Mind & Matter
Mind & Matter
Psychology of Stress, Resilience, Emotion & Child Development | Stephen Sideroff | #156

Psychology of Stress, Resilience, Emotion & Child Development | Stephen Sideroff | #156

Download, watch or listen to M&M episode #156

About the guest: Stephen Sideroff, PhD is a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCLA. His new book is, "The 9 Pillars of Resilience."

Episode summary: Nick and Dr. Sideroff discuss: childhood & developmental psychology; clinical & Gestalt psychology; stress & resilience; pharmaceuticals, talk therapy, and plant medicines; emotions & psychopathology; and more.

*This content is never meant to serve as medical advice.


Full AI-generated transcript below. Beware of typos & mistranslations!

Stephen Sideroff 2:24

It's my pleasure. And

Nick Jikomes 2:26

you're you're a clinical psychologist. Right?

Stephen Sideroff 2:29

Right. Correct.

Nick Jikomes 2:30

So what is what what is your day to day look like? And what is your career look like? At a high level? What's your background? Do you do mostly research? Do you see patients do you do both?

Stephen Sideroff 2:40

So I love my career because I see clients, I do consulting with corporations. I do research. I'm a professor at UCLA in psychiatry and rheumatology, I train therapists at UCLA I trained the staff at UCLA. So it's good I got my fingers in a lot of different places.

Nick Jikomes 3:10

And in terms of the clinical side of this, the patients you see, or that you've seen throughout your career, is it a certain type of person is an adult as a children is that people have certain cycle pathologies? Is it normal, otherwise normal people.

Stephen Sideroff 3:25

So over my career, I've worked with all kinds of people. But in more recent years, I'd say they fall into two categories. One are people who find their way to my door because they're dealing with some overwhelm around stress. There, they have maybe referred by their physician because they have sleep problems or other physical symptoms, or emotional burnout breakdown because of that. Well, the other category are people who feel stuck in their lives, it's like, as hard as they work, they just can't seem to get to the next level. And so I would say those are the two basic categories of people that I see mostly. And then in my, my corporate work, I do work with senior executives and CEOs on how to be a more effective leader.

Nick Jikomes 4:28

And do you have like a certain, like, clinical approach or school of thought you belong to like, I remember when I when I took psychology classes when I was younger, you would always learn about you know, the different schools of thought there's you know, inter transpersonal psychology there's cognitive behavioral psychology, there's, you know, psychoanalysis and all the historical schools of thought, is there one that you fit into, or do you think about it even in those terms?

Stephen Sideroff 4:54

Well, it's interesting because I started out my career in experimental psychology and phys illogical psychology and I was doing brain research. So I began from a behavioral perspective conditioning perspective, which I found to be very valuable. And then when I moved into clinical I, my, my first training was in Gestalt Therapy, which really resonated with me. And I found it very helpful. But over the years, I really have gotten training in almost every type of approach. Because no one approach has a monopoly on the truth. They each have a piece that I've put into the puzzle of the picture that I use now, which really incorporates from all of those different approaches I, I also apprenticed with a shaman for 15 years, a shaman from South America for 15 years. And so I have that indigenous, naturalistic approach as well. They all have something to offer the ancient, the modern. And really to be most effective, I've found that when I integrate the best of all of those that I have my greatest success.

Nick Jikomes 6:21

When we think about, like, where our personalities and our habits come from, so whether or not it's a severe form of psychopathology like OCD, say, or something like that, or it's something more normal and mundane, like just the way that you deal with stress, or some of the little habits and patterns you fall into? How do those things start to get settled into the mind? When we're when we're children? How much of it is natural, natural sort of innate dispositions we have? How much of it is conditioning from our parents in our environment? And how do you start to think about how habits are formed as we then think ahead, how they're broken and modified? Well,

Stephen Sideroff 7:05

you're touching on something that's a very important part of the work I do in terms of helping people become more resilient. Because we learn how to operate in the world based on our childhood environment and the lessons of childhood. So we don't go as we're in this very early survival, adaptive learning process. And as a child, it's like, survival learning, right? And so we don't, but we don't go out and go to hundreds of families and sample hundreds of families to see what the what the real world is like to adapt to. We adapt to our own little childhood environment, believing for all intensive purposes, that that's the way the world operates. So we adapt to that environment, we learn the lessons in our interactions with our primary caregivers. Because as a dependent child, our survival is based on being in good stead with our primary caregivers. So we adapt to their rules, their lessons, and then that adaptation to some degree freezes to those lessons. And we use that out in the world as an adult, whether it works completely or not. And so it's it's our childhood lessons are what really sets us up in the future. And you ask, how much of it is nature, how much of his nurture, I believe it's mostly nurture. Because we can have a genetic propensity to a particular illness. But it takes the stresses in our lives that actually wind up expressing those genetic vulnerabilities. Usually, it needs the stress to for them to be those genetic vulnerabilities to be expressed. And so it's our environment that we adapt to that, to a great extent more important than our genetics.

Nick Jikomes 9:32

I see. So when we're developing a small children, the home environment is effectively the entire world to us. Right? And so, you know, the extent to which we are in the home environment and not exposed to other environments, we're adapting to that local environment, the types of people we're with the types of stresses that are in that environment, all of the things that are present and lacking. That's what we're adapting to. Sounds like to the extent that's true It would mean that, you know, when we grow up, we start leaving the home environment. The extent to which there's a mismatch between the other environments we got into, compared to that home environment is going to dictate how we behave and whether or not we're behaving in in pathological or maladaptive ways? Well,

Stephen Sideroff 10:18

yes, so for example, if you grow up in a childhood environment that's dangerous. And by dangerous, I mean, you know, at any time a mother or father can yell at you, and you have no idea what, why, or they can be critical or judgmental. You develop the sense that this is the way people in general are. So now you're an adult, and you go in, go through your day, and you're always anticipating some danger, someone who's going to be judgmental or critical of you. And so you're mobilizing your stress response throughout the day, even though it may not really be necessary. And thus, you are throwing your nervous system out of balance, because you're triggering that stress response to frequently. And so that's how childhood lessons then manifest out as adults, because we're anticipating people to respond to us the way our childhood environment resulted. So we can go into into a room and we can be nervous, because we're waiting for some danger to occur. And then we project this a particular image of tension in our bodies that gets picked up by other people, and may affect how they relate to us. So there's the snowballing effect of the lessons of childhood.

Nick Jikomes 12:00

And how, how difficult is it to, to learn new habits as an adult? To what extent is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks? Is it very, very difficult just because those things really kind of get settled in? By the time we go through childhood and puberty and become adults? Or in I guess, attached to that question would be, you know, does that mean that we should, you know, that it's very important to focus on sort of developing or working with someone like early in life if you're a psychologist like you?

Stephen Sideroff 12:35

Well, see, here's the, here's the difficulty. On the one hand, because all of these lessons are imprinted at such an early age, and they go in so deeply, it is difficult to break those childhood patterns. However, we have this tremendous capacity for neuroplasticity, for change, for adjusting for learning new ways. In those are the two most powerful kind of processes that we have, on the one hand, the gravitational pull of those childhood patterns. On the other hand, the potential for neuroplasticity. What happens is most of us function focus on how difficult it is. And that actually makes it more difficult. Because we are sort of it holds us back to engage in ways of make creating change. And because it's it is a complicated process, because you're having to, you're having to deal with what's referred to as our default mode network in our brains, basically the patterns that are laid down from these childhood lessons. And so if you think about, I'm going to do something new today to set a new pattern for myself, but different pattern for myself. Well, that's great. But I have this entire history of the old pattern, that this new behavior today is going up against. You know, that carries so much more weight. That's why it's difficult, because you have to maintain new behavior of focus and intention on creating change for quite a period of time before it starts to actually take hold in us. And people usually start and work hard at it and then they give up and they wind up back where they started from. And so, yes, it's difficult, but we have to focus more on that it's possible not that it's difficult. And then we Need a path we need? Not only direction, but we need a methodology, a mechanism that helps us stay on the path.

Nick Jikomes 15:13

And so, you know, the environments that we grew up in, shape us in many ways they determined how anxious we are, or you know how we respond to stress. Some people are just much more, you know, resilient than others. And that's, I know, that's a subject of your book. Where does this resiliency come from? And, you know, to what extent is that itself, something that's learned is, is it the type of thing where you want, you don't want to be exposed, obviously, to too much stress as a child. But on the other hand, you probably don't want to be completely sheltered either, you want to be probably exposed to some moderate intermediate amount of stress that you can somehow cope with, and is sort of practicing how to respond to stress with moderate amounts of it sort of the essence of where resilience comes from, or how do you think about that? Yeah,

Stephen Sideroff 16:02

I think that's exactly right. I think if we were to design, the optimal environment, to raise healthy, resilient children. Number one, always is giving them a feeling of love and acceptance. That's the number one key number two is you want to them to feel safe. You want them to feel like they don't have to be looking over their shoulders for danger, because that creates a defensive posture that makes it more difficult to learn. So you want them to feel safe, so that they can explore so that they can face challenges. Because it's as you face the challenges of life, that you learn the lessons that make you more resilient. Yes, you need to engage in the challenges and experiment in terms of your behavior. So you learn what's effective, and you learn what's not effective. And so the other lesson of childhood that's so important, is that it's okay to make mistakes, is a big one. Because a lot of times when I work with adults, one of the ways they get stuck is they don't want to take a step forward, because they're afraid they're not going to get it right. They're gonna they're afraid of the judgment of other people. And so that keeps people sort of locked in to the old patterns, because they're not giving themselves the opportunity to learn from experience and even from their mistakes.

Nick Jikomes 17:54

So, I mean, it makes perfect intuitive sense that you want to create a safe and loving environment for a child so that you are, you know, there's this cocoon of safety, so that they are free to explore and wrestle with, you know, the challenges that they run into as they explore the world and try new things and stuff. But there's also this concept out there of safety ism, of like, helicopter parenting. So, you know, that would be where you're, you know, you're keeping them to safe probably to the extent that you're preventing them from actually exploring the environment and dealing with stresses. So how do you how do you think about that the line between, you know, the, the, the good, or the effective amount of safety that enables a child to explore and to make mistakes and do all of these things, versus what we might call safety ism, where the parent is right there over their shoulder, keeping them safe to each and every little danger, such that the child never even has a chance to make

Stephen Sideroff 18:48

mistakes, right? That obviously is not a good approach. Because it does, it not only doesn't give the child the opportunity to explore, make mistakes, learn that it's okay to make mistakes, and learn lessons from it. But the parent is also unconsciously giving the child another message. And that's a message I don't trust you. That's the message I have to be this careful. Because if I don't you you're going to do something wrong. Make a mistake, not handle something properly. So in that approach and unconscious message you're giving the child is you don't trust them to do things on their own, and that is stifling to the child. So yes, there is this balance between what I like to say is you want to put like guardrails up. So there's within those guardrails, they have a lot of freedom to explore, experiment and make mistakes, but they know that the parents has their back, that the parent is setting up some guidelines from which they can go outside of. And this is the balance between protection and freedom.

I can't hear you.

Nick Jikomes 20:25

Sorry about that forgot to unmute. So there's this balance between protection and freedom. How does a, you know, I think what's probably a difficult thing to figure out for many parents, or potential appearances? How did they learn? You know, where that balance between protection and freedom is? How do they how do they know if their guard rails are too close together? Or too far apart? How do they learn that to have a sense for this, that's probably trickier than it might sound?

Stephen Sideroff 20:53

Well, here's the key. The best advice I can give a parent, or knowing and approaching their child in the best possible way, is for the parents to go through their own therapy process was for the parent to do their own healing work. So that they're coming from a greater place of clarity with their child. So they're not approaching their child, based on lessons that they learned in their childhood. So a lot of people will either do things the way their parents did it, which is not ideal. Or they'll go in the opposite direction, because they're reacting to how their parents did it. And what you want is you want to work through your own wounds, so that you have a clearer understanding of, of out to be with, with your with your child.

Nick Jikomes 22:03

I have, I can't remember what movie it is. But there's a movie scene I remember. And, and the setup is basically, there's a young child, it's like a toddler, maybe a two or three year old still sort of in a crib, you know, still still crying when it's upset. And it's the child has been watched by both sets of grandparents, they're both, you know, they're both in the House at the same time. And so the child starts crying. And one, one of the grandfathers says, oh, we need to go pick up the child, nurture the child tell him it's okay, right now, immediately. And the other grandfather says, no, no, no, no, we can't do that. We got to let them cry it out. And obviously, right, there's a time and place for both. But people have different thresholds for you know, when they go to the child and console it, to the extent that they, you know, leave the child to sort of cry it out, so to speak, and figure out its own solution to the problem rather than relying on the nurturer. For a situation like that, how do you? How do you think about what parents should do, and you know, how they should find that balance between, you know, going and solving the child's problems for them right away, versus enabling or allowing the child to try and maybe solve their own problems for for some amount of time? Well,

Stephen Sideroff 23:18

there are a few considerations here. Um, I've raised children, my children, and you, my experience is you get to learn which crying, which emotional tension is something where there's some real problem that needs my support, versus some where I feel like they can work it through themselves. So I tuned in to my child to get a sense of what kind of pain or discomfort they're dealing with, or whether it may just be a frustration, that if I interrupt too quickly, I'm not giving them the opportunity to learn to tolerate frustration.

Nick Jikomes 24:14

So it sounds like you're like if you're talking about a pre verbal child who can't actually verbalize very much at all. You literally learned how to distinguish the different cries and screams and vocalizations that they made in order to distinguish whether or not they had an internal pain that needed to be addressed that they needed help with, versus they dropped a toy that was out of reach versus something else that they could work out on their own. You literally heard a difference, right?

Stephen Sideroff 24:41

Right. Now another important aspect of this is, a lot of times, parents rushed in because of the good intentions that the child doesn't experience any pain and pain is part of life, stress is part of life, frustration is part of life, if you're gonna rush in and take care of them, every time they start to experience something difficult, you're not giving them the opportunity to learn to tolerate difficult circumstances. Sometimes, parents do that, because parents themselves feel discomfort with the child's discomfort. And so the parent is actually trying to take care of their own discomfort by reaching in and in doing something prematurely. So again, this, there needs to be this the awareness on the part of the parent, what's going on here, and my responding to a legitimate issue here, or something that really requires me to sit with my own discomfort.

Nick Jikomes 26:02

And so you said that for yourself, when you raised your kids, you were you were tuned in, you learned how to distinguish some of the different cries. And so you kind of that told you, because you took the time to distinguish them, you could perceive a difference, then that told you, you know, when it was appropriate to step in right away, wait a little while or wait a little while longer? Are there I would imagine there's, you know, some number of parents out there potentially quite a bit, who never even sort of learn, who never develop that kind of awareness themselves. And so they're reacting much more quickly in with a more like one size fits all. Strategy. Is that common? And, like, how do you think about as the adult as the parent developing that kind of awareness? Yeah.

Stephen Sideroff 26:46

Well, I think you're right, I think most people probably are not aware of these dis distinctions that I'm raising, in, they just see crying under one umbrella. But yes, it's definitely can be taught. If p if parents want to learn they can. It's they're all capable of learning that. And you mentioned, let me just make another comment here. One of the things that I noticed, which is, which is so interesting, when I work with parents, I find that as a child goes through different stages, as their child goes through different stages, as their child acts as different kinds of experiences, it actually brings up emotions and memories in the parent for when they were that age going through that particular issue. And so, when, when a parent is in therapy with me, they have the opportunity that is gets triggered by the what the child is going through, and it brings stuff up in the parent that's actually helpful for the parent to be addressing.

Nick Jikomes 28:10

I see Yeah, that makes sense. So, you know, as as the child is developing and going through the various milestones, the parent is often has images from from the same period of their lives in mind. And as you said before, they probably, you know, to the extent those are good memories, they probably tried to mimic what was happening between them and their appearance and to the extent they're bad memories, they probably react in some way or overcompensate and go in the other direction, right. Yes,

Stephen Sideroff 28:36


Nick Jikomes 28:38

You said that a lot of your training early on was in something called Gestalt psychology. And I remember somewhat vaguely learning about this, you know, in Psych 101, but what is Gestalt psychology and what is the Gestalt?

Stephen Sideroff 28:52

Okay, very, very good question and very important. So Gestalt is a German word that means whole or complete. And the origination of Gestalt therapy is through the Gestalt psychologists in Germany, about a century ago. And their classic research study, they divided a group into two groups, one group, they had sit down and they gave them a five course dinner. And then they had them look at an abstract painting and asked, What do you see in this painting. The other group, they deprived the food for five hours, and showed the identical abstract painting. Those who would deprive the food every single one of them saw something food related in the abstract painting. Those who had just eaten not a single one of them saw anything related to food. And so it validated their concept of owl were organized. At To have a need to reach completion. When I was growing up, you could still hear cigarette commercials on radio and TV. And there was this Winston, jingle. And it went, Winston tastes good, like sick or wretched. And in 30 seconds, they would repeat that maybe 15 times. But the last time they repeated it, they went, Winston tastes good like, and people for the rest of the day would be walking around trying to finish that jingle in their heads and have the idea of that cigarette in their heads. And that's, that's a an important characteristic of us, as humans is that we are driven to reach completion, anything that's incomplete. And it's most relevant around emotions. So that, you know, we learn, again, in childhood, we shouldn't or it's not okay to be angry, or don't cry, or other other. Other lessons that result in us, pushing feelings down, pushing them to the side, not noticing, not acknowledging. But all of these feelings that we don't deal with, they don't go away or dissipate on their own, they get locked in. And it results in a lot of emotionally distressed type of behavior. For example, someone can say something, and if someone is carrying a lot of unfinished emotion, and it touches into their unfinished business, they may explode with anger over something very minor. We see this in couples, that couples may sit on resentments and not resolve them. And then something little in in their conversation can trigger a big reaction, because they're sitting on such a, a pool of unfinished emotional business. And so in Gestalt therapy, it's very important to begin to notice what's unfinished, the anger toward a mother or toward a father, the sadness for what we didn't get for needs that weren't met in childhood, we carry those on unfinished business, unfinished emotional business with us. And then our behavior may be driven by that. But because of the unconsciousness of the connection, we engage in behaviors that will never meet that need, for example, we try to fill an emotional hole by earning more and more money making more and more money, having more and more successes. And then we have the success and we realize, you know, I'm still unhappy, and I'm still sitting with that same dis ease inside myself. Because they're, we're looking for something to fill that emotional hole that has nothing to do with it. And so in Gestalt therapy, the goal is to recognize what's unfinished, what has been left incomplete, be it feelings that haven't been expressed, or emotional needs that haven't been met, and heal that through a process of bringing up those feelings in those needs. So that you can now engage in the world in a healthy, aware way to get those needs more appropriately met.

Nick Jikomes 34:08

So going back to the original sort of description of Gestalt psychology and how it got started, you gave the example where, you know, they they would show people these abstract images, and when they were food deprived, when they're hungry, they would always read something food related into them, because that was speaking to the primary need, that they and their bodies needed to meet in that state. Right? It reminded me of so well, before I go there. So it sounds to me like a gestalt. Tell me if this is a reasonable definition, a gestalt is something like our interpretation of our conscious percepts. So it's not merely the sensory and the, you know, the inkblot that they looked at. It's their interpretation of it as being something due to the needs they currently have. So in the case of the hungry people, something to do with food.

Stephen Sideroff 34:59

Right, so Um, it makes sense on a biological level, that we are designed to get completion because it happens on all levels physiologically, if our blood pressure goes up to too high mechanisms take place to dilate blood vessels to bring the blood pressure down, so that dozens of physiological processes are going on all the time based on the same mechanism. But what's important in Gestalt therapy is this emotional, unmet needs. And so yes, there's this direct relationship between what's going on inside of you, and how you engage with the outside world.

Nick Jikomes 35:42

It sort of sounds like so when, when I was doing my PhD in neuroscience, you know, I was doing mechanistic behavioral neuroscience, I was studying feeding behavior and circuits in the brain that control feeding behavior and rodents. And, you know, there's this concept in biology that many people will be aware of, but for those who aren't, it's called homeostasis, or homeostatic regulation. And it just refers to the fact that, as you mentioned, our bodies are always trying to achieve balance, if our body temperature goes up, mechanisms kick in, to bring it back down, and vice versa. Same with blood pressure, blood sugar, you know, anything you can think of, you know, there's a narrow range in which our bodies and our cells work. And we need to keep things in that range, and so forth. In the case of hunger, very intuitive example, right? If you're low, if you need nutrition and calories, your body makes you feel hungry, it generates certain feelings that you want to get rid of, then those feelings motivate you to go out and behave in the world to obtain what will quench your hunger bring you back to homeostasis, it sort of sounds like in Gestalt therapy, you more or less think of emotions in a kind of homeostatic way that there's natural processes by which emotions wax and wane. And if we interrupt those processes, it's almost like our emotional blood pressure gets stuck on high, and then it's, you know, it's gonna pop out somewhere. Exactly,

Stephen Sideroff 37:05

exactly. And you could think, as a child, if we learn that, if I get angry or express my anger, I'm going to be negatively reinforced, then I learned to hold those feelings in. But holding those feelings in can be being aware of holding those feelings in creates a conflict that we are aware of. So gradually, we interrupt the process earlier and earlier, until we're interrupting it before we even have the awareness of the feeling. And that's the birth of our defense mechanisms. defense mechanisms are mechanisms designed to help us not be so uncomfortable with awarenesses of feelings and conflicts and other things going on in our childhood. But the result is that as adults, we have less and less awareness of those feelings that were suppressing or holding in.

Nick Jikomes 38:21

In terms of, you know, when we think about what we might just call emotional homeostasis, and and the sort of natural rhythms by which emotions rise and the need to sort of discharge and go away, you know, if I go back to, you know, experiments I used to do in mice, we used to do this experiment where you can turn on neurons in their brain and a particular region of the hypothalamus that control hunger, basically. So you can turn on neurons and a mouse, it's not hungry at all, it's got a full tummy, and it will behave as if it's hungry. And so you can have it's, you can have the mouse in the cage and turn these neurons, it'll start to, you know, rear up on its legs and sniff for food, or very diligently dig through the bedding to look for food, it'll, you know, it's becomes energized its body is trying to compel it to find food. What's interesting is if you keep stimulating these neurons and keep generating this sense of hunger, but there's no food in the home cage, there's no food around ever to be found. Eventually, the mice basically start doing odd behaviors, they start behaving in ways that we might call pathological they might start obsessively grooming themselves or doing very repetitive behaviors with objects in the home cage environment that sort of remind us of what we might call obsessive compulsive behavior in humans. And so I'm wondering how we sort of link the the biological side here to the emotional side, in the sense that if if some of our emotions that arise like say we get very angry or even aggressive if we don't have the proper outlet for that emotional behavior, and we keep it bottled up, what is what happens? Is that a source of pathology definitely,

Stephen Sideroff 39:58

definitely You know, emotions, the root of emotions is motion. And there's energy connected to our emotions. So if you're starting to experience any emotion, but then you're holding it in, you literally have to do something physical to hold it in. Wilhelm Reich report, you know, talked about this a century ago, when he talked about body armoring. And so we actually tense our muscles to hold in those feelings. And that interrupts the flow of energy in our body. It interferes with our ability to experience joy, which involves the full flow of energy in our bodies, but it ultimately interferes with optimal functioning of our bodies, which can contribute to the disease process.

Nick Jikomes 41:00

And, yeah, so like it, you know, when we talk about keeping, holding things inside or bottling them up. You know, we're, we're speaking with colorful language, but there is a it sounds like you would agree that there's, there's a literal truth to that, because I think we've all had this experience where maybe, you know, maybe you're at work. And in some professional environment, you need to be polite, you need to keep a cool head, but you know, someone frustrates you say, and you get really angry or even feel aggressive. You do literally tense up your muscles, your muscles contract, you might hunched forward and things like that. So when we don't find outlets, to when we don't find outlets for these emotions that we inevitably naturally feel, what happens if that goes on for too long? And how does that how does that lit up? Is there such a thing as like psychosomatic symptoms, where we get literal physical manifestations of this emotional dysregulation?

Stephen Sideroff 41:56

Yeah. A lot of people shy away from this notion of psychosomatic or it's all in your head. Because in the past, when we would be told it's all in your head by a physician, it had a certain meaning. It had a meaning of were somehow, you know, imagining the symptom, that the symptom isn't really there, it's all in our head. Now, we have a much clearer perspective on the relationship between mind and body, the relationship between physical, mental and emotional and how they're all interconnected. And so whether it's holding in feelings and having this energy that we have to clamp down on, or being stressed in any one of a number of different ways, they all contribute to an imbalance in our nervous system and what I refer to as autonomic dysregulation. And that's where the one branch of our nervous system, the sympathetic activating branch, is turned on too much of the time. And then the recovery branch, the parasympathetic is not turned on enough. And the result is that we use up resources of our bodies, and we don't have unlimited amounts of resources, they need to be replenished. Our bodies are always making choices, do I defend and protect, or I go into healing in growth? Do I send energy to my large muscles to prepare for fight or flight? Where do I send that energy to my kidneys, so it does a better job of detoxifying my blood. So the body is always making these choices. And if you spend too much time and defend and protect, you're not giving your body enough opportunity for heal and growth.

Nick Jikomes 44:17

So sometimes, sometimes, you know, when we when we keep sort of emotions bottled up for some period of time, we know what the emotion is, we know what the cause is, and we can discharge it appropriately. You know, like, if I'm feeling frustrated because of something that was, you know, happening professionally that week or in relationship, you can, you know, go to the gym, go running, hit a punching bag, you know, do something to discharge that. What about the cases where someone has unprocessed emotions, there's, there's something that has built up inside of them that hasn't discharged, and they aren't even quite aware of what it is or that it's even a problem yet, and yet it's causing them problems in their lives. They just don't realize it. How do you can you give me an example from your clinical practice of how you get Someone to identify that and work through that? Yes,

Stephen Sideroff 45:02

yes, of course. And what you're describing is not uncommon. That's part of our defense mechanism. And it's part of that one of the ways we defend against it is to live above the neck, to be in our thoughts in our thinking, which makes it a little easier not to notice our feelings. And so, to some degree, being in a therapeutic environment, a therapeutic situation is a little bit like detective work, where you have to look for the clues. And then if when you find a clue, you focus in on that clue. And there may be a little bit of a feeling attached to the clue. And so you then emphasize the feeling until you open up the door to the deeper feeling. So I have a, I'll give you one example, I have a client, who

he, he has an elderly, parent and elderly mother, and that the elderly parent is kind of bossy kind of controlling. And the the client who's 50 years old, feels a little timid around his mother, he feels he holds off really fully expressing his position is belief. Because growing up the mother, whenever he did that, the mother had one of two different reactions, one, she would be very angry. And sometimes not speak to her son for a period of time. Or, as the child got into his teams, and he was more verbal about stating his position, his mother would start to cry and fall apart. So between those two types of reactions, you know, this client wanted to be a good son. And not both not caused this kind of upset in his mother, but also not want to get on her bad side. And so he learned to not speak up. But it took work in therapy. And one of the one of the techniques of Gestalt therapy, a lot of times in therapy, you're talking about a situation. So you're, you're removed from the situation, because essentially, you're telling a story. So in distort therapy, we bring the experience into the therapy room with us. So I would have him imagine that he, his mother is sitting in the room with us. And I'll actually bring over a chair. And I'd say, I'd like you as best as you can to imagine your mother sitting here. When we do that, and the client is sitting facing somebody important in their life. And it's more real, and it's in a safe environment, they start begin to get in touch with the deeper feelings that they've been cut off from, because they haven't allowed them. In this case, he had a lot of anger toward his mother. That for the first time he was aware of. And so through encouragement, starting with just speaking, that he's angry, but eventually having him literally express that anger. So we have a situation where on the one hand, we're trying to make it as real as possible. But on the other hand, because the other person isn't really in the room, the client feels safer expressing their feelings. And so that was the start of my clients starting to be able to speak up, be more assertive, recognizing that it was okay to have the feelings that he had, et cetera. So it's a transformative process from feeling like it's not okay to have my own feelings to owning them and realizing how important it is to own your feelings.

Nick Jikomes 49:55

So with this client, they weren't acknowledging even the existence of the anger that they were feeling the anger was generated by their mother. And you know, due to feelings of, you know, wanting to care for not upset the mother, they, you know that anger was effectively invisible to them. What problem was that causing did that just cause this client to be very meek or unassertive in his general life in ways that didn't serve Him,

Stephen Sideroff 50:25

it manifested not only with not being able to speak up and fully to say his needs to his mother. But it manifested in social environments, where he didn't feel like he can fully express himself where he was, he felt a little bit anxious being with other people, because he's learned to hold himself in, and not actually be who he was, be himself. And so to some extent, it gets in the way of, of knowing who you are, and being okay with who you are, because part of what he was learning is, it wasn't okay to have those feelings. And if you're not okay, having your feelings, then a part of you is not okay. And so you take that not okay, into other environments with you, and it creates things create anxiety.

Nick Jikomes 51:35

And so how does this connect to like Gestalt psychology in the sense of, you know, I know that you talked a lot about in some of the papers that you sent me, this process of Gestalt formation and destruction. And both of these are important, you can, you can form sort of maladaptive crystals, you can also form adaptive ones. And so, because you can have either you have to be able to make and break them, and some people get stuck in modes that aren't serving them. Right.

Stephen Sideroff 51:59

So he was stuck in a mode that wasn't serving Him and that not only did he have these feelings locked in, so they were driving some of his behavior. But also, he learned that it was more important to not express and not even be aware of feelings than reaching completion. So it, it sort of snowballed into other areas of his life where he found it difficult to reach completion, to do the last step that we complete a process. So these patterns carry on in other into other areas of our lives. Ultimately, that healthy approach is that when something is unfinished, when there's an unmet need, or unexpressed feeling, the goal is to reach completion. So that that completion allows you to move on to something to the next thing. Whenever we have something incomplete, a piece of us is always trying to complete that. So a piece of us is always being distracted from the present moment. And the more unfinished business, the more difficult it is for us to be fully present in the moment.

Nick Jikomes 53:31

This, you know, this concept of pattern completion, it makes good intuitive sense. It's really easy to think about how you deal with this when it comes to like a basic emotion or basic instinct. So when you're hungry, when you have it eaten for several hours, you get hungry, there's a very clear feeling you have, and you very clearly know what to do with that feeling I need to go eat some food, or this feeling is going to continue distracting me and I won't be able to fully be present for other things I might want to engage in. When it comes to subtler or higher level, emotional needs that go unmet where it's not so obvious that there even is a need that's unmet. How does someone learn how to identify when that's the case? Like if I'm just going out through my life, and I am feeling anxious or whatever, because I have this unmet need that hasn't completed? How do I start to recognize in my experience, what that need is, and then how to complete it? Well,

Stephen Sideroff 54:29

it begins with like you just said, if someone's anxious, experiencing anxiety is a clue in and of itself, that you're sitting on unfinished emotional business. And one of the reasons why we have anxiety is because we're sitting on feelings that we don't want to be expressed, we don't want other people to notice. And we don't want to notice it them ourselves. And so anytime that feelings start to bubble to the surface, because something in the environment is triggering them, that bubbling to the surface will be experienced as anxiety, that bubbling to the surface will be uncomfortable, will be a danger. And the way we deal we react to dangers with anxiety. So anxiety in and of itself as a sin is a symptom, an indication that there's some emotions that we haven't dealt with. So the first thing is to recognize the symptoms such as that or if we overreact to something that somebody said, that's another clue that was sitting on a pool of unfinished emotional business. So that's first step is to be aware and notice that the next is simply to sit with the discomfort that we notice. And sometimes I will have a client in my office, put different people into the empty chair, and sit with different people and just to see if they are to notice if they experience something inside of them. It could be just a Twitch, it could be just a little palpitation, it could be just a little butterflies, with one versus another person. And so now Oh, okay, what what do you think is going on with this person? What do you want to say to this person? In sometimes the feeling or what's unfinished isn't clear to begin with. But we explore. Okay, I'd like you to say to this person I'm angry at you for and have them fill in the sentence, or I'm feeling sad sitting with you because and so we it's a, it's a process of experimentation, to see if something touches in a little bit more deeply to what's going on inside.

Nick Jikomes 57:22

I see. So yeah, so noticing those symptoms is step one, and then that needs to then be followed up by a more intentional noticing of what else could be underneath that. And oftentimes, that's probably just enough, in itself is learning to pay attention to the symptoms and reaction to them by stopping and sort of paying attention to what's happening internally.

Stephen Sideroff 57:46

Right, right. So it's, it's holding the intention, it's knowing that something is there. Now, let's put a spotlight on it. So that it reveals itself. And sometimes I might have a client sort of go back in their history and imagine being in their kitchen at home as a child, in another room in the house, being with certain people, and just sitting for a moment with those memories in doing it as as as much detail as possible, to see if something comes up from that remembrance. So there are different approaches different ways of of getting at it, because it is in many cases, like a mystery that you're trying to solve.

Nick Jikomes 58:42

So can you give us a basic overview and synopsis of what your new book about resilience is about? Sure, sure. Beyond beyond the obvious? Sure.

Stephen Sideroff 58:55

Well, you know, I started when I started in my clinical work, I immediately realized that one of the key modulators of how we experience the world of our emotional balance of our physical health was stress that a person could be doing pretty well. But as you added the stress to their lives, their coping abilities begin to fall apart, they begin to have more more difficulties. And that's true in relationships as well. If we think of a wheel, with the spokes on on that wheel, and we identify each of the spokes, on the outside of that wheel, we can identify all the different problems, symptoms, that situations that we deal with throughout our lives. But what they all one of the things they all have in common if you bring them down to the hub straight is in the hubs, stress affects all of those spokes. So that's why I focused in on stress, because I found it to be so fundamental to our happiness, and our health, physical and emotional. But very quickly in my work, I also realized how people have resistance to dealing with their stress. And that took me down this path of identifying all the reasons why we have resistance to dealing with stress, not the least of which is that, to some degree, stress is an amazing positive tool to get things done, to be focused, to be persistent, to be able to set some goals and achieve those goals. And then in our lives, most of our successes have been paired with stress. And so if our successes are paired with stress, and those connections are here in our, in our brains, then there's a part of us actually being magnetized towards stress. So I wanted to shift into a model that was more about optimal functioning rather than let's manage stress. Because I wanted to get away from managing something that has both positive as well as negative characteristics. And that's when I shifted into creating a model of resilience. And so my model of resilience is more than a lot of people talk about resilience is the ability to bounce back in the end, so it's about after a stress, you recover baseline, after a stress, you come back to where you started from. And to me that was too limiting. Because I wanted to address everything that not only contributed to us bouncing back. But I wanted to address everything that may result in us engaging in more stresses than we need to be. I wanted to address everything that contributes to us moving through our day in which we jump from one stress to another to another to another without giving ourselves the opportunity for recovery. And so that's when I identified these nine pillars of resilience. And so my model is a very comprehensive model of optimal functioning. And to me resilience, and optimal functioning, are, are really the same. And so I've gotten away from this notion of resilience is the ability to bounce back. And I refer to it as the ability to bounce forward. And that's because one of the keys to the process is every time you engage in a challenge in your life, every time you engage in a stressful experience. At the end of that experience, you don't want to get back to where you were at the beginning, you want to be further ahead, you want to learn the lessons of that challenge of that stress of that experience. So that you grow your capacity and your capabilities so that when you encounter the next stress, it doesn't seem quite as stressful, because you're more capable of handling it. So my fifth pillar of resilience, which is mental balance, and mastery includes our mindset. And that's a growth mindset. It's a positive mindset. It's the one in which you want to embrace the challenges that you face in life rather than either shrink from them, or would handle them from this place of powering Oh, do I have to do this? Like, do I do I really need to do this, maybe I can step aside and not deal with this. Instead, you want to say, I want to handle this challenge? Because that's what's going to stimulate my own growth and development. And that's the mindset of a resilient person.

Nick Jikomes 1:04:43

What's the difference between bouncing forward and growth versus merely being busy and preoccupied all the time?

Stephen Sideroff 1:04:54

Well, a lot of us are busy and preoccupied as The way of not noticing, as a way of being unconscious, as a way of being on automatic, rather than in the present moment engaged with the desire to grow and learn from experience. So most of the time, or much of the time people are just trying to get by. So again, they wake up in the morning worrying about what can go wrong, as opposed to thinking about what can go right. And so we get busy, because when we're occupied, again, we don't notice unfinished emotional business. But the result is that we're just running in place. The result is we're not, number one, we're not making any real growth of progress in our lives. In number two, we are building up the stress in our lives that we experience.

Nick Jikomes 1:06:05

What, you know, can you talk a little bit about your general orientation between helping and helping people cope with stress and become resilient and become emotionally just stronger? And better? And pharmaceutical medications? Do you think that there's a place for those? Do you think we over rely on medications do people sort of use the ease with which medications are available today as another way of being unconscious as not stopping and noticing, because it's, you know, it seems today, like a lot of people's first instinct, if anything is wrong in their lives, emotionally, or whatever, is to try and get a prescription for something.

Stephen Sideroff 1:06:51

So first off, medications in certain circumstances, can be both life saving and make a person's life easier to live. So I want to begin with to acknowledge that, having said that, number one, we use them much, much too much. We use them exactly for the reason you just said is that people want a quick fix. And real resilience comes from only from an ongoing process of growth, in which you challenge the old beliefs and the old patterns, which don't serve you, but have been conditioned in you. And so they are ingrained. And so anytime, anything that we want to address and transform and change, you know, those old patterns have been going on for years. So of course, it's going to take time to learn healthier behavior and patterns. And we people are, to a great extent resistant to that or just give up too easily. We have a medical profession that contributes as well. We have a medical profession that's quick to give the sleeping pill quick to give the blood pressure medication, quick to give all of the all of the drugs that address the symptom, but not the underlying mechanism that resulted in the symptom. But they have the attitude that the medication is just as good as, as if the person went through the process of healing themselves. They the attitude that most people have is, in fact, I had this just the other day I had somebody who was clearly out of shape, ignoring a lot of his feelings. But he had blood pressure medication that was keeping his blood pressure in a normal range. And he was perfectly content. He says, hey, my, my doctor says I'm doing great, you know, oh my god, this blood pressure medication and it's and the mechanism that initially caused the high blood pressure is still going on. The imbalance in his stress response to recover response is still happening. And so the medication is like masking the process. So, do we use too much medication? Yes, we use medication to quickly in a process without showing the patient that is an alternative approach. That's a lifestyle approach. That's a resilience approach, that's a better eating approach, etc. Those need to all be trucked try before you reach for the medication.

Nick Jikomes 1:10:14

Do you find that a lot of people, a lot of clients that you've seen, have either forms of psychopathology forms of emotional distress dysregulation that are downstream of things like their diet?

Stephen Sideroff 1:10:32

Not Yes, definitely. And particularly in children.

Nick Jikomes 1:10:36

What are some of the major themes there for you?

Stephen Sideroff 1:10:40

Well, you know, ease ease is more becomes more important than the right foods. And so going to McDonald's is easier than making a good healthy meal at home. And, you know, I understand, you know, and families, you know, both parents may be both working, and it makes it more difficult. But it doesn't take away from the fact that fast foods are going to create problems, and I think, are a big contributor to how much behavioral problems we have in schools, how much attention issues we have in children. But for these reasons, as well as related, not getting enough sleep and things like and things like that. So, yeah, I think diet plays an important role in all of what we were talking about.

Nick Jikomes 1:11:44

And you mentioned too, that you've, you've also apprenticed with a shaman in South America. Can you talk a little bit about that? What prompted that? And what was that apprenticeship all about? Exactly?

Stephen Sideroff 1:12:02

You know, what we see and what we're tuned into, in terms of this, what's visible, both visually, auditorily is only a fraction of all the signals that are out here, in front in and of and around us. You know, our TV picks up certain signals that we can pick up we need the TV to translate them into a form we can see. Well, when we talk about shamans, when we talk about indigenous approaches to life to the universe, they have different ways of tuning in to areas of the spectrum that we normally aren't tuned into. And it opened, so I did it because I wanted to open, we can use all this Oxleas term, I wanted to open my doors of perception. I wanted to expand them, I wanted to see what right now I can't see. And back to what we've been talking about, of emotional holding patterns. I felt in my own life, that I had some blocks in those areas that I was really, really good in having defense mechanisms that blocked me from some of my emotions. And because I was successful in my life, I wasn't, I was not encountering the crisis that would may break me open to those deeper feelings. So it was through the work with the shaman that that process actually occurred where I really felt broken open, asked my defenses to my deeper feelings. And it took me to a whole other level of growth and development. It took me to a whole other level of having courage to face these deeper levels. So I you know, there were a few times where I went through the dyeing process, which was a powerful transformative process for me. And it took those that work with the shaman for these things to occur. So they were tremendously growth enhancing for me. It gave me a whole different perspective and view of the world as well. Beyond the sort of, I would say the narrow one that I grew up learning well that we learn in western Western society.

Nick Jikomes 1:14:55

So you felt like you experienced your own death

Stephen Sideroff 1:14:59

there A few times where I faced my death where I felt like two step forward was to die. And without knowing what that was going to be like, and even not knowing if I would really die, and it was going through those doorways, so to speak. And coming out on the other side, and discovering, I was okay. Was the was some of the biggest learning experiences for me. Because it showed me that I can take these steps forward, and I will be okay. So it effected my sense of confidence in myself, as well as the world around me and get to a deeper place of acceptance of what goes on in our in our world in our lives.

Nick Jikomes 1:15:58

And what was the context and the setting for these experiences? Was this an Ayahuasca ceremony in the Amazon? Was it something else?

Stephen Sideroff 1:16:05

It was with various plant medicines? Teacher Tools, yes.

Nick Jikomes 1:16:12

Yeah, in what is that something that you came to later in life, or that you had previous experience with?

Stephen Sideroff 1:16:21

So, um, you know, I experimented in, earlier on, but these experiences were actually began when I was about 40 years old.

Nick Jikomes 1:16:41

And, you know, in things like, traditional Ayahuasca ceremonies, obviously, there is a pharmacological component to those, but they're often done. In ritual settings, there's, you know, there's a very clear structure there. And in many indigenous cultures that have these practices, it's not merely a tool for for someone who thinks they're sick and need to get better. It's often a just a recurring regular thing that people do with some cadence. So you know, every, every month or every few months, or whatever, people engage in this structured ritual, whether or not they're feeling down, or they're feeling normal, or they're feeling good. And there's, you know, there seems to be something about that, that ritual and that routine and that almost normalcy to it. Do you? Do you think that's the case? Do you think there is something those approaches offer, above and beyond the drug or the pharmacological component that has to do with the the ritual setting in which they take place? Yeah,

Stephen Sideroff 1:17:38

that was the approach that I experienced, and I was involved in. And it's about, you know, I'll say, in general. You know, when I was director of a clinic, we had a saying that access to a human soul is a sacred honor. And it was an attitude and approach that I have and continue to have in working with clients is that deep, deep respect, and honoring of the trust that the other person holds for in May. And in these, in these jet in the journey work, it also is very important to approach it from a place of deep respect. That it's, it's, it works within a model of, you know, oneness of everything in the universe. And you're tapping into something that is universal in nature. And it's both honoring, and respecting these Teacher Tools, plant medicine, as something that we want to respect, and honor the process and do it with tremendous humility, as opposed to doing it just to have a good fun evening. It's not for that purpose. It's for deep learning, deep healing.

Nick Jikomes 1:19:25

Your book about resilience? Is this. Is this primarily a book that's aimed at people who want to build more resilience or is it for a very general audience?

Stephen Sideroff 1:19:37

It's for a very general audience. It's for people who are right now suffering from physical symptoms, emotional mental symptoms, because it's about as I said, optimal functioning. It's identifying these nine pillars that cover every aspect of how we engage Ah with ourselves in the world, in helping people improve along each of these nine dimensions, and I do it within the context of a methodology that I refer to as the path. Because I found that people can be very overwhelmed when they think of stress management, when they think of becoming more resilient, when they think of any kind of change. It's a, it can feel overwhelming. And so the way I lay it out in my book is to identify what it takes to be on the path. And so the path is right here today, it's not some future goal, all the ways down that I have to work hard and odd for a long time to get to every day, it's possible to take steps onto the path by following some of the steps in each of the nine pillars. And so within each chapter on of the nine pillars, there are steps you can take that puts you on to the path. And then once you're on the path, you can go, Ah, today, I'm doing something that put me on the path, rather than worrying about what you still need to be done. So it's a very reassuring mindset that helps people stay with it. And then if they fall off the path, there's some simple steps they could take to get back onto the path. So it's for everybody. But it's also about optimal functioning. So no matter what level you are on these nine pillars, there's always more for you to attain, for you to develop to get better and better becoming more and more resilient.

Nick Jikomes 1:22:02

What's the difference between good stress and bad stress stress that you know overwhelms people and leads to issues versus stress that's motivating and invigorating, and gets people to to keep moving forward and growing? Is it just have to do with the frequency and the intensity of the stress? Or are there just completely different types of stress?

Stephen Sideroff 1:22:25

Well, yes to both of those questions, okay. So on the one hand, there are different kinds of stresses, there are stresses that are more positive in nature, getting a promotion, getting married, getting into a new relationship. You know, stepping into a gathering, that can be a little challenging. So there are a lot of having a baby, there are a lot of stresses that are positive and Ponce Lea the person, the founder, who did 1000s of studies on stress, and is the one who coined the term took the term stress from physics into behavior. He referred to that as you stress, eu stress. And as opposed to distress. So yes, there are different kinds of stresses we encounter that can be used stress or distress. But whether it's one or the other, when you pile too much stress on to a person's life, even the good stress can be overwhelming, even the good stress can cause problems. If the, if what it's sitting on is already like too much for a person to handle. So quantity is is important, as well as quality. And of course, a piece of all of this is how we approach stress. If we approach stress as a challenge, as an opportunity to grow, is going to be less impactful than if we approach it with oh my goodness, look what I have to deal with. So attitude always is a factor in the impact of stress in our lives.

Nick Jikomes 1:24:26

Do you find in your clinical practice that do you think that anyone can sort of learn to you know, some people are very good at dealing with stress, they almost they almost enjoy it or that they relish it they see it as a growth opportunity. They see it as a you know, a fun challenge to overcome. And other people are just completely overwhelmed by even like the littlest stress in their life. Can the second person become the first person and how common is that can do you think? Do you think that's possible for anyone or to certain people have to do much, much more work than other people.

Stephen Sideroff 1:25:04

So there's an interact Shin, between a person's innate temperament and what we're talking about. So there are people who are more quiet, who feel more comfortable being either by themselves, so just with a few people, then people you know, we refer to them as introverts and extroverts. But that gets confused with what we've learned, it gets confused with some of the things I've already been talking about. So whether you're an introvert or extrovert, you can learn these lessons in order to handle stress in a much more effective way. So that they have less of a negative impact on you. And so an introvert might find that once they develop some of these techniques, that they feel more comfortable going out into the world, they still may be introvert in that, they'll go out into the world, and they'll enjoy themselves, but they may need to come back into their home more quickly than somebody else, because that's their nature. But the difference is that they will feel more comfortable out in the world learning these techniques.

Nick Jikomes 1:26:34

Is there something in your book that that you think will surprise people, or that they might find counterintuitive about the nature of stress and resilience?

Stephen Sideroff 1:26:44

Well, again, the first thing was my notion of bouncing forward rather than bouncing back. Think, and I introduced that early on in my book. And I think that surprises a lot of people who always thought about it as, as bouncing back. The other is where I talk about, tell people, it's important to be accepting of yourself. Because a lot of why you're having struggles with stress are not your fault. They're inherent in some of the structural aspects of growing up and evolution that we've talked about already. In. So that's another very important awakening for a lot of people is to not blame themselves for having some of the problems, the stress related problems that they have.

And I would say the other, the other important thing is to is that people realize that the voice, they're listening to 24/7, their internal errands, so to speak, is always wrong. And most people have difficulty with that. But it's that I say that that parent that comes from a place of judgment, criticism, maybe being too hard on you. That's never okay. It never serves you people think, well, if I make a mistake, I have to be hard on myself, because that's going to motivate me more. And I point out in my book, that no, that's not the case, when you're hard on yourself. What what the message you're giving yourself is that you're not okay. And if you feel not, okay, you're going to feel less confident. The next time you have to engage in in this kind of, of behavior. And so I say and continuing on that note, I say that even when your internal voice tells you a fact, it's still wrong. And people go, Wow, what do you mean, when they're telling me a fact? How can it be wrong? And that's an I give the analogy, if you come home as a child with a 90 on your report card, and your mother or father state, why did you get those 10 Wrong? Well, that's a fact you did get 10 wrong, but they're emphasizing the wrong thing. And that's why it's wrong. And so that's what the internal voice typically does. It emphasizes the negative in dismisses the positive. And I find that people have great difficulty in their lives, taking in compliments, taking in their goodness, because they're so focused on what they're doing wrong, what they might do wrong. So those are some have the kind of the points in my book that I think would be surprising to people?

Nick Jikomes 1:30:08

What do you think that sort of might be related to this question which is, in general with with ourselves and how we treat ourselves, but also in the context of parent, parents and children, what is your general take on the right balance between positive and negative reinforcement, encouraging good things that we want to see more of, versus punishing bad things that we don't want to see more of.

Stephen Sideroff 1:30:33

So this is how I, my first pillar of resilience is our relationship with ourselves. And everything else emanates from that. So I already said that most of us have this internal parent that could be critical, judgmental, negative, comparing us to others. All kinds of approaches that we can say are negative. And I'm telling the people that I work with and tell people in my book, that that's always wrong. And then I contrast it with what I define as a healthy internal parent or a healthy internal voice that comes from a place of love, compassion, acceptance, support, self care, and joy. In so when you ask, what's the how much it should be positive reinforcement, how much negative, I try to avoid all negative. I think, rather than saying, You shouldn't have done that, you want to say, this is the way to do it. Instead of a person in their own life, saying, when they're faced with a challenge, and set, instead of saying, Wow, this is difficult, which then sends them down the negative direction, you want to say, Let me think about how I can do it. Let me take this challenge. So again, this is the positive mindset. So a positive approach is always better than any negative approach.

Nick Jikomes 1:32:37

Do you feel like people deal with stress differently today than they did 1020 3040 50 years ago? Are we becoming more easily stressed? Do we have more distractions today? Or? Or do people sort of React? You know, when you think about the beginning, the middle of the end of your career or even earlier in your life? You know, it has the general relationship of Americans to stress changed in your opinion?

Stephen Sideroff 1:33:03

Well, life as has gotten more and more complex, newer, more complicated. And so if you think about the weight of all of that complexity, and in all the stress is there is more now than ever before, when we look at it, people may have more stuff. But the more stuff doesn't, usually does translate into anything that helps us with stress. It can. It can, if we look at what we have, and we translate that into, hey, I'm safe. I have more money in the bank, or I'm safe for this reason, or that that can contribute to our resilience. But most of the time, we're not focusing on that. And quite frankly, even though life has gotten supposedly better, most people are still struggling with stress more than ever before. Because of the complexity, because, you know, our lives change based on the world around us. And so if there's more material things in the world, we simply feel we have to have more material things that cost more money that cause us to work harder to get them in. So it gets back to what our mindset is. If we can focus in on the positives in our lives that can help us feel less stressed. Many years ago, I traveled through Europe and Africa and In a little van, little camper van with my wife. And our world was in this little van, no TVs, no radios, or anything like that. But we were very happy and not stressed at all. Because we were not confronted with, you know, what people are telling you to buy to purchase what you should be concerned about afraid of. And so that little world that we were living in, had no stress whatsoever, very little stress, you know, the stress was where we're going to find something to eat. So there's a lot more stress in the world, but a lot of it is created by the environment, and more complexity in the environments that we live.

Nick Jikomes 1:35:54

And is the book out now? And where can people find it?

Stephen Sideroff 1:35:58

So the book is, will be available on June 4, June 4, you can order a pre publication copy, I gave you a link for a special offer that gives a free six week audio program on resilience. When they put in when you purchase my book, before launch day, I don't know when this interview will be shown. But I'm also doing a 10 day resilience challenge from May 15, to the 25th. It's free. And each day I go into a different pillar of my model of resilience to help people determine how resilient they are as their starting point. So people can order my book now.

Nick Jikomes 1:36:56

Okay, great. Yeah, I'll put that information. The episode will go up today, May the third. And I will put that information that link up in the episode description for people who want to check it out. Is there anything else you want to mention about the book or anything you want to reiterate that we talked about today?

Stephen Sideroff 1:37:12

I think you know, I, I appreciate your questions. They've been all very good questions. And we've covered a lot of territory. I just want to emphasize that this book. The goal is not just to present information. My goal, if I'm going to write a book is that people actually make changes based on the book that people actually find the book, stimulating and easy enough to follow that they actually will read the entire book and take the steps delineated in, in the book. So I've, I've anticipated people's resistance. I've anticipated people's places people get stuck. And I preemptively address them so that people stay committed to the process, stay motivated, and stay hopeful. So I would say that would be the one other thing I wanted to mention that I've really thought about how people read the book and how people might use it to make sure that people benefit the most from it.

Nick Jikomes 1:38:23

All right, well, I think that's a great place to end it. Thank you again for your time. This was fascinating. And and we scheduled this on short notice. So appreciate it. It's

Stephen Sideroff 1:38:32

my pleasure. And thank you for the interview. I've enjoyed I've enjoyed it very much

Mind & Matter
Mind & Matter
Whether food, drugs or ideas, what you consume influences who you become. Learn directly from the best scientists & thinkers about how your body & mind react to what they're fed. New episodes weekly. Not medical advice.