My guest today is psychologist and author Christine McKee. I recently had the pleasure of reading her book BE by Design. This isn’t one of those trendy self-help books full of useless hype. Christine gives us psychological insight, backed by science, in easy to understand language. From there, she offers advice all of us can use to live our lives with better purpose and intention.
Christine has graciously agreed to answer a bunch of my questions. Before we get to that, let’s meet the woman behind the words:
Christine McKee, a registered psychologist, is director of BE Institute, a psychology consulting and training organisation in Brisbane, Australia. She uses a combination of eastern philosophy and modern psychological techniques with her clients in the corporate, private practice, mining, government, and not-for-profit arenas. She has developed her four-phase BE by Design™ process from the philosophy that accountability for transformation begins from within. McKee’s main constructs include:
• Awareness – learning the reasons behind what we think, feel, say, and do
• Focus – identifying and setting specific intentions for progress
• Maximizing potential – recognizing opportunity in relationships and life situations
• Choices – fine-tuning your skills to make progressive decisions in the future
The process results in personal empowerment for individuals, maximising potential of leaders and their teams to achieve business excellence and conscious parenting (pre and post conception).
Christine is published author of BE by Design: How I BE Is Up to Me™, an empowering “owner’s manual for the brain” which will guide you to understand your most precious asset and how, through simple and practical strategies, you can be the best you can BE. Christine’s passion is to be of service in ways to live a life filled with love, compassion, forgiveness, health, knowingness and bliss.
Christine also writes regularly for several online journals, print magazines and is a sought after speaker.
Connect with Christine in the following places:
• Website: www.beinstitute.com.au
• Blog for Book: www.bebydesign.net
• FB for BE Institute: www.facebook.com/BEInstitute
• FB for Book: www.facebook.com/pages/Christine-McKee/135824346563809
• Twitter: www.twitter.com/BEbyDesign or @BEbyDesign
• BEInstitute Radio: http://toginet.com/shows/beinstituteradio
The human brain is the most complex and wondrous thing you will ever own, and you do own it. When it comes to understanding our consciousness, however, we often feel lost. We simply haven’t read the owner’s manual.
If you’re not finding the answers, rewrite the questions.
BE by Design can show you how to get the most out of life by handing over the controls and making you accountable for your own existence. Using a four-phase process that draws on a blend of modern psychology and eastern wisdom, this journey to self is full of easy-to-use, practical tools and stimulating strategies to help you unlock your full potential in everything you intend, think, feel, say, and do.
Make every day amazing; be the best you can be.
Love, family, health, life purpose—these are the things to define us, not confine us. By pausing, stepping back, and examining your relationship with yourself and those around you, you can break free of habits and beliefs that are holding you back.
Like a GPS for your soul, this book can help you get from “A to Be”—navigating a path to your chosen destination. Devoting time and energy in your well-being is always a rich investment, and the rewards are unlimited. Happiness, empowerment, focus and confidence—they all await when you take charge of your life and design how you want to BE.”
One of the first things you talk about that, I think, is vital for people to understand is ‘You do not see things as they are; you see things as you are.’ Can you briefly explain what this means?
From the brain point of view, we are hard-wired for autopilot and shortcuts as often as possible to be sure we always have enough mental and physical energy in reserve— should be ever need to fight or flee for our life (this is our instinctual fight-or-flight response). To achieve this, when we are young (approximate ages 0-7) and are learning at such a rapid rate to understand how the world works, we easily absorb information about attitudes, values, beliefs, cultural nuances, ‘rights’, ‘wrongs’, ‘shoulds’, ‘shouldn’ts’ from our primary caregivers, other family members, teachers, media, government, religious figures and so on. We take on board our beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in from our most prominent influencers in early life, and the information we repetitively are told and that we observe, forms the basis of our habits and short-cuts in life.
These early experiences shape the way we ‘see’ things and because each of our upbringings are completely different, we describe the world by what we were individually exposed to. Therefore, there are literally billions of different interpretations of things and events. However, each of us is hardwired to see the world through the lens of our experiences from the early years. I want to be clear though — we can consciously change anything we believe if we choose to pause and observe our habits and if they don’t get us awesome results, create the change through intentions, thoughts, feelings, words and [in]actions.
You say that all feelings are not good or bad, and they all have equal value. I agree that it’s important for us to experience all our emotions, even sadness and grief. How, if at all, do you think the overuse of antidepressants in the U.S. impacts our ability to process feelings and move forward in personal development?
From my perspective one of the great joys of being human is our ability to feel emotion—all that we have available to us. I see it as our radar for growth and ability to fully experience life. I believe we are here to learn and constantly grow as a soul having a human experience, and it is the relationships, events and circumstances we face that mold and shape our growth. Our interpretation of all that we experience has a big impact on our ability to cope and find meaning, joy and happiness even when things seem dark. All is impermanent and everything that starts, ends. This includes the perceived ‘feel good’ and ‘feel bad’ emotions. If we can truly see this, then even in the darkest of times (and we all experience them) we can know that it will pass. So, while in certain situations anti-depressants definitely have their purpose and offer relief and value to those taking them; ultimately, I have seen in many situations that they repress the person exploring the root cause of the issue that is creating the depression, sadness and overwhelm. This then reduces the motivation and desire to move beyond the situation. I am a huge advocate for people being free of thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, relationships and so on that limit them….to do this, we need to explore what causes the challenges and find healthy and sustainable solutions for healthy mindsets and healthy psyche’s.
You mention the ripple effect and what you call the ‘negativity virus’. I love that term! Can you tell us a bit about what it is?
The ripple effect simply is ‘the wake’ of consequences and outcomes we leave on our self and others, based on the choices we make with our words and actions (or lack of action) in any moment. The ripple effect can be very positive and also can be harmful to self and others. If you take the time to pause and set a clear and healthy intention for your preferred outcome in any situation or interaction you are far more likely to create a positive ripple effect – where all people involved walk away feeling good, appreciated, and/or respected. Then the odds are that when people go and share what’s been happening in their day with others, they’ll be able to share the positive experience and a ‘positivity virus’ will spread.
However, the ‘virus’ will spread just as easily if the experience you created with another by your words or actions was negative or unhealthy in some way. The ripple effect when others walk away and talk about the interaction with you will be toxic – like a ‘negativity virus’. Here’s a brief example from the book BE by Design: How I BE Is Up to Me.
Say you are at work and you have a difference of opinion with one of your colleagues (let’s call him Bob), and this is not the first time. Now, if you go into an automatic response or reaction based on the past with Bob, you may choose to have a verbal altercation where you get short in your responses and stop listening to him. The ripple effect has been set in motion.
Here’s what can and does happen. You have the challenging verbal exchange, and both of you go back into your work area. Another colleague, Jen, asks, “How’s your day?” You immediately go into details of how you’re sick of Bob and his ideas and how much he frustrates you, and you wish he’d just keep his mouth shut and let you get on with things. Basically, you go into the drama of the situation.
You have just started spreading a negativity virus. Why?
Because Jen now goes into the lunchroom and starts talking to her colleagues about how she was in such a good mood until she ran into you, and how she’s tired of all the drama that goes on in the workplace. She has now spread the drama a little wider. You go home, and your partner asks how your day at work was. This sets you off again about Bob, and now the ripple effect is well and truly in your home. It keeps spreading because, later that evening, your partner gets a call from a friend who’s phoning for a chat, and your partner starts sharing how she was really looking forward to seeing you, but when you got home you went into a rant about Bob, and he or she just wishes you could come home and be happy. The virus gains even more momentum, as once your partner’s friend gets off the phone, he or she goes into the lounge room and starts telling his or her partner that for once, it would be nice to have a drama-free conversation with you.
You get where I’m going with this. The ripple effect of the simple conversation between you and Bob has been given a pulse by repetitious sharing of the information from person to person.
Some people seem to have an abundance of negative energy. These are the people who want to unload all their misery on everyone around them. A friend of mine refers to them as ‘energy vampires’, because they suck the energy (and life!) out of the people they’re with. Do you have any advice for polite ways to deal with this type of person?
I love this question. I have met many ‘energy vampires’ and to be honest the answer doesn’t lie with them, it lies with the person being ‘drained’. The energy ‘vampires’ are only latching on because we allow it. The fastest fix is to ask yourself why you are attracting people like that into your energy field to start with. The answer may well have something to do with a lack of boundaries; a lack of clear communication of a behaviour pattern that says we put others needs before our own, and compromise what is it important to us so others feels better. Once you are able to see that you contribute to ‘inviting’ these people into your life (they serve an unconscious need usually, such as a need to please others; a need to ‘fix’ others; being a bit of a martyr) then you’ll be able to articulate your boundaries with them. This may play out in any number of ways:
- choosing to spend less time with the energy drainers;
- having a respectful conversation with them about how you feel. For example ‘X, I’d like to talk to you about some of the interactions we have. I notice that sometimes we spend a lot of time focused on negative things and I wonder if we could make a commitment to each other to see the positive side of things and talk in ways that are uplifting, even when life may have thrown us a curve ball. Can we talk about finding solutions instead of staying in the problem?’
- If you want to keep the relationship, yet simply change some of the behaviour in it, I find it useful to talk openly and directly (in a kind way) about how much you value the friendship/relationship yet that you also find it difficult sometimes because it is often negative and you find that tough. Then go on to ask the other person what they want from the relationship and how they feel it could be different to how it currently is;
- It is also worth being honest with yourself and doing some self-awareness reflection on how often you may be negative with others – and if you find you are, change that in yourself and this will influence others. My experience is that like attracts like, so with time, overly negative people won’t want to stay around you as they will not get the ‘attention’ or response they are looking for.
Another important issue you discuss is letting go of the desire to control other people and situations. Why do you think some people have such a need to control others?
Reduced levels or a lack of self-love/liking, self-belief and self-esteem, and unconsciously being influenced by our upbringing and beliefs and attitudes we learnt through social conditioning. We often want to control others when we do not feel fully adequate within ourselves. I have seen this so many times in my Private practice (especially with couple counseling) and also with leaders in Corporate who tend to be overly controlling with their team members. When we feel inadequate within ourselves it can be easier to project that out onto others and want to control or change them. When we can all embrace that we only ever get to control, ourselves 100% of the time, and see that based on the choices we make for ourselves, we then influence others. So, 100% of the time we are in control of our intentions, thoughts, feelings, words and [in]actions and based on these things, others will respond or react to us. We will never feel truly happy when we want others to be a certain way, as they have free will and choice about who they want to be—they too are 100% in control of all of their intentions, thoughts, feelings, words and [in]actions.
When we can express our preferences from other with clear reasons why, then we have been accountable for all that we can be. To want to control the outcome sets us up to be frustrated. When we like all aspects of ourselves (even the quirky bits) we will be more accepting of others’ differences and appreciate that we are all entitled to our choices. We can also appreciate and have compassion that we are to some extent creation of our upbringing and social conditioning (not an excuse, and we can change the way we choose to be at any time) and that by having honest conversations and clearly expressing our preferences and expectations we influence others to be aware of their behaviour and choices.
Do you have any advice for how to handle controlling family members and/or friends?
My advice here is simple—become very comfortable in the knowledge that you cannot change another, only simply influence them in a way that is respectful. So, I recommend choosing to have conscious communication, where you respectfully discuss your needs and preferences so that you are being fully open and honest. Openly discuss what behaviour will be acceptable to you and set your boundaries clearly, including what you will do if the other person does not honor and respect your wishes (assuming your wishes are in the spirit of self and other respect). Once you have truly done that, you have no control over the other person’s response to that. Your job is to simply be true to yourself and express yourself fully. Then if a controlling other continues to want to be controlling you are more likely to be able to keep your boundaries in place and reinforce them through your words and actions. The key is to be consistent in your boundaries and to follow through on respecting yourself enough to keep communicating openly and moving yourself from unhealthy situations.
I often hear people say they are too old to change. What are your thoughts on that?
I hear that a lot too and I don’t believe it for a second. That is simply a belief that limits our brilliance. We learned to be the way we currently are and at any time can choose differently. When I question people about why they believe they are too old for change, I commonly hear it is actually because they fear the unknown; fear stepping away from the comfort zone and state that is it easier to just stay as they are.
The truth is, we are capable of changing anything about our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and so on, we just need to have a strong enough desire to do so, and then be consistent with thoughts, words and actions to line up with what we are wanting for ourselves and others. It takes awareness, focus and consistency to put attention on what you want. When we take control of our intentions and thoughts, we create the version of ourselves we want.
You’re the director of the BE Institute. Please tell us about that.
BE Institute is a psychology and training company that I started in 2010. Myself and the fabulous Associates who work alongside me on projects focus on the BE by Design™ process where we are committed to empowering people from all walks of life— be it corporate, mining, couples wanting to start families, parents of young children, Government, or individuals from the general public, to live accountable lives where they make choices that are self and other respecting and will leave a positive and healthy ‘ripple effect’ all people they interact with across their lives. The intention is for people to think holistically about their lives and choices and to come from a place that is authentic to themselves and in the spirit of enabling others to be themselves. We specialize in workshops, coaching, conscious conception and conscious parenting.
Thank you, Christine, for sharing your time and thoughts with us!
What are your thoughts on these issues? Do you know people with the negativity virus or the need to micro-manage all situations? If not, maybe that person is you.
BE by Design is available on Amazon, in both print and Kindle format:
Thanks for reading.
Tags: BE by Design, BE Institute, Behavior Modification, Behavior Therapy, Behavioral Science, Brain Science, Butterfly Effect, Christine McKee, Living With Controlling People, Negativity Virus, Overuse of Antidepressants, Psychological Insight, Psychology of Behavior, Ripple Effect, Self-Help Books, Too Old To Change