My rating: 75/100
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Tagline: Transform Your Problems Into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity
This book gives five psychological “tools” that can be used to overcome the various problems we face in our lives. I have summarized them in their simplest forms here:
If you feel/are:
Avoiding a difficult situation, feeling distracted, – Use the reversal of desire tool: 1. Look at your pain as a cloud and say “Bring it on.” 2. Move through the pain and say “I love pain.” 3. Feel the cloud spit you out and say “Pain sets me free.”
Angry – Expand your heart full of love. Send that love to another. Feel it enter them.
Stage-fright – Imagine the small, scared version of yourself next to you. Together you both yell “Listen!” to your audience.
Worried or negative – Pick five items you are grateful for.
Lacking willpower, facing addiction: Imagine yourself on your deathbed screaming at you not to waste your life.
I had a thought while reading this book, being a bit turned off by the “new-spirituality” of it, that these tools might be far more effective if they were combined with a physical action. Perhaps when thinking about the pain you’re avoiding, you physically mimic yourself turning away from it by turning around. Then, when you move through the cloud of pain, you clap your hands and turn around and take two big steps forward. Enacting the thought process in a physical form could greatly strengthen the effect, and pair the two together in the brain.
Chapter 2 The Reversal of Desire
Pick something you hate doing. It could be traveling, meeting new people, family gatherings, etc. How do you organize your life so you can avoid doing it? Imagine that pattern is a place you hide in. That’s your comfort zone. What does it feel like?
You probably felt you were in a safe and familiar place, free of the pain the world brings with it. This almost completely re-creates your Comfort Zone, but it leaves out the final ingredient. Strange as it might seem, merely escaping pain isn’t enough for us. We insist that pain be replaced with pleasure.
We do this with an endless array of addictive activities: Internet surfing, drugs and alcohol, pornography, the aptly named “comfort food.” Even manic gambling and shopping are pleasures of a sort. All these behaviors are widespread – we’re an entire culture looking for its Comfort Zone.
These “warm-bath” activities just cripple us further. The more you hide in the warm bath, the less willing you become to deal with the cold shower of reality.
The comfort zone is supposed to keep your life safe, but what it really does is keep your life small.
Instead of admitting we’re avoiding pain, we tell ourselves we’re being virtuous.
The tool is called the “Reversal of Desire.”
Pick a situation you’re avoiding.
Some kind of emotional pain; a phone call you’re putting off, a project that seems overwhelming, or a task that’s simply tedious.
Once you’ve chosen a situation, imagine the pain you’d feel. Then, forget the situation and focus on the pain itself. Then try using the tool.
The Reversal of Desire:
See the pain appear in front of you as a cloud. Scream silently at the cloud, “BRING IT ON!” Feel an intense desire for the pain to move you into the cloud.
Scream silently, “I LOVE PAIN!” as you keep moving forward. Go so deeply into the pain you’re at one with it.
You will feel the cloud spit you out and close behind you. Say inwardly with conviction, “PAIN SETS ME FREE!” As you leave the cloud, feel yourself propelled forward into a realm of pure light.
Remember each step by the phrase that goes with it:
- Bring it on.
- I love pain.
- Pain sets me free.
For every tool, there is a set of easily recognizable moments that call for its use. Use the tool immediately every time you recognize a cue.
For the Reversal of Desire, the first cue is obvious – right before you’re about to do something you want to avoid. Let’s say you have to call someone who intimidates you, or you really need to get down to work, but you feel restless and distracted.
When we have to do something we find extremely unpleasant, we start thinking about it rather than doing it.
This is the second cue: each time you catch yourself thinking about the dreaded task, stop thinking and use the tool.
You can substitute the word fear for pain when using the tool.
The Reversal of Desire enables you to expand your professional and social circle. It’s easier to associate only with people who are no threat. This is really a form of avoidance that keeps you from living as fully as you can.
The Reversal of Desire enables you to wield authority. One of the hardest things about being a leader – whether you’re the head of a department, an entire business, or even a family – is that you have to make decisions that make people unhappy. That’s why they say “it’s lonely at the top.” An effective leader can tolerate the displeasure of others.
The Reversal of Desire overcomes phobias. Its effect is to put certain parts of life out of your reach. Even in mild forms, it can interfere with your functioning at work and in relationships. The tool gives you the courage to put yourself in situations that your anxiety had placed off limits. Life can open up again.
The Reversal of Desire allows you to develop skills that require a disciplined, long-term commitment. The biggest difference between those who succeed and those who fail at any endeavor is their level of commitment. Most people would like to be committed. But in practice, commitment requires an endless series of small painful actions. When a person has no way to deal with that pain, his commitment falls apart.
The Reversal of Desire give you a new perspective on family dynamics that have been in place since childhood. Try the following: Pick something that you got into the habit of avoiding as a child. What was the specific nature of the pain you were avoiding? Now, close your eyes project yourself into that child, and use the Reversal of Desire on that pain. Imagine yourself as a child using that tool – automatically, every time you want to avoid, day after day, year after year.
Chapter 3 Active Love
For when you feel angry.
Imagine that you’re surrounded by a warm, liquid light that is infinitely loving. Feel your heart expand far beyond you to become one with this love. As you bring your heart back to normal size, this infinite energy concentrates itself inside your chest. It’s an unstoppably loving force that wants to give itself away.
Focus on the person who’s triggered your anger. If they’re not physically in front of you (usually they’re not) then visualize their presence. Send all the love in your chest directly to them; hold nothing back. It’s like completely expelling a deep breath.
Follow the love as it leaves your chest. When it enters the other person at their solar plexus, don’t just watch. Feel it enter. This will give you the sense you’re completely at one with them. Now relax – you’ll feel yourself again surrounded by infinite love, which will return to you all the energy you gave away. You’ll feel filled up and at peace.
Each of the three steps has a name to help you remember it.
The first step is called “concentration.” You’re gathering up all the love that surrounds you and concentrating it in your heart – which is the only organ that can find it and hold it. The second step is called “transmission.” In this step your heart functions as a conduit, transmitting love from a higher place into this world. The real power of the tool is in the third step, which is called “penetration.” When you feel the love you’re transmitting enter the other person, there’s a sense of total acceptance; an acceptance that comes only with the experience of oneness.
The most obvious cue for Active Love comes when someone does something to you that makes you angry. The second cue comes when you’re reacting to a memory of something done to you weeks or years ago.
Try this simple technique [when you get angry just thinking of the other person]: when you use the tool, see the other person without a face.
This takes the focus off the other person and puts it back on your task, which is to generate Outflow.
Active Love lets you be more assertive. Nothing is more frustrating than being angry at someone and feeling unable to express it. The more the anger builds up, the more dangerous the confrontation seems. A tool that defuses your anger makes it safe for you to assert yourself.
Active Love trains you to accept others as they are. Everyone in your life is imperfect, either because of something they’ve done in the past or something they can’t change in the present. Fixating on these things destroys relationships. You need a tool that allows you to accept people despite their flaws.
Chapter 4 Inner Authority
People give you opportunities because they feel connected to you.
Why is insecurity so difficult to get rid of? The answer will seem very strange at first. Inside each of us is a second self, a living being we’re deeply ashamed of. No matter how hard you try, you can never get rid of this second self.
You’re in front of a group of people who make you feel insecure and self-conscious. Focus on the emotions this brings up. Now push those feelings out in front of you and imagine they form a being with a face and body.
But when we look inside ourselves, we see the Shadow and we’re ashamed. Out immediate reaction is to turn away – to look outside ourselves for some evidence of our worth. This takes the form of looking to others for approval and validation.
I was quite confused by the diagram below, and actually would have really appreciated a professional artist do these things. They look like a child did them, which isn’t bad except that they’re also hard to understand. In this one, I think that weird outline is supposed to be a person, and inside it is the shadow.
We have to hide anything about ourselves that others might not like. Amazingly, the hiding place becomes our own, inner self.
Imagine that you’re standing in front of an audience of one or many. See an image of your Shadow off to one side, facing you. Ignore the audience completely and focus all of your attention on the Shadow. Feel an unbreakable bond between the two of you – as a unit you’re fearless.
Together, you and the Shadow forcefully turn toward the audience and silently command them to “LISTEN!” Feel the authority that comes when you and your Shadow speak with one voice.
Inner Authority should be used any time you feel the pressure to perform. This is much more common than you think if you define a performance as any situation where you’re subject to the judgement and reactions of others.
Inner Authority lets you overcome initial shyness, particularly around people you’re interested in romantically. Many people who have a lot to offer in a relationship never give themselves the chance to get into one – the act of meeting someone new is too frightening. The people who get the most opportunities to connect romantically aren’t those who make the best partners; they’re those two put themselves out there the most.
Inner Authority lets you express need and vulnerability. Many people, especially males, hide behind a facade that says they have life under control and need nothing from others.
Inner Authority allows you to connect to your loves ones with more emotion. the way you communicate, especially the emotion you express, is more important than the words you use. When you speak without emotion, you can’t have enough impact on others to form a real connection.
Inner Authority activates a higher force in the act of writing, not just speaking. Writer’s block happens when writers become more interested in the outcome of their efforts than in the process of writing. It usually takes the form of a frustrated attempt to make their work perfect and harsh self-criticism when they fail.
Chapter 5: The Grateful Flow
We like to think we react to the world as it is, when really we react to a world that exists in our own minds.
We call this presence the “Black Cloud.” When you worry incessantly, regardless of the subject, you’re creating a negative energy that hangs over you like a cloud.
It’s tempting to think we can change our thought patterns easily. After all, why can’t we just replace each negative thought with a positive one? This idea has always been part of American culture. reaching its peak with a book called The Power of Positive Thinking. Unfortunately, it’s one of those ideas that seems like it would work but doesn’t. It fails because, in real life, positive thought don’t have anywhere near the power that negative thoughts do.
The Tool: The Grateful Flow
Pick out things in your life you can be grateful for – particularly things you’d normally take for granted. Say them to yourself silently, slowly enough to feel the value of each one. “I’m grateful for my eyesight; I’m grateful I have hot water,” etc. You should do this until you’ve mentioned at least five items – it takes less than thirty seconds. Feel the slight strain of your effort to find these items.
You should feel the gratefulness you express flowing upward, directly from your heart. Then, when you’ve finished mentioning the specific items, your heart should continue to generate gratefulness, this time without words. The energy you are now giving out is the Grateful Flow.
As this energy emanates from your heart, your chest will soften and open. In this state you’ll feel yourself approaching an overwhelming presence, filled with the power of infinite giving. You’ve made a connection to the Source.
You can use things that aren’t happening, such as “I’m grateful I’m not in a war zone” or “I’m grateful I don’t live on the San Andreas fault.” And you can also mine your past for items, such as “I’m grateful I went to a good high school” or “I’m grateful my mother loved me.”
At the first sign of negative thinking, use the Grateful Flow; negativity is your cue.
This could include self-criticism (I’m so stupid), judgment (That girl is so ugly), or complaining (I’m so tired of my job)
This tool also enables you to accept success.
The Grateful Flow frees you from regrets about the past. Many of us fall into the habit of rethinking past decisions we’ve made, blaming those decisions for everything bad that’s happened since. Besides the fact that life isn’t that simple, this kind of regret makes it impossible to move forward into the future. You need a tool that allows you a renewed sense of possibilities right now; only then can you leave the past behind you.
The Grateful Flow frees you from self-hatred.
The Grateful Flow stops you from being judgmental about others. When we judge others, we kid ourselves that what we think privately has no effect on those around us. The truth is that judgments, especially repeated harsh judgments, send and energy into the world that alienates others. You can’t fake a nonjudgmental attitude; you actually have to eliminate the judgments themselves.
Chapter 6 Jeopardy
The tool: Jeopardy
For most of us, the truth – that every moment counts – is too much pressure to bear.
“Real willpower can’t be dependent on events, will power has to be beyond events.”
That was confusing. “Isn’t it events that put you in jeopardy?”
“Events are temporary. You need to find a permanent source of jeopardy. There’s only one things you’re at risk of losing every moment.”
“What is it?”
The tool is based on the risk of losing your future, we call it “Jeopardy.”
Jeopardy: Imagine you can see far into the future. see yourself lying on your deathbed. This older self knows how crucial the present moment is, because he’s run out of them. You see him rouse himself from his bed and scream at you not to waste the present moment. You feel a deep, hidden fear that you’ve been squandering your life. This creates an urgent pressure to use – right now – the basic tool you selected above.
When to use Jeopardy
Although Jeopardy is effective at any time, there are certain moments when it’s most crucial. Identifying these moments will help you recognize the cues to use the tool.
Vinny has provided us with a great example of the first cue. He wanted to use the tools but he couldn’t, because he was completely demoralized. We all have moments when we want to use the tools but just can’t. We may not be as demoralized as he was; maybe we chalk it up to laziness or exhaustion. It doesn’t matter. Once you find it impossible to use the tools, the only things that can help you is extra willpower. That’s the cue to use Jeopardy.
Vinny has also been kind enough to illustrate the second and less obvious cue. It has to do with success. Like Vinny, we mistake success with being exonerated from further struggle. We tell ourselves we no longer need to exert willpower. But no matter how good we feel, if it becomes and excuse to quit using the tools, success destroys our future. That defines the second cue. Any time we fell like we’ve grown beyond the need for the tools is an immediate cue to use Jeopardy.
Try out Jeopardy in those everyday moments when you tend to love your will: getting out of bed in the morning, concentrating in the face of distractions, or restraining the impulse to give in to a bad habit.
He doesn’t accept the world as he finds it; he brings things into the world that aren’t already there.
He doesn’t follow the herd; he sets his own course. He ignores the reactions of others.
He resists superficial distractions. He remains focused on his goals even if he has to sacrifice his immediate gratification.
[ ] Add this to your mission statement.
Jeopardy supplies you with the willpower to control addictive and impulsive behavior. We have much less control over ourselves than we’d like to think. Whether it’s what we eat, what we buy, or how we react to other people, etc., we can’t resist the pull of immediate gratification. We resolve repeatedly to change our behavior, but impulses always win in the end. What we need isn’t more resolutions; it’s a way to defeat our impulses right in the moment. That takes willpower.
Jeopardy give you the strength to concentrate in circumstances where you usually space out or get distracted. We’ve become a society of hyperactive multitaskers, with the attention span of a flea. We need a force strong enough to hold our concentration on one thing until we’re finished with it. That takes willpower.
Jeopardy enables you to start new ventures. One of the hardest things to do in life is to start something new: moving to a new city, developing a relationship with someone thrust into your life (stepchildren, in-laws, etc.), starting a new business. Each of these steps – and any other new undertaking – triggers the most primal of human fears: fear of the unknown. We gravitate toward the familiar, even if it’s not good for us, because we lack the will to push through that fear. Jeopardy creates a force of will stronger than our fear.
Chapter 7 Faith In Higher Forces
I think this chapter should have been chapter 1. It’s much more personal.
All of this sounded great, but none of it silenced the objections screaming in my head. I tried to voice them but Phil would listen only for so long. He wanted me to work inside the system, not debate its validity, so he ordered me to identify a problem, choose a tool and (his words), “shut up and use the tool” every time I experienced the problem.
Chapter 8 The Fruits of a New Vision
First, think of the problem as a random hardship, occurring in an unthinking universe that doesn’t care about you or your evolution. How does that feel? Now, think of the same problem as a challenge posed by a universe that wants you to evolve and knows that you can. How does that feel?
This ongoing sense that problems are meaningful is a fundamental difference between a consumer and a creator. A consumer feels that life is only meaningful when his needs are being gratified. Problems, because they are ungratifying, inevitably destroy the consumer’s sense of purpose. In contrast, a creator has a sense of meaning that can’t be destroyed – he insists on seeing problems as driving him toward something better, something higher in himself. Far from destroying his sense of meaning, problems actually reinforce it.
When you use the tool and put yourself in motion, it affects more than just your own life. Because most human beings never leave their Comfort Zone, those who do have a profound impact on everybody else. Once you’re in motion, you’ll begin to see its effect on others around you. When they see and feel you doing things you’ve never done before, it expands their sense of what’s possible for them. This is how the spirit of society is transformed.
Close your eyes and imagine someone whose ideas offend you deeply. Use Active Love on that person. Now use it again, but this time imagine the whole society using the tool on someone who offends them. How does society change with millions of people channeling this all accepting force?
A society that cannot include the others [badly wounded veterans, panhandling bums, or entire ethnic groups] is a society that has broken its own spirit.