Rewire Me Rose Caiola interviews Nancy Colier, The Power of Off

Do you compulsively check your emails? Are you always plugged in? Let’s face it: Our society has an addiction to technology.  In this interview, Rose talks to Psychotherapist and Author, Nancy Colier, about her new book The Power of Off: The Mindful Way To Stay Sane In A Virtual World, her story of being addicted to technology and what inspired her to make a change.

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The Conscious Consultant: Live with Nancy Colier

Interview with Sam Leibowitz, the Conscious Consultant. How to live a mindful life in a virtual world: The Power of Off:

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GOOD MORNING AMERICA: Cellphones and Anxiety

Spending too much time on your phone may be causing you to feel stress and anxiety, experts are warning.  All of ths attention to technology, and the mind, and thoughts is coming at a great expense to the other aspects of what human beings need to feel well

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Why Happiness Doesn’t Last, and Why That’s Okay–Part 1

Happiness is an addiction and we are hooked.  Happiness is an addiction because our monkey mind convinces us that we are not okay if we don’t get our fix of it.  It is an addiction because it provides relief for short periods of time and then fails us over and over again.  It is an addiction because we are consumed with the need to be happy.  We spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to make happiness happen, and yet we often remain not happy, that is, not liking our life situation.

There is a belief in this culture that life is supposed to be happy; happiness is part of our definition of a good life.  In the face of the suffering that everyone’s life contains, we hold tight to our belief that life’s basic nature is pleasurable and fun.  The media presents life as some kind of amusement park ride with ice cream, laughter and prizes.  Our conception of what we are supposed to feel is based on a life that is not in alignment with what’s real.  Certainly, a part of life is joy.  Life is also challenging and painful at times.  All of these experiences are part of the ride.  We have to do things that we don’t want to do, we have to interact with people who hurt us, we have to live inside a body that gets sick, and eventually we have to let go of everything and everyone we love.  Expecting a joy ride is a recipe for disappointment.  And yet, remarkably, the cultural mythology persists: life is supposed to look good, and we are supposed to be having fun all the time.

In this society, when we are not happy, not only are we failures for not being able to create a happy life, but worse, we are missing out on the myth.  We are not getting what we deserve—what everyone else undoubtedly gets, the life that appears so convincing in our Instagram feed.  With such a cultural mythology, we spend much of our time feeling depressed about not getting to have something that doesn’t actually exist, thereby fueling the un-happiness that we so dread.

I was one who suffered with this belief system in my younger years.  A friend and fellow sufferer called it her “Kennedy” life.  We are convinced that for other people, life is one long series of touch football games held on large glorious lawns with large glorious extended families, and golden retrievers joyously chasing blond toddlers in playful tackle.  When we are reminded that the Kennedy family has also endured tragedy—violence and loss—we take the information in, but only on an intellectual level.  We know that the Kennedys have suffered, but still our touch football expectation of life endures.  In fact, we struggle to retain this fantasy.  It makes us un-happy, but at the same time, we are afraid to stop trying to get happy.

We make strong judgments about the person who achieves happiness and the one who doesn’t.  Happiness is our flag of success.  Not being able to accomplish it means that there is something wrong with us.

As a result of these beliefs, we are left in a desperate state.  We must be vigilant in controlling our experience, making sure that life feels good and that others know it’s going well.  But making the present moment feel good is a lot of work.  Happiness is a narrow destination at which to aim our life with an even narrower selection of paths for getting there.  We have balanced our okay-ness on something as ephemeral and uncontrollable as situational pleasure, and bet our wellbeing on our ability to keep it—with no net below if we fall or fail.  We dedicate the majority of our energy to achieving something that we cannot consistently achieve.  From a purely logical perspective, it seems that it would be wise to re-examine our goal.

Our attempts to be happy are not the problem.  The problem is that we are not aware of a workable alternative to happiness.  As we see it, the only alternative to happiness is misery or emptiness.  We do not know how to be without happiness and still be okay, whole, present, or even that it is possible.

Not happy is not a place where we know how to console ourselves, and not a place where we can be peaceful or feel good about ourselves.  We are given no training in how to ease our discomfort, soothe our sadness, simply be with discomfort, as if these states were not a part of a regular life, a good life.  We are instructed to keep our chin up, make lemons out of lemonade, get on with it.  Or put another way; get away from it—whatever is making us not happy, and get out of our state of not-happiness.  We have not been taught how to take care of ourselves and be in and with our not-happiness in a way that can still leave us feeling well.

We are trained to believe that not-happiness is a scary thing, not only because we do not know how to manage it, but also because it makes us unlovable. We are scary to others when we are not happy; it is not just that we are afraid of ourselves but others are afraid of us as well.  We believe that not-happiness leaves us helpless and abandoned, and therefore it must be avoided at all costs.

We have designed a system that demands that we stay happy; it is a system that relies upon our control over something that ultimately cannot be controlled.  And the alternative, not happiness, is dreadful, frightening and riddled with self-loathing.  Despite the consistently transient, challenging and uncontrollable nature of life, we continue to insist that life can be and indeed is ceaselessly pleasing; we continue to demand and expect happiness.

Over the next few weeks I will be examining the ways in which we attempt to create a constant state of happiness, and how that impacts the quality of our lives.  And also, I will be presenting a more reliable and satisfying approach to genuine wellbeing.  Stay tuned…

Text excerpted from Nancy Colier’s “Inviting A  Monkey To Tea: Befriending Your Mind And Discovering Lasting Contentment” (Hohm Press, 2012)

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Should I Answer Every Text My Child Sends? How Constant Communication is Disabling Our Children

I spend a lot of time with teenagers, because I have one.  As an observer of this unique species, I am noticing that teenagers are changing in fundamental ways as a result of their relationship with technology.

Teenagers are frequently out and about in the world on their own and with their peers, particularly in the summer.  They’re taking a crack at independence, living new situations and challenges without their parents’ supervision and guidance.  Adolescence is a time to start figuring things out for themselves, to problem solve, and to be creative with whatever challenges life is presenting.  It’s a time to build self-reliance and maturity, as they attempt to navigate the world on their own.  It’s a crucial and transformative period in the development of our children, one in which they lay the groundwork for confidence and capability that will support them for the rest of their lives.

Source: Unsplash

It used to be that when teenagers went away in the summer, they went away.  These days, with smartphones in their hands, there’s no break in the communication.  Many teens stay in constant contact, in a continual conversation with their parents throughout the day.  If something upsets or delights them, or a practical problem arises, they’re quick to text out for help, validation, and feedback.  And they usually receive that understanding, empathy, guidance, solution, or whatever else is needed, immediately.  Technology is removing the need for our kids to figure things out for themselves. It’s robbing our children of the opportunity to experience their lives on their own, to live through challenges and joys inside their own company, and to learn how to effectively meet life’s ups and downs in their own unique ways. With a smartphone in hand, nothing needs to be figured out or experienced alone.  Living happens by consensus, inside a shared and safe zone of continual communication and handholding. Previous generations, in contrast, had to let go of the big people’s hands at some point, to jump into the waters of independence, because there simply was no alternative, and we grew into actual adults as a result.

The result of all this communicating is that we are unintentionally growing a generation of helpless, infantilized, and unable people—children who don’t feel and are in fact not equipped to handle life’s challenges. Technology is depriving our youth of the true self-confidence, grit and resilience that can only come from and through practicing independence. Just because our kids can now do without cutting the cord, and can effectively rely on us to babysit them around the clock, doesn’t mean that they, or we, should.

What then is the solution to this new digital dilemma, the disempowerment and disabling of our children as a result of their dependence on constant communication through technology, and our parental collusion in this dependence under the guise of attentive parenting?  The solution begins with awareness. That is, becoming conscious of the long-term effects of perpetually interacting with and attending to every text your child sends. While it may feel good to be helpful, needed, and wanted, to be the person that your child wants to share everything with, in fact, providing moment to moment validation, support, and guidance, eventually will create a not self-reliant and not self-confident human being. When we literally accompany our children through every step of life, they stop (or never start) knowing how to walk for themselves.

Although counterintuitive perhaps, stepping away from your child’s texts can be the wiser and more loving choice.  Explain to them why you are not immediately responding to their every communication, what the larger intention is behind your silence, that it’s in service to their true independence (so that they can’t accuse you of neglecting or forgetting them!).  When you allow your son or daughter the opportunity to start experiencing life on their own, to figure it out, generate solutions, self-soothe, cope… you are, in the long run, being a good parent.  You are offering a gift to your child that is far more valuable than solving the problem of the moment.

This is of course not to suggest that we should never be available to our children’s communications, but rather that we should become mindful of what we are actually doing in a larger sense when we are forever and immediately available to our kids every experience. If we truly desire what’s best for our children, namely, for them to become capable and to know that they can trust themselves, then we as parents need to stop holding up the other end of the constant conversation.  It’s up to us; we who are older and wiser need to take the higher road and create some space and silence, turn off the conversation, be a little bit unavailable, and let them discover that they can indeed fly on their own.

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