You are a victim of the rules you
live by.
—Jenny Holzer; artist,
thinker, blurter of brilliance
Many years ago I was in a terrible
bowling accident. My friends and I were
at the tail end of a heated tiebreaker, and
I was so focused on making a great show
of my final shot—leaping into action,
loudly declaring my impending victory,
dancing and twirling my way through my
approach—that I didn’t realize where
my feet were when I let go of the ball.
This was the moment I was to learn
how serious the bowling community is
about penalizing those who roll with one
toe over the line. They pour oil or wax
or lube or something unimaginably
slippery all over the alley, and should
someone accidentally slide out of
bounds while attempting the perfect hook
shot, she will find her feet flying out
from under her and her ass crashing
down onto a surface that even an
airborne bowling ball can’t crack.
A few weeks later whilst lolling
about in bed with this guy I met at
Macy’s, I explained that ever since my
accident, I’m now woken up in the
middle of the night with excruciating
pain in my feet. According to my
acupuncturist, this is from the nerves in
my back getting slammed when I fell,
and in order to sleep through the night
I’d need a new, firmer mattress.
“I have pains in my feet when I sleep
too!” He said, raising himself up for an
unreciprocated high five.
It’s not just because I’m not into the
whole high-five thing that I left him
hanging, but also because I was annoyed
with him. I already find mattress
shopping to be totally bizarre and
embarrassing—lying on your side with a
pillow between your thighs for all to see
like it’s anyone’s business—but the fact
that I had to do it with my salesman lying
next to me, begging for a high-fiver, was
more than I could handle.
I couldn’t help but notice that all the
other salesmen simply stood at the end
of the bed, rattling off mattress facts
while their clients tested out a myriad of
positions, but not mine. He’d lower
down next to me on his back, arms
crossed over his chest, and thoughtfully
chat away, staring at the ceiling like we
were at summer camp. I mean, he was
nice enough and incredibly
knowledgeable about coils and latex and
memory foam, but I was scared to roll
over for fear he’d start spooning me.
Was I too friendly? Should I not have
asked him where he was from? Did he
think I meant something else when I
patted the empty space next to me to test
the pillow top?
I obviously should have asked Freak
Show Bob to get off the damn bed, or
found someone else to help me, instead
of sneaking out the door and blowing my
only opportunity that week to go mattress
shopping, but I didn’t want to embarrass
I didn’t want to embarrass him!
This is pretty much how my family
was trained to deal with any sort of
potentially uncomfortable interaction.
Along with the fail-safe method of
running in the opposite direction, other
tools in our confrontation toolbox also
included: freeze, talk about the weather,
go blank, and burst into tears the moment
you’re out of earshot.
Our lack of confrontationmanagement skills was no great surprise
considering the fact that my mother
comes from a long lineage of WASPs.
Her parents were the types who
believed that children were to be seen
and not heard, and who looked upon any
sort of emotional display with the same,
horrified disdain usually reserved for
cheap scotch and non–Ivy League
And even though my mother went on
to create a household for us that was as
warm, loving, and laughter-filled as they
come, it took years for me to finally
learn how to form a sentence when
presented with the blood-chilling
phrase, “We need to talk.”
All this is to say that it’s not your
fault that you’re fucked up. It’s your fault
if you stay fucked up, but the foundation
of your fuckedupedness is something
that’s been passed down through
generations of your family, like a coat of
arms or a killer cornbread recipe, or in
my case, equating confrontation with
heart failure.
When you came screaming onto this
planet you were truly a bundle of joy, a
wide-eyed creature incapable of doing
anything but being in the moment. You
had no idea that you had a body, let
alone that you should be ashamed of it.
When you looked around, everything just
was. There was nothing about your
world that was scary or too expensive or
so last year as far as you were
concerned. If something came near your
mouth, you stuck it in, if it came near
your hand, you grabbed it. You were
simply a human . . . being.
While you explored and expanded
into your new world, you also received
messages from the people around you
about the way things are. From the
moment you could take it in, they started
filling you up with a lifetime’s worth of
beliefs, many of which have nothing to
do with who you actually are or what is
necessarily true (e.g. the world is a
dangerous place, you’re too fat,
homosexuality is a curse, size matters,
hair shouldn’t grow there, going to
college is important, being a musician or
an artist isn’t a real career, etc.).
The main source of this information
was, of course, your parents, assisted by
society at large. When they were raising
you, your parents, in a genuine effort to
protect you and educate you and love
you with all their hearts (hopefully),
passed on the beliefs they learned from
their parents, who learned them from
their parents, who learned them from
their parents. . . .
The trouble is, many of these beliefs
have nothing to do with who they
actually are/were or what is actually
I realize I’m making it sound like
we’re all crazy, but that’s because we
kind of are.
Most people are living
an illusion based on
someone else’s beliefs.
Until they wake up. Which is what
this book will hopefully help you do.
Here’s how it works: We as humans
have a conscious mind and a
subconscious mind. Most of us are only
aware of our conscious minds, however,
because that’s where we process all our
information. It’s where we figure things
out, judge, obsess, analyze, criticize,
worry that our ears are too big, decide
once and for all to stop eating fried food,
grasp that 2 + 2 = 4, try to remember
where the hell we left the car keys, etc.
The conscious mind is like a
relentless overachiever, incessantly
spinning around from thought to thought,
stopping only when we sleep, and then
starting up again the second we open our
eyes. Our conscious mind, otherwise
known as our frontal lobe, doesn’t fully
develop until sometime around puberty.
Our subconscious mind, on the other
hand, is the non-analytical part of our
brain that’s fully developed the moment
we arrive here on earth. It’s all about
feelings and instincts and erupting into
ear-piercing temper tantrums in the
middle of supermarkets. It’s also where
we store all the early, outside
information we get.
The subconscious mind believes
everything because it has no filter, it
doesn’t know the difference between
what’s true and what’s not true. If our
parents tell us that nobody in our family
knows how to make money, we believe
them. If they show us that marriage
means punching each other in the face,
we believe them. We believe them when
they tell us that some fat guy in a red suit
is going to climb down the chimney and
bring us presents—why wouldn’t we
believe any of the other garbage they
feed us?
Our subconscious mind is like a little
kid who doesn’t know any better and,
not coincidentally, receives most of its
information when we’re little kids and
don’t know any better (because our
frontal lobes, the conscious part of our
brains, hasn’t fully formed yet). We take
in information via the words, smiles,
frowns, heavy sighs, raised eyebrows,
tears, laughter, etc., of the people
surrounding us with zero ability to filter
any of it, and it all gets lodged in our
squishy little subconscious minds as the
“truth” (otherwise known as our
“beliefs”) where it lives, undisturbed
and unanalyzed, until we’re on the
therapy couch decades later or checking
ourselves into rehab, again.
I can pretty much guarantee that every
time you tearfully ask yourself the
question, “WTF is my problem?!” the
answer lies in some lame, limiting, and
false subconscious belief that you’ve
been dragging around without even
realizing it. Which means that
understanding this is majorly important.
So let’s review, shall we?
1) Our subconscious mind contains
the blueprint for our lives. It’s
running the show based on the
unfiltered information it gathered
when we were kids, otherwise
known as our “beliefs.”
2) We are, for the most part,
completely oblivious to these
subconscious beliefs that run our
3) When our conscious minds finally
develop and show up for work, no
matter how big and smart and
highfalutin they grow to be, they’re
still being controlled by the beliefs
we’re carrying around in our
subconscious minds.
Our conscious mind
thinks it’s in control,
but it isn’t.
Our subconscious mind
doesn’t think about
anything, but is in
This is why so many of us stumble
through life doing everything we know in
our conscious minds to do, yet remain
mystified by what’s keeping us from
creating the excellent lives we want.
For example, let’s say you were
raised by a father who was constantly
struggling financially, who walked
around kicking the furniture and
grumbling about how money doesn’t
grow on trees, and who neglected you
because he was always off trying, and
for the most part failing, to make a
living. Your subconscious took this in at
face value and might have developed
beliefs such as:
• Money = struggle
• Money is unavailable.
• It’s money’s fault that I was
abandoned by my father.
• Money sucks and causes pain.
Cut to you as an adult who, in your
conscious mind, would love nothing
more than to be raking in the dough, but
who is subconsciously mistrusting of
money, believes it’s unavailable to you
and who worries that if you make it,
you’ll be abandoned by someone you
love. You may then manifest these
subconscious beliefs by staying broke no
matter how hard you consciously try to
make money, or by repeatedly making
tons of money and then losing it in order
to avoid being abandoned, or in a
plethora of other, frustrating ways.
No matter what you
say you want, if you’ve
got an underlying
subconscious belief that
it’s going to cause you
pain or isn’t available to
you, you either A)
Won’t let yourself have
it, or B) You will let
yourself have it, but
you’ll be rill fucked up
about it. And then
you’ll go off and lose it
We don’t realize that by eating that
fourth doughnut or by ignoring our
intuition and marrying that guy who’s an
awful lot like our low-down, cheatin’
daddy, that we’re being driven by our
subconscious minds, not our conscious
minds. And that when our subconscious
beliefs are out of alignment with the
things and experiences we want in our
conscious minds (and hearts), it creates
confusing conflicts between what we’re
trying to create and what we’re actually
creating. It’s like we’re driving with one
foot on the gas and one foot on the brake.
(Obviously we all have awesome
subconscious beliefs as well, but we’re
not talking about those right now.)
Here are some other scenarios that
may or may not ring a bell:
Conscious Mind: I long to find and
marry my soul mate.
Subconscious Mind: Intimacy leads
to pain and suffering.
Finger: Ringless
Conscious Mind: I want to lose 25
Subconscious Mind: People aren’t
safe; I must build a shield to protect
Body: A fortress of flab
Conscious Mind: I’m hot and sexy
and want to get it on.
Subconscious Mind: Physical
pleasure is shameful.
Sex Life: Yawn
Conscious Mind: I want to travel the
Subconscious Mind: Fun =
irresponsible = I won’t be loved
Passport: Blank
It’s sort of like not being able to
enjoy sitting on your front porch
anymore because it totally reeks of
something foul out there. You can come
up with all these brilliant ways to deal
with the problem—light incense, set up
fans, blame it on the dog—but until you
realize that something has crawled under
your house and died, your problems will
linger on, stinking up your life.
The first key to ridding yourself of
limiting subconscious beliefs is to
become aware of them. Because until
you’re aware of what’s really going on,
you’ll keep working with your conscious
mind (think you need to paint the porch)
to solve a problem that’s buried far
beneath it (dead skunk removal) in your
subconscious, which is an exercise in
Take a minute to look at some of the
less-than-impressive areas of your life
and think about the underlying beliefs
that could have created them. Let’s take
the old crowd-pleaser, lack of money,
for example. Are you making far less
money than you know you’re capable of
earning? Have you reached a certain
income level that, no matter what you
do, you can’t seem to go above? Does
generating an abundance of money
consistently seem like something you’re
not even physically capable of? If so,
write down the first five things that come
to your mind when you think about
money. Is your list full of hope and
bravado or fear and loathing? What are
your parents’ beliefs about money? What
are the beliefs of the other people you
grew up around? What was their
relationship with money like? Do you
see any connection between their money
beliefs and yours?
Later on in this book I’m going to
give you tools to go much deeper with
your subconscious beliefs and fix
whatever’s blocking you from living the
kind of life you’d love to live, but for
now, practice stepping aside, notice
what’s happening in the dysfunctional
areas of your life and strengthen your
almighty awareness muscle. Start
waking up to the stories you’re working
with in your subconscious (I’ll have to
do things I hate in order to make money,
I’ll feel trapped if I get into an intimate
relationship, if I go on a diet I’ll never
get to eat anything fun again, if I enjoy
sex I’ll burn in Hell with the rest of the
dirty sinners, etc.). Because once you
see what’s really going on, you can start
to drag out the stinky carcasses of your
limiting subconscious beliefs and give
them the heave-ho, thereby opening up
the space to invite the fresh, new,
awesome beliefs and experiences that
you’d love to have, into your lif