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Interview with Lauren Mackler

by Hay House

Interview with Lauren Mackler

author of

Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life
April 1, 2009

1. There are a multitude of self-help books that address many of the same topics as Solemate. These include books for singles, and books about how to overcome fear, live a more fulfilling life, and build self-esteem. What makes Solemate different from the rest?

Many self-help books targeted to singles are “how to” books for snaring the perfect mate. They reinforce the myth that happiness is found by searching outside yourself—instead of within yourself. Other self-help books focus on overcoming low self-esteem, fear, and loneliness, but fail to address their root causes—the limiting beliefs and behaviors we learn in childhood that drive our adults lives. And, while there are a few books that espouse the message that aloneness can be a positive experience, they don’t offer a clear roadmap for how to make it a reality.

Drawing from my own experiences and those of my clients, as well as the fields of psychology, physiology, sociology, holistic healing, and strategic business practices, I’ve developed a unique program that helps people move beyond the limitations that spring from their early conditioning and begin to live in alignment with what I call the “authentic self”—the person they were born to be. And, unlike other personal development books that are purely theoretical, Solemate includes quizzes, exercises, and guided journaling that help readers understand where their self-defeating patterns come from and how to move beyond them, and provides concrete tools and strategies that help them begin living a full, happy, successful, and financially secure life.

2. You say that the book is about mastering the art of aloneness, but that it’s not about being alone. How is aloneness different from being alone?

Mastering the art of aloneness is not about being alone or isolated from others. It’s about having a good relationship with yourself and becoming the person you were meant to be. It’s about treating yourself well, and shedding the old beliefs and behaviors that limit your ability to live a healthy, happy, satisfying life—with or without a partner.

3. Studies show that nearly half of all U.S. adults are living single lives, numbers that have steadily increased over the last thirty years. To what do you attribute this trend?

One reason is the increased life choices women have in the wake of the women’s movement. Another is that people are marrying later. Thirty years ago, 64 percent of American women ages 20 to 24 had already married. Today, most American women in that age group (73 percent) have never married. And these trends aren’t restricted to the U.S. In 2002, researchers in the U.K. reported that more people were living alone or as single parents than in traditional nuclear families. And, throughout the European Union, by the year 2000, a growing proportion of all private households were reportedly one-person households—representing at least 30 percent of all households in most northern European countries.

Roughly 50 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce, another factor driving this trend. Given the high divorce rates, and the fact that women outlive men by an average of seven years, it’s very likely that a married adult will go back to being single at some point in his or her life.

4. You say that rather than look for someone else to make you happy, you should “become the ideal partner you seek.” What does that mean? What about people who are already in a relationship? Do they have anything to gain from the insights and tools you provide in Solemate?

Many people spend years waiting for an ideal partner—a “soul mate” to make them feel happy and complete. The problem with waiting for Prince or Princess Charming is, all too often, people sabotage their own lives by living in a kind of limbo, waiting for a man or woman to complete their life picture. They might hold off on buying a house, delay plans for an advanced degree, or turn down job promotions. They spend their leisure time watching television, hiding out at home, staying in their comfort zone—instead of pursuing their passions and fully engaging in life.

Instead of pursuing their ideal partner, Solemate helps people become the ideal partner they seek. Rather than look to someone else to transform your life—that special person who will make you whole—you focus on making yourself whole. The question isn’t: “How do I find my soul mate so I can have the life I want?” The better question is: “What do I need to do to create the life that I want for myself?”

Mastering the art of aloneness is critical to creating healthy and sustainable relationships. Why? It’s not uncommon for people to seek out relationships that fill their personal voids—relationships that make them feel whole and complete. But those relationships tend to be conflict-ridden and unfulfilling, because if you’re seeking someone to fill your voids, you tend to attract your opposite—someone else who’s on a quest for wholeness. In the end, there will be more differences than similarities between the two of you, which tends to create conflict. In contrast, when two people have mastered the art of aloneness, both partners feel whole and complete on their own, and have learned to meet their own needs and take responsibility for their own lives. They come together out of conscious choice—not an unconscious drive to find someone else to make them whole and happy. That’s the hallmark of a healthy relationship.

5. You say you’ve drawn from a variety of disciplines in writing the book, including psychology, physiology, sociology, holistic healing and strategic business practices. What’s your professional background and how did that shape your ideas?

Mastering the art of aloneness draws on both my personal and professional experiences. My interest in the field of personal development began in the early eighties in California. And, in 1982, I started co-facilitating holistic healing workshops with my ex-husband, a physician. Much of my early work was inspired by the field of psychoimmunology and the work of Dr. Bernie Siegel, the author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles. In the years that followed, I became a practicing mind-body psychotherapist in Germany, studied Breath Therapy in India, and learned other healing modalities such as Bioenergetics, Voice Dialogue, Emotional Release, and CranioSacral Therapy.

But it wasn’t until 1995 that the underpinnings of my current work really began to take shape. In the wake of a devastating divorce, I began a new course of personal development work, and resumed my studies in psychology with a concentration on divorce, relationships, and the family of origin. I began to see the strong connection between the family of origin and the life choices we make—and, not just theoretically. I was seeing those factors at work in my own life. Alone with two children to care for, I struggled with feelings of loneliness, depression and fear; I knew I had to find a way to build a new life for myself and my children. Very methodically and deliberately, I began to develop my own “self-renewal program” to transform my life. That program incorporated many of the same ideas and tools you’ll find in this book. I went on to complete a Master’s degree in business and worked as a career coach and management consultant. In 2001, I founded Lauren Mackler & Associates, integrating all of my experience to create coaching programs, workshops, and training programs that help people unleash their greatest potential in their personal lives, careers, relationships, and organizations.

6. Solemate is described as a practical roadmap to mastering the art of aloneness—one that involves a step-by-step process. Let’s talk a little bit about that process. What kinds of steps does it involve? And what kinds of tools do you employ to guide the reader through it?

Mastering the art of aloneness is a process that entails three fundamental keys for mastering this art: Focus, Strategy, and Commitment.

First, you need a focus. Mastering the art of aloneness is about living in alignment with your life’s purpose and your authentic self—what you were meant to do and who you were meant to be. That’s your focus. Finding your focus is central to this entire process. Throughout the book, I give readers the tools they need to define and clarify the life they want; and to identify and understand what areas of their lives they need to focus on to create that life.

Second, you need a strategy. The book is the roadmap. It’s designed to enable readers to develop a specific strategy of their own to get where they want to go. I also provide a set of skills that are essential for achieving mastery over their own lives and improving their relationship with themselves and others.

Finally, this process requires a commitment. It involves creating an ideal relationship with yourself. To be fully committed to this process, you have to feel deserving of it, and you have to love yourself. After all, you’re not going to feel compelled to invest your time and energy in somebody you don’t like very much. That’s a central theme of the book: Providing the guidance you need to build a healthy, constructive, and loving relationship with yourself.

7. One of Solemate’s chapters is titled, Living Deliberately Versus By Default. What is “living by default?” How do you go about living deliberately and what are the benefits?

Living deliberately involves recognizing that our actions have consequences, and by those actions, we create our own life experiences. Most people behave as if cause and effect didn’t exist. They go through their lives on autopilot—living by default—acting and reacting to events without thinking about the results of those actions or the role they’ve played in creating the circumstances of their lives.

Living deliberately means living consciously in every moment, so that you can begin to make changes in your life and take full responsibility for your actions, your choices, and your decisions. When you’re living by default, you’re automatically reacting to life in habitual ways, many of which may be limiting you and your life. In contrast, living deliberately means making more conscious and constructive life choices. When you’re living deliberately, you’re living from a position of responsibility; you’re making choices with greater awareness. You’ve taken yourself off autopilot, so you’re better prepared to align your actions with the results you want to achieve and the quality of life to which you aspire.

8. You write about “reclaiming your innate wholeness,” “uncovering your authentic self” and over-riding self-defeating patterns and limiting beliefs of your life conditioning. Why are these steps so central to mastering the art of aloneness?

When we’re born, each of us is a whole, integrated human being, capable of expressing the full range of human emotions and our unique personality traits—what I refer to as our “innate wholeness.” In childhood, our life conditioning—the positive and negative circumstances and experiences to which we are exposed— plays an enormous role in determining whether we’re able sustain this innate wholeness throughout our childhood and into adulthood.

As a young child, all we have to go on is our immediate environment. We don’t yet have the capacity to intellectualize or rationalize. We take the world at face value—and the world our family creates is our reality. From that reality we develop what I call core beliefs and habitual behaviors.

Those beliefs and behaviors enabled us to function within and adapt to our own family system. But when we take those beliefs and behaviors with us into adulthood, they often don’t make sense anymore. We’re operating in a different environment—our world, our needs, and our goals have changed, but our habitual perceptions and behaviors haven’t. As an example, let’s say you grew up in a family in which your mother’s love was conditional. When she approved of your behavior, she was loving and affectionate. But she chastised you whenever you did something she didn’t like, withdrawing her affection, or rejecting or punishing you. Growing up, in order to avoid the pain of her disapproval, you might have developed a habit of behaving in ways that were designed to please her—at the expense of your own needs. As an adult, you have no idea how to articulate your needs, because you’re so used to suppressing them. While your overriding goal—seeking others’ approval—made sense during your young life, because pleasing your mother made you feel loved, it’s counterproductive to hold onto that pattern as an adult.

That’s just one example of a self-defeating pattern that can inhibit a one’s ability to have a healthy relationship with oneself and with others. Solemate is about understanding your family of origin and your self-defeating patterns, and learning how to override those patterns so you can move beyond them. I call that process “reclaiming your innate wholeness” so you can live in alignment with your “authentic self”—and have a fuller, happier life whether you’re in a relationship or on your own.

9. You use the word transformative to describe this process. Can you talk about how and why the results are so dramatic?

I first developed the Mastering the Art of Aloneness workshop back in 1998—first, as a 12-week program then as a weekend workshop. I have to tell you, from the very beginning, the results of those sessions were profound.

I’m still amazed by the number of clients who come to me with little understanding of the human conditioning process and how it holds them back in their lives. Many people invest countless hours, dollars, and resources on self-help approaches focused on changing their behavior—but they still struggle with the same issues over and over. I strongly believe that it’s because they’ve failed to address their family of origin issues. Other people spend years in therapy talking about their family of origin. They may come away with an intellectual understanding of their families and patterns of dysfunction, but they don’t know how to move past them. They lack the tools and strategies to change their habitual patterns.

With Solemate, that’s what I’m endeavoring to provide: Tools and strategies to help readers make a connection between their family of origin, and the limiting beliefs and patterns that are holding them back; and then—and this is a very important point—to help them develop actionable strategies to change those patterns.

I’ve found that once people begin to understand the patterns that are creating negative results in their lives and in their relationships, they begin treating themselves very differently. Their attitudes and outlook begin to change. They can begin to live more consciously and deliberately. And they can accomplish things they never dreamed possible. The transformation can be dramatic. I see it all the time in my workshops and in my coaching practice.

10. Where do strategic business practices come into the picture? What compelled you to include them in a book about personal transformation and how do you use them in the book?

That’s where the strategy—the action plan—comes in. Many books encourage people to use visualization, affirmations, or vision statements as a means to achieving their life goals. However, these books typically lack an important part of the process—effective action planning for bringing those goals to fruition. Visualizing a desired future state or life circumstance, writing down an affirmation, or saying a vision statement aloud are great tools for clarifying and focusing on what you want. But the next step—developing and implementing a good action plan—is critical to producing the results you’re trying to achieve.

One of things I used to do for companies was to design and lead strategic planning retreats for their executive and management teams. During these retreats, the teams would articulate their company vision and develop a strategic action plan for achieving it. In Solemate, I’ve integrated the principles of strategic business planning not only to help readers craft a clear vision of their ideal life, but to help them develop and implement an effective action plan to bring their life vision to reality.

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