Who Am I?

I’m finally getting around to memorializing some of the “self-help” books that have helped me over the years. The thread that runs through this grouping is the difference between “I” and “me” (or “true self” vs. “false self” or “observing self” vs. “observed self”—this has been described in various ways).

David A. Frenz, M.D.

“Me,” the conceptual self, can suffer; “I,” which is pure awareness or consciousness, never can. The end of suffering involves withdrawing your attention from “me” and resting in “I.”

This can be a little difficult to understand, let alone practice, which is why I seldom use it psychotherapeutically. But for those who are ready, it can be liberating.

Anthony de Mello’s Stripping Down to the “I” (starts on Page 46) is a great place to start. If it seems like nonsense, don’t be troubled and simply ignore this post. If, however, you’re intrigued, consider reading on.

Self-Care During a Pandemic

Update [10/12/2020]: Here’s the recording of the session. Enjoy!

Remember airplanes? In the event of an emergency, flight attendants advise us to adjust our own oxygen masks before helping others. I’ve always found that an apt metaphor for anyone in the healing arts.

Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Tomorrow I’m presenting on self-care during a pandemic (but it could be any personal or shared crisis really). Not self-care for our patients and clients—but self-care for ourselves. The main message concerns the relationship that we have toward time and the present, although there will some other stuff sprinkled in as well.

Many thanks to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Practice Transformation for hosting the event. It’s not too late to sign up and the price is right (free)! ✸

Acceptance Is the Answer

Linda Picone, the editor of Minnesota Medicine, tapped me for its “Joy of Medicine” feature. The extended interview appears in the September–October issue.

Minnesota Medicine

I’ll let Linda’s work speak for itself—it’s an absolute gem—but offer the following references for those who might want to go deeper:

Be Here Now

[ Updated with links to the resulting on-air segment / and here ]

WCCO Television

I’m scheduled to appear on WCCO 4 News This Morning on Monday, June 22nd, at 5:45 a.m. The subject will be happiness. I’ll be representing Allina Health

We’ll be discussing a recent NORC at the University of Chicago study that found a historic decrease in happiness. NORC has been surveying Americans since 1972 with the following question:

Taken all together, how would you say things are these days—would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?

Only 14% of people reported feeling “very happy,” which was a sharp drop from the usual run rate. In contrast, 23% of respondents indicated that they are “not too happy.” Both findings are unprecedented (red oval)

Norc at the University of Chicago

Correlation does not imply causation, however, the investigators pursued some provocative Covid-19-related explanations dealing with viral hotspots, loneliness and income. And while George Floyd was not mentioned in NORC’s report, his senseless death on May 25th occurred right in the middle of the survey period. I’d speculate that tragedy and the national reckoning which has followed was also on respondents’ minds

Regardless of the causes, what are some ways to improve happiness?

I generally recommend making peace with the present. This perennial wisdom that has strong, contemporary scientific support. For example, a seminal study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert tracked happiness in real time using iPhone surveys. They found that people were happiest when their minds weren’t wandering—that is, when they were totally present in the now

In conclusion, a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost

Science 2010;330:932

You can prove this to yourself by enrolling in the study, which is still running

Present moment awareness is sometimes called mindfulness, a trendy, frequently misunderstood word that I’ve avoided up until now. If you’re intrigued, I suggest snagging a copy of The Power of Now, the classic book by Eckhart Tolle. I often point people to “Wherever You Are, Be There Totally” (section), which starts on Page 82 in Google Books

I’ll try to mention other tips and tricks on the air, and hope to add them to my profile page at Allina Health later this week. ✸