The Reinvention Equation is a practical guide for baby boomers who have lost their rhythm that they were taught growing up as to how the world works.
Howard Parsons had his first taste of life transition at age fourteen when his mother, his best friend, died. His anchor to his world, as he knew it, was gone.
Not knowing how nor having tools to navigate his life, Howard turned to isolation, hard work, and alcohol to make the journey as best as he could.
In the years to follow, Howard learned new skills and techniques to reinvent his life, providing deep satisfaction and gratitude for all that is available.
Here is a blueprint that will show you the process to reinvent your life, get past old ways of doing things, and find once again your essential self as the guiding source in your life. In the new world order, which is not what baby boomers expected, thinking, feeling, and physical actions must be aligned with your essential self.
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The Reinvention Equation
A Boomer's Guide to a Reinvented Life
By Howard J. Parsons
Balboa PressCopyright © 2017 Howard J. Parsons
All rights reserved.
Days are expensive. When you spend a day you have one less day to spend. So make sure you spend each one wisely.
— Jim Rohn
When you hold a new baby, you see a miracle. There is no doubt babies are perfect little beings arriving in our arms as bundles of joy; possibility; and pure, unadulterated love. How could we see them as anything less than perfect?
We know in our hearts they are connected to their essential beings. We see there are no walls or obstacles between a baby and its essence. Some might say we see the soul of the baby because a baby's form is so pure. We all have a sense of purity and clarity that we remember about ourselves — the essential self that we separated from soon after our births. A new baby we hold in our arms is us so many years ago.
The Adaptation Process
Babies only maintain their connection to their essential selves for a short time. When they arrive, they must learn to live in a new environment that is harsh compared to where they have spent the previous nine months. This is the beginning of the adaptation process. Every one of us comes into this world with the ability to adapt. Babies are in survival mode when they are first born. The delivery team and mom and dad hold their breath as the new baby struggles to take its first breath of life outside the womb.
A baby's first breath is probably the most difficult breath the baby will ever take in its life. While in the womb, babies' lungs are filled with fluid, and when a baby takes its first breath, it has to replace this fluid with air. The complex process of exchanging fluid for air is an extremely vital and necessary physical adaptation the baby must make in its first minutes of life outside the womb. This faculty of adaptation is a powerful and useful one for us. As we age, we all undertake adaptation not only on a physical level but also on emotional and intellectual levels.
We learn at a very early age how to adapt our ways of acting, feeling, and thinking as we encounter the circumstances of our lives. For example, babies learn quickly to cry in order to get attention or to be fed. Babies also learn what garners a positive reaction and what brings a negative response from their parents. For the most part, our adapted behaviors become unconscious because we get so used to reacting in a particular way to the circumstances of our lives. Then these adaptations become habitual patterns that repeat over and over during our lifetimes unless we become aware of them and how they may or may not be serving us.
One of the adaptive strategies I took with me into adulthood was a fear of conflict. I would not confront friends, coworkers, or bosses if they were not respecting me or if they were creating situations in which I felt inadequate. Whenever possible, I would work alone rather than be on a team because the buildup of internal stress from avoidance of conflict was difficult to handle. As a result, in my working career, even though I managed to work my way close to the top, I became drained, depressed, and ill by the time I was fifty years of age. This is a pattern I see in many baby boomers. We were brought up in an expanding economy, and we had self-expectations of loyalty, longevity of employment, and financial success. Many of us worked hard at building our families and careers without noticing how we were using the habits we had learned as children. Here we are now in our fifties and sixties still trying to use old strategies. We have the mind-set "The tougher life gets, the harder I will work because that is what I know." This brings us to the first stage of the reinvention equation: Stop! Take time to inventory your life with two questions:
1. Who am I?
2. Where am I?
Sensory Emotional Amnesia
Neuroscience studies have revealed how brain neurons function and how they interact within an intricate weave of billions of connections. In terms of the science of the brain, we are barely breaking the surface of the most complex and powerful part of the human body. However, much has been learned in the past decade that can help you on the journey of reinvention. One of these discoveries is the pliable nature of the neural structure of the brain.
Our adaptive habitual patterns learned through years of training in our families and communities have us act, feel, and think in ways that are familiar to us. In my case, as I was growing up, I decided it was not okay to express sadness, so that emotion went underground. That way of dealing with feelings lasted many years. So when my divorce happened, I had no conscious way of finding the feeling of sadness. I had forgotten that it is normal to express a wide range of feelings. The feedback loop between my brain and feelings was stuck in a particular neural pattern. I will discuss this in more detail later, but for now it is enough to know that the default for me was always to shut down my feelings of sadness when events occurred in which that emotion would be normal. This is what I call sensory emotional amnesia, a condition in which the neural patterns of the brain are such that certain feelings are not accessible until measures are taken to change the neural patterns. You can think of it like driving in a circle. You drive around and around not realizing there is any other way.
In order to make a change in our neural patterns and therefore a change in our lives, we need to recognize what is taking place and consciously choose to have a different experience. For example, in my family, anger was never shown or talked about. If I was angry, I learned to keep it to myself. This way of handling emotions is confusing to a child who initially believes that it's okay to express the way he or she feels. The idea of keeping certain feelings hidden is something children will not only learn but also use to evaluate what is okay to express and what must be kept within one's own heart in all situations, whether at home, play, or work. Keeping feelings hidden leads to stress within the body, and when young, we do not have the skills to release this stress.
At the company I worked for, we used to say, "Leave your personal life at home." We interpreted that to mean Don't talk about your personal pain or family issues at the office. Feelings were not welcomed when there was work to do. So the adaptation of locking away feelings and emotions continued. We told the stories of what happened at work and how we felt about various situations at outside parties or to friends with whom we felt safe. In some way we were trying to relieve the stress created by bottling up all the emotions that we felt. Those emotions were real. Our adaptation to what was required at work took a lot of energy to maintain, but we learned to do it at a huge cost to our emotional and physical health.
As children get older, they learn to understand the unstated rules of their families and surroundings. Learning how to play the game to get what they want is an important lesson for children, and it starts in the family environment. For example, if they eat all their supper, they get positive messages. If they don't eat certain foods, they get negative messages. Children think about how their families work before taking action so they can get what they so desperately want. Children will consciously throw screaming tirades, knowing their parents will give in to their demands.
Being a Team Player
As adults we know screaming won't work with our bosses, but we use strategies to make us feel a part of the team and to be seen as a team players. When we were one to three years old, we learned how to look like a team player at home. Now we are over fifty and employ strategies to accomplish the same result. The difficulty is that looking like a team player is not the same as feeling like a team player. So many of my generation go to work with their outside images not matching how they feel on the inside. It is a formula for illness inside and out, and this is why change is called for in the new world in which we find ourselves. Psychologists say children learn all their adapted strategies by the age of seven or earlier. The adaptations become locked in at an unconscious level and are then activated as needed in order to live in the family and later to get along in the world as an adult. Combined, sensory emotional amnesia and adaptation make us repeat life patterns over and over again. If you want to live your life fully aware and free to express a range of feelings, then you must develop an understanding of sensory emotional amnesia and adaptation.
A friend of mine has been separated from his wife for nine years. My friend's father was an alcoholic and would rage and abuse his wife when he was drunk. As a result, my friend learned as a child always to be nice to people and never to get into fights. My friend, at the age of six, started to take care of and protect his mom. As crazy as it might sound, this is not really an unreasonable decision for him to have made. He was attempting to take care of himself, and the way he saw to do that was to take care of his mom. I can only imagine the pain in this child's heart. He had no way of resolving the situation and shut down his feeling nature in order to handle what was going on in the family. That was how he became the nice guy. He made a decision when he was six years old to never hurt anyone in his life.
His learned adapted behavior to always be polite and avoid conflict created issues in his adult life. For years after he and his wife separated, he continued to support her financially. He had no capacity to speak for himself as to what he wanted and needed from the separation because he automatically operated as the nice guy. The pain of his past was buried deep inside, inaccessible to him. Therefore for a long time he did not start divorce proceedings. He increasingly felt chained to his past and unable to move on to a new relationship.
After some coaching he decided that he wanted to get the divorce finalized. This was a major decision because it would bring up conflict with his ex and bring him face-to-face with his old family patterns. After garnering the courage, he told her what he wanted, and she went into a rage. You can imagine his reaction as he was emotionally transported back to the times when his father raged.
However, with coaching, he stayed firm in his decision. Using techniques I will teach you in this book, he forged ahead with the divorce. For the first time since he and his wife were separated, he hired a lawyer to draw up the documents and have them served to her. This was a challenging time because it was a new path for him. He was going against everything he had learned about being nice. But with support from his coach and the use of specific techniques and practices to change lifelong patterns, he started to like himself more and began to free himself from the rubble of the past.
Our brains are fluid webs of electrical connections responding to events in any given moment. When we operate unconsciously from past experience, we get the same old results. Once we start making conscious choices, we are guaranteed to have new outcomes. Then the key is to strengthen the new, healthy patterns through practice.
My friend is now on his way to completing the divorce he has so long wanted. He is dating again and is consciously practicing being aware and mindful in his life. His pattern of life had nothing to do with being a nice guy and everything to do with adapted programming as a child.
We have all created adapted selves that we identify as who we are. I adapted to the way my family worked by keeping to myself, not revealing what I saw, and acting as though everything was fine when in reality it wasn't. Our adapted ways of living are only the ways we behave, not who we really are, our essential selves.
Somatics is a methodology by which we can embody transformation, individually and collectively. Embodied transformation is foundational change that shows in our actions and our ways of being, relating, and perceiving. It is transformation that sustains over time.
Thomas Hanna, founder of the Association for Hanna Somatic Education, describes three primary reactions to events that have a direct impact on the body: green light, red light, and trauma.
The green-light response is one that tenses your body and prepares it for action. Your back muscles get tight, and you stand upright. At the emotional level you may feel excited and have a smile on your face. You react like a kid to what you perceive will be a positive experience.
In the red-light reaction, your body collapses inward for protection. You may be feeling fear, anxiety, or stress. Drawing from your memory bank, your brain creates an impulse to act in the same way that you did as a child. You may feel nausea, a tight stomach, or tears rising to the surface.
In the trauma reaction, your breath is taken away, your body becomes very tense, and you stop in your tracks. All your muscles tighten. Then you release and feel the stress of the moment. You start to think about what to do next. Your brain provides input based on what is in your memory bank, so the reaction is one of a child, based on what you learned to do in the face of trauma as a child. When I was fourteen, the death of my mother was a huge trauma. To cope, I shut down all my emotions because that was the behavior I had learned in the family. My body literally collapsed into itself as I sought isolation rather than connection to work through my loss.
The point is, as Hanna explains, nothing happens in our physical, emotional, or thinking bodies without communication from our brains. There is always a feedback loop working to coordinate and communicate what is happening and what needs to happen. When the feedback loop gets stuck in a pattern, the brain sends and receives the same signals over and over. At the physical level this shows up as pain in our muscles. If you sit at a desk all day, the neural pattern in your brain signals the appropriate muscles to contract in a certain way. If the pattern is continued long enough, the muscles will get sore because the signals back and forth from the brain to the muscles are in a continuous loop. The way you are sitting and the muscle pattern become so familiar that the pattern becomes unconscious. Hanna calls this sensory motor amnesia.
In this book, I have coined the terms sensory emotional amnesia and sensory intellectual amnesia because the adapted patterns we learn as children are played over and over again during our lives. At the emotional level, this shows up as always displaying the same emotions in a particular situation. An example of this is how I emotionally shut down, a pattern I had learned to deal with difficult situations, after my mother's death. The extremely close relationship she and I had was gone in an instant, leaving me with a vacuum in my life. I no longer had a context for my life. At the thinking level, adapted patterns show up as thinking inside the box or having a one-track mind without the awareness to expand one's thinking or look at alternatives. In each case, emotional and intellectual, it is not a question of the functions not being available; rather, the alternatives have been forgotten, or amnesia has set in, due to long-ago learning.
We are taught as children how to think and what to think and how to judge the people and the world around us. We also observe nonverbal messages in the interactions of our parents, siblings, and those around us. We do so in order to learn how things work in our world. We do the same thing when starting a new job, learning the written and unwritten rules as to how things work in this specific company. We learn how to adapt our behavior to fit into the culture of the organization. This seems simple and actually helpful, at least on the surface. However, because most of us have put aside our essential selves to fit into our families, we employ the same strategies at work. In the early years it is helpful to have learned a way to think about the world and how to handle it.
We have all been taught a way to think. This is not good nor bad; it is just the way we humans are brought up in order to function. However, over time sensory intellectual amnesia sets in, and we forget that we can look at situations from many different angles and can use a variety of methods to handle those situations. We become set in our ways of behavior. For example, the first thing I learned about any project was that work came before play. That meant I would work until my tasks for the day were completed, and then I could release myself to go and do something else.
When I took on the project of painting the exterior of my house, I dug into what I knew about painting. This was not a deep well of knowledge, yet having some confidence that what I'd learned over the years would serve me well, I got started. The painting project took about two weeks. Every day I planned out what I would do, how long I would work, and what supplies I would need. Having grown up with an attitude of wanting to do everything alone, I didn't ask for help or consult people I knew who were expert painters. Why would I? Can you spot the three adaptive patterns I was using in this project? The first one was believing that the work must be done before I could play. The second one was having a one- track mind. I got focused and stayed focused until the project was done. Unfortunately other tasks and people in my life got short shrift at times like this. The third adaptive strategy was doing it alone. I didn't want to ask for help because I had a notion that I would be criticized. These patterns were deeply rooted, old, and not serving me well any longer. However, sensory intellectual amnesia had set in to the extent that I did not consider other options as possibilities.
Excerpted from The Reinvention Equation by Howard J. Parsons. Copyright © 2017 Howard J. Parsons. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Backstory, 1,
Chapter 2: An Ending Is a Beginning, 17,
Chapter 3: Neuroscience and the Hero's Journey, 28,
Chapter 4: Courage, Determination, and Patience, 35,
Chapter 5: Doubt Is in the Air, 46,
Chapter 6: Sensory Self Amnesia, 50,
Chapter 7: Paying Attention, 57,
Chapter 8: Listen to the Impulse, 61,
Chapter 9: Love, 64,
Chapter 10: The Hero Has Roots, 69,
Chapter 11: You Can Do It!, 75,
Chapter 12: Beyond the Hero's Journey, 84,
Chapter 13: Living Free, 88,
Chapter 14: Embrace the Journey, 97,