Silencing the Saboteur

This time of year, it can get especially difficult to handle the pesky, nagging voice that’s attempting to derail your Highest Self. In this week’s vlog, I share a tool to help you deal with your tricky Saboteur during the holidays.

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  1. Jenna C Reed Livingston

    A most interesting vlog–thanks Susan. If nothing else it got me thinking about new ways to stick to bright lines and avoid the ‘punishment’ of donating a precious resource to a cause I would never imagine supporting.

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  2. Barbara

    My commitment often gets fuzzy and I am interested in anything that will keep me to the promise I have made for myself. This is an act of love towards myself like a sacred pledge made and carried through. So I would be prepared to try the Commitment Contract. What doesn’t feel right to me is to give money to a charity I hate. It makes me feel I am acting unethically. The end doesn’t justify the means. I ask myself why not give money to a charity I love. Sacrificing the money I could have spent on myself is enough of a deterrent I think. But it may be wriggle room again! I notice that I am already expecting I will break the contract so it looks like I’m not really fully committed. The addictive voice is a tricky custome! Thanks Susan for your wonderful contribution. Your blogs challenge me and inform me. I need to keep hearing you over and over again so that your voice gets stronger than my addictive voice. My brain lies to me I’m afraid.

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  3. Nancy

    Wow! Thank you.

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  4. Alexandra Roberts

    I think a Commitment Contract of this nature is excellent. Immediacy – can see this would work. Now…just commit 🙂 Thank you

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  5. Mercedes (from Argentina)

    Today I gave a name to my saboteur: Hannibal. It worked. Every time I was going to break the brightlines, I talked to Hannibal. “Hannibal, stop it. ” .

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  6. Christine Hogan

    Thank you

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  7. Eg

    Don’t like the shaming described in the program instead of key compassionate acceptance and looking at the emotional trigger why eating.
    Wrong abt comment re 12 step Overeaters Anonymous, claiming if make slip, not allowed to do service.Just coming to a 12 step mtg is doing service.
    The approach of commitment like Stickk suggested again erroneously acts as if emotional eating can be dealt with by intellectual means or punishments.

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    1. Mercedes (from Argentina)

      Do you have an alternative that has worked with people with a high susceptibility scale?

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  8. Anya

    Thank you for continuing to share new tools and resources.

    I also am one of those who doesn’t like this particular idea for myself, but think it could be useful for others.

    I combine Brightline Eating with the Urbanmonk Acadarmy. My “commitment contract” is setting up a 100 Day Gong related to my Bright Lines and other things like caffeine use. As soon as you break from your Gong, you start over, even if you are on day 99. If you tell people or post your progress on social media then you also have social consequences.

    I am part of the Facebook group for Brightline Eating and Urban Monk Academy and find the combination to be so helpful.

    Thanks again Susan. Wishing everyone a happy, thin, and free holiday season.

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  9. Mark

    I’ll share my reaction to forming a commitment contract because it was such a powerful feeling of fear. When I looked at the Stickk website, several things were immediately clear. If I broke my commitment, I would pay up because I couldn’t take the guilt of reneging, and I’m too frugal to accept paying that much for a trivial unlawful indulgence. Panic came from the saboteur that the bright line would be completely impenetrable. It was screaming no, no, no! The saboteur was fighting for its future.

    Very strange yet understandable.

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  10. RJ

    Thank you for this topic with the science behind it. I understand the need for immediate stronger motivation in myself at times when my rational thinking goes by the wayside.
    Your vlog here too reminds me of a topic Gretchen Rubin (author, podcast, etc) speaks on–The Four Tendencies. She proposes that we all are either one of these personality tendencies: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel. Of course a person can be a blend of two or more, but typical there is a dominate tendency we have.
    My point is, part of her description of the Obliger and the Rebel is they both ‘resist inward expectations’ (the Obliger ‘meets outward expectations’; but the Rebel resists both outward and inward expectations). You can learn more about it here from her–

    I learned something more about myself from hearing her share her research, etc on the Tendencies….I am primarily an Obliger (with a streak of a Questioner too), thus I TOTALLY relate to the need for some external motivation. This insight on myself from GR came to me last January. So it got me wondering how I could motivate myself to No sugar/No flour that didn’t involve money. (At that time I had been listening to your vlogs, etc but had not joined a Bootcamp).

    I came up with a great external motivation for me. Background–my husband got a yellow lab dog a few years ago. I love animals but not in the house…but I love my husband so I compromised. It was decided the dog could be in the house but only allowed in two rooms of the house–please note, our dog has 4+ acres to roam & run outside anytime so she is a very happy dog. Yet, my husband has been trying to get me to change my mind to allow our dog in our bedroom at night. I am totally opposed!–I’ll spare you my list of practical reasons. Thus came my aha moment for an outward/external motivation. I told my husband that our dog could stay in our bedroom at night if I ate sugar or flour at all in the next 3 months. It worked!! You have to understand how badly I didn’t want our dog allowed in our bedroom 🙂 It was hard for me to get up the courage to even make this agreement with my husband because I hated the consequences but I really wanted to give up sugar & flour too.

    The interesting thing was after the 3 months, I was glad it was over. Glad I hadn’t failed :), but also glad I could have some freedom to eat anything 🙁 I found myself bingeing on cheese & nuts during those 3 months in place of sugar & flour, so I only lost 5 pounds. ….Thus I joined the June’16 BLE bootcamp.
    I’m struggling now with my BLs, so I have been thinking lately of my need for ‘external motivation’ because I’m floundering. I thought the $900 bootcamp would motivate me as I hate wasting money, especially that large sum….but it only worked for awhile to motivate me. I still feel awful that I’m wasting the money by not being true to my BLs and gaining back my weight, but that $900 payment just doesn’t motivate me any longer. 🙁

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  11. Jan

    Excellent vlog, Susan! Have a merry Christmas!

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  12. Jan

    Excellent work, Susan. Always enjoy your vlogs! May God richly bless you.

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  13. Riadh

    i think the human brain is that complex, and humans have, in a way, a unique brain for each, which makes it special for each how to deal with issues, one of them is stickk

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  14. Riadh

    i would like to suggest that to flip the order of comments, that is the newest comment is on the top, and the first comment is on the bottom.

    just a suggestion

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  15. Riadh

    that was just great

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  16. Huda

    I also agree with that woman you talked to about childhood punishment as another reason. Why set my self up for a punishment. Nope. I would like food to be a source of energy and natural pleasure, not to complicate it into more than that into reward/punishment concepts.

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  17. Huda

    Commitment contacts are not for me and won’t make me any better in compliance. In fact will make it worse since I’d end up even more obsessed with every morsel I eat. No thanks. Also, I have enough commitments in my life where not following through on them have their own negative consequences. So why should I add this stress on top of an already busy and stressed life. No way. Thanks for sharing though. It works for certain personalities and certain lives.

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  18. Sara

    I love you! You keep coming up with new ideas that bring me back to your philosophy. Your message always comes through loud and clear.
    Bless you..

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  19. Athena

    Very interesting , thank you!

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  20. Martha

    Help me understand how the “immediacy” concept works. Because what my saboteur does is way more devious than this. My saboteur says “you don’t have to tell anyone you broke your commitment. You can just let it slide and pretend that you didn’t do it. How to you combat that? I get that if someone else is watching and knows you broke a commitment and that the penalty will be immediate. but what if no one but you knows? How you talk the saboteur out of that?

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    1. Elena

      I have been searching for this kind of reply to the blog. I was thinking the exact same thing the whole way through the video. Although I agree with the ‘immediacy ‘ psychology, surely it depends entirely on your honesty with yourself and others about your break. The whole reason I have such an issue with food is that my saboteur makes me completely dishonest when it comes to food. I eat and I lie to myself and others about what I have eaten. I lie to myself before I’m about to binge and I ignore all logical and sensible arguements my higher self gives me to not break the Bright lines. I know if I made a commitment contract with stickk I would just not admit when I’d made a break. I think this kind of thing sets you up to be dishonest. I imagine that lots of people who were on the strict 12 step program with Susan lied about small breaks so as not to incur those harsh punishments she described. I would really appreciate a response to this Susan. Perhaps I am just a dishonest person and most people are not like this!

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  21. sushi

    I was thinking every time i want an off program bite i put myself on Facebook live! Ha Ha my friends would see me not practicing what i preach 🙂

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  22. Nancy Yu

    When you go out in the cold, you put on a coat. Why? It’s so you will not suffer from the cold. It’s called “negative reinforcement”. You engage in a behavior (putting on the coat) that avoids the “punishment” of getting cold. You are attempting to reinforce a behavior which avoids the negative consequences. These contracts may help many people do that.
    That being said, I myself am too linked in to the punitive aspect of this tool for it to be effective, but it could be the right tool for someone else.

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  23. Mariah Perkins

    I think that the accountability from this contract is exactly what will keep me from grazing around the edges even as I maintain my weight. I have signed up to keep my Bright Lines for a YEAR! I was squeaky clean in FA for three and a half years.

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  24. Lynda Dahl

    Holy shot! When you mentioned possibly giving money to the freaking klan, that struck me really hard. It’s so extreme, and for me, I think that’s why it would be so effective. It’s also scary. This weekend is a good time for me to try it, though.

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  25. Susan F

    The Saboteur video is not working properly–don’t think this is on my end. Can you resend this?

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  26. Dinae

    Wow this is totally me! I’ve been at goal for 3 months but have been perfect almost none of the time, and getting away with it. I agree with Julia that this would not work for me and I would just end up lying to myself and not giving up the money. I will just have to find another way.

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  27. Joy Fox

    Wow…I just tuned in to this for the first time. Today is: the darkest day of the year, mercury retrograde, and the anniversary of my husband’s death.

    While I usually don’t eat sugar or wheat, I did slip off the wagon yesterday and today…(the saboteur assuring me that it wouldn’t matter at all). What great timing!
    Perhaps just the threat of the contract will be sufficient now….contributing to the KKK! I do feel tremendously bolstered. Thank you!! It’s a ready-made tribe of kindred spirits.

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    1. Mariah Perkins

      Welcome, Joy! Thanks for the share!

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  28. Toni Whitmont

    Holey Moley this is good. It makes so much sense to me. The pull of immediacy is so powerful. I am one of those people who is getting away with tinkering around the edges without too much consequence. For me it is manifest in BLTs and fudging on my quantities. Interesting too the reflection of one of your cohort around childhood punishment. This is an enormously helpful insight for me, especially the part around the tendency to get rebellious and sabotage the committment contract itself. So much to think about and process here. I am going to give that committment contract a try though. Compassion t the child that I was but now I am a much more powerful adult with choices.

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  29. Ronna Berezin

    Good points …. but something is amiss: Why is it that after so many years you are still forced to measure, weigh your food , play tricks on your saboteur, trick yourself .. IF you are happy , slim , and free….????????? I don’t have any answers. And maybe …. just maybe if you were able to liive in the question you would be better off.

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  30. Christina B.

    Thank you for this. I’m considering this approach, but I might add to it. Maybe a quarterly contract would be good, which would require me to reevaluate the contract every quarter. I am also considering a penalty and bonus approach. For example, I’m on a tight budget, so I’ve cut way back on extras. What if I award myself a quarterly bonus like a pedicure or massage at the end of the quarter if I make it all the way through? This would be in addition to the penalty if I fail. So if I fail, I have to donate immediately. If I don’t fail, I get to keep that money and spend it on something I love.

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  31. Angela

    Thank you, but I agree with Julia Carol.
    I prefer more about honoring the Higher Self
    and finding satisfaction and meaning from increased spiritual support.
    There is too much prevai ling negative punishing and depriving energy out there already
    working against larger women even daring to come exercise in many places.
    I do not choose to hold an anvil over myself if I can instead hold a mental image of
    what I am gaining rather than something I will have to slam myself with if I “fail”.
    I have been in a long intensive program situation where a person who was successful with 12 step groups
    treated other paths as less than in a very harsh withholding behavior mod form
    and including negative social PR that was often not even accurate or necessary.
    In that I had in good faith opened to this supposedly spiritual program in trust,
    it not only left me with years of nightmares, but also greatly diminished the trust
    I had previously enjoyed and left me with nightmares and diminished social adventuring
    for years afterward.

    So no, I do not choose to threaten myself now or for that matter to have to contribute money to any
    abominable cause.
    I prefer to hear more about Julia Carol methods!

    Please know that I do love and greatly appreciate your work and courage even when I don’t always agree.
    And I am glad for whatever works for you.
    It is interesting to hear the brain info and you may well be right.
    If I find that I have to try it I would still prefer another outcome such as having to volunteer for habitat or something that I could feel glad to lend my life toward.

    I just know that I have vowed that I will work to never again be cruel to myself in the interest of supposed self improvement.

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    1. Sandy

      Beautiful! So agree!

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  32. Anna

    Thank you for this wisdom! I understand a lot about how addiction works, but let me ask you a naive and childish question that I still can´t shake; why is it not possible to silence the saboteur forever? Why is it not possible to truly conquer the addiction so that one can become “normal” and not plagued lifelong with these cravings and that evil voice. It seems so unfair- in so many other areas of life we can retrain our brain and overcome various life obstacles so that these things are never a big deal again. Why doesn`t it work in this area?
    I find this is my hardest problem. (Full disclosure- I am ADD.) I get in a good groove with BLE and then literally forget that there is this saboteur voice that always comes back and tries to trick me and it surprises me again and again! It´s so annoying having to deal with this stupid voice, when otherwise I have been able to change my personality and thought habits so dramatically in other areas that I now have new, second-nature habits and am never “tempted” to go back to the old ways or thought patterns, with the exception of eating.

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  33. Wendy Dillard

    What resonated with me the most was at the end when you talked about the lady who had been punished as a child, causing her to go into rebellion when there’s a potential punishment for breaking the bright lines. That piece totally resonated with me because the thought of any external consequence makes me feel angry & rebellious. And I’ve never found an external consequence to be an adequate deterrent to keep me from unwanted behavior. The only thing that works for me is to find an incredibly powerful benefit for why I’m keeping myself in check, that it sets up a discipline that keeps me on the straight & narrow. But, that’s about me and what works for me. And we are all so different, so I love all the options you share.

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    1. Kathy

      I actually think that last part was the most illuminating for me in terms of why I eat sugar, flour (and for me, dairy) to begin with. Food has been my way of rebelling when I feel I’m being punished in other ways! Thank you, Susan! When I was 4, I was forbidden to go up and down some steep stairs. I obeyed, but my mother thought I had disobeyed and gone down the stairs. I was severely punished. So I began to lie to her to stay out of trouble. It was my form of rebellion AND way to keep safe! I haven’t binged in two decades,but if I eat off plan, I do lie that I have. And I eat off plan if I am exhausted, stressed, and here’s the kicker, feeling judged for eating on plan…or judged in any way, for that matter! I’ll go to a party, maintain bright lines, get all kinds of comments from other guests, then come back and eat a piece of chocolate or cheese! Then if asked if I ate it, I’ll lie about it! Crazy! But it all goes back to how I view punishment and reward. I would rather do anything than be punished or shamed. But, the problem is, I’m pretty good at hiding my cheats. So I personally know I have to do things for reward instead of punishment. I’m really honest in all other ways except food and glass of wine cheats. So I wonder why it’s a square of chocolate, a piece of cheddar cheese, or a glass of Chardonnay that I’m still using as my silent form of rebellion? Thanks for this amazing breakthrough!

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  34. Andy

    Why isn’t it a deterrent?!!Omg!! I swear I have been asking this freaking question to myself and others forever! I really really liked the contracts. Thanks so much for the research information and the website. All just so fabulous and helpful.

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  35. Allyna

    In response to the positive-reinforcement dog trainer’s aversion to this negative reinforcement protocol (I’m also a P-R trainer, BTW); I think that agreeing to donate to a disliked charity is a different kind of punishment than the physical ones of prong collars, etc. , used to create pain. And it does make sense that we have more cells devoted to avoiding negative consequences, than to seeking positive ones. For some this could be the extra tool needed to make the going easier.

    Like Susan says, if it’s not for you don’t use it. For me it’s worth exploring.

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    1. Sandy

      Yes different, but the same. It is punishment. It is a setting up a negative situation that is negative enough to prevent you from doing something. I wouldn’t ever do this or inflict the approach on anyone. And of course anyone can choose to do it to themselves if punishment is the motivation they choose.

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  36. Kim

    I think that when someone is reaching for chocolate at bedtime, the body is asking for magnesium. Also, you never say whether the person is getting dark chocolate or milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is a healthy treat. I understand you came from a dark place and see AA as your salvation but I think the AA format of shaming that you describe in this video is unhealthy and cult like. It is sad that you have tried to carry that method into dieting. There is enough body shaming and food guilt without setting up a system for further self -inflicting self punishment. Your idea of anti charity is horrific. Dumping money into a cause that you disagree with just adds to the shame of brightlining. Why not just encourage public flogging? Many cults and religions keep members through heaping shame and reminding members of that shame and guilt. There is no joy in being shamed into getting skinny.

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  37. Barb

    OMG! Brilliant!!! Doing lots more research, but the abhorrent “charity” I’m thinking of may be the perfect deterrent!

    Much love,

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  38. Cathy

    hi Susan
    I believe that if you are spiritually fit you won’t feel compelled to compulsively eat or obsess after having “one bite” or piece of food off your food plan. If you are still controlling your food plan it is still controlling you, there will never be freedom from that. Food is just a symptom , the real saboteur is your untreated emotional burdens and mental thinking (unmanageability of your life). Having worked the steps and being recovered you are living by God’s will and your thinking and actions will reflect this. The food plans, diets and fear (saboteur) will be removed. The 12 step work relieve you from those obsessive irrational thoughts and behaviours, you have to get down to the causes and conditions of your life, The real problem for food or diet addicts is that we have trouble with the way of dealing with life – the absence of a Higher Power, your God and a spiritual way of living. Its not about the food until you make it about the food and then it becomes all about the food. The focus and goal is not about getting more will power over what and how much to eat, but to never ever be in a position where you are one bite from a binge. That is like being on a diet again, you want to live life fully and food is secondary just like getting dressed or brushing your teeth everyday. The real problem is never the food, but we still think we have to control it, so we stay stuck in our heads. This is referred to being in “self” , and the only way to get out of ‘self’ is by turning your Life (thinking and actions) to one of a Spiritual experience by following the 12 steps. Here recovery is guaranteed.

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    1. Anonnymous

      Cathy your comment is incredibly condescending and frankly inappropriate given Susan’s history. Comments like yours are why so many people avoid and deride so called 12 step zealots and their myopic belief in their own version of religion or belief.

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      1. Jo

        Hi Cathy,
        Thanks for what you said,. Its very interesting for me. I find that the spiritual path doesnt – or hasnt yet freed me from human problems. It has been a lot of work, and I feel there are some subtle changes. I still have way to go.

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    2. Roger

      If the spiritual path and 12-step program works for you, Cathy, that’s fine. My feeling about Susan is that she has tried just about everything. What works for her is keeping on the straight and narrow by sticking to clear and easy guidelines. There’s really no reason to assume that Susan is a foodaholic because she isn’t “spiritually fit”, or in other words, not as good of a person as you, or not as holy as you, or whatever “spiritually fit” means to you.

      Please try to remember that people are different (thank goodness), and different things work for different people. Personally, I’m a ketogenic diet person at the moment, and have lost a goodly amount of weight on it. However, I find the Bright Line program really interesting, and can see how it would work for me if I flunk out of the ketogenic diet program. Or decide to take a break from it.

      Glad that the 12 step programs work for you, and help you to be spiritually fit and vice-versa.

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  39. Jean Paul

    As usual, Susan, an excellent vlog; thank you.

    Call me old-fashioned (please) but, like, why do you have to, like, punctuate your sentences with “like” all the time?

    OK, so back to the commitment contracts.

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  40. Jenny

    I love the idea of the commitment contract, but how does the “immediacy” work if you have to report on yourself? Self-reporting could happen much later, or not at all… I need a commitment contract with a little video camera that follows me around & reports on me immediately!

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  41. Sandy

    Yes, I am in the camp of: I would never do this nor recommend it to anyone. I’m a dog trainer and follow the science of positive reinforcement, Things rewarded will be more often repeated. In dog trng terms: I don’t want a dog who walks next to me because he is avoiding punishment. (E.g. Prong collar correction). I want a dog who has learned how rewarding it is to walk nicely with me and loves to do it because it is rewarding (and joyful)! That is the relationship I want to foster both with dogs I work with and with myself. And everyone I interact with.

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    1. Helen

      Yes, BUT different strokes for different folks. In other words whatever works or as the kids say “whatever floats your boat” –

      Reply ·
      1. Sandy

        I think she asked in the vlog what we thought. I shared what I thought, saying I was in the camp of….. I’m not saying my way is for everyone and I’m sorry if you read it that way. Just explained my thinking and why.

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  42. Christina

    What a lovely human being and sister on the path you are,Susan.
    You are doing holy work, Susan, and are such a touchstone and have a heart for service to your people. God bless you, Susan.
    Also, if I may be vain for a second and say, one sister to another, that you have always been beautiful but these past few weeks your FACE looks even more beautiful, sculptured, and radiant! I started noticing this illumination in you right after you released that gorgeously honest vlog about you and David . That whole event seems to have provoked some sort of HARDCORE BEAUTIFYING RAW REVIVAL ON A DNA LEVEL in you and I am so happy for you,Susan.
    God bless you, beautiful lady!!! ?Christina

    Reply ·
  43. Maria Christopher

    BRILLIANT INSIGHTS! Thank you for sharing the research on how/why brain cells see only the immediate, not the future. Makes such perfect sense, and sheds bright light on so many bouts of past problems. First rate idea!

    Reply ·
  44. Brenda

    Thank you, Susan! Every little bit helps….

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  46. Lauren

    I love this! It really resonates with me. I will check out Stickk. Thanks!

    Reply ·
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