Community//

Teri Smith-Pickens: “Stop being a control freak by surrendering to the plans of a power greater than yourself”

Stop being a control freak by surrendering to the plans of a power greater than yourself. It is true that having complete control keeps our anxiety at bay but it is a myth that we have any control of our life much less others; we end up repressing other’s free will which only causes the […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Stop being a control freak by surrendering to the plans of a power greater than yourself. It is true that having complete control keeps our anxiety at bay but it is a myth that we have any control of our life much less others; we end up repressing other’s free will which only causes the repressed anger we see playing out at school and mall shootings.


As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Teri Smith-Pickens.

Teri Smith-Pickens is an award-winning and best-selling author and speaker, in addition to her work as a mental health practitioner and coach. She has inspired and transformed many lives through her coaching, speaking and media appearances.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

As a child I had prophetic dreams including knowing when people I love was about to die and for a long time, I was afraid to go to sleep. The human mind/psyche always intrigued me, so Psychology was my chosen career path. I went the direction of a Master’s in Counseling where I learned a lot about the subconscious mind then I had the revelation in 2007, which gave me an inside look at our brain and its functioning that even the most brilliant scientists still can’t figure out. This gave birth to The Fear Cure in Four Miraculous Steps.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

While working in a jail providing counseling and group therapy to incarcerated men; one of the men, a 26-year-old who had a history of childhood rape by a male family member, had multiple physical ailments his entire life, one in particular was that he would bang his head while sleeping until it bled. His cellmate told me how he tries to wake him up from what seems like a nightmare to no avail. I got permission to give him a Walkman (back in the day) and a CD from Emmett Fox called the “Sermon on the Mount”. I instructed him to use earplugs and listen to it when he went to bed. Almost immediately, the nightmare and head-banging stopped, never to return. He found peace.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

In this field it is hard to pair mistake with humor since mistakes are usually costly and damaging to one’s career. I was treating a family where 4 girls were abandoned by their mother and were being raised by their grandmother, a Jehovah’s Witness. It happened that their next appointment fell on the birthday of one of the girls who was turning 16. She told me she had never had a birthday celebration because of her grandmother’s religion which she didn’t share, because it frowns upon celebrations, gifts, etc. My mistake was providing a cake and having her, and her siblings celebrate in my office. The grandmother found out and almost sued me and the agency. I got off with a warning. The take-away lesson is you can never know people so well that you know how they will behave in a crisis, and, not every belief in Jesus Christ is compassionate.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Debbie Riddle was the CEO of one of the agencies I worked for, and I do believe, she helped save my career by bringing me to a place of grace and tolerance in a tough office politics situation. When the “piranha-like” staff meant me evil, she stood by me for my good, allowing me to stay on the job with people who were my superiors and had tried to get rid of me.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

The moment you step out of your office, leave the day and the clients there, do not take in your head, or your car, or talk to your family about the stuff that happened that day. Especially, do not try to resolve tomorrow’s issues after work. Without proper boundaries you will arrive at burnout rapidly.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

The apostle Paul talks about the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, a biblical term that sums up 9 attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit, according to Galatians Chap. 5. These attributes are — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Living in Survival Mode gives us attributes of the opposite nature which causes friction and discontent. When we personally adopt the Fruit of the Spirit, we can still be assertive, but we grow up emotionally and are able to create a fantastic work culture because deep down humans just want to feel loved and be accepted.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health so come out of denial and get some therapy early to stop repeating negative family patterns and fear-based thinking at the root of all mental health issues.
  2. Honestly take a look in the mirror or listen to what those closest to your say about those character patterns (gossip, anger, fear, cheating, dishonesty, lack of integrity, immaturity), which keep disrupting your life and relationships as a result of living in Survival Mode.
  3. Stop being a control freak by surrendering to the plans of a power greater than yourself. It is true that having complete control keeps our anxiety at bay but it is a myth that we have any control of our life much less others; we end up repressing other’s free will which only causes the repressed anger we see playing out at school and mall shootings.
  4. Stop tuning into everything and getting nothing done — this is what Attention Deficit (ADD) causes. How many times do you start cooking the stew in your head before you arrive at the supermarket to buy the ingredients, or think you can multitask resulting in errors?
  5. Ask yourself and honestly answer this question, what is my beef with God/Jesus Christ, and mental health? According to a Pew study, 1 in 4 Americans do not believe in God and 1 in 5 suffers from a mental health issue. Many ethnicities, Afro-Americans for example, fail to address signs of mental illness because as one said, “Black people don’t go to therapy, if you go you are crazy.” We must let go of this stigma/phobia and encourage people to be honest when they are not feeling like they can cope.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

See a mental health professional early for past trauma which we all have. The longer you go without addressing your mental health issues, it’s like honing a skill and the character patterns only get worse and stronger. For example, ADHD is running everywhere and getting nowhere as if someone is chasing you. ADD is tuning into everything and getting nothing done resulting in things like Alzheimer’s. These symptoms are brought over from our childhood and if not addressed, will prevent you from having “peace” in retirement. You will not be able to be still and will go crazy when you stop working because of your need to be always “running” and/or multitasking.

How about teens and pre-teens? Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?

  1. This is critical because they are the future. First, get help for their parents by way of parenting coaching, etc., to stop the negative generational patterns.
  2. As long as children live in an environment with parents who exhibit authoritarian parenting, a style that is defined by high demand but low responsiveness, requiring their teens to meet high standards, yet they are cold and aloof to their children’s emotional needs, yelling and berating them, repressing their free will, etc. This results in children who are living in Survival Mode with symptoms of poor self-esteem, ADHD, ADD, anger and other mental health issues, because they don’t feel like they have any control over their own lives or are allowed to express their feelings. When feelings are not expressed emotionally, they come out behaviorally — some parents put their kids in therapy, but this is only a band-aid because the environment they are living in has not changed from being the toxic cause of their poor mental health.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Emmet Fox’s, The Sermon on the Mount. I did a friend a favor and offered accommodations in my home to a visitor from Hawaii who literally wreaked havoc on my home causing me to seek shelter elsewhere. However, when she left, she gave me a CD, the above-mentioned book on tape and it was to alter my spiritual life forever.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The “Center for healthy kids and Schools K-12” in CA started an initiative of peer-reviewed research on the emerging field of mindfulness education in schools to counteract ADD, ADHD, anxiety, conduct disorder, etc. Instead of this initiative, let us start a movement at the birth of a child, warning parents and the society at large of the dangers of failing to protect a child from their irrational fears during the primal period. This way we prevent their Fight/flight/freeze defense system from going on auto pilot leaving them in Survival Mode with its host of negative symptoms like ADHD, ADD, Autism spectrum, mood imbalance, etc.. Refer to Chapters, 1, 2, 3 of The Irrational Fear Cure.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My father taught me, “You always get what you pay for.” It is an abundant universe but when people grow up in poverty, they tend to develop a poverty mentality, hiding it under words like frugal, thrifty, economical, resulting in being so cheap they do without in an abundant universe or buy the things they need multiple times because they buy poor quality and end up replacing it over and over, which eventually cost more. I experienced this in a past relationship, and it was costly. Buy the best, not the cheapest the first time around. It really is spiritual unbelief that God will care of us.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Author’s Website: www.thefearcure.com

Author’s LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/teri-pickens-b9387a13/

Author’s Instagram: www.instagram.com/fushia18/

Author’s Twitter: www.twitter.com/TeriPickens

Author’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/centerforeducationandhealing/

Author’s Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/teri_pickens/

Author’s YouTube: www.youtube.com/channel/UCp1eKtZdi37ZfFDjZsK9drQ

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Gabrielle Pickens: “Everything you want, you deserve”

by Candice Georgiadis
Community//

“Always do your best.” With Fotis Georgiadis & Chrysta Castañeda

by Fotis Georgiadis
Community//

Teri Lawver: “Believe in something greater than yourself”

by Ben Ari
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.