The Joy of Connecting People to Themselves

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I love what I do. All of it. Absolutely and completely. I have always been fascinated by the human condition and the potential we hold within and beyond our minds and physical bodies. I am a human potential researcher and performance coach and I have been doing mind-body work in one form or another my entire life. From the body awareness I developed riding and training horses and as a professional dancer and choreographer to my mind-body medicine training and research in trauma and resiliency I did during my doctoral work at UVA – it all informs me.

Tonight I sit quietly as a client of mine receives his first professional massage. My client is a 52-year-old man with a family, two mortgages, an upper class lifestyle and all the typical stress related with it. He is also a senior vice president of a multi-billion dollar company and carries all of the related stress associated with his career.

The invitation for my client tonight was to allow himself to receive physical care. Before the session we talked about the various ways in which his body was (and had been for years) reacting to having to perform beyond it resources. I wanted for him to begin to really feel his body and relax into the places where he has held the stress of his job, the responsibility of his family and where he clung to the tenuous ties of his marriage. We have worked together as client and coach for several months and have laid the foundation for my client to take his understanding and experience of his mind-body to the next level.

I use the term mind-body as a singular term for a reason. The premise of my work is that the mind and body are, in their natural state, one. When we are born our mind and body are integrated in a dynamic, informative and interpretive way. The mind informs, influences and interprets the body and vice versa. As we develop, we consciously and unconsciously adapt to fit into the norms of our culture. In order to do this, in most developed countries, one must often separate the mind-body into parts – thinking parts and feeling parts.

There are myriad paths to reintegrating the mind-body. In my experience, massage is one of them. The massage therapist, a longtime colleague of mine, is a gentle man and a master at what he does. He is as non-threatening as he is big; and he is a big man. Calming and soothing, professional yet warm. He is a good match for my client.

So here comes the “joy” part. I have the joy and privilege of witnessing my client not only receive his first massage but also begin to reconnect with his physical body. As I sit on the couch next to the massage table, I hear my client say, “Wow, what is that?” To which my colleague responds “That is some tightness associated with…and the connection here with this muscle is…so that there is an imbalance here and…”

As I listen I notice the change in the quality of my clients voice. His voice becomes softer and his speech is less pressured. As the session continues I begin to hear deep, slow breaths. Breaths that are coming spontaneously and naturally as his body relaxes. He is on his way.

This is the good stuff. The part when I know the co-creative relationship between he and I, client and coach, has taken hold. The part where a man who was so stressed out that he was physically numb on one side of his body is now not only able to feel his body but reflect that feeling through his thoughts and words. The part where a man who had no experience with any kind of mind-body work is connecting the work he and I have done with what is happening with him on the massage table. The part where a client who had no idea what mind-body work or a coach was when I met him is curious and trusting enough to hop onto a massage table and allow himself to be open to the experience. This is the good stuff. And yes, it is my joy too.

Everything That Kills Me Makes Me Feel Alive – Part 1

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Back the my morning routine – Easy movement, a little meditation, a little journaling and a little bit of banging on the bongos.

 

 

The Quote: “Everything That Kills Me Makes Me Feel Alive”

Who said it? One Republic

The Question: Why does it seem so easy to do the things that are “bad” for us and not the things that are “good” for us?

Who wants to know? Me and anyone else who is interested in finding answers to the following questions:

a) Why is it so easy to get off track even when we know what is good for us?

b) What does it take to stick with a healthy long-term routine?

c) Why do we as humans seem more vulnerable to self-destructive habits? After all, you don’t see animals working themselves into exhaustion, eating themselves into oblivion or avoiding sleep or rest by choice.

Who has the answer? Science and Spirituality

What to do: Apply self-discipline (yes, I said it. That dirty word that has become associated with self-flagellation and rigidity).

What to expect: An ability to reap the long-term gains that only focus and self-discipline can produce.

I have been researching and practicing mindfulness and mind body medicine for over thirty years and have been using it in my clinical practice for twenty of them. I am involved in the research literature daily and write, speak, teach and coach on an ongoing basis. So why the hell is it so easy for me to get so far off track? Why is it so easy to be so all about something that you forget to live it?

Because I am a healthy, thriving and engaged human being, that’s why – bet you didn’t see that one coming and PS, I address it in part two because I am getting up from this chair in 10 minutes for the reasons below.

So, here is the most recent route I took to getting “off track” and forgetting to live what I know. It went something like this:

It is 3:40 am and I am sitting at my desk writing. I m happy, in flow and enjoying the buzz I get from using my intellectual and creative selves together.

My conscious mind: “Mmmm, this is great. I am alive and in my bliss.”

My right hip: “Hey, I am getting uncomfortable down here. Can we move?”

My subconscious mind (and yes I am making the assumption that my subconscious mind was at play): “Shhh.”

My conscious mind: “Still lovin’ this.”

My ego: “This is going to be a great article” and “Good insight!”

My conscious mind: “Thanks ego, now I am really lovin’ this!

Right hip: “Ouch, this is really starting to hurt, can you please pay attention?”

My conscious mind: “Hmmm, my right hip is a little tight. I should get up but I’ll just knock this part 2 out while the research is right here in front of me” and blah, blah, and other reasons to ignore my hip and do what is bringing me pleasure in the moment.

So I don’t get up and I don’t attend to the pain in my hip because I don’t want to. I am getting something out of this RIGHT NOW. This continues for about two weeks off and on until…

Right hip: “WAKE UP”

My conscious mind: OUCH! Where the hell did that come from? That just popped up out of nowhere!!

Yes, that was really my first thought.

We as humans tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain…right? Well, “yes”, and “sometimes”and, “that depends.” We tend to seek more immediate pleasure and avoid immediate pain. That’s why it was so easy for me to ignore my own body even when I “know better.” I can get so involved in my present moment thinking that I ignore, “forget” or “fall out of the habit” of doing the things that I know bring me long-term peace, joy, contentment and yes, physical comfort. In short, my mind tricks me in the moment into thinking that I am better off doing what I am doing.

It took me two weeks to actually do what I teach others to do every single day – listen to and attend to myself and my body. The interesting thing is that the simple act of acknowledging that my hip needed attention started a shift toward it beginning to heal. Instead of trying to silence it and get it to go away, I began to get out of my own way, get over myself and my ego’s need to get more done and return to living what I do rather than just preaching it.

In part two, I take a deeper dive into the following and how they interfere with self-discipline.

Shame – “What is wrong with me?” thinking

One time choices vs moment to moment choices and why one time choices are easier for most of us.

Fear

Love

Connection

 

 

Who’s Committing Suicide and Why?

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Why Don’t “The Most Stressful Jobs” Jive With the Highest Suicide Rates? What are we Missing? (part one)

Each year CareerCast publishes its list of the most stressful jobs (http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/most-stressful-jobs-2016) according to the Jobs Rated report. And they are as follows. 

Jobs Rated Report defines stress in terms of 11 factors: travel, deadlines, working in the public eye, competitiveness, physical demands, environmental conditions, hazards encountered, the life of oneself or others at risk, meeting and interacting with customers and/or the public, and the potential for job growth.

  1. Enlisted Military Personnel
  2. Firefighter
  3. Airline Pilot
  4. Police Officer
  5. Event Coordinator
  6. Public Relations Executive
  7. Corporate Executive (senior)
  8. Broadcaster
  9. Newspaper Reporter
  10. Taxi Driver

What I noticed however, was that the jobs that were rated as the most stressful were not the jobs with the highest suicide rates. Below is a rank ordered list of the top ten jobs with the highest suicide rates. The only occupation that is on both lists is Police Officer. 

  1. Physician
  2. Dentist
  3. Police Officer
  4. Veterinarians
  5. Financial Services Broker (Stock Broker)
  6. Real Estate Agent
  7. Electrician
  8. Lawyer
  9. Farmer
  10. Pharmacist

Okay, okay, I know the two list are different and the variables used to rank jobs based on stress level don’t map onto the variables that correlate with suicide. That’s obvious. But why not? 

Why is there such a huge disconnect between the way these two constructs are defined?

Wouldn’t it make sense that those who report the most stress would also be at the most risk for suicide; or wouldn’t one expect at least some overlap? 

What is going on here? 

The short answer is “I don’t really know.” However, based on my experience as a clinician and researcher and the current research literature, I am willing to go out on a limb and give you an educated guess. 

  1. The disconnect is simply due to a lack of agreement on the operational definitions used to generate the two lists.
  2. The stressful jobs list is basically a job satisfaction measure and as the author points out, “employment satisfaction ratings do not necessarily predict whether someone is going to commit suicide” , A. 2015). Point well made…

…but I am still deeply unsettled by this.

While I completely understand that the lack of correlation between the two lists can be adequately explained by differences in measurement, it has prompted me to think about what the heck we are doing as a society. What are we doing as the professionals who are educated, trained and charged with helping people who are hurting? Do others just read this stuff and go on with their day never wondering why those who kill themselves are NOT on the list because they are NOT telling anyone that their job is stressful? 

So, I pulled from the list the professions with which I have the most experience. They are as follows: Airline Pilots, Corporate Executives (senior), Physicians, Stock Brokers, and Lawyers. 

Then I thought about each of these jobs and the things I know about them through my research, my clinical work and the current research literature to see if I could find common threads. I did. 

However, before I continue, I would really like to know what others think about this. When you think about Airline Pilots, Senior Corporate Executives, Physicians, Stock Brokers and Lawyers, what comes to mind?

What are the similarities between these people and the jobs they hold?

Why do Airline Pilots and Senior Corporate Executives report high levels of job stress but do not have high rates of suicide?

Why do Physicians, Stock Brokers and Lawyers fail to report high levels of job related stress yet have such high rates of suicide?

What are your biases?

What in the world is going on with that statistic about active military personnel? Given that the DoD consistently reports active duty suicides rates up to 48% higher than the average population, it seems impossible that “active duty military” is listed at the top of the stress list and missing completely from the suicide list. 

I will publish Part two of this article within two weeks and will include any comments and feedback. I welcome your thinking. If you are uncomfortable posting your comments here, please message me through my Linkedin account: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorie-hood-6315a445

I am reaching out as a professional who is concerned about the biases toward those who are hurting, depressed, addicted, suicidal, and the ways those biases keep people from seeking the help they need. More importantly, I am reaching out as a human being who is as vulnerable as the next person to the stressors brought on by my job and career. If I ever show up on a list of occupations that put me at risk for suicide and am not showing up on a list that says my occupation is stressful, I hope somebody is paying close enough attention to question it.

Resources:

http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/most-stressful-jobs-2016

http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/01/06/top-11-professions-with-highest-suicide-rates/

Are you heading for a Spicer moment? How NOT to Choke Under Pressure

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Remember when Marco Rubio seemed to lose his ability to think when Chris Christie attacked him? You remember, a few thousand years ago during one of the republican debates? 

Whether you missed the Marco and Christie show, turned away because it was too uncomfortable to watch or need a refresher because you watched it like a bad accident but didn’t quite get enough, here it is: https://youtu.be/a0WUtNJAo9k

An analysis of the above Rubio video is a great introduction to how powerful is the human stress response is and how it affects us at nearly every level of functioning. It is also a helpful in understanding what is happening with Spicer. Although he seems to come to the podium with lots to say, somewhere aong the way, Spicer seems to derail on a regulra basis. What is happening to him may speak less about his ability and much more about his level of stress and lack of training. 

Our subconscious mind has evolved to keep us safe and it is largely our subconscious processes that determine what is “unsafe.” When we feel unsafe, whether we feel unsafe physically, emotionally or psychologically, our bodies respond – automatically. Without training, we often wind up like Rubio or Spicer. With proper traning (or a whole lot of experience and/or a nose for blood in the water) we can perform more like Christie. 

Let’s start with Rubio.

He is already nervous and he has lots of reasons to be – let’s give him that. He is on live television, is a first term senator and, at 42 years of age, he is the youngest candidate in the presidential race. So, we can assume he probably has less experience with this kind of stress than most of the others. However, it is his body language and social signals that convey the high levels of stress he is experiencing.  

In watching the beginning of the footage, one can see Rubio display multiple signs of stress as soon as the moderator begins to address him. From lip licking, dropping his gaze, and breaking eye contact with the moderator, to body movements such as shifting his weight from on foot to the other, Rubio unconsciously displays his discomfort. As the moderator is winding down his first set of questions, Rubio is accessing his answer which he has formulated in the moment using both his conscious and subconscious minds and is preparing to respond. One can see this by the drop in Rubio’s gaze, the unconscious nod, the sense that his thoughts are turning inward and the slight down-turn to his mouth in what appears to be an internal signal of determination.

So far so good. 

Rubio responds the moderator’s questions and as he relaxes, he gives us the first round of his talking points, “… and let’s dispel, once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country.” Continue with Rubio Talking Points, Round #1 with a few extra “systematic efforts” thrown in. Audience applause. Rubio foot shuffle.

Enter Chris Christie.

Christie, appears calm and in control of his thought processes but also his body language, especially when he addresses Rubio directly. He turns and faces Rubio and delivers his challenge in a factual manner. When the audience applauds for Christie, Rubio becomes uncomfortable (slight smile, looks down, shifts weight). Christie continues and delivers several well-constructed soundbites of his own. Christie even has the presence of mind to remember to make direct eye contact with the camera and thus, those of us at home a few times (this shows fluid thinking and access to a wide range of his abilities – read: not very stressed)

Back to Rubio. He holds his own and answers Christie’s charges for a few sentences and then goes back to his memorized soundbite, “let’s dispel with the myth that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing…” Rubio Talking Points, Round #2. 

Here is where understanding how the human brain responds to stress has everything to do with performance under pressure or #HighStakesPerformance and why trauma informed performance consultants such as #TheHoodGroup are worth their weight in gold. 

Christie not only interrupts the moderator who has moved on to Jebb Bush, he cites for the record the rules by which he has the right to respond. Not too passive, not to aggressive-just enough push to reclaim the stage. One can only conclude Christie is in full command of his mental processes. That and the fact that he is able to think on his feet quickly enough to respond to Rubio’s memorized speech and use it to further his own, previous point (that Rubio is inexperienced and it shows in his robotic memorization.)

The audience explodes with cheers and “Ooo’s and Oh’s” and for all intents and purposes, Rubio is done.

Overwhelmed, Rubio transitions out of his window of tolerance. All of the unconscious body postures and facial expressions resurface in full force and, as if on cue, Christie picks up on them and uses them again and again to verbally pummel Rubio. The Rubio Talking Points, Round #3, #4, and so on are looped again and again, even when completely out of context because they are stored in his long-term memory which is all he can access. By the time the Christie uses the words, “shame” and “ESP”, Rubio is reduced to shaking his head and (literally) giving the “palms up gesture” of universal passiveness and “surrender.”