My work is largely about helping people change their perspectives. Rich’s book “Change Your Story Change Your Life” is about that same thing. Taking the same set of facts and telling a story about it that is beneficial.
Rich Curtis is, and always has been a guide. For a decade as a raft and backpacking guide and now as a real estate entrepreneur, best selling author, and success coach. Rich guides, coaches, writes, and speaks to help entrepreneurs, CEOs, adventurers, and go getters rewrite their stories, get unstuck and live their dreams. As a story expert, passionate student of neuroscience, positive psychology, and behavioral psychology, Rich believes in a world where people are invested in the process of being better tomorrow than they are today.
His life’s work, including his book, Change Your Story Change Your Life, has been about helping people get there. Outside of work Rich is a dedicated father of two, husband, traveler and outdoor adventurer.
You can find Rich here: http://www.richcurtis.com/
Brian Smith 0:00
Close your eyes and imagine what are the things in life that causes the greatest pain, the things that bring us grief, or challenges, challenges designed to help us grow to ultimately become what we were always meant to be. We feel like we’ve been buried. But what if, like a seed we’ve been planted, and having been planted, to grow to become a mighty tree. Now, open your eyes, open your eyes to this way of viewing life. Come with me as we explore your true, infinite, eternal nature. This is grief to growth. And I am your host, Brian Smith. Hey, everybody, this is Brian back with another episode of grief to growth. And today I’ve got with me, gentleman, his name is Rich Curtis, and rich Curtis as an author. He’s always been a guide, he spent over a decade as a as a raft guide. He’s been a backpacking guide. He’s now a real estate entrepreneur. He’s a best selling author, and he’s a success coach. He guides coaches writes and speaks to help entrepreneurs, CEOs, adventurers, and go getters rewrite their stories, we’re going to talk about what that means to rewrite your story helps him to get unstuck and how to live the dreams. And as a story expert, and as a passionate student of neuroscience, positive psychology and behavior psychology, which believes in a world where people are invested in the process of being better tomorrow than they are today. And his life’s work includes his book, change your story, change your life, have been about helping people to get there. So outside of work, which is a dedicated father of two we just talked about. He’s got two little energetic kids. He’s a husband, he’s a traveler, and he’s an outdoor adventurer. So with that, I want to welcome to grave to growth. Rich Curtis.
Rich Curtis 1:50
Thanks for having me, Brian. I’m excited to be here. I love the name. I love the concept of of taking grief and using that to to move forward and grow. So I’m excited to be here in chat with you today.
Brian Smith 1:59
Yeah, well, I love that you’re the title of your books, I think that’s a very important part of dealing with grief is the story that we tell ourselves. So what I want to get started with is asking you because I know You talk a lot about story. And people might say, Well, my story is just what happened to me that I can’t change my story, the story is what it is. So what does it mean to change our story?
Rich Curtis 2:22
Yeah, it’s funny, because in my coaching practice, I’ve run up against that as soon as we dive into narrative work, you get that? Well, no, this is static. This is truth. This is what it is, is what happened. But what you find when you start diving into the science of story, how our brains compile stories, and even how our senses work, our stories are heavily filtered personal virtual realities of what happened. In fact, if you, if you and I experienced the same moment, and we write our stories down about it, there’s a nearly 0% chance that we’re gonna write the same story about that that moment. And the, the science of that is really kind of interesting, where you’re parsing so much data, we’ve got like 11 million bits of information hitting us right now, while you and I are talking. Now, if you had to actively engage with all that information, you’d be just a quivering mass of overwhelm, you wouldn’t be able to do anything. And so your brain creates all these filters to filter out all the stuff you don’t need and the stuff you’ve already engaged with. And it makes these just intense filters for the world. No filters are essentially your stories. Once you’ve set those filters, nothing gets in or out that isn’t part of those filters. So for new information to get in, you have to be knocked off your game, or you have to actively do the work of suspending some of those filters. Now you are actively engaging right now with like 40 to 60 of those 11 million bits, depending on the study you read, right? So you’re parsing the data down to just an infant testimony, small amount. And then you’re compiling your stories from that tiny bit of information. Now you add to that, that your brain has an anthropological preset for writing bad stories, right, because there were 15 other hominids running around, you know, trying to become us become the dominant hominid and we didn’t win because we’re the biggest and the toughest, we won because we were the scariest and because we can cooperate. So we got really good at hearing a twig break in the woods and saying that’s a saber toothed tiger, I better run. I was great when there were saber toothed tigers in the woods. Now that most of us don’t live with immediate threats to life. Unfortunately, not all of us. But most of us don’t live with immediate daily threats to life. What our brain does is it patterns for the negatives. So you’re taking in the smallest bits of information, you’re filtering them through your emotions, and your past experiences your preset to pick the worst and most negative bits of information. And that’s what we’re writing these these stories from. So you can imagine, you know, 11 million bits of information, the average dictionary has about a million letters in it. So if I gave you 11 dictionaries that you can pick 40 letters, you can have duplicates, obviously we only got 26 characters writing a story out of 40 out of these 11 million letters, and then you hand me the same stack and told me to do the same thing. The odds that we’re gonna write the same story are essentially Zero. And so we think these things are truth and are empirical and are set in stone, but they’re not. And part of that is also because we’re in love with our senses, we think our senses are empirical, like, what I’m seeing of you on the camera right now, is not what you look like. And that’s a that’s a mind blower, right? Like I’m looking at you. But if I drew my picture you and you drew your picture you they’re gonna be very, very different. Because I’m filtering you through all the experiences I’ve had with other men, men with glasses, fathers podcasters. All these, these filters are in there to affect what I think of you and the picture we send to our brain. And one of the most powerful examples is the early astronaut program, they thought floating upside down in space would make the astronauts go nuts, they wanted to test it before they put them in orbit. So they strapped these goggles on them the inverted their view of the world for 30 days. And they couldn’t take them off sleeping nothing they had had to wear them and lots of disorientation and accidents and bumps and bruises and sued. But on day 26, one of the astronauts woke up and the world was right side up again, even though he’s still wearing his goggles, because his brain had for 35 years seeing the world right side up. And now for 26 days, it was seeing the world upside down. And it said, it doesn’t matter the picture that’s coming in, I know that’s wrong, I’m going to fix it. And it righted the world. And by the end of the 30 days, all of the astronauts experienced same thing The world is right set up again. Yeah, your brain is is literally changing what you see your sight is not an empirical picture of the world. It’s filtered through your experiences and your past emotions. So the first step in the process of engaging with doing narrative work and rewriting your stories, and especially your stories around traumatic events, like grief, is letting go of the concept of truth. Not in sort of this sort of political Post truth environment we’ve all just been through, I don’t mean it like that there are things that are true. When it comes to your stories and the way you compile them. This is not truth. This is just a version of the truth. And if you are the one writing them, and you are you’re the one writing these stories, you’re the one doing this work, even though it’s subconscious. Why Why would you write such terrible stories for yourself? Like when you think of the stories, not the stories you tell at a cocktail party, but the Late Night with a whiskey on the couch story that you tell yourself, right? You’d never say that out loud. You never stand up in front of a party of people and say, I totally suck at everything, right? I’m fat, I’m a loser, I’ll never get anywhere in life. You know, I’m a bad dad, whatever it is those stories, you tell yourself, you’d never say that out loud. But those are the stories you’re living out, and they’re affecting your life in a really dramatic way. So once you realize your stories aren’t true, and you’re in control of them, then you sort of have to step back and say, why am I writing such crappy stories for myself? Why am I living out such horrible stories? And then you can engage with the science in the process of rewriting them to take your life where you want to go?
Brian Smith 7:43
Yeah, yeah, I think something you said there was really important that I wrote that I want to invite you to the library. So it was very important. But what I want to emphasize something because I think there’s people have this question, why do we write such bad stories? Why do we focus on the negative and I say the same thing, my clients, it’s evolutionary, it’s the way our brains are wired is to focus on what’s wrong, so we can fix what’s wrong. And that doesn’t always serve us. So I want to give people it’s okay, if you’re doing this, right. Because we all do it. As you and I know talking to people, we know that when people come to us, they all do it. I’m a terrible person. I’m a terrible father. I’m just, I’m just a loser, everybody. I’m a poser. Everybody else is good. And I’m not.
Rich Curtis 8:25
Yeah, yeah. And it’s it’s hard to work in the personal development industry in a way that’s, that’s humble and walks alongside people, which is what you’re talking about is saying, hey, it’s okay, that you’re not broken, you’re not damaged, you’re not doing something wrong. You are living out your evolutionary destiny, this is how you’re wired to work. So we’re just trying to give you tools to help circumvent that and have better outcomes. And my brain works just like your brain, and I suffer in the same way you suffer. I just suffered enough that I got to a breaking point that I decided there had to be a better way. And I went out to find it. And I think that’s, I think sometimes we give people new names for their problems and let them keep them in the personal development. We’re like, Okay, I’m just, I’m just projecting or I had a bad childhood, or I’ve got a bad story. And it makes people feel better. I can name this thing. But then we don’t, we don’t force the issue of doing the work to actually fix it. Because doing the work doesn’t sell books, right? If you if the title of your book was spend the next six months doing the hard work of rewriting all the narratives in your life, so you can be better, right? That would sell approximately one copy to your mom.
Brian Smith 9:33
Rich Curtis 9:36
But four easy steps to change your life in 15 minutes, boom, you’ll sell, you know, 100,000 of those. And so, a little bit like those of us who do do this work, we need to step back and admit to people that this stuff is simple. It’s not rocket science. I’m not smarter than you. My brain works the same way your brain works. I just suffered enough that I was willing to do the work. Yeah. And and that’s it. The process is actually the doing of the work and unfortunately, it’s Like anything in life, it’s it’s work. It’s not. It’s It’s simple, but you got to you got to you got to slog it out, you got to put in the effort. And I think that so grief, the death of my mom is what forced me to, to engage with the work, you know?
Brian Smith 10:16
Yeah, I’m sorry to hear that that was actually led into my next question. I was wondering what it was that that prompted you to do the work because typically, again, evolutionary, we do the simplest thing that’s, that’s working or kind of working until it doesn’t work anymore. That’s, that’s, that’s evolution. That’s fine. Okay. But that’s not being lazy. That’s just being efficient. But it’s something that comes along and knocks us off that course, typically, that drives us to do this work. So for you, it sounds like it was the passing of your mother.
Rich Curtis 10:43
It was Yeah. And and sorry. I mean, the passing of parents always dramatic, and you think but how did that knock you off your game so bad, but it was, it was really sudden, and I had some bad stories that kind of compounded it. So my mom died about 41 days before the birth of my first child. So that was part of it was she, she never got to meet him. And my mom was she had five children of her own. And she’d never met a child in her whole life that wasn’t like her child under her protection. Immediately. She was just her whole essence. Her whole being was mom, all my growth and my friends growing up called her mom. So that’s, that’s kind of who she was. But she, the day she died, was really sudden and unexpected. So we thought that she had a hernia. And they sent us home. And she had an infection associated with that. And then the infection got out of control. And within three days, we were bringing her into the hospital. And then she spent about 14 hours in the hospital in the dying process dying from sepsis. And so part of that what made it harder for me was having been a raft guide and a mountain guide, I had this sort of classic male savior complex, like nobody dies on my watch. Right? Yeah. And then had a lot of experiences that confirmed that right? That’s confirmation bias. Like, I’d had heart attacks and broken ankles and cracked ribs and cracked heads. And I’d always gotten those people out safe, right. And so my mom had a DNR Do Not Resuscitate order. So for those of you don’t know what that means, that basically means that if we know this is only going one way, you’re going to die today, then you have to stop working on me and let it take its course, right? Which is counter to my training as a first responder in medicine, we’re trained, you just keep doing things until you pass out or give the person to somebody who knows more than you. Right? And so to sit on my hands and watch her die for 14 hours, was really really hard. For me personally, I think it hit me maybe even more than my other four brothers in a way because I’m so used to stepping in and doing things when when people are having that process. Yeah. So about two years after her death, so she passed away and I went into two years of just intense suffering. Depression, you know, I call them in the book that the failed stage frustration, anger, irritability, loss of self care, exile, depression, all of it. But what was amazing about it was, I was a functional dad, it was pretty good dad as good as a dad as I am today. Good as a dad, as I know how to be. I wasn’t, I was probably not a great husband, I was probably pretty challenging and emotional to deal with for a new mom. Unfortunately, my wife gave me a lot of grace, and I thank her for that. And I was really functional, you know, high earning entrepreneur in the real estate industry. And so from the outside if you went out and had drinks with me, you had no idea the depths to which I was suffering. You have no idea that I was getting up in the morning sitting on the edge of the bed and thinking is this all there’s gonna be for the rest of my life? Am I gonna feel like this? You had no idea that I was driving around town at you know, just ridiculous the unsafe speeds playing loud angry music on a couple occasions nearly picking fistfights which is completely out of my, my normal emotional range. Because I had so much anger and frustration pent up inside me. And it all came to a head I think some people have their epiphany is with like a religious leader on the slopes of the Andes, taking Iosco under the stars, right, I was circling in Costco in my truck, and having an argument with my brother and I was fighting with my brother over the phone. And I’d been circling the Costco long enough that even a security guard started to follow me in his little golf cart to try and chase me down and see him. And the combination of this I screamed in the phone to my brother, look, I’m failing you. I’m failing. And that’s my wife and we failed mom, we just stood there and watched her die. She fought for all five of us every day of her life. When we did nothing, we just watched her die. And when that story came flying out of me, I hit the brakes on the truck. The security guard got almost nailed me in the back of the truck. And I was just done. I was completely frozen in place because I didn’t know that story was in me. Never in the two years since her passing and I engaged with that concept that I said out loud I failed my mom I didn’t fight for her. Nobody my family had ever said that or even implied that that was something that happened that day. So that was the source of all my my pain. I was sticking your finger in the bullet wound like that. That was it. That was what was causing everything for me was this story and I didn’t even know it was there. And so at that moment, I had asked myself a couple of questions one is it true to Even if it’s true, does it matter even if it’s true? Is it serving me? And the answer was no, it’s not the truth of that day and it’s not serving, it’s practically killing me. And so I set into a two year sort of deep dive into the Science of Happiness and the science of story to figure out how to correct us how to change this narrative. And the first step was looking at that day my mom died. So actually went back to that day, and so well, at four in the morning, my dad asked me to get the DNR and so I get the DNR and I brought it down to the hospital, and I asked my mom to resend it, she was still, you know, cogent enough to do that, and you can resend it verbally and she said, No, she wanted to stand and I handed it over. Even though I knew what that meant. I didn’t want to hand that died, Doctor practically ripped it pulling it out of my hand.
Then my mom was deeply religious, and I’m not per se but so we got the priest in to do the final sacraments for her the Catholic priests to make her more comfortable. She we were not telling anybody the name of our son. So we’re keeping it to ourselves until he is born. And so I leaned over and whispered in her ear, the name of my son his middle name is is for my father is named after my father, so whispered that in her ear, so she would at least have his name to carry with her, you know, to the other side. Later in the day, my dad couldn’t they were married 50 years, their best friends had a tremendous relationship. He couldn’t get near her because of the hospital bed rail. So I got that. And I couldn’t figure that thing out. So I got the nurse over to get the rail down so dad could get closer get into bed and hold her. We called the whole family by the moment she died there. 18 people in the room, each of them had a hand on her in some way. You know, and then she had this mask on for oxygen. It was freaking her out. She never liked things on her face. And dad said to me that that thing’s freaking out. So I went to the nurse. I said, What’s that thing doing? She says, it’ll prolong her life. 10 minutes, I said, get that off of her face, you know. So I was able to go back and look at that day and rewrite the story of that day into I fought for my mom and every way I could while respecting her right to die her way. Yeah, because that is also true. Because the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was to stand there and do nothing and put my hand on my mom and watch her go through the process of dying. I don’t know if you were present when your daughter passed, or if you’ve been present when anybody passed. But my reaction was to run from it. My reaction was to not experience it. I was crumbling inside, I wanted to run I want it to go, I want it to escape. And it took every, you know, ounce of resolve, I had to keep my hand on her leg, my eyes on her eyes and watch until she took her last breath. Right. That’s also the truth of that day. So you can say that I stood there and it did nothing and didn’t fight for my mom and just watched her die. And that’s true. But you can also say that I fought for my mom in every way I could while respecting her right to die her way. That’s also true. Both those stories are true. Both are written by me. One was destroying my life. One of them sets me free. And that’s the power of rewriting your narrative, especially out of a traumatic or grief of that.
Brian Smith 17:46
Yeah, I think rich that what you just said is so incredibly powerful. And and I thank you for sharing that with people. Because I think sometimes people feel alone in this thing that they’re going through. And we do we write, we write the horror stories for ourselves. Things that you know, if like, if you if your friend came and told you that story, you would say, You’re insane. That’s not what happened. But you but you tell yourself the story and you carried around for it for you know, until it pretty much broke you or until you realize, okay, this story is not working for me. And I think it’s really powerful to tell people, you can choose your story. You can’t choose your facts, right. But you can choose how you interpret those facts. And that’s very, very powerful.
Rich Curtis 18:30
Yeah, and it it comes, it comes with practice. And it comes with just making a decision about how you want to feel right, like, you have to sort of draw a line in the sand and say, from today forward, there’s going to be one person in the world that doesn’t tell me how bad I stuck. And that’s going to be me, right? Like I’m in control this thing I’m going to make a choice about how I want to feel when I when I talk whitewater raft guide school for 16 years. And we’d given these three mantras to learn how to guide and one of them was point where you want to go and get there, because people get in a raft and they try to drive it like a car, because that’s what they know, right? But driving a raft. The road is like a greased up Teflon conveyor belt that just keeps pushing you towards your obstacles, right. And so driving like a car doesn’t work. So what happens is, and they hear the guide, what they hear me saying, and it looks like it works is all forward. So they jump in the back and they they do nothing with the direction of the boat, they scream all forward, and we paddle until we hit something usually shore. And then they turn the boat away from that obstacle. Like you were saying people don’t change direction until they hit something until something knocks him off course. And then they paddle to the other shore. And then they paddle to the middle and slam a rock. And they do this until we get them to calm down and we tell them point where you want to go and get there. You need to initiate direction before momentum in your life. And part of the reason that we don’t take time to evaluate these stories and change our direction is that we’re moving a million miles an hour in our lives right now. We don’t have built in periods of self reflection. We don’t have built in patterns or time in our schedule to take and assess these things. And even have a moment to try to change that direction. So we’ve just got the pedal down, where you’re doing our careers, we’re taking care of our kids, we’re moving forward. And then we take a hit in life, and it knocks us off course. And now we’re going this way. And we go this way, until we hit something else. And life is not meant to be a series of hits that you take that drive you to an unknown destination, life is meant to be a series, of course corrections from those hits to get back to where you want to go. And as you know, after grief, the destination you’re heading for might not be the same one it was before. But it still has to be an intentional one. We want to be living an examined and intentional life and pointing to the end destination where we want to go. And our stories are how we get there. It’s how we program our brain to take us where we want to go.
Brian Smith 20:47
Yeah, I love that direction. Before momentum, I think that that is so awesome. Because we tend to just, I’m just gonna reiterate what you said, we tend to just go go, go, go go, and sometimes not even directly want to go in. And we don’t realize that we can, we could stop, we can, we could slow down and we can, you know, set an intention and set a direction. And that’s that’s exactly what you’re talking about today. So why is it you think that story is such a powerful, powerful tool for life change?
Rich Curtis 21:17
Well, it’s, you can think of stories of programming code for your brain. So if you if I was to sit down and program a website, right now, I wouldn’t type in the computer make the background red, right, nothing would happen, I have to type in some HTML to make it do that. And so story is that programming code for your brain, it’s how we access that filter database, we talked earlier, we have these filters that heavily parse the information, so we can go on about our days. And we don’t ever have a chance to get in there and muck with the filters and change them. And the way we do that the way we access them is through story. That’s the programming code to get it into your brain. So if you have an area of your life, that’s not working. And it doesn’t have to be something as dramatic as what I went through with grief. It can be anything you could be not where you want in your career, not where you want fitness wise, any you’re not where you want relationship wise, any part of your life that isn’t working for you, you can stop and say, what’s my story about this? Is it true? Even if it’s true? Is it serving me and if not, there’s a story evolution process, I teach in the book for you to go through and rewrite that story and change it. And so that story is so powerful, because it allows you to access that filter database. And the way it does that in the parts of your brain. It does that in a really interesting and compelling. There’s a woman in LA really brilliant neuroscience researcher Mary Helen Ember, Dino Yang, I cite her research in the book, she has a great book of her own, and some TED Talks, you can watch to look her up, she’s awesome. And she she focuses on education. But what she’s found is, if you tell someone an inspiring story, or an impactful story, maybe even as I was telling the story of my mom the day of my mom’s death, and you then put them on an fMRI machine, that you’ll see three different parts of the brain light up, and the midbrain lights up, which isn’t the most interesting part. The insula lights up, which is actually two parts your brain one left and right, responsible for your gut function. That’s where you get that gut feeling that tingling feeling when you hear an inspiring story, because you actually, you know, turned on the part of the brain that controls the gut function. So that part’s interesting. But the most interesting part is that it it lights up the medulla, the middle is like a little cluster back here, it’s the oldest part of your brain, it’s responsible for your biological survival, it does your mundane tasks, like keeping you breathing when you’re sleeping, keeping your blood pressure regulated. And so you’d think evolutionarily, we would have built an impenetrable firewall around that, right? Like, you take a hit there a big enough hit, and they can’t even keep you alive on life support for more than 15 minutes. This is a really important part of brain. But there is no firewall, all I have to do is tell you an inspiring or impactful story. And I can light that up, which means two things, you’re getting blood flow to it, you’re getting electricity to it, which means we’ve just changed you at the neural level in the survival center of your brain by telling you a story. So the conclusion that Mr. Dino Yang makes is that our social selves and our biological selves are are intimately linked. So our stories and our social interactions are intimately linked with our biological survival, these two things are not separate. And I would I would take that even a step further. To say that our our physical, our emotional state, affects our physical survival. With this interaction with story, that’s how powerful this is. So those when you think about if I can tell you an inspiring story, and I can light up the biological survival center of your brain, what kind of damage do you think you’re doing yourself on a daily basis with all the negative stories that you have, you know, playing the negative tape you have playing in your head all the time. And so we sort of have this perfect storm of being having an anthropological preset to write negative stories, stories having a dramatic impact on us. And Not having sort of processes and procedures in place to take an active role in the rewriting of those stories. And that sort of that perfect storm makes people suffer, like, and that was the biggest realization for me. After two years of depression, I wouldn’t have even during the time said I was depressed, it’s still a little bit painful because of some of the bad male stories I have from being the youngest of five Irish boys, to even admit that I was depressed. But I realized, if you look around, everyone around you is suffering. everyone around you is taking a hit. everyone around you is dealing with something. And that’s something that I didn’t really understand. before this happened, and in fact, the book subtitle had suffering in it. people hated that word so much it tested so poorly. Yeah,
Brian Smith 25:45
yeah, exactly. Yeah, people don’t want to talk about it, or face the fact that we are all suffering, it’s very unpopular to say so but, you know, I’m a big fan of Buddhism, that’s kind of like at the core of Buddhism, the Buddha says, life is suffering, you know, yeah, I can, we can, we can work our way out. But we have to first admit that yeah, it is when, because life doesn’t always go the way we want it to go.
Rich Curtis 26:08
Yeah, and I think that’s especially a Western fallacy. Now, and especially in the age of social media, people view their life as like, up into the right hockey stick on the line graph, right, like we go from, like, less good to kill in it. And that’s how this works. And that’s life is like this, you take these hits, you know, all throughout your life. And you can continue on up into the right trajectory, if you develop the skills, you need to course correct and bounce back from the hits. But if if you just take the hits, and let them send you where they’re going, then you’re kind of all over the place. And so that that suffering mechanism and trying to work beyond the suffering, using your stories, is kind of the core work of getting your life back on track is, you know, acknowledging that you’re that you’re suffering, and then being willing to to make that change. And for some people, they can do it before it gets really, really bad. And for me, because I just wasn’t willing to admit it or engage with it. It had to get really, really bad before I started to do the work.
Brian Smith 27:09
Yeah, well, that’s why I call it rock bottom. And that’s, that’s most of us have to hit that is was, as we were saying earlier, that’s just kind of evolutionary, we were going to keep going and keep going until we until we hit that wall. So how do we identify the bad stories in our life? The stories that we want to rewrite? How do we figure out which ones we need to work on?
Rich Curtis 27:28
Yeah, and the best way to do that is using one of two things. One, thinking about areas your life that just don’t work we all know the areas we struggle with, right? In fact, you’ll talk to people who have struggled with weight their whole life, and they lose 100 pounds, and they still feel the same, they’re healthier, but they still feel the same. And that’s because they haven’t rewritten that story, that the same story about their health, fitness and weight before they lost the weight. And the same story afterwards. And you know, I tell people, like when I used to climb mountains, I tell people, you know, put exactly what you need in the bag, because when we reach the top, there’s nothing there except what you brought with you. And that’s the same in life. If you can’t feel it, now, you won’t feel it then. Right? If you want to have self love. It’s not your self love isn’t on the other side of 100 pounds, it starts now. Right? And so when it comes to doing this kind of work, you know, you first you have to think about an area of your life that you’re not happy with that you’ve struggled with consistently that you’d like to make a change in. And then you just ask yourself some powerful questions. What’s my story about this? Right? And then you ask yourself, Is that true? And then you ask yourself, even if it’s true, is that story serving? Now, if it’s an area you’ve been struggling with, for a long time, whether the story is true or not, doesn’t really matter. Only that second question matters, is it serving, right? And if it’s making you suffer, then it’s it’s not serving you. So once you’ve identified that story, you can go into what I call the story evolution process. It’s not a full rewrite, because it’s still at the end is based in the same story, my story of the day my mom died, you know, we didn’t fight for my mom, we just stood there and watched her die versus I fought for my mom. And every way I could while respecting her right to die her way. Those two stories are still rooted in the same story in the truth of that moment. I just evolved that story from one that didn’t serve me into one that does serve me. And so the first step of that process, you know, once you’ve done the work to identify the area of your life, that’s not working. You said, What’s my story about this? Is it true and is it serving me? Then you got to write it down. So this thing is physically a part of you. You have neural pathways that go right to this, if you if I got triggered about the day, my mom died, boom, that story’s right there. Right? And the only way you can begin to work on it and change it is to make it not a part of you is to get it outside of you. So you write it out. And you and you just write the whole thing out with no filter, no trying to pretty it up, you just write it as it is. And then the next step is to say it out loud and actually encourage people to videotape themselves doing this when you set your cell phone up. And the first time you say it out loud, record yourself and people often balk at this And then picked up feels kind of funny. I don’t want to do that. But you will see on your face when you tell a story that’s causing you pain and suffering. You will see on your face. twinges, cringes tics, when you say the bad parts, when you say the parts that are hurting you, you’ll see it, you will see how that story is making you suffer. And that makes a big impact. And it helps you do the work of rewriting the story. Because after you’ve done that, after you said it out loud, you’re gonna start the rewriting process. And that’s simply just marking those parts of the story that don’t serve you the negative parts, the bad parts, parts that were causing you pain, the parts that you saw your face react to on the video. And I did this with my son recently in terms of distance learning. He’s a, he’s a seven year old kid loves learning, you know, if he if he goes to the internet, he’s on Nat Geo kids, right? He just loves school loves people loves learning. And he came to me and thrown a fit about going to distance learning during the whole COVID thing. And I hate school dad was like, really, that doesn’t sound like you, you know, and, and I said, Well, tell me your whole story. And I I’ve recorded it with my phone telling the story. And I played it back and I said, does that does that look good for you? Do you look happy? And he says no, I look terrible. I look terrible when I’m saying that. And I said, well, let’s get to the point where you don’t look terrible. And we redid the whole thing. And then we videotaped him telling you this new story, you know, which was you know, basically distance learning sucks. But I still get a chance to see my friends, teachers and learn. It didn’t deny the truth of it. I tried to get the distance learning sucks part because I thought it would you know, dad and I thought it’d be better for him to not have that part in there. And he and I said, Well, does that sound true? He says no. Distance Learning sucks. I said okay, then has to be in there. That’s the truth of it for you.
We’ll get back to grief to growth in just a few seconds. Did you know that Brian is an author and a life coach. If you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving his book, grief to growth is a best selling easy to read book that might help you or someone you know, people work with Brian as a life coach to break through barriers and live their best lives. You can find out more about Brian and what he offers at WWW dot grief to growth.com www dot g ri e f, the number two gr o w th calm. If you’d like to support this podcast, visit www.patreon.com slash grief to growth www.patreon.com slash g ri e f the number two gr o w th to make a financial contribution. And now back to grief to growth.
Rich Curtis 32:29
So the study was still true, but it was positive. And then you could see on his face when we re recorded him how light bright and fried. He wasn’t from that moment forward. We had no distance learning fights. You know, he he sat there and he did the work. And he felt better about it. And he moved on. So there’s a really and I teach this for kids too, with a combination with another bit of neurological research called power poses. This work is really powerful with kids, because they’re so malleable and open to suggestion. And really, you can really help your kids upcycle their results with this. So once you’ve said out loud, you sit down and do that rewrite. It’s just an iterative process. So you’re not going to rewrite the whole thing, you just gonna hit that first part that that hurts, rewrite that part, read it again, still doesn’t feel good. rewrite that next part, read it again and get to the part where when you read it out loud, you feel lighter, freer, happier. And you know, it’s right. Once you know what’s right, the fourth step is, like we talked about earlier to doing the work, you have to implant this new story in your subconscious. And you have to get a new neural pathway. So that this becomes the only story that’s triggered when you think of that event or that part of your life. That takes work. So I tell people, you write it down. And you at least tell it to yourself twice a day, tell it to yourself right before you go to bed at night. First thing when you wake up. If it’s an appropriate story, you can hang it up on your mirror somewhere else where you’re triggered to read it another couple times a day, that’s great. And you’re going to do this for at least 30 days, 60 to 90 is better, but at least 30 days to try to create that new neural pathway. And then you’re going to make a part of your lived oral tradition, you’re going to call up a trusted friend, someone you can share this with, you can go out to drinks, we’re all starting to be able to kind of do that, again, her dinner, and you’re going to tell him I was suffering. Here’s his bad story I had, here’s my new story about it, I’m doing much better now you’re going to share it. And by doing that, you’re going to start to rewrite that new neural pathway to where when you’re triggered, it’s only your new story that comes up. Right as of now, when I hear when I talk about my mom’s death, it’s only that I fought for my mom and every way I could while respecting her right to die her way story that comes up. The old one only comes up for the purposes of conversations like this. And if you find one day you get triggered and the old story rears its ugly head, you just go back and do the work. And so step four is that’s that’s the important part is is doing the work of making this new story, a part of YouTube stuff over and over and over again. Because you’ve told that old story a million times to yourself, so you need to work past that with the new one.
Brian Smith 34:46
Yeah, wow. That was awesome. I love that that the whole Philippines the new neural pathway, and I can I can say to people, because I work with people that are aggrieved, mostly parents, and they’re like, how do I get to where you are, and like, well, first of all, you have to understand it’s been six years. So it doesn’t happen overnight. And it really didn’t start happening for me probably really in earnest till about two years ago. So it took a while to really get there. But it’s that every day thing, it’s the it’s, it’s the reason why my daughter’s in my background on my zoom, because I look at myself in the zoom, I see my daughter over my shoulder. And that’s the story I told myself that she’s still here, I have pictures of my daughter in my house, the first thing when I opened my bedroom door in the morning to come down the stairs, I see a giant picture of my daughter, and I tell her Good morning. So this is a story that I tell myself over and over every day and have been for years, until I believe it until I’ve internalized it. And as you said, you know, doesn’t mean I don’t get triggered by the old stories and times. And I don’t feel bad for myself sometimes. But I can quickly switch back to the other story because of the neuroscience that you’re talking about all the work that we do to retrain ourselves.
Rich Curtis 35:56
Yeah. And that I think what you said is really important in that people, I think, often look at grief as as linear process. And we have these seven steps, which is great, you know, like the Kubler Ross stuff, and, but even Kubler Ross and I forget the gentlemen who worked with her, he wrote his own book afterwards as well. And then later kesar Yeah, and kesar lost his own son, yeah, later in life, and then experienced this. And even Kessler says the number one battle in his own life, and even in conversations with Kubler Ross about doing an update to the book, their number one challenge is always getting people to understand it’s not a linear process, you’ll recover a bit, and then you’ll take a hit, and then you’ll get triggered, and then you’ll cycle back into it. So these are the steps of grief, just like our life isn’t an up into the right hockey stick, neither is the recovery from grief, you’re gonna take a hit, and you’re gonna fall right back into that place, I tell people. And now this is a dated reference, some of the people listening might not be old enough to get what I’m saying. But your brain is like a record player. And there’s grooves cut in it. Some of them are shallow, some of them are deep and traumatic events and grief events, cut the deepest ruts. And when you take a hit in life, bang, the needle bounces, and it always lands in the deepest ruts. And so you’re always going to find your way back to that place. And so the key isn’t to have the goal be to a point where you are not experiencing grief. Once you’ve experienced grief, it’s yours for the rest of your life. The goal is to develop a set of practices and processes that allow you to overcome it, when it when it comes for you know, I tell people you know grief is a demon you have to make a home for you can’t exercise it, you can’t get it out of you. You find a place where it can live, where you’re in control of it, where it can’t come for you and bring you to your knees when you don’t want it to. But where it’s there when you want it. There’s moments where I want it. There’s moments where I want to sit down and think about the loss of my mom and experience that and reach through that void and use that grief as a connection to who I’ve lost. It’s not it’s not all bad,
Brian Smith 37:52
Rich Curtis 37:55
But I have to be in control of it. If it can come from me like in the early days. And I shared I hate sharing this stuff, right doesn’t feel good to admit this stuff. But we need to say it especially as men in the early days. 41 days after my mom’s death, my son was born and I have a newborn. My wife had a traumatic birth. So she was laid up for several weeks after the birth. And so I did a lot of the early care with my son and I would the grief would come from I’d have to set him down in his swing, and then buckled down behind the kitchen island and sob You know, it would just come for me when I didn’t want it to when I wasn’t in control of it. It could come and take me down. I’m sure you’ve experienced. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And so the first part of the work is just finding a home for that grief, where it doesn’t come for you when you don’t want it to you can grab it and get it when you need it. But it can’t take you down when you don’t want it to. And that’s once you’ve done that you’re step one, you’re you’re you’re beyond the survival stage, you get your feet under you again.
Brian Smith 38:48
Yeah, yeah, I call that the white knuckle stage. Because I have clients that come to me that are early and I’m like, Okay, before we talk about healing, before we talk about growing before we talk about you know, transforming, we got a we got a white knuckle through through the first part of this, you know, the first and again, there’s no timeframe, six months year, it’s different for everybody. It’s just hanging on, you know, it’s just hanging on and getting up and doing the things you need to do. So I want people to understand this is not you know, we’re not we’re not making light of the work that is required to be done. And it’s not an easy path, but it’s something that you you can do and it’s worth doing. And I was just on a forum earlier day and someone said does the grief ever stop and people have different opinions about this? I don’t think it ever stopped. I think it transforms. I was just I’m by myself right now I work from home and just a few minutes ago before we get into I was thinking about my daughter right? I got a package in the mail as a birthday gift I bought for myself to remind myself my daughter and it came in and I was thinking about her and I’m like I got melancholy and that’s okay because I can I allow that to happen at certain times. But I don’t let it overtake me, and I don’t let that be my permanent state. My permanent state that I’ve returned to, is that, you know, I’m in control of this, and that we’re in control of this. And that, you know, I did everything I could do, as you said, with with your mother and stuff. And this is this is okay, this is my life, and I’m going to make the best of it.
Rich Curtis 40:17
Yeah, and that getting to the point where you’re not really trying to battle this thing. Like in western Western culture, everything is a battle. So part of the reason my mom’s death was so hard is because I’m used to battling death, we’re really good at fighting it right up until the bitter end. What we’re not good at is saying, this is your time, and I’m going to stand here and support you through it. We don’t get it. At least in Western culture, we don’t get cultural training and how to do that, and how to be present and accepted. This is what is supposed to happen right now. Right? And so like, one of my favorite quotes about grief is that grief, grief is love with nowhere left to go, right, the pain of grief is love with nowhere left to go. And being able to do what you did, except that melancholy reach across that void. It gives you a conduit for that love, again, for that love for your daughter, like, here’s this thing that reminds me of her, I’m going to pour a little love into that that’s going to hurt. And that’s, that’s the relationship. Now that’s part of the ratio. There’s no parenting relationship that doesn’t involve pain, any parents that are listening, you know, this, this is not for the faint of heart raising children. And same with my relationship with my mom, if I need to connect with her and reach across that void, there’s a price to pay for that. And that’s, that’s why I don’t believe the grief goes away. You just get to the point where you can manage it, and use it in a way that is appropriate in your life, I can grab it and use it to connect with mom. Or I can grab it and create meaning out of it and use it like in the form of the book to help change people’s lives. I say in the book that my mom’s last lesson to me, was how to recover from the worst day of my life. And now, because I’ve been a guide my whole life, then then my impetus is to teach as soon as I learned something that’s valuable. So she taught me through her death, how to recover from the worst day of my life. And now I’m on a mission to teach as many people to do that to change your lives one story at a time and get to the point where they’re in control of these things. We can’t stop them. We can’t prevent them from happening. But we can choose how we move forward and walk with them.
Brian Smith 42:15
Yeah, awesome. Yeah. So what are what are what are the core four? And why are they so important?
Rich Curtis 42:21
So I said, I did like a deep, deep dive, or I call it a personal PhD or a black belt in and happiness in the science of story. And so we talk a little bit about science and story. But I also found myself at a point where most of my life, I’ve been a pretty happy go lucky guy. And I could not get happy again after the death of my mom, I couldn’t get to that state where I could say to you, yeah, I’m happy. And that’s, it’s almost like if you’ve ever struggled with sleep, right? Like the worst part is struggling with sleep as you just sit there and be like, I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep and now you’re stressing about not sleeping, right? And so you can’t sleep right and having the same thing. Why am I not happy? How come I can’t get happy? Well, what used to make me happy. And you go through these machinations. And when you dive into the research, you realize that you had no idea what made you happy, everything you thought made you happy wasn’t actually what was doing it. And the Science of Happiness is a lot more simple than we thought this is really better living through chemistry, not not the chemistry find a shot glass or a pill bottle, but neuro chemistry. So there are predictable you know, neuro chemical chemicals, you know, say serotonin, dopamine that will create happiness in the brain, it creates the right neurochemical environment for happiness in the brain. Now if you’re still suffering from your bad stories, there’s no amount of doing these things it’s going to overcome that because you’ve got this sort of this Paul have this bad story hanging over you. So the first step is to get those stories out of the way. And then the core for our for daily habits that will help you create the optimum neurochemical environment in the brain. And if you do them every day, they have a synergistic effect. So the first one is getting eight hours of sleep a night, which now you’re on the other side you got adult children but right now I got a three year old and a seven year old I was up at midnight 150 in the morning 350 in the morning then they woke me up at 630 between nightmares and pee breaks and everything else right so it’s hard not everybody can swing getting a full eight hours of sleep every night but do your best and create a routine and practices of turning off your phone you know ending screen time early enough create a practice that gets you into bed to the point where you have the best chance at least of getting eight hours sleep a night. Yeah. And everybody here’s what I don’t like to do is add things to people’s health to do list without explaining why I think so much has been pop culture alized to where we’ve lost the why we just have the prescription you know and it’s like well, I got a now I got to eat fatty steaks drink kale shakes, brush my teeth for two minutes a day and now Rich’s telling me I got to meditate and get eight hours sleep and go for a run. I don’t have enough time my day to do I was supposed to take care of myself. I’m not trying to add things to your health to do this. I’m trying to give you sort of a lifelong practice. This can be done in less than an hour a day. It doesn’t have to be a morning routine. It’s an all day routine. Just get it done. And if you do it consistently, it really pays off overtime. So eight hours of sleep is most important because you have your amygdala which is sort of your, your drunken belligerent buddy at the bar who’s always ready for a fight. That’s the anger center, your brain, the amygdala. And then you’ve got your medial prefrontal cortex up here, which is your mild mannered accountant, buddy, Chip. And so when your amygdala gets pissed at the bar and wants to swing, you know, Chip, Pat’s on the legs is that guy’s not so bad. Maybe you shouldn’t knock him out, right? Well, when you miss one night of sleep, there’s a prefrontal cortex amygdala disconnect. And what we see is 60%, greater anger response to negative stimuli after missing one night of sleep. So all of a sudden chips not invited to the party, and you know, your buddies, they’re ready to swing on everybody. That’s why you find yourself grumpy as heck with your wife or with your children after you’ve missed a night of sleep, or why so many people get in so many fights early on when you have a newborn, because nobody’s getting sleep, everybody’s, you know, ramped up. And so why sleep is so important is because it keeps the natural checks and balances in your brain to keep sort of an emotional monitoring up there. And if you take those checks and balances off all sudden, you’ve got wild emotional swings. And as we all know, wild emotional swings are not a recipe for happiness or success. Yeah. And then the second one of the core four is 30 to 45 minutes of exercise, cardiovascular exercise, this isn’t like, you know, running wind sprints, you know, up at the high school, you could just take the dog for a walk, just get your heart rate up for 30 to 45 minutes. But what they find is, you know, they have equal rates of reduction in major depression, by doing 3045 minutes of exercise a day, as they do by giving people an antidepressant like Zoloft. Like the the Duke smile studies, they did both. And they found that they had equal rates of reduction in mass depression diagnosis, and 30%. Less recidivism back into major depression in the exercise group.
Brian Smith 46:49
Yeah, I just want to have you pause there for a moment, because I’ve heard that same research. And I think this is so important, because people will often turn to a pill for for depression or anxiety, whatever. And, and I’m not a medical expert, and you are either, so we’re not giving medical advice here. If your doctor prescribes it, you should do it. But there’s certain things that we can do. And this is one that I do myself, I walk for an hour, 45 minutes every day, and I found it just completely changes my mood. And if I can’t walk for a couple days, that completely changes my mood. So I just want to interject that.
Rich Curtis 47:24
Absolutely. And I do want to be clear that if you’re suffering from major depression, if you haven’t thought of harming yourself, going for a jog isn’t going to do it, you owe it to yourself and your family to call it the 800 number right now get immediate help for that. But this is this helps you with a general case of the downers or the Mondays or the pandemic blues, this helps you maintain a sort of a neutral to happy emotional state consistently over time. It’s not, it’s not a prescription for major depressive episodes if you haven’t thought of harming yourself, but it is just tremendously powerful over time to maintain your mental state. Yeah, yeah. So luckily, you know, I didn’t go there. In the two years, I was depressed, I never once had a moment where I felt like committing suicide or harming myself. And I’m very thankful and grateful that that wasn’t a place for whatever reason, that wasn’t a place I went to. But for so many people they do especially men, men in their 50s who lose work lose direction lose meaning in life, they tend to abuse drugs and alcohol and have high suicide rates because we don’t have the same built in social support networks that say women do. We just don’t reach out to each other to get help as much. And so yeah, you know, if you’re, if you’re man, and you’re listening, and you’re really suffering right now you need to you need to go get help, you know, go for a jog but call the 800 number while you’re on that jog. Get some help.
Brian Smith 48:45
Yeah. You were on number three, I know. I know. Yeah.
Rich Curtis 48:50
Number three is mindfulness or meditation. And you can see the results of this in as little as 10 minutes, you’re getting up to the point where you’re doing 20 minutes to an hour a day is better, but just 10 minutes of some kind of mindfulness or meditation practice gives your brain a break, gives you a chance to settle down and calm and get re centered. But it also over time consistently does some really interesting things in the brain. So you’ve got that amygdala, you know that that’s that anger center of the brain. Consistent meditation over years, you can start to see the effects in even as little as a few months. But consistently over years, they find it actually thins out the tissue in the amygdala. So you actually have a less dense mass of tissue working on negative stimuli in your brain. So you’re doing this thing that gives you a break brings your blood pressure down has all these benefits that people are aware of, of meditation, but one of the things I think doesn’t get highlighted is that it’s making physical structural functional changes in the way your brain works and reacts to negative stimuli. So your buddy who’s just really calm and serene all the time has been a lifelong meditator. His brain is actually different than yours. His brain is actually structurally different than yours and and he has different responses to things and you do. And that makes a dramatic difference. So even if you can only squeeze in 10 minutes, if you do 10 minutes every day, you’re going to change your brain in a profound way that will have lifelong impacts for you and all kinds of other great stuff too. Like they may see almost zero rates of dimension, and lifelong meditators, things like that these meditations really powerful in a lot of levels. But from a happiness perspective, it tamps down that response to negative stimuli. So remember, you’re more likely you’re anthropologically preset to bring in negative information, negative stimuli. And, and now you’re taking the time to get your brain to calm down and not respond so profoundly to that. Awesome. And so you can start to see how these have a synergy, right, you get eight hours of sleep, you keep the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala connected, so it’s calming it down. And then meditation is thinning out the amygdala. So it’s calming it down. And then the exercise is dropping the serotonin and the dopamine and happiness inducing chemicals, and it’s calming it all down. All kind of work together to come brain for happiness. And then the last one is the daily gratitude practice. And this is where, you know, like a lot of people will click off on the podcast, because they’ve read like 52 articles about gratitude and, and they’re over it. They’re tired of people telling to be grateful for every little thing in their life. But the reason gratitude is powerful is because it helps you pattern your world for the positive. So you have that anthropological preset to bring in negative bits of information. Yeah, you take time during gratitude to feed your brain positive bits of information. So you now have more positive bits of information to compile your stories from it. Also, I think what’s gotten lost in the shuffle is the actual feeling of gratitude, right? So people tell you gratitude practice, get out of journal, write down three things you’re grateful for, boom, you do it, you’re done. You didn’t do much, you made a list you gave yourself. Yeah, you give yourself a positive, you know, bits of information. But the real work is to stop on each one of those things. If you’re saying, you know, I’m grateful for my son or my daughter, is actually stop and close your eyes and at least try to muster up the physical feeling of being grateful for that for at least 10 seconds, 30 seconds to a minute is better on each of the things you’re grateful for. And it’s bringing up that feeling of gratitude that’s going to do the work in your brain. And that’s going to do the work to create sort of a lifelong approach to looking for the good and the positive in your world. So you combine all four of those things, you get the bad stories out of your way, you combine all four of those things. And you remember that happiness is not beyond the next promotion. It’s not when you lose the weight. It’s not when you get married, it’s not when you graduate college happiness is now you have to fight for it every day. And you do the work and you do the core for you can create that right environment in the brain to have this sort of consistent happiness. One of the problems we have is we argue over the definition of happiness, and kind of the most widely accepted one is eudaimonia, which is like human flourishing, right, that sounds good. I want to flourish. But it doesn’t really get to the sort of the core of what we’re trying to do of creating this sort of vitality. And this this vibrance, to move forward in a consistent way in life. So we’re not looking for that giggling idiot happy all the time kind of happiness, we’re looking for that sort of vibrant, positive momentum, steadfast, moving forward, consistent happiness. And that’s where learning these tricks to make your brain do what you want it to do creates that over time by being consistent.
Brian Smith 53:11
Yeah, I gotta say, I guess I just stumbled across the core four over the course of my last six years, but I do all for those. And I find the very, very end that the gratitude thing when I first heard it, and people that are in grief, or people tell themselves bad stories, you’re going to go I have nothing to be grateful for. And I guarantee you no matter who you are, where you are, you have something to be grateful for. And so that practice I find is very important. But it’s You’re right, it’s not just writing a list. It’s it’s actually sitting with that feeling. And you started with the eight hours of sleep in the you talked about the mindfulness that was so wild, because I woke up about three o’clock this morning, I was having trouble getting back to sleep. And my mind was was racing, I was thinking about things. And I went back to my mindfulness practice. And I went back to let me just start taking deep breaths and counting backwards from 10. And focusing on my breath. And next thing I knew all those things that my mind was racing towards, they were like fading into the background. And when they would come up, I would just push them out of the way and I fell back to sleep. And I found that the mindfulness practice really helps with the sleep practice. It’s really just said, getting that feeling that understanding of I don’t have to follow these thoughts where they are because usually when we can’t sleep, it’s because something’s in our mind, something has got us chasing it, you know, and we can just say, No, I’m not gonna chase that right now.
Rich Curtis 54:31
You Yeah, it’s funny, you mentioned that because I would say that the gratitude practice is what saved me from the grief of the death of my mom, gratitude is what pulled me up. You know, I have a gratitude journal that I’m just religious with since I did this research. And that’s what pulled me up and started to get my feet under me happiness wise. But meditation, mindfulness is what has sort of gotten me through the pandemic, you know, with the stress and anxiety and shepherding a young family through this insanity, you know, of the global pandemic. We’ve just been through it. This sort of having sleep problems around that, especially in the beginning, using the mindfulness practice, to get me to sleep I’ve now developed, you know, the ability to really go to sleep, no matter what’s going on in my life, I can really just dig into that mindfulness practice and go to sleep. Now, I think some sort of pure meditation practitioners would, would poopoo that because they don’t want you falling asleep during your meditation practice. But I’ve got a pretty clear line where if I’m sitting up, I can stay awake. So I can do my seated meditation. But if I’m laying down, I can use that meditation reliably, like you say, to calm the mind and go right back to sleep. And it’s it’s really powerful and really pays dividends down the road using it that way.
Brian Smith 55:37
Yeah, it was funny, because as I was doing that, I was like I said, this was literally just last night. I had a meditation or a hypnosis session, like a week ago. And so I went, I went back to that feeling when I was being hypnotized. And the thing is, then I was fighting to sleep because I’m like, lying in my bed. And this person’s, you know, I was I was over zoom, and hypnotized me. And I was like, she said, a lot of times people fall asleep. So I’m like, Well, let me just go to that space. And I went to that space last night, I was out. So like, it’s like self hypnosis. But yeah, so those, those four things you talked about, I think, are really important. And they’re small changes, they don’t have to be like you said, you don’t have to go to the gym. You can take 20 minutes after after dinner and go for a walk, just get out in nature. And walk in, I was actually talking to a therapist, and she said, the thing about walking is it’s bilateral movement. So it’s actually helping, you’re engaging both sides of your brain. So it’s another reason why it’s a really great exercise.
Rich Curtis 56:34
Yeah, and that’s kind of touching on like, bilateral stimulation of the brain is actually really sort of core concept in actual technical therapy work to recover from grief, like EMDR. I don’t know if you’ve engaged with any of that. Yeah, I have. But yeah, that’s me, I did some EMDR. And, and that’s amazing, using, you know, using the bilateral stimulation of the brain to trigger the natural cleansing and consolidating process of memories and emotions, to help you have less dramatic responses to traumatic memories. And that’s for people who are really suffering for people with with PTSD and that sort of stuff. I, I can’t recommend enough, digging into EMDR and doing some of that bilateral stimulation to help this sort of natural cleansing and consolidating process of the brain. That’s, that’s incredible stuff. The science behind that is mind mind blowing.
Brian Smith 57:25
It really is, um, you We touched upon this before we got started, you just touched upon it a little bit I want to talk about in our last few minutes about why is it that men seem to struggle so much more than women do with stuff like this? And and we don’t see even ourselves. I don’t see people like you much in this field, you know, vice versa, you know what? It’s seemed like women are ahead of us on this on this thing.
Rich Curtis 57:50
Yeah, and it’s it’s always dangerous territory to talk about these gender roles, because you always risk sort of dropping the cliches and tropes. But yeah, I think we I think we have some powerful stories about maleness that don’t serve us I talked about one of them that sort of savior complex. I had a like a ramped up on steroids version of that from being a guide. But I think that’s pretty innately built into men to sort of be that fixer, that Savior. And there’s a there’s a an emotional stoicism that men are raised with that doesn’t serve us and if you really dig into the the stoics there’s much to be gained there tremendous emotional resilience, and great stuff. But we’re the type of stoicism we teach our young men it tends to be compartmentalised, which is, you have two emotions, happier, pissed. And if you’re not happy, you’re pissed, then you’re then you’re not a man. Right? That’s it, like sadness, anxiety, fear, grief, all of that, but that’s for the pansies. Right. And that’s, and that’s, you know, at least still, you know, being a child in the 70s, you know, have a pretty old school Dad, I got a healthy dose of that. And these archetypal versions of maleness, having a really sort of bipolar, emotional range, doesn’t serve us. So when we take a hit like grief, and when we’re feeling the full range of complex emotions that come with that, and we’re being brought to our knees. We don’t want to admit it. We don’t want to tell you we don’t want to reach out for help. Or at least I didn’t I like in my family. We are a pull yourself up by your bootstraps. If you’re not bleeding a lot, Quit whining and get on with it kind of family. Yeah. And so to admit you were depressed was to admit weakness, right? And so I think men have all these things built in that, you know, it’s even something that we should be well passed by now, but it’s weak to cry, you know. And these things we get, I don’t know there’s so many places we get these things from because I’ve never told my son it’s, it’s bad to cry. He cries all the time when he gets hurt or whatever. Sure. But our family dog died recently and because of COVID and having nobody to watch the kids and couldn’t go with the dog, my wife went to put the dog down. And I, I was with her over FaceTime during that. And I was crying. I was sobbing, you know, it’s been our dog for 12 years. And my son said, well, Dad, you probably glad you didn’t go because you probably would have been embarrassed. Why would have been embarrassed? He said, Well, those people see you cry like that. And I said, No, it’s so embarrassing to cry when you’re losing someone you love. That’s, that’s an that’s the right reaction, you know, the normal reaction. So somewhere, I don’t know where he even got a dose of that story.
Brian Smith 1:00:30
Yeah. Yeah, that’s so sad. Because, you know, he said, You can’t we can’t protect our kids from everything. So we think we’re teaching the right thing. And then you find out that socialization is coming from somewhere outside of your influence.
Rich Curtis 1:00:44
Yeah, and so these stories of maleness, we need to rewrite those and we, you know, the most important work is on personal level, but then, in our work with our children, and our work with communities in our work with our other male friends, we need to start to rewrite these stories. And sometimes it requires you to maybe be a bit nosy or bossy. So when any of my friends lose someone now, I interject myself, I send them text messages, I send them, you know, DMS on Instagram, I send them, you know, call them, I interact with them, and just keep checking on them. And my male friends sometimes get annoyed or pissed about it. But there’s this sort of acute period of suffering, as you know, when when it first happens when you lose someone, everybody’s there, everybody’s checking, they’re calling you bringing you food and everything right. And that lasts a couple of weeks. Yeah. And then they didn’t lose that person, they move on. Right? Right. And then you’re there with every day of not having, you’re there with the everyday experience of that. And and we don’t have that support. And so men in general, reach out for those support. For that support. We don’t have that community, like women tend to have stronger social networks, like around parenting. And being a mom, they have mom groups they have, they reach out to each other when they’re having a hard day, they reach out to each other to get help with with breastfeeding or raising a newborn, they have these sort of built in communities that they develop more neatly. And men, our communities are more based on doing things together, you know, like going out and you know, fishing or whatever it is. Yeah, yeah. And so I think we’ve seen, we’ve seen a declining life expectancy in the US for three years straight. And what the research is showing is, it’s driven by middle aged men, middle aged men who have lost their job, especially like in the industrial Midwest, they lose their job in their 50s, they’re not able to take care of their families, they lose direction, and then they’re turning to alcohol and opioids, and then eventually overdose or suicide. And if those men had a stronger network where they could reach out and talk to people about what they’re feeling, get help for how they’re hurting, have other men who have gone through the same thing, tell them that, you know, there’s an end to this, there’s a way out of this and give them a pathway. I think we could turn that around. And so to me, when I look at men in grief, the best thing you can do, anyone who knows a man in their life, that suffering is to reach out to get in their face a little bit, to offer help to check on them, get them out of the house, don’t let them exile themselves. Don’t let them be alone. Get them out, get them moving, and then share with them your suffering. So it’s social media and this age of perfect lives. We seem to think that we make connections now by showing this perfectly glossed version of our lives. But it’s in showing the beautiful fallibility, the suffering and the pain and the humaneness that we make real connections. And as men, we got to start doing that we got to start sharing the the hard parts, too. I’ve been lucky enough. During the pandemic, one of my best friends just said, Man, we’re talking to each other every day, we’re both dads, we’re both suffering through the same, this is some crazy stuff we’re dealing with. Even if it’s two minutes, we’re talking every day, every single day for the pandemic, we check on each other. And we give each other a chance to vent and talk about what’s going on. And we just are there for each other. Yeah. And that is, I would say a more woman or more feminine arc type of relationship. Yeah, that’s not like a dude setup. Yeah. And we need to start to evolve past that and be those resources for each other as men and have these conversations. There’s even a great YouTube video of Anderson Cooper and Steven Cole bear talking about grief about the loss of their Steven Kobe lost his dad and his brothers and Anderson Cooper recently lost his mom. I’ve never seen like public celebrities having that kind of discussion about about grief being open as men about what that’s like. So just conversations like this, you know, help other men to sort of reach in and say, Yeah, okay, if he’s admitting how he’s feeling I can do that too.
Brian Smith 1:04:37
Yeah, that video you’re talking about went viral because it was so unusual. I saw another one you’re talking about and people are like, wow, isn’t this this is wild. The men are doing this. And I want to reiterate really reiterate what you said to anybody that any men that happened me listening, which there aren’t many, for the ones that are listening, is do that i after my daughter pass. I have a friend. He’s a former pastor me This is why he did it. But he would just call me up and say, let’s go for a walk. And because I, you know, he knows I walk everyday, but we would go, just meet at the bike trail and walk for two or three miles. And he check in with me and ask what’s going on and he’s done this for years just kept, you know, following up with me, and that’s really appreciate it. And I’m not the kind of person I’m not gonna reach out to somebody and say, Hey, I’m sad, I need to go, you know, talk to you, because that’s just not what what guys do. So we, we need to as guys, I love what you said, Get up in your friend’s face a little bit, invite them out, draw them out, and then share you know, after, after my daughter passed, people have known for like, literally two decades, neighbors, you know, we were on vacation together a couple of years ago. And Skye starts telling me stories about like, you know, his his mother and his family and stuff like that, you know, and I’m like, dude, I’ve known you for like, 20 years. He never told me this stuff before. But because I’m doing the podcast, I’m doing the speaking and stuff. My friends are hearing me a little bit. They’re like, they have permission now to share what they’re going through also. So being vulnerable, really helps to draw other people out letting them know, it’s okay to feel sad about this, or it’s okay to, you know, have these kind of emotions.
Rich Curtis 1:06:14
Yeah, my, my favorite moment of that was I was at a real estate conference out in Vegas. And we’re at the like, opening mixer thing, right, which is, you know, small talk and you pretend like you do more deals than me. And we all talk about how cool we are, right? That’s the kind of environment these things are. And this guy was asking me what I was doing at the time, I was just finishing up the book. And I said, well, what’s kind of one of the most exciting things in my life is I’ve just completed this book. Here’s what it’s about, I shared the story of the day my mom died. This guy was like a head and a half taller, me like 6465, you know, built like, you know, a breakout house, huge New Yorker, you know, and he starts telling me that the the day the Twin Towers came down. So after I tell him my story, he starts telling me, you know, I’ve been dealing with PTSD for decades now. And he said, I’m standing my apartment window across from the Twin Towers, when the towers come down, I’m holding my newborn daughter, and I watch this building collapse, and everything gets enveloped in smoke, and I’ve got this child that I have to protect, I don’t have an automobile, I have nothing. And I walked out of the building with her in my arms, and I walked out of the city and I walked across the bridge with her. And, and I’ve been struggling with the fear and anxiety and the PTSD from that moment since then. And it’s a constant battle in my life. He’s like, I’m trying to, you know, he at the time, you just bought a house in Costa Rica that he was going down, he bought some horses, because dealing with the horses gave him some sense of calm and serenity, but he was really still going through it. This is maybe three or four years ago, right? You know, so we’re almost two decades past 911. But this big dude, by the end of this, you know, 1520 minute conversation is huge New Yorker, bruiser dude has given me a hug. He’s got tears in his eyes. And we’re, we’re connecting around this shared experience of trying to push our way through the hard things in life, right. And so I like what you said about giving permission if you’re just willing to be vulnerable and just willing to be open with people. You’ll be amazed every time I do this and talk about this something like that happen someone shares with me what what they’ve been through. And then there’s an instant connection, we have so much separation now. You know, political separation and, and so many things we’re in fighting about in this country, when really at the core, we are all walking this life out and experiencing these same universal things and trying to push our way through these things. Not in the same ways we all have our own challenges, different challenges, some of us a lot more than others because of the structure. But we’re still having these universal experiences we can connect on and start to build some bridges and understand each other’s humanity and, and this experience of grief is one of them that we can definitely do that with because almost everybody you know has experienced this in some way or another.
Brian Smith 1:08:50
Now if they haven’t they will that’s just part of life. Rich. I want to say we’re coming up on about an hour maybe maybe a little over. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation with you today. And your book sounds really intriguing to remind people namely your book where they can find out about your book and where they can find out more about you.
Rich Curtis 1:09:09
Yeah, the books on Amazon and all three formats audio, digital, and print it’s called change your story, change your life. Search, change your story, change your life rich Curtis, it’s the blue and yellow one, you can see it back there behind my head. And if you want to find me, you can just check them out at rich Curtis calm, we’ve got individual coaching, group coaching, speaking, all that stuff, anything that I can do to support you in getting your story straight and moving forward in your life. That’s what I’m here to do. Thanks for Thanks for having me. It was a wonderful conversation. Thanks for being open and sharing your grief and doing this work as a man in the world. It’s it’s great to have some people out there doing that and sharing that and given a pathway forward for people to see that this is okay, you know,
Brian Smith 1:09:50
cool. Well, thanks for being here. Have a great rest of your day. You do. So that does it for another episode of grief to growth. I sure hope you enjoyed it. If you like this content, make sure sure you subscribe, so click on the subscribe button here, and then click on the bell to receive notifications and click on all. That way you’ll be notified whenever I release new content. Thanks for watching and have a great day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai