Dr. Sam Alibrando on Controlled Chaos with Gary Garver

GG: Controlled Chaos, KCAA 1050 AM, 106.5 FM, 102.3 FM—also iHeart Radio. I’m Gary Garver.

It is controlled chaos . . . is it chaos? How stressed are you, are you stressed out nowadays? Is there more stress now than there has ever been because of what’s going on in our world, in our society? And I know a lot of people are afraid and running around and stressed out.

I alleviate my stress by three or four different things, you know? I drink . . . I smoke weed . . . I play golf and work out . . . and occasionally I’ll have a little bit of . . . well, affairs with women. Whenever they allow me. Hey listen, that’s how I get rid of my stress, but if you want to manage your stress and things like that, I’ve got a psychologist on the phone right now. He’s written a book called The 3 Dimensions of Emotions: Finding the Balance of Power . . . and then there’s three or four other words to it . . . Dr. Sam Alibrando, Dr. Sam, how are you?

SA: I’m well, thank you.

GG: What the hell is the name of your book? The 3 Dimensions of Emotions, Finding the Balance of Power . . .

SA: Heart and Mindfulness.

GG: Heart and mindfulness. So tell us: Tell us about—the world is full of stress nowadays, Dr. Sam, and you’re a psychologist—how long have you been a psychologist for?

SA: Oh, I don’t want to tell you.

GG: Okay.

SA: Somewhere between 20 and 40 years!

GG: Alright, that’s a good round number. I’ve been a broadcaster between 20 and 40 years too, so I dig that. So anyways, first of all tell us what’s going on—are people more stressed out than ever before or is that just a figment of our imaginations?

SA: Well, it’s really interesting because most statistics say the world is actually a safer place but I think because the media brings all of the drama right in front of us all the time—and I don’t know where your listeners are in the whole Trump phenomena but that’s obviously been stressful to at least 50 percent of the population, where they feel quite disturbed by what’s happening.

GG: Well, I think it’s more than 50 percent, I think it’s closer to 70 percent. I mean it’s crazy what’s going on in our society. But I think the Trump factor is part of it, but I think it’s the social media thing, there’s too much information out there, Dr. Sam.

SA: Yep, and it gets amplified, distorted, and it’s in your face all the time. Our brain is always going to be trying to protect itself, so we go into the fight, flight, or freeze and appease modes, which happens to be one of each of the 3 Dimensions—the fight dimension is the power dimension, the flight dimension is mindfulness, and the freeze/appease is the heart dimension.

GG: Alright, so do you have a 3D dimension solution? Tell us what the solution is and how we can alleviate this stress in our lives? What should we do, what steps should we take?

SA: Let’s talk about all three dimensions, and I’m going to end with the punch line because, let’s take the power dimension first of all. One of the things that makes us more stressed than anything is to feel like we don’t have any power in our life. We call it agency. And when you don’t feel you have agency, or control in your life, all kinds of bad things happen to your mind and your body.

GG: Let me ask you a quick question, why do people not feel like they have power in their lives. Like, I mean, I feel like I have power in my life, it may not be the perfect life, but I feel that I have power.

SA: And that’s because you’re you, but there are a lot of people who have a story in their mind, right, we develop narratives when we’re little and they get stuck in our brain and some people have a narrative that, “I can’t control things that happen to me—things happen to me, rather than, I make things happen.” And those are the kind of narratives a lot of people have, especially more depressed types of people.

GG: So what do you do? What does somebody like that, who feels like they’re powerless, they don’t feel like they’ve fulfilled their life story, or whatever it is. How do they get the power?

SA: In that case, you do something you have control over. If you’re overwhelmed by politics, then join an action group. Write your senator. Do something. Go on a march. I know a lot of people who felt very distressed back in November, and then when they went on a march they said, “I feel like I have some power back.” So pick something you have some control over.

GG: I dig that, I dig that. So if it’s your way, maybe go and exercise or do something like that. If you don’t have a relationship or you’re in a bad relationship, do something about that. Take the other step to alleviate whatever stress is involved, correct?

SA: Exactly. Exactly. And the heart dimension, is, don’t do it all by yourself. Seek help. Look for other people who can be a resource. There are resources out there. I also wrote another book called Follow the Yellow Brick Road, and I use it as a metaphor for how we change. One of the things that Dorothy needed in her journey and her heroes’ journey, was she needed help along the way. She had to do the journey herself, but she couldn’t do without the resources—and I call them munchkins, our community. I call Glinda (the good witch) her mentor—things like that. So join somebody. Be connected somehow. Make love. Do whatever you can to connect with people and that will also reduce stress.

GG: Right.

SA: Lonely people are often very stressed because they’re not plugging in. We’re pack animals, we can’t do it by ourselves, we’re not supposed to. We’re designed to be connected to other people.

GG: Okay, so that’s what—I dig that because, you know, I’m going through a very stressful time with my younger brother, who is very sick, I’m his caregiver, so sometimes I isolate myself, so that maybe I need to go out there and start—because you know when I go out it feels good, when you’re socializing with people it makes you feel better, it takes the stress away, so that’s your heart dimension. So what’s the third dimension?

SA: And the third dimension is the mindfulness, and that’s a big, big movement now, as you may know, in psychology and it’s making it’s way—I also do consulting for businesses, and I went to a conference last week and they were even talking about mindfulness for leadership development. And mindfulness is that ability inside of us, and it’s almost unique to humans, is that we can step back and look at something objectively. It’s the buddhist thing about healthy detachment. And in a way, mindfulness is taking—like the other day, I woke up anxious about something, and I practiced mindfulness. I stepped back and I looked at my anxiety and just said, “Oh, I’m anxious right now.” And it started to dissipate. So, whatever way people can find out how to do this mindfulness thing, it can be really valuable to get us through stressful times.

GG: Is that like meditation, or for me, it’s like playing golf . . . or whatever, working out . . . or, sort of like clearing your head that way, maybe taking a hike . . . or stepping back from like—and with these political views going on, they’re just so far left or far right, there’s nobody really in the middle—maybe these people gotta take a step back and be more mindful of the other side and be less stressed about their side. You know what I mean, maybe that’s a good way of doing it.

SA: I think you hit the nail on the head. Like when you’re playing golf, you go into the zone. Whenever we go into the zone, where we have hyper-focus, we’re in a more mindful place. And meditation, it’s fascinating, all the research they’re doing now on the brain and meditation, they’re showing how absolutely beneficial it is. I personally hate to meditate, because I’m a Type-A personality. It’s hard for me to sit still. But all the research says, you do some mindfulness, you change your body, you change your mind—it’s supposed to be really good for you.

GG: Yeah, I’m getting into it. When I meditate, I sort of meditate in a different way. I sort of look at the sky or something for five minutes, that’s meditating right? Two minutes or twenty minutes, you don’t have to meditate for five hours, correct? Am I right about this?

SA: You are right about it, yes. I’m so good now at meditating, I can sit still with my mind clear for almost three seconds. That’s how good I am at it.

GG: I hear you Dr. Sam. Well, listen, I want to thank you so much for calling in, it’s fascinating. Especially with all the stress going on in our world, and craziness—it’s like—I don’t even know what you’d call this world nowadays, with the social media and the government and everything, but if you want to get some help, where can they find you, Doc?

SA: The book is The 3 Dimensions of Emotions, like you mentioned. It’s on, well I guess the easiest place to find it is on Amazon. I also have a website where people can take a free inventory if they want to. And the website is www.power-heart-mindfulness.com.

GG: Okay, say it again, tell us again, because I’m going to take that test, I want to see how screwed up I am.

SA: Please, please do. You’ll have to tell me the results. It’s power-heart-mindfulness.com.

GG: All right, Dr. Sam, thank you so much Dr. Sam Alibrando, check out his book, The 3 Dimensions of Emotions: Finding the Balance of Power, Heart and Mindfulness in All Your Relationships. It’s on Amazon, and go check out his website: power-heart-mindfulness.com.