Grief is natural to humans, and its intensity resonates with our love for others. Although grief can be overwhelming, it is a healthy process for everyone to transform.
In this powerful episode, KL Wells sits down with Dr. Bill Crawford—a licensed psychologist, author of 8 books, and an organizational consultant who helps organizations and individuals access their best knowledge and interpersonal skills, regardless of the situation.
In this powerful episode, he and KL dive deep into discovering the 5 Steps of Healthy Grieving, learning how our brain works in times of grief and loss, and how we have the ability to take back our power even in the most traumatic situations.
This is all illustrated in his message of “Grieving the Shattered Dream.” Don’t miss this episode!
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Dr. Bill Crawford On Grieving The Shattered Dream
We are so blessed to have this man with us in the show. I met him years ago. He has spoken to several of my groups. He is such an extraordinary man on this planet, doing amazing work in terms of changing people’s lives. With Master’s and PhD in Psychology, and eight books under his belt, I would say the last book that I love and adore, Life From The Top Of The Mind, was immensely helpful in me navigating my journey in the midst of my son’s addiction. It is on our book list. You get to meet Bill Crawford in this episode. I am thrilled to have him with us. We’re going to have a very powerful conversation about Grieving the Shattered Dream. With that, I’m going to turn it over to you, Bill.
Thank you. By the way, I’ve loved working with you and your groups in that area in Eugene. Are you still in Eugene?
It’s a great country with wonderful people there. Every time you’ve had me there has been a real pleasure. Thank you for that opportunity. The whole thing around grieving, especially as I started doing it with Vistage, was because you called Vistage with, “Do we have anybody that does grieving stuff?” I’ve done 2 or 3 or 4 of these, and they’re very powerful and a lot of fun. It seems to be meaningful.
Our sculpture does such a poor job of this. The fact that you and I had a conversation around grieving, and in that conversation found out that you’re an expert in this arena, I’m like, “You need to be talking about that within the Vistage community too.” Anyway, I’m thrilled that’s happened and that you’re able to bring that to our community.
Thanks. The way you become an expert in anything is you get thrown into the fire. When I was around 21, I was the only child. My mom and dad died of cancer within around 6 months of each other when I was around 21. I was from East Texas. I didn’t know anything about emotion. I didn’t know anything about grieving. Being a guy, it freaked me out. I shut down, put all the walls up, and decided, “I’m not going to feel anything negative for the rest of my life.”
Unfortunately, I stayed in that shutdown mode for about ten years because I was so afraid of touching that pain and getting overwhelmed by it until I got into a counseling program at the University of Houston, where they’re smart enough to make you deal with your own stuff before they let you loose on the public.
We were sitting around talking about our lives. I said, “My mom and dad died from cancer when I was around 21, but I’m okay.” They went, “What?” I went, “Stuff happens. You’ve got to move on. You’ve got to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” They went, “Bill, if you’re going to help people deal with this stuff, you can’t blow it off like that.”
I knew they were right, but I was so afraid of touching that pain. It took me about six months to get finally courageous enough to touch that pain. When you haven’t cried over losing your parents in ten years, when you start crying, you can’t stop. For the first time in my life, it felt good to feel bad. It was the first time I touched the love I had for my parents in ten years. You can’t touch love. It’s too close to the pain.
Now when I’m helping people deal with grief, I call the tears “liquid love.” It is a behavioral manifestation of how much we care. Unfortunately, our culture sees it as breaking down, falling to pieces, losing it, and becoming a basket case, very pejorative terms. I say our Western culture. Some of the Eastern cultures and the Mediterranean cultures dive right into it and are much more open to that. We see it that way.
It’s become a specialty of mine because I experienced it and went through some transformation. In that transformation, I stumbled across a gentleman by the name of Ken Moses, a psychologist up in Chicago, who’s come up with the concept of Grieving the Shattered Dream. He works with parents who’ve lost a child. You can imagine the shattered dream that goes with there.
It’s a great concept because he says what resonates with me, “Often, the intensity of the grief isn’t about what we’ve lost. It’s about what we’ll never be as a result of that.” Since we all have dreams about our kids, relationships, jobs, pets, and life, they’re always perfect. When they get shattered, that makes that grief more intense.
In trying to help people come to some understanding of the process, number one, the whole concept of Grieving the Shattered Dream seems to resonate with people. The idea of looking at it as a process that is designed to help us move from the past to the future, from inaction to action, from shattered dreams to more purposeful dreams but it is supposed to be helpful. The challenge is to look at all the ways we find ourselves feeling grief.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross goes into the five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That was good when it came out because it normalized the process. If anybody has ever done any grieving, you don’t go from this stage to this stage and that stage, and then wind up in acceptance. That was it. It’s like you go one and go back to the other. You repeat it and you come.
Ken Moses took the five stages of grief and came up with what he calls the Seven Feeling States of Grieving. He talked about how each of them serves a purpose. The denial and shock are designed to have us be able to step back enough so we’re not overwhelmed by it. It’s designed to give us a moment to marshal external and internal resources so that we can step into the process. He talks about sadness and tears as a natural, normal and healthy process.
That’s the challenge that we have to recognize. People talk about grief being a wave of emotion. Driving down the road, all of a sudden, a wave of emotion washes over me. If we’re in the ocean and here comes a wave, if we dive into the wave, we come out on the other side. If we fight the wave, the wave will take us and throw us on the floor of the ocean and row us around.
One of the things I encourage people to do after they recognize the grieving, the shattered dream component is to be able to discern what aspects of grieving are helpful that I want to feed. What acts of grieving do I want to maybe minimize so that because they’re not very helpful? Not move them into a process of figuring that out.
I love that you touched on courage and that deep love is inherently present in grief. You can’t have one without the other and the transformation that takes place. I believe both of us are talking about a transformation in terms of a higher evolution for ourselves through the process of grief. This is a very powerful conversation. I was talking about this with Patty.
I said, “The day that Sam was arrested and I stood on the sidewalk and watched that whole thing take place in front of me, I was very aware. Every dream I had for him shattered on that road right then and there on that sidewalk.” To be touching this through your lens, I completely admire and believe in your words. Also, for our readers, your dad was a recovering alcoholic. Bill just doesn’t come to this through the looking glass of his own grief but he comes through it through also AA.
I grew up an AA baby. My mom and dad were married 25 years before I was born and I was their only child. My dad got sober three years before I was born. I was born into an AA family. They took me to meetings and I played around while they talked to people. People would come over to the house and spill their guts. That whole transformational culture was a big part of my growing up. You don’t know it when you’re growing up.
You just think that’s the way it’s supposed to be and everybody’s that way. That served me well after that. There’s some grieving you got to do when you’re coming, recognizing and having the courage to look at how you’re found yourself dealing with your life. One of the things I love about grieving is that there’s only one person on the planet that we will never leave and will never leave us and that’s us.There's only one person on the planet that will never leave us, and that's us. Click To Tweet
Loss is such a huge part of life but we don’t get any training or any good modeling about how to deal with it. That’s why I love the idea of my life from the top-of-the-mind model. It talks about coming from what I call the discerning brain. The clearer confident, creative brain versus this old reactive brain which is that lower.
There’s a model that I have that shifts people to the discerning brain so they can look at their experiences of grieving and say, “This is helpful. This, I want to go through. This is meaningful. This, not so much. It’s normal. It’s natural but it’s not helpful.” I want to be able to minimize that while I maximize the helpful part.
There are so many stories, particularly now in this pandemic, of addiction. There are people dying and people waking up to the fact that their spouse, their child, their aunt or uncle, or a friend is drowning in alcohol or medications. Now what? The first general reaction is that you go into crisis mode and you’re in your brain stem.
What was super powerful for me was to understand how my brain was working and that I was at choice. Those choices give us agency again when we are in the washing machine of desperation and hopelessness. All that swirls around learning this for the first time or even over months and years. There are people who just stay in that washing machine, not knowing they have a choice.
I talk about three parts of the brain. The brain’s very complicated but rather than getting into all the parts of the brain that do everything, I want to go to get three parts. What I call the top of the mind is the neocortex. The lower brain down the back of the neck is called the brain stem. That’s where our fight-or-flight responses are triggered. The middle brain’s called the limbic system. That middle brain is the interesting brain because that brain acts as a gatekeeper or in our terminology, it acts as a scanner, a processor, and a router.
It scans incoming data. The data could be, “I’ve lost someone close to me. It could be that my son, lover, husband, or wife is addicted,” or whatever it is but it’s some data. Unfortunately, this middle brain isn’t very smart and it’s working with old software. It has a tendency to interpret almost anything negative as dangerous and throws us into the lower brain that’s designed to deal with danger. The way it’s kept us alive as a species over the evolution of us as of a species, has been to keep us worried, anxious, on guard, and alert by using anxiety, fear, and worry to keep us safe. Unfortunately, it’s still in this, “Worry keeps us safe. Anxiety keeps us safe.”
If you’re not anxious, you’re in trouble because something’s going to sneak up on you. It has a tendency to misinterpret negative situations as dangerous and throws us into the part of the brain. “This is something to do with danger.” This is where we get angry, stressed, frustrated, annoyed, resentful, depressed, anxious, and all those emotions that are understandable but they’re all lower brain stuff. We can’t deal with life from those perspectives. When we try to deal with life from this lower brain and we’re not very effective, we get retriggered.
The middle brain goes, “You’re not even very effective but you’re so anxious.” It throws us back into the lower brain and we get trapped in this cycle of reaction and misinterpretation. A lot of people don’t know that that is going on. They think, “The situation itself is making me feel bad. I’ve got to change the situation before I can change how I feel.”
A lot of times, that’s not an option. Someone has died or someone is addicted. There’s a reality out there that we can’t do anything about. We’ve got to be able to make sure we’re coming from the most effective, clear, confident, creative, compassionate part of who we are in order to be able to help anybody in our family or ourselves or deal with the situation effectively.
That was so powerful for me to learn. Take that learning and apply it to the grieving process.
I will. By the way, something popped into my head that I want to congratulate you and your group for turning me onto. I remember doing my presentation to your group and someone said, “Bill, have you read The Body Keeps the Score?” I went, “No.” They go, “You’re going to love that.” I got it and I have underlined every page. It’s an amazing book. Anybody who’s ever dealt with any trauma or knows anybody who’s ever dealt with any trauma, it’s a wonderful book.
It’s become the Bible about how to help people deal with trauma. It talks about how trauma rewires the brain because this middle brain goes, “Trauma, we don’t want that to happen again.” It keeps bringing it up again and again thinking it’s keeping us safe when the reality is that it’s retraumatizing us. For anybody out there that wants to have an understanding of how trauma affects the brain and some wonderful ways of dealing with it because it fits very nicely into life from the top of the mind system. I would highly recommend that book.
Great for bringing that up. That’s a brilliant book. Now that we’ve gone through somehow the brain works, take that knowledge and apply it to Grieving the Shattered Dream.
What we’ve got to be able to do is, number one, understand that our guilt, anxiety, anger, resentment, fear, worry, depression, tears, and all of that is normal. This is not our failure to cope. This is not what’s wrong with us. It’s normal. Some of it’s going to be helpful and some of it isn’t. We want to be able to dive into that wave in a way that’s helpful and minimize that fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, or anger stuff. Anger sometimes can be helpful because it can move us into action but the rest of the stuff is generally not very helpful. We start either beating ourselves up, blaming God, or whatever it is. You get into this reaction.Our guilt, anxiety, anger, resentment, fear, worry, depression, and tears are totally normal. These are not our failures to cope. Click To Tweet
Looking at some of the Facebook groups that are out there, people are losing their homes. They’re devastating themselves financially. They’re following their kids around or doing all these crazy things to control the situation to the point of losing their health, their stability, and their lives. It gets quite dire for people who do not understand how this works. What’s the pathway to maximizing the things in grief that is good to lean into and minimizing the things that we do need to let go of?
It’s a five-step process. It starts with making sure this upper 80% of the brain is in charge. How do I get the top of the mind to regain control of the lower brain? Since the lower brain controls breathing, then breathing can be a great way of beginning the process of coming from the top of the mind. Whether it’s box breathing, using the 444 Method, or inhaling and saying something on the exhale, whatever it is, if you’ll breathe purposefully and slowly and count while you’re doing it since there’s only one part of the brain that can count, it begins to have the upper brain regain control from the lower brain. It’s a great place to start.
I want to give an explanation point on the counting part because we hear so much about how breath work helps us shift and so on and so forth. When I heard you say that, I was like, “Brilliant.” I talk about that all the time. Our brain stems do not count. If we’re counting, we’re up, and that is a quick way to make that shift. Thank you so much for that.
I’m going to talk about my method. It’s a method called the 444 Method. You inhale for a count of four. Hold it for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. You’re counting while you’re doing that like ticking something off of my fingers because that requires this part of the brain to be in charge. My goal whenever I’m wanting to be in the discerning brain into the clear, confident, creative, compassionate part of who I am. I can make a conscious, purposeful decision about what I feed and what I change is my breathing.
The second step in the model is to relax into the feeling. Whatever it is, relax into it. If it’s anger, relax into it. That way we’re not fighting it anymore. If it’s anxiety, worry, or whatever it is, don’t fight it. Just relax into it. If it’s tears and sadness, again, relax into it. That can be the liquid love part. It can be something that says something about us. We breathe, we relax, then we ask two questions. One is how I’m feeling in reacting now, is that making the statement I want to make about who I am?
If I lose something or someone meaningful and I find myself having tears and sadness about that, that’s how I want to feel. I don’t want to be someone that goes, “Who cares? Next.” I want to feel that sadness. Now the sadness and the tears, the liquid love becomes a statement of who I am that I can be proud of. The denial gives me an opportunity to step back and not deal with stuff. That’s also a helpful stage or phase if you need it. Sadness is liquid love. It’s something to be proud of. The words “proud of” are something that most people don’t think about when they’re grieving.The sadness from grieving is liquid love. It is where you feel connected with the love you had for others. Click To Tweet
That’s what I felt when I finally felt sad enough about my family, my dad and my mom to cry about it. It’s like, “Bill, finally, you’re feeling these feelings.” That’s where I connected with the love that I had for them. Is this the statement I want to make about who I am? Worry, anxiety, fear, resentment, guilt, or shame, probably not. It gives us a way of discerning between the helpful and the not-helpful. The second one is, “Would I teach or recommend this way of being to my child, my children, or someone I love?”
If my kids were dealing with a loss of something. Maybe a loss of a relationship, a loved one, or whatever and they came to me and said, “I feel like crying,” I’d go, “Come here.” I would recommend that. If they said, “I can’t deal with it now. I need to almost pretend it doesn’t happen.” I go, “That’s a helpful part of grieving to step back far enough to where you’re not overwhelmed by it. Do that.” Those 2, I would feed because number 1, it makes the statement that I want to be about who I am and it’s what I would recommend to someone I love.
Again, it’s guilt, shame, anxiety, worry, fear, and even anger to some degree. The only way anger is helpful is when it moves us from depression to action. Anger is a more powerful emotion than depression. If you’re choosing between anger and depression, at least initially, anger is a better choice because it’s got some energy and movement to it. You don’t want to stay there very long. You just want to use it to move from that depression and anxiety component into that.
You’re using emotion as a catalyst for action.
That’s right. That’s how anger serves the process. As long as you don’t stay there and stay angry the entire time. It’s designed to move us from inaction to action, from the past to the future. There’s breathing, relaxing, asking these questions, and now we say, “I know that sadness, tears, even denial, and maybe anger sometimes is okay. This is how I want to define myself.” What does that look like? You want it to imagine being the way you want it to be.
It’s because the brain does not know the difference between a real and an imagined event. When you imagine feeling sad, the brain and the body will feel sad. When you imagine feeling angry, the brain and the body will feel angry. What we want to do is to make sure that we are imagining the way we want to be because deciding how we want to be is a decision.
Imagining that has the brain and the body connecting in a way where you are chemically changing the brain and the body. When we get stuck in the lower brain, we’re triggering adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. Those are the fight-or-flight chemicals. When we’re on the upper brain, we’re triggering serotonin and endorphins, chemicals that help us feel better and think clearly. Feel better doesn’t mean feel good necessarily. It means feel better like feel sad or feel the way we want to feel.
That’s such a great distinction too. Our brain doesn’t know if we’re in it or not. That is super powerful. Also, in those moments, personally when I’ve gone to worry, I would take my little brain and I’d go backpacking to spots that I’ve been that are beautiful, calming, and center me back up.
That’s good. You want to think of yourself as centered. You’re an aikido master. You’re centered and focused. Here comes a life that throws you a punch and you go, “Goodness gracious.” You take it and you go with it so that centralization is great. Plus, the idea of being able to imagine how we want to be and have the body change chemically as a result of that puts us in a very influential place in terms of our mind and body.
There is a nerve that connects the mind to the body. It’s called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve goes all the way through the body. The vagus in Latin means wandering. It goes to our heart, our lungs, our muscles, our gut, and everything. When the brain tells the vagus nerve that we’re in danger, it goes into the sympathetic nervous reaction and system reaction, which is fight or flight. When the brain tells the vagus nerve to relax, it goes into the parasympathetic reaction, which is calming down in more purposeful way of being.
It’s that using the imaging of, “Here is how I want to be, and here’s what that looks like and feels like so that I am holding an image of how I want to be.” Every once in a while, I’ll be doing something in some terrible image of someone I love that will come into my mind from everywhere like some car wreck or something. I shake my head and dismiss it then I go on with what I’m doing but I don’t worry about it. I don’t feed it because I know that if I do that, it’s my middle brain thinking, “Bill, you’re not worried enough here. You need to be worried about something.” That’s not the same.
That’s such a great thing too, Bill because we all have these random thoughts that show up. Most people tend to give them energy and it’s like, “Stop. Time out.” It’s a random thought or it’s something you’ve watched on TV, a movie, or all that other crap that’s out there. What we feed ourselves is super important.
I know that’s been part of my coping mechanism through this whole thing. I don’t watch the news anymore. I see headlines. I rely on people to tell me stuff that’s important. I don’t watch Murder & Mayhem. I don’t watch anything that takes me out of whom I intend to be which is truly an expression of calm, centeredness, and love. That’s whom I want to be in the world.
We got to be careful because media and politics have determined and discovered that if they can trigger our middle brain, they’ve got us. Either they’ve got us to vote a certain way or they’ve got us to buy certain products. Their goal is to sell certain products and get us to vote. This is generally not malicious for the most part. Some of them can be weird. Most of them think, “If I can get you to do it, it’s going to be good for you. I’m going to do it anyway I can.”
There are algorithms, Facebook, and all the social media that are designed to trigger the middle brain. Certainly, you’ve seen all the fear and stuff going on in politics. In the media, there’s a phrase. It’s not so much there anymore. It’s called, “If it bleeds, it leads.” That is designed to capture your middle brain so that you’ll stay glued so that when they go commercial, they can sell you some. We want to make sure we’re not giving that media the power to control us and throw us into that lower brain. Being very purposeful about what we watch, what we consume, what we feed the brain, and what I would recommend to someone I love can be a great way of looking at all of that.
For me, this has been one of the great gifts of this experience with Sam. I’m on a journey too and he’s on a journey. Out of his journey, I have been catalyzed to do these kinds of things and to understand more about how my brain works and how all these things work so that I can take my power back and be much more intentional and focused on how I want to act, how I want to be in the world, and all that goes with that.
Particularly now, another reason why this conversation’s paramount is that we’re in such a disruptive time. Everything is up. There’s more anger, more accidents, more killings, and more all of the things. I attribute that to people’s need to skill up and elevate in terms of skills, understanding, spirituality, and all of the things.
It’s a five-step model. You breathe in order to have the top of the mind regain control. You relax into the emotion, whatever it is. That way, you’re not fighting it. You ask the question, “Is this the statement I want to make about who I am? Would I teach or recommend it to someone I love?” If the answer is no, then you shift to, “What do I want to feed? What do I want to validate?”
Imagine being that way then you notice the change because who am I at the end of the model? Plus, the N in Notice helps me spell brain. I like my model to spell. It makes it easy to remember but it’s all about understanding how the brain works and being able to influence how the brain works around a subject around grieving, dealing with loss, and things like that. We just don’t get any training around and don’t get any modeling around.
Can you speak to the creation and cementing of this habit because another overriding of our brain is rewiring our neuro pathways for this type of habit?
When I’m doing my presentations, we do the brain model. I say, “Has anybody ever gotten an email and been triggered? Maybe this morning. Has anybody ever gotten a text message and been triggered? Has anybody ever been in traffic and been triggered? Has anybody ever seen anything on social media or cable news and been triggered? A voicemail and been triggered?” Everybody goes yes.
There are so many situations in our that we get triggered that we could start practicing this particular model. If we’ll start practicing it, it begins to rewire the brain. It starts retraining the middle brain to say, “I can keep us safe by accessing this clear, confident, creative part of who I am versus throwing us into the all-reactive brain.”
When we are practicing and we are creating and reinforcing new neuro-pathways going from the middle brain to the upper brain. What I encourage people to do is to use the brain model anytime they get triggered. There’s a way of going into life already at the top of mind so you don’t get triggered as much in the first place.
This way you don’t have to wait until you’re triggered to practice this. I talk about waking up in the morning and before you get out of bed, before you look at your phone, before you do anything, you say, “What’s my highest purpose this morning?” When I say “highest purpose,” I mean what are the qualities or characteristics I want to bring to the morning?
I know some of the people I’m going to be dealing with and some of the situations I’m going to be in. Who do I want to be? How do I want to be? I choose 2 or 3 qualities or characteristics. Imagine going into the morning that way. I use the morning to practice defining who I am. I’m going into the morning already clear about the qualities and characteristics I want to be able to bring to life. It doesn’t mean I need to be perfect around it but I do want to practice it as much as possible. That puts me in a more proactive versus reactive state of mind.
Around lunchtime, I suggest you reboot. You do the brain models, say your prayer, take a walk around the house, take a walk outside, do some deep breathing, whatever it is you do to create a moment of clarity. Ask the question, “What’s my highest purpose this afternoon?” I know some of the people I’m going to be dealing with the situations. Who do I want to be? How do I want to be? Choose qualities or characteristics. This isn’t necessarily what I want to accomplish. These are the qualities or characteristics I want to bring to life. Go into the afternoon practicing being that way.
Around lunchtime or the drive home or sometime between the afternoon and the evening, you reboot and say, “What’s my highest purpose this evening? Do I want to be with the most important people in my life?” You don’t go into the evening on autopilot or exhausted from the day. It’s a way of going into the morning, into the afternoon, and the evening already at the top of mind. I encourage people to do that for 21 days in a row. That will begin to rewire the brain because they say it takes 21 days to change a habit.
What most people don’t understand is that it takes intention and practice to create a new habit. You don’t do it once and then it’s there. It’s like learning how to ride a bicycle. You didn’t ride it the first time out of the box.
That’s a great analogy. They have something called a backward bicycle. If you google it, it’s a hoot. When you turn the handlebars this way, the bicycle goes that way. In other words, it’s the opposite. When you first get on it because you’re used to doing it, you can’t do it but if you’ll practice and practice. They show people practicing and finally the brain flips. Now I can ride it.
When they try to ride a normal bicycle again, they can ride it because their brain has changed. I always tell people we’re always practicing something. There is no neutral experience. We’re either reinforcing a lower-brain or upper-brain perspective. Why don’t we practice the statement we want to make about who we are and what we would teach or recommend to those we love?
That puts us in a much more purposeful way of dealing with it, whether it’s grief, getting in a car wreck, losing our job, or anything that happens that’s negative. We’re keeping our middle brain from interpreting it as dangerous. Now, if it is dangerous and we need to run from it or fight it then the middle brain’s great. There are very few of those situations in our life. It puts us in a more purposeful and powerful state of mind.
I do believe that a large piece of your work and my work is giving people permission to step into their power.
In fact, my book has three components to it. The first part is called the Brain Model. That’s how to shift to the top of the mind. The second part spells power. There are another five steps to work with in terms of beginning to rewire the brain. The third part of the book is that now that I know how to get to the top of mind and stay there, how do I get other people to get to the top of mind? That’s a different seminar.
We’ll be talking about that in the second part of this series that we’re going to do with you. One of the $64 million questions is, how do I talk to my son or daughter who is in dealing with the disease of drug addiction? How do I talk to my spouse who has relapsed after twenty years of not drinking? How do I talk to my parents and all of those things? Most people are at a complete loss because what we want to do is tell them to change.
Step out of it. What are you thinking? Don’t you know how bad this is? We’re in that lower brain trying to make them feel bad enough to stop the problem. Unfortunately, what that’s doing is driving them deeper into that more resistant brain, which, unfortunately, is part of the problem in the first place. There’s a six-step model we’re going to go into about getting people to shift. It’s not only about the things we talked about here but anytime you want to be influential with someone, the model can be helpful.
I love the fact that we have you.
Many people are not aware of the power of what we can do that takes us out of the desperation and the hopelessness and all that. Generally, a lot of people are swirling in. I remember distinctly this has been several months ago. Sam has been several months clean and sober. The last relapse was fentanyl and that was a very desperate time because that is Russian roulette. We hit a point in our journey where Patty said, “I don’t have any hope,” and I’m an eternal optimist. I chose to be who I am, which is I held the space for her to hold that belief until she was ready to shift it.
That’s a protective thing. When people give up, it’s like, “I’ve been hopeful and I’ve been disappointed. I can’t go through that anymore, so I’m going to stop being hopeful.” Unfortunately, that’s a resignation thing. It’s understandable. You let that person feel that because you’re not going to tell them that, “You should be hopeful.”
You’re not going to make them hopeful until they were ready to like, “Maybe I can have a little hope. Move into that a little bit.” The brain gets real protective in that way and sometimes it’s helpful and necessary because it keeps us from being so disappointed. We want to make sure that it’s defining who we are and something we would recommend to those we love.
One last thing before we wrap this up is the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster of this journey. Of all the journeys that I can think of, this is the one that has highs and lows. It could be in rapid fire. I remember one of the times when Sam had relapsed. He finally decided that he would go back into rehab again. We’re like, “Yay,” then that night he jumps the fence and goes back out into the darkness again. We go, “Crap.” In those moments, I was like, “I’m taking my emotional setback.”
I have no control over what he’s going to do. I was rewiring and working on what you talked about. It’s this notion, “Every relapse is a step towards clean.” That was the mantra for me. Although we all know somebody can pass away from this disease, I held the mantra that every relapse was a step in the direction of clean. If you could touch on those highs and lows because I’m trying to hit people where they’re struggling in terms of their emotional journey on this. That is one of them.
I’m glad you brought that up. You and I are pretty positive people but we don’t want to come around, “You’re supposed to put a smile on your face, be purely positive, and ignore any negative.” That’s not about it. It’s about the fact that we feel bad for those we love because we love them and we care. The challenge is that it puts us in a position that not only keeps us from being able to help them if we can but also not being able to help ourselves.We feel bad for those we love because we love and care for them. Click To Tweet
If we can look at those bad feelings and those highs and lows, they’re perfectly normal. This is not our failure to cope. This is not what’s wrong with us. It’s some of those feelings are helpful that we might want to feed and some of them are not. We want to be able to minimize those. It’s that ability to discern between the two and see our grieving as liquid love, something to be proud of and be able to dive into it whenever it comes. When that wave of emotion comes up, here we go. We dive into it. Something to feel proud of and be very gentle with ourselves in the process.
One of the things you want is to be careful about equating love and worry. A lot of people grow up saying, “The reason I care is that I’m in love with you. I worry because I love you.” Unfortunately, now we’ve got love and worry totally tied together. There’s a phrase I heard that says, “Sometimes people don’t change until it becomes too painful not to.” When someone’s going through that addictive process, sometimes it has to get too painful. They say the third rehab is the one that may take because, “The first one is because someone told me to or I’m supposed to. I’m in rehab,” as it goes through.
We’ve got to be willing to let people have their pain because that might be the flip for them. That might be, “This is too painful. I’m going to do something about this.” That’s one of the things I love about AA. They don’t tell you you’re supposed to stop drinking. They say, “Whenever it becomes too painful and you want some help, you give us a call and we’ll be there, but we’re not trying to convince you of anything. We’re going to be there for you when you’re ready to move into that process.” Rollercoaster, real, normal, and sometimes people need to feel bad in order to feel to be motivated to change.
We live in a culture generally where parents are trying to save their kids from feeling pain and suffering. Flipping the script about what our job is from protecting them to walking the path with them when they feel the pain and the suffering.
Have you heard the phrase, “We moved from being helicopter parents to lawnmower parents?” The helicopter parents were hovering. The lawnmower parents were preparing the path for the child versus the child for the path. It’s that, “I’ve got to make sure it’s all good and there are no potential things here until you da-da-da.” That’s not going to be life. Once they get past that path, then what do they do? It’s holding an image of them at their best.
That’s one of the things I always help people do when they’re dealing with someone who is angry or upset or using or whatever. That’s who they are when they’re coming from the lower. It’s not who they are at their best. You always want to hold an image of their best. When we get back together next time, I’ll show you how to reach for their best when you’re talking to them.
This has been such a gift. How can people get a hold of you?
You can google Bill Crawford PhD YouTube, and that will take you to my YouTube channel. It’s got about 500 short videos on there. I’ve got one million views.
I know. I’m so excited for you. Congratulations.
I also have a website, BillCrawfordPHD.com and that’ll take you to my website. You’ll see all of my presentations, my philosophy, my products, and what I do. Those two things and you can email me from the website. I’m real easy to get ahold of, just Bill Crawford, PhD and I’ll come up all over the place.
You are a true gift to all of us. I thank you so much for joining me and for speaking to our audience. In some ways, I’m sure that this is new to them. There will be some more new things to entertain with you in the next month or so. Thank you, Bill.
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity. Looking forward to getting back with you again and diving into that next part about how we talk to folks around that.
- Life From The Top Of The Mind
- Grieving the Shattered Dream
- The Body Keeps the Score
- Bill Crawford PhD – YouTube
About Dr. Bill Crawford
Dr. Bill Crawford is a licensed psychologist, author of 8 books, and an organizational consultant who helps organizations and individuals access their best knowledge and interpersonal skills, regardless of the situation.
Over the past 30 years, he has created over 3,500 presentations for organizations such as Sprint, Shell, The American Medical Association, Vistage, and many others both nationally and internationally. His two PBS specials on stress and communication have been seen by over 15 million people.