Are you more important than your “stuff”? I hope you think so, because I know you are. However, when you value stuff a little too much, you tend to stress and get concerned about what will happen to you if your stuff gets damaged or disappears.
Today’s episode isn’t necessarily about stuff, but I do talk about breakthroughs and one way they can happen to you. Stuff comes into play, I promise. I also change the subject and go into a talk on assumptions, and how they can shape our reality if we’re not careful. (And how someone’s assumption about my intentions on the show did shape their reality when they left a critical review for me in iTunes.) Fun “stuff”, huh?
Today’s quick quote is by Paul Colaianni, host of The Overwhelmed Brain. Yes, me. I want to talk about a very specific subject so I am creating a quote for this very episode.
Here it is:
A “breakdown” is when you’ve exhausted every option and have no choice but to accept the fact that you are powerless to create the outcome you want.
A “breakthrough” has the same definition.
When you can accept that you have no more options, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about a situation, you decrease or completely eliminate your resistance to not wanting it to turn out a certain way.
In simpler terms: When you know there’s absolutely nothing you can do, you stop trying. When you stop trying, you are free from the stress and burden of controlling the outcome.
The hard part for many people, including myself, is that we want a certain outcome. I mean, that’s why we do what we do anyway, right? That’s why we do anything!
When I wake up in the morning and I’m hungry, I want to eat. The outcome will be that I’m no longer hungry.
I work to create an income. The outcome will be that I have money to pay bills, eat, and take care of myself and my family. That’s the outcome I want, so I do the steps needed to get that outcome.
All of our actions lead to some sort of outcome. But, what happens when no matter what we do we can’t seem to get the outcome we want?
I once talked about my car breaking down in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was panicky, stressed, and had no idea how I was going to get my car and all the stuff in my car back to Texas. I was 1000 miles from home, had no cash, and maybe only a gas card.
I was truly running out of options, because even if I could get myself home, I still had thousands of dollars of equipment in my car, let alone the cost of the car itself.
This was a pivotal moment in my life because I made a choice that changed my life forever.
My panic of not being able to get my car fixed and having no way to get it to Texas was hitting me so hard, it felt like I was dying.
I think about it now and go, “Really? I thought I was dying?” But if you’ve ever been so panicked by a situation, you know what I mean. Your heart beats hard in your chest, you sweat, and it feels like the end of the world.
I put more value on my stuff over my own well-being, which caused me to prioritize the wrong things. When I realized that not only would I not be able to get my car fixed, but I would also have to leave behind all the material items I had in my car as well, I almost passed out because I was so distraught over losing all my stuff.
And at the pinnacle of fear that I was going to lose all my stuff on that sunny day in Arizona, at the absolute height of my anxiety and panic, I popped.
It’s what I call, “shocking the nervous system”. I had a breakthrough. There was nowhere left for my fear and panic to go. They kept getting stronger and stronger until the pressure was so great that whatever contained them exploded.
It’s the balloon analogy. My fear and panic were filling the balloon. The more I realized I couldn’t get out of this situation the way I wanted to get out, the bigger the balloon got. More and more the balloon filled.
When there was simply no more room for that fear and panic, and the pressure became too great to contain anymore, the balloon popped and released all of it.
All of my fear and anxiety were instantly gone and I was suddenly free from worry and stress. All that fear gone in an instant. And as soon as it released, my head was clear. And the answer came to me in a moment. And I was at peace.
I got to find out what happens when the absolute worst case scenario comes true. I thought that the absolute worst thing that could happen is that I’d lose my car and my stuff. This felt like a nightmare to me. But when it really did happen, and the realization came up that there was nothing I could do, I had a choice to make:
Submit or continue resisting.
Actually, it wasn’t really a choice at all because submitting to what “is” was the only way out anyway. Continuing to resist would have been pointless because I was too jaded by that point. You can’t resist when you’re simply too tired to resist.
This is the breakthrough that comes from the breakdown. When the details of how bad the situation is overwhelm you, you go into overload. And eventually, you shock your nervous system because you simply can’t handle anymore. The shock awakens you and helps you release the pain and fear that you created by resisting the undeniable truth.
And even when the truth isn’t completely undeniable, it’s still freeing to let go of where things seem to be heading.
When I stood there at the trunk of my car with the tow truck driver who said there’s nothing he could do, my fear, anxiety and panic rose to epic proportions causing me to break down.
The most wonderful thing happens when you have a breakdown: You get to start over with an entirely new perspective.
After my emotional balloon popped and released all the fear, I felt a peace wash over me. Suddenly, the material things like my car and everything else inside of it meant nothing because I had done the one thing that released everything.
That one thing is what helped me let go of attachments and move into well being. I felt normal and happy again, even though nothing about the circumstances changed. I was still stuck in Flagstaff and I was still going to lose everything I’d been travelling with.
This event in life showed me that life is only a battle when you make “things” more important than yourself. Sure, the people in your life can be important, but stuff… that’s just stuff.
Breakthroughs happen, and they change everything. My breakthrough happened after a breakdown in Arizona. And since then, I’ve let go of many of my attachments. I still like “stuff”, but I’m not attached to what I like anymore, taking away the stress and fear of losing it.
Breakthroughs are powerful, and they can change your life in an instant. Stick around, maybe there’s a breakthrough waiting for you in this very episode.
If someone came along and said they were going to take everything you own, how would that make you feel? What if they said they wanted to take your photos, and all the gifts that anyone close ever gave to you? Would that upset you?
For most people, it would. Most people would get angry or scared. They would not want it to happen so they would resist and likely try to stop the person.
Now, think about that for just a minute. Someone comes along and says they are going to take away all this stuff that is precious to you. How do you feel about that? Really think about what you’d lose.
How does that feel? What’s that like?
Alright, stay in that feeling for just a few more seconds and while you do, imagine this person now says that they need your pinky finger for a minute.
You’d be like, “What for?”
They tell you they need to cut it off.
“Cut it off? What? No!”
It wouldn’t matter what you said because in a moment, they are going to cut your finger off your hand. How does it feel knowing that is going to happen?
I know, this is awful to think about, but I’ll take you back to a good place in a moment.
What’s it like to know someone is going to remove your finger?
Now keep that feeling, and come back to your stuff. Knowing your stuff is going to be taken away from you, how important is that compared to your finger?
When you think about losing your stuff and losing your finger, does your stuff not seem so important anymore? Are you even thinking about your stuff anymore knowing that in a few minutes someone is going to cut your finger off?
For most people, the stuff doesn’t seem important at all anymore. After all, they’ve had their pinky all their lives and don’t want to lose it. But knowing that someone is going to cut it off puts things into perspective for sure.
Now, you’re not going to lose your pinky, at least not in this exercise. And you’re not going to lose your stuff, again, at least not in this exercise. However, the reason I wanted to give you this contrast is because we forget how much value we are to ourselves.
It’s one of those lessons in ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. I’m assuming most of the people listening to this show still have their pinky fingers, but if you don’t, just imagine another body part you’d prefer not to lose when doing this exercise.
We are used to our body and all its parts, but we don’t typically consider what it would be like if something on us didn’t exist anymore – at least something that we’d normally want to keep.
When you compare losing a finger to losing photos and other sentimental objects, most of you would gladly let the photos go if it meant you got to keep your finger. You might miss the photos years later, but you’ll be so grateful you didn’t lose your finger that day that you could probably get over the loss of your “stuff” pretty quickly.
And that’s what I mean when I say, “Life is only a battle when you make things more important than yourself.”
Life is hard when you believe that what you can buy in a store has more value than you. Life is a struggle when you take yourself out of the equation of the circumstances that happen to you.
The reason a lot of us get so stressed about losing our stuff is because we forget just how precious our lives are. Your life is precious, and you have more value than you can ever imagine.
I know this is true because when you think about someone wanting to take your finger, you’re likely to ignore the world around you so that you can protect yourself. The idea that you’d lose a finger opens up the level of awareness inside of you that knows what’s most important.
Your brain, AKA: You, determines that losing a finger is more important than losing pictures. Therefore, your perspective changes. Sure, you’ll miss those pictures, but you’d miss your finger even more.
When I lived in California, I remember one night specifically where I heard on the news that our neighborhood was in line with a wildfire. Essentially, I only had minutes to decide what to keep and what to leave behind.
Having just moments to decide what will you’ll have to leave to burn and what you’ll take is a challenge I hope none of you never face, though I’m sure some of you have. In those moments, your brain works at lightning speed to determine what’s most important to you.
I don’t remember what I grabbed, but I could only carry a couple items. The rest of it had to stay. I had to accept that I would never see all of my stuff again. I determined what was most important, then left the house.
Those moments were intense, because I never thought I’d have to face something like that. But I learned quickly what was most important to me and just left with a few items and the clothes on my back.
Think about that… if you’re not home right now, pretend you are. Now, you have exactly 2 minutes to take what you can carry and get out of the house. The house is going to burn down, you have 2 minutes…
Is your mind racing?
Are you going through all your rooms in your mind’s eye trying to get the most important stuff?
Okay, now you have 1 minute, which may be barely enough time to get to a safe distance, so you really have less time.
It’s intense, isn’t it? What do you save? What do you leave behind?
In the last 10 seconds you run out with what you chose to save.
What did you save?
Was saving yourself as important as saving your stuff? It was probably the most important, because without you, the stuff you saved really has no value to you, if that makes sense. If you’re not there to use it or appreciate it, then that stuff doesn’t mean anything to you.
But, you are more important than your stuff, so you ran out before the fire hit. Remember, life is only a battle when you make “things” more important than you. To learn and embrace this in your life is a breakthrough. What gets many people though is that they’ve taken advantage of existing.
Because we will never really know life until we are near death, it’s hard to be as grateful for existing. But when you are in a situation that reminds you of how precious life can be, whether someone you love died, or you were close to death yourself, you start to realize just how amazing it is to be alive.
I’m not saying you need to be near death, but it helps to think in terms of what it would be like if you knew that if something didn’t change about your life, you could die. I know that sounds morbid and it’s probably not very good advice I’ll admit, because we are all in a different space with that thought, but just think about it the same way you thought about having to leave your home within 2 minutes.
Think about something in your life that you are used to, or perhaps have taken advantage of having in your life. Now think about what it would be like if you knew in 2 minutes it wouldn’t be there anymore.
Could be stuff, could be a person. Whatever it is, imagine in 2 minutes, it no longer exists. What would you say or do knowing you only had two minutes.
This isn’t a very easy exercise, but what it does is reveal something inside of you that may be lingering. Lingering thoughts are those you don’t give much “thought” to because they are always there. But if you had to take action in 2 minutes, lingering thoughts come to the forefront and suddenly you’re taking action.
It’s impulse shopping for the brain. You were waiting to take action before, but now you have a limited time to take action now.
Do this with people and things just as an experiment and see what happens. What comes up? What thoughts or ideas come up that weren’t there before? Do you get any insights?
Do this just to see where your mind goes. Don’t really take action as if it this thing or person was going to disappear because that might confuse people around you. Just see where your mind goes.
I’ll call this “The two-minute breakthrough”. Create a scenario where you know you have two minutes before the thing or person disappears, then figure out what you’d do or say knowing you have only that amount of time left.
It reminds me of the movie Terminator 3. I know it’s a weird reference, but hear me out. There was a part of that movie before things got all crazy where Arnold Schwarzenegger and the two other actors were at a peaceful park next to an RV.
It was a beautiful day, and Arnold, who plays a character called a Terminator, gives the two other main characters the bad news. He said in approximately two hours, there will be a nuclear war.
So here’s this beautiful nature scene that feels so peaceful, but in two hours, all of it is going to be destroyed.
This was my favorite part of the movie because it forced me to be extremely present. The movie took me from peace and tranquility to high alert. I’m not saying that’s a good feeling, but it did make me completely aware of how much I take advantage of everyday things like sitting in nature.
Since that movie, when I sit in nature now, I think about how good it feels and how much I am appreciating it. Just that one scene made me realize that I was not as present as I could be much of the time.
Terminator 3 isn’t one of those movies you think about as being spiritual, but sometimes one scene can make a movie because of how it changes you. I’ve watched some pretty terrible movies in the past, but sometimes a scene that changes my perspective can make it all worth it.
That scene shocked my system. It interrupted my flow of thoughts and emotions and shook me into a realization that yes, it could all end tomorrow. But I didn’t see it as a scary view of a possible future, I saw it as an opportunity to be present in the world today.
Use “The Two-Minute Breakthrough” process with everyday things in your life, and see what happens.
Maybe you’re at work and your boss tells you to do something. Use the process to imagine what it would be like if you never saw your boss again. He or she simply didn’t exist in 2 minutes. Would it be better? Worse?
What would it be like? When you go through this process, you understand what your real thoughts and feelings are on things. You take a thought to the end and see what happens, if that makes sense.
It feels real when you do it too, because your brain does some interesting things to create a new reality.
Breakthroughs happen because of something unexpected. Doing this process typically brings up the unexpected. Usually, thoughts and ideas you never would have considered arise.
And when they do, you get to think differently than before.
I said earlier that a breakdown is when you’ve exhausted every option and have no choice but to accept the fact that you are powerless to create the outcome you want, and that a breakthrough has the same definition.
The Two-Minute Breakthrough is like a mini breakdown. And having done it, you could be presented with new information leading to a breakthrough. And breakthroughs lead to taking action. A breakthrough is inspired thought, and taking action on inspired thought can sometimes take you very far.
Now, let’s change the subject. I want to talk about assumptions. You’ll find out why shortly.
The other subject I want to talk about today is a little unrelated to the rest of this episode, and it has to do with assumptions. What you assume to be true isn’t always true. You’ve heard the saying about the word “assume”, right? If not, it’s this: “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”
If you don’t understand what I just said, write down the word “assume” and you’ll see what I mean because of the last three letters of the word. Otherwise, this statement is true more times than not.
When you assume, you create a reality based on that assumption. For instance, when I lived in Portland, Oregon, many people around there assumed cars would stop as soon as they started walking across the street.
I’ve actually watched people walking along the sidewalk, not look in any direction but straight ahead, and walk across the street assuming traffic would stop for them. One time, I watched a guy nearly get hit because he just stepped out into traffic. He got so angry at the driver of the car.
From my perspective, it appeared the guy wasn’t even going to cross the street. But he stepped out onto the street without giving drivers any eye contact or indication that he was going to cross. Then to see him get mad was laughable, because it was clear to me that he made an assumption that the whole world was focused on him and that the whole world would stop and he didn’t have to give any indication of his actions to anyone.
It was laughable, but it was also scary. It was scary to realize that some people will just assume, then make that assumption a reality.
Assumption is not reality. And when you make assumption reality, you can take action and make decisions based on what may not be true at all.
This is why it’s so important to verify what you assume before you believe it to be truth. I’m not talking about religion here, I’m talking about everyday stuff you might take for granted.
For example, a few years ago when I was working as a subcontractor at a hospital, I assumed the hospital would hire me on full time at the end of my contract. I kept getting hints that they wanted me, but no one ever brought me into their office to officially offer me a job.
But, I assumed for months that they wanted me. However, I never verified that when my contract ended, I would actually be hired on. So after a few months, I decided that I really needed to know if my assumption was true.
It turns out it wasn’t true at all. In fact, they had no plans to hire me on and told me to keep an eye on the job board to see if anything opens up. This sank my hopes and dreams. I kept that assumption and based my reality on it.
The reason I wanted to talk about assumptions in this last segment is because of the critical review I received in iTunes. This reviewer gave me three out of five stars and said the following:
‘I was surprised that he felt it okay to name his ex-wife and tell everyone she’s a food addict. He doesn’t say she’s ok with him talking about her personal stuff, so I’m left wondering if he’s betraying her or not. I can’t help but think it’s wrong and unnecessary. Talk about yourself and if you really think you need to talk about others and their issues at least make it vague and don’t say their name and relationship to you. I also have a bad reaction to a food addict I work with but I would never say her name and where I work. It just turned me off so much I deleted the podcast. I can’t learn anything from someone I feel is either unethical, just plain mean, or so ignorant.‘
First off, thank you for honest thoughts about what you assumed was truth. I am all for the full expression of self. And if you really believed everything you wrote, I am proud of you, because I would absolutely agree with your comments about someone who seems to be unethical, mean and ignorant.
Second, I’m glad you took the time to speak your mind. Many people don’t leave reviews so I respect you that you actually took the time to log in and leave a review at all. I am honored.
And finally, what this reviewer believed to be true is exactly why I am talking about assumptions today.
I will admit, I had one episode a few months back that was about my brother and his girlfriend where I talked about a situation that actually offended them. I promptly deleted the episode and realized that I was quick to assume myself that they wouldn’t be bothered by what I said.
But they were. And I felt like a complete idiot. I apologized to them and told them I deleted the episode right away. They actually felt bad that I had to delete an episode, but I said that family is more important than one more episode. So I never re-aired that particular episode, and I never will.
People are always more important to me than just creating content for this show. My passion is helping others through their stuff, and not harming anyone in the process.
When I was married, I helped my wife just as much as she helped me. We both developed a profound respect for each other’s struggles, and both learned a lot in the process. But, just because you respect each other’s struggles, doesn’t mean you want to be around those struggles. She left, and we got a divorce.
But I never lost one ounce of respect for her, or her struggles. And I never once betrayed her trust. Every time I’ve mentioned my wife, both when I was married, and after I got divorced, I’ve held the utmost respect for her and her struggles.
I explicitly sought her permission to talk about her struggles on the air because she actually wanted others who were going through the same issues to hear what was happening with us. She never wanted to talk directly on the air, but she relied and trusted in me to mention her food addiction in respect to our marital issues and other personal challenges.
To this day, even though I never talk with my her, I still respect my ex-wife and would never do or say anything to defame or look down on her. I respect her for taking a stand and taking back the reigns of her life. I admire her for doing what she felt was the right thing to do for her.
I don’t want to make it sound like I feel the need to defend myself by talking about this, but what came up for me after reading this review was how much our reality and destiny is shaped by making simple assumptions.
Food addiction is a very real, very difficult struggle. Having lived with my ex for about 8 years, I learned about it first hand, and learned a lot about myself in the process.
For example, when I first learned she was addicted to sweets and junk food, I thought it was fun. I thought it was going to be great sharing moments together eating stuff we shouldn’t eat. But when I found out that she actually had trouble controlling her cravings, I realized how serious it was.
But I still wasn’t fully cognizant of how much of a struggle it was for her. I would say things like, “Just don’t go to the store and buy junk food”, or “If you really have a problem, throw away the chips and candy.”
I was ignorant at the time. Before I created this show, I was very ignorant about her struggles and of other people going through the same thing. I thought, “Hey, we’re all addicted to sugar!” so I didn’t think twice.
But soon I realized how hard it was for her to stop. And because I was so unprepared and ignorant to the facts, my assumptions started to create my reality.
I assumed she could stop. I assumed she was just weak or rebellious and that she was only telling me she had a food addiction as an excuse to eat anything she wanted.
I was extremely assumptive and ignorant, and I become extremely judgmental. When she would reach for sweets, I would give her that disapproving look, or even say something that showed I was upset about her eating junk food.
I would tell her things like how unattractive she was as she gained weight. I would do everything I could to not support her. And even when I did support her, there was a part of me that was selfish. I would think, “Hey, I’m helping her! Maybe now she’ll lose some weight so I can be attracted to her again.”
Even if I wasn’t saying these things directly, I was thinking them. I was very hard to be around, and it wore her down. Year after year, she fell into more and more of a depression. It hurt me to see her this way, yet I didn’t realize I was causing it.
Sure, she herself had to deal with her struggle, but she had no one to support her through it. All I did was let her know in many ways how much I disapproved of her behavior.
That must be like telling someone with cancer, “I really don’t like you with cancer. You’re really upsetting me because you have it.”
I realize that’s a stretch, but she had a real issue that I was not compassionate about. This made her feel unloved and unwanted, likely causing her to be even more addicted.
When I finally realized what I was doing, I turned everything inward and focused on me. I realized that I was relying on her to change so that I would feel better. In reality, it was me who needed to change whether she was able to get over her addiction or not.
I accepted that it was me who chose to stay in a relationship that upset me. After all, if I was really unhappy with her behavior, why didn’t I just leave?
I’m not saying that was the answer, but I did realize how much pressure I put on her to change when all this time it was my lack of compassion and support that made her feel worse and worse.
And regardless of the inner healing I went through and the more compassionate and supportive I became after that, it was already too late for her. She was jaded by the years of getting mentally beat up by me that she had to go.
She did see me change, and she liked what she saw, but it was still too late and she was moving on. It hurt. I went through pain and grieving.
Then, time passed and I was better.
I can now connect all the dots and see where everything went wrong. I can see what I did to create the situation. And I blame myself for much of what happened.
I especially have to look carefully at what assumptions I made throughout those 8 years.
Think about all the assumptions you make about people or events, and believe you know what reality or truth is. My assumptions led to my judgments about her behavior and intentions.
This reviewer made assumptions that I must be betraying my ex-wife or being mean towards her because of the struggles I mentioned about her food addictions.
People assume things all the time and dangerously move forward with that assumption without finding out what’s true before they do.
Do you know what’s true, or do you assume and move forward relying on what you’ve assumed?
I am now in a very healthy relationship. I keep it healthy by never assuming anymore, and addressing things as they come up. If I assume she is mad at me, I’ll ask her if she’s mad at me. Then we’ll talk about it.
Some hard truths come out that way, but they are grounded in reality. They are hard to hear, but there’s no misinterpretation. Well, sometimes there is, but for the most part, I try not to assume I know what’s going on unless I hear it from the source.
I thank this reviewer for standing up for what they believe to be truth. Now had they reached out and asked me, I would have let them know everything I just told you now.
It’s not easy to hear someone call you mean or unethical when you know in your heart you’re not. And at the same time, I don’t want to assume that this reviewer had any ill intentions towards me. In fact, this is the kind of person you want sticking up for you! When they are this passionate about what they believe, they will always do what they feel is right.
And the right path is the best path, as long as what’s right is based on what’s true, not what’s assumed.
That’s it for today. Thank you for joining me.
This can lead to a breakthrough because when you let go of your attachment to the outcome, you free yourself from the belief that you can control what that outcome looks like.
A belief that you can control an outcome is one of the biggest causes of stress in your life today.
Thank you for listening to another episode of The Overwhelmed Brain.
If you want to connect with me more directly, feel free to join the group How To Deal With Irrational People based on the book of the same name.
I also want to mention A Human Project. What they do is travel the country speaking to children who have been abused, are suicidal and / or currently fighting off severe depression. If you are interested in learning more about their fundraiser, head over to fundly.com/ahumanproject and help save a child’s life.
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Well, I never got a chance to tell you if my house burned down or not. There I was with less than two minutes to evacuate the area, grabbing only what I felt were absolutely what I needed and not having time to grab what I wanted.
I drove down the road and looked across a field at a mountain. It looked like the entire hillside was on fire. I thought I was actually pretty close to it, but it turns out it was still a few miles away, but I swear I could feel the heat.
The fire ended up being contained and our neighborhood was spared. It was a real eye-opener for me. I never thought I’d be faced with a situation like that in my life. But it happened, and I’m glad it did because it taught me what was most important when it all came down to it.
It reminds me of the time I got food poisoning. Even at my worse where I thought I was going to die, it was the most peaceful because all of my stress and worry about the outside world disappeared. And right at that moment, I felt more alive and at peace than ever.
This is because the outside world simply wasn’t important as I was in that moment. I realize that sounds narcissistic, but maybe if you’re really worried all the time about stuff outside of you, then perhaps a little narcissism in your life wouldn’t be so bad. Well, just make sure it’s only a little.
It’s just a reminder that we stress about so much stuff, when we don’t have to. There are things beyond our control and sometimes we just have to let those things be. Sure, there is still stress and struggle, but remember that life is only a battle when you make “things” more important than yourself.
What that means is that your collection of antiques, your expensive car, you great grandmother’s jewelry, and anything else you consider important in your life isn’t as important as you. And when you are stressed about that scratch or dent in your brand new car, remember that you are here to experience the world and stuff is just stuff.
I’m not saying you have to let go of attachments, although that would be something you could try, but at least let go of the idea that it’s a loss when your stuff gets damaged or goes away.
Sometimes a loss opens the door for something new. It’s just a matter of perspective.
So step into your power and be firm in your decisions and actions, so that you can create the life you want. When you do this, you’ll discover what I already know to be true about you, that you are amazing.