Crystal Andrus is an international speaker and trainer, an expert in self-discovery and personal transformation, and the author of four bestselling books, including The Emotional Edge, and her latest is 2018’s Simply… Woman. She’s the founder of the coaching certification school The S.W.A.T. Institute (Simply Woman Accredited Trainer) as well as S.W.A.Y. Yoga. Below is an excerpt from her interview with The Edge: A Leader’s Magazine.
You mention that you help others discover who they are. Why do you think so many of us have a warped sense of our own identity?
Our brain doesn’t work at random. One of its biggest objectives is to ensure our continued existence. It’s far more concerned with our physical or emotional survival than it is with presenting us an objective reality.
Cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga (who founded the Centers for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of California, David University and Dartmouth College) suggests that one of the functions of the left hemisphere of our brain is to become an “interpreter.” His research shows that as early as infancy, our brain is prone to making up a story about who we are – a narrative upon which our identity is based.
Psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer, author of The Believing Brain, describes it this way: “The brain is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning… These meaningful patterns become beliefs, and these beliefs shape our understanding of reality.”
In a way, your “story” makes decision-making easier because it tells you who you need to be to best survive in this world. The reason your brain does this is because of adaptation. The problem is that your life script can be based on lies.
For example, if the environment you grew up in convinced you that steadiness and reliability were necessary traits – that you must take care of the people you most love, that you need to be “a good little girl or boy” in order to be safe – then neglecting yourself for the sake of others becomes your best form of protection, even if it robs you of safety, freedom, and happiness!
If, on the other hand, your environment sent messages that you were at the mercy of the people in the power seat – that your needs would be met only if you could ingratiate, that being charming, helpless, difficult, or demanding was the safest way to get by – that is how you’ll show up in the world.
Our “interpreter” creates a story about how the world wants us to be. The purpose of this life script is to have a shorthand for what keeps us safe – this way, in moments when we need to make split decisions, we have a mental shortcut that instantly tells us how to choose! But of course, these stories hurt us as much as (or more than) they help us.
Why did you decide to establish The S.W.A.T. Institute, and what are its goals?
I knew I was going to build The S.W.A.T. Institute 10 years before I built it. I have always been able to see the bigger picture, and to not only envision it, but to strategize the building process in stages. The goal of The S.W.A.T. Institute is to empower, educate, and enlighten women worldwide.
Women struggle with empowered communication. For thousands and thousands of years, women have been oppressed. Most of our mothers, grandmothers, and all of our great-great-grandmothers were unable to vote, hold office, own property, speak out publicly, or have any rights over their own bodies. It has been only in the last few generations that women were even considered a “person” by law.
Here in North America where I live, Canada was the first country to grant women the status of “person” in 1917; the United States followed in 1920. Prior to that, the word “person” referred only to men. A British common law ruling from 1867 emphasized, “Women are persons in matters of pains and penalties but are not persons in matters of rights and privileges.” We were possessions of our fathers, passed down to our husbands. We’ve been “groomed” for disempowerment for thousands of years. Feminism was not intended to cause the breakdown of “the American family,” even if it did. It was meant to give women their rights to become empowered – to expand their emotional edges, the same way men can!
Jennifer M. Williams | Editor-in-Chief