Most of my work as a health coach involves helping people respond differently to stimuli.
That is, develop the ability to make different choices when confronted with tempting foods, tempting environments, tempting people, and tempting sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
Think about it – NOT having that ability basically means you're a robot, a machine. If you can't control your responses, you have no freedom.
Psychologists and coaches typically work on the cognitive level; the realm of thoughts. Motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy – these are based on the idea that if people fixed their dysfunctional thinking, their behaviors would change to be in line with their goals, instead of sabotaging them.
And it's true that sustained changes in thinking can and do shift behavior.
The problem is, our thoughts are often not the root cause of the dysfunctional behavior, but are themselves symptoms of something deeper.
The question is, what is the root cause? Not just of dysfunction, but the source of all our interpretations of reality, and our responses to those interpretations?
Today's guest, Scott Carney, spent the past three years exploring that question.
His exploration took the form of a question, based initially on his experience with the work of Wim Hof, the Dutch “Iceman” who trained himself to perform physiologically “impossible” things, like control his core temperature and immune system.
Scott wondered, what other “unconscious” biological functions can we gain control over? And what does this say about our potential as human beings?
In other words, can we extend the freedom to choose our responses to stimuli to the automatic processes of our bodies?
Scott's quest took him to flotation tanks that have been used therapeutically to treat PTSD. To a Latvian sauna to receive a redline treatment that appears to help significantly with depression. To an MDMA-informed couples therapy session with his wife. To a class in juggling kettlebells to explore the concept of flow. To a Peruvian ayahuasca ceremony. And – fans of Andrew “Spudfit” Taylor will love this – to eating nothing but potatoes for five days.
Just as my clients seek freedom from their conditioned responses, Scott explored the world of people seeking the freedom to reset their nervous systems, immune systems, endocrine systems, and muscular systems.
For better physical and mental health.
For greater control over themselves.
And to discover the edges of what it means to be a self-determined human being.
Scott calls this ability The Wedge.
In our conversation, we explore the science of neural symbols, discuss how to decouple sensation from emotion (hugely important for people trying to change how they eat and exercise), and explore the physical analogs of depression and anxiety, and how careful introduction of environmental stressors can make us happier and healthier.
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
The Wedge, by Scott Carney
What Doesn't Kill Us, by Scott Carney
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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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