spine of an 80-year-old human being according to this well-meaning gentleman.
To make a long story short, when I was sitting in his office, he put the scan up for me to see and I asked him this specific question, which to this day I have no idea, I promise you, I have no idea what possessed me to ask this question. But I asked him, “Does this have anything to do with what I’m eating?” and he cocked his head to the side and like shook his head a little and he looked at me like I was crazy, he said, “This has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re eating. This is just something that happens. I’m sorry about this. You’re going to have to learn to deal with it,” and he wrote me a prescription for some drugs. Eventually, I was fitted with a back brace but never sat right with me was the fact that he said that it has nothing to do what you’re putting in your mouth but he wrote me some drugs to put in my mouth, right?
This is a really important takeaway for anybody, any opportunity I get to talk about this. What happened in that moment is called a nocebo effect. A placebo effect, if you look at the research, which will blow your mind in how powerful the human mind is, placebos, across the board, on average, are about 33% effective. So, somebody’s thinking they’re getting a treatment for something like chemotherapy for cancer or antidepressant medication, and 33%, on average, their symptoms reverse, right? Upwards of like 80 plus percent for some placebo antidepressants, for example, or cholesterol medications, you name it. They’ve done these research projects and saw this across the board. That’s one thing. It’s kind of a positive injunction you get that something good is going to happen when you take this medication from a trusted authority. A nocebo effect is when you get a negative injunction from a person of authority that something bad is going to happen and you proceed to believe that and your cell starts to break down.
Over the course of the next two years, I went in from going to see the doctor for that particular scan that he saw on my spine for some kind of an irritating leg pain to within two weeks, chronic pain, to the degree of this horrible sciatic pain shooting down my leg. I began to become afraid of standing up because this pain and I just began to break down really quickly. I gained a bunch of weight, I gained about 50 pounds of, I’ll call it, fluffiness. I was a very fluffy version of Shawn Stevenson, and definitely teetering on depression, and I felt like I lost myself – a loss of purpose, no real hope. I was starting to really lose hope in my life because this was going to be the rest of my life.
Just to kind of wrap this whole story up, because this is the bad part. There’s a much better part coming up in this movie. But, two years go by, and I’m on a slew of medications and I also had two ruptured disc in my back L4, and L5, S1. I want people to really understand that whenever you get a diagnosis of something that is life-threatening or completely life-changing for you, make sure you get a second, third, fourth opinion, and I did do that, but it came back the same thing because I was dealing with conventional medicine. That was the point when I hit rock bottom, which everybody’s telling me, these experts that I can’t do anything about my condition. Then that’s when I decided to actually do something about it.
All this time, I’ve been putting my hopes off unto somebody else. I’ve been putting my health off unto somebody else to come and take care of me or to save me and the reality is they didn’t walk in my shoes, and they didn’t have the ability to tell me what was possible for me. Everything changed in that moment of decision, I really decided, and most people never do that. You know this is well. It’s more like “I’m going to give this to try. I’ll give this the old college try-out. I’ll give this a shot. I wish that something would happen. I hope this works.”
Hope floats. It’s not tangible right? I think hope is a great name like your kid’s name is Hope. “This is Hope Stevenson,” whatever. But, as a concept of how we live our lives, hope is very fleeting and it’s not strong. When you have this innate ability to decide and to act upon that decision. Decision is from a Latin day meaning from cardei, which means to cut, you cut away to possibility of failure so that everything going on in your life is focus on then.
For me, I decided to get well, and there are three specific things that I did which we can go back and talk about if you want to. Number 1, I changed my nutrition. I was eating typical university food at the time, what I call the tough diet, typical university food, pizza, and doughnuts, and all this stuff all the time. I changed the way that I was eating, I changed my movement practices very specifically, and also the big key is, you’re not healing if you’re not sleeping.
My greatest struggle through that two-year period was when I laid my head down on my pillow at night. My sleep was the biggest problem. Part of the issues I was dealing with medications and all those things just to try and get pseudo-sleep. But, over the course of the next six weeks, again being very analytical person, it wasn’t like the seeming — like the clouds parted and everything became better all of a sudden but, over the next six weeks, I lost 28 pounds.
The pain that I’ve been experiencing for two and a half years at this point, every day was gone, and eventually I got a scan done about nine months later, almost a year later, and I regenerated the tissue in my spine that they said was impossible. My two herniated ruptured disc retracted on their own, and this was really the birthing of my career at that time, because all of the people around me in my university saw what happened.
Fellow students, professors became my first clients. Eventually, I shifted all my coursework over to biology, kinesiology, and I graduated, opened my own practice, went on to write books, and have a number one podcast in the U.S. several times and open a successful practices I mentioned helping thousands and thousands of people and now, I’m here with you today.
That’s so awesome. Well, there’s so much in that story. First of all, thank you. This traditional medicine thing, and now a lot of people, my followers and listeners, I get a lot like you, a lot of emails and, you know, just communications these days that, “I’ve gone to every doctor and they told me it’s hopeless, basically.” I’ve never heard the word “nocebo”, so I love that and you’re right. We get planted these stories and we accept them to be true. You went through this, I’ve gone through this, a lot of people have, but it’s putting our power of health into the hands of the doctors and believing what they say, and then all they say is they give you the prognosis and say, “Here’s some meds to take,” and, “Good luck. You’re on your own,” and it’ll get worse over time.
What is that? Is it cultural that we have been thought that we’re not empowered, we can’t sort of control our health or regain our health? Where did it start that we gave our power of our health and our life over to what the doctor’s opinions are?
Oh, my goodness. Well, I’m not a big conspiracy theorist guy. I’m not talking about the aliens and all that kind of stuff. I’m looking at the research and not to say there isn’t aliens, alright? I won’t disrespect anybody who was like, “I was abducted. I promise I was abducted.”
My job is to look at the data and if you go back and you look at history like, “How did this actually happen?” and you look at the early part of the 1900s specifically when allopathic medicine and the big funding in cancer industry really started to take hold, it was equal parts if you look at chiropractic. Homeopathy was big like all of this different methodologies of treatment were all equal parties, but then all of these money began to be invested in pharmaceutical industry. It’s a big cash cow. I mean, we’re talking about multi, multi, multi-billion dollar entity here.
By the way, just as I’m saying this, please understand that there’s a righteous thing behind it for all these people working. I can’t even tell you how many physicians that are in my life now and they all start off with the same purpose. They want to help people, they want to serve. But, the problem is the way that the system is built from the inside. There’s tens of thousands of people right now who are learning how to deliver chemotherapy for people, like that’s their tool, but they want to save lives. What’s happening, these are the smartest people in the world, and you take a very smart person and you teach them to do the wrong thing, they become world-class at doing the wrong thing. They are masterful with it.
That’s really what the issue that we’re seeing today and also we began to become very dogmatic especially if you invest a lot of time and energy into learning the wrong thing and you’re great at it. Then you hear something that’s counter to that, it pushes up against your ego in a big way.
This is why I’m so proud and excited and grateful for all of the wonderful functional medicine doctors, integrated physicians that are coming to the forefront now. Many of them are my friends. Dr. Sara Gottfried who wrote the fore for my book. She’s Harvard-trained, MIT-trained, wrote “The Hormone Diet”. Dr. Mark Hyman, all of these wonderful people, and these are people that you’re seeing on television now. You’re not seeing the conventional guy you’re seeing it at Dr. Oz and what have you, people like Dr. Joseph Mercola.
They’re changing the culture because we’re going back to this fundamental thing which is you are all together. There’s not something separate about you. When we talk about your eyesight, for example, and you go off to see a specific physician for that purpose. It’s great to have a specialty. To think that your vision isn’t impacted by the function of your liver is negligent. To think that the health of your oral care isn’t impacting your heart is straight-up stupid.
We know, if you just look at the research but the problem, again, like we’re going back to, the physicians, the way the system is structured, they are so beat down, they are so overworked. They don’t have time to looked at all the latest research and medical journals. They’re just trying to keep their head above water, right? It’s like this, it’s trading your time for money but at this kind of grander scale. It’s really the way the system has been constructed, and also pharmaceutical industry being so integrated in the culture where they’re getting a lot of money for that too. It’s a big part of their income, oftentimes, is through drugs. That’s sad that it’s like that.
If you look at Chinese medicine, for example, traditional Chinese medicine. In many constructs, they get paid when you’re well. You don’t pay the doctor when you’re sick. They’re paid to keep you well. Our system is the opposite, they get paid when you’re sick. So, there would be a problem if, all of a sudden, there were a bunch of healthy people. It’s a very vested interest in the farming of sick people and the culture. Even the FDA for example: Food and Drug Administration. They’re supposed to be governing all of this stuff, but food is making us sick and we take the drugs and they’re getting paid off the whole thing.
So again, not conspiracy. This is how things are structured, and it’s just looking at it like, “Okay, that’s the way it is, and so it is. What am I going to do about it,” right? Am I going to get to you to invest in this industry that is milking me for everything that I’ve got and hurting my family or am I going to do something different and choose to invest my dollars with people who actually know what they’re doing and also learn about myself? You should be an expert on your body. You live there. That’s where you live. It doesn’t mean that it has to be hard. It can actually be incredibly fun and enjoying to learn about how you function and fall in love with yourself. That promise, that’s really the bridge to changing our culture today.
I love that. Your message and so many messages right now, like the first message is it’s really creating an awareness of what is behind some of this traditional, conventional status quo medicine and methodologies and philosophies of the more the allopathic side. One is just the awareness of that and then two is letting people know really that we do have the power. We don’t have to give over our power to the doctors and accept what their opinions or beliefs are that it’s nice to listen and maybe take that into consideration of lots of different advices, but we don’t have to accept it like it’s a gospel.
Exactly. Then that’s tough for us though because it’s built into our cultures. The first thing that you said is like, “Is this cultural?” It’s built into our culture that they have the answers and they’re just a person who went to school a little bit longer or spent studied something specific for a little bit longer. They’re not the end all, be all, but we have this God complex about our physicians and, in some ways, it’s kind of rightfully so because they can save lives. But, the research shows that there are a lot more lives being lost. I remember a few years ago, I believe this was in 2008, this big study came out showing the statistics with iatrogenesis. I don’t know if you’ve heard this term before, but in people they’re going to want to go to Dr. Google and check this out because this is kind of blow your mind.
But, iatrogenesis was, at that time, the third leading cause of death in our country. “Iatro” meaning physician, “genesis” means created: physician-created death. This was through improperly prescribed medications, unwarranted surgeries, even properly prescribed medications, but overdoses, things like that by the patient. So, it’s all detailed. This kind of stuff is kind of hard for me but it’s all detailed there in the report, and it’s kind of shocking but then again, you don’t hear about it. This wasn’t on the front page of The New York Times. But, it’s a very real thing because we’re not actually treating humans and we’re getting away from the fact that. Even the word doctor means teacher and your doctor being a teacher for you and a coach but you, ultimately, having the power to govern your own well-being.
And we should. Like you said that this our vessel, this is me, my body, my experience, how I feel that not only are we empowered to heal ourselves or to become healthy. But, like you said too to want the desire of that, this love of self, the love of health to want these things thinking, “Oh man. You may not have to eat a healthy diet or are you kidding me? I have to go exercise or really like now the sleep thing, like I need to be.” This attitude, this cultural attitude is almost like, “Oh I just want the doctors to fix me if something’s wrong,” and two, “I don’t want to be responsible for my health.” It’s really this mindset and it sounds like you were in a little bit of that and you were accepting and you were in this nocebo effect and accepting for two and a half years like, “This is hopeless. My life is over. I’m 20-something and I’m an 80-year-old man. I thought I was going to be a professional athlete and here I’m stuck, basically, in my bed and I’m on a bunch of medication.”
What was like this defining moment? you were in that story and that was what your life was about? Was there a catalyst or was there something where you’re just like, “F this. I’m not going to live this way. There’s got to be more of the story and I’m going to go figure out what that is.”
Yeah, yeah. Crazy thing is, and I’ve been talking about this a lot lately. I think there’s a lot to be said for struggle, like I think that there’s something super valuable about struggle and also hitting rock bottom. It’s really great for a lot of people, it’s a really sobering place to be, because so often we’re coasting through life and we’re not really giving what we can give, we’re not really living up to our own potential, we’re not really taking actions to make the changes that we can make until things get bad enough.
That’s why even with the current climate with, whatever, the economy, the political climate, whatever it is that is irritating people, what are you doing about it? I think things need to get bad enough for people to mobilize and to make a decision and to take action, and what that means for me is to give your gift, to really step into your greatness and to do what you’re here to do. From my experience, it’s, in some form of capacity, it’s to serve, it’s to give your gift.
When I was sitting there on the edge of my bed with my pill bottles in hand, just looking at these drugs before I take them so they can basically knock me out so I can sleep because my pain was so bad that the pain would wake me up if I changed positions. It was killing me. It was such an annoyance. I also had restless leg syndrome before it was a thing. So, this is back like in 2000 before it had its official drug. Restless Leg Syndrome, which I didn’t find this out until years later, It was a side effect from the Celebrex that I was taking for the degeneration in my bones, right?
Anyways, so I’m sitting there looking at these medications and it just kind of came rushing in. This was like a few days after I get this last bad news that there’s nothing I can do about it from the physician that people tell me, “He’s the best. He’s going to be able to,” same story. So, I’m sitting there and I’m really in a bad place, and I realize that there was really two options, I can give up or I can do something about it. It was just kind of right there in black and white. You know how stuff comes kind of rushing in all at the same time.
Within that was, and I think this was really important as well for us to have examples and models and an example of what’s possible. The feeling of significance is very important and my grandmother, I remember my grandmother, and she would still be calling me to this process, like always trying to check on me, it’s very annoying as a young kid. At your grandma like, “I’m fine. Leave me alone!”
But, I remember growing up on how she would always tell me how smart I was, and how special I was, and how I was going to do great things in my life, and that irritated me. That hit that button because I wasn’t doing that and I knew she was right. I knew it was within me, I felt it when she would say it like, “I am, yes.” But, look at my life. The life results weren’t equaling up to my blueprint of what I thought it should be. That’s when I really mobilized myself and I realized I’ve got all this potential in me but I’m sitting back here waiting for something to happen for me to do something and everything has already happened. All the bad stuff is going on right now and I’m either going to throw my life away or I’m going to do something about it, and I chose to do something about it.
I agree with that too and it’s the, I say, breakdown before breakthrough. So many of this, we really have hit rock bottom. That’s the inspiration behind like not accepting that and wanting to do something about it and then turning it into helping others, like what you’re doing. So yeah, there is so much in the struggle, and I think, you know, even culturally, again, we don’t want struggle, we don’t want pain, we don’t want any amount of discomfort, so we’re not willing to just go through the struggle and sometimes that’s necessary to get us to the place of, “I’m not going to accept being in this bed. I’m not going to accept that this is what the doctors say. I don’t know what else is out there but I’m going to at least do something about it.”
I love what you say too here is that, I’m not going to wait for something to happen. That’s such a powerful statement because that is part of this. It’s waiting for something to happen, waiting for the doctors to tell us the right thing, waiting for it to feel better, whatever the case is. But, waiting for something to happen is opposed to, “No, it’s up to me. I’m going to make something happen.”
Exactly. You know, like a lot of us — I’ve been talking about this a lot recently as well. I feel that there is a purpose deficiency in our culture today. So few people are feeling cut adrift. They don’t feel like they know what their purpose is, and so they’re waiting for a sign. Like, “If I can just find out what my purpose is, then I’ll do it. Shawn, I promise you. I just need to. I don’t know what it is.”
The crazy thing is it’s literally like you choose, you get to choose what that is. It’s not something that’s going to happen outside of you. You get to choose it even when the things happen outside of you, you still have to recognized it. I’ve seen this in my experience. I’ve worked with thousands of people in a one-on-one context in my clinic. Literally, hundreds of thousands of millions of people have been impacted by my work in some form or fashion, but hundreds and thousands of people directly through live events, my show, all these different things. I’ve got a very big bank to see the results in.
This is what I’ve seen is that, even though it’s a natural human phenomenon just kind of the way that our brains are built. If you look at the prefrontal cortex, the limbic brain, your amygdala. We’re hardwired to avoid pain and look for pleasure. That’s all good. Now, the issue is we’re a much more evolved creature where we can utilize our frontal cortex and kind of quiet down the amygdala that’s constantly afraid of things. That struggle that we’re trying to avoid so mightily, what’s going to happen, because you are a perfect phenomenon with gifts, talents, capacities that have never existed before in human history and never will exist again – this is a critical time right now – in reality, because you are very specific and unique to this moment, if you’re not living up to your potential, life is going to put events around you to get you to wake up.
This is what I’ve seen in my experience. Again, I’m an analytical person but this is kind of hard for me to explain right here: metaphysics, kind of quantum physics, I don’t know. But here’s the thing. What I’ve also seen is we don’t have to have those really bad things, horrible things, those really drop you to your knees, pain points and moments in our lives, if you can get comfortable with the discomfort. If you start to ease into the pain yourself, if you proactively get out of that saneness and proactively work on bettering yourself and bettering your world, and also coupled with learning from the pain, learn from the challenges that come up because they’re all there to teach you something, it can be a small lesson if you get it and you adapt, but if you don’t, life is going to hand you something like a bigger, “Oh, you didn’t get that one? Well then, try this,” to develop. Maybe you’re lacking the compassion that you were brought here or – this is getting a little bit out of the scientific realm – but that you were here to express in the world that maybe you need to deliver to your community, or your workplace, or within your family, or within yourself, compassion for you. Maybe it’s there to develop your sense of purpose and your leadership. Maybe your ability to lead isn’t strong enough for the goal that you’ve set for yourself.
So, to bring this back to the science now because I got a little bit off there. So, there’s parts of your brain, the reticular cortex, reticular activating system, these parts of your brain are always scanning your environment to bring you closer to things that you hold top of consciousness. People see this weird phenomenon all the time in a small aspect in like if you get a new car and start to see that car all over the place, your reticular cortex — it’s not like it wasn’t happening before. It’s just your brain is attuned to it and it’s scanning your environment looking for that thing. Also, because we’re all — and if you look at quantum physics, we’re literally all connected.
There’s this field, string theory, whatever you want to look at, and research done by the U.S. Military where they have one person in one part of the country and another person — if people want to learn more about this stuff, they can locate Greg Braden’s work on this. Anyway, they’ll have two people on different parts of the country hooked up and they’re literally stimulating an emotional response in one of the people, and the other person’s brain is responding because they’ve created a rapport between them. Crazy stuff. Also Princeton University found that just two people in conversation, if you’re just talking to a person for a few minutes and you have rapport, your brains sync up. Your brain waves literally like your brains become like one in the way that they’re functioning the same.
It’s straight-up crazy stuff right? But, this is how we’re hardwired, so we want to utilize that to our advantage in the conversations that we’re in, the people that we’re around and understand that we are affecting our environment. So, when we ask those questions and when we’re working to become more of ourself to really grow and expand, and all this stuff we’re talking about right now of not going through all the drama and the struggle, those parts of your brain are going to be scanning your environment to find the information, the tools that you need to become it. But, if you’re constantly focused on negativity and all the problems, you’re just going to see that. You’re going to find more affirmation to why things might suck for you right now.
It’s things like, “Why can’t I find the person, the right relationship?” and when you ask that question, your brain is going to scan your environment to give you feedback like, “Oh well, because you got really bad breath,” or whatever it might be. Or, you have a really strange character flaw where you’re constantly blaming other people or negative things in your life, whatever it might be instead of asking, “What is it that I need to do to have the qualities necessary to have the most beautiful relationship that I could ever imagine?” Asking more empowering questions is a very, very important part of this whole conversation because that’s what your brain is designed to do. It’s designed to seek and find everything that you ask it but we use it, we use our power for — we kind of give our power away by not really utilizing this amazing tool we have.
Yeah and we’re also busy and life is chaos, and we’re running from place to place to place. We have no space to really connect, reflect, listen, pay attention. I know my own example, like my body, there’s so many things. My body was screaming at me, but I wasn’t paying attention because I’m so intentional on hitting my goals and my intentions, what I wanted, and all these flags, and bells and whistles, but I was completely oblivious to them, and it’s as though the universe had to take a big 2×4, and just take me right out the knees and out, because I wasn’t listening. The signs, the signals were there, but I was completely oblivious and unaware and wouldn’t have believed it at the time even if I were somewhat paying attention.
So, that’s number one is that, yeah, if we’re paying attention, we give ourself the space, we connect to people, our environment, we do get too crazy messages not to get too metaphysical, but I believe that too and I’m very analytical and scientific also. It’s producing that space for ourselves but also how much, in your opinion, is that because we don’t want discomfort, we don’t want to feel, because feeling some sadness or feeling some anxiety sometimes. I don’t mean like real chronic or pathological. So we’re taking a pill.
How much of being numb to life does that — like taking a pill because we don’t want the discomfort? Because, our feelings are there for a reason too, as sort of these signals or messages, or like you said, activation and these different places. But, if we’re numbing how we feel, the highs and the lows, we’re stuck in the middle, how much of that is the fact that we’re just numbing ourselves by not wanting any discomfort so we take a pill not to feel?
I love that. I just had a conversation with Dr. Susan David, who she wrote the book “Emotional Agility”, and Harvard staff, the whole thing, super smart lady. We kind of veered into this area of something really interesting, which is the fact that our culture has medicalized sadness. It’s created the situation where our emotions are problems that need to be treated with medicine. If you look at the research again, a lot of the signs and symptoms that we are given medication for, like my son was just telling me about his friend, they’re both 16 years old, and he’s on ADHD medication and he’s a 16-year-old kid. It’s so sad for me to hear that because we’re treating our kids like their perception of reality and the way that they function as a human being is a problem.
Let me take a step back because I don’t want anybody to get the wrong message here. We have to take a broader look at this first, a global perspective. Number one, when you hear that somebody has — in the marketing like the commercials come on, “This could be due to a chemical imbalance in your brain.” Did they actually look at your brain? Did they actually test? Did you get some scans done to find out? Did they do any panels, or look at your neurotransmitters? No. This is based off of a conversation that you are now bipolar, or whatever.
This is a natural human function for us to have depression, for us to have sadness. Even the word depression, it’s a label for something, right? For us to feel melancholy or cut adrift, or indifference, or a lack of compassion, or compassion, or happiness, joy, whatever it is. We have this wide range of emotions that I talked about with her. It was wonderful, because it’s really about learning what our emotions are telling us? Like you just said, we take something to numb it. We’re not dealing with the actual causes, which, I promised you, it’s chances are very, very low percentage that there’s actually a chemical imbalance in your body.
Here’s what’s so funny, just the thought of something that make you happy or even smiling, physiologically smiling, changes your neurochemistry instantly. It’s very difficult to smile and to be sad. You see this across the board, it’s very, very difficult to do that. It’s not like I’m faking my happiness. This is basically you’re messing with your own wiring and learning how you function. Oftentimes, our sadness, our depression is feedback that there’s something that needs to change in our life. That’s really where the work is.
That’s where the masterful expression of your life takes place, because I met some phenomenal people who have dealt with like deep, dark depression, and it’s brought them to the most joy and happiness. We find out this really interesting thing and what I found is also a wonderful treatment for individuals struggling with depression is to give to somebody else. It’s amazing how that makes you feel better so quickly because there’s always somebody who’s doing worse than you are.
I’ve worked with people who have lost children, which is probably the greatest fear and pain somebody can experience. There’s many others. So, not to say that is the strongest, but that’s a very difficult place to be, and finding purpose within that. People who’ve lost body parts, people who’ve lost loved ones, people who their lover for their entire life is gone, failing in the biggest thing they’ve ever set out to do, losing a million-dollar company, all of these things that are extremely tragic, but they are absolutely fertile with gifts there for something.
Most of us, though, we don’t experience those like hugely breaking to your knees kind of things. It’s mostly irritations, chronic problems that we just aren’t dealing with. So, if we become more emotionally agile and attuned to what these emotions are feeding us — because like you said, we’re usually running around, we’re not paying attention to our own emotions in our own body. If we just take a few minutes a day just to tune in and ask, “What is this irritation trying to teach me? What is this depression? What quality is wanting to emerge in me due to the sadness I’m experiencing? What is it that I’m here to learn from this? What is this trying to teach me?” I promise you that things are going to change very quickly. You’re going to get those answers. You cannot ask your mind a question that it’s not going to seek the answer to.
Sometimes, it’s okay just to feel sad.
Sometimes life moments happen, and it’s okay to feel sad, and just sit with that and not try to numb it, not try to judge myself that I shouldn’t feel sad or whatever. Just sit with the sadness. It’ll pass, but the feelings are there too like sometimes it’s appropriate to be sad and if we don’t, that’s a different issue.
There’s movies about people like that, like American Psycho or something. I don’t know. I’ve never seen the movie. I loved that you said that, because I think more people need the permission today to be sad. I say this to my five-year-old son. I’m telling like, “You could be upset. Go ahead. If you’re sad, you could be sad. It’s fine.” Because he’ll try to suppress his emotions because of the way that it looks. Like, what other kids might do at school or whatever the kids may be. You can feel that feeling. At the end of the day, though, it’s like, “What are you going to do about it after you’ve let it run its course?”
For so many people, they just stay there, right? The good emotions and the not so good emotions, that too shall pass. They all pass. It’s like waves in the ocean. You’re kind of like a weird ocean walking around on two legs in a weird way, anyways. But, all of these things are very fleeting, and they move, and our desire, like I said, our brains were hardwired to move towards pleasure and move away from pain. If we get close to that pain, society says, “There’s something wrong with you and it’s not natural. You should be more happy and positive.”
No, you can actually feel those feelings. It’s awesome because it can teach you something. What happens is and here is the thing, this is like kind of Captain Obvious here is that we wouldn’t be able to experience true joy and fulfillment if we didn’t have contrast. We need to know what that other stuff feels like so we could actually feel our very best and achieve those highs in life. Those lows give you quite a perspective. So, this is why today in my life, I’m so grateful. I didn’t really even know what gratitude was. Like, “Thank you for my sandwich.” I didn’t really get it. Now, man, I’m grateful to be able to take a bite at food sometimes, like it just will hit you, and it’s so beautiful. What a different way to be where I was like on autopilot my entire life and missing all of the beauty, and the joy, and the potential. I’m so glad you said that because it’s not that sadness is a sickness.
That’s so well said, absolutely. It is the polarity. There is so many lessons that we know great joy when we know great pain. The polarity of the two and being able to relate the two and knowing that you’ve made it through things too. When we feel empowered, we take control and we know we can change things that then even creates the confidence that if I go through another hard time, I’ll make it through. There’s no need to necessarily stay stuck and then just give our power over or become sort of victim to this situation, or to use your words, “waiting for something to happen.”
As I said at the top of the episode, this has been part one of a two-part interview. Please come back next week for part two.
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