Stefanie’s Answer

A few days ago I wrote about “Stefanie’s question,” which drives the new book, Code to Joy, and promised to tell you what became of Stephanie. To do that, we need to take a quick detour back to the age of dinosaurs. In the beginning of the book, we talk about the “fog of distress” and compare it to the asteroid strike that killed off the dinosaurs millions of years ago: Scientists tell us it was an asteroid striking Earth millions of years ago that caused the death of the dinosaurs. The impact threw so much debris into the atmosphere, they say, that it darkened the skies and transformed the climate into what is sometimes termed nuclear winter, so named because a similar effect would result from the explosion of a series of nuclear bombs. The impact of traumatic personal events can have the same kind of effect, darkening the skies of our own outlook and causing a chilling effect that permeates every aspect of our lives. That was exactly the kind of darkened atmosphere that had pervaded Stefanie’s life for years, when she first came to see my coauthors, Drs. Pratt and Lambrou. How Stefanie’s fog of distress lifted, and how she came to answer her question — “Why aren’t I happy?” — are revealed in the very last few paragraphs of the book’s final chapter: # # # Remember Stefanie, the client whom we met in the introduction? She visited our offices recently to update us on the events of her life. In the several years since we had first met, she has gone on to create...

The Question

Our new book Code to Joy starts with a question that came from a woman named Stefanie. It was a really, really good question. In fact, Stefanie’s question was so poignant, and my coauthors, Drs. George Pratt and Peter Lambrou, felt it was so important, that it became the catalyst that ended up spurring them to write this book. So we decided to give it its rightful position of honor, as the central theme of the book’s introduction. Here, you can see it in the book’s Table of Contents: Introduction: Stefanie’s Question Chapter 1. An Interview with Yourself Chapter 2. Seven Limiting Beliefs Chapter 3. The Flea and the Elephant Step 1: Identify Chapter 4. A Disturbance in the Force<brStep 2: Clear Chapter 5. Your Personal Code to Joy Step 3: Repattern Chapter 6. Anchoring Step 4: Anchor Chapter 7. Taking it to the Next Level Chapter 8. A Rich Life Conclusion: A Deeper Joy The “Stefanie” of the introduction is a patient of George and Peter’s. (As with all the dozens of case stories we tell in the book, her name and various biographical facts have been altered to protect her identity.) Stefanie was a wildly successful businesswoman, wife, and mother who, despite all the good fortune in her life, had seen everything start to crumble. From the outside she was the very picture of success. But inside, she didn’t feel successful. She felt miserable. What’s more, Stefanie’s inability to experience the joy that by all rights she should have been experiencing was starting to take its toll. Her business was bordering on bankruptcy. Her health was starting...

My Fog of Distress

I used to have this problem. It’s going to sound crazy, but it’s true. I had road direction anxiety. Not road rage — more like road haze. Here’s how this worked: whenever I had to drive somewhere I hadn’t been to before, I would get so anxious I would completely freeze up. (This was in the pre-GPS days.) Road map? Great directions? Didn’t matter. I would become a basket case. Ask my wife. She’s seen it. I consider myself generally a fairly intelligent, capable guy — but I could get lost going from the bedroom to the living room. And Bart Simpson pictures aside, that is not as much of an exaggeration as you may think. I was at a restaurant a few years ago meeting with my agent and a potential coauthor, and I got up to use the men’s room. When I came back out, I was lost. I’m serious. I’ve had this condition my whole life. And guess what? It’s gone. Gone. In fact, you can read about exactly how it got gone, and how dozens of other people lost all manner of fear, paralyzing terror, sadness, depression, jealousy, heartbreak, ennui, existential angst, insecurities, nervousness, addiction, self-sabotage, and other self-defeating issues—and learn exactly, precisely how to do the same thing yourself—in my new book, Code to Joy, launching exactly two weeks from today. Drs. George Pratt and Peter Lambrou have spent decades studying what they call the “fog of distress” that afflicts virtually all of us to one degree or another. Typically, this vague sense of unease parks itself in the background, like the annoying hum...

The Fog of Distress

Imagine you are standing just outside your home, surrounded by a dense fog, so thick you can’t see the other side of the street in front of you. You look to the right, then to the left, but you cannot see more than fifty feet in any direction. You are surrounded. How much water do you suppose it takes to create that blanket of fog that has completely isolated you from your world? Before you read on, think about this for a moment. Don’t worry if you’re not good at math or have no background in physics. Just take a commonsense guess. How much water do you think it took to create this fog that surrounds you? Now, are you ready for the answer? A few ounces. The total volume of water in a blanket of fog one acre around and one meter deep would not quite fill an ordinary drinking glass. How is this possible? First the water evaporates, and the resulting vapor then condenses into minuscule droplets that permeate the air. In that one-acre block of fog, one drinking glass’s worth of water disperses as some 400 billion tiny droplets suspended in the air, creating an impenetrable cloak that shuts out light and makes you shiver. This is exactly what happens with certain painful or difficult experiences. Human beings are remarkably adaptable. Most of the time, when negative events occur, we are able to learn from them, shrug them off, and go on with our lives. The experience simply evaporates, leaving us a bit older and wiser. But not always. Sometimes, especially when we are very young,...