[00:00:19.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success. Introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[0:00:12.0] MB: Welcome to the Science of Success, the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the internet with more than 2 million downloads, listeners in over a hundred countries and part of the Self-Help for Smart People Podcast Network.
In this episode, we look at how some of the core principles from the Heart Sciences have implications for the way we live, love and deal with the world of danger and uncertainty. Is it possible that the laws of physics hold lessons that could help us redefine our relationship with anxiety and suffering and open the door to possibility? We discuss this and much more with our guest, Mel Schwartz.
Do you need more time; time for work time, for thinking and reading, time for the people in your life, time to accomplish your goals? This was the number one problem our listeners outlined and we created a new video guide that you can get completely for free when you sign up and join our email list. It's called How You Can Create Time for the Things That Really Matter in Life. You can get it completely for free when you sign up and join the email list at successpodcast.com.
You're also going to get exclusive content that's only available to our email subscribers. We recently pre-released an episode in an interview to our email subscribers a week before it went live to our broader audience. That had tremendous implications, because there is a limited offer in there with only 50 available spots that got eaten up by the people who were on the e-mail list first. With that same interview, we also offered an exclusive opportunity for people on our e-mail list to engage one-on-one for over an hour with one of our guests in a live exclusive interview, just for e-mail subscribers.
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In our previous episode, we told the truth about time. We threw out all the old and outdated conceptions of time management and looked at how time really works. We explored the fundamental way that you must blip your approach to time so that you can focus on what really matters in your life.
We looked at how you can become an artist, manipulating time at your will, stretching your best moments so that they last longer and ruthlessly removing things that clutter your life. If you press for time, like there’s never enough and want to figure out how to create time for what really matters in your life, listen to our previous episode with our guest, Laura Vanderkam.
Now, for our interview with Mel.
[00:02:56] MB: Today, we have another great guest on the show, Mel Schwartz. Mel is a psychotherapist, marriage counselor, author and speaker. He’s one of the first contemporary practicing psychotherapist to distill the basic premises of quantum theory into therapeutic approaches. He’s the author of the book The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love and has been features in Psychology Today, TED and much more.
Mel, welcome to the Science of Success.
[00:03:24] MS: Thank you, Matt. It’s exciting to be with you.
[00:03:26] MB: We’re very excited to have you on the show today, and it’s funny, obviously science is kind of a big theme of our show, even in the title of the show, The Science of Success. But in many ways I think that you’ve created a really unique perspective on kind of integrating some science that we typically don’t really dig into or talk about on the show, specifically this kind of notion of the quantum worldview and applying it to life, stress, anxiety, all kinds of different things.
I’d love to kind of dig into that and really hear about how you kind of came to this approach that perhaps quantum physics could hold some answers for living better lives.
[00:04:01] MS: Well, [inaudible 00:04:02] field of inquiry, Matt. I’ll go back about 25 years ago. I had recently divorced and I woke up one beautiful spring morning thinking it’s a great day to take a bike riding. My young children was with their mom for that day. So I went out and enjoyed myself.
In the middle of that bike ride I experienced, well, I guess we call it panic attack. My mind started to raise, was fear about my future, what it would be like. Bike around and headed back home. Upon arriving home, I absentmindedly pulled a book off the shelf, which was called The Turning Point, by a physicist named Fritjof Capra, and I started to read about this fascinating shift of paradigm, this worldview shift taking us away from Newtonian reality [inaudible 00:04:46] quantum worldview.
After reading about 10 or 15 minutes, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling anxious any longer. I continued to reading and I found that I became fascinated in this new worldview. It excited me, frankly, than it thrilled me. It’s 25 years later and I’ve never stopped.
I began to look at the core principles of quantum physics, which are reality is not certain or deterministic as we had been trained to think by Newton. It’s not predictable. It’s uncertain, and I began to realize that uncertainty equals possibility, whereas determinism shuts off the door of the possibility.
As a therapist, I’ve come to see that the disorder and epidemic of anxiety we experience has to do with our relationship with uncertainty. When we ward off uncertainty, when we need to know the future in advance, it creates this stress and anxiety. Paradoxically, if we learn to embrace uncertainty, we can write the waves of change.
Furthermore, I saw that quantum theory held that reality isn’t literally won inseparable full. Just as eastern mystical traditions had always taught us, but now science was confirming that mysticism, at least on the quantum level. Well, over the last couple of decades, science has indicated this inseparability that appears on the quantum level, it appears on our everyday macro level as well. What does that do?
It means that we are no longer separate disconnected cogs in Newton’s machine-like universe where there’s no meaning and purpose and change is hard and we are inert. But if we are all thoroughly interconnected, meaning in purpose or our birth right [inaudible 00:06:36] participates in the creation of reality. It’s more like a reality making process. In this interconnection, compassion and empathy make perfect sense, because if I tend to the other and care for the other, it improves my lot in life. We’re not alienated, separated individuals. I think so much of what ails our modern culture comes from excessive competition in greed born of Newton’s worldview of individualism, of separation. I refer to it as the myth of separation.
So I began to employ inseparability, uncertainty, and potentiality into my work as a therapist and I found that the results were often startling. They came with the same issues, month after month and year after year. We were able, and by me, my therapy clients and myself, to foster and approach which would help people have turning points just as I had that turning point in reading that book. It was not a slow gradual process of getting it.
I don’t believe that self-improvement, enlightenment needs to conform to gradualism. [inaudible 00:07:46] life when we have an aha, we look at something differently and we start to write a new script for our lives. So that’s what brought me to this work. My approach is that I read quantum physics. By the way, for the listeners, I am not a scientist. I was a C-student in science. I’m not reading math and formulas. I’m simply reading principles and asking, “If this is so, then how can I reorganize how I live my life to benefit from this powerful new worldview?”
I find it effective in overcoming fear and anxiety and becoming the master of your thinking, and I use some of these techniques to enhance our communication and our relationships, Matt, as a broad overview of what has brought me to this work.
[00:08:34] MB: The interesting thing that I find with this kind of quantum worldview that you’ve applied to psychology and self-improvement is that this is a conclusion that is based on kind of the fundamental principles of the hard sciences. It’s not something that is from social science, or psychology studies where it’s often easier to kind of turnover, disrupt the results or maybe the sample sizes can be so small that you can get kind of erroneous conclusion. These are some of the major fundamental ideas from physics, biology, etc., and they have some really monumental takeaways for the way that we live and exist in the world.
[00:09:14] MS: Moreover to that very point, there’s a chapter in my book, the possibility principle, in which I suggest that arguably, the most important scientific discovery that has ever occurred goes unknown to most of us, because we have to radically reconsider reality.
When I speak of inseparability, this had to do with a thought experiment between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. The experiment was if you take two photons, they exist in what’s called an entangled state, Matt, which means they have an affinity for each other. As entangled particles, they have a spin, but they have opposite spins. One spins negative, one spins positive.
The thought experiment was if we take these photons and separate them by a great distance, let’s take half the universe. How long will the signal take from one to the other in regard to alternating their spin? So we change the spin of one. The other particle must change its spin. How long will it take? Einstein argues that the signal will be sent and it cannot travel as fast as the speed of light. Niels Bohr said no signal will be sent. It won’t be necessary. They are as one no matter the distance between them.
This caused Einstein to make his famous statements of, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe, and if this is true I’d rather be a cobbler than a physicist,” and the debate rages on for decades. After Einstein’s death, the technology is finally available to test this theorem, and the results conclusively show that Niels Bohr was correct. No signal is sent. Now this has been retested with increasingly more sophisticated technology over the decades, and the result is always the same.
Now, in our everyday lives, we experience inseparability. We can call it ESP, or intuition. I talk in my book about the fact that if we have a pair of twins and she lives in San Francisco and he lives in Paris and she falls down and breaks her ankle in exactly at that moment she feels a pain in her ankle. The skeptics says, “Well, they have shared DNA, but this occurs increasingly without the shared DNA.”
There are ways of knowing that are not applicable to the rational analytical modality of science and what we do, and it’s bad science, is we discard it as an anomaly. Placebo effect is an example. Medicines accepts placebo effect, but we should look at the placebo effect and say, “Well, wait a minute. If my mind can be as efficacious and healing what I need to treat as the medicine, I need to look at that. Therefore, I propose there is no mind-body connection, because there is no mind-body separation. They are as one.”
You see, our thinking has been trained to separate things up to create compartments and divisions where none exist, and then our thought does not think and operate in wholeness, which contributes to so much of the disaster we encounter in our world. We need to learn to think in wholeness.
As you said, this is hard science. I do not come at this from new age or from spiritual traditions, but in this case, quantum physics as a hard science is affirming and corresponding with many fields of deep spiritualism. They appear to be as one.
[00:12:56] MB: You know, it’s funny. We’ve had that theme and that idea recur in a couple of conversations on the show. One of the most recently, our interview with Steven Kotler. We kind of look at – He studies flow and the science and psychology behind that. What they found is that even the kind of perception in your brain that you are separate from everything else in the world. There is a specific part of the brain that kind of generates that essentially controlled illusion that you are separate.
When they study people who meditate really deeply, whether they’re Buddhist monks, or nuns or even people who are in extreme flow states, that part of the brain shuts down and that creates that sort of sense or that feeling that everything is one and that you are not disconnected in any way from everything else.
[00:13:37] MS: The way I look at that phenomenon with regards to the brain is I do not believe that the brain produces thought. My belief is that thought leaves its mark on the brain. So imagine that you’re walking at the beach. If you look behind you and you see your footprint in the sand, we wouldn’t think the sand produced the footprint. Your foot left this mark on the brain.
I believe that our thoughts and feelings leave their mark on the brain, which is actually good news. Because it means we are not hardwired and we are not at the mercy of brain chemistry. Again, terms like hardwired. I think I have a screw loose. These are terminologies that come from Newton’s machine-like universe.
We have to look at our language. Our language is so important here in depicting how we picture reality. I’ll be giving a TEDx talk in a couple of weeks in Fenway Park around language. When we use the two be verbs; is, am, were, was, be, these are all inert verbs that preclude movement or change and speak of objective realities. They are remnants from Newton’s worldview. They turn us into passive victims in how we picture ourselves and our relationships.
Language plays a large part in this shift of paradigm. I wonder why it has taken us nearly a hundred years to enjoy the benefits of this worldview shift. Then it occurred to me that our thoughts are comprised of words, and if our words, like to be verbs are rooted in the inert objective reality of Newton’s worldview, then the shift gets perturbed and we don’t break through.
So speaking without using and writing, without using two be verbs completely changes our notion of how we communicate. It allows us to speak and think in perceptive where we are the perceiver, we are participating in the creating of our thought and our perceptions. It is an inter-subjective based reality rather than the reality of Newton’s objective perspective, where we are separate and discreet and observe in what is.
So based upon the insights of quantum physics, objectivity cannot and does not exist, and I regard that as good news, because if objectivity exists, we become the objects. It leads to a malaise, decrease enormous amounts of depression. Depression comes from the sense of alienation and aloneness of Newton’s worldview.
So when we begin to consider that our thoughts and our thinking participate in the constructing of our personal reality and our perception of others, everything opens up. Now, I’m not going to the extreme of the nonsense of fake news. I’m not arguing that there aren’t things we can’t all agree on as having happened as real. I’m not moving to that extreme. I’m talking about in our perceptions and experiences as human beings, we can begin to shift from a human being to what I call a human becoming.
You see, the question; who am i? Is an often asked question, and I wrote an article called Who Am I? In this article I proposed it’s the wrong question. Who I am is looking for a fixed, finite, specific inert response. What we should be doing is asking ourselves how would I like to experience my life? I like to see myself as a human in the process of becoming, not being, to move out of that stalled, fixed, inert state of mind that creates the construct and the belief that change is hard. Change needn’t be hard. But if we’re operating from this old worldview, then change is the exception and is hard.
[00:17:39] MB: I want to come back and dig into this and just sort of extrapolate this concept a little bit for listeners so that they can have a better understanding of it. When you this about this idea of kind of the Newtonian worldview, I think you’ve done a really good job kind of explaining this notion of how quantum physics can reshape our perceptions of the world. But when we think about the kind of Newtonian worldview, tell me what is that so listeners can kind of spot that thinking in their own lives and be aware when they’re kind of using that frame of reference, or using that language to sort of perceive reality.
[00:18:12] MS: Certainly. Newton described reality as a giant machine, became known as a mechanistic worldview or a machine-like worldview. The giant machine, this comprised of separate discreet parts. We, of course, became separate parts in Newton’s machine.
One of the fundamental tenants of Newton’s worldview is determinism. If you have enough information, today we’ll call it data, you can reasonably predict the future. Well, that mindset, this need to predict the future completely frustrates and thwarts our ability to be present and to engage in a flowing participatory reality.
Instead of actually engaging in life, so many people sit back and live life, and so you’re playing a chess match. You’re looking and calculating and contemplating, “Should I make this move or that? What will be the consequences?” We’re playing it all out in a deterministic way. In so doing, we succumb to anxiety and fear, the fear of making the wrong move, the fear of making the wrong choice.
The other tenant of Newton’s worldview is of course the separation. So if we are all separate from one another, it leaves us without meaning and purpose. Compassion and empathy are the exception. We compete, and individualism takes hold to the point of greed running rampant, which we see so much of in our world.
On a smaller personal level, this is what I see occurring in relationships. Relationships fall apart when we can’t be empathic and compassionate. It’s easy to say I love you, but it becomes challenging to act lovingly.
So when I look at epidemics of anxiety and depression and they are at epidemic levels, I consider that they are the natural outcome of Newton’s machine-like universe, because as human beings, if we are living under the template of a machine, that is dehumanizing. It doesn’t inspire. There is no wonder and awe and connectivity and imagination.
Let’s look at an expression like that’s immaterial. A legal term, but we use it in our everyday lives; that’s immaterial. What does that suggest? It suggests that something that is not material is less than. It isn’t important. We need to measure everything.
I recently was in a session when one of my clients would propose that everything is measurable. I asked him if he could measure his love for his wife. How would he quantify it? So we became the objects of our own measurement. As I proposed, it leads to so much of the illness that we experience in so many levels, and I find the solutions lie in the quantum worldview, which suggest that reality isn’t fixed. It’s a reality-making process. It’s completely stirring and unfolding every nanosecond.
I took that belief that quantum reality is in a state of potential, always waiting to occur, and I considered that we too are in a state of pure potential. In the nanosecond before we have our next thought, we’re in state of pure potential. But if we keep having the same old thoughts, we don’t experience our potential.
So I’ve devised methods to be able to see your thought and experience that nanosecond as actually a second or two. When you can see your thought, you’re thinking, and that’s when you can access new possibility and new change in your life.
[00:22:02] MB: This week’s episode is brought to you by our partners at Brilliant. Brilliant is a math and science enrichment learning tool. You can learn concepts by solving fascinating challenging problems. Brilliant explores probability, computer science, machine learning, the physics of everyday life, complex Algebra and much more. They do this with addictive interactive experiences that are enjoyed by over 5 million students, professionals and enthusiasts around the world.
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Another one of Brilliant’s learning principles that’s absolutely critical is that learning needs to allow for failure. If you look at Carol Dweck, if you look at the research behind Mindset, this is one of the cornerstones of psychology research. You have to be able to fail to learn and improve. You have to be able to acknowledge your weaknesses. You have to be able to push yourself into a place where it’s okay to make mistakes. These learning principles form the cornerstone in the foundation of Brilliant. It’s such a great platform. I highly recommend checking it out.
You can do that by going to brilliant.org/scienceofsuccess. I’m a huge fan of STEM learning and that’s why I’m so excited that Brilliant is sponsoring this episode. They’ve been a sponsor of the show for a long time and there’s a reason; they make learning math and science fun and engaging and exciting.
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[00:24:09] MB: I love this idea that reality is not fixed. Obviously, from sort of a physical and a quantum perspective, that’s a fundamentally true law of physics. But I want to dig in to the kind of broader concept of uncertainty and what happens when we try to avoid uncertainty and why do so many people live their lives in kind of a mode of uncertainty minimization.
[00:24:34] MS: We’re trained to seek certainty. Let’s take a look at the role certainty and uncertainty have in our lives. Uncertainty fuels the growth domestic product. Sports are based on uncertainty, movies, thrillers, books. We seek uncertainty in our lives, but on a more personal level, we become choked by certainty. Why? It’s the operating worldview that we need to avoid of making a mistake. We need to make the right decisions and we can best be assured of doing that by collecting enough information so that we can predict a future event.
So people become afraid of making the wrong decision. They become afraid of the consequences of their decisions, but so many people then become stalled out in anxiety and fear and don’t make a decision.
Matt, we need to concern ourselves with the consequences of our inactions as much as our actions. I work with so many people in which I see the fear of the consequence of a decision stalls them out. I see this in the corporate, I read it too, where I do consulting with corporations. The fear of the uncertain constraints us in our relationship with the known.
What happens [inaudible 00:25:54] relationship with the unknown? If we learn to embrace the unknown? Again, unknown equals possibility. So think of it this way. I did this exercise with a client and it’s part of a recent TEDx talk I gave on overcoming anxiety. Picture you’re on the bank of a river and the river is flowing, and I explained to you that, metaphorically, that river is the flow of your life. I entice you to go into that river, but you’re stopped with this fear or uncertainty. But you get into the river and in the middle of the river the current picks up and you grab a hold of a boulder. I say to you, “Why are you holding on to the boulder?” You say, “Well, the river bends to the right up ahead. I need to know where it’s going. I don’t know where it’s going.”
My response is, “We’re not supposed to know where it’s going. You need to get into the flow of life, but once you’re in the flow, you’re free to navigate. You can shift direction, but we have to get into the flow.”
The fear of making a mistake has become such a powerful tenant and meme in our lives. We need to unravel this notion of mistake. A mistake is an event that occurs we wish hadn’t occurred, but mistakes need to be experienced, because by experiencing them, we grow, we evolve. We need to take the concept of mistake and start to limit it and not exalt this fear of a mistake because it creates a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress. Life is all full of experiences. If we label them mistakes, we live in fear.
This is my second career. When I was 40-years-old, I had a defining moment and decided to close my business and pursue an area I thought I could be passionate about. If I succumb to the fear of would be that a mistake? I wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation with you today.
Now, it might not have worked out the way I planned, but that’s okay. I’d be in the flow of life, and I’d navigate in some other direction. We need to get into the flow, and to do that, we must welcome uncertainty, not avoid it.
[00:28:00] MB: So how does the fear of mistakes and kind of the fear of uncertainty fuel anxiety?
[00:28:06] MS: Direct correlation that I see between anxiety and avoidance of uncertainty. What is it that avoids the uncertainty? It’s our thought. See, thought becomes addictive to seeking certainty. When thought becomes addicted to seeking certainty, and there is no certainty, what’s the result? We’re anxious. We’re afraid.
I have found that in my work as a therapist, when I can help people see how their thought is addicted to seeking certainty and rethink it so that they can embrace uncertainty, anxiety and fear retreats. If reality appears uncertain – Now, we seek certainty. The conclusion is dysfunction. We can’t exist that way, can we? Reality is uncertain, but we need certainty. How well is that going to play out?
The way to break it down is search for your thought, is demanding certainty and seeking certainty and change your relationship with that kind of thinking. When you change your relationship with uncertainty and see it as your ally, so that if you have a thought that says, “This is making me feel uncomfortable,” then that should be a signal that you’re on the right path. Don’t avoid it. Embrace the discomfort.
When we go to the gym and workout, we embrace discomfort. We know we’re creating new muscle. We must embrace discomfort psychology and cognitively to grow. So if you’re feeling uncomfortable, take it as a good signal, as a guide post and take the next step in that discomfort in regard to bringing on some more uncertainty.
[00:29:43] MB: It’s funny, if you look at the science and the research and the studies of people who are some of the top performers in nearly any field, that theme, that idea of discomfort and embracing discomfort both psychology, cognitively, physically, etc., is one of the core kind of themes of human performance. So I think it’s such a really good point. I want to give you credit as well.
Even before kind of the interview got started and the preshow discussion, listeners obviously don’t know and aren’t going to hear this, but you even said, “Matt, you can ask me anything you want. Any question you want about anything.”
It’s funny, because some people, before they come to the show, we’ll get a list from them or their assistant or whatever that these are the only things they’ll talk about, or don’t ask me about these things. It’s funny, because you have such a health relationship to discomfort and uncertainty that it really shines through. That it was just kind of small anecdote that you’re living these principles, but they’re also really important principles to be living.
[00:30:41] MS: Well, when I’m asked a question I’ve never been asked before and I don’t have an immediate answer, that’s exciting for me. That’s authentic. When I read books, if I understand everything I’ve read, that book was a waste of my time. I embrace confusion, because if I can be confused, somewhere down the road I will be breaking through.
So it’s kind of like embracing vulnerability. Matt, by vulnerability, I don’t mean weakness. By vulnerability, I mean my transparent authentic self where I’m not concerned about what you think of. I hope you like me and I hope you’re impressed. But if you’re not, that’s okay. That’s authentic self-esteem.
So asking any question allows me to go places I have never been before when I get asked new questions. Otherwise, it’s all rote. As a culture, we don’t inculcate or develop authentic self-esteem. What we do is pursue what I call other esteem. Other esteem means, if I think that you’re impressed or you like me, then I temporarily feel good about myself.
But what people do is they alter and shape themselves to elicit approval and recognition. But when we’re doing that, we’re betraying any developing sense of authentic self. If we taught this to children in school, it would be an altogether different world that we live in.
So I welcome that that asked a question I’ve never heard before, and I have found if I go on stage and I’m preparing for a talk. When I give TED talks, TEDx talks, I do some preparation, because it’s a short talk. I want to nail to it. But when I get on stage and I just freewheel and I just let it flow and come out, it feels so much more authentic. It’s so much better. It’s trusting that whatever comes up and whatever you share, is what needs to come up, and not to judge yourself, you see. It’s critical for your full thought that that’s the judging of us. That’s the kind of thought we need to see and we can learn to release. You can learn to become the master of your thinking when you learn to see your thought and not becoming a thought.
[00:33:02] MB: I want to dig into that and I also want to dig in to self-esteem. But before we get into kind of either of those topics, I want to come back and touch a little bit more on discomfort and uncertainty. How do we, sort of from a practical sense, go about actually changing our relationship with uncertainty? How do we go about kind of redefining the way that we experience and/or think about it?
[00:33:24] MS: Once you grasp the concept that we’ve been playing from the wrong game plan. So the concept is seeking certainty, bad thing, limiting, fear-inducing. So you get the concept. Now the question is, “Okay. I buy the concept. How do I do it?” We do it by shifting our relationship with our thoughts.
So this doves down into my work around thought. Thought tricks us, and that thought tells us the truth. That’s called literal thought. Thought tells us, “I don’t want to make a mistake.” Thought tells us, “I’m concerned about what they’ll think of me.” We don’t even see the thought operating. We buy it and we become the thought.
I introduced the notion of what I call participatory thinking. Actually, I won’t have credit. The great late quantum physicist, David Bohm called it participatory thinking. That would sound like this; instead of saying I need to know the future, literal thought. Participatory thinking sounds like this, “I’m having a thought. Same old thought. My thought is telling me I need to know the future.” Now you see what happens when I think that way? I can say the thought and dissemble it, “Ah, that’s the thought that tricks me. That’s the thought that leads me down the wrong path.”
There’s a me who has embraced this new worldview, and I’m now seeing the thought part that limits and constrains me. So thought becomes like a knock at the door. You hear the knock, but you can decide whether to get up and answer that door or not. So we can develop a muscle memory whereby we can see the thought. Now when I can see my thought, not only am I thinking. There’s a sense of me to this larger and more sovereign and powerful than just my thought.
This allows me an intellectual wisdom, a deep intuitive wisdom. Otherwise, we have millions of thoughts throughout lives. They us the “truth” in your mind, and these millions of thoughts direct and embellish how we experience our lives we are imprisoned by our thoughts. Those thoughts summon up accompanying feelings and emotions. We’re trapped in this cycle of old thought and old feeling, and that’s why it’s hard to change the way to break through, and I delineate this in great detail in my new book, is we can develop a method to create a muscle memory whereby we see the thought. We don’t have to become the thought. We are the thinker of the thought, and then we can carve new territory.
So with uncertainty, we stop with the meta view. Uncertainly equals possibility that’s good. Addiction to certainty equals fears, stress, anxiety, that’s bad. What do I have to do to break free? I have to start to master my thinking. I have to be able to see old thought that is addicted to certainty and learn to release it. This is achievable. It requires some effort.
For many of the listeners who may be saying to themselves now, “That’s hard to do.” Look at your thought. You just had a thought that said that’s hard to do. You don’t know. Arguably, you’ve never tried to do this. So capture that picture. I’m proposing it isn’t hard to do. No one’s ever taught you how to do it.
[00:36:49] MB: So our kind of tools and strategies like meditation, some of the methods that you would recommend, or what are kind of some specific ways to start to see and understand our own thinking?
[00:36:59] MS: Well, meditation, as we all come to understand. Meditation is universal benefits. In my own authenticity in this particular moment, I don’t want to sound commercial and like I am self-promoting my book. So I have a dilemma in this moment, because I developed a methodology through my work over many, many years as a therapist to teach people how to do this and it’s all laid out in the book. Other than reading this, I’m a bit at a launch, just to tell your listeners, how to go after it. Because I haven’t quite seen it out there.
But you can try some simple exercises. Ask yourself, “What is my thought telling me? How do I know it’s true? How often do I have these kinds of thoughts?” Practice this technique of seeing the difference between literal thought and participatory thinking. Old thought defends its territory. It doesn’t go easy and it tricks us and it is telling us the truth.
Participatory thought sees the role with thought is telling you. See that role and then you rise above the thought and you can tap into profound sense of wisdom and insight when you can rise above and not submit to simply being your thought.
You see, thought is reactive. Feelings are reactive. When you can see your feel or see your thought and express it, that is contemplative. So saying to someone, “You know, when you said that to me, I felt myself becoming really angry. Let me explain why.” That’s a health communication. You can see the anger and communicate it. If I can’t see the anger, if I can’t see the thought, I am the thought, I am the emotion and then I’m lost. There’s no way to go with it.
[00:38:46] MB: I think that’s a really insightful distinction that if you can’t see the thought or see the emotion, you become the emotion. I really like that. I haven’t conceived of it that way, but I think it’s a great kind of tool for thinking really clearly about why strategies … And personally, for me, I’ve meditated every day for years and I’ve found meditations are really effective strategy. If for nothing else, just giving you the awareness of what thoughts are sort of flittering through your head so that you can kind of catch them and say, “Hold on. Is this thought really true? Is this thought really – Is it actually real or is it just something that’s kind of floating by and is it kind of a limiting belief that could be holding me back or could be stopping me from achieving the things that I want to achieve?”
[00:39:28] MS: Then to take that and use it in our communication with others, that is so essential and it’s so rare to see it. It’s so rare to hear someone say to someone else, “I was having a thought or I was having a feeling. Let me share with you what it was.” That’s representative. That’s participatory. Instead, we just dive in to the thought or feeling and we exchange it as our truth. That’s why we see so little breakthrough in communication, because communication is not generative that way. Are you [inaudible 00:40:01] objective truce against one another? I mean, certainly in the political realm today, we see an altogether absence of participatory dialogue.
[00:40:12] MB: I want to circle back to the kind of notion of self-esteem and authentic self-esteem. Tell me a little bit more about that and how that ties into the whole sort of quantum framework that we’ve been exploring today.
[00:40:26] MS: Self-esteem I believe is the way we use it, it’s a misnomer. I mean, if you ask educators or parents, “What gives children self-esteem?” They might likely say, “Good grades, excelling in sports, having a lot of friends.” In my perspective, none of that is self-esteem, because it means that the moment that my child didn’t have good grades or wasn’t good at a sport, or didn’t have a lot of friends, what would happen to the self-esteem? What if it was self, they’d still retain it.
So self-esteem is if you remove of all that. What is my co-relationship with myself? Are my thoughts my best ally or are they my antagonist? Am I at peace and in harmony with myself? That’s authentic self-esteem. But as a culture, we are not taught to pursue authentic self-esteem. We’re taught to go after other esteem.
So in my work, so often I will see people who we might call people pleasers. They want people to be happy with them. They’re people who camouflage and hide and disguise aspects of themselves, because they want to be well-thought of. That’s a pursuit of other esteem, and it’s not genuine.
So in conversations between people, it is the exception when people are being genuine. Now, vulnerability has a lot to do with this. We’re taught, taught as a culture, and this is more so for men. Men are taught to act strong. Acting strong is acting, and that’s weak. What is it to really be strong? Again, even more so for men, to really be strong is to be vulnerable.
By vulnerable, I don’t mean crying and feeling week. By vulnerable, I mean sharing your insecurities, your self-doubts, your fears. When you share them, that means you’re not setting up anyone else to be the judge of you. You’re not worried. Your relationship with yourself is intact. That is authentic self-esteem. Someone else may disappoint you. So be it, but your co-relationship there is with self. You’re not worried about judgment.
Let’s look at the concept of the word judgment. If you have an authentic self-esteem, there’s only one person who can be your judge, and they reside in the courtroom and they wear long, black robes. If you appear in front of them, they are the judge. In human relations, people have opinions. If we elevate someone’s opinion and confer upon them the status of being a judge, we’ve done that. It’s because we’re judging our self based upon what we think you think of me.
So authentic self-esteem requires a complete shift in how we view ourselves. Now, when you come across a person who operates in deep authenticity, they standout, they’re illuminated. They have a confidence, a way of beating is singular and it’s because they have authentic self-esteem. We’re coming back to the concept of mistake. It means if I make a mistake, okay, I made a mistake. I make mistakes. So be it.
I can have an embarrassing moment, a foolish moment. I am okay with that. I’m a human being. Other question here, Matt, is how does this correlate to the quantum worldview I’m talking about? Well, here’s a moment. I’ve never been asked a question about how this relates to self-esteem. So I’m embracing uncertainty, because I don’t at first know my answer.
But here is a thought that comes up for me. The quantum worldview is a matter of perception. It is a subjectively created reality, that is my thoughts and feelings that are the paintbrush on the canvas of my life. So if I’m to develop authentic self-esteem, I need to focus on my perceptions, on my thoughts and my feelings and understand how they script my life. Instead of simply focusing on what I think you think of me, which is other esteem.
So now that I’m immersed in responding to your question, I say it is the quantum subjective reality of perception, and the perception here needs to focus on my perception of me rather than my concerns about what I think you think of me that would delivery authentic self-esteem. Just like embracing uncertainty, we need to embrace transparent vulnerability.
[00:45:07] MB: Coming back to kind of the core theme that we’ve been talking about today, this whole idea that the fundamental principles of the hard sciences of quantum physics, these ideas of possibility, uncertainty and interconnectedness and how everything kind of is one have profound applications for the way that we live our lives, deal with stress and anxiety and connect with other people. I think it’s really important conclusion that this is not something that it sounds very kind of woo-woo and spiritual, but it really is an implication of a deep, hard physical science.
[00:45:43] MS: This hard science is the underpinning for all of the day-to-day practical aspects of our lives. Anywhere from your co-relationship which require compassion and empathy, which means that they require connectivity. Losing some of our individuality and opening to the needs and feelings of the other and learning to language it in that way. As I said before, speaking without the two b verbs is a quantum language, so participatory language and it invites generative discussion in our emotional well-being.
In psychological well-being, it is absolutely required that we not think of ourselves again as being hardwired or having screws loose. We are not machines that the basis what it means to be human. Think about it this way. Which worldview would benefit us as human beings? Newton’s machine like universe comprise of things, separate and disconnected and inert without any meaning and purpose, hold and [inaudible 00:46:50] a machine.
The quantum worldview or the thoroughly interconnected, unfolding tapestry of reality making process, which everything participates with everything else, and you are an integral part of that participation. Which worldview invites you to thrive in your life? There is it.
You see, the way we pictures reality is the way we experience reality. This is not a theoretical supposition about science or philosophy. It’s the filter through which we see life. Nothing could be more important.
[00:47:27] MB: Mel, for listeners to concretely apply some of the themes and ideas that we’ve talked about today, what would be kind of one action item or a piece of homework that you would give them as kind of a concrete step towards implementing some of these ideas?
[00:47:41] MS: In the course of your day, try to capture the themes of your thoughts and ask yourself what are they telling you. As I expressed before, are they your ally? Are they your worst critique? Also, ask yourself some large questions, which is, “How do I view life? Do I think it’s a dog –” God help the dogs, “competitive reality?” Also, perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself about anything is when you look at your core beliefs. Ask yourself, “How did I come to this belief? What informs my belief?”
I think, arguably, at this moment in my life, my belief is that’s the most important question we can ask ourselves, because when we ask, “How did I come to this belief?” very often, we see the belief really extends on very tenuous ground and it should require some reexamination.
[00:48:30] MB: For listeners who want to dig in and learn more, where can people find you, your book and your work online?
[00:48:36] MS: My website is my name, melschwartz.com. That’s M-E-L S-C-H-W-A-R-T-Z, melschwartz.com. I have hundreds of articles I’ve written, videos, TEDx talks. Everything you’d like to know about my work you can find at my website.
[00:48:55] MB: Well, Mel, thank you so much for coming on the show. We’ll throw all of those in the show notes as well so listeners could go right there and find everything. But a fascinating conversation. I love the integration of quantum physics into our worldview and then profound applications from that. So thank you so much for coming on here and sharing all of these knowledge.
[00:49:13] MS: Thanks, Matt. Your show and the questions you asked are of a higher level, and I certainly appreciate that.
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