Episode 136: How to Choose Joy, Even When Life Sucks
As healthcare providers, we tend to go above and beyond. We can sometimes find ourselves “carrying” others’ suffering – whether it’s our patients’ pain or our colleagues’ exhaustion. As a result, we get stuck seeking happiness in external things outside our control. But real joy comes from within. You can start to choose it every day in the tiniest of ways until it becomes your default in every circumstance.
In this episode of You Are Not a Frog, Angela Deutschmann joins us to talk about how to experience joy despite the challenges of the healthcare profession. She differentiates between happiness versus real joy and caring versus carrying other people’s suffering. Angela also expounds on the programming that sits in our unconscious minds. Then, she shares some actionable strategies to help you find joy and satisfaction in your everyday life.
Missing joy in your life? If you want to rekindle real joy within, stay tuned to this episode and learn how to become joyful whatever the circumstance is!
Here are three reasons why you should listen:
Find out the difference between happiness and real joy.
- Discover tools that will help you care without carrying.
- Learn how to reprogramme the stories you’ve created in your unconscious mind.
[05:51] The Difference Between Happiness and Real Joy
- Angela has run a lot of retreats, coaching, and deep processes for thousands of people over the last 20 years.
- People would rather be joyful than successful. When Angela realised this, it led her to dive deep into understanding more about joy.
- Happiness is what you feel when things go how you want; it works from outside going inward and is not within our control.
- Joy is a quality of self that we bring to our world regardless of the circumstances.
- Real joy works inside out and is within our control.
‘And when you ask people, would you rather be successful or be joyful? Would you rather achieve that or be joyful? The answer is always, in fact, joy.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[11:27] Finding Joy in Adversity
- The work is inward-focused.
- It’s freeing to realise and understand that things will never line up according to how you want them to be.
- With joy as the framework, you can begin to settle internally without needing something to go right first.
‘It doesn’t matter how hard you work, or how diligent you are, how much you show up for your patients, or how much you sacrifice for your children, that time is not coming. Nor does it need to.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[12:52] Caring vs Carrying
- We tend to connect our internal state to the state of the people we love.
- People in healthcare must understand the difference between caring and carrying.
- Think about how to do your work without over-compromising your joy.
- You can continue to care without allowing the carrying of other people’s suffering to jeopardise real joy.
[15:03] Tools to Help You Care without Carrying
- The Enneagram tool can alert you to some of your automatic internal assumptions.
- Guided meditation practice allows you to go deep enough and see your patterning.
- Familiarizing yourself with your tendencies allows you to recognise your triggers and responses to truths.
- Having an Enneagram understanding puts you in a position where you’re not at the mercy of your responses.
’There’s no sustainable future with no challenge and no pain, and where everything’s fun for evermore.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[19:18] Working on the Programming of Your Mind
- All of us experience a difficulty that affects our mental programming before age 7.
- What we do as a response is to create a defence mechanism and program to cope and survive.
- The programming you built at the first stages of your life sets in as you mature.
- These programs sit in our unconscious minds. Thus, reprogramming them requires us to set aside our analytical minds.
’Blame is distinct from responsibility. And responsibility is quite empowering. So yes, it’s the responsibility is on us to to create lives of joy, I would say that, but there’s no blame in the mix’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[23:21] Reprogramming Your Defence Mechanisms
- One of the most common programs people in Angela’s practice have is an overdeveloped sense of responsibility.
- Thinking that everything’s on you is an illusion of control that ends up causing more damage than anything else.
- Neuroscientist Dr Joe Dispenza suggests that the programme comes first, and the reality follows.
- We can become so addicted to being in control that we repeatedly create those circumstances.
- The work Angela does is changing the programming first by gradually alleviating the habitual internal state.
[28:55] The Danger of Blame
- It’s not about transferring blame from the external environment to yourself.
- Blame lowers your sense of joy. The lower your energy, the more difficult it is to elevate your perspective.
- Blame is distinct from responsibility. The latter is empowering.
- It’s our responsibility to create lives of joy, but there should be no blame in the mix.
[30:43] The Process of Reprogramming
- It’s a combination of repeated new exposure and intense immersive experiences.
- Deep programming requires you to slow down the analytical mind to allow you to work with the unconscious.
- You can create a new reality for yourself by using your imagination. It activates states in yourself that your external environment doesn’t yet make logical.
- After the relaxed state, bring the mind to your imagination and heart to envision what you would love to experience.
- Activating real joy within yourself is an internal job. When you do, it’s when things change.
‘It may even have served you to use those strategies you’ve been using. Being a people pleaser has really helped me to listen carefully, and to work with my heart open, for example. But it gets to the point, the moment it starts to compromise your own joy, then it’s you’ve outgrown it, and you are then quite ready to let that defense system go.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[43:23] Where the Analytical Part Comes in
- The role of the analytical mind is to catch yourself when you’re reverting to old stories and patterning.
- It’s normal to slip back to your past programming from time to time.
- Blaming yourself is of no value in this process. It’s about high self-noticing, not judgement or criticism.
- The only way to rebuild is to lure yourself off your old patterning toward something more appealing. It requires practice and repetition.
- The concept of neuroplasticity revolves around our ability to change our brains.
‘If you’re trying to change a neural pathway, you can’t just do it by saying, “Hey, I’m not allowed to do that anymore.” Try that guys, that will be a spectacular failure. The only way we can do this is to be seduced off our old patterning into something more appealing.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[49:27] How to Choose Joy over Suffering
- Five months is the minimum duration to establish a sustainable new practice.
- Begin small, but build the habit of taking your attention away from your circumstances. It can be as long as the duration of one song, as long as you do it daily,
- Listen to the episode to learn about the process of Angela’s meditation programme!
- Think of your joy as a muscle. You can choose to what degree you want to make it stronger. Get used to choosing joy where you can see it’s possible.
- Joyful people have a positive effect on the world around them. Unjoyful people have a destructive effect.
‘The old stories of “you’re just born this way”, or, “If you work in these kind of conditions, that’s the only way you can be” — that’s not true anymore.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
Angela Deutschmann is a personal growth specialist, leadership practitioner, and life coach at Lockstep. Their vision is to develop leaders into the finest versions of themselves. She is the founder of The Joy Studio, where she offers retreats, coaching, meditation programmes, and Enneagram Couples workshops. Before becoming a specialist teacher in personal growth, Angela worked in academia, education, and the corporate sector.
You can reach Angela through her LinkedIn or Instagram and learn more about her on her website.
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In today’s high-stress work environment, you may feel like a frog in boiling water. The pan has heated up so slowly that you didn’t notice the feeling of stress and overwhelm becoming the norm. You may feel it is impossible to survive AND thrive in your work.
Frogs generally have only two options — stay and be boiled alive or jump out of the pan. Fortunately, you are not a frog. You can change the way your mind works. Cultivate real joy in yourself — even in high-stress situations!
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Angela Deutschmann: There’s no time coming in the future where everything is going to line up according to how you want it to be and then stay there. It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how diligent you are or how much you show up for your patients, or how much you sacrifice for your children, that time is not coming nor does it need to, in fact. As startling and perhaps harsh, a reminder that that is it’s actually very freeing, because you can then begin to settle internally and to cultivate contentment or joy right away without needing something else first to go right.
Rachel, to put it bluntly, if I didn’t find a way to distinguish between caring and carrying, and if I didn’t commit all the time to infusing my work with joy, I wouldn’t still be doing what I’m doing. So it appears perhaps self indulgent, and to a degree, I think it does have to be. But joyful people have a positive effect on the world around them and unjoyful people have destructive effect. I’m not asking anyone to believe that. Go and have a look.
Rachel Morris: I’m terrible for living in the future, for thinking, I’ll be happy when, if only this happens, etcetera, but I’ve realized that this just leads to a deep dissatisfaction with the present moment, and I end up wishing my life away. But what if you could find joy right now, even in the most difficult situations you find yourself in? What if you didn’t need to wait until you’ve got your dream job, your colleagues started to behave themselves, or all of your kids were happy?
In this episode, I’m speaking with Angela Deutschmann, a leadership coach and practitioner who knows how to experience joy despite the ups and downs of life. In this conversation, we talk about why this is so vitally important, especially in the sorts of work that professionals in health and social care are doing, and we talk about how to feel joy, even when life is really, really hard.
I think this conversation is important for everybody right now, and I certainly learned a huge amount chatting to Angela. So listen if you want to learn some of the reasons why we think we can’t find joy and satisfaction. Listen if you want to understand what’s stopping us from experiencing joy right now, in the here and now, and get some actionable strategies that will start to make a difference right away.
Welcome to You are Not a Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in high stress, high stakes jobs. I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, a former GP now working as a coach, trainer and speaker. Like frogs in the pan of slowly boiling water, many of us don’t notice how bad the stress and exhaustion have become until it’s too late, but you are not a frog burning out or getting out are not to your only options.
In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you live and work so that you can beat stress and work happier. If like me, you’ve really enjoyed some time off over the summer, but a slightly dreading the onslaught of work and family related tasks that seem to multiply at this time of the year, then help us at hand.
We’ve created a free toolkit to help you take stock of where you’re at, and then plan how you will start to deal with that really important stuff you need to do rather than burying your head in the sand and just firefighting the urgent stuff. So click on the link in the show notes to sign up for your free overwhelm busting toolkit. Now, here’s this week’s episode. So it’s great to have with me on the podcast today, Angela Deutschmann.
Now, Angela is a leadership practitioner. She’s an Enneagram specialist, and she’s a life coach. She’s got 20 years experience in both corporate practice and private practice, and she’s really known for the depth of her work and her particular interest in joy. So welcome to the podcast, Angela.
Angela: Thank you. Thank you, Rachel and hi to everyone who listens in.
Rachel: We’re recording this and it’s the British summer and it’s the South African winter but it’s exactly the same temperature where we both are.
Angela: Yes, and you’re in short sleeves and I’m in a sweater and so thinking that our relationship to temperatures completely subjective, isn’t it?
Rachel: Totally, totally different. I just realized I wear the same wardrobe throughout the year. It doesn’t really matter. You just put a jumper on when you’re going out and leave it off in the summer, so there we are. But, hey, we have had that heatwave recently, and we all completely melted, so we got to rejoice just for that the nice 20 degree temperature.
Rachel: I wanted to get Angela on because Angela does some really, really deep work around finding joy, and one thing that I think is pretty lacking at the moment, particularly for those of us working in health care is joy. We’ve done quite a lot of things on the podcast around finding joy at work, having fun at work, but I think, Angela, you go really deep into this concept of joy.
Just like to start off with, how did you even get into all this in the first place talking about joy? What led you towards the work that you’re doing now?
Angela: For about the last 20 years, Rachel, particularly in my private practice, I have run retreats and done coaching and really deep processes for thousands of people. While everybody comes to coaching or healing or inner work for different reasons on the surface, what I started to realize was that the bottom line of human desire is actually always the joy of experience, even if the route to that for some might seem to be success or good relationship with a child or better health or meaning and work.
Actually, underneath all those things is, I think, our most powerful driver, which is around creating joy in our experience of being alive. When you ask people, would you rather be successful or be joyful? Would you rather achieve that or be joyful? The answer is always, in fact, joy. So that got me thinking, well, why don’t we understand a little bit more about this. What’s sitting under all these daily drivers?
What if we got a little more sophisticated about and brave about committing to that, which doesn’t mean you throw away all those other desires, but you realize what they’re all actually for?
Rachel: I mean, I’ve heard this talked about a lot recently, that actually people would much rather be joyful rather than successful, but we often think success is going to bring us joy. Unfortunately, it’s probably the other way around. We’ve also talked a lot about happiness at work. Is there a difference between happiness and joy?
Angela: Yes, and it may sound a little bit semantic, but it really matters to know the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness, I would describe as what you feel when things go the way you want them to. So the kids are balanced and doing well, and it’s nearly time to go on leave, or there’s a windfall in your bank account. We feel happy because those are things we want, and there’s nothing at all wrong with happiness.
It’s wonderful, but it’s not in our control. So happiness, I would describe as the way you feel when the external world does what you wanted to do, and hurray when that happens, but it doesn’t always and it is not controllable all together. Whereas joy is a quality of self. We could call it a state, a condition perhaps that we bring to our world. Regardless of whether things are going our way or not, we can be committed to our own internal joy.
So that is within our control, and it is from the inside out, whereas happiness is from the outside in. Again, nothing wrong with happiness, only that if you only find yourself content and feeling like your life is worth living when you’re happy. In other words, when your external environment is doing what you think it should, that’s quite disempowered.
Rachel: That’s really, really harder. We’ve obviously got lots of colleagues with long COVID right now. We’ve got lots of people with workloads that they’re finding unmanageable. We got people with other health problems or the huge mental health epidemic. Yes, if we waited till that was all okay in our lives to be able to be joyful, then that’s, that’s really tricky. It’s reminding me of the book, I think, it’s called the Happiness Equation and Mogul Dad who does a podcast.
He’s the Chief Business Officer for Google, I think. He basically came up with the Happiness Equation, which happiness equals expectations minus reality, or reality minus expectation, always get it the wrong way around. I guess your expectations are under your control, but reality is totally not under your control. Much as we try and control our environment, and maybe it’s slightly easier when we’re a bit younger, when we don’t have families.
We don’t have children, and I know that if there’s a problem with one of your children, you feel absolutely dreadful. The saying is that you’re only as happy as your most miserable child. I think that’s so true. If anyone in your family is suffering, you tend to suffer with them. So I love this idea that joy is something innate, that is not dependent on circumstance, and that’s very spiritual, isn’t it?
Because I guess most of the world’s major religions are all about finding contentment, and joy, even in adversity, right?
Angela: Indeed, and I think it’s suggests that the work is inward focused as opposed to where we all tend to spend so much of our effort and our energy is on trying to make our outer worlds go the way we think they should go. We don’t want to abdicate that responsibility or withdraw altogether, either, but again, to recognize that there’s no time coming in the future, where everything is going to line up according to how you want it to be and then stay there.
It doesn’t matter how hard you work, or how diligent you are or how much you show up for your patients, or how much you sacrifice for your children, that time is not coming nor does it need to, in fact. As startling and perhaps harsh, a reminder that that is it’s actually very freeing, because you can then begin to settle internally and to cultivate contentment or joy right away without needing something else first to go right.
As a mum of teenage boys myself, I absolutely recognize the tendency to connect our internal state, to that of the people we love in particular kids, but also patients. That’s one really important step that I work a lot with my clients, many of whom are also carers, or in some kind of health care profession is to understand the difference between caring and carrying.
In my own profession, I’ve really didn’t distinguish between those two things, probably for the first 10 years, and I reached a point where I always flirted with the idea of stopping doing what I do, stopping working with people in trauma or in deep existential crisis, which I tend to do, because the carrying got so heavy. I assumed that that was how it had to be because of the nature of my work.
But if we look at the difference, again, between happiness and joy and if we get serious and committed to joy, then we look at that same scenario a little differently. We think, okay, how can I do this work without over compromising my joy? That’s when it hit me that there’s a difference between caring and carrying, and that I could continue to care and to care a lot without allowing the carrying of other people’s suffering to compromise or jeopardize my joy to such an extent that it was leading me to think whether I could even continue providing that service.
Rachel: How does that work then? How did you work out how to care without carrying that with you?
Angela: One of the really helpful things for me and you refer to it a little earlier is a personality profiling tool to put it at its most bland, called the Enneagram, which came into my life quite a long time ago and alerted me to some of my automatic internal assumptions. The Enneagram type that I am has the tendency to get status or ego kicks from helping and giving.
So once I became alert to that, that really helped me to recognize that it was entirely possible to care and care deeply, which I do, without trying to be the rescuer or the savior of all my clients. The Enneagram alerted me to the fact that I may well have been airing on that side, so that was one tool that helped me deeply. The second tool that across my life has been of extraordinary value in figuring these things out has been meditation and in particular, a kind of guided meditation practice that really has got me deep enough into my own patterning to be able to see it.
Rachel: That’s really interesting, and I’d love to ask you a bit more about this deep inner work, this patterning in a second, but just quickly, going back to the Enneagram profile, and you’re saying that it’s an Enneagram two, the giving is part of your motivation. When you were saying earlier, I’m an Enneagram seven, and so fully focused on the future and having fun, and avoiding pain and all that sort of stuff.
Then so when you were saying, if you wait until everything is fine, all your kids are entirely happy or your life is going exactly the way you want it to be to be happy. That day is never gonna come, and that’s really difficult for me to hear, because I’m like, ah, I guess that’s where I live, it’s in the future. This is what we could do. These are ideas and your future has to be bright and happy and joyful, and so to hear that, actually, you’ve got to be able to find the joy even when it is painful.
It’s an Enneagram seven, that’s more difficult. I guess I struggle less with the carrying of people’s pain. Is that quite typical for the different numbers on the Enneagram?
Angela: Oh, you’ve hit it on the head. It’s exactly that, and that’s why having some kind of familiarity with your own tendencies is so valuable. You’ve just illustrated it, because you could recognize how triggered you were by the statement. There’s no sustainable future with not challenge and not pain, and it were everything’s fun for evermore. You could recognize your own trigger, and you could realize also that that’s particularly your response to that truth.
If it’s your response to that truth and you also have the ability to interrogate it, and perhaps not to be at the mercy of that response, if you don’t want to, and to go just a little further, then to reject or to overreact, which is what Enneagram understanding offers us.
Rachel: Yeah, and if anyone’s interested in the Enneagram, we did an episode a while back with Annie Hanekom, just going through the different numbers of the Enneagram. So understanding yourself, understanding your triggers is quite is quite important. But that second thing you said was about the meditation and doing that inner work so that you do this mentioned programming of your mind. Can you say a little bit more about how that works?
Angela: Yes, and there’s lots of insight into this part of ourselves from various disciplines, but the bottom line is that all of us, usually before the age of seven, bump into the world in a difficult way in one form or another. Sometimes it’s real trauma and threat for certain people, but even for those who wouldn’t look back at their childhood and confront anything particularly hard, nonetheless, we all run into negative messaging from the world, even with the most well intentioned and loving caregivers or the safest environment.
What we do then and it’s quite genius is that we create defense mechanisms to keep safe and to survive in the face of what as a child can appear very, very threatening. It may not have been actually threatening, but at the age of four, you can’t really discern, can you, between something that is very seriously a risk for you, or just a bad mood of your mum on one day.
We can’t make those distinctions, and so when we run into frightening or critical, any form of negative messaging about ourselves, we create a program to help us cope as best we can at that age. For some people, the program, like mine, is to become super pleasing to everyone because that then feel safe. If I’m being helpful, and if I’m even indispensable to people, well, then I’m going to be included in the tribe and people will look off to me as an example.
But other programs look entirely different. Some people go exactly the opposite way, and they get really tough. They say, well, I’m not going to be hurt again by anyone, because I’m not going to let anyone in to my heart in the first place. So I’ll push everyone away. I’ll be very displeasing, because that’s safer. So your programming or your particular unique set of defenses or strategies for handling what you had to handle in the first stage of your life sets in very, very deeply.
The earlier they occur, the deeper they sit in. Those programs don’t live, Rachel, unfortunately, they don’t live in our intellectual minds. They’re not sitting in the frontal cortex. They are sitting in what people refer to as the unconscious mind. So if you want to read while reprogram those strategies, well, deeply, you need to be able to set aside your analytical mind a little bit, or at least turn the volume down, so that you can heal or that you can release programs that might really be in the way of your joy, but are quite internalized and almost irrational.
Because when you’re 45 and you’ve lived in the world of birds, and you’ve got even just a hint of some capability and support system, then your fears as a four year old don’t sound rational anymore, but they are still at play. That’s what we mean by programming.
Rachel: That is so interesting. What sorts of programs and programming have you noticed people have as their defense mechanisms in their subconscious? What have you recognized in clients over the years?
Angela: I would say one of the most common ones, certainly amongst the people that glammed up in my practice, is a completely overdeveloped sense of responsibility. As in, it’s on me to make this all go well. It’s on me to make my children happy. It’s on me to ensure that my patients recover. It’s on me. That is a very common one, at least in my circles. It is a defense because it’s a way, I mean, it’s totally false, but it is at least an illusion of control.
But that very illusion of control causes more damage than anything else. So the reach for control is one of the most common I see, not the only one by any means but a very common one.
Rachel: So that reaching for control in order to get control, you then take the responsibility on because you can’t control other people but you know you control yourself. So you think right then I ought to and this is what we hear time and time again and all the work that we do, talk about stories in your head, it’s that I should, I ought to. If I don’t do it, who else is going to do it?
I’m the only one that can do it and those stories that even if, I guess, some people would say, well, they are actually true stories in the head which we can always question. But if you literally are the only doctor in the practice and you’ve got 20 patients that want to see you, it does appear to be very true, and it might actually be true. So how do you cope with reprogramming that defense mechanism when all your external circumstances are saying to you, it’s the right way to react? It’s right. It’s true.
Angela: Right. So actually, the newest research and a lot of this comes from all the various contributors, but one of the most remarkable in my view has been the neuroscientist, Joe Dispenza, who suggests to us that the program comes first, and the reality follows and not the other way around. That’s quite a big statement.
But bear with me for a moment that we almost, and this is his language, we can become so addicted to, for example, the feeling of being in control, or being the one who steps up or being responsible or suffering even. As odd as it sounds, we can become so habituated to feeling that way that we land up, partially creating those circumstances again, and again and again around us to give us the reason to keep on feeling that way.
So the work that I do and many others is to say, what if we change the programming first? What if we bit by bit by bit alleviate that habitual internal state? What if we put the location of the work there as opposed to trying to change the external environment? Because as you rightly say, when you are looking through a particular pair of glasses, you are going to say it can’t be any other way.
But that might be the fault of the glasses, and not necessarily the only way things can be. If you want to challenge yourself on that, which I would suggest is ask yourself the question, is there any single other person in the world who loves to do what I love to do, but manages to do it in another way that isn’t like this? Because if there’s one example of that, then you can begin to recognize that there may well be other options, but within a certain particular of lenses, you won’t and can’t be expected to be able to see another way.
The focus of my work and it’s not the only way, of course, to make progress in one’s life, but the focus of my work is on what is that pair of glasses you’re wearing? How could we perhaps take them off, even though people will fight kicking and screaming? As much as our lens makes us suffer, we also get very attached to it and want to fight to keep it on.
Rachel: Yeah, it’s quite confronting, isn’t it? If you suddenly got to take off the way that you’ve been saying the world, and also, I guess, that also means that you can blame how things are on external circumstances and the world, then suddenly, it’s actually down to you, and that becomes a lot trickier.
Angela: It does, but I would hop in here quiet sternly and say that blame is very, very unhelpful here, even if we start to say, okay, it’s on me. It’s my fault. I absolutely am not suggesting that we just transfer blame from the external environment to the self because blame lowers our sense of joy, as is obvious. The lower your energy, the less likely you’re able to elevate your perspective.
So we don’t think about blame because it’s not that it is your fault, that you developed those strategies. No. Is it your mom’s fault that you develop those strategies? No, not if you look at what her experience was before. Where’s the actual blame? It isn’t there. But blame is distinct from responsibility. Responsibility is quite empowering. So yes, the responsibility is on us to create lives of joy, I would say that, but there’s no blame in the mix.
Rachel: I love that because blame just brings shame as well, doesn’t it? Shame is such a destructive, destructive thing. I think a lot of people work in healthcare do feel the shame that they can’t get themselves sorted out, or the show that they might have gotten to the these difficult habits, so yeah. So we talked about this reprogram, what do you actually do to do that? How can you reprogram?
Because these are so deeply ingrained ways of practicing, I’m presuming that literally, it can’t happen overnight. It’s got to be a process, right?
Angela: I’d love to say yes, Rachel, and 9 times out of 10, it is yes, but it tends to be a combination of repeated new exposure, I’ll explain what that is, as well as in tents, or immersive experiences, which can be quite instantaneous. So it’s a combination of changing the internal programming by regular fairly boring, daily reminder as well as the option to have quite powerful, big experiences that are the opposite of what your programming is, okay?
But to do deep reprogramming, we need to be engaging with that part of our mind, which is actually also a certain part of the brain, as it turns out, and so we need to be able to slow down or calm down the analytical, verbal, intellectual mind enough, so that we can work with the unconscious, or really that child’s mind that is sitting underneath the intellectual grown up logical, rational self. There are multiple ways to do that.
Hypnotherapy is one thing that does that. All it does is it just puts the analytical mind in a sofa for a little while, like you relax there. You take a break. You’re off this afternoon, which is often met with resistance, of course, but we can do it. Then we can work with the more suggestible part of the mind and the niche. But the kind of meditation I’ve learned from Joe Dispenza does that actually just in lighter ways.
So they are meditation technologies that now with the new neuroscience understanding we’ve developed in the last 10 years, include things like particular kind of sound, particular pronunciation of words, certain music and beats that we know help quiet that analytical mind. It never goes completely away, nor does it need to, but when it’s relaxing on the sofa in the background, then we can begin to expose their unconscious mind to another way.
You can do that through visioning or mental rehearsal or tapping into your heart and feeling gratitude. Now, these things don’t work so well when the analytical mind is still hammering on. It doesn’t believe it. It will reject it. So I’m very interested in my practice at the moment to work with people in that space where that analytical mind is on the lowered arm so that we can work with what’s under there.
The plant medicine work does exactly the same thing, or any technology really that allows you to rest in a safe way, that logical part of the self.
Rachel: So it’s getting into a state where, yes, you can part that left brain chatter and access some of the deepest stuff, which is, yeah, I guess things like mindfulness based stress reduction, that sort of thing. Can that also help? Or does it need to be something slightly different?
Angela: Yes, it can, as long as you are doing two things. The calming is one piece, and so that’s really always where we start, because relaxation is actually what gives that analytical mind permission to sit on a sofa for a little bit, and I push in. So yes, any tactic that allows you to breathe more deeply, sort of breath work, or mindfulness or walking your dog in the field, same, but relaxation is only the first piece. It’s valuable on its own.
If you want to stop there, it’s still very helpful for wellness. But what we talking about here requires another piece, and that means giving that unconscious mind another truth. It landed on a truth long ago, and it hooked there. There’s no blame for that, and in fact, it may even have served you to use those strategies you’ve been using. Being a people pleaser has really helped me to listen carefully, and to work with my heart open, for example.
But it gets to the point, the moment it starts to compromise your own joy, then you’ve outgrown it. You are then quite ready to let that defense system go. So when you’re very relaxed, you need to do a second piece, which is to show that part of your mind another way, another truth, which are so well positioned to do because you’re a grown up, and because you do know better.
In that very relaxed suggestible state, you can bring up a preferred state. You can tune into it. You can envision it. That is, after all, what hypnotherapy does isn’t it? You know that you relax deeply, and then the hypnotherapist will offer new behavior into the mind at that point. But we don’t need hypnotherapy to do that. We can do it ourselves. It’s exactly, Rachel, what athletes do when they mentally rehearse before big games.
It’s not anything different from that. You are quietening the mind to the point where it is fairly suggestible, and then you envision what it is that you’d like to create or to experience or to be. It’s not about controlling the external environment. It’s about envisioning yourself in a certain state. The more you do that, the more that unconscious self begins to recognize an alternative.
But it can also happen, as people report, on plant medicine journeys, or when they’ve had a big, beautiful breakthrough conversation with a spouse, maybe. Sometimes a whole new way can land powerfully and I like to catch them both.
Rachel: Yeah, wow, that’s wonderful, and of course, everyone’s going, but how can I do that quick one. How can I do the quick one? There’s all sorts of stuff out there, and that’s coming out in evidence about all that sort of plant medicine stuff as well. If people were to want to try doing this for themselves, so they need to have some sort of guide in terms of the meditation bit and then envisaging a new a new reality.
Or can they just do that themselves? Are there particular exercises that you might get people to do places where they could start even thinking about that?
Angela: Yes, you’ve got all these capacities yourself, really. In fact, children do this often, quite naturally, when they daydream or they do imaginative play, because this is the faculty that we use is imagination to activate states in yourself, that your external environment doesn’t yet make logical. So you’ve got to be able to activate imagination. So on the most basic level, a day dreaming experience that you can do in whatever way is wonderful for you, is a very good place to start, but remember, there are two components.
The one is the relaxation piece to the point where you feel it has the litmus taste, need to feel. You need to get to the point where you’re like you would say, you’re a little bit spacey. Like, you haven’t lost control. You totally know where you are. You’ve still got your normal faculties going beautifully, but you are so relaxed that the thoughts aren’t as fast. They’re still there, but they’re not so fast. They’re not so insistent.
They’re not so furious and you feel little spacing. By the way, we are programmed to love that state. Why do you think we drink or use sugar, or any of the things we do? Because we love it when our minds slow down a little, and we get a bit more relaxed. We need it. We’re wired for those experiences, in my view. So in whatever way you can do that, but then don’t forget the second part, which is to bring to mind, as powerfully as you can, in your imagination, but also your heart is to envision what it is about yourself that you would love to experience.
So to imagine yourself confident perhaps for the meeting you’ve got tomorrow or patient with your child or a little more joyful in your practice. We want to activate these states internally. That’s what we said earlier, that joy really isn’t internal job, because then you’re bringing a slightly different self, aren’t you? You’re bringing a little bit of a different energy into your same old life, and things change.
They really do over time in response to someone bringing another energy into their same old life. But I would really encourage folks to feel resonant with this or really committed to investigate the meditations of Joe Dispenza. Those are certainly, in all my career, I’ve never encountered a more powerful technology for this. If I ever do, I use that. So it’s not some sort of loyalty, except that I’m very loyal to whatever I see has the greatest impact on my clients, and without question, it’s the guided meditations of Joe Dispenza.
Rachel: So we’ve talked a lot about this sort of inner work, the changing your internal state, where does the analytical bit come in, in terms of changing the stories that are running through your head? Or do you think actually, once you’ve managed to change the internal stuff, the stories will automatically change? Or is there something around looking at the reality, what’s true and changing that?
Angela: It’s a great question, because I think we always want an integrated approach. We want to use all our faculties, including our analytical mind, which has a wonderful, important vital role to play. So there’s the reprogramming of the unconscious mind, which we’ve talked about, but that’s got to be followed up by catching yourself when you find that you are reverting to old stories or past programming that causes you suffering, and you will revert.
These things aren’t actually neural pathways. They laid down in the brain. So in all likelihood, it’s going to be a bit of a two steps forward, one step back relationship to changing this and that’s great. It’s no problem with that. But you do need to stop yourself or catch yourself when you begin to notice that you’re running back down for example up. I’m confusing, caring with carrying. Okay, there I’m doing it again.
All right, no problem because if we’re going to blame at that point again, can I repeat that blame causes your energy to go lower? That’s exactly the opposite of what we’re going for here, so it’s of no value to us. So not judgment or criticism, but very high, self noticing, and so, certainly for me, I do still slip into that caring piece. I know it’s eager for me, as I explained earlier.
So I find it quite helpful to stop myself and say, you know what you don’t have to open up a 7pm appointment on a weekend. Watch what that does to your internal state, because if I’m doing something from an ego state, as opposed to a joy state, I usually don’t like the outcome. Anyway, I’m not at my best. So that’s the place for the analytical mind, put it to work.
It’s wonderful at noticing and having an opinion. Make it work for you in terms of catching yourself back in an old pattern, and then you just gently say, okay, stop. Now, this is where you need to have something else to go to, right? If you’re trying to change a neural pathway, you can’t just do it by saying, hey, I’m not allowed to do that anymore. Try that guys that will be a spectacular failure.
The only way we can do this is to be seduced off our old patterning into something more appealing. That’s the only way in my experience that we rebuild. It’s not enough to just say, I mustn’t do this. It’s not enough. You need something more appealing, more seductive to turn your attention towards, and that is the thing that you’ve envisioned around what you would prefer.
Rachel: Get it now. So you’ve done that internal work. You’ve said envisaged what it’s like to have joy to feel relaxed.
Angela: By the way, you’ve got to feel it. Yeah, sorry to interrupt you.
Rachel: No, that’s helpful. So when your ego, your analytical mind is what I think of as the ego, that’s, right? That analytical sense of self starts to, want to do things or starts with those internal stories. You can’t just go, right stop and stop until that case stop. You go stop, and let’s go to that other state that I’ve already practiced. I already know what that feels like, so I’ve got somewhere to go with that.
Angela: Exactly. Even if all it allows you to do is to catch yourself in a trigger, and you’re about to go back to the old program. Even if all you can do is just relax at that moment, just relax because you’ve practiced that now. Practice is a really good word that you threw in there, because we call it, of course, a meditation practice or any technology you may want to use. That is what it’s for: we practice, feeling calm, being relaxed.
We practice what it’s like to engage with maybe a very challenging patient, but in a peaceful way. We’ve practiced it mentally before and so we have something to reach to. But even though you can have very big, intense experience in multiple ways, it is also going to acquire repetition. Don’t be impatient or put off but we know for sure now that our brains are plastic.
It’s one of the most exciting times in my view to be alive, because the old stories of you’re just born this way or if you work in these kind of conditions, that’s the only way you can be. That’s not true anymore, because neuroplasticity is now a completely accepted reality. We can change our brains. They’re wonderful. They change.
Rachel: Yeah, I think the problem with that is, like you said, it takes time. It takes repetition. It takes practice, and most of us want this really quick fix into how we can do this and how we can do that. Because in today’s culture, we’re used to being able to just order something and it can the next day or download it straight. So this takes time and it takes work and you got to put in time and headspace and maybe invest a little bit of money and all that stuff. But I think if we knew what the potential outcome would be, it’d be pretty much worth it.
Angela: The meditation program I ran is five months long, and that’s from years and years of tweaking and changing that because that to me feels like the amount of time we need to really bed down a practice that for sure our egos are going to resist, so that we know. We build that in and we make room for it and we laugh about it but that’s how long my introductory program takes working together starting at the beginning, and laying down these new pathways just to make it real.
I think that five months is a minimum amount for the establishment of a really sustainable new practice, not just dipping in to the headspace app for a couple of minutes. I don’t mean that. I really mean committing to making your internal state more powerful than your external circumstances. That’s the bottom line here, and we can do it.
Rachel: Yeah, I guess that is the secret to finding contentment, enjoy through all circumstances, no matter what’s going on. How long do people meditate for then each week? How many sessions are there each week on a five month program like that?
Angela: We start fairly small, but we do have a program that has got something at least day, because to bed down the base and commitment of withdrawing from life, even just sometimes it’s just for the duration of one song. So we begin really small, but build the habit of taking your attention away from your circumstances, so you can put it on your own state. As simple as that sounds, it’s not for the majority of Western adults, but we’ve got something every day, even teeny bits that we build up.
I don’t want to frighten you, listeners. But we build up every group every time to being able to hold meditations of well over an hour. At the end, people are asking if were there longer ones. These are people, professionals, always with executives. It’s very busy lives. But somehow, time can be elastic when we’ve begun to make our own state a priority somehow. The way you always find time to just watch that one Netflix episode of whatever you binging on, you can squeeze it in and the same approach applies.
Rachel: Yeah, definitely. I’ve certainly been watching far too much Love Island at the moment, which I don’t think they have Love Island Africa, but oh my gosh, what a waste of brainpower and space and time habits. So I’m really interested in all this, these meditation courses. I would certainly encourage any of the listeners to check these out. We’ll put links to your program, if that’s okay, in the show notes and linked to the the Joe Dispenza stuff.
What I’d love to know, though, is for people that would love to consider this in the future, but at the moment are just a little bit overwhelmed, feeling that oh crumbs, even five minutes a day of anything going to be tricky, are there any quick wins that you’ve got? Because I know we talked about the ego being really threatened by joy, and I know when we’ve spoken before this podcast, you’re talking to me about how people really do self sabotage their own joy quite a lot.
What are the quick choices that we can make to choose joy over the, well, I guess, alternative is stress, and anxiety and suffering? Are there any sort of consistent things that you find that your clients do that that make a big difference?
Angela: One useful way to think about it is to consider your joy as a muscle. I think that’s a really good metaphor, because as you weren’t immediately recognize, it’s not good for us to make muscles strong by overdoing things. You’re not going to get your muscles strong by running 10 kilometers on your first day of training. In fact, you likely to do damage. So think about your own joy as a muscle and where you might be with that could be different from where I am or anyone else.
It’s not because some people are just inherently blessed or inherently lucky. It’s everyone has the muscle, and you can choose to what degree you want to exercise it and the stronger it is, the more it can serve you. The more can do for you and the more likely you’ll be able to access it. But with that in mind, what I would encourage is for you to take a macro view on building up your joy to start.
Aside from all the internal work and reprogramming, we’ve talked about take tiny little opportunities. The smaller the better in your everyday life to just make a little switch up in joy. So that can be as small as deciding that you are going to put something more colorful on your desk or wash your curtains because they’re a little gloomy or walk outside during your lunch hour for five minutes.
Actually sit on the grass or play a very amazing piece of music to yourself while you’re doing your emails or add some crunch to your normal old salad. Whatever it may be just dial the joy up one degree, and really that is possible for everyone. For everyone in the tiniest little micro way, start to get used to choosing joy where you can see it’s possible. I know there many areas you think it’s not possible, and for those, we need big muscles.
But let’s just start with the small ones. So that you acclimatized to joy so that you begin to make friends with it, and not see it as something that only can happen if you retire, or if that child finally starts studying or whatever it is. If you think about joy in that sort of distant, mega sense, it’s very difficult to build a muscle that way. Let’s build it in a micro, tiny, daily way, and see where it goes,
Rachel: Wow, gosh, I could keep talking to you about this for hours on end, but we really, really are out of time. There’s just so much and I think we’re gonna have to get you back, if that’s okay, at some point to talk about this more. I just think this is such an important message for people, this not waiting until everything’s okay until the workload is manageable, until I’m in the right job, until my family is sorted, until we’ve got enough funding, until this, until that because you will be waiting forever.
I think one of the criticisms of all this stuff and the criticism I get a lot from my work and what I’m talking about is that this is really self indulgent. It’s all very nice. It’s all about feeling feeling good, but what about all those people that can’t do this, or whatever. But I sincerely believe that people who have more joy in their life, who are more joyful, will be better at what they’re doing.
Angela: Rachel, to put it bluntly, if I didn’t find a way to distinguish between caring and caring, and if I didn’t commit all the time to infusing my work with joy, I wouldn’t still be doing what I’m doing. So it appears perhaps self indulgent, and to a degree, I think it does have to be but joyful people have positive effect on the world around them and unjoyful people have destructive effect. I’m not asking anyone to believe that.
Go and have a look. Go and have a look who bullies, who hurts, who’s mean, who’s greedy, and you’re not going to find authentically joyful states behind destructive impact, and the reverse is also true. I recognize that it’s a real risk to place the attention and resources on yourself when the need feels so great out there then challenge that logic a little bit more and go and have a look at where the deeply truthful, sustainable blessings come from.
Rachel: Well, I think we need to end there. That is so wonderfully put, Angela. Thank you so much. If people want to find out a little bit more about you, about your work, about your courses, where can they go to do that?
Angela: The joystudio.co.cd or the Joy Studio page on Facebook. My children telling me I am so behind the times to still have a Facebook page, but there you go. I do.
Rachel: So website or Facebook, and presumably people can contact you via there as well.
Angela: Of course.
Rachel: Great, and then maybe, perhaps in the next couple of years, we could organize some sort of joy retreat or something that people can come and book on a common experience this themselves, that would be wonderful.
Angela: Wonderful. Thank you, Rachel, for having me.
Rachel: Really great to speak to you, and we’ll speak again soon. Thank you.
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