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What Am I with Dr. Doug Brackmann

George Grombacher April 10, 2022

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What Am I with Dr. Doug Brackmann

LifeBlood: We talked about the difference between asking “what am I” versus “who am I,” why it matters, the difference it can make, and why some of us struggle to ever find contentment, with Dr. Doug Brackmann, Psychologist and author of Driven.

Listen to learn how to start catching feelings before they turn into thoughts!

You can learn more about Doug at and LinkedIn.

Thanks, as always for listening!  If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and subscribe as well.

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook or you’d like to be a guest on the show, contact us at contact@LifeBlood.Live.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

doug brackmann

Dr. Douglas Brackmann

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Come on

left with this is Georgie and the time is right welcome today’s guest strong, powerful Dr. Douglas Brackman. Dr. Doug, are you ready to do this? I am ready. excited to have you back on the show. Doug is a psychologist specializing in helping highly driven individuals take back control of their lives. He is the author of driven, it is understanding and harnessing the gifts shared by entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, pro athletes, and maybe you Doug excited to have you back on tell us a little about your personal life SmartBox your work and why you do what you do. I’m excited to be back and I

Doug Brackmann 0:51
going deeper, is something that I think part of our personality, we love to

be accused of being so intense when I was a kid, you know, and trying to lighten up and not take life. So freakin serious.

Really good advice. But going deep on this stuff is my passion, and has been for years and years, Piers. Looking forward to

george grombacher 1:17
it. Yeah, well, I am. I told you, when we were just getting started. You were one of our featured authors for our book club. And then I had the opportunity to actually read the book, probably should have read it beforehand. But you know, anyway, but had the opportunity to read it. And so much of it all of it really resonated with me. And it was everything that we had talked about how for people who are this, give or take seven to 10% of the population. It’s an operating manual, and I definitely found that to be the case. So really, really enjoyed it. Something that really stuck out for me, certainly a lot of things. I guess I’ll start by just saying that I hate when people ask me. What, what do you do for a living? And it’s sort of I never really like to think that I am this thing that I earn a living doing. And you touch on that in, in the book.

Doug Brackmann 2:17
It’s so ad psychologist for 30 years now. And what gets people to walk into my office is this underlying chronic feeling that there’s something missing along with them. And that that’s this, this core sense of

always feeling like we could do something better. And that’s really this, this the reward systems of the driven and a byproduct of that. Something last three years I’ve been very passionate about is the differences in identity between people who have our brain structure and who have you know, the normal brain structure, the 95 percenters?

The biggest difference is this hypo frontality versus normal frontal lobe activity. Big long, you know, explanations they’re not needed. Very simply farmers, those that are wired for a very predictable, then your world have a corresponding identity, predictable linear butchers and bakers and candlestick makers, you know, so they went from these hunter gatherer groups of 40 6080 of us into these massive societies job specialization was the natural kind of evolution. Most people’s identities went along with that. And so people walk into my office and have our wiring. And it’s like, I don’t relate to being a psychologist, I’m a cultural anthropologist, I’m a biologist, I’m a, you know, statistician, I’m all of these different things. And none of them really define me. If I’m born into a society where that’s not normal, combined with this inner deep feeling, that there’s something missing or wrong all the time. What I have found personally and professionally is that, you know, most of the Germans come into my office, feeling like they’re just lost feeling like they’re, you know, the imposter syndrome. Because I’ve got, I’ve had the PhDs I have the accolades, I have the things hanging on my wall, and yet I still feel like there’s something more I should be doing. And that identity piece is, you know, the quickest path to hell for a driven individual is trying to figure out who we are. Because it is an esoteric, wacky dance into there’s no right answer. There is no final answer. And so for a driven that has this multi thinking brain combined with this weird identity, kind of, you know, DaVinci based identity, we’re, we’re, you know, we are both sculptors and artisans, and creators and poets and writers and all of these things. We’re not just one thing. And so what we have to do, if you’re driven, is really shift that identity from a who, very simply into a what?

george grombacher 5:34
I like it shift from who to a what. So

Doug Brackmann 5:38
it’s it’s sort. So the WHO versus the what very, it’s, it’s a very simple concept. And I intended that way because driven is our brains love to complicate this. Very simply the Who is this weird, esoteric, kind of undefined used, weird soul concept, that there’s something more to me than just the brain in the body. There may be, but it’s impossible to define. Which leaves the ribbons in this deep inner feeling that there’s something missing or wrong, unanswered. And so, as I say, in my book, chapter five, about shame, people have walked into my office, you know, earnestly with 100% Confidence telling me that they want to kill themselves. And my response is, Yes, finally. I will show you how. Because it’s just you know, what the hell are you talking about the body, the pain that I feel the narratives of stories about me, what are you actually trying to get rid of and that hopefully can shock somebody into this present moment awareness that who we are is a ridiculous path to hell. Simply what we are. And what I am is an animal, what I am is a homosapien, squirrels, cats, dogs, monkeys, whatever, we’re just another one of animals on God’s green earth. That is clear, we can’t argue that. And because of that, we can do some very simple biological assessments understanding our central nervous system. And then it gives us the opportunity to stop these looping narratives about how I’m broken and feel broken. Therefore, I am broken because look at all the broken Should I’ve done. And you tie that to this, the identity piece in the present, you know what I am is very simply what I am doing in the present moment. For a driven sitting on a cushion, doing nothing, no thing. What is the point of meditation is to not have a point. So literally, when we’re sitting in zozen, or sitting in meditation, I am nothing I’m just breathing. And yeah, but what about my body? What my body’s so dysregulated it did it it did I have all these sensations my body I don’t like correct. And that’s because you’re a biological being. And you’re supposed to have these things happening in the present moment. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong. If you feel scared, when there’s nothing to be scared of. That curious what I am is an animal sitting here breathing feeling these sensations. And as long as I don’t make the narrative out of them, the sensations change, and they will start to reflect a more accurate picture of your immediate reality. So it’s time and practice. Simple, simple, simple, but really deep. So what did you get it out?

george grombacher 9:09
What sounds easy, does hard,

Doug Brackmann 9:11
right? Yeah. Simple concept, the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

george grombacher 9:18
And so I so it can drive people to madness. It can drive people to the brink of suicide, and drives them to

Doug Brackmann 9:29
addiction, workaholism, setting addictions, all of the all of these things, that ribbons. You know, are we’re trying to escape into a different reality. What’s the greatest line I ever heard it in a meeting Plus, an alcoholic or a driven spends an eternity trying to escape from a reality that never existed in the first place?

george grombacher 9:56
Yeah, that’s a that’s a real pickle right there.

Doug Brackmann 9:58
That isn’t typical. because it’s we’re wired to feel like we’re living in a scary, hard, dangerous world. And it’s not it’s not you know, there’s there’s 9 billion of us or 8 billion of us on this planet, we quadrupled our population, and 120 years, it’s, it’s, we figured out this your Bible thing. But the 8% or 6% of us that are feeling like we’re not enough, turn that in force the outer world to fit our inner world. That is that narrative of self. And what I do is this identity piece is flipped that the outer worlds, the world of objects and things, and intuition is where safety is my inner world of thinking and feeling is not a accurate representation of reality. And that, that’s called humility. And that humility piece combined with this understanding of identity frees us from the self. And then Zen, we talked about, you know, how the sense of boundary between self and other or subject and object seems to fall away. Very common Dogen, all the great Zen teachers all the great, you know, what the hell are they talking about? What they’re talking about very simply, is this division between the monkey mind and the impulsive, elephant or the body, and this third element of the observer. And the distinction between those three, fall away, not just thinking, I’m not just sensing, and I’m just not observing, I’m doing all of those in equal balance. That’s the classic definition of flow.

george grombacher 12:09
It’s all happening at the same time.

Doug Brackmann 12:13
Yes, everything is happening at the same time.

george grombacher 12:17
And so, the practice or getting beyond that, and to actually make that happen, talked about how it’s, it’s sounds easy, but it’s really, really hard. Do that. So how do I how do I start on the path of

Doug Brackmann 12:33
it? First and foremost, is understanding the context. I’ve been teaching meditation for 2530 years, 25 years, for real. It’s the context of meditation. Most people believe that a meditation practice is a relaxation practice. couldn’t be anything farther from the truth. You know, meditation is about presenting. And it’s not being it’s being be, you know, ing presenting. It’s not, you’re never in the present, period. The present is constantly moving, unfolding expanding. Experience. The neocortex, the parts of our brain that that don’t like that, they don’t want to be in the presence because they want to be in control. And in the present moment, there’s really nothing to control.

george grombacher 13:39
So he wants to look backwards, it wants to look forwards.

Doug Brackmann 13:42
And thank goodness for it because it kept us alive and keeps us alive. Otherwise, we’d walk into traffic. And so it’s, you know, the ego gets a bad rap. But the ego is an incredibly necessary needed part of our human existence is the thing that helps us keep track of time to thing that solves problems for us. It’s just not who you are, or what you are. It’s, it’s a byproduct, thinking and feeling. So once you understand that, it’s like, oh, okay, then you can meet the sensations in the body in a different way. Feelings, the sensations in the body, which aren’t even feelings yet. There’s just raw sensations aren’t problems to solve. So you start to meet them and feel them and experience them you very quickly notice how they change. More importantly, if you’re using your eyeballs in senses, to anchor your awareness in the present. A byproduct of that is that the organism the body will actually start to self regulate, towards safety and feeling better. So the present moment is something thing most people experience is full of grace or peace beyond its peace without having to work for it. The body won’t tolerate that for very long. Because that was my doctoral dissertation was self sabotage what we’re trying to always do, though, until you actually understand this context of meditation, what we’re trying to do is match the outer world to our inner world. You wake up and you’re feeling anxious today, by the time you make it to the kitchen after you take a piss, you have discovered 18 reasons to be anxious.

Unknown Speaker 15:44
And so sure,

Doug Brackmann 15:46
it’s a magic day in therapy, when your therapist tells you, you’re bullshit. But we’re all full of shit. If we believe that underlying sensations in the central nervous system as an accurate reflection of my reality. What I’m seeing in this podcast with you right now, it’s not it never was supposed to be. Most people’s central nervous systems, what’s going on inside their body is because of what’s going on inside of their head. And so I’m anxious like hell, I wouldn’t be too if I thought like you think? Well, let’s change our thinking. It’s not about changing thinking. It’s about learning to feel the sensations in the body before they turn into thinking. Yeah, and if you can do that, combined with this, understanding that you know, my, either I’m going to attach my central nervous systems to reality or to my thinking. And I can attach it to my bookshelf and like, Whoa, I got a lot of books. My feelings very quickly go Yeah, but they’re out of order. They could be a little bit better organized it did you did it. All of a sudden, my central nervous system was looking at my books, feeling bad. As some extension of me that if I books in order, you know, my books were organized, and they all look perfect and color coordinated or whatever, then it would be a reflection of how I to have my shit together. Very normal calm. But those loops then, is evidence that I’m not okay. Unless my books are in order. Where what I’m teaching very simply, it’s the other way around. How do you feel? Or how do those books make you feel? Oh, no, kind of up, down, left, right, nothing, a lot, something. There’s no fixed or permanent sensation associated with those books. But man, I can get attached to certain ones of them that I really liked, oh, that book has more meaning because I’m projecting all of my emotion into it. But the book itself is inherently empty of any of those sensations. A lot of talk about emptiness and Buddhism and that that’s very simply what it means. It’s just, we’re the world is a blank slate, waiting for us to project our past and future onto it. If I can stop that process, question what I am. I’m an animal, present moment. So if you use my eyeballs to scan the world orient to the present, my central nervous system will a byproduct of that calm down. Well, with the my central nervous system will say yeah, don’t drop your guard to any more than that. Don’t drop it, don’t drop it, don’t drop it. If you drop your guard more than that, the world will become less in control of you and you’re you know, you’re not ready for it. And so that’s the battle. I can attach myself to the reality feel a little bit better. milliseconds to maybe two seconds. If I’m having a good day, a negative thought will come in trying to get my central nervous system back jacked up into this normal, tense range that I’ve lived in my whole life. Take a breath. Let that thought go reattach to reality. Reattach with my eyeballs open eyes wide open to what’s going on around me. Half a second later a thought comes back. But the practice is that letting go of the thoughts and attaching them to reality.

george grombacher 19:49
So it’s recognizing and catching that feeling of whatever it is anxiousness. Probably commonly

Doug Brackmann 19:59
it is It is. Human beings are so unbelievably addicted to fear and adrenaline and the negative that we are, we’re very simply, yeah, we’re adrenaline addicts. And if you’re driven like I am, we are wired for a pretty chaotic world. Things are really calm and things are really ordered. I don’t feel like I’m attached to that world, like it’s boring. And so, catching my sabotage, catching this, oh my God, I’ve got to do something, I can’t tolerate it. honoring those sensations of honoring those feelings, because I am driven. And my wife, well, if I was normal, I could sit and watch a two and a half hour movie with my wife, some chick flick, and it’s like nap, I can’t do it. That doesn’t make me better broken. But and so it is this dynamic interaction of the observer, you know, this third element in our consciousness, observing the my thinking and my feeling. Again, and again and again, not judging the sensations in my body, meeting them with curiosity, questioning, do they match my immediate reality.

george grombacher 21:33
And you get, and you get faster and faster as you as you practice.

Doug Brackmann 21:39
And you get more sensitive and more sensitive. And it’s the classic studies of all of this. And I’ve been part of the psychology community Mindfulness Based psychology communities are 25 years old, again. And I’ve watched it coming three or four different big waves through psychology, oh, my god, mindfulness, oh, my god, meditation, it’s greatest thing in the world. And then you do it for about six months or a year. And it’s like, now that that actually makes me feel worse. It what it does, it wakes you up to how anxious you always are. So your perceptions of anxiety go through the roof when you start meditating makes you feel worse. But actually, what’s happening is that your awareness of what this body is actually signaling you to do all the time is going up. Your actual physiological markers of anxiety are going down. Meaning that you’re catching it sooner. And that pause prior to, you know, assuming that everything we see is a snake. If I am anxious, and I am scared, everything I see I will I will turn all the ropes in my world all the sticks in my world into snakes. Self confirming self fulfilling prophecy. The opposite can also be true, and I’ve watched more people blow their lives up doing it the other way too. Oh my God, I feel so amazing. I feel so good right now. There’s no next anywhere. They’re all sticks. That’s lottery winners. Lottery winners, all of a sudden, they’re no more snakes in my world and I can buy everything at it and all of a sudden two years later the world’s full of snakes again. And we’re all stuck in that dynamic whether it’s January at the gym oh my god I’m gonna get a six pack this time I did it is come February it’s like nap and I happen it because the the biology of change. Is this this capacity to actually meet the sensations in your body with curiosity. Rather than assuming they’re true. Easy rolls right off the tongue. It’s easy to say. But when I walked through the door, my wife’s eyebrows are up. Kids are crying. And there’s not made and she’s looking at me like what the hell did you do now? It is really hard to not defend yourself to it. It’s just but I have I know and I can see after the fact where I could have done something different. I love it.

george grombacher 24:40
Powerful stuff. Doctor. I appreciate you coming back on simply means that we’re gonna have to do it a third time here sooner rather than later to keep digging into this stuff. But until then, where can people get a copy of driven

Doug Brackmann 24:56
so all things Dr. Doug is it I am driven all one and it? Yep, audio book, they’re written book they’re getting an assessment that you can take. It’s a real assessment too. It’s not a lead gen assessment. I spent a bunch of time spent a year on it. It’s 50 questions had it nationally normed. So you can compare what you are compared to a national representative sample. A lot of that coming out of my own imposter syndrome, make sure this is real. It’s and it is, we are driven there. It’s a real thing that is just made up. So good, appreciate your time. Judges

george grombacher 25:39
love it. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, show, duck dog, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, pick up a copy of driven understanding of harnessing the genetic gifts shared by entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, pro athletes, and maybe you and go to I am Pick up a copy of the book and take that assessment and find out if in fact, you fall into that small group of people that Dr. Doug has been talking about today. Thanks again. You’re welcome. And until next time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

Transcribed by

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