Thursday, July 28, 2016

Planning Your Escape by Building a Bridge to Your Future Self

Plan Your Escape:
What to do when your partner is driving you crazy

If all day long you're saying to yourself: "My partner is driving me crazy. This relationship is making me sick" it’s time to plan your escape. But you’re still hanging around because another pesky voice keeps saying:

"You can't just leave. You have to stay because of your credit card debt, rent payments, healthcare, and what your friends and family will say. And you’re not perfect; you’ve made mistakes, gotten angry and nagged. You did love him once and some part of you still loves him. What’s blocking that love now? What if you’re making a big mistake and will regret leaving him? Shouldn’t you just work on it? Have you really worked hard enough to make this relationship work? Do you really think you can do better? How are you going cope with being alone when you know how scared you are of being lonely?”

Let's face it, you're stuck in a cycle of upset, dissatisfaction, doubt, guilt, and confused feelings. You might be afraid of hurting his feelings or, worse, have fear of his anger, rage, and physical violence. But you’ve been unhappy for years and you’ve changed into this angry, bitter, depressed person who is not who you used to be. You’ve lost your true self in this relationship.

How have others solved this dilemma? Some have had an affair or elevate the level of anger to a point where one or the other is pushed to some form of physical or verbal abuse. This is a less than optimal [in other words, neurotic] way of sparking the motivation to file the divorce papers or call the lawyers. That is, make it so bad that you have to face reality and make a decision.

Before you reach the desperate stage in your relationship you might approach your partner with a more courageous and honest way of dealing with the changes that have occurred in your relationship. You could try to have your partner face the fact that what was once a fire of passion and romance has become a dying ember. You could say it this way, taking a page from the movie Annie Hall:

“Let’s face it, I don’t think our relationship is working. . . . a relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. What we have is a dead shark . . . let’s face it, this isn’t working.”

If you’re not ready to split now. Try these four “plan your escape” steps:

1. Plan your escape. This is the time to seriously consider a strategic plan for leaving your relationship at a time that is most beneficial to you. Consider how much time you need to scale down your expenses, pay off debts, get in shape, expand your social circle, and update your look.

Pick a specific date, say six to twelve months from today, that's convenient to you financially and emotionally––a date when you can feel certain that you’ve given your relationship, your partner, and yourself a good effort.

Note: you are not trying to leap out of your current situation [home, job, or relationship]; you’re building a bridge to your future, improved life.

2. Change your inner dialog. It's very natural to find yourself constantly complaining about your relationship to your friends and family. Once you've decided to start planning your escape––on your terms––you no longer have to keep telling yourself, "I hate him, I just don’t feel the same. I wish I had the courage to leave." Finally, you're taking action. Remember: a major part of your strategic action plan is to temporarily stay where you are.

Tell your complaining voice: "Thank you and shut up. By April 15th or June 15th we'll be free and in touch with my old self. I'm Choosing to plan my escape."

3. Watch your attitude improve. Choosing to use build your strength and resources while staying in your current home or relationship [or job] for a few more months will change any feelings of being passive victim, the prisoner, or the captive. You're active in planning the right time for your escape. This principle has been used successfully by the military in training captured soldiers to maintain their morale and increase their chances of survival.

4. Expect a surprise. Everyone I've coached in this strategy has achieved more than he or she asked for or expected.

Start to improve your health habits, your look, and your wardrobe while writing down how you will feel in your ideal relationship. For example: I’d feel respected, heart, loved, appreciated, supported, and desired. Rehearse asking for what you want from a better relationship. Let friends know. And, if you see any improvement in your partner, you might tell him. Don’t accept argument or guilt-tripping as a response but do expect a surprise. Life tends to give you what you expect. It feels quite magical at times but it’s just you telling your subconscious genius [and dreaming mind] to start working on it for you. And it puts together the pieces and then taps you on the shoulder as if to say, “There he is; that’s who you told me to find.”

© Neil Fiore, PhD, 2016 Voice: 510/ 525-2673 For more articles and coaching see: and

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Voices Inside Your Head: Who’s in Charge of Your Life?                  Neil A. Fiore, Ph.D.
I know the voice of depression still calls to you.
I know those habits that can ruin your life still send their invitations.
But you are with the Friend now and look so much stronger.
You can stay that way and even bloom! . . .  
. . . O keep squeezing drops of the Sun from your prayers and work and music
and from your companion’s beautiful laughter
and from the most insignificant movements of your own holy body.
Now, sweet one, be wise.
Cast all your votes for Dancing!
-- Hafiz, 1320-1389, Cast All Your Votes for Dancing

Who is it inside your head that speaks with the voices of depression, anxiety, and worry? Who is it that listens to those voices without identifying with them? Who is the part that feels insecure, lacks confidence and motivation, and seeks personal power?
Where is the part of you that can offer compassion and guidance to yourself?
Does your strong and powerful Self need a wake-up call to take charge?
see Awaken Your Strongest Self [McGraw-Hill, 2009] and for accessing your Strongest Self and higher brain


Saturday, July 18, 2015

How to Access More Brain Power


                                                                Neil A. Fiore, PhD
Whenever you respond to a question or a puzzle with: “let me sleep on it; it’s going to be interesting; or it will come to me” you are signaling your night shift subconscious wisdom to start working on your projects.
Such common statements demonstrate your confidence that you can access a deeper level of knowledge, wisdom, and solutions that is far beyond what they can achieve by worrying with just their conscious mind.

You obviously have access to more brain-cell power than just your struggling conscious mind and conscious identity.

And when they ask you, “How did you do that? That was brilliant.” you can say: “I pulled it out of thin air; or a little bird told; or I don’t know, it just came to me.” Or you could say what Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s detective, says,
“I let the little gray cells do the work.”

Keep expecting your “Night Shift,” dreaming mind to work for you and it will start showing up repeatedly with solutions and positive surprises.
See my website and Awaken Your Strongest Self (McGraw-Hill, 2009)
(c) 2015 Neil A. Fiore, PhD

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Truce: How ordinary people stopped the killing

Christmas Truce WWI and Vietnam
How ordinary people stopped the killing
Neil Fiore, Former 1st Lieutenant with 101st Airborne in Vietnam

A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe . . . .
[Yet] he experiences himself . . . as something separated from the rest—
a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness . . . a prison for us. . . .
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our
circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.
-- Albert Einstein

In Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce Stanley Weintraub writes of how the English and German troops ceased their hostilities on Christmas Eve of 1914. The Germans moved out of their trenches first, carrying a lighted Christmas tree and singing carols—Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum—German hymns that have English versions. Soon the British joined in and both sides exchanged presents and food, buried their dead, and played soccer during this troop‑initiated cease‑fire. There was one notable exception: a private named Adolf Hitler who refused to join in.

The unofficial truce of 1914 lasted for two full days. Then the generals on both sides ordered the spoiled troops replaced with new ones who had not met their enemy face to face so the war could resume.

                When I first heard of this amazing story I was reminded of a somewhat less dramatic incident I experienced during my unusual tour of duty in Vietnam. Our advanced unit of the 101st Airborne had no official home so we joined with a Special Forces unit in Nha Trang, a beach town 300 miles north of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City). One of the favorite bars of my men was the Mickey Mouse, owned by Francois, a French chef and former Foreign Legionnaire who had married a Vietnamese woman and had two beautiful daughters. We had been dining—if you can call it that—on Army rations for months when Francois invited four of us—myself, a Special Forces Colonel, and two other lieutenants—to his real French restaurant at the very edge of the jungle.

We’d been eating C-Rations out of tin cans, what the Vietnamese offered on the street and an occasional meal at Special Forces. So when Francois described the menu at his restaurant:  filet mignons of water buffalo, real French fries, and giant spiny lobster, served with French wines, we started salivating like four hunting dogs.

Feeling the excitement of both danger and anticipation, we drove our jeep through dense vegetation to Francois’ “Parisian-jungle” restaurant, at the very edge of what I called “shark turf.”  

As we pulled up to the entrance of Chez Francois, we were greeted by a scene right out of South Pacific, complete with palm-covered thatched buildings lit with red lanterns. Our minds were a thousand miles from any thoughts of war and the VC’s expertise at guerrilla warfare. All we could think of was the sumptuous feast Francois had promised us.

What we saw next was a complete adrenaline-fueled shock: at least 30 Vietcong cradling Chinese-made AK47s, squatting in their black silk uniforms around the entire building, white opium pipes sticking out from under their conical straw hats. For the moment they seemed more interested in their opium than in four Americans armed with only 45-caliber pistols.

I gasped at my first sight of armed Viet Cong soldiers up close and couldn’t help thinking of the reports of their brutal torture of any Americans unfortunate enough to be captured alive. The hair rose on the back of my neck and the adrenaline was pumping just the way it did when I was a kid in Jersey City surrounded by gang members on my way home from school. Once again, we were outnumbered and out‑gunned. Only this time, I’d suffer more than a black eye.

We knew it would be foolhardy to try to fight. We had to stay cool if we were going to get back to camp alive. By some grace all four of us were not the type to panic or reach reflexively for his 45. As he took the first step up to Francois’ the Colonel struck a casual tone as he, in passable French, said to the Vietcong, “Bon soir.” I was impressed but still in a heightened state of attention and hoping we’d be alive just a little bit longer to enjoy what might well be our last meal.

The aromas and flavors of Francois’ cooking helped focus my senses on the pleasure of being alive and on gratitude for the miracle and craziness of life. I was on heightened alert for the sound of automatic weapon fire, as well as for the anticipation of each course Francois served us with such obvious delight. I still can taste the firm texture of the giant lobster, the tartness of the dry white wine, the sweetness of the water buffalo, pomme frites unlike any french fries I every had back home, and a silky red wine that carried the aromas of southern France. Savoring this excellent meal in this most incongruous of places was almost enough to erase the threat of death that crouched outside.

I tried to stay focused on the pleasures of the moment but my concentration was interrupted by Francois’s stories – complete with maps of his Foreign Legion campaigns – of how the fathers of the skilled and ferocious fighters waiting outside had defeated the French. Almost two hours of exquisite dining had somehow passed when we finally heard the chilling wake‑up call. Francois looked at his watch and announced, “C'est dix heures. It's 10 o'clock, time for the VC to come in.”

We offered Francois our Merci beaucoup, paid our bill, and tried to stand tall. Then, without a word, we each took a breath, and walked out through the doors into the night, ready to accept whatever fate awaited us.

                We found the VC in the same position as two hours earlier, though possibly mellowed by opium. Following the colonel’s lead, I nodded respectfully to our VC counterparts and, in my best high school French, wished them a Bon soir et bon appetit. Somehow, I managed to get to our jeep without breaking into a mad dash or looking over my shoulder at the VC.

                I felt I had witnessed a miracle of the human spirit that night. We had seen our “enemy” face to face and no one, on either side, felt the need to destroy the other or to prevent him from savoring the pleasures and beauty of this world for a few more hours.

Soon after that magical night, I started the practice of saying a silent grace before every meal and a thank you for every day. I promised myself that I would take time to savor each meal as if it might be my last. I also made a mental note to keep faith in the wondrous higher qualities of human beings, and the possibility that individuals can choose peace even in the midst of fear and extreme chaos.

But within a month of that evening at Francois’s, the American and North Vietnamese generals arrived in South Vietnam. All gentleman's agreements were off and I’m sure neither side would wait patiently while their enemy savored one of life’s feasts at Francois’.  No one would wish the other side, Bon soir et bon appetite.

 [1,246 words]

© Neil Fiore, 2003-2012. All rights reserved.  510 525- 2673.   Neil Fiore, 1496 Solano Ave., Albany, CA 94706‑2148.  

Author of: Awaken Your Strongest Self [McGraw-Hill, 2009], The Now Habit: Overcoming Procrastination While Enjoying Guilt-Free Play (Penguin, 2010), and Coping with the Emotional Impact of Cancer (Bay Tree, 2010).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What's Your Identity Based On?



 When you face a major change in your life—retirement, losing your job, your kids leaving for college, or an unexpected accident—you quickly discover that a large part of your identity was invested in something or someone that is no longer there. Who are you now without the former activities and relationships?
You, or who you thought you were, must change to fit into a new world, a new job, and an entirely new daily scheduled.
Beware of what follows “I am” because that’s where you place your identity and limit your sense of self. Keep your identity eggs—like your investments—in several baskets, never in just one. You could say that the only thing that needs to follow "I am" is a period; as in "I am." "I am here; I exist and I refuse to be defined by a limited identity."

To be resilient during the inevitable changes of life, your identity must be more than your job title, your roles in the lives of others, and much more than who you think you are.

            What do you need to know about maintaining a robust, resilient identity? _______________
            Which baskets are holding your identity eggs?    ____________________________________

            What will you do today to find and expand a new aspect of your larger sense of self? ______

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Power of Naming Your Inner Voices

Change Your Name & Succeed Neil A. Fiore, PhD For coaching, upcoming webinars, and free articles see

      When our slalom ski race team went to Whistler Mountain to train for the upcoming ski season we met an outstanding ski instructor named Wendell Moore. His task was to teach us how to ski the expert black diamond slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Wendell looked over his class of older, anxious hopefuls and said: “You have the latest equipment that allows you to ski effortlessly, but you’re struggling as if you still have those old heavy boots and skis from over twenty years ago.”     

     As a psychologist, I had to start taking notes because this is an excellent metaphor for what I see my clients doing when they’re trying to struggle with current issues using the limited coping skills of their childhood. When under pressure or distress we all tend to revert to primitive defenses forgetting our adult knowledge and strength and lose sight of the opportunities right in front of us today. As remarkable as Wendell’s first statement was, his next remark nearly knocked me out of my skis. He said: “I haven’t got time to teach the old you how to ski like an expert, so I’m going to change your names to those of native born skiers.” Pointing to one each of us in turn, starting with the woman, he called out: “You can be Ingrid; you’ll be Heidi; you’re Fritz; Franz; Helmut; Hans; Wolfgang; and Neil, you’re Jean-Claude Killy.    
    This seemingly small adjustment in my identity helped me to stop waiting for my old identity to feel confident enough to ski down an overwhelming glacier. Only my new, Olympic self could ski directly down an expert, black diamond slope faster, straighter, and steeper than I’ve ever skied before. My old self (and name) didn’t know how. To ski down this expert slope I would need to assume the identity of an expert by getting into the Zone beyond my old, limited identity.     
    Wendell’s amazing strategy also helped enhance the power of my coaching. I repeatedly see how my clients struggle from an old, limited sense of self—an old, outdated identity—and how it keeps them stuck in the same patterns just as it kept me stuck skiing at the intermediate level until I learned how to shift my identity to that of an Olympic champion.                                                
   Changing names has long been a way of assigning new responsibilities and powers as when a King, a Queen assumes the throne and takes a new name that links him or her to the long line of predecessors. This conferring of a new sense of self by changing someone’s name also occurs in the New Testament when Simon is given the name, Peter along with the responsibility to “feed my sheep;” Saul becomes Paul; and Levi becomes Matthew.    

  Taking a new name of course means that an old name is replaced or “cast out” as in the New Testament reports of prophets casting out demons by naming them. Today we don’t do much casting out of demons but, in my work, I often ask clients to give a name to a critical or demanding voice so this negative habit or part can be seen and heard as separate from the stronger, mature Self that has the goal of living more peacefully and productively. You might ask yourself, “Who’s that critical part of me? What do I –meaning your stronger, mature Self—want to say to that part?” Wendell might say, “Your old identity is still using old ways of coping but your current Self wants to ski [or live life] effortlessly like an expert. When you name your old demons—casting them out so to speak and casting out the doubts of those fearful parts of yourself ––you are taking on a new, empowered name of Self or Leader of my life.
    What parts of you needs to be named and, if not caste out, integrated with your larger brain and stronger Self to become part of your inner team? What will be your new name and sense of Self as you take on the empowered role of the leader and champion of your life? For coaching:

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Break Free of Procrastination and Anxiety by Controlling Your Fears

Break Free of Procrastination and Anxiety by Controlling Your Fears
by Neil Fiore, PhD

Our fear of mistakes, embarrassment, loss, or criticism can lead to futile attempts at controlling life, others, and the outcome of events. This only leads to greater anxiety and greater need to procrastinate, avoid, and control events, tasks, and people.

Having faced several life-threatening experiences by the age of 32, including a “terminal cancer” diagnosis, I know the power of coming to term with death and loss. I’m a big fan of facing fears immediately, saying to myself, “Yes, I could die in that situation; I could suffer loss with that person. I will choose what to do. I may not win, but I will play full out.” [new sentence] “By choosing to get my fear inoculation I can show up, get started on this project and become productive.”
Fear has its purposes and survival value. It warns us to be careful; to avoid being too impulsive or acting without enough knowledge, or to even procrastinate at times. Fear, like worry, asks us to do a Risk-Benefit Analysis from our higher, human brain (prefrontal cortex). It motivates us to make plans and strategies for survival.
I also know how denying our human vulnerability and trying to avoid what you fear can lead to destructive procrastination, attempts at control, and even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Fear builds when you try to control what happens in life or how others feel about you. The more important the goal, the more you try to get control which only makes you feel frustrated and out of control, often leading to panic. Control is like potato chips, you will always want more. It’s a dangerous drug and an illusion. On the one hand we have limited control over life and, on the other we can be very powerful in creating a comfortable living environment, friends, a delicious meal, plans, products and services, and a meaningful life. The trick is knowing the edges of what we control and when we must let go of trying to control.
To say make this point more succinctly, take a look at my version of the very elegant Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot control; courage to work on what I can control [mostly my attitude and how I treat myself], and wisdom to know the difference.

Instead of trying to control or trying to avoid what you fear might happen it is more empowering to face the worst that could happen—even death, loss, embarrassment, rejection, or loneliness. Facing fear reduces the fear; breaks the habit of fear and avoidance, and sets you free. Perhaps, just as “the truth will set you free,” so facing the truth of your human vulnerability also sets you free.
For procrastinators this means learning to face your fear of mistakes, criticism, self-doubt, and the awful self-threat that you would make yourself miserable if you fail.
For those who suffer from anxiety, chronic worry, or OCD, the fear of not being in control can lead to extreme anxiety and a full-blown panic attack. Yet lessening or curing OCD [and overcoming procrastination] requires that you repeatedly face your fears in small, manageable bites. This really means that you fully accept yourself as human and, therefore, as vulnerable to mistakes, hurts, loss, and joy. Perhaps it is this full acceptance of yourself that lessens fear and the need to control. Instead of trying to be like a god, an angel, or a Peter Pan who flies above human difficulties, you join with the rest of us in the humus, the humility, the humanity of being earthbound. Release the struggle of trying to control, let your muscles and mind relax and then discover that the chair, the floor, the earth, and the bed will hold you. Discover that you don’t have to try so hard alone; you’re connected and supported.


Change is constant; all relationships change.
My soul is from elsewhere,
I'm sure of that.
And I intent to end up there. . . .
I did not come here of my own accord
And I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.
--Jalaluddin Rumi 1207-1270

It’s Spring and our fledglings are about to leave the nest, flying off to the larger world that awaits them.

High schools and colleges all around the country will be having commencement exercises. So many of our fledglings are taking flight—trying out their wings and taking off to foreign lands and foreign homes, leaving us with empty nests. They think of their “commencement” as an end to the drudgery of homework and boring classes. But the word itself means a beginning, an inauguration, an initiation, or a new start; which it is for those leaving and those left.

We who are left with an empty nest in many cases will begin a new stage of our lives as well and new roles and even new identities. The roles and identity of mother and father carry such great weight that there should be a formal initiation, commencement for us to recognize the momentous journey parents take on: birth, first steps, leaving for daycare, kindergarten, first date, the stress of graduation from high school and college applications, and, eventually, leaving the nest.

It takes great courage to open oneself to the vulnerability of having children and birthing them into a world we can’t possibly control or protect them from. This Choice is an acknowledgement of our natural human vulnerability--not a weakness--and our stronger self.

We must continue to love our children without having control and without being controlling. And then we set them free to fly into life and feel a new level of loss. We have been so completely enmeshed in our role to parent, mentor, friend, teacher, and coach that we are shocked to discover that our job of 18 years is over; taken away with a “commencement” exercise, a graduation.

We lose our cherished and often stressful parental role but also a major identity—a large part of who we thought we were. We lose a part of our identity when we lose a job, a home, a relationship, or our health. The severity of the loss depends on how many of our identity eggs are in one basket. Those with diverse activities and roles in life may have a slightly easier time of losing one identity or one role. Nevertheless, there is a loss of identity when our children leave home.

Losing your identity can be a painful loss, but not necessarily a bad thing. It can open us to the unexplored aspects of our larger self. While always uncomfortable, the loss of identity can lead to living life more as a creative improvisation rather than following a set script; can open us to a surprise, a sense of wonder about “What’s next?” coaching: