The Bregman Leadership Podcast
Episode 205

Anna Yusim

Fulfilled

How does spirituality fit in with science, business, and leadership? Dr. Anna Yusim, a psychiatrist with a private practice and a lecturer at Yale Medical School, has written the book Fulfilled: How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life in an attempt to explore spirituality’s role in modern life. Discover Anna’s favourite definition of soul (it has two parts), the four kinds of soul corrections that drive us, and how to respond proactively—not re-actively.

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Get the book, Fulfilled, from Amazon here:

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Website: Annayusim.com
Bio:  Dr. Anna Yusim is a board-certified psychiatrist with a private practice in New York City’s Upper East Side and a Lecturer at the Yale University School of Medicine. During her studies at Stanford University, she worked as a neurobiology researcher studying the effects of stress on the brain in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Sapolsky Ph.D., bestselling author of numerous books, including Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. After completing her studies at Stanford, Yale Medical School and the NYU Residency Training Program in Psychiatry, Dr. Yusim felt that something was missing from her life. In her quest to find it, she traveled, lived and worked in over 50 countries, while studying Kabbalah, learning Buddhist meditation and working with South American shamans and Indian gurus. Her first book, which was released by Hachette Book Group on June 27, 2017, is Fulfilled: How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life. Through richly engaging clinical cases from her psychiatry practice, Dr. Yusim integrates the tenets of Western medicine, psychology and neurobiology with the universal spiritual principles she learned in her own personal journey to fulfillment. The most important point of the book is that fulfillment is possible, and Dr. Yusim provides her readers with the principles and exercises to get there. Dr. Yusim currently lives in Manhattan with her husband.

Transcript

This transcript is unedited.

Peter:

With us today is Anna. You see, she is an interesting guest for us. She’s a graduate of Stanford university of Yale university of medicine. She is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York, and she has written a great book that I really enjoyed reading. And I’m interested to explore with her called fulfilled how the science of spirituality can help you live a happier, more meaningful life. And I, I actually met Anna first on a on a phone call with a number of sort of thought leaders, as we were talking about COVID-19 and we were talking about the, the medical aspect of it as a psychiatrist and the emotional aspect of it and the psychological aspect of it. And I really loved how how Anna really brought in the spiritual aspect of it. And I think it’s it’s a, it’s an important conversation to have. I think it’s an unusual conversation to have in a leadership setting, but I think it’s critical that we have it in a leadership setting. So I’m going to speak with Anna about kind of how we integrate some of these ideas into organizational settings, but first Anna, welcome to the Bregman leadership podcast.

Anna:

Thank you so much, Peter. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today.

Peter:

So one of the first things that I noticed when I, when I just flipped through your book is that there were 30 pages of notes. And so there’s like an element of this where I want to check with you, but it feels like credibility is important to you. And I wanted to test that because I’m like, you know, that’s a lot of notes and it’s, it’s like, are you worried that people won’t accept these ideas? Are you like, I’m kind of curious. I mean, it’s a weird question to start with, but it was the first thing that I noticed and I sort of wanted to explore it.

Anna:

Absolutely. I think it’s, it’s such a fair question. And it’s so on point, so absolutely. Yes, I was indeed worried about that because here I was with my degrees from Stanford and Yale, NYU, et cetera, coming and putting out a book that’s even though spirituality is starting to enter mainstream medicine in numerous settings. And the two settings where spirituality actually is a part of modern medical establishment specifically is addiction treatment because AA, N a and all of the alcoholics anonymous models are inherently spiritually based models. And also hospice care where spirituality is very, very, you know, potent and important in helping people transition to the next level. Those are the only two places in medicine where spirituality really is the standard of care. So coming as a psychiatrist with, you know never really having written or put out anything about this before I had a lot of worry and I thought it was so important to cite all of the existing studies showing that indeed, this is legitimate. Spirituality is important. It does have potential for healing. It does have ways in which we could, you know, shake our consciousness and therefore enable people to get to their next level of,

Peter:

I love that and I love, and I think it’s really true and I think it’s very difficult to talk about. And so one of the reasons why I wanted you on the show is because I feel like you speak about it incredibly eloquently without giving up the richness of it, but also in a way that’s accessible to people for whom spirituality might be, you know, a little out there for them. So you, you opened with this great car, young quote, the privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. And that feels, you know, I do a lot of work with leaders around the mask and around kind of the, the power of the vulnerability of showing up as you are. And, and I think that’s, that’s just a really powerful way to start. And then you say true healing and lasting fulfillment require a spiritual transformation as well as a clinical outcome. And I’m curious what you mean by spiritual transformation.

Anna:

Absolutely. That’s a great question. That’s kind of a thesis of my book that a clinical outcome like reduction in depression, reduction in anxiety, all great, but at the core, we really want to transform as human beings. And we want to not just go for the symptom, but really for the root cause of whatever it was that was causing the symptom. And one of those things is authenticity or lack thereof and how we could be living a life that really isn’t our life and not really aligning with our own souls and our sole purpose. And that’s in trying to write this book. I try to give people tools, first of all, for defining what is a soul, because a soul isn’t something that I studied in medical school. It was nothing mentioned in my residency and yet I feel it’s so central to living this life and not just in a religious setting, but the way that we can, if we are disconnected from ourselves, the way that we can feel is we can feel anxious. We can feel depressed, we can have trouble sleeping. We can feel that our life is meaningless or purposeless. And that connection to the soul shifts, everything. It enables us then to feel you’re living the life that you’ve come to this world to live, not the life that someone has bestowed upon you per se, but really from your own choosing, there’s still a very much a freewill element.

Peter:

So let’s start with that question. What is the soul?

Anna:

So my favorite definition of soul and I’ve sought far and wide having, you know, started this interest in spirituality that I developed about 15 years ago. Now I went to study with shaman in South America, in South Africa to learn Buddhism in Thailand, to learn about Kabbalah and Israel, to work with many different types of healers all over the world, asking this question, what is the self? The favorite definition of a soul was given to me by a shaman in Mexico with whom I work Fernando Broca. And he basically said that the soul is composed of two parts. The first part is that, which makes you uniquely you, and that encompasses your unique purpose, ability, skills, interests, everything that you have come into this world with. That’s just what makes you separate from everybody else. And the other part of the soul is actually the interconnectedness that which connects you to everybody in everything people often say we’re one unified soul and that’s what they need. And so the soul is this bipartite entity, this unity element, which unifies you with everybody and your uniqueness,

Peter:

Does it require that we believe that there’s an interconnectedness of everyone. Does it require like where, what is the role of faith and belief in, in this sort of conversation around soul,

Anna:

Right? And so then the question goes to what does it mean to be a spiritual person? Because soul is kind of the, you know, auspices of spirituality and no, you don’t have to believe in God or anything like that. You do, however, have to believe that there’s more than just you, you can’t believe that you are in this world. And like for instance, you believe that there we are a part of something greater, something greater than oneself, which could be a part of a collective global mission, a part of source. It could be where, you know, connected to God, or it could be that we are unified through a set of global transcendent values, like hope and trust and perseverance that enable us to lift the human spirit. So yes, there’s a belief in unity, but not necessarily in God or anything religious per se.

Peter:

So I want to push you on this a little bit, because I think in the corporate leadership setting and literature, and people are very open thought leaders, many are very open to saying, yes, we have these four dimensions, the intellectual, the, the physical, the emotional and the spiritual. And then when they talk about the spiritual, they almost always say what I mean by spiritual is finding meaning and purpose in your life. And that has always been unsatisfying to me. It feels like we’re skirting the issue. Like they’re kind of trying to say spiritual, but they’re not really committing to it. And, and, and what do you say to someone who, you know, let me give you an example of my mother and my father, my mother would look at this beautiful sunset and say to my father, how can you not believe in God and see the sunset? And my father would say, it’s a beautiful sunset. What does it have to do with God? And so like, how do you bridge that gap?

Anna:

Yeah. And so my definition of spirituality essentially is a connection to part of something greater than oneself, which could be something that is very, very deeply spiritual and soulful, such as God, a collective consciousness source, or it could also be something completely secular, like mother nature or a set of collective values that enable the human spirit to transcend like hope and trust and perseverance. And that’s why I believe there’s a number of atheists who are deeply spiritual and many of whom I treated my practice. You do not need to believe in God to be a spiritual person and to live with purpose and meaning, and to be able to align with part of something greater.

Peter:

So are those things higher power? Like, would you consider mother nature or the value of hope, a higher power,

Anna:

Not necessarily a higher power per se, but part of something greater than ourselves that unites us? Absolutely. So higher power. Usually people mean source God or something that has a creative element. But I think that there’s a number of things like a set global mission or values that also are very, very unifying that could enable us to transcend and to ascend and elevate our own consciousness as human beings.

Peter:

So you, you talk about actually there’s a, a quote. Yeah. There’s a lot of quotes that I really liked. So one thing you wrote is we don’t draw it. It’s a, your mirror principle. We don’t draw into our life who, and what we want. We drawn to our life who and what we are. I was attracting emotionally unavailable men because part of me was emotionally available. And, and then you, right. I would later learn, this was one of my soul corrections. What is a soul correction? It’s one of the three elements that you talk about, what is the soul correction?

Anna:

Absolutely. So you’re, so correction is that thing, which your soul are you as a human being have come into this world to correct. And you can know your soul correction by asking the question, what are some of the greatest challenges I keep encountering in my life over and over and over again, often much to my chagrin and dismay, and despite my best efforts to change it, you can think of a soak correction as a kin to what Sigmund Freud called a repetition compulsion, those things that we are just compelled to do, and we have to work through them. And eventually we do, but not without a lot of work and change an elevation of consciousness and our part.

Peter:

Okay. So, so for people who are listening beyond this being an interesting conversation, think for yourselves about whether, like what kind of soul corrections you might have, right. What kind of repetitive patterns you might be in that are not working for you? Is that part of the soul correction, is that Ana that it’s not working for you like something that’s

Anna:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And you gave the example of myself. My self direction was indeed that I kept attracting these emotionally unavailable men, right? And this is prior to meeting my husband, who I met several years ago, but it would happen over and over and over. And I would tell myself and tell all my friends that I very much want to be in a relationship. And I very much want to commit and want to get married to the right person. But somehow or another, the people who were coming into my life were exactly the opposite of what I was saying. I wanted. So why was this happening? And so it was the mirror principle, like you said, that was the spiritual reason behind that. But other self corrections people have, could be the exact opposite. Sometimes people are in a relationship all the time and for them they’re. So correction is actually to become more independent in contrast to myself or my self direction was to enable myself to open my heart, to become more emotionally available to another person and to enable myself to be more dependent on that person and for other people. So corrections. Yeah.

Peter:

Well, I’m curious what makes that well, yeah, I’m curious what makes that a soul correction versus like, I think of the work that I’ve done with in psychology with, with relationships and I think like, okay, you have these people who have been shaped by kind of parental dynamics and family dynamics, and you have people who are striving towards autonomy, and you have people who are striving towards connection and the people are striving towards connection or wanting to be sort of intimate and closer. And the people who are striving towards autonomy or kind of pushing away. And oftentimes these people end up in relationships together and they have. And, and so I’m curious about this being a soul correction versus a psychological phenomenon built from your family of origin that makes you, or from your personality. Even you talked about this in the book a little bit, but you know, where you kind of want space and are afraid of connection or you want connection and are afraid of independence.

Anna:

Absolutely. And I think that the two are one and the same. And I actually define in the second part of my book for self corrections for different types of self corrections that we could have, the first one is transforming relationships. So what you’re describing all the different forms of attachment, whether you want more connection, whether you want more autonomy, et cetera, that’s all part of the soul, you know, cause at the end of the day, if you think about this definition of soul where unique and independent cells, but also we’re all one unified soul. So whatever soul work we have to do, part of it is on our own. And part of it also is in seeking of connection. But just to give you the other soul perspective that corrections transforming relationships, transforming fear, harnessing one’s personal power, overcoming addictions and by addictions, I mean all sorts of addictions, including addictions to drug and alcohol, which is your traditional definition, but also behavioral addictions. So to workaholism, to sex addiction, to whatever else, but also addictions to psychological phenomena, such as money, power, and, you know, status, et cetera. And you can note that it’s an addiction. If you ask yourself the question of, if I have more of it, does it make me happier or do I actually feel more empty if the more of it I have the MTR, I feel

Peter:

So let me connect two of those soul corrections. And let me use myself as an example which is, I, I, I’m very curious about how you work with people around fear, right? I have been thinking about this a lot for myself and my family. My, you know, a large part of my family are Holocaust survivors and there’s a real sense of survivalism in my family. And so, and I, and I, and I recognize in myself, I’ve seen it growing, but I’ve recognized it more recently as like in general, having a lot of fear. It’s not fear that prevents me from showing up in the world and the way that I show up in the world, but actually drives me in many ways. Like it’s fear of like, I’m going to run out of money or I’m going to, or I have to keep my family safe.

Peter:

And like, my mine is the first generation, literally the first generation that hasn’t had to move from one country to another, because we’ve been expelled or thrown out or war or something like that. And, and, and, you know, you have, I don’t know exactly your history, but it’s not totally different than that. I mean, it may be somewhat different, but, but, but it’s so, so I think that fear or that sense of survivalism, or, or let’s just call it, fear, leads to certain kinds of addictions. Like my therapist will tell you I’m addicted to work. Like I work a lot and I’m you know, and I don’t think I actually work that much, but, but it’s, you know, like that might be, you know, an element of addiction. I’m also totally addicted to sugar. Like I’m just to, like, I can’t get enough of it. It doesn’t make me happy to eat it, but I can’t get enough of it. So I’m curious, first of all, is fear and addiction tied or at least, you know, now, now I’m going to get some free psychiatry for me. And how do you work with that? Like how do you work with that from a soul perspective, as opposed to like a cognitive behavioral therapy perspective?

Anna:

Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful question. And so actually there’s many questions within here. So let’s begin first with your family and the survivors and how they have cultivated and therefore passed down to you. A legacy of being able to survive, which means working really, really, really hard in order to survive. So this workaholism obviously has very, very adaptive qualities as do most addictions. You know, there’s, there are some addictions that have very few adaptive qualities. Workaholism happens to be one of the societaly sanctioned addictions that has so much, and society is telling you work hard or keep going. You know, even if someone’s, you know, suffering from heart disease, palpitations, whatever it is. Right.

Peter:

I remember when I first went to therapy for the very, very first time, this must have been 25 years ago, or maybe more, maybe 30 years ago. I said, look, I really am very interested in therapy, but I’ve been very successful so far. I don’t want you to fix me in such a way where I stopped being successful, like fix me, but not in a way where I stopped being successful. So, you know, like workaholism is something that, what you’re saying is it kind of works for us like society.

Anna:

Exactly, exactly. It’s totally socially sanctioned as well as the sugar addiction. Like you said, there’s some addictions that aren’t as socially sanctioned, even alcohol addiction is socially sanctioned because alcohol is legal. We don’t have a prohibition anymore. Other drug addictions less so. Right. But just like with everything, the question is, do you feel better than more of it that you do? And up until a certain point with more work, you do feel better because you’re accomplishing, you’re producing, you’re doing things that are purposeful and meaningful. But then with working around that question of balance, is that working in your life and where is it really coming from? Is it coming from an inferiority complex or like feeling as though I need to somehow produce, produce, produce in order to survive. Whereas the survival, like risk is no longer there. And it might have been at some point, right.

Anna:

Which are actually two separate questions, the inferiority complex, like not feeling good enough. Like I need that affirmation from this work. And I need my boss to tell me I’m doing a good job or, you know, because that’s what I’ve received my whole life. And that was so important to me to be able to get that kind of affirmation or is it because I’m afraid that should I stop working? Should we encounter another pandemic? We lose our job. We have no money. My family is broke. Both of those in a way at the end of the day are really fear-driven. Right, right, right. Yeah. Fear of, yeah. Not having fear of, you know, not having enough self esteem or self worth and fear of not having enough for fear of just being able to survive. And an end result is workaholism, which, you know, when you think about it, in terms of an evolutionary advantage, could have much, much, much a lot of evolutionary advantage because the people who work hard are the ones that survive and the others don’t.

Peter:

So let me ask you the workaholics response to that dilemma, which is what do I do about it?

Anna:

Exactly. Yeah. So that’s really the question. And it’s the idea of balance. Also, it’s not a set answer to that question. What’s balanced for you is very different for other people. There are people who spend their whole life being workaholics and achieve great things and win the Nobel prize, et cetera, write a million books. That’s beautiful. And not only that, they find a wife and family who are supportive and loving and understand where they’re coming from and it’s beautiful and that’s their balance. And that’s how they work with their workaholism. Workaholism becomes a problem when it’s no longer working for you. And when is it no longer working for you in psychiatry? It’s an issue when there’s either social or occupational impairment when it impairs your relationship, or of course, in terms of physical impairment, it impairs your health. You people have, you know, the guy of early heart attacks because this is the kind of thing you worked so hard, et cetera.

Anna:

And maybe there isn’t as much time for balance, but then also with workaholism, especially in New York city where it’s like hailed, if you’re not a workaholic, good luck living in New York city, right. I mean, this is what we all know that, but it’s also something that, you know, you figure out how to make it work for you and you take it. It’s a quality that has so many strengths inherent in it that you look at, what’s not working and you fix it, but then you also go deeper into the underlying psychology of fear and you work with that fear.

Peter:

Great. So how do we work with that kind of fear? That’s what I’m curious about and how do we work with it in a way that, that respects and reflects this idea of soul.

Anna:

Yes. Right, exactly. Right. So that’s a beautiful question. It’s not just the CBT model of, you know, cause when you think about it, the CBT model is more fear. FDA are false evidence appearing real. The majority of our fears are just delusions. And if we could see it as such, we can release that. That’s where the CBT model, but the idea of his soul is actually going deeper and seeing the inherent perfection of yourself as a human being and realizing that there’s nothing that you need to do to be lovable, that you are inherently lovable as you are. And sometimes whenever there’s workaholism, we’re chasing something, we’re chasing some kind of outcome and not able to get at the root cause of our inherent lovability. And if you could accept and love yourself and you know, if I’m like talking about this, like I’m sure in many ways you love respect yourself.

Anna:

You have good self esteem. You’ve accomplished a lot. You have a beautiful family, but this is more, and I’m not even using you as an of per se, but oftentimes we’re chasing our tail with something that’s an addiction like workaholism because there’s an, a part of us. That’s that fears like if we don’t calm down, if we don’t, if we can slow down a little bit, if we give ourselves a little bit of breathing room something’s gonna give, and what can give is actually our own sense of identity, our own sense of self, which is why for so many people, this whole pandemic and people losing their jobs have resulted in identity, crises, suicides, all kinds of really scary things, especially for men because of work. You know, it defines all many of us, but especially for men. And so it really at the soul level, you’re like, I’m not just my profession. I’m not just my career. I’m something that’s so much more. And what is it that my soul needs in order to thrive? And what do I need to be happy, separate from my career?

Peter:

How do we begin to explore that question? What is it that my soul needs? Like, I’ve always felt like fear. I dunno if this is going to make sense to you, but fear it’s also, I think it’s a signpost to longing meaning it’s, it’s maybe you wrote that. And I, cause I wrote it in my notes and I, and I and I’ve often felt like, like the, the reason we have longings is because there’s something we’re not getting, otherwise it wouldn’t be a longing, we would have it. And so if I’m longing for something, it means there’s something I’m fearing. That’s preventing me from moving towards that longing.

Anna:

I think that’s really, really profound. And I think you’re exactly right on. And that’s the very first exercise in my book is an exercise where you start to do a meditation and you start to ask yourself the question over and over in a meditative format to really prime your subconscious, because the answer might not be conscious. And that’s the question of what do I most deeply want? And you start asking that question and you almost like do it throughout the day for you commit to a week a month and you start to see what comes up in answer to that question. And at first it might be very, very simple things. I’d like to be in an air conditioned apartment. I want a burrito, you know, but then you start to see that often those things are reflective of something much deeper. And is it security that you want, is it being taken care of? Is it, you know, like, and then which of those is driving, whatever fearful behavior where, where, and the fearful behaviors could be plenty of escape behaviors. Workaholism could be one of them, but also numbing ourselves with food and drugs and, you know, being emotionally unavailable to our partners. And so many other things, you know, that happened in our society that I see my private practice as a psychiatrist.

Peter:

Right. you tell a lot of stories that are magical that have like the synchronicity aspect to it. You know, Patrick, I dunno if that’s his real name, but it’s the name of the book getting into two car accidents, canceling his trip on a plane, the crash, you know, also your patient, you know, you wake up in the middle of the night and, and, and you check your email and a patient is thinking about committing suicide. I’m curious how you that with science, that would probably say it’s random. And in answering that question, I’m also curious about like all the people who died in that plane crash. Right. Is it, you know, it’s like a theological question, is it really, is, are we seeing what we want to see versus what’s true. And you know, like, are we making ourselves feel better? And I found myself asking that question and I wanted to ask you

Anna:

Absolutely. And so synchronicity is the co-occurrence of two events to which we give meaning. And so one of the examples that you give is that a friend of mine, Patrick got into a car accident and because of this really, and then got into another car accident shortly thereafter, and this Patrick and I went to medical school together, this is a true story. So Patrick got into two car accidents right before we started medical school. And then Patrick was going to go volunteer in a little village where they had to go buy a puddle jumper. Patrick was so freaked out by these two car accidents that Patrick said, I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to go on this. And Patrick learned that, that plane of up four people who were taken to this little village actually ended up crashing and everybody died on the plate.

Anna:

So the two car accidents ended up saving Patrick’s life. And this was an amazing synchronicity. Now, was this completely random or was this, you know, something protecting Patrick or was this God intervening to make sure that Patrick, you know, his life was saved in the midst of all this and what happened to this poor people. So at the end of the day, nobody really knows the answer to those questions. And it’s the meaning that we assigned to them. And so synchronicity, the whole idea of synchronicity is that it’s the meaning that we assign the, the events are, as many events are random, but the meaning that we assign is how the narrative that we meet that explains it, whether it’s magical or whether it’s indeed random and therefore cause plenty of people that could happen too. And they’re like, you know what, it’s nothing, thank God I’m alive.

Anna:

Good. I’m not going to be taking pedal jumpers anymore. It’s like a safety, you know, like a thing. And, but not for Patrick, for Patrick, it was like, this was such a deeply meaningful thing. And Patrick felt like, you know, he was very protected. And the other situation that I described was a patient of mine, who I woke up in the middle of the night in a foreign country, nine times zones away when I was on vacation and a peanut patient had just written the a minute prior that the patient was feeling suicidal. So I was able to call and metaphorically and literally talk the patient off the ledge, which to me, and also to the patient was a very magical experience synchronicity. And the meaning that I described was that, you know, I’m doing the best I can in this world, but sometimes I’ve helped. And sometimes I’ll be woken up in the middle of the night, alerted that something is really, really wrong and have no idea what it is. And then it enables me to, to get the help that I need. I like to think about the world as being a little magical, but not everybody does. And it’s okay. And it’s really about the narrative I give to my life. But by no means, do I want to impose that narrative?

Peter:

So I’m wondering Anna, if there’s something like if there’s some place of choice that we all have to make that says, you know, we all have narratives, those narratives either serve us or don’t serve us whether, or it’s true. We will never know. So given that we will never know if it’s true or not. That leaves us at choice of narratives. Right. We won’t know that it’s not magical. We won’t know that it is magical. There’s no proof of anything there’s, you know, conditioning. And there’s what we thought, but we really don’t know. We don’t know that there’s a soul. I believe that I have a soul. I remember my very, very first real self-aware point of self-awareness was when I realized like, wow, I’m, I’m like, I’m a person. Like, I’m like, I have thoughts. I speak. I see. Like, it’s, it still blows me away every time I think about it. And so, but, but it’s like, it really is a choice about what narrative we want to use. And it’s not a choice that we necessarily need to defend or convince others of. It’s just a choice. And maybe the underlying question is given that we will never know the truth, which narrative serves you in terms of the life that leaves you kind of happy, fulfilled and connected.

Anna:

I think at the end of the day, that’s the very, very question. That’s exactly right. And Albert Einstein said that ultimately the question with God is whether we choose or believe to believe that we live in a hostile or a kind universe, that really is, it is a universe hostile or is the universe compassionate? And with things like this, is it random or is it a synchronicity? And you’re exactly right, because the meaning is you’re the observer. You create the meaning of your life. Nobody else people can give you any meetings. And it’s fascinating to speak with people who will interpret events in such different ways, but also science has its own narrative and science has flaws just as any narrative. That’s more spiritual or related to synchronicity.

Peter:

Yeah. And it’s interesting. Cause sometimes like I feel, I know that Einstein quote and I and I loved it and I and I was, you know, on my bike in Manhattan, biking down to a dinner and I just been working on this project that had gone really well. It was growing, it was fun. I was loving the bike ride. And I was like really in a very self aware moment saying like, this is, I’m just, I’m flying right now. I’m having fun. I’m enjoying it. I’m really connected. And this is two years ago almost. And then I hit a pothole and I knew, and I thought to myself, I gotta be careful. Like this is like an old Jewish thing maybe, but you know, like I gotta be careful. I think they’re going to, things are going too well. And in reality, I went head first into a car and, and parked car, but I dented it and you know, like I could still feel the impact of it on my body. And so, so there’s this underlying fear that if I, if I choose to believe in a universe that is a you know, and I let down my guard to believe in a universe that is friendly, then there’s like some kind of, you know, danger that you, you know, like you let down your guard in a sense, I don’t even know what let down your guard means, except for, you know, I don’t even know what that means, but it’s, but I noticed that I’m curious your thoughts.

Anna:

Oh totally. And coming from a family of Holocaust survivors, like I totally totally get this. I feel like it’s in the DNA. And I feel that too, coming from Russia and having families who were, you know, endured the pogroms and endured so much in terms of just, you know, people being judged for something over, which they had no control being Jewish. My grandfather was put in jail in Russia for that. It just all sorts of stuff. We have the, I feel like genetic and epigenetic elements of survival is in our blood. And what that means is you’re going to be a little extra cautious and maybe have a little bit more fear. And that has been passed down in generations evolutionarily. I believe because it probably saved certain people and that people who didn’t have fear weren’t scared enough and when bad things happen, they unfortunately didn’t have enough fear to be super cautious.

Anna:

And so like, you know, with this whole pandemic my husband and I were affected, my husband got COVID even had to be in the hospital. And after this, we’re like, we’re leaving New York city. And is that fear-driven or is that really something that by virtue of caution, we’re going to be doing something in order to hopefully save ourselves and be more cautious than somebody who isn’t as fearful per se. What’s your answer to that question? I feel as though, like, when I think back to that, I think we’ve been done with New York for awhile and the time had come and I feel like we’ve been just lingering here too long. And so it was kind of like a little slap on the back, like, hurry up, hurry it up. And she should have done it a long time ago. Had you done a long time ago? You wouldn’t even been in this situation.

Peter:

Right. So COVID was a nudge for you. I mean, I’m not necessarily blaming the entire pandemic on like your soul journey, but you know, it was like, it was like the right.

Anna:

Totally. Yeah. And exactly in my soldier. And he’s like a tiny little sliver of this pandemic, but to me it’s incredibly meaningful to my husband. We’re going to change our life now because of it, you know? Yeah.

Peter:

You I don’t know if you could do this briefly, but you have you talk about your proactive formula, transforms a response in a given situation from a reactive ego-based response to a proactive Seoul based response. And I’m wondering if you can, I can point you to page 96 by the way. And that’s, if you can just give us very briefly kind of that proactive. Absolutely.

Anna:

Yes. So this comes from a cabalistic formula from Kabbalah, which is essentially Jewish mysticism or Christian mysticism. And it’s a way of transforming your response from a reactive response to a proactive response. So when an obstacle occurs in your life, you want to recognize first that you’re responsible for whatever’s happening and that it’s your response and not the obstacle itself, that can be the real enemy. So you identify then that reactive and the proactive response, the reactive response is what you would naturally do. It’s what you would, you know, your ego would do, whether it would be respond with anger, with fear, with, you know, like whatever would send you down that spiral that we can go down when something difficult or a challenge occurs in contrast your proactive response is actually going against your nature, doing the exact opposite of what your reactive response, which, you know, encourage you to do.

Anna:

So. The reactive response is that ego-based response. It’s kind of like succumbing to the manifestations of ego. And the manifestations of ego are fear, anger, the need for control, jealousy, hatred, things of that nature in contrast to the soul based response, which is driven by soul qualities like hope and trust and, and compassion and courage. And so how do you then find your proactive response? You can ask yourself several questions. What would someone that you admire do you can focus on love in your heart and see what comes up, what would be the proactive response. You obviously take responsibility for whatever happened, as opposed to blaming somebody else and, you know, taking on the victim mentality. And if you are spiritual, believe in help from above, you can ask for help from above, and then you respond in a proactive way.

Peter:

So one of the things that shift creates, I think is the fear, right? Because if I, if I have this ego response, which says, okay, I’m going to, I’m going to respond the way I’ve always responded in the past, which is my comfort zone. And it’s a habitual response. And then I go, okay, I’m going to hold back on that or something. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do something that’s more loving and more courageous, but that’s probably going to be very scary to me because I haven’t done that before, because I’m leaving what I’ve known because I’m taking a risk because I’m taking a leap of faith. So we’re trying to move away from the fear-based response in order to move to the sort of proactive, love driven response. And at the same time that move itself is probably generating some fear, okay.

Anna:

100%, 100%. And that’s really what all of this is about. And so when you ask yourself the question, how do you transform? How do you elevate your consciousness? How do you change as a person it’s doing precisely that it’s going against your nature. It’s identifying what your natural reactive response would be, and then doing everything to combat that until that becomes your nature. And you’re right. It’s when you step outside your comfort zone, it’s very uncomfortable. It’s very scary.

Peter:

So how do we tell the difference between our inner intuitive voice and the habitual voice of reason? How do we know which one is, is the voice of the soul?

Anna:

That’s that’s also a great, great question. So people often ask that question and especially when it comes to fear, right? Often your intuitive voice has no emotional valence to it whatsoever. It’s just a deep inner knowing when there’s strong emotion behind it, that might not necessarily be the voice of your soul or intuition your soul, just notes. It knows what the right answer is. In a given question, it knows whether you should marry this person or not marry this person. It knows if you should take this job or pursue this kind of work, that’s like the knowing of the soul. But to get in touch with that, knowing you need to all the other voices, and those are the voices that scream throughout our life, the voice of emotion and the voice of rationality and the way that you can quiet. Those is meditation, yoga, doing whatever it is, or just very becoming very cognizant of what the rational voice is telling you and seeing, is there something even deeper? Is there something that I can get to when I put all those thoughts aside?

Peter:

Are you saying that the rational voice is one we should not listen to

Anna:

Not necessarily in the best case scenario, you’re able to listen to all your voices and then make that choice. A lot of us had had intuitions important intuitions that we haven’t listened to. And then we learned later on, Oh, I should have listened to that. But that’s all part of the learning process. Sometimes your rational mind will say this Mary, this person, they’re perfect. They have the resume that you’re looking for, et cetera. You might marry that person. And then it doesn’t work out. And then you’re like, actually my gut told me all along that this wasn’t right. I just didn’t want to listen to it. And that’s a big example, but there’s like little examples like that all the time.

Peter:

Right? And I’ve so enjoyed this conversation. We’ve been speaking with Anna. You seem, who has written the book fulfilled how the science and spirituality can help you live a happier, more meaningful life. It has been a delight, Anna, thank you so much for being on the Bregman leadership podcast.

Anna:

Thank you so much, Peter. It was awesome talking to you. This is a lot of fun.

 

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