I will tell young people like myself to be the change they want to see in the country. We are all leaders in one way or the other and we have people we influence. By being the change we want to see, we change ourselves as well as the people we influence. So many great leaders started out this way by changing themselves first and then their communities
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ese Magege.
Ese Magege is a seasoned Health Professional with over 12 years of Blended Health Care experience. She is a graduate of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedicine, City College in 2009 where she undertook her physician assistant studies and has practiced in multiple specialties of medicine since then. She currently practices in the Emergency Room.
She believes in an integrative approach to healing, one that explores emotional, mental, and physical health- the totality of being. Ese developed a passion for helping people make healthy choices because early identification and modification of unhealthy behaviors/lifestyle can decrease the prevalence of diseases. This led her to further her studies and recently completed her integrative health studies at Duke integrative medicine. After this, she founded the Alchemical Center of Change (ACC) wellness center in New York City with a mission to transform lives and create a positive impact on society.
She is a sought-after international speaker, health coach, and author of the upcoming book “Happiness for no reason simplified.” Learn more at https://www.alchemicalcenter.com/)
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Yes, of course! I will be more than happy to do so. I was born in the United States, and at the age of 3, I traveled with my parents to Warri, a town in Nigeria to study the Urhobo tradition (a native dialect in Nigeria). I spend most of my youth schooling in Nigeria and learning the diverse Urhobo culture. I later returned to the US in my teens to do my advanced studies.
One thing that stood out in this culture was how strongly the Urhobos valued their beliefs, especially when it came to marriage. In the Urhobo culture, most of the fathers preferred their daughters to marry within the tribe. I remember my father’s disapproval of my marriage to a non-native because at the time, he believed my fiancé was from a “cursed” clan.
As outrageous as this might sound, we all have beliefs that influence our behaviors and actions. The current divided state of America, especially in the issue of wearing face masks, is partly due to the various beliefs. A study done by CDC showed men had lower compliance with wearing a face mask in public places than women. Other studies showed men didn’t wear a face mask because they believed wearing face mask was a sign of weakness, while others believed not wearing a mask was a sign of solidarity, and some felt it did not stop the spread of the virus.
In this interview, I intend to shed more light on beliefs, what makes a belief limiting and how easily we can replace a belief that does not serve us.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes, there is. The book “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie made a positive impact on me. This book is about questioning your thoughts, and it lays out an “easy to follow” process anyone can use. It is particularly helpful in building a harmonious relationship with your loved ones. It helps you release toxic thoughts by just questioning your thoughts. Do you have practices that keep your thoughts healthy? Before the end of this interview, you see why it is essential to have one.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
My favorite life lesson quote is “Event + Response = the Outcome.” I first heard this quote from Jack Canfield. This quote means you can’t change the event that occurs in your life, but you can change your response, which will change the outcome. We use this concept in our stress management programs. For example, we had a client who sought our assistance in managing her stress from her marital issues. The issue was causing her sleepless nights. She had racing thoughts, fears, regret, anger, and so forth. We couldn’t change the event that had already happened, that is her marital issues (we are not marriage counselors), but we changed her response to the event, which ultimately led to a new outcome. Today, she is back with her husband. They have better communication, and recently they went on a vacation trip. This might sound like magic, but it really is not. There is a scientific explanation for this. To explain this further, let’s look at what happens to the body under stress. When the body perceives stress, there are chemical changes that occur in the body that lead to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, preparing it for a fight or flight response. In this reactive mode, the processing of information by the brain becomes hindered. Have you ever had stage fright, and you suddenly couldn’t remember your lines? Why is that? In the case of our client, all we did was show her an alternative way of responding that was not stressful and aligned with her ideal vision of what she wanted in her marriage. By so doing, she was able to change the outcome.
Studies have shown that prolonged stress can lead to health issues.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define leadership as the ability to influence others to change. We are all leaders because we have people in our lives that we influence, such as our parents, children, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, community, and others.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?
As mentioned earlier, I will like to talk about the divided state of America when it comes to wearing a face mask in COVID 19 pandemic despite the rising numbers of infected cases in the US. This issue is a growing health concern in the country. As an ER physician assistant taking care of patients with COVID 19, I would like to share my experience wearing a face mask.
This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
This crisis has evolved to the boiling point it is today due to the fact that people are not compliant with wearing a face mask. According to a report by CDC, out of 4, 042 adults surveyed in the study, 17.1% rarely or never wore a face mask in public. Another study showed that some people didn’t wear a mask because it was viewed as a “sign of weakness” some did not believe it helped reduce the spread of the virus; some felt restricted wearing a mask and so forth. One thing is apparent here; a sizable amount of people are not wearing a face mask because of their beliefs.
Our beliefs influence our behaviors and actions and ultimately run our lives. We tend to make important decisions from a place of reactivity that is influenced by our beliefs. I hope to bring your attention to these limitations of beliefs and perceptions and suggest ways we can rise above them, so we heal our country.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?
Can you imagine what will happen to our health providers and front liners if we took care of patients who had COVID 19 without wearing a face mask? The entire workforce will be sick! Wearing a face mask helped me lovingly care for my sick patients without the fear of contracting the virus. I was able to be at the bedside of these ill patients emotionally supporting them. The face mask allowed me to carry out my duties fully.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
1) Rise above the limitations of perception and beliefs
To rise above the limitations of perceptions & beliefs, we need first to understand how we mentally process information and how the neurological filters we have influence our perceptions of the external environment. The brain receives information from the external environment through our five senses; touch, smell, sight, hear, and taste. After the brain processes this information to a certain degree, an attention filter then determines which information is pertinent and which cognitive processes the information should be made available to. For example, if the brain perceives a threat signal, this information is sent to the reactive part of our brains to prepare the body for fight or flight.
These attention filters serve to protect us; however, it also limits the information we are consciously aware of. So, for example, look around you and note how many green items you see. Now, without looking, tell me how many red things you saw when you looked for the green items. You might have difficulty recollecting this information because you didn’t focus on the red items. In other words, your perception of your environment was limited based on your focus at the time. The attention filter is not the only filter we have. We also have information generalization, distortion, deletion, beliefs & linguistic filters that function to serve us but also have their limitations. For example, after a child learns to open a door, he or she can open similar-looking doors through generalization. Similarly, when we have experienced a painful event, we tend to avoid similar-looking events. The phrase “all men are cheats” is an example of generalization.
Our beliefs also influence our perception of our environment. For example, in some cultures in Nigeria, obesity was seen as a sign of good living so people who were obese were believed to be enjoying life.
To rise above the limitations of perceptions and beliefs is to become aware of our internal filters that influence how we see things. In general, these filters are there to serve us; however, if we are unaware of how these filters also limit us, we become victims of our filters. As the popular saying in NLP goes, “The map is not the territory,” meaning our internal filters alter our internal representation of the information we receive from the environment. Therefore, let us get in the act of questioning our beliefs. Is this belief serving us or our loved ones or our community?
2) Interrupt your reactive patterns
Healing our country begins with healing ourselves. The pandemic times can be stressful and bring up different emotions, some of which can be unpleasant. The way we respond to these emotions can have a negative impact on our health. Studies have shown that our autopilot responses are fight or flight or freeze. The human body is designed to prioritize our safety and as the brain is processing inputted information, any threat signal detected is given immediate attention. There is a change in our state & physiology as the body prepares to respond to the threat. However, outside of imminent life danger, there is no need to be as reactive. When we are in a reactive state, we are not thinking through our actions. For example, a friend of mine often got into road rage when he drove. One time, he got out his car in anger and chased another driver on foot. One of the ways he broke this response pattern was by wearing a wristwatch that reminded him to choose a different response when triggered.
How do you respond when you are triggered? Unless you have adopted a different way of responding, chances are you react in these autopilot ways; fight, flight, or freeze. What emotions are you experiencing during these times of crisis? For instance, if it is loneliness or sadness, note where you feel it in your body. What do you do when you feel this way? For example, one of my clients has been drinking a lot of alcohol since the pandemic. Note your action. Is this an action you want to change? There are so many ways to break a pattern once you have identified it. Interrupting your pattern is an easy way to do so. This can be done using words or objects. For example, the next time you feel lonely and have an urge to drink alcohol, say “ouch” or a word that empowers you, then note where you feel the emotion in your body and then choose a different action. The key here is to say “ouch” or any word of empowerment immediately you feel lonely, followed by an alternative activity. You will notice that with time and persistence, you would have changed your response.
3) Embrace your emotions and express them in a healthy way
Our feelings are part of who we are. Times of crises bring up uncomfortable feelings. Fleeing or suppressing an uncomfortable feeling does not necessarily resolve it. One way of expressing painful emotions is by changing the rhythm of your breath. The SKY breathing technique is one way to do so. In a study done by Harvard and Yale the SKY breathing technique was shown to produce the best results in reducing stress.
4) Develop habits of doing service
Most of the clients I have worked with who suffer from depression say they feel better when they help others. In my opinion, doing service work is just an essential need of our spiritual self. My 7-year-old niece makes get well cards for my patients (see photo). Choose an act of service and do it regularly. It could be as simple as sending positive thoughts to the nation or doing a mission-walk similar to the breast cancer walk. Schedule the time to do service weekly.
Photo: Get well cards for COVID 19 patients made by 7 year old Oke Magege
5) Manage your thoughts
Have you noticed a difference in feeling when you think negatively or positively? We tend to feel constricted when we think negatively and expanded when we think positively. How do you stop your mental chatter? Do you have recurring negative thoughts? One way to capture thoughts is to write them down. Reduce your daily intake of negative information and adapt practices for reducing mental chatter such as doing meditation, doing breath works, nature walks, listening to inspirational messages, learning a new skill, doing exercises, and going on a mental fast. Emmet Fox seven day mental diet is an effective way to clear negative thoughts.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?
We can start by making a commitment to take action to heal our country by becoming whole. If we want to see the country healed then we must heal ourselves. If we want to see the country whole and not divided then we must be whole and united with ourselves. The divided state of our country is a reflection of us. To become whole is to know ourselves & gain self-mastery. That is to embrace all parts of us; the positive and negative thoughts, the pleasant and unpleasant emotions, the limited perceptions and limiting beliefs, and take responsibility to change those things that do not serve us. We have to gain self-mastery so we are not victims of our own vices. We have to be able to think for ourselves and do what is right. We have to be able to act from a place of inspiration rather than from a place of reactivity.
Secondly, we can heal the country by focusing on what we want for the country rather than what we don’t want. In other words, let us change our responses and focus on our desired vision for the country. We can also do visualization exercises where we visualize our desired outcome for the country. We can do these exercises individually or in groups.
To help heal our country, let us make a 21-day commitment to focus on our desired vision for the country. What are the changes you will to see in the country? What will you want to see in its leadership? Visualize this regularly.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
Certainly this has been a rough year, many have died, many lost loved ones, many are struggling, many feel sad, angry, and frustrated. If this is how you are feeling right now, it is Ok, but I urge you to try your best to get through these rough times. I agree with Deepak Chopra when he said: “All great changes are preceded by chaos”. I am certain that issues we are currently facing in the country will bring about great changes. Even as rough as things may seem now, they are some good changes we are seeing already. We are seeing less environmental pollution, more family bonding time, more people working from home, innovations like drive-in concerts, more convenient online learning and networking, and so forth.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I will tell young people like myself to be the change they want to see in the country. We are all leaders in one way or the other and we have people we influence. By being the change we want to see, we change ourselves as well as the people we influence. So many great leaders started out this way by changing themselves first and then their communities. One great person that comes to mind here is the late Karen Berg who passed away July 30th 2020. She impacted millions of lives and it all started from her house.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I love Oprah Winfrey. She inspires me. I love her work. I feel she is authentic and truly cares about making a difference in the lives of others.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!