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STEP #1: RECOGNIZE

Recognize—verb—to acknowledge or take notice of in some definite way.

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY

 

PATRICIA’S STORY, PART ONE

Many of us will not realize who we are because we do not believe in ourselves.

—SUNDAY ADELAJA

Patricia Vitera is a comptroller for a construction firm who joined my Rewire Mentorship Program when she was struggling financially after a painful divorce.

“I want to have money work for me, to be confident in investing,” she said in a soft Texas drawl. “But I’m not making progress. I keep hitting roadblocks.”

It was only our second session, yet she was obviously irritated.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work and making small changes. But I’m frustrated,” she lamented. “I want big changes, big leaps.” She paused, sighed heavily, and added. “Rewiring is just so hard for me.”

“Oh honey, I promise, it’s hard for everyone, particularly at the beginning,” I assured her “Keep in mind you’ve just begun.” Then I asked her to describe a small change she’d made. It took her a few minutes to think of one.

“Well, just this weekend, I was thinking about my ex-husband and how I didn’t feel like I deserved someone better. And then I caught myself and said ‘Whoa! Wait a minute! No, no, no! That’s my old story.’”

I wanted to jump through the phone line and hug her. “You did it,” I squealed. “You took the first step in rewiring. You recognized an old belief for what it was, a big lie. How did that feel?”

“It actually felt really good to realize.” I could almost hear her smile

But I sensed her smile vanish with my next questions. “Why did you dismiss that insight as small? Why didn’t you appreciate that this was progress? You’ve heard the saying: what you appreciate, appreciates.”

“I’m always doubting myself. I don’t have any confidence,” she said ruefully. “I don’t know when the last time I said to myself, ‘Well done, Patsy.’”

Her massive insecurity kept the seed of a new story—I deserve better—from taking root in her brain. Yet her reaction made perfect sense. Our human brains are predisposed toward noticing negativity, a necessity for self-preservation. That’s what kept our ancestors safe just as it did my client from her abusive father.

But dwelling on the negative is a form of brain abuse known as rumination. Like a cow chewing its cud, she kept chewing on what she didn’t do and how bad she felt, which, of course, triggered spasms of self-doubt, further strengthening that already deeply carved cognitive path.

“Would you like to rewire your self-doubt so you can start appreciating small strides?” I asked, sensing she was ready. “Every time you don’t appreciate a small change you made, you’re just reinforcing the old wiring of not good enough.”

“Yes,” she declared. “I’m at the point where I want those old stories gone and the new ones to begin. But it’s hard.”

“Yes, it’s hard. But let me make it simple for you,” I offered. “Let’s focus solely on the first step.”

And that, dear reader, is exactly where you and I will begin—with Step 1: Recognize. To simplify it even further, I’ve broken this step into four phases:

Phase I: Observe without judgment.

Phase II: React with curiosity (or congratulations).

Phase III: Separate your thoughts from yourself.

Phase IV: Blame your brain.

The point of this process is to engage the cerebral cortex (the rational brain) and disengage the limbic system (the emotional fear center). I like to think of this step as a mental spam filter, notifying you of any unsolicited, unwanted, and unhealthy thoughts so you can ignore them.

PHASE I: OBSERVE WITHOUT JUDGMENT

Sometimes when we judge ourselves we really put a wrench in the healing process, don’t we?

—JODI AMAN

The National Science Foundation declares that every day about 50,000 thoughts float through your head like bits of dust you barely notice. Of those thoughts, 80 percent are negative and 95 percent are repetitive.1

And this is exactly where we start rewiring for wealth—by paying attention to those passing thoughts, particularly the negative and repetitive ones. Only when you become aware of your thoughts do you have the power to change them.

Dr. Schwartz discovered that when his OCD patients observed their sensations, their urges and impulses, they were able to “strengthen their capacity to resist the insistent thought of OCD.”2

And that’s all the first phase of the first step asks you to do: Notice what you’re thinking, feeling, and doing, particularly if it doesn’t feel good.

Patricia seemed surprised it was that simple. “So when fear or doubt or inadequacy walks into my brain, I just notice it?” she said. “That’s all?”

“Yep. That’s the first thing you do,” I replied, adding one stipulation. “Do not judge anything as good or bad. Just notice impassively.”

The point of Phase I is to witness your internal dialogue as if you were an impartial spectator or objective bystander, viewing yourself from a distance. Maybe you remember a scene in the movie Annie Hall when Diane Keaton literally steps out of her body to observe her interaction with Woody Allen. She simply watches what unfolds. That’s what this first phase is asking you to do. Just take note of your thoughts and feelings. Do not dwell on, criticize, or analyze what you notice. And don’t overthink or shame yourself. Simply recognize when any of the following happen.

•  You’re feeling scared, frustrated, anxious, inadequate, or unhappy.

•  You’re telling your old story: “There’s never enough.” “I always doubt myself.” “I have to hide who I really am.” “I’m such a klutz with money.”

•  You’re replaying old patterns like not opening bills, eating when anxious, overdrawing an account, or constantly needing to control.

•  You have a strong negative reaction or an emotional upset.

•  You’re beating yourself up or putting yourself down.

•  You’re pessimistic about your ability to change based on past experiences.

•  You’re listening to your Ego (the voice of fear) because it always speaks first, screams loudest, and never shuts up.

•  You’re responding in a healthier way. (It’s important to acknowledge progress.)

PHASE II: REACT WITH CURIOSITY (OR CONGRATULATIONS)

Be curious, not judgmental.

—WALT WHITMAN

As you become aware of your uncomfortable or undesirable thoughts or feelings, Phase II asks that you react with what Dr. Richard O’Connor, in his book Rewire, calls “compassionate curiosity.”3 In other words, respond not with self-recrimination but with inquisitiveness, saying to yourself evenly, calmly: “Isn’t that interesting?” or “Oh, look what I’m doing.”

I loved how Jessica Bensley, a member of my Rewire Mentorship Program, described her experience with Phase II. “On my walk this morning, I was listening to my mind chatter. It was so fascinating being the observer observing my thoughts,” she told me. “I recognized that 98 percent of my thoughts are founded in some kind of judgment. That was so interesting. Here I was thinking I was the love child of peace and joy!”

As she began to notice that “chatter,” rather than judge herself harshly, Jessica was intrigued by her discovery. I suggest you do the same. Recognize any detrimental, distressing, or disparaging thoughts with both detachment and fascination: “Oh isn’t that interesting.”

Or, if you notice a healthy reaction that makes you feel better, congratulate yourself for making headway. The more you appreciate your progress, the quicker you’ll wire that into your brain.

PATRICIA’S STORY PART TWO

The best way out is always through.

—ROBERT FROST

“The message I’m getting is to acknowledge my old story. Recognize I’m in it,” she said. “But what about all the bitterness, anger and hurt that comes up with that old story? I feel that’s my weakest link. I automatically regress to the old wiring.” She was referring to her alcoholic father’s abuse and her ex-husband’s gaslighting.

I assured her that staying mindful but impassive is not easy, and here’s why: Unhealed pain triggers stress hormones preparing your brain for impending doom. However, trying to stifle the hurt only strengthens it.

“Don’t fight your feelings,” I urged her. “Stay with the sensations no matter how uncomfortable, as long as you can. Recognize this is an opportunity to heal, to finally release the pain rather than repress it which you’ve always done.”

As Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz explains: “Emotions should be felt and constructively dealt with because they honor your true needs.”4

In his book, The Brain: The Story of You, David Eagleman shared an experiment where participants watched a sad movie. Half were told to respond normally. The other half were told to suppress their emotions. Afterward, they were all given a hand exerciser and told to squeeze it as long and hard as they could. Those who suppressed their emotions gave up sooner. The reason: emotional repression is exhausting and drains your energy for other things.5

It’s highly likely that suppressed emotions will emerge in this process for you, too. Rather than shove them down, let them bob to the surface. Hear what those feelings have to say. Give yourself permission to be angry at your parents or spouse or former best friend for how they treated you. You have a right to be enraged. Or hurt. Or humiliated. Or saddened. Similarly, recognize these feelings may be driving you to engage in acts of self-sabotage, like avoiding your finances or distrusting your decisions.

Remind yourself that this is your Ego, the voice of fear, which always speaks first and loudest. It wants nothing more than for you to numb your feelings with various diversions. But whatever you suppress, grows stronger.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Research shows that suppression activates the [part of the brain] where your body’s flight or fight response resides. Suppression will make you more anxious in the long run and will have harmful effects on your health.”6

If you can let the feelings flow through you, without judgment or censorship, they’ll eventually dissipate, allowing you to connect with your Soul’s wisdom.

PHASE III: SEPARATE YOUR THOUGHTS FROM YOURSELF

Believe you can. Believe you can’t. Either way you’ll be right.

—HENRY FORD

After you observe without judgment and react with curiosity (or congratulations), I want you to start Phase III and draw a distinction between you and your thoughts. When you notice yourself thinking, “I don’t trust myself,” shift to “Oh, I’m having a thought about not trusting myself.” Or instead of “I’m scared,” try “I am having a fearful thought.” Similarly, rather than “I have to buy those gorgeous boots,” say to yourself, “I’m having a thought about buying those boots.”

“Thoughts are not truth,” writes Dr. Schwartz. “Instead of reacting to these thoughts and feelings as ‘these are me,’ regard them as events in the mind that can be considered and examined.”7

The idea is to create some distance between your Ego’s warped distortions, your brain’s old programs, and your automatic urge to act on either or both. Simply recognize that you’re having a thought but acknowledge that you are not your thoughts. Nor are these thoughts true. They are guiding fictions, false narratives, deeply rutted and well-worn neural pathways that have been strongly reinforced over your lifetime. They are implanted beliefs, not genuine facts. When you recognize them for what they are—indoctrinated ideas—you can begin to weaken them by challenging them.

For example, during a tough negotiation, my client Joyce Griggs, a strategist for pharmaceutical firms, felt her throat start to constrict and was ready to back down.

Instead, she told me, “I literally talked to myself. I said, ‘OK. Take a step back and just witness what’s happening. I’m having a negative reaction. This is an old neuropathway that’s playing itself out, and I can honor it for what it is. This reaction may have served me in the past when it was better not to speak up. But that’s not necessary anymore. I need to rewire this.’” She took a deep breath, quickly reframed (which is Step #2, which we’ll discuss in the next chapter) and continued the conversation without missing a beat.

Perhaps my favorite example of separating from your thoughts came from my client Amy who told me how she personified her fear. “I call fears my little warriors and imagine them as little boys dressed up as warriors who need a hug. They’re always there. But they’re not as raucous as they were.” You’ve got to give her credit for creativity.

PHASE IV: BLAME YOUR BRAIN

There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.

—JOHN GREEN

Once his OCD patients observed their impulses, Dr. Schwartz instructed them to “reattribute those thoughts and urges to pathological brain circuitry” that “reflects a malfunction of [the] brain, not a real need.”

Within a week, he said, “they reported the disease was no longer controlling them and could do something about it.”

Though your circuits may not be “pathological,” they are definitely defectively wired, generating such beliefs as I am not enough or I can’t do anything right. Recognize that these words are, according to Dr. Schwartz, nothing more than the toxic waste from the brain . . . and the Ego.

Instead of criticizing yourself—Oh damn it. I’m spending too much again—realize, “Oh I’m spending because that’s the way my brain is wired. That’s what my dad did when he was stressed.”

PATRICIA’S STORY PART THREE

A choice causes one brain state to be activated rather than another.

—JEFFREY SCHWARTZ

The next time I talked to Patricia, she was fretting about her finances, fed up with her situation.

“I’ve worked hard and put my life on hold just to get ahead. I should have more money. I should be farther ahead. But there’s never enough. Never.”

“Every time you say I should, that’s a sign you’re in Ego, who’s full of lies,” I warned her, sharing what my friend singer-songwriter Athena Burke always says: “Anything after I should is a lie.” Patricia liked that.

I suggested we take a look at her finances and figure out the truth. As she ticked off the exact amount in each account, I was struck by how financially diligent she’d been, how well diversified she was, and how much she’d saved. She actually had more than enough for retirement, though clearly, she couldn’t see it.

“You’ve done a great job,” I exclaimed.

“The financial planner I went to a few months ago told me the same thing,” Patricia admitted sheepishly. “She said I’m not behind. I’m doing OK. She opened a window so I could see that.”

“Why did you close that window again?” I inquired.

“You know,” she said pensively, “I never feel there’s enough. Which were the exact words my parents used. We never had enough.”

“Exactly!” I told her. “It’s not the truth. It’s how your brain is wired. You can only see what confirms your long-held belief, ‘There’s never enough.’ But now that you understand where that belief originated, you’ll need to rewire that belief before you can own the truth.”

PAYING ATTENTION TO THE POSITIVE

You do not need to pay attention to those voices within you that create pain, or make you feel less competent, smart, or able.

—SANAYA ROMAN

Up until now, we’ve been mostly focusing on your internal dialogue when it’s negative. But your Soul’s soft whispers need to be heard and heeded too. In order to strengthen the more desirable yet still weak neuropathways, it’s important to recognize positive experiences and positive feelings. Like Patricia’s brief recognition that she’d done a good job with her money or when she realized she deserved better than an abusive man. Or the experience I had with Joyce Griggs when she came to my home in Port Townsend, Washington, for a full day of coaching at a VIP Rewire Intensive.

“I am at the end of my rope,” Joyce said, explaining that she’d just been fired from her pharmaceutical job and her marriage was falling apart. Though she was highly stressed about her future, she had the wisdom and depth of a woman who’d obviously done a lot of work on herself. She wasted no time diving in deep. I liked her immediately.

After an intense morning of exploration, we took a lunch break at a local restaurant where we enjoyed the view of sailboats gliding lazily by and the majestic Olympic Mountains in the background. It was a beautiful sunny day. We were relaxed and nibbling on our salads when she calmly blurted out, apropos to nothing, “I want to be a nomad.” She laughed in amazement. “I have no idea where that come from.”

Joyce could easily have dismissed that thought as a silly slip of tongue, but she chose to pay attention. We both felt those words came straight from her Soul and carried a kernel of truth. As we talked, it began to make sense. She loved to travel. And she’d severed all ties keeping her in one place. She decided to keep an open mind and look for signs.

The very next week she was headed to Texas for a conference. While attending the event, she met a lot of interesting people. But two in particular made a strong impression.

“I exchanged business cards with a woman whose company was located in Greece,” she told me later. “I noticed I was very taken by this.”

That same day she met another woman. “When I asked her where she was based, she said, ‘Well I’m a nomad.’ I got the shivers.”

On the plane from Austin, Joyce disclosed, “I noticed a little voice in my head kept telling me to go to Athens. I thought to myself, ‘Huh? That is crazy. What do you mean, go to Athens?’ I’d never been. I didn’t know anyone there. It didn’t make sense.”

Again, she could easily have ignored that voice. “But I found myself booking flights for two weeks later,” she said.

Soon after she arrived in Athens, Joyce attended a yoga class, met an American woman, and they went for coffee afterward. “This woman told me her story about how she was called to Athens, had never been, but something was pushing her to go. And I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s telling my story.’”

That was over a year ago, and Joyce has been traveling nonstop, building a business as a strategist to pharmaceutical firms ever since. She’s returned to Greece several times. “The woman I had met in yoga class connected me with her whole community,” Joyce said with obvious delight. “I’ve found my tribe. I’m pretty certain I’ll move there in the next year or so. My financial advisor is going through the numbers now to see if I can swing it.”

She later told me that her advisor gave her the go-ahead and she set a date to move to Greece. There was no way, sitting in my guesthouse, Joyce could have come up with this plan. Instead, she paid attention to her intuitive nudges and positive reactions to seemingly chance occurrences and, as she put it, “I just started following the breadcrumbs.”

The eminent neuroscientist Michael M. Merzenich, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, once said: “We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work. We choose who we will be the next moment.”8

So, go ahead, think about who you want to be and what you want to do as you turn the page and get ready for Step #2.

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