Today I have the pleasure of bringing you David Simon, M.D.. David is CEO, Medical Director and Co-Founder of The Chopra Center. David is the author of many wellness books, including his latest Amazon best-seller, Free to Love, Free to Heal: Heal Your Body by Healing Your Emotions.
His other popular books include Return to Wholeness: Embracing Body, Mind, and Spirit in the Face of Cancer; The Wisdom of Healing; Vital Energy; and The Ten Commitments. He has co-authored numerous other books with visionary Deepak Chopra, including The Chopra Center Cookbook; Grow Younger, Live Longer; Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives; and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga.
David’s books Vital Energy; The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga; and Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives each received a Nautilus Book Award. The Ten Commitments was the winner of the 2006 Foreword Award.
Today, David talks to us about where the belief of not deserving to be happy came from, the fears that underlie it, and how he would guide someone toward emotional freedom.
Elisha: So many people struggle with the idea of deserving to be happy and one of the first things you say in your book Free to Love, Free to Heal is that people deserve to be happy. Tell us a bit about why we deserve to be happy.
David: I think the more important question is why do we think we don’t deserve to be happy? Ninety nine percent of people looking at a baby would say that of course this baby deserves to be happy, healthy and deserves to be loved. To me that’s the natural state. How did we get the misunderstanding that we’re not so sure we deserve this? I think it should be the natural state. What would be any other reason for incarnating as a human being if it wasn’t for the expansion of happiness?
Elisha: Some of the reasons we may feel this way are that we grow up in ways that bring up negative self-judgments or as you call them toxic beliefs, these feelings of unworthiness. My question to you is what are these toxic beliefs and what drives them?
David: I think there is a lot of fear that we have evolved out of, I guess if we have the memory of living in the jungle and having wild beasts suddenly snatching our children out of our hands that would naturally create fearfulness. The nature of happiness tends to give us a sense of safety and freedom. So I can imagine that somewhere in our DNA there is a fear that something bad will happen. Most of the prescriptions parents give to their kids are about reinforcing safety over happiness.
Anyone who has a child will see that soon they’ll start chasing after a ball with a big smile on their face right into the street and so you have to say “don’t run into the street” and you create these fears. So when they start wandering away, you start increasing the level of anxiety out of fear that someone might take them away, this comes along with a certain suppression of joyfulness.
I used to be able to wander freely in my neighborhood, but now you can hardly let your child wander free in a grocery store. That fear has stressed much of our natural joyfulness.
Elisha: And seems to drive a lot of negative self-judgments. In your book you talk about how the stories we believe ourselves to be are shaped by our parents, caregivers, friends and communities. You say how these beliefs can shape our lifelong struggles. This seems so powerful to me, this notion that a story can shape lifelong emotional struggles. Can you give us some insight into this?
David: Most of these core messages are learned before the age of 6 or 7, so we have almost no filtering ability to decide what is useful, appropriate or helpful. I see it with my own kids. I have an 8 year old who only now can begin to challenge important perspectives. By that time he is like a tree that is growing for 8 years and so you have a lot of influence in those 8 years that can shape the rest of its life. I think it’s woven into the core psychology of how we see the world, how we see ourselves, our expectations and our talents. I think it surrounds us at a very early level and we spend the rest of our lives unwrapping it.
That doesn’t mean we have to throw out everything, there may be a lot of good mixed in with the fear. But we’re not 2 year olds, 5 year olds or 20 years. We have the capacity to use that information, but not be imprisoned by it.
Elisha: I think that’s the key, a sense of awareness, and noticing that these thoughts and beliefs don’t define you, but come from somewhere and we can work with them.
David: It’s interesting, even if we’ve decided that a belief is not useful, it still ends up having a profound and preponderant effect on our day to day choices. Either we’re following through unconsciously on the belief or we’re reacting unconsciously or consciously against the belief. It’s interesting how these early messages and beliefs set up the blueprint of your life and then a conscious life is spent examining the drawings and maybe rearranging the structure. However, I don’t think there’s a way to completely escape it as long as you are in this same incarnation.
Elisha: Here’s a very practical question for the readers. If you were sitting across the table from someone who was suffering right now, what advice would you give them and how might you lead them down a path to greater emotional freedom?
David: Well, I would see my role as helping to be their guide as they take me on their internal journey to discover what they wanted that they’re not getting. It would take some time to create the safety and openness and I would ask the person, “What’s happening in your life that’s not working for you right now and how would you envision your life if that was working for you?”
So we would try and set the 2 points on the map. Where you are and where you want to be and then I would go a bit more deeply into both those areas, but get as much clarity as possible around how someone would envision themselves if they were happier, healthier, more loving, or more passionate about their life. Whatever vision they are seeking which is different from their present.
Then I would help the person chart the trajectory, not so much the path, I don’t think anyone can really know the path. If someone is living in Chicago and wants to get to San Francisco, but starts heading east, then we would say turn around, where you say you want to go is in another direction, so just take that first step.
I have tremendous faith and trust in a person’s internal wisdom. If we can help people quite down some of the noisy conversations that interfere with access to that, then I trust that people can be self referred and start making choices that are in line with their vision.
I would try and bring into awareness the discrepancy between where someone is and where they say they want to be and see if there is a reasonable course to bring them from here to there and back to here.
Elisha: One of the things that you said which was so important was having the person trust their inner compass and having them get connected to that rather than you charting their path, allowing them to access and connect with their own internal wisdom and allowing that to lead the way.
David: The inner compass is a combination between the mind and body. The body says, “Yes that feels good, I like how that’s feeling” and the mind is says, “I can manage the consequences of these choices in a way that doesn’t create unnecessary turbulence.”
To the Readers: As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com