How to Thrive in Life’s Most Difficult Moments
How to Thrive in Life’s
Most Difficult Moments
What do you call someone who can look at the human psyche, see all of its false constructs, all of its limiting, self-imposed boundaries, and unravel them like a sweater with a loose thread? Well, people call Peter Crone the “mind architect.”
Most of our mental constructs—some dangerous, some positive, all false—use words as their building blocks, says Crone. With words, Crone believes, we are attempting to strangle the complexity of life into a static container. When we asked him for his advice on how to cope in times of crisis (quarter-life, midlife, or otherwise), he was quick to reframe: A crisis appears only when it’s labeled a crisis. There is no spoon. You get the gist.
Embrace life as it is, Crone says: It’s a natural cycle of death and rebirth. Which might entail holding off on self-judgment even as life feels as if it’s falling apart. Crone believes each moment of destruction is an opportunity to start fresh. And if we adopt this mind-set, we might even be able to find the silver linings in periods of conflict.
FYI: Crone will be at our next In goop Health in Los Angeles. He’s teaching a workshop for Wellness Weekenders the afternoon of Friday, May 17. And leading small group workshops at summit on Saturday, May 18. He’s just as wise and impactful (and charming) in person—come and see for yourself.
A Q&A with Peter Crone
To label it a crisis is to deny its benefits. The default perception of the ego is to look at events in our life through the lens of resistance. To label anything a crisis is to call it bad. It’s looking through the lens of duality to label things good or bad, or right or wrong.
It may well be a period that we can see has psychological, physiological, even emotional transitions. Fundamentally, I would call it a metamorphosis. You don’t turn to the caterpillar and say, “You’re about to go through a crisis, buddy.” The birth of a butterfly is obviously the death of the caterpillar, but it is part of that evolution and expansion of life.
Even birth can be seen as a crisis moment. It’s a very traumatic experience for both mother and child, and yet it is the birth of a new paradigm. Likewise, as we become teenagers, this cascade of hormones gets released into our system and dramatically changes our identity. Is that a crisis? Or is that an opportunity to evolve into a new experience of what it means to be human? It’s imperative that we allow an older version of ourselves to fall apart and be shattered and exposed so that the new version of ourselves can be born.
Identity is a kind of facade that we start constructing at a young age. When we are kids, the first time we do something that isn’t completely revered or applauded, we realize: Wait a minute. All of a sudden, that sense of love and acceptance is now absent. In response, we develop a survival mechanism to try to garner that sense of belonging again. We create an identity that serves a purpose, which really is to serve the deep-seated sense of wanting to belong as a human being and be loved and accepted.
When we become attached to those forms and those behaviors, we stagnate. And that has huge ramifications in every area of our life: our psychology, our physiology, our relationships, and our sense of performance or purpose, because we are holding on to an image that was a reflection of a past failure. Most people’s lives have this repetitive cycle. They’re being constantly informed by behaviors that they haven’t changed. To continually evolve is to let go of these different iterations of ourselves so that we can expand beyond a previous version or previous identity that we had.
Most people become attached to these deep-seated beliefs of inadequacy, the all-too-present feeling of not being enough: not pretty enough, not young enough, not thin enough, not sexy enough, not whatever enough. That’s one of the strongest attachments that I see in my clients—the attachment we have to the limitations about ourselves, which is really the precursor to suffering.
Vulnerability is a sign of expansion. It’s only the previous iteration of ourselves that feels vulnerable, because it’s dying. As soon as you’re okay being vulnerable—disclosing and exhibiting what you’re going through—you’re no longer vulnerable.
It’s those who don’t wish to express vulnerability who are the most vulnerable, because the behavior of hiding is due to fear and creates resistance. Life is infinitely more powerful than we are. To resist that in any way is not only futile; it’s completely nonsensical. To resist these transitions in our lives—and certainly the physiological transitions—is to deny the power of life itself. And that is not a battle you’re ever going to win.
Conversations like this bring awareness to the fact that these experiences are an inherent part of the journey and that no one is free of these transitions. And so for me, that garners a greater sense of love and compassion.
You have to acknowledge that you’re not separate from whatever someone else is going through. You may be at a different stage in the arc of your transformation or at a different stage chronologically in terms of age, but whether you’re a parent looking at the trials and tribulations of a child trying to find their feet literally and figuratively or you’re in your twenties looking at someone who’s going through menopause or transitioning out of life and passing, it’s important to realize that we’re all in this together. You can’t escape any of these transitions. What you can do is develop a greater sense of humility and grace in the way that you go through these transitions yourself and support others as they go through them.
All you can do is create more pain by resisting change. The audacity of the mind-set that thinks we know how life should be is truly comical. And worse still, believing we know how other people should act. We can resist to a certain degree, but that perpetuates suffering internally for ourselves. And it means that the catalyst for our awakening has to be that much more dramatic.
You might get away with that for a few months, maybe even a few years, maybe even a decade or two, but the underlying, unaddressed imbalance is still at play. In Ayurvedic philosophy, it’s believed that the absence of ease over time manifests as a major disease in our physiology. That’s the wake-up call. It’s much better to listen to the subtle warning signs as they arise, which requires a certain degree of self-awareness and sensitivity.
It’s a fine balance, because there are certain things that truly are beyond our control. If you use the metaphor of the caterpillar becoming the butterfly, the fixer may have the mind-set of seeing the chrysalis and the struggle and going, “Oh, I can help,” and starting to open up the chrysalis. But then that actually prevents the butterfly from developing the strength it needs to fly.
It comes down to discernment, meaning: To what degree am I trying to fix someone as my own reaction to a feeling of inadequacy because I get value from trying to fix others? Versus: I’m genuinely caring and loving in the way that I want to support someone in their own transition. Is it motivated by self or is it motivated by service? The perennial fixers oftentimes have a mild state of constant stress because they’re continually trying to control circumstances.
I think fundamentally in a relationship, and certainly in a romantic relationship, the greatest thing any partner can do—in the presence of crisis or not, in the presence of transformation or not—is listen. Most people don’t listen in relationships.
People misunderstand listening as agreeing. I can understand someone’s reality. It doesn’t mean that I condone it or believe it or agree with it. But if that’s their reality, who the hell am I to deny them their reality? I think it’s a partner’s role to hold a space of love, compassion, and acceptance.
Of course, there may be times when there is something practical to be done. If there is something that we can physically do to help somebody, for sure. But we want to be very sensitive and careful: Are we doing something because we think something’s wrong? Or are we doing something because there truly is an opportunity to enhance a situation? Are we being driven by judgment, or are we being driven by possibility?
The brain, which is designed to protect us, is perpetually looking into the future to see where a past hurt or failure might happen again, and then it does everything it can to avoid it. And doing everything it can to avoid it actually encourages it. That’s the self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is one reason people struggle with anxiety and fear. The mind is projecting a future that they don’t want and then trying to think of solutions to avoid that. Meanwhile, it’s not recognizing that it has made up the future that hasn’t even happened yet.
For anybody who has past failures—which is every human being on the planet—the degree to which we can reconcile them and accept them is the degree to which we’re in the flow of life. And that’s not to say that we can’t learn from our past failures. That is in fact the way that we do learn. You’ve got to go through adversity. You’ve got to have disappointments in order to evolve—but to hold on to them and then use them to define yourself, that is the seat of suffering.
Peter Crone is a thought leader in human potential and performance. He helps reveal the limiting subconscious narratives that dictate our behaviors, health, relationships, and performance. Crone is based in LA and featured in the documentary HEAL.