Some folks out there have harmed themselves through self-help.
It’s not even rare. Toxic positivity – where you embrace ‘bliss!’ and ‘gratitude!’ at all costs – runs rampant on social media.
There’s a huge difference between choosing to feel more grateful and choosing to only feel grateful. One is healthy and wise; the other corrodes your very sanity.
Even if you avoid the trap of forcing yourself to smile all the time, there are other dangers on the road.
Yes, even for Phronesis Accelerator subscribers. If you apply the Shields to every problem in your life, no matter how small, you might find yourself feeling strangely flat.
Especially if you don’t heed the safety tip on page 4 of William T Batten’s 34 Shields – included with your first issue.
Not everything that looks like a problem is actually a problem.
And not every real problem needs fixing.
That’s what the toxic positivity gurus miss. They hear that gratitude is great, so ingratitude must be weakness. They know that bliss feels wonderful, so they fight their own sadness and apathy.
These are worthy goals. Aiming to live a life of bliss is a better use of your time than what most folks do.
But you don’t sail the ocean without a map.
Likewise, you don’t build your life of bliss without first figuring out how.
It does not – I’ll say again, NOT – come from treating your emotions as diseases. You don’t ignore them, you don’t train yourself to not feel them and you don’t force yourself to feel good.
It’s funny – when you fight yourself, you always lose, no matter the outcome.
So rather than scowling at your feelings, first learn four times to simply live with them – on pages 7-8 of the April issue.
Snag it here:
It’s the emotional issue that plagued me most of my life.
In fact, it still shows up sometimes – although ‘plague’ isn’t the right word anymore. It’s a canary in my coal mind. Or maybe a reverse canary? Because when it shows up, it’s a sign that something is out of balance.
I fix that, the anxiety goes away again.
Across the world, anxiety is on the rise. It’s common in my generation and maybe more common with the generation following. And thanks to the events of the last year or so, it’s spiking pretty hard.
That means whatever advice you’re hearing about how to manage it isn’t working.
“Look! This problem is worsening at a slower rate!” is also a canary. If someone says that to you, get out of the mine and find a better solution.
Like this one, maybe.
See, there’s a funny thing about science and expert opinion. If they disagree with your life experiences, then question your life experiences. But if you listen to them and it doesn’t help, go back to what you’ve seen with your own eyes. The truth might have been in front of you the whole time… or not. The only way to figure that out is to check.
That’s what I did. By checking my own experiences with anxiety against what experts told me, I noticed a few things.
One, their advice didn’t help.
Two, there was a pattern in what I saw.
Once I used that pattern to my advantage, everything cleared up.
And whenever I screw things up – and, yes pendo, I often screw things up – my screw-ups match the pattern too.
What on Earth am I blabbering on about, though?
Get to the part that tells you what to do, right?
Don’t worry – I lay it all out oh-so-clear in this month’s Phronesis Accelerator.
If you’ve struggled with anxiety, this new approach might be exactly what you need.
Here’s how you get it:
Here’s a model that’ll clarify some of what you do – especially the stuff you don’t want to do. I’m not just talking about addictions, junk food cravings and how tough it can be to quit smoking – I’m talking about everything you do that you don’t want to.
You promise to be more present, but your mind wanders.
You’re sick of being unfit, but your exercise plan fades into fiction.
Every scrap of common sense says to not get snarky with your boss, but you feel the snark rise when they give you that look.
Why do you do that?
Why would any organism do anything self-destructive, no matter how minor?
Because some of those – maybe even all of those – behaviours aren’t behaviours, they’re messengers.
Back in the day, miners would take canaries underground with them. Canaries were sensitive to the toxic fumes that would sometimes leak and pool in those mines, creating an invisible, lethal fog.
If your caged canary died, you got out of the mine. You didn’t wait, because every breath could be poison.
To anyone who likes canaries, (or isn’t psychopathic,) the canary dying sucks. All things being equal, it’s better to be in a world where that canary lived than died.
But if you focus on that, you’ll miss the message.
You have canaries in your mind. When they live, you feel happy, calm, focused, energetic, confident and serene. When they don’t, you don’t.
If you focus on how much it sucks to feel sad, you’ll miss the message that sadness is telling you.
Don’t let your canaries die in vain.
If you see them talons-up, then get out of the mine.
In the next issue of Phronesis Accelerator, you will learn:
Sign up before the deadline here:
I’ll say it again – I’m not a recognised expert in many important fields.
Nothing I say is, say, medical or psychological advice, nor should it be taken as such.
I’m just a guy talking about things.
But while I can’t offer formal advice on these issues…
… I can tell you, in the abstract, what good advice looks like.
It probably doesn’t pay to listen to hypocrites. If someone says “moral purity should be your only concern!”, then ask them about the escort on their arm and the whisky on their breath.
Maybe they know they’re a cautionary tale – sort of like “don’t do what they did or you’ll turn out like them”. I don’t know, you still have to wonder why they don’t take their own advice.
This month’s Phronesis Accelerator issue is all about warning signs. When a canary dies in the mine, you don’t sit around and gawk at it. The whole point of it dying is to tell you to get out already.
Hypocrisy is a warning sign, but in other people.
What does this have to do with anything?
Well… maybe nothing.
Or maybe it’ll give you an insight into something important.
I can’t promise anything.
But I do know, based on what I read and hear every. Single. Day… some of you need to know this. That’s no exaggeration – I say need and I mean it. Without it, you could lose a lot.
One day, I’ll probably share this information more publicly.
But not for a while.
I’m not sure if you can afford to wait.
So wait, you shouldn’t.
I explain it all in the bonus report for the April edition of Phronesis Accelerator. Getting the bonus report isn’t a question of money – you have to earn it. Only then can you appreciate it and apply what I say.
It’d be easy to read this, smile and nod, then move on.
I’d rather you didn’t.
Anyway, you can read more about what the Phronesis Accelerator program is at the link below. That also tells you how to go about scoring yourself the bonus copy.
It does involve moving fast, though.
Don’t think the deadline is far off, because it’s always closer than you think:
I remember getting a shiver when my brain spawned this pun, from whatever ooze thoughts come from:
The Canary in the Coal Mind.
I love a good pun, see. And I love a terrible one.
I doubt I’m the first person to come up with this. Maybe I’m about to embarrass myself and it’s the name of some famous song or program or something.
As of this writing, not yet. But who knows.
Whether or not you’ve heard this pun before, you’ve heard the idea.
Your brain doesn’t act randomly. You might wonder if it works well or optimally or consistently, but it’s not random.
Emotions, bad habits and destructive urges might confuse you, bewilder you or frustrate you. It might seem as though they come out of nowhere but if you weren’t here to think those thoughts, no one else would think them for you.
This is foundational stuff in neuroscience – a neuron never fires for no reason. It only ever sparks because of chemistry or electricity.
Neurons scale into networks, and those networks generate thoughts. No spark, no thought.
Which means there’s always a reason behind every flash of anger, every misplaced feeling of frustration, every thought that lies to you, every urge for just one more glass of wine, cigarette, donut…
And that’s great news! If there’s a reason – no matter how misguided – you can do something about it. You can’t reason with random.
The only question remains: what kind of reasons?
Do you crave that donut because your ancestors grew up, lived and died in a world where calories were scarce, precious and fleeting?
But if that were the full story, you’d have been feeling those cravings all the time. Why do they come and go? Even factoring in hunger, blood sugar, fatigue and whatnot, sometimes the craving is there and sometimes it isn’t.
That’d be a curious thing, if it weren’t so mundane. Of course thoughts, urges and emotions come and go! Anyone who’s lived as a human for a day knows that.
… then… what?
Where do these thoughts come from and where do they go when you don’t think them?
Any answer is going to be incomplete – an oversimplification.
But, hey, we do better than “see food… feel hungry…”
If you’re curious about where your urges and impulses come from – and if you’re not, you must have no interest in self-development – check the upcoming Phronesis Accelerator issue.
So many of your problems aren’t problems – they’re warnings.
Learn what they’re warning you of… and what to do about it:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
“I just completed a ten-day cleanse. I was so good at it, I finished in three hours!”
Yeah, yeah – hilarious, I know.
But what if it wasn’t a joke?
What if you could complete hours of meditation in a fraction of the time?
I’m revealing something cool in a week or two that answers that.
In the meantime…
You’ll get the most out of everything I offer – including my books – if you enjoy a Neural Reset every now and then.
Just like how the best way to run 20 km is to learn to run five…
… my upcoming thing that’ll give you a weekend’s worth of meditation in a few hours will work better if you have a Neural Reset first.
That and all the usual benefits, of course.
It’s not essential, but it’ll help.
Sign up here:
Have you ever tried explaining meditation to someone who’s never done it?
You can say what it’s like. It’s like reading a good book, like losing yourself in its pages, only your losing yourself in your present awareness now.
It captures the gist, I suppose.
But it doesn’t fully explain what meditation is like.
It’s not easy to capture the experience of how your thinking churns and boils at the edges, how every moment becomes so big and still, how your awareness gazes through itself even as it gazes at it…
… because so many of you are reading that and shaking your heads.
Again, it’s like meditation but that’s not really how it is.
The best descriptions of meditation are closer to trippy gibberish than a roadmap.
It’s easier to experience it than to learn about it vicariously – even if it’s hard for you.
Here’s where it gets interesting:
If a meditator asked me about hypnosis, I’d say it’s a lot like meditation.
And that’s true.
But it’s not.
It’s like it in the sense that it’s closer than most experiences, but it’s something new.
Something that must be experienced first, then understood – maybe.
Or maybe not understood even then.
If you’re a keen meditator and get a lot out of it, great.
And if you’re craving something more – something extra on top of that…
… start with the Neural Reset. Let me know that you’re a meditator and I’ll take you further, deeper and into exciting new regions of the mind.
Seriously, you’re gonna love this:
Do you ever feel stuck?
If so, I can relate.
And perhaps this will help you – if you reflect on what I say and take it to heart. Resist the urge to simply smile and nod along, no matter how obvious this might seem.
Really think about it.
Because that’s the answer – to think.
Folks will tell you it’s easy to break a rut. Do something different. Order your coffee from somewhere else, get off the bus a stop earlier, go for a walk, read a book…
Those can be handy tactics.
But what’s the strategy behind them?
Or, if you prefer, what’s the principle?
A rut isn’t defined by your actions. The first time you went through your routine, you weren’t in a rut. And someone else – someone with a fondness for order and routine – would find that simply delightful.
So it’s all in your thinking.
Which is different from saying it’s all in your head.
A simplified view of the brain is that it seeks to think the same thoughts. What worked yesterday will probably work tomorrow, so why waste time and glucose processing inferior options?
Speed and efficiency matter. If a car hurtles towards you, milliseconds count.
Let’s call this your autopilot.
When too much of your day is on autopilot – when not enough of it invites you to think new thoughts – then you have your rut.
So… how do you think new thoughts?
Any change to your routine will do it – hence the common advice.
But what’ll really do the trick is trance.
I’ve talked about this before. When something surprises or confuses you, your brain reaches for an answer and can’t immediately find it. The next thing it does is enter a trance, to help find a deeper answer.
It sidelines conscious thinking for a moment until it has something – then the conscious mind can check it.
Again, I’m simplifying things a lot here, but this captures the gist of it.
The key lesson from all this:
Trance is excellent for thinking new thoughts, which is excellent for breaking ruts.
“Great!” one says. “I’ve heard that watching a movie puts you in a trance – I’ll do that then!”
And that can help.
Until that style of trance becomes part of your rut.
Watching one movie a month, with your full attention, is different from watching two a day while you browse memes on your phone.
Trancing on your own can sometimes become part of the rut.
Having someone guide you through a trance, though?
All of a sudden, we have something dynamic, responsive, engaging and chaotic.
I’m not saying my Neural Reset will never get repetitive… but the moment it starts to, I can change up what I’m doing and give you a fresh experience.
And isn’t a fresh experience what it’s all about?
You’ll never feel anything quite like this, so sign up:
I’m not big on caffeine.
I used to be. Coffee tastes great and smells even better. Plus, who couldn’t use a kick every now and then?
Therein lay the problem, pendo.
Sometimes, coffee would make me alert, sharp and focused.
Other times, it would make me jittery and needing to pee.
Most of the time, though?
My energy would plummet, I would feel queasy and I couldn’t concentrate.
It took me a while to notice the connection, because it took a while for those symptoms to show up. I don’t know what the deal with that is and I don’t care. I cut out coffee, black tea and green tea, and I was able to function again.
So how do I get by without something as essential as coffee?
I could say that coffee is a luxury, not a necessity.
I could say you get used to not having it.
And those are true.
But here’s why, while I might miss the taste of coffee, I’m not pining for a caffeine buzz:
Caffeine doesn’t contain the concept of alertness. It’s a chemical. That chemical interacts with the brain in certain ways to make you feel alert.
A principle of neuroscience is:
If you can access a mental state with chemistry, you can access it without chemistry. Your brain doesn’t need caffeine to focus or LSD to hallucinate.
Some folks misapply this principle. They hear that and say, “see? Depression isn’t real! You can just choose to snap out of it!”
I never said it was a matter of conscious choice.
Choose to feel intense, even debilitating pleasure right now.
Aww, it didn’t work? Obviously – which is why you should have been suspicious of this whole ‘choice’ nonsense.
The brain creates states, sometimes guided by external chemistry, other times without – but how it does that is subtle and tricky.
You can train yourself to feel certain states stronger and more reliably. That’s not the same as anyone being able to choose to feel anything at any time.
It’s how I get by without caffeine – and, as my prolific writing shows, I focus better than most folks can with it.
Maybe I’ll put something together like that one day – a hypnotic coffee shot of sorts.
In the meantime, the best mind training begins with learning to explore trances. Simply entering a deep trance often enough can create the changes you want.
More alertness from less coffee, for example.
If it takes more work, the trances lay the foundation for it.
That’s why I offer the Neural Reset. You will get more of what you want, even after one session – the only question is how subtly or dramatically things will change.
Sign up for a session here: