Address the Core and Watch Things Fall into Place Easily

Personal transformation really works when we address the core.The last violin teacher I studied with, Paul Kantor, said something shocking in my first lesson with him. First, he said, “Sara, you think the violin is about a million details.” This wasn’t surprising—I didn’t just think this. I knew it. Complexity was my entire experience of playing violin—these infinite details that were demanding, or more often, completely maddening. The surprise came next when he said, “Nope. 95% of playing well is about creating a basic, beautiful sound.”

It really was a shock. I was already a very high-level player. You don’t even get to study with Paul unless you are. But here he was, blowing away nearly everything I thought I knew about playing the violin. And, he backed it up. For the next decade, I had lessons where he continually focused back on the few, fundamental elements of making a good, basic sound. And like magic, the more consistently I produced this kind of sound, the more all the more peripheral elements of playing just fell into place.

This was my first immersion in the concept that when you address the core, everything else takes care of itself. I was fortunate enough to encounter this again through studying the Ron Fletcher line of Pilates with Ron, himself, in addition to some of his primary teachers. I got to experience that same thing in my body and my Pilates students’ bodies—that by aligning the core of the body through movement in alignment, seemingly complex issues at the periphery of the body (like forearm tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, for instance) just cleared up.

So, when I recognized that this concept was the basis for Quanta Change, I immediately knew that it would work well. When it comes to how our lives work, we usually think it’s about a million details just like my old concept of violin playing. But, actually, it all comes down to how we feel about being ourselves. Even with feelings, though, we have lots of labels—joy, love, happiness, sadness, depression, anger, and so many more. But really, we can simplify being human into two basic feelings: “It’s good being me just as I am,” or, “There’s something wrong with being me just as I am.”

These two basic feelings, stored in our sense of self from early in life, become the generating force behind every moment of our lives. When the founder of Quanta Change told me that the good feeling is actually the natural core of who we are, then I understood that peeling away layers of the bad feeling was the most important thing we could do in order to have life feel and work much better for us.

I’ve spent the last 12+ years confirming that this is the case. Natural well-being is not something that we have to create, but just something that needs to be uncovered and allowed to work for us. When this starts to happen for my clients, they often think it’s a fluke and something that they can’t trust. For the first time in their lives, people are showing them that they matter. Or, their body is healing the way it should. Or, they feel comfortable sharing what they know. Or, they feel comfortable in their own skin. Or, their addictions are loosening their grip. Or, their efforts are actually paying off.

When well-being is the generating force behind these good things happening, sometimes my clients won’t even recognize it, until I point out that they just said something that was the complete opposite of what they had been saying about their lives. Because it happened so much more easily than trying to push that familiar boulder up that all too familiar hill, they can’t even connect it to something generated from within. But, as I know from my violin and Pilates experience and now 12 years of seeing it happen in this personal transformation realm, that’s just how it works—address the core and things start falling into place in really great ways.

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

Getting over My Fear of Forward Motion

Why letting momentum carry us forward can be so scaryWhen I learned how to ski, my favorite point was when the instructor enlightened me on what happens when you turn your skis perpendicular to the slope. . .you stop. I think I said something like, “Oooooh, I love this part!” And then, he coaxed me to point my tips back downhill, which I reluctantly did, and the scary, slide-y part started again.

I started to realize that this pattern happens in lots of places in my life. I have a much bigger comfort zone with “stop” than I do with “go,” or more specifically, “let momentum carry me downhill.” (Or, in my mind, more like, “Oh, no! We’re all gonna die!!”)

If you’re not a lover of sliding down frozen mountains, you might understand my feelings about this in relation to skiing. It actually helped me in my career as a violinist—I often helped prevent my orchestra section from rushing the tempo. But, when it comes to life situations that I really want to have move forward, it stops making sense, and it stops being a positive thing. I see this most often in tasks that I really want to accomplish, big or small. It feels like I’m doing everything I need to in order to make progress, often working as hard as I can, but then nothing moves forward.

I’ve identified three pieces of my Learned Distress that contribute to this pattern. Learned Distress is the feeling we absorb early in life that “there is something wrong with me.” It becomes embedded in our sense of self, which is the automatic generating force behind every moment of our lives. So, Learned Distress becomes the source of our negative moments and situations, like those times when I feel so stuck.

One piece of Learned Distress is the feeling that it’s not safe for me to have what matters to me. So, when I set a goal to accomplish something that matters to me, that Learned Distress kicks in and stops things. Another piece is that it isn’t safe to actually achieve things. It’s OK to work towards things, but in the end, the attempt needs to fail. And the third is that I feel like I don’t have what it takes to handle the momentum if it really started to flow.

Of course, none of this makes rational sense, but Learned Distress is put into place before we have any rational choice in what we take in. We absorb it as the way life is, the way that we need to be in order to survive, and then it gets walled off in our sense of self, protected from rational-level change. We can’t think our way out of it, no matter how crazy it seems. So, change has to come on a deeper, feeling level.

As I’ve tackled this ugly combination of Learned Distress from various angles, accomplishing things has gotten a lot smoother and easier for me. One great example was the recording I made a year ago that is the main catalyst for Quanta Change. For several years, I dreaded the point at which I was going to need to write the script for it, because of that Learned Distress combo I’ve been talking about. I actually put off starting to write for a couple of weeks past my self-imposed start date, because I realized that too much Learned Distress was still in the way.

But, I did my unlearning and then one day, I just found myself sitting down to write. And, much to my surprise, the script started writing itself. The images appeared from out of the blue, and all I had to do was put them into words. I can’t describe to you how weird it was to have such ease and momentum with something that I had truly dreaded for years. And, the recording and sound engineering process went just as easily, with many wonderful and even exhilarating surprises along the way.

I still haven’t gotten back onto skis, although I think that one of these days, I’ll give it a shot again. The cool thing about this kind of change is that it is at our core, so we don’t always have to work on the satellite issues directly to see change happen in them. So, I already know from the big changes I’ve had in other areas of life that pointing my skis downhill is going to be a much better experience the next time around. I’m almost looking forward to it!

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

Are They Evil, or Just Scared?

Is someone evil or just scared?I was helping a client understand his difficult co-worker this week, and he exclaimed, “Oh, I get it! He’s not evil! Wow, that helps a lot!” The way that I describe people’s negative patterns often helps my clients see those around them in a whole new light.

Essentially, you can trace negative behavior all back to fear, but this fear manifests itself in very different ways. When someone’s pattern is very different from our own, we often end up judging them, partially because we can’t see the fear in their pattern. I often hear clients describe others with words like victim, needy, judgmental, snobby, rude, and thoughtless, along with some less than genteel words, and I can always trace those descriptions back to the other person’s fear patterns.

This fear that I speak of has a common root—the feeling that “there is something wrong with me being just as I am.” I call this Learned Distress, and we absorb it early in life before we have any ability to evaluate if it’s good for us, or not. It becomes embedded in our sense of self along with a survival mechanism that allows us to cope with or control this unnatural fear, so that we can move forward in life. There are six basic patterns that result from Learned Distress and its survival mechanisms. Here’s a basic description of each along with what they tend to look like from the outside.

Perfectionist: To survive, I need things around me to be what I define as the “right” way. People with this pattern tend to see things in black and white, and they often vehemently reject anything or anyone that isn’t the “right” way for them. Others tend to see Perfectionists as judgmental, snobby and stand-offish.

Idealist: There is an ideal way things should be and I have to work hard to make sure that my “pretty picture” is maintained. People with this pattern always say “everything is great.” But, it takes hard work to maintain their ideal and if flaws are pointed out, they tend to feel threatened and react negatively. Others tend to see Idealists as people to whom success comes easily and who just seem to have some magic power to have a wonderful life.

Dictator: Everyone need to do things “my way” and I survive by telling everyone how to do things. This person is the know-it-all and when triggered, tends to just take over. They usually feel incapable of succeeding in personal relationships, so focusing on tasks and telling others how to do things is their only comfort zone. Others tend to see Dictators as overbearing, bossy, selfish people who know everything and never need any help or compassion.

Caregiver: I need everyone around me to be happy and taken care of. This is the people-pleaser, and they rarely feel capable of accomplishing things on their own. They often guess at what they think will make those around them happy and try their best to provide it, often while neglecting themselves. It’s not unusual for this person to feel invisible, unloved, or used. Others will often see Caregivers as victims or at the very least, needy. Sometimes, they’re also viewed as being pushy when they overdo it with the people pleasing.

Defeatist: Nothing ever works for me, and I’ll say anything to prove that. This is the person who first tells you everything that is going wrong for them and then, if you try to point out something that is good in their lives, they’ll give you 20 reasons why it’s not. Or, they’ll respond to your news with how their life is worse or they could never have such a good life as you do. Others see Defeatists as negative and often competitive (at having the most wrong). The “victim” label usually surfaces in relation to Defeatists, also.

Optimist: To prove that the future will be better, I have to have a crisis happening now. This person might seem just like the one above, but they’re always trying to overcome what’s going wrong for them. Because they rely on crisis to survive, you might even see them blowing something negative out of proportion. Others often see Optimists as victims, also, as well as being exasperating with their constant crises.

Do you recognize the things that frustrate you about the people around you in these descriptions? And, do you see yourself, too? Each of these patterns is negative in ways we can objectively observe. But, each pattern also has the potential to trigger someone else’s Learned Distress. One very typical trigger pattern I see is between Caregivers and Idealists. Caregivers will try to hang onto Idealists, feeling that the Idealist can show them the way to be brilliantly successful just like the Idealist is. Idealists usually hate this. They often feel like they’re just barely hanging on to their own success, and so having someone else hang on them threatens to topple their ideal.

Truly, all of these patterns just stem from the fear that something is wrong with us. Beneath all this fear, we are unique humans fueled by the well-being that resides at our core. I hope that knowing about these Learned Distress patterns may help you better understand why someone might behave negatively and even see through the mask to their well-being.

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

The Internal Whac-a-Mole Game

The internal force that keeps your hard work from paying offHave you ever played this game at an arcade or children’s pizza place? Large, plastic moles pop out of a cabinet and you try to whack them with a soft mallet. From either perspective–the player’s or the mole’s—it can seem like a futile and frustrating existence. If you’re the player, another mole pops up the second you successfully whack one. And, if you’re the mole, the second you get to see the light of day, you get whacked back down (well, unless I’m the player, in which case, you can probably just watch me giggle at my own ineptitude).

In my internal Whac-a-Mole game, I’m both the player and the mole. I feel like I need to put in lots of effort to do things perfectly (the mole part), but then, I also feel like it’s not safe to achieve things, so my internal mechanism cuts down whatever I’ve worked hard to do well (the player part). I can see you cringing…it’s not pretty, is it?

To be more clear, this isn’t some rational part of me playing this crazy game. It’s my Learned Distress, which is the feeling each of us absorbs early in life that “there’s something wrong with me being just the way I am.” Learned Distress becomes embedded as part of our sense of self and generates all the negative moments of our lives, without our rational input or control. Our sense of self is the way we feel that we need to be in order to survive.

So, there are these two pieces of Learned Distress that interact in a weird and destructive way for me. The first is this intense feeling that I have to do things perfectly. Whether the task is big or small, whether it has any real bearing on anything critical in my life, I feel the internal pressure to create a perfect outcome. The second piece of Learned Distress is that in order to survive, I have to fail at achieving things. When this piece is triggered for me, my hard work doesn’t pay off and whatever I was trying to accomplish doesn’t come to fruition. It doesn’t make any sense, but Learned Distress isn’t rational—it’s just how we learned to survive before we could rationally evaluate or reject something that is counterproductive.

I end up with a crazy sort of feedback loop between these two pieces of Learned Distress when I’m trying to accomplish something big. I work as hard as I can and often produce things that people are absolutely perfect and of the highest level. But then, the pay-off never arrives, as if some invisible hand just reached out and squashed me. This is often when I have “done everything right” and worked at least as hard as anyone else did. And, then, my inner voice says, “You just need to do things more perfectly.” You can see the vicious cycle.

This happened all the time in my violin career. I would get feedback that I had played an audition perfectly, but they weren’t going to hire me. I’ve seen the same thing in clients. One of my clients has never been able to lose weight, despite eating very healthily and running marathons! Another has an Ivy League education and is very knowledgeable in his field, but often tells me he feels this same sort of invisible hand holding down his ability to accomplish what he really wants.

The contrast for me when I’ve unlearned in this area is almost unbelievable, though. Not long after I started going through my own Quanta Change process, I pulled out a violin piece that I had studied a couple years before, Bach’s Fugue in A Minor for solo violin. The first time around, it was an exercise in minute detail and perfection. Some of the music notes on my part were obscured by colored pencil notes indicating that I needed to think about several different things to make that note “right.” When I asked about performing it in my teacher, Paul’s, studio class (a weekly class with all of his students), he pointed me toward something “more up my alley” (which I took as, “You shouldn’t play this in public yet!”).

When Paul suggested working on the fugue again two years later, I groaned, but practiced the first page (of 5). In my lesson, Paul kept turning pages for me so I could play uninterrupted. Once I passed the point at which I had stopped practicing it that week, I got a little worried, because this piece is so hard for me that I really felt like I was “faking”—approximating it and keeping pace, but not really playing all the notes well (or at all). As I neared the end, I actually was thinking for the first time in nearly a decade of studying with Paul, “He’s going to throw me out of his studio today for being so unprepared.” I still can’t quite believe what happened when I finished the last note. He said, “Well, it’s all there technically and sound-wise. You just need to think about the big musical phrase shapes, and it will be ready to go.” Same piece, same violinist, same teacher, completely different experience.

I’ve seen this kind of shift happen over and over again as this particular combination of Learned Distress is unlearned. When our natural well-being is the generating force behind our moments (because Learned Distress has been removed), achieving what matters to us can become effortless, especially relative to the nose-to-the-grindstone experience some of us have always had. Well-being gives us the sense that our unique contribution is what matters (vs. perfection) and well-being gives us the energy and resources we need to succeed at our goals. If this crazy, internal Whac-a-Mole game sounds familiar to you, realize that it’s just your Learned Distress at work and that there is another experience waiting for you, powered by your natural well-being.

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

Demystifying the Human Relationship Jigsaw Puzzle

Relationships are like a jigsaw puzzle.There are two ways things go in my clients’ relationships as they gain greater acceptance of themselves. One is that those close to them want to get even closer. They’ll say, “Wow, it feels even better to be around you. Give me more of that!” This one makes sense to us, right? As someone feels better about being themselves, it only seems logical that other people will feel better, too.

The other option doesn’t seem to make so much sense at first. Sometimes, people close to my clients move further away from them when they achieve greater self-acceptance. Sometimes, friendships, romantic relationships, or even family ties end as a result of this personal transformation. You might think that’s always because my client has finally “stood up for themselves” and sometimes, that’s the case. But, not always. So, there’s something else going on below the surface, which I think of as the human energetic jigsaw puzzle.

You can picture relationships as the joining line between two jigsaw puzzle pieces. If the relationship “works,” you can assume that those two puzzle pieces fit together well. Where one person has a “knob,” the other has an “inlet.” If this is between immediate family members, the youngest member’s entry time into the family shaped them into a piece that fit with the others. If the relationship begins later in life, there’s an invisible, energetic mechanism that tells us, “Hey, that person’s piece will fit perfectly with mine!” And since our piece’s shape is formed early in life, that’s why sometimes people will say, “I married my dad,” or, “I married my mom,” (or even a sibling).

Sometimes, the puzzle piece fitting is based on well-being, and so, it works out well. But in other cases, it’s a recipe for repeating some negative pattern with different people. Take the all too familiar case of someone who has been in abusive relationships. They vow, “Never again.” They find someone new and this one is different from the others. Friends and relatives meet the new person and approve heartily. Then, the day or week or month or year after they move in together or get married, the abuse starts. Just like all the other times. Is it the abused person somehow creating the other person’s abusive behavior? Nope, that potential always existed within the abuser. That hidden energetic mechanism between the two of them “knew it” all along and set things up to fit perfectly.

So, back to people moving further away when someone makes changes that would rationally be seen as good. If the other person was relying on the first person’s knob to fill their inlet, they might say, “Hey! Get back here with your knob! How dare you take it away!” This rarely will be said in a rational way, because that invisible, energetic mechanism is at work. That mechanism works with the part of us that only knows how to feel, not how to think. It is the two-year-old part of us that only knows, “I feel good,” or, “I feel bad.” And in relationships, the feeling good or bad depends on how well our puzzle piece is fitting with the other person. So, as crazy as it may seem, the person moving away might swear that it’s because the first person actually changed for the worse in some way or that the relationship just doesn’t work for them, anymore.

This potential can be scary for someone who is launching into making big personal changes. What I have always seen, though, is that even if a relationship ends, it is ultimately for everyone’s good. It may be the second person’s trigger to do something about their “needy inlet.” Or, they might just find another puzzle piece that fits and play their pattern out again.

What I always remind my clients is that the change that I help them make will always take them to a better place. And often, it spurs those around them to change in good ways, so that their puzzle pieces shift alongside each other. I’ve worked with individuals, couples, and even whole families who have been able to make those positive shifts within their relationships. It can be messy at times, but everyone has always ended up feeling much better as their changing puzzle pieces find new ways to fit together.

Can you recognize parts of your puzzle piece that feel they need someone else’s piece to stay the same? Or do you feel that you’re ready to start shifting your edges, but someone around you isn’t going to react well? What if your good change is ultimately good for everyone around you, too?

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

Throw out the Rule Book! Your Unique Path Awaits

Creativity is meant to flow like lava forms an island.If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. ~ Joseph Campbell

So often, clients tell me that the things they most want to accomplish are impossible. One major root of this issue is the feeling that we don’t know how to follow the rules perfectly enough. When I refer to “rules” here, I mean the way others have achieved similar goals or the way society tells us we should try to do so. I commonly hear things like, “I’m too old,” “I’m too young,” “I don’t have the right credentials,” “I don’t know enough yet,” and on, and on. But, what I remind them is that each of us has a unique path, and when it comes to uniqueness, there are no rules.Continue reading

Grab the Glass Cleaner – It’s Time to Shine!

Real personal transformation comes from cleaning the glass to let your light shine.I must see 10 tweets or Facebook posts a day that say something like, “Shine your light!” If your response to that is, “Oh, of course! How easy!” then you can stop reading right now. But. . .

If you have ever shone your light only to feel that no one sees it, this is for you.
It’s for you if someone has ever said, “How selfish of you! Stop shining that light in my eyes!”
Or, if it has ever felt unsafe for you to fully express yourself.
Or, no matter how hard you’ve tried to do it, nothing works.
Or, if it used to shine brightly, but it just keeps getting harder and harder to let it shine.
Or, if you’re too busy putting out fires to even bother with your own light.
Or, if you don’t even know what the light is you’re supposed to shine!

No matter how dark or difficult things may seem for you sometimes, your light is always shining brightly within. It is the core of who you are, the source of your uniqueness, and the energy that allows you to fulfill your purpose in the world. But, think of yourself as a kerosene lantern. No matter how bright the light, it can only shine outward through glass that is clear and clean. If your light is having a hard time making it out to the world, it means that the glass has become covered in soot. So, the goal isn’t to work harder to shine your light, but rather to clean the glass.

The first step to cleaning is to know what we’re dealing with. Our lamp soot is something I call Learned Distress. It’s the feeling we absorbed in the womb and early in life that “there’s something wrong with me being just the way I am.” This negative feeling not only becomes the source of our negative moments, but also the energy our brains use to recharge our sense of self during sleep. This nightly recharging builds up many layers of soot over the years, and it gets harder over time to share our unique light with the world.

It turns out that sleep is also the time when the glass can be cleaned. When your brain gets the message during sleep that you want it to recharge with your natural well-being—your inner light—instead of Learned Distress, aided by daytime work that tells it exactly what Learned Distress you want it to unlearn for you, your brain will actually clear the soot off, layer by layer.

The first thing clients usually tell me as they start into this glass cleaning process is that they feel an underlying sense of peace they’ve never felt before. The inner light is what allows us to know that we truly are OK exactly as we are. As we work on the various ways soot has built up for them—difficulties with personal expression, relationships, health, career—their uniqueness begins to emerge. Many start to discover what their life’s purpose is. And, whether they’ve known that purpose or not, it becomes more effortless and joyful to express it in the world.

For example, one of my clients had been struggling with her plan to write a book about her experiences as a leader. She had gone to writing workshops, she had gotten herself set up technologically to be able to organize her writing, she had worked to clear other things off her schedule. But, she was still finding it very difficult to just sit down and start writing. Then, one week, she had cleared enough layers of soot off. A task she would have gleefully used to avoid writing suddenly became irritating to her. She said, “I just want that out of the way, because it’s so much more fun to sit down and write! I just can’t wait to get to my writing time every day!” It was pretty much the opposite of what I had been hearing her say for months! This kind of turnaround is what I have come to expect when someone engages in this personal transformation process.

Whether you can identify the specific pieces of Learned Distress that coat your lantern’s glass, and whether you even know what your light looks like, it is shining brightly within you, just waiting to be shared with the world. Are you ready to get out the glass cleaner and start scrubbing?

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

Dismantling the Dam That Holds Back Your Well-Being

Learned Distress creates a dam that prevents your well-being from flowing freely.One of my favorite ways to describe how the energy of well-being works is that it is the water that carves a canyon. Think about how that works. Gravity pulls the water downhill and the water’s action is the force that creates the multitude of curves and scoops and amazing forms of the canyon’s floor and walls.

The canyon doesn’t have to decide what form it will take. It doesn’t have to conform to some ideal or research what that should be. It doesn’t have to dictate where the water should flow or control it. It doesn’t have to try to be perfect or strive for anyone’s approval. It doesn’t have to work hard at chiseling away one grain of rock. All it has to do to become its gorgeous self is let the water carve and sculpt. That’s how well-being should be able to work in your life, also.

Well-being is the core of who you are, what some might call essence or higher self. Well-being is not only feeling good physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it is the source of your creativity and uniqueness. It is the energy that enables you to fulfill your soul’s purpose in the world. And, it is meant to be the automatic, generating force behind all of your life’s moments—just like the water flowing downhill.

Assuming that well-being is something that you can trust completely (which it is), it sounds pretty good, right? Just let well-being flow and things are good. But, unfortunately, we all have a big dam at the head of the canyon made of what I call Learned Distress. It’s the feeling we absorbed early in life that “there’s something wrong with me being just the way I am.” This negative feeling rises in intensity over the years and builds a higher and higher block to the natural flow of well-being. Instead of the canyon of our life being carved effortlessly, we have to go chisel away at the walls to try and make things in our lives go the way we want them to.

It’s not only the negative feelings (I’m not good enough, I don’t fit, I don’t matter, I can’t succeed, etc.) that make up the dam. Our ways of controlling, coping with, or trying to overcome Learned Distress are also constantly piling on more blocks. Whether you work hard to make things the way the ideal way, try to control everything, work to get others’ approval, strive to overcome the next crisis, or dictate that things need to be your way, your mechanisms for trying to get things to go well for you are constantly building a higher wall to prevent the easy flow of well-being. So, you have to work even harder to get things to go well. . .which piles on more blocks. . .you see where this is going.

People show up at my door when the dam has gotten so high that even their trusty coping or control mechanisms are failing. We start dismantling the dam by pulling off layers of Learned Distress, allowing their well-being to flow more and more freely. One of the things they find out is that no matter how carefully they were chiseling, once well-being flows, the canyon that is their life starts to develop in ways that are better than anything they could have imagined or constructed themselves. So, surprise is one of the elements that tells me this change process is really at work.

One of my clients has been dismantling the dam that had prevented her from being in a good relationship. As she described how things were going with the man she is dating, she said, “I didn’t even know this kind of relationship was available to me! No one has ever treated me this well.” Another client who had been working towards a big promotion at work said that things had developed in a way he never even imagined, and at the same time, issues in his family life took a surprising turn for the better.

Do you have a sense of what your own dam is? Does it feel like it’s getting taller as time goes on? Listening to what the negative voices in your head say, as well as noticing the ways you try to control or overcome those voices and what they lead to, can give you a good clue. No matter the shape of the dam, though, what it holds back is all good for you and something you can trust entirely, once it is allowed to flow freely.

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

New Year’s Resolutions That Work WITH Your Brain

Recharge yourself with positive feelingsTraditional New Year’s Resolutions fall into the category of behavior that I call “control mechanisms.” Resolutions like going to the gym more often or losing 20 pounds are based on trying to control the feeling that “there’s something wrong with me being just as I am.” This feeling, called Learned Distress®, is what your brain uses to automatically generate the negative moments of your life.

Learned Distress doesn’t take kindly to being controlled. Sometimes, the control mechanism out and out fails. You just can’t get out of bed early enough to make it to the gym before work. Oh, well.

Or, if you’re particularly good at controlling it, Learned Distress also can be sneaky and find another way “out.” Maybe you’re three weeks into your gym routine when you slip on the ice and injure your back. There goes your resolution!

Or, your Learned Distress might even find an entirely different aspect of your life within which to express itself. If the feeling is “there’s something wrong with how I look,” you might have something go wrong with some other aspect of your appearance or your significant other might start complaining that you don’t know how to dress well.

You might guess correctly, then, that New Year’s Resolutions are not something I recommend to my clients. However, there is a type of resolution you could craft based on an element of Quanta Change that will work with your brain’s automatic generating force, instead of trying to control it.

First, you should know that the part of your brain that stores Learned Distress only deals with how you feel about being yourself. It isn’t capable of rational thought. And, this part of your brain, your sense of self, deals only with two simple kinds of feeling—”It’s good being me exactly as I am,” and, “There’s something wrong with me being exactly as I am.” Every feeling you have and every moment of your life, positive or negative, can be traced back to one of these two basic kinds of feelings.

So, when you craft a control-style resolution, you’re really reinforcing the “something wrong with me” feeling. Your brain recharges while you sleep with the feelings you experience every day. When you resolve to go to the gym more often to keep this negative feeling under control, your brain actually recharges with it at night, and you wake up the next day with just a tad bit more of the feeling that “there’s really something wrong with my body”—the exact opposite of what you were going for!

So, if you’re going to make a New Year’s Resolution, I recommend making one that reinforces the positive way you would like to feel. Maybe something like, “I feel good in my own skin for the first time in my life.” Or, if the change you want to see has to do with relationships, “When I’m with others, I feel so comfortable being just who I am.” Or, if it has to do with being more organized, “It’s so easy to find everything in my house!” You might visualize these outcomes as if they had already happened, letting yourself feel the joy of how different it is to be you in this new way. This helps your brain experience the feeling you want it to recharge with when you’re asleep.

I hope you’ll give this a try and report back to let me know how it worked for you. Wishing you a joyous new year!

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

Recharging with Violence

We recharge at night with how we feel during the day.As we all grieve the Newtown school shooting, people are contemplating and discussing pieces of the complexity that leads to these tragedies, some of which we may never understand. I find myself focused on how we interact with violence in our culture, specifically in entertainment and video games, and wondering what studies might show about correlation or causation between violent media and violent reality.Continue reading