Thinking Out Loud – Ep: 06 – On My Way…Transforming PTSD Into PTM

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TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew J Mason:

This is Thinking Out Loud, with Dr. Joe Currier. Episode six, On My Way.

Andrew J Mason:

Welcome to Thinking Out Loud, with Dr. Joe Currier. My name’s Andrew J. Mason, and this is the show where we hit the pause button on life, head to the locker room for some life-changing halftime inspiration, and then zoom back in and grab the tactics direct from Dr. Joe’s playbook, to pull it all together when we’re on the field. Today, Dr. Joe shares the answers he’s found over the years to uncertainty, by looking at the past, present and future. When the present seems uncertain, and we have questions about our choices for the future, sometimes recognizing the patterns from the past holds a key to the answer. That recognition can help us convert PTSD into something called PTM. Here’s Dr. Joe with more.

Dr. Joe Currier:

I was thinking the other day of a conversation that I had with Andy Hilger. We were talking about the dilemma that he faces with his Allegis partners. Those of you who know Andy appreciate that he’s really a deep thinker and someone who cares about the men and women who make up the Allegis family. He helps drive the culture when he guides people in business, as well as in the relationships they have within business. The concern that he’s struggling with and he asked me to consider is the word uncertainty. He keeps getting questions around when will this crisis pass? When we’ll be able to go back to work. What will the world look like going forward?

Dr. Joe Currier:

I thought about putting on my wizard’s hat. I have one, don’t ask. But I decided that it might not be my best choice to help individuals during such a uniquely painful and confusing time. So instead, I’d like to invite you to listen in on a conversation I had with my wife, Carolyn, regarding this nasty virus, that’s attempting to shut down our world. We laid out a timeline of events, that in the moment, seems so catastrophic, some felt like the world was coming to an end. Others just broke our hearts and at the time, we were not sure if they would ever heal.

Dr. Joe Currier:

We learned early on that bad things happen to good people. We both lost our dads before the age of five, which left us with photos, but no real memories of those uncertain times. My dad was killed in a car accident when I was four. Her father went off to the horrors, the absolute horrors of World War II. The good news is after two years, her dad returned a war hero. She didn’t know him when he first came home. Can you imagine a child looking up and not recognizing this beautiful man as he came into the house, after being away for a couple of years? The good news, she danced with him at our wedding and on several other joyous occasions, until his death many years later.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Another boogeyman nightmare chased both of us in the early 1950s. It was the polio crisis. When I was in elementary school, it seemed as if my mother wanted to hide me and my brothers in the closet. Not because we were bad kids, which we were, she must have had the image of people who contracted this crippling virus, lying in an iron lung machine, or beautiful innocent kids on crutches for the rest of their lives. Thank heavens, Dr, Jonas Salk saved the day with his vaccine, and parents breathed a little easier.

Dr. Joe Currier:

After high school, I joined the United States Marine Corps. They were looking for a few good men and I’d hoped I could be one, so I enlisted. A lot of what I learned with the spirit of Semper Fi, I have brought to many organizations like the Allegis Group. When I was asked to do an emerging leaders executive boot camp, but that’s another story, I saw the world first through the eyes of a lance corporal, and later, after having graduated from Quantico as a platoon leader, a second lieutenant, I had a lesson in social distancing when I returned home. Someone spit on my uniform and called me a baby killer, which broke my heart. I had thought I’d left the chaos and bad memories behind, but I was wrong. Back home, people were choosing upsides depending on the length of their hair and political point of view. The chaos of Vietnam spilled over into racial divisions. Things turned violent, including the assassination of heroes, real heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and his brother, Robert.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Carolyn and I were raising a family, as the years went on. We were working hard to build a future. There were more expected life ups and downs, but frankly, life was good. And as my partner, Dr. Les Frankford had taught me, we kept the main thing, family first. In 2001, I asked Carolyn to come to New York City to celebrate our anniversary. We were married on September 10th, 1966. I was doing a workshop the next day for an old friend and would be staying in a grand hotel in the shadows of the twin towers. Broadway is closed on Mondays, that was the 10th. So I had tickets for the next night, Tuesday. And as you might’ve guessed, we missed the show that evening. At the time, the catastrophic trauma of 9/11 seemed like nothing ever, ever could possibly top this crisis. As all hell broke loose, we were among the lucky to escape the total mayhem.

Dr. Joe Currier:

The memories have stayed with us, but so has the hope and dreams and blessings we’ve also picked up on our way with each and every event, good and bad. Just when we thought we’ve seen it all and believed we were home free, three years ago, I was hit with major bouts of cancer. The last one took my bladder and left me with a bag. It hit me very hard and there were times that I just didn’t know if I could fight my way back. But with the help of my dear wife and so much love around me, I did. And just when I thought I was beginning to believe I had won that battle, it was moving on, along comes this nasty virus. “Oh, well,” two words in my mind and in my heart. “Oh, well.”

Dr. Joe Currier:

It’s certainly been an interesting journey and thank heaven, it’s not over. My family is now on the front lines of this coronavirus. My son, like his grandfather, has gone off to war. As an ER physician, each day he puts on his combat gear and he heads in like other courageous first responders, to fight the good fight. I try to talk with him on his way to the hospital. I always end with a dad’s request, “Son, if you can, please send someone home for me.” He always assures me, “Dad, I’ll do the best I can,” and he does.

Dr. Joe Currier:

You and I have to keep doing the best we can, together. Carolyn and I made a promise 53 years ago, in good times and in bad, we will never stop dancing. As for uncertainty, that’s a matter above my pay grade. Outside events are forces that you and I can not control. So why waste our time and worry? What can we do? We can be aware of those times when we feel alone and vulnerable. If, and when we experience fear, don’t hide it under a rock, as if it’s a sign of weakness. It is not. No shame, no blame, we just do the best we can. Remember, oh, well. Think it, feel it and then get ready to write more exciting life chapters. Your pen, simple choices. Choices write your present and your future. Every well choice you and I make, the best we can do, will put us on a path to a life worth living.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Oh, and please, please, don’t be stingy. When you share painful feelings and self-doubt, they diminish and they open doors to healthier, more joy-filled opportunities. Sharing your deepest emotions also builds relationships, from me to we, from an individual to partnerships. So what else can we do? We can stay in touch with our authentic self, the power within. Look in that emotional mirror and smile. You’ve got us this far and you’ve done well. Next, unite. Watch each other’s backs. We’re in this fight together. Let someone know what you are feeling. Let them help you, as you will help them when they are in need.

Dr. Joe Currier:

There are more challenges ahead. This nasty pandemic is just the latest troubling surprise along my way. I know that trauma creates PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder produces feelings of sadness and depression, interrupts sleep, pushes us to remain anxiously vigilant and on guard. But the key is to not let it distract us from the other side of the equation. PTSD also opens opportunities to PTM, post-traumatic momentum. Post-traumatic momentum. Every catastrophic marker event creates marker memory bounce, from how I was painfully impacted. Notice, past tense, I was. To how I am. And we are the power of one, that grows from me to we, now and always.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Lessons learned and a deep respect and appreciation for life itself, so let’s listen and look. Music soothes the soul. It’s always there. It’s in the air. Laughter, laughter heals the mind and body, and love brings meaning to a life worth living. That being said, I’m ready to rock. I continued to learn, and I remained very, very optimistic, and I feel blessed. As the game of life continues, tag, you’re it. I believe in you and your generation. I hope you’ll create a miracle because I know someone is waiting. Blessings on your way and thank you.

Andrew J Mason:

What I so appreciate, Dr. Joe, is your ability to zoom out from the moment and look at this bigger picture that’s happening. I feel like there’s a pattern recognition piece of this puzzle that you have. What are you seeing around you that you’ve seen before, and that gives you hope about our current situation?

Dr. Joe Currier:

Oh, there’s so many things. One of them, frankly, is the goodness of people. I am blown away with the empathy that I see, where people will reach out to people in the worst of times. The other Andrew, is laughter. I often kid about a giggle and a hug. Laughter is one of those miracles. It literally changes the biochemistry. My white blood cell count goes up. I often say that that laughter is hazardous to an illness. So, laughter joy, it’s always there. We have talked in the past about this thing called comic vision, keeping your eyes open for that. So that’s the one.

Dr. Joe Currier:

The other is just to hope. As I mentioned, some of these were major, major impacts; losing dad along the way. But I also realized that I had to live the life of two people. I had to look through my eyes and his. I’ve outlived him. I’ve doubled his age. So I think some of the things are empathy, appreciation. That past, it’s kind of directing me into new opportunities, new dreams to come true. And as my wife and I have said, we just never stop dancing, we really don’t.

Andrew J Mason:

So you’ve mentioned hopes, dreams, blessings have stayed with you through it all. If I could put my finger on it, I’d say that there’s this kind of integrated tenacity in your personality. Dare I use the word stubborn? It stubbornly walks the line between these two extremes. I mean, some people say, “Nope, this doesn’t affect me, so I’m happy,” but they’re blissfully unaware and disconnected from pain that’s going on in the world. And then there’s others that say, “I’m so emotionally involved and attached, that it’s paralyzing to me and I can’t get through the day.” Can you speak to how you go about living this integrated life, where it looks like you refuse to give in fully to either side, but you are in touch with both? I feel like that keeps you from being jaded and paralyzed, but you’re still alive.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Yes, it does. And it has something to do with faith and sometimes with me, it’s a spiritual faith. Other times, it’s just a belief in the next event will be the next best event in my life. I’ve also walked with heroes, and I often believe those who aren’t with me are still with me. They still inspire me. And I believe that they kind of keep an eye on me, as I’m on my way.

Andrew J Mason:

You mentioned the choices that we make and this orientation that’s around the best really is yet to come. And I know we’ve previously said that laughter’s a choice that we make, but optimism, is optimism an act of choice, even when things don’t look good, I’m choosing to believe that the best is coming?

Dr. Joe Currier:

Absolutely. People have a belief that things like optimism and pessimism are traits that you’re born with one or the other. And they’re not, they’re learned, and you can hone them, you can focus on them. One of the exercises that I try to do every day, and the research is beginning to really show that it can help individuals, especially in difficult situations, and that is, exercises around gratitude, stopping for five minutes at a particular time in a day and just journaling, kind of reflecting on the gratitude. For example, when I was ready to have my prostate cancer, when I was ready to have my surgery, I decided to have a say goodbye to my prostate party. And I invited some friends over and I started to read the ode to my prostate. We laughed about it. But the idea here was I was bringing people in, who can kind of share their joy or their concerns, or just simply keep an eye on the directions of where I’m going at that moment, when I may not be fully in control.

Andrew J Mason:

Do you have any parting words for someone who, they are just in that unresourceful state? And they might say, “I understand cerebrally that optimism is a choice, but I have been practicing negativity for so long, it really just feels like a part of me.”

Dr. Joe Currier:

Nobody knows the future. So why not? Why not? And why not with me? And as I go from me to we, surrounding myself, not with toxic people, and I don’t mean that in a critical negative way, but for individuals who also are looking at the half-full, reaching. And one of the things that we try to do, Andrew, is not necessarily like a fireman, put out the fire of distress. I want to use energy. That’s what champions do. When you take pain, and angst, and worry, and find that fire in the belly and go forward. And people are in the sidelines cheering you on. It’s just simply giving a thumbs up. There are so many times where I’ve seen people, whether it’s through medical or psychological conflicts, I tap my chest with a thumbs up saying, “I see you. I’m watching you. I’m witnessing.” And in that also, is the realization and hope. Not in the hope of prayerful, “gee, I wish,” but making the belief come true. Everything I can do is to move in that direction. Why? It feels better. It is better.

Andrew J Mason:

Even that small slice of your answer, I mean, if it’s going to be an unlabeled mass of energy anyway. I mean, it reminds me of your oh, well statement. I mean it’s just instead of, oh, well, the choice just becomes, okay, why not?

Dr. Joe Currier:

Tim Gallwey, years ago, wrote a series of books on the inner games, and that’s kind of what I’ve been adopting in terms of the inner game of. Again, when you look at the thing that’s scaring most people today is uncertainty. And there really is no such thing because we’re talking about future events, which is outside of our control. So we need to position ourself for joy. Why? Because when the tsunami of uncertainty and negativity comes, we’ll know how to swim, and we’ll have other people there ready to throw us a life jacket, and say, “Here. Are you okay, brother?”

Andrew J Mason:

Well, Dr. Joe, thank you again for this time that we get to spend together. And I feel like I’m speaking for a lot of people when I say, we’re just so grateful for the wisdom that you’re sharing. It means a lot. To everybody who is engaged with us right now, you can find us on YouTube, iTunes, career groups, blog. Anywhere that you can subscribe, like, share, review, we’d appreciate it if you’d help us get this word out. And until next time, this was Thinking Out Loud, with Dr. Joe Currier. Leadership transformation, growth, acceleration.