"By the time you finish this book, there will be nothing holding you back."—from the Introduction
Most people have a vision for their lives that they're not pursuing, half-heartedly pursuing, or pursuing with all their might yet somehow falling short. This vision can be modest or grand. It may involve breaking free of a destructive habit or finding a truly healthy relationship. It might have to do with making a real difference in the world or helping to lead a company to extraordinary success. In The One Thing Holding You Back, Raphael Cushnir, a leading voice in the world of personal and professional development, reveals that whenever people aren't living their dreams it's because they're not yet willing and able to feel specific emotions related to those dreams. Once we access and understand these emotions, our dreams can and will come true.
Cushnir asserts that mere emotional awareness, commonly referred to as emotional intelligence, is not enough. For maximum benefit we must directly and consistently connect with our emotions. In particular, we need to connect with the emotions we routinely avoid, resist, or attempt to dismiss. It's these emotions that possess the key to our greatest goals. And learning to connect with them is another rarely taught but essential skill.
The One Thing Holding You Back provides real solutions that can be implemented immediately and without external support and includes true stories of people who have put Cushnir's process to work and transformed their lives. Delivering a step-by-step program in accessible language, this landmark book will turn the obstacles in front of us into tremendous opportunities for achieving the life we always wanted.
What is an Emotion, Anyway?
Since our journey begins and ends with emotional connection, it would help to have a clear working definition of what an emotion actually is. But that's a problem, because neither philosophers nor psychologists nor scientists can come to agreement. They contest one another's definitions vigorously across disciplines and even more so within them. So where does that leave us?
Fortunately, we don't really need to enter the fray. That's because emotions are are much easier to experience than describe. It's usually not too difficult to know that you're angry, for example, even if you're uncertain about the neurological and biochemical processes that produce such anger. For our purposes, the ever-evolving theories and squabbles about how to define emotion are only relevant to the extent that they bolster the ability, and the commitment, to feel. In that regard, there are a few important topics to consider.
The first is the purpose of emotion. All schools of thought agree that emotions exist to convey information. Emotions arise as a response to the changing states of our internal and external environments. They're part of the overall process that helps us understand our world and ourselves.
Just now, I took a break from writing to do the dishes. Midway through, I broke a crystal champagne flute that was given to me by a past partner. At first I seemed to take it in stride. These things happen, I thought. No big deal. But when I tuned in to my emotions, I suddenly felt flushed and sad. Retrieving a broom and dustpan, I replayed the tumultuous ending of that relationship. My heart beat faster. Tears welled. I realized, with surprise, that I wasn't totally healed from the breakup. My emotional response, in this case, enabled me to refine my self-understanding.
Along with their role in understanding, emotions also serve to inform and influence our needs, drives, perceptions, and perhaps most of all, actions. The word "emotion" itself is formed from the Latin roots ex and motio, signifying outward movement. This underscores the way that emotions form a vital bridge between self-identity and self--expression. In other words, they help us glean both who we are and how best to conduct our lives.
That is, of course, when everything's working properly. Another thing widely agreed upon by scholars is that emotions are not always reliable. They're part instinctive and part learned. If a person grew up in a war zone, for example, the sound of a sonic boom in later life might produce an excessive amount of fear. Or, conversely, a person who grew up in a gated community might not feel afraid enough in a bad neighborhood. In both cases early emotional development could lead to an incorrect interpretation of later circumstances.
On the other hand, who's to say what's a "correct" emotional response to anything? What to one person feels like a small mishap might feel downright tragic to another. The range and intensity of emotions we experience are influenced not just by the past but also by culture, personality, and even physiology. Therefore, emotions aren't ever entirely right or wrong, good or bad, reliable or fallible.
Emotions aren't ever entirely right or wrong, good or bad, reliable or fallible.
Instead, their initial arising presents raw, unprocessed feedback. Most emotions take shape for all of us in this same self-generating way, whether or not we want their input or approve of their message.
What happens next, once an emotion has arisen, is really the crux of the matter. At this stage we have an array of choices. We can talk about it, act it out unconsciously, or deny it completely. We can suppress it, interpret it, debate it, or obsess about it. Or, more simply, we can just allow ourselves to stay aware of it.
Soon we'll examine all of these choices as well as many more. For now, let's focus on the last one. To stay aware of an emotion that has arisen within us is sometimes not as easy as it sounds, since many of us are adept at blocking out feelings we don't want. And yet emotions are constantly forming within us whether we're aware of them fully, briefly, or not at all. When we're unaware, we rob ourselves of whatever information emotions have to impart. Therefore, the conventional preference for rationality over emotion makes no sense. For the greatest degree of success in tackling life's challenges and realizing our dreams, we need both.
My client Vivian illustrates this well. She told me she was "born to sing." Ever since high school her secret wish was to put together a nightclub act. But the years drifted by, and three kids came along, each one offering a convenient new excuse to put her singing on the back burner. Looking at the situation rationally, Vivian had always seen her problem as standard-issue procrastination. This theory, however, never helped her get moving.
In our work together, while reflecting on her long-stalled dream, Vivian experienced waves of anger and disappointment. At first she thought these feelings were about not following through with her dream, but soon the real answer dawned—her voice was mediocre. Despite her passion for singing, Vivian possessed no remarkable talent.
Until accessing all the emotions that preceded this truth, Vivian was never able to find or face it. Even the clearest, soberest thinking had been no match for her giant blind spot. Now, accepting her mediocrity rather than resisting it, she was actually relieved. Unburdened of false diva-hood, she could thoroughly reassess her voice for all its true strengths and weaknesses. She did this with the aid of a voice coach, who also helped her select a repertoire that highlighted her strengths. Within six months Vivian was singing at open mikes, and within another six months she performed her first full set.