The 8 Stages of Conscious Evolution

consciousness

Have you ever wondered…

About what level of consciousness you’re truly at?

Not in terms of it being a contest, or to say you’re better/worse than other people, but as a kind of inner GPS that simply tells you where you are.

As humans, we tend to have very distorted and biased perspectives, especially when it comes to ourselves.

It’s really easy to go on a yoga retreat and think you’ve transcended stress forever, or think you’re enlightened after reading a few spiritual books.

This is why it’s crucial to have references that “tell it like it is” and objectively reflect where you’re at.

I recently came across what can be described as a map of consciousness. It’s a research paper by Justin Faerman entitled Mapping the Evolution of Consciousness: A Holistic Framework for Psychospiritual Development.

This paper describes, in plain English, eight stages of consciousness. And it’s not abstract or woo-woo. It’s straightforward, simple to understand and backed by a lot of research.

Here are the stages outlined in the paper…

The 8 Stages of Conscious Evolution

stages of consciousness

Note: The first 2 stages are considered lower consciousness, while stages 3-8 are considered higher consciousness. This is not a judgment of being better or worse, but simply a means of classification.

Stage 1: Life Happens to Me (Externalization)

Stage 1 is categorized by patterns of externalization and an overall victim mentality. The dominant emotions are fear, disdain and hopelessness. There is also a belief that life cannot be trusted.

In this stage, blame is placed on other individuals, society, government, nature, disease, etc. and other elements believed to be outside of one’s conscious control and influence.

The motivating forces of stage 1 are safety and security.

Dominant Belief Structures:
Life is not safe; I am not safe

Mantra for Evolution:
“God does not play dice with the universe.” – Albert Einstein

Stage 2: Life Happens by Me (Control)

In this second stage, individuals realize that they have some degree of control. Yet this control is often motivated by fear and survival.

For example, war is an extension of this stage of consciousness. The enemy is perceived as a threat, and because of this, people believe they are morally justified to kill, eliminate or repress that enemy.

We also see various reflections of this stage of consciousness in our collective world. Look at how most people treat the environment and interpersonal relationships. Or consider the dominant mentality of politics and business.

This level of awareness is cut off from the following deeper understanding: Life is not a random series of events over which control must be exerted, but a deeper reflection of the internal psychodynamics of a person’s own mind and consciousness.

Dominant Belief Structures:
I must make it so; What I cannot control will destroy me.

Mantra for Evolution:
“If you bring forth what is within you, then that which is within you will be your salvation. If you do not bring forth what is within you, then that which is within you will destroy you.” – Gnostic Gospels

Stage 3 : Life Happens in Me (Creator)

In this stage, the individual begins to understand the direct connection between their own perceptions, beliefs and emotional state and the conditions of their life, relationships, experiences and reality as a whole.

This level of consciousness is represented by a fundamental shift, from disempowerment to empowerment.

In order to fully complete this stage, an individual must undergo a deep transformational process that includes the purging of all perceptual distortions (limiting beliefs) and the healing/release of all emotional wounds and traumas. The emergence of consciousness into later stages is observed in direct proportion to the evolution of an individual through this process of deep inner healing and transformational work.

Dominant Belief Structures:
I am in control; I am creative

Useful Psycho-Spiritual Practices:
Mindfulness, Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, Emotional freedom techniques, Neuro-linguistic programming, Trauma release exercises, Psychotherapy, Ho’oponopono, Introspection

Mantra for Evolution:
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” – Carl Jung

Stage 4: Life Happens For Me (Receiver)

In this stage, we see the evolution of the self into the beginnings of deep joy and peace.

As the resistance to perceived undesirable circumstances in life falls away and one begins to understand that there is an intelligent ‘flow’ operating in every moment guiding the evolution of consciousness on both an individual and collective level through what could be dualistically termed positive and negative experiences.

The individual realizes here that even in great suffering, there is great wisdom and potential for expansion and evolution and that nothing is out of place, ever has been or ever will be.

Dominant Belief Structures:
I am loved; I am supported

Useful Psycho-Spiritual Practices:
Seeing everything as perfect, Surrender, Acceptance, Letting Go, Embracing Flow and Effortlessness, Meditation

Mantra For Evolution:
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” – Eckhart Tolle

Stage 5: Life Happens Through Me (Philosopher)

At this stage of consciousness, the individual begins to understand and observe that the Universe is evolving itself through them.

The individual begins to realize that all perceived suffering or negative events are either:
a) Created or called into their reality by aspects of their own consciousness in an effort to be resolved and transcended as part of their individual evolution and as part of the larger collective evolution or…
b) Exist due to their conscious or unconscious resistance to what is unfolding, which is essentially a resistance of oneself.

Individuals in stage 5 live more through their intuition, as intuition becomes clearer and clearer as one moves up the stages.

Dominant Belief Structures:
I am safe; Everything is perfect

Useful Psycho-Spiritual Practices:
Intuitive Development, Kinesiology

Mantra For Evolution:
“Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.” – Rumi

Stage 6: Life is Me (Sage)

At this stage of awareness, the individual begins to understand that reality does not exist independent of consciousness, and therefore consciousness, or awareness if you prefer, is the causative factor of the universe and all that exists—that consciousness is creating all reality.

Individuals in this stage experience a profound sense of unity and oneness with everything.

When an individual fully enters and embodies this stage of awareness, their simple presence itself becomes a transformative experience for others. Individuals in this stage often become teachers or leaders, dedicate their lives to service of others or seek solitude to spend time in introspection, although they may also choose to live very normal and inconspicuous lives.

Dominant Belief Structures:
I am one; I am whole

Useful Psycho-Spiritual Practices:
Service, Contemplation, Meditation

Mantras For Evolution:
“You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.” – Alan Watts

“Stop acting so small. You are the Universe in ecstatic motion.” – Rumi

Stage 7: I Am Infinite (Avatar)

Individuals at this stage of growth begin to transcend the physicality within which we are proverbially ‘trapped’ until we reach this point.

Here individuals begin to harness conscious control over this process by directing their awareness in such a way (through belief, emotion, thought, visualization, the manipulation of energy, intent, accessing transpersonal aspects of the self and likely other mechanisms not yet discovered) as to be able to make use of these ‘higher order’ quantum-transpersonal abilities of the self.

Individuals at this stage perceive and know themselves to be limitless and are in various sub-stages of actualizing that reality beyond a simple intellectual understanding.

As individuals move more deeply into this stage they proportionally complete lower stages which leads to an embodied confidence, power and knowingness, which is palpable to most all who they come into contact with.

Dominant Belief Structures:
I am infinite/limitless; Anything is possible

Useful Psycho-Spiritual Practices:
Esoterics, Visualization, Kabbalah, Sound/Vibration/Mantra, Qi/Nei Gong, Kriya Yoga

Mantra for Evolution:
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

Stage 8: I Am Energy (Mystic-Shamanic)

Individuals at this stage tap into phenomena like:

  • The ability to project consciousness across space and time, which encompasses the ability to see, experience and remember aspects of the self existing in other dimensions of time (past, present and future).
  • The ability to interact with and communicate with other forms of consciousness such as plants, animals, objects and consciousnesses not currently existing in physical form.
  • The ability to intuitively pick up sensory data beyond the limits of the physical senses.
  • The ability to feel, read, manipulate and project subtle energy that is otherwise unperceivable to those in lower levels of stage development and virtually unrecordable with current scientific instrumentation.

Those who have near death experiences as well as users of psychedelic drugs or plant medicines (ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, mushrooms, etc.) are often able to have highly embodied first-hand experiences of this state of awareness pre-development into this stage, giving them a proverbial taste of this reality without necessarily having done the psychospiritual foundational work necessary to experience this stage organically and therefore they often lack a deeper understanding of the larger framework of what is happening along with the ability to maintain it beyond a transitory phenomenon, still nonetheless forever changed by the experience.

As an individual becomes more grounded in the later phases of stage eight—which encompass this dimensional awareness—and simultaneously completes their evolution through lower stages, one would theoretically achieve complete enlightenment or non-dual self-realization.

Dominant Belief Structures:
Everything is energy; I am awareness; Reality is an illusion

Useful Psycho-Spiritual Practices:
Energy healing, Esoterics, Visualization, Kabbalah, Qi/Nei Gong, Kriya Yoga, Meditation, Visualization, Remote Viewing, Astral Projection, Telekinesis

Mantra for Evolution:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Although this model ends at stage 8, this doesn’t imply that no further stages exist and that somehow stage 8 is the pinnacle of conscious evolution. However, any claims as to what happens beyond stage 8 at this time are simply conjecture.

stages of consciousness

Self-Awareness

At this point, you probably have a pretty good idea of where you’re at.

When the descriptions are objectively laid out, it forces you to be honest with yourself.

It’s also helpful to accept where you’re at right now, while continuously learning and growing. Don’t resist where you are right now or beat yourself up, neither of those serve your highest interest. Choose love, gratitude and compassion in each moment and you can’t go wrong.

Here’s another important point: you’re not limited to one stage! Chances are that you’re dipping into different stages on a daily basis. But it should be fairly apparent as to what stage you’re grounded in at this point in your life.

For me, I’m pretty grounded in stage 5, though I often fluctuate between stages 3 and 6. I’ve tasted stages 7 and 8, yet these experiences have been few and fleeting. Sometimes I’ll even find myself in stage 1 or 2, and that’s okay. It’s all a part of the human experience.

This framework is beautiful because it allows you to effectively calibrate where you are. It naturally creates self-awareness. Awareness is the first step toward any change, and transformative in and of itself.

I encourage you to read the full paper, which you can download for free here:
Mapping the Evolution of Consciousness: A Holistic Framework for Psychospiritual Development

Which stage are you in at this point of your journey? Is this framework helpful for you?

Leave a comment below.

Much love to you on your path.

– Stevie P
 

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Hero Worship and The Shadow Self

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Are you afraid of your own shadow?

I’m not talking about the silhouette of yours on the ground; I’m talking about the psychological shadow.

In Jungian psychology, the shadow is the collection of aspects of yourself that you deem unwanted or undesirable and hide deep in the caverns of your subconscious mind.

What we classify as unwanted or undesirable is largely determined by our cultural conditioning. The classic example is the business man whose true passion is art, yet he suppresses this gift because of what his parents and society labeled as favorable or unfavorable.

This happens with all aspects of self we refuse to accept (which can happen consciously or subconsciously).

While the shadow self is often thought of as the “bad” qualities that we refuse to acknowledge within ourselves, the most suppressed qualities are often the best ones. This is what I call the golden shadow.

The Golden Shadow

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”
– Marianne Williamson

Hero worship is an extension of the golden shadow. We suppress our inner greatness and subconsciously project our collective golden shadow onto heroes.

Heroes of all kinds – superheroes, celebrities, athletes, gurus – are thought of as amazing and perfect, while we view ourselves as a lesser “poor little me.”

We put all of our hopes and dreams not in ourselves, but in our favorite athlete, or the president, or a superhero we saw in a movie. All of the beauty we’ve refused to accept within ourselves is projected onto models and the “beautiful faces” we see on TV. This is all externally projecting our suppressed greatness because somewhere along the line we’ve deemed ourselves unworthy of embodying.

Here’s the truth. We all have greatness within. Yours may not look like Michael Jordan’s (who supposedly isn’t the nicest human being by the way – a testament to the grand deception of celebrity worship). Your greatness may not look like mine either. But I can guarantee that you have some kind of unique greatness. It’s been there all along, you’ve just refused to acknowledge it.

The Darker the Shadow, The Stronger the Super Powers

Mythological figures like superheroes and omnipotent gods are the projection of a society that feels weak and helpless. This collective projection comes from a huge “elephant in the room” shadow that we refuse to acknowledge. Our hero myths are created to fill the yearning for the brilliant potential that we’re systematically denying ourselves.

Can we fly and lift giant boulders? Who really knows? But super powers are more metaphorical. We’ve denied our inner gems so vehemently that we subconsciously create external, all-powerful saviors to fill that void and balance the scales.

We’re so afraid to step into our own power that we project it outward instead of owning it.

We cowardly choose work unfulfilling jobs, sit on the couch and watch TV instead of coming to grips with the immense power that lies within. You don’t have to be rich and famous to do this. It all simply comes down to your focus. What are you focusing on? What are you giving energy to?

Accepting your power within could be as simple as having a clear purpose in life, choosing a career you truly love, meditating, being fully present, feeling gratitude, honoring compassion, creating art or anything else where your focus is on cultivating your own gifts instead of focusing on something external.

Once we start doing this, who knows what possibilities will emerge? We know next nothing about the nature of reality, so the (assumed) laws we think we’re subject to might change and/or dissolve as we let go of self-imposed limitations. Anything is possible, but we’re so quick to stubbornly argue FOR our limitations. We live in prisons that are locked from the inside.

The God Within

As humans, we have a tendency to project our best qualities onto external Gods, creating an external savior complex.

If you view those qualities as something out there, then they become a mere intellectual concept and you relegate yourself to “poor little me.” But if you view those qualities as archetypes WITHIN YOU, the whole game changes.

When you view Buddha or Jesus Christ as men to be worshipped who are more special than you, you’re missing the whole point. Buddha and Christ are archetypal examples of the “higher” consciousness that exists within all of us. Yet because we’ve been so conditioned to cast our greatness to the shadows, most people cannot even fathom this concept and argue for their own diminutiveness.

“The kingdom of God is not in the clouds, in some designated point of space; it is right behind the darkness that you perceive with closed eyes.”
– Paramahansa Yogananda

The Heroic Chasm

I’m not saying to never admire anyone else or be an egocentric narcissist. Not at all. When you shine light on your shadow and cultivate love within, only then can you truly love others.

It’s useful to learn from others, but the difference comes in whether or not you choose to embody those qualities you admire.

“It’s cool to imitate, just grow into your own
Don’t let the green grass across the picket fence
Turn you into Mr. Smith without a purpose or a home
Underneath he is a Jedi, on the surface he’s a Clone”

– Jay Electronica

You see, most people admire others, but think “I could never be like that” or something similar that implies inferiority. That’s self-sabotaging victim logic.

A 5’3” man probably won’t become a professional basketball player, but he most certainly has the potential for greatness in other ways. Well that’s not entirely true either. Look at someone like Mugsy Bogues, who actually was a 5’3” professional basketball player. So it is possible, if you choose to believe in yourself. Sometimes we need to redefine what possible is. “Impossible” is an opinion; a mere imaginary fence created by self-defeating, “poor-me” victims.

If you hear about a successful business person’s morning routine, do you think “I don’t have the discipline for that” and flip to the next channel to distract yourself? Or do you take notes and start applying it towards your own mission in life?

We must bridge the heroic chasm. On one side, you have the idolized hero, and on the other the average person who refuses to acknowledge their own greatness. The chasm is bridged by learning from “heroes” then EMBODYING those qualities which the heroes represent. If those qualities are not examined, learned and embodied, you just become another passive, “poor little me” for the rest of your life.

The successful athlete continuously embodies and applies the qualities of the people they look up to. The wise person continuously embodies and applies the wisdom of others. The enlightened person continuously embodies an applies the God-like qualities.

How are you going to bridge the heroic gap? Or will you choose to deny your greatness and cowardly feed your shadow with hero worship?

Life to too precious to fritter away by denying your own greatness.

Learn from others then cultivate that greatness within. It’s there within all of us.

Be your own superhero.

– Stevie P!
 

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Release Into Love

“Repression is the hidden force behind illness.”
– Dr. Arthur Janov

We all hold onto so much unwanted baggage. Most of us go through life brimming with repressed emotions, desperately attempting to keep the lid on it all.

Combine our spongelike subconsciousness (particularly in childhood) with a society heavily based in fear, sprinkled with social taboos regarding expression and you have a perfect recipe for the unhealthy repression of emotions.

Our essence is love. We just have so much fear, trauma and baggage piled on top of it. Anyone with a regular meditation practice knows this firsthand. When we clear all of our thoughts, fears and worries we’re left with an indescribable sense of blissful, peaceful love.

Cultivating our well-being is more about letting go of the unnecessary than about adding things. Once we give our body, mind and spirit some space, it all naturally harmonizes. It’s self-correcting, if we simply allow for it.

primal release

How Do We Let Go?

How do we release? It ranges from simple daily activities to extreme forms of therapy, and everything in between.

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?”

– Gabrielle Roth

Do you laugh every day? Do you sing every day? Do you dance every day? Do you cry when you feel sadness or grief? Do you exercise? Do you get out in nature? Do you have any creative outlets? These are all simple things we can do on a daily basis to let go of pent up emotions and lighten our spirits. Most of us “mature adults” do almost none of these things, yet continue to accumulate emotional stress throughout our lives. So no wonder why our emotional stresses just keep stacking up.

While you can clear a whole lot of emotional baggage through the simple ways listed above, some things you’re repressing may be more stubborn and shadowy. For some of the most ingrained traumatic emotions, especially from childhood, you may have to engage in a more intensive release practice or seek the help of a professional.

Unwanted emotions are not only held mentally, but in the body as well. This is important to remember – the most effective forms of release include the body.

Let’s take frustration as a simple, day-to-day example. If you’re feeling frustrated, does it help to just mull over your frustrations in your head? Of course not. You only let go of frustration if you act it out physically, maybe through working out or screaming when you’re alone. And this is also where being mindful comes in, as healthy outlets are important. You don’t want to just be reactive and take out negative emotions on other people. While holding everything in is internally destructive, taking things out on others is externally destructive.

It’s of crucial importance to find healthy outlets for release, which is why I created Primal Release. Primal Release is an in depth course that provides you with all of the tools you need to release into love. It will literally shift your entire state of being. You won’t even believe how light and free you can feel.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW TO RELEASE

Develop a practice of release. Learn to let go of the things that don’t serve your highest good.

You don’t have to hold onto it all.

Release into love.

– Stevie P!
 

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Spiritual Backbone: Could I Be a Good Counselor?

spiritual-backbone

Note: This is a guest post by Katie Kapro.

Some of my closest – and most spiritually badass – friends are independent counselors. It’s a career that attracts sensitive, resilient, and altruistic souls. It asks a lot of them. And it gives them the opportunity to give back to their communities.

The connection between spirituality and work is fascinating, and this counseling phenomenon can go unnamed no longer. Why are so many spiritually-inclined people drawn to counseling?

If we better understand the connection between esoteric studies and counseling careers, then perhaps more would-be counselors will find their calling.

Joshua in Cambridge, whom I met at a meditation retreat, sees his clients in a Persian rug laden office in his home behind Harvard Square. He’s been practicing for 40 years, helping one client at a time integrate mindful breathing, gratitude, and interconnectedness into their daily lives.

He sees everyone from recovering drug addicts to stressed-out graduate students. Instead of offering them a list of medications, he offers them meditation practices.

It’s pretty cool, and his work benefits countless people with all sorts of spiritual beliefs.

Why are spiritually-inclined people so drawn to independent counseling?

Spiritual people expend so much inner and outer energy practicing oneness and self-effacement, it only makes sense that they’d want to spend the majority of the day doing something beneficial for the world.

Let’s face it, we live in a world of egos. The ego serves a purpose. To live fully in the world is to recognize and accept the ego for what it is rather than shun it or attach dogmatic meaning to it. Counselors are required to deal with the ego on a daily basis; they are realists if nothing else.

When I consider how many of my deeply spiritual friends work in psychology, I think it must have something to do with self-awareness. When you accept the reality of your own ego, personality, and humanity, it’s only natural to want to help people navigate their own.

Perhaps this sounds like you?

What are the benefits of a spiritually sensitive counselor?

First, let’s hone-in on what spirituality means in the context of therapy.

It’s broader than religion, and it’s generally accepted to account for all “cognitive and philosophic areas of thought as well as aspects of emotions and behavior.” Meaning, in regular-speak, that spirituality is the way a person understands their nature, existence, and internal experience.

For some people this means church. For others it means nature. It’s simply the act of awareness.

There are different schools of thought when it comes to spirituality in counseling. Many therapists are supportive of integrating spirituality into their work, while others feel it’s a slippery slope.

Psychotherapy in particular has had a historically rocky relationship with religious spirituality, starting with Freud himself who called religion “comparable to childhood neuroses.” But in more modern times, therapists have drawn a clear distinction between religion and spirituality, reframing Freud’s old biases against any particular tradition.

This reframing allows modern counselors to reach out to their patients from a unified yet impersonal place, and grow the kinds of trust bonds that benefit the therapist-client relationship. They can adopt a “psychospiritual approach” that utilizes common ground and universal themes shared by all people, instead of trying to make the personal relationship do all the heavy lifting.

If a counselor leads a client in an exercise about minding one’s breath, say, they both feel the shared sensation of meditating, which can be a pretty powerful feeling.

Of course, finding the words to describe this sensation can be tricky. Many therapists fear that if they’re too open about their own values, they may unwittingly impose them on their clients. It’s important to choose one’s words carefully. The ability to navigate a client relationship with this level of sensitivity is vital to a healthy practice.

Perhaps another reason why so many spiritual people are good therapists is because they have a tendency to be highly sensitive people (HSP’s). They understand the importance of sensitivity in human relationship.

Can anyone be a counselor?

Yes and no. Not everyone should be a counselor. Use your imagination. Who would want to go to a counseling session led by Donald Trump? Not me.

It takes a very specific skillset to flourish in this particular job 1) without burning out and 2) to actually help people. But if a person feels the impulse toward counseling, it’s always worth exploring. Work in therapy allows a unique amount of independence from the mainstream work model – many counselors set up their own LLCs – but candidates must first demonstrate their ability to navigate the ins-and-outs of academia by obtaining the proper education and getting licensed – a process which varies from state to state – and then complete an internship or practicum. Becoming a licensed therapist is not a quick and dirty process, for obvious reasons. Again, Trump. It takes time and commitment.

That being said, the path is easy when the work is something that fits your character. Counseling can be a deeply rewarding career for someone who is naturally self-aware, patient, compassionate, and nonjudgmental.

It’s a way to bring one’s spiritual practice off the mat and into the wider world.

About the Author
Katie Kapro is a Sufi and writer in the Intermountain West. When not writing, she can usually be found burying her face in sage in the foothills behind her house. Follow her on Twitter @kapro101

Stevie P’s Postscript

This article is incredibly relevant for both myself and everyone reading this, as I just launched the Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great Mystery School. It’s essentially a modern, online version of the ancient mystery schools that will help you integrate spiritual concepts into your daily life. The general “curriculum” (I use that term loosely) is based upon recurring themes I’ve had with individuals which they’ve found great value in, so I’m sure you’ll find value as well.

Click here to find out more about the Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great Mystery School

Much love.

– Stevie P
 

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No One Cares: Your Key to Freedom from Social Anxiety

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Ask yourself this question: Why do I care about what other people think?

Don’t you want to live life on your own terms? Why are you letting others dictate your decisions and how you live your life?

Not caring about what others think is the ultimate freedom.

Are you constantly thinking about what could happen in every social situation, instead of being fully in the moment? The vast majority of the time, all of the hypothetical “What if…” projections (that are on replay in your head) don’t even end up happening.

Let go and allow life to flow through you.

Everyone is too busy being concerned with themselves anyway. So why waste your energy worrying so much? This is something you need to drill into your head if you suffer from social anxiety.

Are you really delusional enough to think that everyone around you spends all of their time thinking about you?

Everyone is incomparably more concerned about themselves than they are with you.

Here’s what an interaction between two people with social anxiety looks like: You’re worrying about what they think of you and they’re worrying about what you think of them. With all of this worrying and “What if” projections, neither party fully experiences the present moment (which is all that really exists). There’s no fun in that.

In truth, it’s really ridiculous to let social anxiety control your life. Realize that you’re free to be yourself and always have been. Drop the useless, burdensome concerns about what others may think. (Because you don’t even know what they’re really thinking in the first place!)

Everyone else is immersed in their own perspective. Everyone is the star of their own movie. They’re more concerned about themselves than about you. And that, in and of itself, is freeing.

“The amateur dreads becoming who she really is because she fears that this new person will be judged by others as “different.” The tribe will declare us “weird” or “queer” or “crazy.” The tribe will reject us. Here’s the truth: the tribe doesn’t give a shit. There is no tribe. That gang or posse that we imagine is sustaining us by the bonds we share is in fact a conglomeration of individuals who are just as fucked up as we are and just as terrified. Each individual is so caught up in his own bullshit that he doesn’t have two seconds to worry about yours or mine, or to reject or diminish us because of it. When we truly understand that the tribe doesn’t give a damn, we’re free. There is no tribe, and there never was. Our lives are entirely up to us.”
― Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

The funny paradox of it all is that people will admire you when you’re true to yourself. Even outright hate is really self-hatred combined with jealously. But most people just secretly admire those who have freed themselves from the confines of external opinion. Because it truly is a beautiful thing.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Let go and be free.

– Stevie P!

PS – My online course, Annihilate Anxiety, is available now! Click the picture below to find out more.

 

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The Selfish Reason Behind Giving

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While hiking Mount Washington a few months ago, my girlfriend (at the time) and I got into some intense philosophical discussions during our descent.

In the midst of this mobile symposium, she asked me the most revelatory question I’ve ever been asked…

“Why do you like helping other people?”

Coming from an experienced psychologist, this wasn’t a question asked just for the sake of asking a question. Not at all. It was a friendly yet firm demand for genuine truth. She would not accept a vague, dismissive or even lightly dishonest answer. She wanted me to recognize the core reason as to why I enjoy helping others.

The only answer I could honestly come up with was this: I like helping other people because it makes me feel good.

“For it is in giving that we receive.” – Francis of Assisi

As humans, we’re inherently social beings. We thrive off of connection. And giving is an essential element in cultivating a sense of connectedness with others. That’s why giving feels so good. The research even shows that giving actually makes us happier than receiving.

In his book The Hidden Gifts of Helping Stephen G. Post writes:

“As the saying goes, ‘if you help someone up the hill, you get closer yourself.’ Whether the group is focused on weight loss, smoking cessation, substance abuse, alcoholism, mental illness and recovery, or countless other needs, a defining feature of the group is that people are deeply engaged in helping one another, and are in part motivated by an explicit interest in their own healing.”

This concept of helping yourself by helping others sounds paradoxical, but so do most profound truths. Giving is such an essential part of our nature that it transcends duality.

I feel good when I help others. That’s why I do it.

I help people because, in turn, I help myself.

When I give advice, it’s not only to others, but to myself as well.

I write, not only for other people’s betterment, but for my own improvement and cathartic realization.

Giving is the ultimate win-win situation.

Be generous, because you too will reap the benefits.

Much love.

– Stevie P!
 

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It’s All Research, Therefore I Cannot Fail

This is a guest post by Alton Eckel.

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My mother taught me one of the greatest lessons in life: it’s all research. It was a lesson that I took with me into my first Ironman race last summer. When I felt exhausted, or my body ached, I re-evaluated my current state and redirected myself to a more constructive frame of mind. What could I do differently next time? What had I done properly that day? How had my training prepared me for the day’s elements? I can confidently say that I have never “failed” due to this outlook. When something has been unsuccessful in training or racing (or anything in life for that matter), I simply consider it a disproven hypothesis.

I am an adolescent when it comes to the world of endurance racing and triathlons; I still have a sense of immortality and innocence to me. I have not heard of an obscure race that I would not try or a distance that I did not believe was achievable. My ambition has carried me to many daunting start lines and my tenacity has pushed me across the same number of finish lines. That’s correct: in more than one hundred races ranging from 5k’s to full Ironman triathlons I have never shown a DNF (Did Not Finish) next to my name.

I did not run during high school. As a matter of fact, a telephone pole length was a distance event during my teenage years. I was an All American cheerleader who had avoided her bike since middle school. Then, one day, a middle aged, slightly overweight man asked me to join him for a two mile run. He tore up the pavement and left my ego at the door. This shifted my perspective. I became lit up at the idea of improving my run. Not to mention getting out of the gym and stationary machines. Within five months of my first official run I did my first half marathon. My sense of accomplishment fueled my interest in continuing with the sport. And in less than a year I ran my first marathon.

I also bought a bike and entered a sprint triathlon around the same point in time. This was where I faced my greatest challenge, since swimming has always been a struggle for me. I used a noodle on the swim. It may as well have been an inner tube. Out of two thousand women, I was 9th from last on the swim. Then I kissed my bike, made my way through the crowded streets and ended up finishing in the middle of the field. I learned a great deal during that race about my self and my ability. I was not invincible. I needed to practice swimming. I needed to train with more brick sessions. I needed to alter my nutrition.

The following year, I returned to the same sprint triathlon determined to test out my new skills. I had done my research. I had taken swim lessons. I had done weekly bricks. I had tested my nutrition through trial and error. The hard work paid off. I finished that race first in my age group and nineteenth overall. I discovered how a challenging experience could be used as research toward a more positive one in the future. Now I’m always excited for my next race, as it’s an opportunity to test my hypotheses once again.

While recently juggling triathlon training and attending college full-time for my Master’s in Psychology, I have realized that the two are closely intertwined. The cognitive aspect of training and racing is an exercise in mental toughness and inner dialogue. I have self reflected over and over again and discovered the therapy that endurance racing offers.

This also elicited the question of why I’m able to use my inner dialogue to push forward, while some athletes are paralyzed by self-defeating thoughts and fear. I am not the bionic woman; my legs feel like lead bricks at mile 18 of the run during an Ironman, my back aches from a 40 lb pack after my seventh summit of the day in the White Mountains, and my vision becomes impaired at mile 90 of a hot century ride. Yet, somehow, I push through this feeling while others surrender to of the pain, turn back, or give up.

What separates us? I propose that it’s my inner dialogue, which is motivational and empowering. I have a drill sergeant within my own mind. When I grow tired or ache all over, my internal self says, “Suck it up, this is nothing!” My exhaustion and desire to slow down is overcome by my excitement and drive, while other athletes’ exhaustion and desire to slow down are exacerbated by feelings of disempowerment and defeat. The same thought creates a different inner dialogue for different athletes. The perception of our thoughts produces different behaviors and subsequent outcomes. As it turns out, endurance athletes are in a continuous process of engaging in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with themselves.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is therapeutic intervention in which thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are intertwined. The way we choose to react to a triggering event is dependent on our interpretation and thoughts surrounding it. Following our thought is an emotional response, which in turn affects our behavior. Therefore, our thoughts and emotions control our actions… even when training and racing.

CBT

How can we use CBT to improve performances and interpret failures in a motivating way? First, pay attention to what your inner dialogue is saying to you. To use running as an example: The next hard tempo run that you go out for listen to your thoughts and physical responses. Do you give up on the fast pace a half mile prior to your anticipated distance? If so, then what were you thinking when you chose to slow down? Was your body tense and in a state of fear?

Understanding what happens within our body and thoughts just before we decide (yes, it’s a decision) to give up or slow down helps us to change future outcomes and improve performances. If we have self defeating thoughts such as, “I cannot meet my goal, I’m too tired” then working on a more productive thought pattern such as, “I’ve felt this tired before, time to dig deep and work toward closing in on that goal” can improve our performance and boost our confidence.

Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in training and racing. Challenge yourself to improve your inner dialogue and find the lesson learned in unmet goals. Work toward using difficult days as motivation. As my mom states, it’s all research. None of us have failed, just disproven hypotheses.

“Do not dedicate your life to your sport, but rather, dedicate your sport to your life.”
-Dan Millman

“There is no failure, only feedback.”
-Mark Allen

About Alton:
Alton is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness. She’s also a trail runner, triathlete, wolf mama and part-time superhero.

Follow Alton on Instagram: @trailbright

Alton