The Road To Empowerment: Conquering Anxiety And Transforming Limitations With Dr. Friedemann Schaub
In today’s fast-paced and chaotic world, maintaining balance and finding inner peace can feel like an uphill battle. Break free from the patterns that hold you back and unleash the power within to create a life of purpose, peace, and unyielding strength. Welcome back! In this thought-provoking conversation, we dive deep into the realm of personal development and mental well-being. Our guest today is Dr. Friedemann Schaub, a respected physician, researcher, personal development coach, and author of the acclaimed book, The Fear and Anxiety Solution. Dr. Friedemann sheds light on the often unkind voices that plague our minds, causing anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Why do we sometimes make ourselves invisible or constantly seek approval from others? The answer lies within our subconscious patterns, and Dr. Friedemann is here to guide us toward greater self-awareness and empowerment. With practical advice and deep insights, Dr. Friedemann shows us how to navigate life’s challenges and create a harmonious relationship with our inner selves. Tune in now and take the first step towards a more fulfilling and authentic life.
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The Road To Empowerment: Conquering Anxiety And Transforming Limitations With Dr. Friedemann Schaub
Breaking Through Patterns To Find Power And Peace
I have such a great conversation to share with you. All of us are trying to stay balanced in this crazy life and there are people who can truly help us do that. One of them is Dr. Friedemann Shaub. He’s a physician, researcher, personal development coach, great guy and the author of the award-winning book, The Fear and Anxiety Solution. His research and advice have been featured in many publications, including Oprah Magazine, Huffington Post, Readers Digest and many more. He is also the host of the Empowerment Solutions Podcast. I’ve been listening to it and I can tell you it’s a fantastic resource that I highly recommend.
We’re going to talk about anxiety and the voices in our heads that often aren’t very kind. When you’re struggling with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem, keeping your emotions in check can seem like a full-time job. Have you ever wondered why you make yourself invisible, procrastinate or constantly please others to get their approval? It has to do with our subconscious patterns. Dr. Friedemann is going to talk about how we increase our awareness and empowerment so we can live with more peace and certainly more power. I hope you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as I did. Let’s get going with the very wise Dr. Friedemann Schaub.
Friedemann, it is so good to see you again. I have to tell you I was looking forward to this conversation because we’re kindred spirits on a lot of this and this is information that will be of service to so many people. I want to say thank you.
I’m grateful to be on your show since you are someone who brings information to the world that is so much needed. I’m glad that I can be a part of this.
The Origin Story
This is where we have our shared service. We’re all so busy. There’s a lot going on and a lot of content out there. The more we get into conversations about these things and share conversations, hopefully, we can all get better in our practices and maybe find a little more peace and serenity in our lives, which who does not want a little more of that? Let’s get started where I always begin and it’s with the origin story because it’s super interesting how our experiences, whether in childhood or as we’re developing, shape who we become. Can you tell us a little bit about your origin story and how you got to be doing what you’re doing?
Originally, I’m from Germany. I was born in the Black Forest in Germany. My parents were the doctors that don’t exist anymore. The countryside doctors were going from house to house or farm to farm. Often, I tagged along. The beginning of my life was out of the book of The Harmonious Life. I also felt everything was happy-go-lucky until I started having anxiety myself.
The anxiety had a backstory of me being very sensitive and taking on the anxiety of my parents and then also taking on their pressure, expectations and limiting beliefs around myself being apparently, at that time, a late bloomer, which I didn’t even know what that means, which explains a lot. I was a late bloomer. There were a lot of these negative messages that I took on.
From that on, I had at least a twenty-year history of anxiety that wasn’t diagnosed at that time. It wasn’t treated. My best treatment was a cat that I took to bed at night when I was afraid of the tests the next morning. That always calmed me down. In general, it was tough. I became, as was expected from me, a stressed-out physician, very anxious. What I noticed is that so many of my patients also had anxiety and we had zero to offer. I worked in cardiology so there was a lot of stress after a stroke or a heart attack but also before. I always wondered why don’t we work also on preventing these physical illnesses from happening by helping people to decrease stress.
This was in the ‘90s so my head of the department didn’t believe in the mind-body connection or that there is any connection between stress and heart disease. That was a little frustrating. It was all high blood pressure and cholesterol. At some point, I realized this is not where I want to be. I probably would not have changed careers if I had not had panic attacks in the middle of the night that woke me up and said, “You don’t want to do this for another 25 years.”
I heard this voice. It’s like someone was sitting next to me and telling me that. That was a scary but also interesting reflection that the anxiety was not a random thing about being anxious about everything. It was specifically about this path. This is not leading you to a place of fulfillment. I listened. I didn’t listen right away because I took a break, which was expected as well on this career path to do a postdoctoral research fellowship. That’s where the interesting thing happened. I was all set up to stay in Germany to work at the Max Planck Institute.
I had a postdoctoral fellowship so everything was pretty much laid out. I certainly would’ve stayed two years there. I would’ve gone back into the clinic and become probably a cardiology professor with a heart attack. I saw it coming. At the last minute, the Max Planck Institute said, “Sorry, we don’t have space for you. We are full in the lab so you have to go somewhere else.” You can imagine my anxiety was sky-high at that moment because I felt my career was over. “What do I do? I cannot go back to the clinic. They don’t expect me for two years. I don’t have anywhere to go.”
A voice inside said to me, “What about going to the US? You always wanted to go to the US. You could do it now.” That was a little spark that took hold. It was unbelievable. That’s when I started to look for labs. I had my money so I could go whenever I wanted to because I had a stipend. There is a long story in how I ended up in Seattle but I ended up in Seattle also with a lot of coincidences.
That’s how my whole journey then into the work I’m doing started in Seattle. I found ways to cope with anxiety through meditation and yoga. I found ways to learn to know myself because before, I only knew myself as a functioning doctor with high ambitions and low self-esteem. All of those things fell into place. After I stayed there for two years, I decided to go deeper into research and stayed longer for a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and then I said, “I don’t want to help rats. I want to help people.” I want to go back to what I originally felt. How can we help people to overcome their emotional challenges holistically? That’s how I ended up where I ended up.
I love your story so much because you listened. You also got a little bit of a shove with the whole news. I was thinking as you were talking. I was like, “Changing gears when you’re on a medical track is not easy.” Talk about investment, expectations and all these things. That little shove helped you change that channel. You did listen. This inner guidance system we have is so amazing. Yet a lot of times, we don’t listen. It has to get louder and louder. Sometimes, that results in illness.
The Mind-Body Connection
It’s funny. I’ve referenced my illness on the show before. I got very sick at 29 and this was in the ‘90s as well. That launched my curiosity about this whole mind-body connection. There were people at the time like Bernie Siegel who were writing books about this. You’re right. It wasn’t well-acknowledged in the mainstream.
Over time, we’ve come so much further in understanding that we’re a whole being and that there’s so much to this miraculous self that we are. What an incredible story. Going back a little bit to the early days of those anxiety and panic attacks. I have not had a specific panic attack. I’ve certainly had my share of anxiety but how does that feel when that’s happening when someone’s having a panic attack? It was addressed in Ted Lasso and some of the TV shows. You hear it but what does that feel like when that’s happening to somebody?
It’s like a wave of emotions that are washing over you and you feel like you’re drowning. You don’t feel like you can take a breath. You feel that you want to run away but you are paralyzed. Your mind is racing wildly. I didn’t have the symptoms of a heart attack or maybe I knew enough that it’s not a heart attack, that I didn’t pay attention. Some people feel like, “There is this pain in my chest. It must be a heart attack.”
This is not something that I had frequently because I often was aware of my anxiety. A lot of people are not aware of their anxiety at all and then they’re either suppressing it or ignoring it. It’s like a pressure cooker ready to explode. That’s what the panic attacks are about. It’s what you said. We are not paying attention and then all of a sudden, it says, “It’s enough now.”
I did pay attention to my anxiety and a good doctor does self-medicate. I self-medicated with beta-blockers and alcohol. Great advice that I would certainly not give any of my clients. At that time, that’s all I knew. I was handling my anxiety but I wasn’t listening to that message of, “This is not for you. You’re going to deeply disappoint your parents and also your mentor,” which was a nice guy in cardiology that had me taken under his wings but I couldn’t do it. That’s so often that people are feeling the same way but feel forced to continue because of whatever reasons.
Expectations. We’re not following our truth. We’re following the voices of our parents, culture or peer group. It takes a lot of courage to go against those outside voices sometimes. The other thing that is interesting about your story is you had a nice childhood in many respects. Some people come from intense trauma. They might have been abused, alcoholism in the family or any number of things that you might call a Big T trauma. It’s like, “I’ve got these challenges because this happened.”
What’s so interesting and why maybe there’s so much of an epidemic of anxiety is it doesn’t take like a Big T trauma. It can be subtleties that well-meaning and very well-intended parents might say, being a late bloomer and feeling that sense of, “Am I not okay or good enough?” Sometimes they don’t come from family. It comes from culture and any number of things. For those people reading, I don’t know what you would say with the percentages of how rampant this is. Everyone’s got some levels of anxiety like situational anxiety but I mean crippling anxiety where it interferes with your life and happiness.
Rollo May, the psychologist in the ‘50s and ‘60s, said that when you have a parent who is an abuser, for the child, it’s often easier to overcome that than if you have a parent that sometimes is nice and sometimes is authoritarian punishing because it’s confusing. A lot of us that have anxiety are struggling with the confusion. It’s not cut and dry. There is no abuse. Yes, there is abuse, you can work on it and you can eventually do it. Many people do heal from the abuse and grow.
If you have this confusion of self like, “Am I good enough? Am I lovable? Is this how I’m supposed to be? Why are my parents disappointed with me,” that can last longer because you don’t necessarily know that these questions need to be answered. These questions show up in negative self-talk. Negative self-talk is usually the precursor of anxiety.
What you’re saying is so true because if something is blatant, you’re like, “That’s the reason.” When something is a little more covert and not overt, you start to question yourself and your interpretation of it. I agree. It’s far more confusing. I want to dive into a couple of things and let’s wind down this road. I want to talk about negative self-talk but let’s also link it in with this power of the unconscious mind as you get into these survival patterns.
In your book and I want to make sure we talk about the book The Empowerment Solution, the whole conversations about the book, you get into these patterns of survival and why. Let’s start with why are they good intentions. They’re trying to help us. These things are protectors but they go awry. Can you share a little bit about how these things come up to us, these beliefs or protector patterns that happen?
Usually, the subconscious is our nanny when we grow up. It’s like this part of us that makes sure that we are okay because our intellect and conscious mind is lagging. It doesn’t evolve as quickly. The subconscious, that deeper part of the mind is right there, right when we are in the womb. There are so many cases where people remember what it felt like and the trauma that happened in the womb.
They ask their parents for confirmation, “Is it true that you almost drowned?” “Yes, it’s true when I was pregnant with you six months.” They never heard about it but the subconscious realized, “We are in trouble here.” The subconscious has that job but the subconscious also then decides how we are going to make sense of the world.
Let’s say you do have critical parents or a neglectful environment. The subconscious says, “I got to make sure that you’re safe. Safety means you get fed, get protected and get a little bit of love. How can we do that?” There are these patterns that are very typical. For many years, I’ve observed them over and over again with people, not only with people with anxiety but in general. These patterns help us to survive. They are patterns of invisibility. We all know those patterns when we are little. We feel like the safest place is in our room behind a book. I going to go into my little fantasy world. I don’t have to deal with the parents that are fighting all the time.
Also, the pattern of the opposite. The good girl, the good boy, the pleaser who always feels like they have to be the one that makes the mommy who is depressed, happy or the dad that is easily falling off the handle calm down. That was my role as a child. There are those patterns of avoidance and discomfort in general, where we don’t want to do our homework because we think we are stupid so we going to put it off. There are many patterns. I described the six most common that are observed in the book.
The reason for those patterns to exist is to help us navigate when we don’t get enough support, we don’t feel the security is given or we don’t trust that we are worthy and lovable enough. These patterns kick in to make sure that we stay okay. The only problem with the subconscious and those patterns is they’re going to keep on rolling until we are teaching the subconscious that it is not necessary anymore. “Thank you. I can take care of myself. I feel like I’m valuable. I have proven myself,” all those things. If the subconscious still believes we are little beings that are dependent on others or dependent on avoiding others, it will hold onto these patterns. That is what a lot of people feel.
They deal with anxiety, take medication or go to therapy but they repeat the same patterns over and over again. It’s almost like they try to deal with their emotions but they’re not dealing with their life and how they engage in life. If you would compare this to someone that says, “I want to lose weight,” and they go to the gym but their eating habits don’t change, you will never overcome that challenge.
If they do change their eating habits, they do go to the gym but then underneath, there is this fear of visibility when they become thinner and all of a sudden get unwanted attention, if that’s not addressed, naturally, they will never lose weight. That’s the same with anxiety. We’ll never lose the anxiety unless we are also changing how we are engaging with the world and how we see ourselves. I feel that’s the key to not just coping but outgrowing anxiety.
That is the work to be able to become consciously aware of these patterns. It’s so amazing. We develop these as little kids. We’re trying to make sense of our world and how to be safe. Nature is well intended. These are things that are here to help us survive while you call them survival patterns but we don’t ever change that channel as we grow and mature, which is so amazing. Is it safe to say that everybody has these? I doubt you’ve ever met anyone that has been able to not identify with some of these patterns. Is that fair to say?
We all have the same keyboard of patterns. Some we play more often than others some not. In the end, we all have those patterns. We are not that complicated. We always think we are very complicated but human behavior is not that complicated because if it were that complicated, I don’t think we would’ve survived. We have to rely on certain things that are true and that have proven to be useful and they repeat themselves over and over again.We always think we are very complicated, but human behavior is not that complicated. If it were, we wouldn’t have survived. Click To Tweet
I should have called the book, The Things That Your Parents Never Taught You on How to Create Happiness because that’s what this is about. No one that I know has parents that taught them that, which is how to get out of survival parents. We often get complaints about, “Why did my parents not tell me anything about money or how to balance a checkbook?” That’s the same thing. Why do parents not know or teach us, the kids, how to overcome these patterns?
They didn’t know it like I didn’t know until I learned. It’s something about growing up. Briefly, to what you said before about anxiety and we are all not alone with anxiety. Anxiety is the common denominator. Many people ask me, “Why are people more anxious?” I do believe it is exactly that we are confused and that we are not having the opportunity to find out who we are. As a child, when you’re in these survival patterns, you don’t ask questions, “Who am I? What do I want? What’s important to me?” It’s because you’re so busy getting through and pleasing or avoiding. That’s all you care about.
You grow up and it’s the same thing. It gets worse and worse with social media and all these influencers and influences from the outside and all these global challenges, all the pressures at work. We are performing more than we are existing in an authentic way. We are trying to fit in and somehow measure up or compete and compare. In the end, we have spent very little time asking ourselves, “Is this what I want? Is this who I am? Does it matter what other people think?” That’s why my story is a story where I’m so grateful for these panic attacks because they forced me to ask those questions and look deeper.
I invite all people that are struggling with anxiety to not blame the messenger but look at the message. What does the anxiety try to tell you? Is it the disorder that you’re dealing with or is there something that may want to make you pay attention that you’re disconnected from yourself, that you’re living for others and not for yourself? You’re thinking, especially young people that often tell me, “I feel like I’m already behind. I’m seventeen years old but I’m already behind.”
Behind what? There is this pressure of having to be at a certain level doing a certain thing so that in the end, we are arriving somewhere, which we don’t know. It’s sad. I don’t think it gets any better when parents, especially those already in primary school, start thinking about what college the kid could go to and what they need to do to get there. That is a pressure that is unnecessary at that age.
My twins are teens. Anytime we go anywhere, we are interacting. It’s a natural question to ask but they’re like, “What do you think you want to do? What college?” “I don’t know.” They feel this constant pressure of having to know what their life plan is going to be. I keep telling them I had no idea when I was seventeen. I was trying to figure out where to go to school. That was the only question I was trying to answer. I see this with the kids. There are college consultants. There’s so much more pressure on them to know and figure it out and feel that they’re competing. Social media has made it worse because everyone’s sharing all the best shiny things of their lives.
What COVID Did
Why do you think, Friedemann? This has been fascinating to me and we chatted about this for a moment before we hit record. When COVID hit, it was the collective trauma and it forced people into some levels of contemplation. Suddenly, there was all the busyness and all the going to and fro. Everything was shut down. You had to be with yourself and your family. A lot of people had some real shifts and thinking about what they wanted out of their lives.
I thought that maybe some of that would stick with us. What has seemed to happen is we’ve gone back full force into the madness and the mayhem, which is like, “How busy can I be? Now that I can travel, I’m going to travel all the time and fill every minute with a distraction.” Do you have any thoughts on why we’ve returned to this level and what we can do about it?
What hasn’t returned is that people still stay at home often to work from home, which is very healthy. Not having to go five days a week to the office is necessarily the best way. What also hasn’t changed is with this Great Resignation where people said, “I’m out of here. I’m not doing a job that is mind-sucking or doesn’t have any purpose.” There have been changes. I don’t believe it was long enough. It would’ve been longer in a pandemic situation. My parents went through World War II. This was 6 or 7 years. There’s a way longer stretch. I don’t want to diminish the hardship that many people went through but for many people, it wasn’t that hard.
There wasn’t this, “I have to dig in and change.” It’s annoying to stay at home and not see my friends. Dealing with the kids that are also at home was difficult. There were difficulties but I often feel like we only change if we are challenged and the challenge must maybe not be as hard as unfortunately needs to be sometimes for us to wake up. As soon as the possibility was there to go out again, the message was not slow down, be more mindful about what you do and how you choose to spend your time.We only change if we really are challenged. Click To Tweet
It was more like, “Let’s consume. Let’s get out. Let’s make the economy grow again.” There was all that temptation to go back. We are so externally driven that this internal introspection is something that’s almost an afterthought. That is where we are running behind this dopamine hit of wanting something, wanting to feel good, wanting to have a high but in the end, it’s all very short-term. It’s never solid or long-lasting. In the end, this connection from the self will always create dissatisfaction with life. We are exactly where we are.
There’s another thing that I also find a big problem that people do not have real faith in anything. That was what COVID also did. There was this whole talk about, “Is this real? Should we believe in the vaccines,” anti-Fauci. There was all this big wave of inner anti-science movement that also creates an instability where you once again wonder, “Who can I believe? Maybe this is not true. Maybe what this Facebook person says is true. Maybe I shouldn’t trust anything or anyone.” If we don’t even trust those institutions and we don’t know or trust ourselves, we go into a big void of uncertainty. If we don’t have any certainty in life, then we are anxious. We are doubting anything. That’s what a lot of people are going through.
You can become very ungrounded. We’re all trying to orient ourselves in the world like, “Where do I stand? How do I do this thing? How does life work?” You’re right. When we suddenly don’t know who to trust, it goes back to safety. “I thought that I would be safe here and I’m not safe here.” It can be overwhelming for the psyche, which would lead you into, “What’s the quickest way I can numb out? I don’t want to feel ungrounded because this is scary. Let me go drink, shop, travel or be as busy as I can so that I don’t have to look at the fact that I’m feeling ungrounded.” This is hard work. I say this a lot in some of the conversations we get into in the show. This is the opposite of warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely.
Sometimes it’s like we want to relax, breathe and do things to make us feel good. We’re going to talk about peace. How do we find peace? It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do because you’ve got to come face-to-face with the dragon. What is in there that you think is ready to tear you apart? Suddenly, you start to understand that it’s not as scary as it seems and that there are ways to befriend it. That’s the crazy thing too. With the anxiety and all these things that are hard, there’s a loving force behind that of trying to get us like, “Come on. Go back to where you need to be.” It’s not meant to make us suffer. It’s meant to make us wake up. To your point, challenge is what’s required sometimes to wake up.
Life is a mastery and it’s certainly a journey that leads not necessarily to an external destination but to an internal destination. It’s about growing into who we are meant to be. That’s at least what I believe. We all have a purpose and a contribution to make but most of us are not aware of what that means. Most of us are more in this, “How can I have these benchmarks reached, marriage, kids, house, 401(k) and retirement,” and don’t look at, “Is that my contribution? Is that what I’m meant to be?”Life is a mastery, and it's certainly a journey that leads not necessarily to an external destination, but to an internal destination. It's about really growing into who we are meant to be. Click To Tweet
I remember a client of mine who was a financial advisor. She hated her job with passion but was good at it. She was more anxious in her 50s. She came to me and said, “I don’t know. I have a loving husband. I have everything I need. I have enough money to retire but I’m more anxious than I was ever in my life.” When we dug into what the anxiety was saying, it was about that there was an artist inside of her. There was a creative force inside of her that never was expressed.
It brought her to tears when she realized that when she was young and innocent, she had all these beautiful artworks she did. She didn’t study in school. She was doing art and she loved it. She felt blissed out and then she was forced to go onto this other career path. She felt like that’s what she needed to do to provide for her family. In the end, when she let this artist out, the anxiety was gone. When she had her first gallery opening, that was the best day of her life.
There are these voices that also remind us that life is precious and that we are not here to waste it by amassing or getting more into consumerism. We have to look for what is our steep desire. In the book, there is this going back to this innocent self, which was for me, the happy-go-lucky self. The happy-go-lucky self was someone that deeply believed in the goodness of God or the universe and trust deeply in nature. I lost all of this.
If you’re in medicine, you don’t trust nature. You’ll trust the doctor and the medicine. That’s pretty much it. I had to remember that eventually there is the truth of who I was born into and who I became. They didn’t match and I had to realign that. For all readers, remember who you were. Remember what is a desire that you always had, something that you always felt like, “That made me so happy,” and you haven’t allowed yourself to do it or connect to it. That will already bring you a much greater sense of peace and connection when you follow what you were interested in as a little boy or a little girl.
That’s so wonderfully said. I’m so glad you shared that with the people reading. That is such a worthy path to think about. Who is that lost self that has been piled over an expectation by so many forces that we have to contend with? I remember hearing a story and there are lots of stories like the hidden artist story but there are some sad stories.
There was a young boy at one point who loved to sing. He was singing all the time. One day, one of his parents came home and they had a terrible day. It was not about the boy. It was just the day was so hard. The boy was singing and the parents said, “Stop singing. You have a terrible voice.” They said something like that. They didn’t feel that way. They were just in a terrible state of mind and they were projecting that misery onto the boy.
He didn’t sing. He stopped singing for his entire life. It wasn’t until he was in his 50s that he started to sing again. It was this whole unfolding of this lost part of himself that in one crazy moment was all gone. The parent probably didn’t even realize at the time what was happening because they were caught up in their suffering and terrible day.
Emotions And Patterns
Things will happen along the way. That’s why we have to keep asking questions and saying an inquiry about why are we feeling what we’re feeling and what does it need to tell us? One of the other things that you said in another interview and I loved it was that this is not understanding these patterns. It’s not something to fix. It’s just something to remember that they’re there for a reason. They’re not bad. They don’t make us wrong. It’s like, “This is something that was meant to keep me safe.” To your comments earlier, “I don’t need that anymore,” I love that framework because we are so quick to say there’s something wrong with us.
With emotions and patterns, we do judge very harshly who we are. What you said before, the innocence about the singing voice, back to the parents quickly, that may feel like, “Maybe I am putting too much pressure on my child,” maybe you do. One thing that you can do for your child is to make it have space to be bored and space that needs to be filled with that inner gift. Whether it’s creativity, a voice, an adventure or whatever it is, we have to let this innocent self explore what that means when we are unfolding.
That’s my concern. When we are only creating little functioning soldier kids that do exactly what’s expected of them, they don’t even know anymore that innocent selves. They’re not in touch with what is their unique gift or desire. We have to give that space not only during the vacation time but also during the week. Create space enough for them to also have to figure out, “What makes me happy?” That is ultimately what we are looking for, happiness in all different kinds of ways and what satisfies us.
We have a couple of challenges in that area. Not only are there the pressures and the expectations we might put on our kids but if we do give them space to be an exploration, guess who marches in and takes over that space? Technology. TikTok, YouTube and games. Not that they’re all bad. As a matter of fact, we were talking before about watching our kids play certain games and how remarkably impressive it is what they’re doing. They’re learning strategy and there’s certainly learning from that too.
All these things come in because they’ve got these phones in their hands where that space where you and I didn’t have that when we were that age. If we had that space to go climb a tree or be in nature, ask questions, look up at the clouds and see animals in the clouds, that doesn’t happen as much with our younger generation because we have technology filling the space.
That is a huge problem. There is something not only neurologically with how our brain is pretty much preoccupied, bombarded and also numbed out. I’m shocked. I read that this was happening in Germany, how some teenagers are showing a level of brutality when they’re fighting with each other. That certainly didn’t exist before. It is so normalized in video games to kick someone in the head and all those things. There is an issue there. I don’t know how you feel when you are sitting on social media for a while but for me, it always feels like I had a fast food meal. I feel like it’s a little icky.
When you are doing this regularly, you don’t notice it anymore. You’re not aware of what you put into your mind and how your mind is not able to process so much information. When I watch young people looking at TikTok, there is a swiping happening that I cannot follow. It’s like ten seconds max attention span and then go to the next. The brain has all these loose ends. The mind wonders, “What happened here? We are here. Are we going to do the next and the next?” It’s like going through all these channels on TV and never starting to finish any story, series or film. You’re hopping and that is overwhelming. That is not bringing any peace.
I feel we need to have some limitations or at least some conversation about what happens when you do this. Our brain has not evolved as fast as an iPhone has evolved. It takes way longer. Whatever technology is doing, we are not able to keep up. We have to measure what we can handle, what’s good for us and what’s overwhelming. That is something that we cannot start early enough because there is an addictive component to this too.Our brain has not evolved as fast as an iPhone has evolved. Click To Tweet
Even as you described the swiping, there’s a frenetic feeling too. “I’m here. I’m there. Now, I’m here.” Technology is included in adult life when we talked about us going back into busyness, emails and instant messages. There are a million ways you can get messages. It can come from social media and all these different platforms. It’s changing the channel of your life and your moment constantly. Even if you were to look inside your brain, one minute, you’re this and that. “I got to pick up the kids. I needed to order that. What about that thing at work?” How can you be present in whatever beauty might be in front of you at that moment when your brain is in ten different places at once?
You can’t. You miss it. How do we find it? What I’d like to transition into in this third chapter of our conversation before we end it is I want to talk about the negative self-talk and how that even connects to finding stillness and peace. Whether it’s Imposter syndrome or these protection patterns gone awry, the negative voices in the head are real.
Reprogramming The Subconscious
We talk about it a lot in the lab and I get into a lot of conversations with people about whether it’s Imposter syndrome or why they don’t feel worthy of beautiful things, abundance, a great life and all the things that they long for. What’s the driver of some of that talk? How can we start choosing differently or pulling back on that?
It’s not the monkey mind. Often, it’s explained that there is some evil force in ourselves. Once it distracts us, whether it’s the ego or the me personality that wants to have its way, I don’t see it this way. I see it more as this subconscious protector who is either repeating the same messages that it had absorbed a long time ago. A way better way of looking at it is by asking questions.
When your subconscious talks to you in these negative ways and you’re like, “I’m not good enough. This will never work. No one likes me,” all those things, in some ways, this is all in a belief system, your core limiting beliefs that have been created a long time ago. You could say the subconscious says, “I see the world through this belief system.”
If you are asking the question, “Will I be successful? Can I have what I want? Will I not be alone but find a relationship? Am I liked,” what happened in the brain is that naturally, you stop that spiraling because a question is hijacking the brain to looking for an answer. That’s a fun thing about seeing these negative thoughts more as this attempt of the subconscious to finally get clarity, get an answer and not just make a statement that says, “This is how it is and that’s that.”
The subconscious wants to learn. The subconscious is eager to evolve. It has two functions. To keep us safe but also to make us happy. Keeping safe is a lot of work. Making us happy is much more enjoyable. Imagine the negative self-talk you have more as a part inside of you, this inner protector that says, “Are you sure it’s going to work out? Is this criticism of what the boss did when he frowned at us?”
At that moment, you can make up your mind. That’s what the subconscious needs us to do. It needs us to be the conscious leader that says, “I think I’m good enough. I think I can do this. I think it’s going to work out. If not, all failure is feedback and I’m going to learn from it.” You can then respond from a place of caring authority and reprogram your subconscious to see things no longer as a matter of self-defense but more as a matter of actualization or self-fulfillment. That’s a fun thing about this question thing that when we are having negative self-talk, most people say there’s one after another and then you’re feeling so overwhelmed and you’re stuck.
Take one of your thoughts, turn it into a question, spend a little time with that question and answer it accordingly. Do this three times a day. Your negative self-talk will decrease by 70% in a short amount of time because finally, you’re answering. Your subconscious realizes, “There is somebody at home. Maybe that person can take the steering wheel.” Finally, you have a new way of looking at life.
All these thoughts and beliefs are huge filters. You don’t see 90% of what’s possible. You only see what you believe. If you are opening your mind to this can work out, “I am likable and here’s the evidence why,” everything becomes wider and more open. That is how we see there are new paths forward. These negative self-talks don’t have to be stopped, pushed away or negated. You can answer, be nice and have compassion. It works even better.
The power of a good question. Inquiry is everything and we talk a lot about the growth mindset at Coca-Cola. It’s one of our values because, in a growth mindset, you know that even if you fail, you learn and grow. You have to say, “If I’m never failing, I must not be stretching very far if I only do things I know I can ace.” That’s a wonderful technique that we can all do to flip the script a little bit on what’s going on inside of our heads and even relax a little bit.
Sometimes there’s an intensity of like, “I have to do this right,” or maybe we did screw something up and we’re like, “I can’t believe I did that,” versus, “Let’s see. Let me review this. Maybe I could have done a little bit of left and a little bit to the right. Let’s try that next time.” Holding ourselves a bit lighter versus such intensity of having to do things a certain way.
That’s important, the key to self-compassion. We are not looking for perfection but for progress because we’re only looking for perfection. We are living in this black-and-white, all-or-nothing. Many people that do want to grow go still about it with, “It’s going to either work or I’m just going to drop it.” This is what so many people have with meditation.
They try for a week. They go maybe to some a workshop and then they feel like, “My mind is still racing. I’m still having all these distracting thoughts. It must not be for me.” They drop it. After a week, they’re like, “I did feel, for five minutes, pretty relaxed. That was great.” We need to look for these nuances that show us that we are growing and not be deflated when things are not instantaneously arriving like an Amazon package. That’s also something we’re dealing with. We want to have it now.
“I want peace tomorrow. Can I order peace from Amazon? Please deliver it to my house.” It is a practice. As many years as I’ve been on the path, I’ll have my days where my negative self-talk is having a heyday and something didn’t go right. I think, “I’ve been working on this all this time.” You have to rest in this space of, “I’m always making progress.” Even when I fall off the wagon a little bit, my awareness is there. You get back on, walk forward, keep working on it and live into it. You don’t arrive at it. You just live into it all the time.
We also do better when we see that we are a part of the web of life. We don’t make it all about us having to be something, performing well and being seen as whatever but what we see we’re doing grows and making along the way also benefits others. You have another way of motivation. It’s not just about some kind of judge giving you good scorecards.
It’s more about, “Why do I want to be a better self so that I can give back to my kids and community? I can be more pleasant in my workspace.” There are things also when we are stepping out of ourselves, not just feeling that it’s all about our worthiness but we are seeing the bigger reason why we work on ourselves and why we want to become our best selves because it does serve the world. It’s almost like you’re having less pressure because it’s not so personal. It’s more like, “I’m getting ready to make a bigger contribution.”
I love that so much. You don’t do it for yourself. You do it for everyone, which is a beautiful motivation and a great way to wrap up a lovely conversation full of a lot of wisdom that you’ve shared and I know will be helpful to those who read it. I want to say thank you for everything that you shared. I also want to make sure how can people find you. Your book The Empowerment Solution is amazing. I would highly recommend it. It’s full of so many things that you can do on the path to greater peace. How else can people find you?
I would highly recommend the podcast because I’ve been listening to it. For our readers, you’re reading this conversation but imagine being able to go to any of these topics and hear you talk about them. I’ve enjoyed listening to it and even sharing it with some of my friends. Thank you for that. I would encourage others to find it. As we wrap everything up and you have my tremendous gratitude, any last remarks you’d like to leave our readers with as we close out?
One of the keys in the book is self-love. I feel that is such an under-focused and underappreciated goal to have, to learn to love ourselves more. I’m not talking about love conditionally. I’m talking about loving unconditionally and then treating ourselves with love. Whenever you’re working on yourself, whether you want to outgrow your anxiety or you’re dealing with depression or you have other challenges, do it from love. Know that you matter. Make it something that’s a gift to you and not some repair job that tells you that you’re a lemon who needs to somehow get an upgrade. Make it because you care. You will notice it goes so much easier and more enjoyable.
Love and compassion are the keys to the path. We’re all doing our very best to continue to work on those things and become a better version of ourselves so we can show up for each other. Thank you again for your time. This was a gift.
Thank you very much.
- Dr. Friedemann Shaub
- The Fear and Anxiety Solution
- Empowerment Solutions Podcast
- The Harmonious Life
- The Empowerment Solution
- YouTube – Dr. Friedemann
About Dr. Friedemann Schaub M.D.,Ph.D
Dr. Friedmann Schaub, M.D, Ph.D is a physician, researcher, development coach, and the author of the award-winning book The Fear and Anxiety Solution. His research and advice have been featured in many publications, including Nature Medicine, Oprah Magazine, Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Teen Vogue, and Shape. He is the host of the “Empowerment Solutions” podcast and lives between Seattle, Washington, and the South of France.
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