Momentum Podcast: 54
The Ceo’s Secret Weapon
by Alex Charfen
I started seeing a EMDR therapist when I was 26 years old. I used to park behind his building and walk around the front because I was afraid someone would see my car. I was terrified someone would know I was going to a therapist and would see it as a sign of weakness. I went in nervous and apprehensive and I walked out feeling better than I thought I should have only after one session. It was like someone had immediately dialed down the pressure and noise I was feeling.
It wasn't until I was in my early 30s that I finally shared this with one of my clients. He shared with me that he had had panic suicidal thoughts and didn't know what to do so I broke my silence and let him know that I used EMDR therapy to lower pressure and noise. He called me about a week later and told me how amazing his first EMD our session was. He said he felt lighter walking out of the room then when he walked in, I knew exactly what he meant.
Since then, I have shared this with hundreds of entrepreneurs and I continue to get positive feedback. Almost all of my private clients use EMDR therapy as needed or regularly to help them create momentum and offload pressure and noise.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfen, and this is the Momentum podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we'll pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, and then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because the only way you lose is if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few, who are willing to hallucinate that there could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution, and we always will be.
Welcome, and thanks for being here today. This is episode 54, and I'm excited to share it with you. I call this one "The CEO's Secret Weapon," but really this could be called "The Evolutionary Hunter's Secret Weapon" or "The Entrepreneurial Personality Type's Secret Weapon." And this episode is about EMDR therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming for those of you who wanna know what it means, but honestly that's too much information. I just wanna share with you this modality, the tool, that I've used, that the majority, maybe all, of my private clients use, and that I've recommended to hundreds of CEOs throughout my career. But first let me just share with you my story.
I think like a lot of you, my early days as an adult were not the smoothest. I was running a huge company, but I didn't have a lot of perspective. Sometimes I had terrible judgment, and one place where I was an absolute train wreck up until I met my wife was in the relationship department. I didn't know how to make effective relationships with women. I didn't know how to choose the right women to be with. And I ended up in a lot of less-than-supportive, and in all honesty some damaging, relationships.
When I was 26 years old, I got out of a relationship ... See if you can relate to this. I got out of a relationship that was so noisy and so much was going on, and it was like constantly catching a falling knife. There was always a problem, always an argument, always an issue, that when we finally separated and stopped living together the noise level went down so fast and so precipitously that it was like there was something missing. And instead of feeling better without this person in my life I felt anxious and like looking over my shoulder, and I didn't know exactly what to do next.
It was one of the most challenging periods of my life because here's what I happened: I was in this relationship where I had the expectation that once I exited and got out of it things would get better, but instead they stayed every bit as challenging, and in a lot of ways it felt even worse. I didn't know why I had been in the relationship. I was frustrated that I left myself there. I didn't know how to stop the questions and the constant noise in my head.
And I started looking around for solutions, and I had been introduced to EMDR therapy by some special forces guys that I hung out with. In fact, it was interesting because guys ... I've spent a lot of time around the military in my career. I've done a lot of volunteering. I've had friends that are in the military. I get along exceptionally well with special forces guys. They're incredible athletes, incredible intellectual. They're capable of putting their body through things that the majority of the population wouldn't even consider, and as a result I relate to them really well. I think that You wanna find some incredible peak evolutionary hunters, go to special forces. They're athletes capable of playing while eating dirt. They're incredible just human beings. They operate at a level that for most of us, like I said, we just wouldn't be able to achieve.
And I remember in my 20s talking to a few of them and hearing them explain what it was like to feel the symptoms of PTSD, the feeling of looking over your shoulder, not being able to get the noise out of your head, that constant anxiousness or acceleration. I remember thinking, "Man, what he just described is how I feel." But it wasn't just how I felt, it was what he just described was how every client I had ever had at one point or another had described feeling the exact same way.
So I started to connect this symptoms of PTSD with how we feel as an entrepreneur, and that's how I found EMDR. Ironically, my mom is am EMDR practitioner, but I didn't really understand that. When I first started looking for solutions, it wasn't until I had a discussion with her and she explained to me that she did it that I went out and found somebody in South Florida. And I went and saw a therapist there, and within just a few sessions I started feeling better. I felt the noise go away. I felt everything get easier. And I'll share with you a little bit of the tactics of EMDR so you understand something.
Now, I wanna make something clear. I'm gonna share my opinion right now, and I don't mean to offend anybody, but this is based on experience. When entrepreneurial personality types like you and I, when evolutionary hunters like us go to a common cognitive behavioral therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist, and somebody sits in front of us and says, "Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. How does that make you feel? Hmm, tell me more. What would you have done? Tell me how you're feeling ..." Well, here's what I can tell you my experience shows is that for people like us that going and sitting in a room and talking about our problems without any real tactical feedback or direction back oftentimes, in fact in my experience almost every time, makes people feel worse than the issue that they were originally going to therapy for. And I had seen that. I had watched that dynamic.
And so the reason why EMDR therapy is so much different is this: you do do a little bit of talking. You go in and you do a intake session where you go through and you share what's going on for you, what's happened in your life, what are some of the traumatic events that are going on, because EMDR deals directly with trauma. And if you're sitting there thinking, "Oh, well this isn't for me. I don't have trauma," I want you to know something. Almost every one of us has experienced some level of trauma, some level of undue constraint, some level of suppression in our lives, and the sooner we admit the fast we can deal with it.
And this is how you know you might be carrying around a little trauma. Do you ever react in a way that's excessive for the situation? Do you ever overreact? Do you ever do something like ... I can tell you I've done every one of these. You ever do something where afterwards you think to yourself, "Man, that was an overreaction. I wish I hadn't"? Do you ever find yourself acting in one way and then later on wondering, "Why did I do that?" Well, that over-reactivity, that hyper-vigilance, that kind of being on a hair trigger oftentimes is a result of us carrying around unspoken trauma. We haven't released it. We haven't let it go. And I prefer a full-court press solution to fixing things with entrepreneurs. I think we fix our physiology, our relationships, our business, everything in our lives get better, and this is a discipline that changes everything for us.
Because here's what happens: you go into your intake session, and then from that point forward here are the tactics of EMDR. You go in, you remember the traumatic experience, and the therapist will wave their hand back and forth in front of your eyes, or you'll use headphones with some vibrating paddles, and what happens is the left-right sensitivity or the left-right stimulation helps clear out where we've been back up in our cognition, in our brains, in our experience of life.
And this is another sign of trauma. When you think about an experience or a time in your life, and it's not like you blacked out, but see if you can relate to this. You were there, you remember a lot, but the DVR might have cut out a few times. It didn't record everything. You don't have the full recollection. That can be a time where we are experiencing trauma, where our mentality, our brains, actually say, "Shut down, we don't need to see all of this. We don't need to record all of this, or we can't right now because it's too overwhelming."
And so if you've been there, if you know what that feels like, EMDR could change everything for you, because here's what happens. You go in and you go through a process with a skilled practitioner. They'll take you through the EMDR process, and you'll go back through the experiences in your life and clear up those misperceptions, those misconnections, those blank spots, and it just almost immediately lowers pressure and noise.
I started when I was 26. I saw a Dr. [Tom Bealy 00:10:06] in South Florida, and I will be forever grateful for him. Because I went in, I did my intake session. I had to talk a lot, so I left feeling like, "Man, I hope this isn't what it's gonna be like." I was in a bad way. So I went back two days later and did my first EMDR session, and here's what I can tell you. I walked in, I sat down. You get yourself in the state, and then the therapist starts the tactic, either the hand or the buzzers or a combination of possibly all three. Sometimes they also use a light bar where your eyes follow light. My therapist Tom Bealy was old school. He did the hand.
And I remember sitting there during the session thinking, "Things are so bad I'm just gonna trust this." And I went in in discomfort. He said, "Okay, so tell me where are you as far as discomfort with the situation with how you're feeling out of a scale of 1 to 10?" And I think I said 12. I was anxious. I was having trouble thinking. I was having trouble figuring out what I wanted to do. It was incredibly frustrating. And then by the end of the session, I was like a 6 out of 10. It was a bizarre, almost out-of-body experience to feel the pressure and noise drain out of my body that quickly and then feel the momentum of having this new perception.
And the way that it's been explained to me is that when we go through trauma, when we have experiences that overwhelm us, we do get logjams in our memory, in our mentality, in the way that we perceive the world, and EMDR helps undo this. And here's what I love about it is that in the hands of practitioner that follows the process, it's the process that really works for you, not necessarily the therapist. Now, nothing against therapists. My mom's a therapist. But whenever you go see a therapist they're bringing their own lives, their own experience, and quite frankly their own trauma to the table in treating you. And what I love about EMDR is that the therapist is a facilitator, and their skill in using the system is what you get out of it. And it's a game changer.
When I was 26 and I first went to therapy I remember being so terrified anybody would find out. In fact, when I started this podcast I got a little dry mouth, and I'm like, "Where is that coming from?" Well, it's because I still have a level of discomfort with saying, "Hey, I go to a therapist," because I grew up in an industry where you hid anything like that. "Never let them see you sweat," and "Fake it until you make it," and "Don't let them know that they got to you," was kind of the mantra not of how I worked but of the entire industry I was in. I was a consultant. You show up knowing what's going on. You don't admit defeat. You don't admit you don't know something. You let people that you're gonna be the one that moves them forward, and so to be seeing a therapist felt like this massive weakness.
It wasn't until I was in my 30s several years later ... I was with a friend of mine who shared with me his entire life situation, but at the end he said that he had actually had some suicidal thoughts. He had been driving down the street and a bus was coming in the other direction, and he said, "For a moment, I thought what if I just turned left in front of that bus and made it all go away?" And it's crazy, 'cause right now I'm getting a body reaction just telling you, but I remember being in that moment and thinking, "All right, I've gotta share with him what I'm doing, 'cause it helped me, and if something happened to him I would never forgive myself if I didn't tell him that there was help out there."
I remember almost breaking down as I told him because I was so nervous I was exposing myself. And I said, "I've been there. Not the turning left in front of a bus thing but where noise gets so incredibly loud that you can barely deal with it, and I'm doing this thing called EMDR." I remember I explained it to him, told him how it worked, told him what I was doing, and the whole time I felt this vulnerability and panicky feeling like it was gonna effect my entire life. And at the end of the conversation after I had told him everything, he said, "Well, thanks. I think I'm gonna try that out."
And it took about a week, but I got a call back from him and he was over-the-top. He was saying, "I did the intake, and it was terrible, just like you said." So if you do this I want you to know, the intake's hard 'cause you have to talk through a bunch of stuff. And then just like me he went back quickly. He did his first EMDR session, and he called and he said, "Alex, it was like everything in my head got turned down five notches. Everything got easier." And I remember that feeling. It was just so liberating.
Since he called me back, I started sharing openly with anyone I was close to that I went to see an EMDR therapist. And I started having that conversation with every CEO I worked with. I started having that conversation with the people I consulted for. I started letting people know about it. And then in my career as a coach, in my career as an information products person, after I got out of consulting, I've talked to hundreds of CEOs about this, because as evolutionary hunters, as entrepreneurial personality types, we get up every morning and we make the decision that we are gonna expose ourselves to a level of vulnerability that the average person couldn't take for five minutes. We turn ourselves into a commodity. We go out and say, "I'm gonna change things. I'm gonna make things better. I'm gonna change the status quo. I'm gonna challenge the world around me." And that in and of itself can cause us reflective trauma. It can cause us that feeling of exposure. And this has just been incredible at helping people tune it down, and this is why I call EMDR the CEO's secret weapon.
Every CEO I work with that runs a company that's over two or three million dollars deals with trauma. They deal with the trauma of firing people, of bringing people in and having them not work out, of having clients that are upset, of having systems in the company not work. There's no such thing as a perfect business. The only perfect business is one that just closed, so I always share with people your business is broken and if things go well it always will be. And this changes everything, because as we go through these traumatic, stressful, frustrating, pressure- and noise-causing situations, when we go to EMDR regularly we can just as quickly turn that volume back down.
And here's something amazing about this. So I've been doing it since I was 26. I'm 44 now. There have been year-long stretches where I've gone every week for at least one time to EMDR. Right now I'm probably two or three times a month. And sometimes more, because if I'm in a creative place or in a place where I'm creating a lot of content or changing things or moving in another direction, going through a transition, I'll step up my visits because here's what happens: I go in feeling one way and I come out with an entirely different perspective. I know this sounds nuts, but you just have to experience it to understand how effective it can be.
So if you have experienced actual trauma in your life. Near 100% of the CEOs I've worked with are dealing with some type of childhood trauma. They had noisy childhoods. They had trouble in school. They had challenges with relatives. It's amazing that you see this #metoo campaign with women and men who are posting that they went through some type of sexual trauma or harassment or attack or something, and in my experience near 100% of the women I've ever worked with have gone through something like that, and EMDR helps you face what's happened but in a way where it doesn't bring up all the pressure and all the noise. In fact, it helps relieve it and refocus it, and give you a different way of looking at your past and looking at what's happened to you.
And so if you've been through this I wanna give you a couple of tips on how to find a therapist. So first you can go to emdria.org. So emdria.org, and you can find a list of therapists around the country. But I have a warning for you. EMDR is a certificate program, and so any therapist can go and become a EMDR therapist, but what you wanna do is call until you find one that says, "I use EMDR all the time. I use it for just about any time one of my clients feels constrained or feels like they're frustrated, and I've gotten incredible results with it. I love EMDR." You want that therapist.
Because I've recommended this to hundreds of people, and of the hundreds of people that I've ever talked to, one has come back and said, "Hey, it just didn't work for me." But I've had skeptical clients, clients who felt like it wouldn't work, who they were frustrated that I even brought it up, but they went and did it anyway and they've gotten incredible results. One of them's my neighbor, an incredible guy who is also a client, and he and I now see the same therapist. So it's just ... It's amazing how much it will change for you if you find the right person. So the only time I've had complaints is when somebody goes to a therapist who's done the EMDR certificate but doesn't really do EMDR. Then it's frustrating. That'll drive you nuts, because you go in looking for one thing and you end up doing cognitive behavioral or talk therapy. You don't wanna do that. So find a therapist that really loves this modality.
And you might be thinking right now, "I don't even know if this episode's for me," but here's what I would say to that. As an evolutionary hunter, you are a highly sensitive, momentum-based being that is reactive to constraint. And it is not a matter of strength of personality. It's not a matter of willpower. It's not a matter of intelligence, IQ. It's not a matter of emotional intelligence or EQ. It's a matter of the fact that we are the sensitive part of the population. We are the part of the population that goes out and changes things, that does things, that makes things in the world happen, and if you feel constrained, if you feel unclear, if you feel any level of a lack of momentum, EMDR can change that for you.
And if you've dealt with a bad relationship or something that happened when you were a child or if you have trauma in your history, you owe it to yourself to see what the world is like when you bring it to the surface and then have a modality like EMDR that allows you to deal with it in a relatively pain-free or relatively less painful way than traditional therapies. And I just want you to know if you're thinking about it that I believe for you on the other side is an entirely new world once you face the fear of dealing with it, then go and actually do something about it. I know that's what changed for me, and I know that for the clients that have gone through this I can almost see that there's a life before EMDR for them and a life after EMDR, and the life after has far more momentum, a much more positive perspective, and my clients are just more resilient when they've done this.
So if you choose to take this suggestion, I just want you to know I've got your back and I'm proud of you, because the vast majority of entrepreneurs won't admit when they need help, and in this regard it's one of the hardest places to make that admission. But I also think it's one of the highest places where you can get momentum and results, because when you deal with foundational traumas, when you get help with those things that are the meta-programs running in our minds that we barely even know are there, everything in our world gets better and the contribution you makes increases exponentially.
Thanks for being here with me for this episode of the podcast. You know, I'll just empathize with you that if you're thinking right now, "Oh man, I don't even wanna do this," this was one of the hardest podcasts to hit record on, because I still have that lagging insecurity of revealing to the world that I go get help like this. But here's what I know today: I would much rather deal with an entrepreneur who's getting help. I would much rather work with somebody or get advice from someone who has faced what's gone with them. And I know that for me personally I am a much more effective coach, a much more effective consultant, an infinitely more effective husband and father when I'm dealing with my stuff and when I'm going to EMDR and when I'm getting the help that I need, and I want that for you.
So thanks for being here with me for Episode 54 of the Entrepreneurial Personality ... Or, sorry, the Momentum Podcast for the Entrepreneurial Personality Type. If you haven't yet, download the book. It just goes through in detail what I've shared on this podcast so that you know exactly what it's like to be an evolutionary hunter, and I wanna help you lower pressure and noise as fast as possible. It's available for free at freemomentumbook.com. Download it, find me on social media, let me know what you think. And if you've been listening to this podcast for a while, make sure you've subscribed so we get credit in iTunes and leave me a review. I would really appreciate it. I read those every time one comes up. I'm like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning whenever somebody reviews the podcast, so you can make my day by taking a second and going to iTunes and doing it right now.
Thanks for being here, and I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow.