BONUS: Why Am I The Last Person To Know What To Do With My Life?


In this special bonus episode, Tony shares the importance of giving yourself grace when you find yourself all caught up in your thoughts and feelings. Then Tony shares an episode from The Virtual Couch that will help you begin to set the table for the changes that are about to occur in your life as you continue to wake up to the narcissistic relationships in your life, or even if you’re beginning to understand your own narcissistic traits and tendencies. Tony also referenced episode 300 of the Virtual Couch, where his good friend Neal Hooper, host of The Happiness Playbook, joined him to talk about goal setting. Listen to episode 300 of the Virtual Couch here

From the Virtual Couch show notes for this episode…If you want to know what you need to do with your life, ask somebody close to you. Chances are they’ll immediately have an opinion. But when they do share what they think YOU need to do with YOUR life, why do you immediately think of doing the opposite? Better yet, why can they come up with an answer and direction for YOUR life easier than YOU can…because it’s YOUR life!

Tony starts with Fowler’s Stages of Faith, applying them to life in general, touches the bases on attachment, values, and then slides into home in a made-up land where you can be your value-based, unique, one-of-a-kind version of you…the land tentatively called “Differentiation-ville!”


[00:00:08] Episode 16 of

[00:00:10] The Waking Up the Narcissism podcast, I. Host Tony Overby, I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast. And on that note, I just released episode three hundred of the virtual couch earlier this week. And if you aren’t someone who already listens, I do highly recommend to go give that episode a try. I had a good friend of mine on his name is Neil. Hooper, and Neil also happens to host a podcast called The Happiness Playbook. And for those of you who are coming here and finding that you’re waking up to the narcissism of someone in your life, or if you’re finding yourself beginning to wake up to perhaps even some of your own narcissistic traits or tendencies, then I really do feel like both episode three hundred of the Virtual Couch and Neil’s Happiness Playbook podcast in general would not be a bad thing. Neil and I talk about some pretty not trying to sound dramatic, but pretty new theories on goal setting, and it’s a it’s a long but exciting story. But as you are heading into the new year or as you’re beginning to realize that you may have possibly possibly been losing your sense of self or sense of purpose, then I think it would be great for you to have the very best the very latest tools available for starting down this whole path of change. So go check out episode three hundred of the virtual couch, as well as Neil’s happiness playbook.

[00:01:23] And speaking of the virtual couch. And as today, this morning, this morning, as a matter of fact, it is Christmas Eve and I am running a bonus episode. And let me just explain I’m running one of my personal favorites from the virtual couch and and let me step back and made. Admittedly, I can’t go back and listen to myself talk, which is kind of funny, but I don’t know. I do know that this episode, which is titled Why am I the last person to know what to do with my life, came at a time that I felt like epiphanies were just springing up left and right in my practice and kind of learning a lot of new things about relationships and and personal growth and that sort of thing. And so I did I felt just compelled to record this episode when I did, and it has. It’s resonated with a lot of people and I hear about it in sessions. Often I still get emails about it, and the download numbers show that it’s it’s probably been shared a lot of times. So I think that in the spirit of change, the spirit of awakening that this one would be a really great listen and hopefully listen, that’s full of hope and promise because that is often what is in the air this time of year. And admittedly, I had thought about taking the week off of recording an episode with today being Christmas Eve, but I just really wanted to keep this, keep this party train rolling.

[00:02:32] And the feedback continues to come in, which just supports the podcast, which maybe want to keep producing content. And I know that so many of your journeys are difficult and and equally, there are parts that are beautiful and full of sorrow and regret and then mixed in. There are parts of the feeling of hope that comes with this newfound awareness of not feeling like you’re alone, or maybe not feeling as crazy as you’re putting names and other people’s experiences that are very similar to yours. And trust me, you are not alone. If you are somebody who is waking up to their own narcissistic traits and tendencies, I want to hear from you. Email me. I’m getting more of those. And if you’re somebody who’s realizing that you may be in a relationship with somebody who exhibits strong, narcissistic traits and tendencies, tendencies, whether it’s a spouse or a lot of getting a lot of feedback about parents or family members, and you just want to share your experiences or your frustrations. I want to hear them. I do. I think my Google document now is probably approaching about a hundred pages, single space of a lot of the experiences from the emails, and they are just they’re phenomenal. They really are. And I know that as I share more and more of those that, then I get more and more in return as people realize how similar the narcissistic traits and tendencies are when people are starting to recognize it, that they’re not crazy, but there’s a little bit of crazy making going on in their lives.

[00:03:47] So just again, know you’re not alone. And the fact that my voice is literally reaching your earbuds, right? This very minute means that you’re doing something, you’re taking action and doing something is better than doing nothing. And let me take this opportunity to very passionately say that I really think we’d handle our thoughts just in the wrong way, because remember, you are literally the only version of you that has ever walked the face of this Earth, and you are doing it for the very first time, meaning that this moment in this what you’re hearing when you’re as, you’re hearing me right now is the very first time that you’ve been right here or right now. So the past is painful or as difficult as it has been. It has happened and it has been full of ups and downs. And you may be wondering why you did the things that you did or why you found yourself in the relationships that you were with or the people that you were around. And I do not mean to sound dismissive, but I want to help you learn that power of noting when you get all caught up in your feelings and your thoughts, your emotions, it just means that you’re human.

[00:04:45] And that is the time when you notice that you’re your ruminating or that you’re all up in your thoughts or your feelings. That is the time to note it. Ok, note and note it. I’m I’m noticing that I am thinking about the past. I’m noticing that I am wondering why? Why am I in the situation that I’m in, that I’m in? And so then OK, no, no. Noted, that’s all you can really do. Drop the rope in the tug of war with trying to figure out those things because we try to do that all the time. It’s OK. We have so many thoughts. Just note. Oh, it’s OK, I’m thinking I’m feeling. And give yourself Grace. You, you are not going to be able to think your way out of a thinking problem. If that was the way that our minds worked, we would all be the zen gurus who walked around and having everything figured out because boy, are we trying to figure things out why things happen? What happened? What’s the real story of what happened? And that just is digging us and even deeper, we are just a big bunch of our experiences that that are that are our pasts and they have shaped who we are and who we are not. And we that’s that’s we need to get to this place where we just have to say that this is who we are and we’ve been through the things that we’ve been through.

[00:05:47] So we’ll note that give yourself grace and now is the time to take action on the things that matter. And your brain will still try and get you back to those deeply rutted neural pathways that you’ve been traveling down for so long that path of least resistance because the future still seems unknown and it seems scary. And bless your brains. Little pink, squishy heart. It means well, but you want more for your life. You deserve more for your life. You want better or better for yourself, better for your kids. And I notice that I am now on my soapbox and it’s a pretty big one, so I need to get off. So you are going to be OK. Don’t beat yourself up for your thoughts. Don’t try and stop thinking because thoughts depression doesn’t work. Here’s the example Don’t think of a pink elephant wearing a green, a green tutu tutu right now, and I’m guessing I might have got you. So notice your thoughts. Don’t ask yourself, why do I keep thinking this? Because the answer is simply because you are because you are going through life as you with your experiences and you’re thinking, you’re thinking and feeling, and isn’t that interesting? Check that out, and then you can simply you can’t simply just change the thought to say that when you think of whatever the thought is, when you think of a now, you just need to think of B and then I’ll be happy.

[00:06:49] It may work temporarily, but you are still going to be going through life and having these experiences and your body is going to be trying to remind you of things. And so sometimes we might say, you know what, I’m just going to wake up. I’m going to be happy and it sounds great and might even give you a little dopamine bump. But then if you all of a sudden are running late for work or there’s traffic or you get in a car crash or a dog poops on the carpet or whatever that happens and now you’re feeling down. Now you even beat yourself up because you were saying I was going to make today happy. So again, it’s just notice, notice that I’m frustrated, notice that I’m feeling angry and then just give yourself grace and then take action and continue to take action. You’re going to be OK. All right. Have an amazing day and weekend and Christmas and holiday season and enjoy this bonus episode from the virtual couch. And I will see you next week right before the new year. And we’ll be back and we’ll do a live episode. And I have such a good feeling that twenty twenty two is going to be your year. All right, let’s get to the show.

[00:07:39] Come on in and take a seat.

[00:07:46] Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 281 of the virtual couch. And today I feel like I’m just going to riff a little bit because I have had something that has been on my mind. I already feel like I’m sounding very dramatic. I’m very, very dramatic, something that’s been on my mind the last few weeks, and I’m going to go probably in a couple of different directions. I’ll try to stay somewhat on topic, but I have had an opportunity to do a fair amount of training over the last few years of my career. And recently, I’ve been able to train a fair amount of ecclesiastical leaders, so leaders for religious congregations. And it’s been a pretty cool process because a lot of times in the in the context of someone’s religious experience, there is an awful lot of people saying, here’s what you need to do. Here’s how you do it, and here’s what you need to do. And a lot of this stems from the work that I’ve done with James Fowler stages of faith, and I even think it might not be a bad idea to just run over those real quick because I feel like the stages of faith also apply to our stages of life. And I did a podcast a long time ago about that. And if you stay with me here, I really feel like I’m going to make a point. But but let me do a little bit of setup first.

[00:08:56] So Fowler stages of faith is a concept where psychologists and and religious pastor James Fowler back in. I believe the 80s spent over a decade researching all encompassing belief systems. So there were a lot of different views or a lot of different religious groups that he studied. And he, in essence, broke down these stages of faith that went along with, I think it was Piaget and Kohlberg stages of development or stages of life, and in stage one stage one faith. This is typically preschool children, and this is where fantasy and reality gets mixed together. But but our ideas about God are formed by our parents, so it’s also called projective faith. So I always look at this as kids are playing on the ground and their parent comes in and says, Hey, kids, there’s a God. And the kid says, OK, great. They continue to play with their toys. And this stage too, that they often move on to, and this might be from three to 12. Or that sort of time frame is you. They call it mythic and literal. And so this is where children become school age and they start to understand the world and more logical ways, but they generally accept the stories told to them by their faith community. But. They tend to understand them in very literal ways. And what this can look like is I often say this is where then kids are being told about the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Batman and Superman, but also the concept of Jesus or God or.

[00:10:27] And so all of these things seem very mythic and very, very literal. And so a lot of people then move on to the stage three. And right now we’re talking about it in a religious context. But I would love for you to think of it in terms of even life in general, that when we move up into this stage three faith, this is where people start to move on as teenagers and their life is has grown to include several different social circles. And so they start to want to put these all together. And when this happens, a person will typically adopt some sort of what Fowler calls an all encompassing belief system. And this is where I like to say that you can think of this concept of box, and this isn’t a negative thing at all, but all of your beliefs and all of the things that you are told that this is what you believe. This is where this will lead to the things that you should be doing. All of those things fit in this nice, tidy box. And so at this stage, people tend to have a hard time seeing outside of their box because they’re starting to really get the vibe or or they’re interacting with a lot of people within their box and the stories or leadership or that sort of thing authority.

[00:11:33] Those are groups that represent one’s beliefs, and a lot of people remain in this stage three faith. Stage three box or even take a look at that stage three in life for the rest of their entire life. And what that can mean is that they’ve been told whether it’s by their parents or grandparents or community or church group or any of those that this is not only what you believe spiritually, but this is what you believe socially, and this is what you need to do with the rest of your life so people can operate out of this stage three box, the stage three of faith or the stage three of life. But while that can work for a lot of people, for so many others as they start to just experience life, they start to what I like to say bump into the sides of the box. They start to look outside of the box, peek up over the box, and this can happen in so many different ways and the religious context. It can happen when people think life happens. If if all of a sudden a spouse cheats on them, if they have a kid that comes out as gay or any LGBT, or if they have someone pass away or if they have serious health issues or somebody in their family does something that is devastating to them and has a big impact.

[00:12:42] These things in life can happen. And all of a sudden, what used to make sense in this box may not make as much sense. And because of the way that we grow up and we grow up with our own abandonment kind of attachment issues, the way that we grow up as egocentric kids because that’s what we all start out is that everything revolves around us that then all of a sudden we feel like if things are not going right in our lives, it must be me. I must be doing something wrong. It must be unlovable, I must be broken. But so as things start to get a little bit more messy or there are a lot more variables that come into play that sometimes we start to feel like what’s wrong with me inside of this box, whether that’s a religious box or whether it’s just a life box or somebody. If we go back over to this life concept of stage three that people might start to realize, I don’t want to pursue the career that my parents have always told me that I needed to pursue. I don’t want to stay with the family business or I don’t want to live in the area or I want to marry someone that is completely different than somebody that has been suggested that this is this is somebody who I think you would like to marry. And so you can start to see that there are a lot of things that start to have people feel like they are not doing something right within this stage three box, whether it’s stage three again, religion or stage three of life.

[00:14:05] But the authority is placed in individuals or groups that represent one’s beliefs. That’s the the layout of stage three. Or if you put that in a non-religious context, the authority is placed in groups or individuals that in essence, represent one’s life. This is what we do. This is where we live. This is who we marry. These are the shows we like. This is a religious affiliation. This is a political affiliation. So when people start to have their own experiences, because guess what? They’re human and they are, each one of us is the only version of us that’s ever walked the face of the Earth. So we have our own. And I go to this all the time, but our own nature and nurture and birth order and abandonment, DNA hopes, dreams, fears, rejection. Each one of us is a product of all of those experiences that are unique to you. So it’s no wonder that we will run into the sides of this box, this stage three of our faith or the stage three of our life. But where that leads is typically, as Fowler lays out, is stage four. And he says this is a tough stage often begun in young adulthood when people start seeing outside of the box and realizing that there are other boxes.

[00:15:12] And so oftentimes they’ll critically examine their beliefs on their own and become disillusioned with their former faith, and again, if we look at this is either a faith concept or a life concept, when people start to have a lot of their own experiences, they get a lot of their own feels and a lot of their own things. Then they may look critically at that stage three box of their faith, or that stage three blocks of their life simply because they are having their own experience. But Fowler talks about there is that typically are ironically, stage three people often feel like stage four people have become backsliding when in reality they feel like they are finally starting to move forward. And then where I think it’s fascinating is there becomes a little bit of a battle in this stage three versus stage four, whether it’s in a faith community or even whether it’s in a life community when somebody finally feels a little bit more empowered in stage four. They often look at stage three and say, Hey, I got to go be me. I got to do the things that make me happy. But the people in stage three will often feel like, No, no, no, you can’t. You’re doing the wrong things. You’re reading the wrong things. You don’t really want to go pursue that career.

[00:16:20] You don’t really want to marry that person. You don’t really want to move to that place or go to that score. But there’s a couple of things that are fascinating, and this is part of what I just want to talk about today is I’ve done so many various podcasts that talk about all of these concepts, because in this one I talk often about, you can have in adult relationships, you can have you can have love or you can have control, but I really believe that they both don’t go together. So here’s where sometimes people in that stage three experience are in bless their heart. They want to control those people that are starting to pull away from that stage three of life or that stage three of faith. And this is where I start talking about my four pillars of a connected conversation that the pillar one is assume good intentions. So sometimes it’s hard. But when you step back and see that stage, three percent say No, don’t, don’t do that, don’t read that. You’re not going to be happy that they’re coming from a place of love, but they maybe are using the wrong tools. And so when they’re telling people in the stage forward of life or a faith that they’re doing something wrong, we got a couple of things happen. Multiple things happening. Number one, we got good old psychological reactants or that instant negative reaction of telling somebody what to do.

[00:17:35] We don’t like it. Tell your brain, don’t think a chocolate cake. And it probably just thought a chocolate cake right now. So tell somebody that they shouldn’t be reading the things that they are reading, or should it be watching the shows they’re watching or shouldn’t be hanging out with the friends or hanging out with or shouldn’t be dating the person that they’re dating? And already we’ve got that psychological reactants, but we have to look at this from my four pillars of a connected conversation. The assuming of good intentions on both sides. The person that’s saying, Hey, I wouldn’t do that. So sometimes it’s hard for the person in that stage for of life or stage for faith to view that stage three person is coming with good intentions. And it’s really hard for the stage three person to look over at the stage for person and say that I am assuming good intentions of even what they are doing, what you know, who they are becoming. And so here comes that desire to control. And so I work so many. I work with so many people that come to me in this stage for whether it’s stage four of faith. And that’s where they almost will. They do? Oftentimes, they are just coming into my office saying, Man, just tell me to read a certain scripture or a talk or something and watch me walk out of here because that’s what people have done.

[00:18:43] People in that stage three box have said so many times, Hey, you just need to double down on your prayers or your scripture reading, which is most likely something that person is done in stage three for. Who knows how long which has caused them to start to feel like what’s wrong with me? And again, nothing’s wrong with them. They’re human, but I work with so many people that get there in that stage for and that’s why I love being able to say, Tell me more. Tell me about that. That sounds hard. Here comes empathy, and a lot of times they may talk about challenges or struggles that they’ve had with their faith, community or things that they’ve learned about their particular faith that they no longer agree with. And that’s where you want to be a safe place for that person to be able to express themselves. When I go back to what I started with today, I did a training recently with a group of religious leaders and one of them. We were talking about these four pillars of a connected conversation because I was saying that in order for somebody to start having a conversation around helping someone through their their faith journey that we first need to be able to listen because if we don’t know how to listen and have empathy, then there is no way that someone is going to come to you and want help with anything.

[00:19:50] So I started this training by talking about my four pillars of a connected conversation. I said, When someone comes into your office, it’s the assumption of good intentions. They’re not trying to hurt you. And Pillar two is, you can’t put out the message that you are that the other person is wrong or that you don’t agree with them, even if you feel they’re wrong or even if you don’t agree with them. Because at any point when you violate one of these. The conversation is going to go south, it’s going to shut down, it’s going to devolve and we’re going to get into this psychological reactants mode. We’re going to get into the tit for tat. Somebody’s going to just withdraw and the conversation will stop. So somebody comes into their office, the ecclesiastical leader’s office, and says, I’m really, really struggling with my faith, the assumption of good intentions, or they say that I’m really I don’t believe this particular thing anymore, that the assumption of good intentions check pillar two. You can’t tell them, well, don’t think that or you shouldn’t think that or will you’re wrong? Because again, that person is going to now feel on the defensive. They’re going to feel unheard and certainly unseen. And then that conversation is going to shut down. Pillar three We can ask questions, ask questions before making comments. Tell me more about that. Tell me why you feel that way.

[00:21:01] Tell me what your struggles and your challenges are. And then that person listening. My pillar for is they need to stay present. They can’t just say, Well, looks like you’re going to do whatever the heck you want to do. So good luck on that, because oftentimes that pillar before we go into what I just refer to as a victim mentality and then look. Person that’s speaking to then come rescue us and say, no, you know what? You’re right. I don’t even know what I’m talking about. So we have to be able to have the conversation, we have to be able to have this framework to be able to have and have a difficult conversation. So I get the people in my office, Oh, this is where I was going with that story. So this one ecclesiastical leader after we’d laid out the four pillars and I can understand what they were saying and they said, Let me give this straight or let me check in that that obviously, if we’re going to just listen to somebody for an hour, then we’re going to feel like we’re condoning their bad behavior. And here’s what started this whole desire to have this, this podcast episode today, and I really hope that it’s going to make sense. I appreciated what this person was asking me this religious leader, but I felt like I had to just go back into this particular mindset that I’d worked so hard to move away from to be able to even engage or address that question.

[00:22:14] Because here’s why the phrase was something like obviously and obviously is a I call it a reactants look when somebody says, Well, obviously this is what this means, or obviously this is what we all know. Then even our own brains are thinking. It’s not obvious because I may have a different view or may have a different opinion. So I don’t even think I addressed that one when the person asked me this question, but they said that listening for an hour is condoning their bad behavior. So as I moved back over into this, this mindset where and I said, OK, first of all, and I thank them for their question, but I said listening for an hour is is absolutely not condoning anything, listening for an hour. As part of the human experience, listening for an hour is going under the premise that to be heard is to be healed. If someone’s coming to you and they’re saying, Hey, I want to talk, then isn’t it only natural that the next part of that would be if they would like to talk? I would like to listen because if I immediately just start telling them what they need to do now, we’re moving back into that. Do you want love or control in the relationship? Because if it’s control, then I can already tell you where that’s going to go over the long haul.

[00:23:26] If the person even maybe in that moment says, Oh, OK, yeah, you’re right, but they don’t feel heard or they don’t feel seen or understood, then they may be just giving you lip service, but that isn’t what’s going to drive change. So again, listening for an hour is absolutely not condoning a behavior. And then I even took a little bit exception with the concept of bad behavior, and this one can be a little bit hard to wrap our heads around, but we have to stop judging. We do need to stop judging behavior as good or bad, black or white, all or nothing. Those are cognitive distortions. So I said it’s behavior, and it may seem like to you, that’s bad behavior, but it’s behavior. And if you’re watching this on my YouTube channel, I’m just hold my hand up because I constantly am doing this with clients and helping them reframe when they say, What’s wrong with me? I’m thinking this thing. Why do I think this thing? I want to say, No, no, no. We got to reframe it to say, Check out what I’m thinking because I have lots of thoughts. I can have all kinds of thoughts and so bad behavior, it’s behavior. And then let’s if we can just look at it like and check out this behavior that I’m doing, we’re designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human being.

[00:24:34] We desperately want to be able to process things with somebody else when we leave things just running around, kicking around in our own brain because of the way our brain has evolved, our brains evolved from a don’t get killed device to basically try to look out and overthink things so that we’ll be able to survive that if we just leave our brain to its own devices. It doesn’t typically go to the end, and I lived happily ever after. It goes to the and then eventually everyone leaves me and I die. So when somebody is saying, change this behavior, then that’s what we need to look at it as it’s just a behavior. And there are reasons why we do behaviors. Is it addictive behavior? Maybe. But then that one’s probably a coping mechanism. That’s probably something that somebody has done for a long time that they turn to when they don’t feel connected. And my path back recovery program I talk about this constantly is that when I’m talking about somebody that’s wanting to turn away from pornography, it’s turned away from pornography as a coping mechanism because they feel like they have a lot of these voids in their lives. They might not feel connected to their spouse and marriage. They want to feel connected and their parenting. They might not feel connected to their health or their faith or their career, so they turn to an unhealthy coping mechanism.

[00:25:43] So if somebody is bringing that into your office as an ecclesiastical leader or to you, as a parent, or to you, as a friend, or to you, as a spouse, I think tell them, thank you. Tell them, tell me more. So if you look back into this, it’s not obvious that listening is condoning a bad behavior. So hope you can see that as we start to lay all of that out, we had to do a complete mind shift to be able to really be there and listen empathetically to somebody that might be moving on from this stage. Three of feeling like life made sense in this little box into the stage for where all of a sudden they don’t know who they are. And then when they turn to those people, their community, their family, there are people that are potentially in the stage three of life and it works for them. But then to that stage four person? They are frustrated, they feel unheard and unseen and unloved and broken, and what’s wrong with them. But the answer is nothing. They’re just doing life. So when I have a client in there, this is where I’m hoping to move them and to a stage five. This is a stage five version of life or stage five version of faith. And I’ve had a couple of people bring up and I can appreciate this where they may take exception because they feel like this is this linear progression.

[00:26:52] But just because numbers go one two three four five doesn’t mean that you are trying to get to the end of that, trying to get to the end because if somebody is happy where they are. I don’t care if it’s they’re happy in stage two and they’re like Lennie of mice and men, and life is mythic and literal, then that is good for them. If they are finding peace and joy and stage three, then that’s great. It doesn’t mean that they need to try to tell everybody else what to do. But if you can move on from the stage for a faith or stage four of life, get out of this reactants mode and slip into the stage five. Stage five Fowler says that he says it’s rare for people to reach the stage before midlife. This is the point when people begin to realize the limits of logic and they start to accept the paradoxes in life. They begin to see life as more of a mystery so they can return to sacred stories and symbols, but this time without being stuck in a theological box. So the significance of that is that stage five starts to be this place where you feel like I am the only version of me and that I have been trying so hard to figure out how to. Let’s jump into this religious context again, how to communicate with God, how do you communicate with the divine? And I’ve been literally driving myself crazy because I feel like I’m not enough.

[00:28:02] I feel like everyone is telling me a different answer. I feel like I can find one scripture that says this or one talk that says that, or one leader tells me that this is what I need to do, and maybe my spouse tells me this is another thing I need to do. And sometimes when I go to pray, I don’t feel anything. So what’s wrong with me? Nothing. You are going through the human experience and often you’re using the wrong tool. Here’s where. Here’s the big crescendo of why I wanted to do this episode today. So I go back to a client that I’ve been working with for a while, and they struggle with a tremendous amount of religious anxiety. And so they’re in such a good place now. And we were talking before I did this training with this group of ecclesiastical or church leaders, and I just said, Hey, I’m going to go start talking to these people, tell me what’s worked for you because this is a person that had religious leaders shame them and tell them that they weren’t that they were. They didn’t get certain things under control that then they would not be happy and that could affect their family and their posterity. And all of that.

[00:29:00] The religious leaders in his life were saying that they didn’t know how else to try to motivate this person, where in reality, motivation comes through love. Motivation comes through kindness. Motivation comes through saying, I’m here for you. So this person told me that this is the significance, and he and I have been working together for a long time that he went from this insane amount of anxiety around how do I communicate with the divine? How do I communicate with God? And then setting up so many different arbitrary rules and ways to try to communicate. And so if he felt like he had a day or a moment or even an hour a second where he felt OK, I think I feel like I’m doing OK or I think I’m communicating with God or connecting with the divine, then how do I continue to replicate that? And so then oftentimes it would be OK. I need to read longer, or I need to pray more. And then if I all of a sudden thought a bad thought which is human, then I didn’t do it right. I got to go back and reassess. Maybe I need to start confessing to my ecclesiastical leader. And then so I’m texting him. I’m confessing to my religious leader. And if my religious leader tells me I’m OK, but I still maybe had a bad thought or I didn’t do things perfectly, then maybe that’s because I didn’t confess everything.

[00:30:12] This is called scrupulously, by the way, I’ve never done a specific episode on it, but it’s religious OCD. Ocd of religious thought. And it is an anxiety mess because OCD attacks what is important to you. And so when I’m working with somebody with scrupulously, you’re fighting against, as you were even telling them anything that maybe feels like it goes against their moral code or it goes against their religious beliefs or their scriptures that they read or the talks that they digest, then you may be representing the adversary, Satan, Beelzebub, the father of lies, the horns, pitchfork, all of that sort of thing. But so this group velocity causes this person to just overthink and overthink religiosity, which is something that had been something so important to them. So as I’m talking with this person, he says, he has to go from, Do I communicate? How do I communicate with the divine to then for a while? And this is easy to talk about in my office, but sometimes people get really scared if I mention this out in the wild. But he had to go to this place where he had to say, OK, I have to accept that I may not communicate with the divine. I worry that there even is a divine. And that might be frightening. Sometimes I say that all of a sudden we’re learning to do the trapeze training without the net underneath us, and that can be really, really scary.

[00:31:26] And if you are watching this on my YouTube channel, I’m going to go big with my hands here because this makes so much sense to me now. So over here is where he’s trying and I’ve got my hands around the left. So just picture that on your left hand side. That is the place where you’re trying to figure out how, what are these rules? What are the ways that I communicate with God or what are the ways if I go back to these just stages of life? What are the ways where I just figure out life because I’ve got everybody telling me something different, my parents saying, you should marry this person or you should have this career or I’m seeing this on Instagram or I’m seeing this influencer say this or this product will make me happy or my friend is doing this, and maybe I want to do that too. Or I see this guy that I run into and he makes a lot of money. So maybe I should do what he’s doing. Or in that religious context, it’s I should be reading my scriptures more. I should be praying more. I should be doing more service. I should be. I shouldn’t be showing any extra skin. I shouldn’t be all these things that were just driving us crazy, making up all these rules in order. We’re hoping that that will get us closer to God.

[00:32:23] But in reality, it’s pushing us further away. Ah, we’re hoping in life that that’s going to give us the answers, but in reality, it’s making us more confused because we’re doing this all wrong. We really are. So when I get people to this point where they can even accept this fact that they maybe are this this desire for control or this desire to figure things out is actually the very problem that that they are struggling with the most, that they drop the rope of that tug of war with trying to figure these things out. And at this point, now I move over here to the right hand side of me. And so now is where whether we’re talking in a religious context or we’re just talking in a life context, this is where I say that the therapy model I love acceptance and commitment therapy is in line with the religious teachings as well. So act and let’s just say it, act in the gospel. In either of these, you are the only unique version of you that’s ever walked the face of the Earth. Whether that means that you are the child of God and you have divine purpose and heritage, and you have been given a certain set of beliefs or a certain set of talents and blessings, or in this acceptance and commitment therapy model, you are the only version of you with all of your thoughts and feelings and emotions and experiences.

[00:33:37] You can see that we’re going to start building from the ground up over here. And as we do that, as you really start to find your sense of purpose, I did an episode a couple of weeks ago about values, and as you start to realize what really matters to me and it’s unique to me. And we may. That’s a journey in itself. We may not really have the same idea or value around service as someone else or even honesty is someone else. And I use that example so often because it’s so powerful where someone grows up in a home where there was absolute chaos and no honesty. They may have a value of just absolute brutal honesty, even to the point where they may offend someone. But if you grow up in a home where you were just brutally raped through the coals with honesty, that honesty was used as a weapon. Well, I’m just being honest. Then you may not value honesty in that same way you. They value compassion, or you may value connection. I give this example a couple of weeks ago. I have this value of curiosity and knowledge. So when I’m starting to feel down instead of trying to go, don’t feel this way, why do I feel this way? What’s wrong with me for feeling this way? I need to change the way I feel. All those are the wrong tools.

[00:34:43] They really are. It’s oh my gosh, I noticed that I’m feeling that way. And now let me pull out my phone and turn to my value of curiosity and knowledge and start looking at things around me and finding out fun facts about them and then sharing with others and connecting. So we are all these. These were made up of our own experiences or were our children of God, whichever version of that you want to go with right now. But over here on this, as you’re redefining or rebuilding who you are, the more you discover your own unique sense of self and sense of purpose and lean into that and start to just really work with that, the more authentic you can become, the more value based you can become. You’re going to raise your emotional baseline and you’re going to start to be more confident. And as you’re more confident, you’re going to start to find yourself around more like minded people. People are going to be driven to you are you’re going to be moving toward people that you really feel a connection with. And here’s the cool part that is going to be where people start to feel like they, Oh my gosh, this is the connection that I’ve always wanted with the divine, with God, with people. And so that’s why I did this thing where I’m moving from this left side of me over to the right.

[00:35:52] When I go back to this client who was struggling with this religious OCD or this anxiety and trying to just figure all of these variables out like that and then realize they’re OK, they’re a human being with all their own experiences. Then they started to feel like maybe I am OK. And lo and behold, what breaks through from the clouds in the sky? A relationship with the divine, or a confidence that they didn’t feel before, or a lessening of that anxiety? Because all of a sudden now they’re starting to feel like, Oh my gosh, I think I think I’m starting to understand who I am now. Does that mean that then rainbows, unicorns, pots of gold and live happily ever after? No, but we’re on our way because this is where I talked about a few weeks ago this concept of differentiation doing it with my hands again, but picture your hands together enmeshed. And so we are this enmeshed, codependent person with our spouse, with our church, with our parents, with our community. And so as we start to move toward a interdependent, differentiated feel in my my sense of purpose self, as we break away from these, these codependent and measurements, we’re going to feel a tremendous amount of invalidation because the people around us go back to the stage three of you are going to say, No, no, no, don’t do it. You shouldn’t do that. I know what’s best for you, even though you’ve been trying to to work under that under that set of circumstances for how long.

[00:37:16] This is the part where trusting that you’re a child of God or trusting that you are the only version of you that’s ever walked the face to the Earth. And as you start to lean into that, you are going to start to feel more of a sense of purpose and confidence. And as you do that and as you learn this concept of differentiation. Now, when that invalidation comes, when somebody tells you, Well, I think you should do this, it’s no longer this battle of what do I do? I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work. You don’t understand me and then feeling, Oh, but I don’t want to let this person down. They might not like me before I know it, I’ll be abandoned. But over in this other side, this differentiated world, then that’s where when people are offering you the things that they think, they think you should do. I look at it as if they are offering you now a platter of suggestions. Well, I think you should do this from a differentiated standpoint. It’s OK. Well, I’m starting to really feel my sense of self and purpose because I’m not trying to do what everybody else is telling me, or because I’m not trying to do what everybody else thinks I should do. So I’m starting to try to lean into more of what I believe is right for me.

[00:38:19] But I will gladly take a look at your platter of suggestions. And if you’re a safe person, if we’ve had some nice for pillared conversations and I trust you, then now all of a sudden I can think, OK, I think you might have a point there. I mean, I love when my wife will share with me in a very healthy, safe for pillared, productive way. Hey, I have noticed you maybe been doing this lately. Tell me more about that. And that’s the time where I might be able to say I did not really notice. Let me give you a concrete example. I sometimes give these generic examples, and she always says, be a little more specific with so many guys I work with. And maybe it’s not just a guy thing, but I would realize that my wife would stay at home mom for kids growing up. And there were days where my emotional baseline was flying high and I would come home and kids, let’s go out to dinner and let’s go buy all the things and let’s get a toy at the store and let’s plan a vacation. And then a couple of days later, I might have paid some bills or something. Might we might not have gotten some juice back my software days, but maybe we lost a deal or something didn’t go right. And so then I come home and the kids are like, Hey, dad, can we go buy the toy and go out to lunch at the vacation? All sudden I’m saying, Geez, guys, come on.

[00:39:27] So we can’t just do that all the time. You can’t just spend all the money and that sort of thing. And so it was my wife at one time said, Hey, sometimes we’re not quite sure which version of you we’re going to get when you walk in the door. That hurt. But I was so grateful because I was starting to find myself my sense of purpose, starting to build up my emotional baseline. And she was a safe person, and she did that in a very safe, healthy, productive way. So I was able to take a look at her platter of suggestions and say, OK, man, that one hurts. This is where I often talk about we’re so afraid of contention that we avoid tension altogether, but tension is really where that growth hits. So I took a look at what she was sharing with me, and I thought, Man, I think you’re on to something here. And that was years ago, decade plus ago. And to this day, I still have to bring myself back to some awareness of when all of a sudden I’m coming home saying, let’s go do all the things and other times where I come home. And I think I don’t want to do any of the things.

[00:40:22] We’re doing too many other things, but I have to realize that’s something that I need to come to terms with or I need to cope with, or I need to get to presents with before I then just blurt that out to the family, because all of a sudden then they’re feeling like what’s wrong with them? Because sometimes they say, Let’s go to dinner and dad goes, Whoa. Sometimes they say, Let’s go to dinner, and dad says, Bro, come on. You can’t believe you’re saying that. So that’s what that differentiation looks like. So when you’re over here, they’re inside this other path. And I have to tell you, I was running this through a lot of clients the last two or three weeks, and I really wanted to name the place before I did this episode because I wanted to say, as you get over to differentiation land and I don’t think that sounds very exciting. Place to go. But then over here, this is where you find your sense of self and purpose and your emotional baseline side and differentiation land. That’s where you can say, OK, thank you for your opinion. Other people that have had your own experiences that have not had my experiences. I’d love to process these things with you, but it’s ultimately still my journey. And as you become. More comfortable with that, then that becomes a place where I believe that you can be a bigger presence to be there, to lift up others around you, whether it’s in your religious community where people will naturally gravitate to the person that they feel like is living their authentic self and has this maybe deeper connection to God.

[00:41:43] And it’s not that connection where they’re afraid of what they will say because their ecclesiastical leader may punish them, just continuing on being a little bit bold here. There’s an episode I did on Leading Saints a few years ago where I talked about in this religious context again that I really do feel at my core that when people are taking the sacrament, the cracker and grape juice, or the bread and water their congregation to renew their covenants with God from baptism or whatever that process is for them, that in some religious organizations, they say, Hey, if you haven’t been, if you haven’t done things right, then don’t take the bread and water for a couple of weeks, and I was on record a few. It was two or three years ago saying so I, in my differentiated sense of self, feel like that is not helpful and I feel very confident with that. And helping 15 16, maybe 17 hundred individuals start to put some distance between turning to porn as an unhealthy coping mechanism. Plug for my path back recovery program. Go go find it because it’s just we’re gosh, we’re creating a cool community now, but I feel like people should have two pieces of bread.

[00:42:47] They should have a bigger cup of water. I really do because I want them to have more hope. I want them to feel like there is more of a sense of purpose and self. And so I feel like that is such a big part of who I am as somebody that is in the helping and healing profession. Now am I telling people who disagree that they’re absolutely wrong? No, they can have their experience because that’s their experience because of the things that they’ve been through. But I can only be authentic. That’s all I can do. And the reason I bring this part up is someone was asking me, actually, a lot of people have asked me from time to time. Well, what if then you saying that precludes you from getting a higher calling or higher office in your church? And that’s where I go back over here and differentiation land over here. I will, OK, I’m not saying I don’t care. I don’t care. Like, it’s a bad thing way, but it’s well, I don’t even really I would have to go back over into this other land to then remember the times where I didn’t feel like I could be authentic because I was afraid that someone would maybe not give me a new calling or somebody would not want me to be a part of their spiritual team, where now I know that I am OK.

[00:43:56] I am enough, I am worthy, I am of worth. I am a child of God. I am the only version of me and I have never felt more of a connection with the divine or with myself or with the people around me. Then, as I have dropped that rope in the tug of war and trying to be the person that other people are telling me that I should probably maybe be sometimes, but sometimes not. And sometimes the rules change to this person that I am. And the more I lean into that, yes, it’s going to come with some differentiation. I’m getting more and more people that will email me now and say, Well, I disagree, and that’s OK. One hundred percent. But the number of people that email me and say thank you for sharing this experience that I feel similar to those are tenfold because we want to be heard, we want to be understood. And so as you find your way over into this differentiation land, doggone it, I should have come up with a cooler thing first. Be prepared to feel some of those pangs of invalidation, but it’s OK. We need to get you finding out who you are, your sense of self, your sense of purpose into this stage five of life where life is more of a mystery and paradox. And now you can return to your faith community, or you can return to your your family community without feeling stuck in a theological box or without feeling stuck in a life box of familial box that you get to be you.

[00:45:18] Even if that version of you is someone that other people don’t agree with because bless their hearts, they aren’t you. I have so much more to say on this, but I’m going to wrap it up right now because we’re pushing 40 minutes, but thanks for taking the time to listen. I’m the world’s worst promoter. I would have said at the beginning of this that my magnetic marriage course is coming soon. I probably just. Stories or whatever. So go to Tony dot com slash magnetic if you want to be ready, I think it’s launching in the second or third week of September and my course go there. I just launched a new podcast called Waking Up the Narcissism. Please go find and subscribe that. Subscribe to that. There’s a trailer out and my main man, my my guy. Nate Christianson, who’s in the office now, just released the first episode of he and his wife’s podcast called Working Changed. They’re talking about secondary emotions, and it’s amazing. So thank you so much for taking the time. I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to shoot them over to me at any point through my website. Tony and I look forward to maybe doing a part one and a half of this in the not too distant future. All right. Have an amazing day.

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