Working in pajamas

Hey, you. Yeah, you. With the pajamas. I know you haven’t washed them in a few weeks, I can feel the smell from all the way in Canada. And I get it. Because I’m wearing my pajamas right now and I haven’t washed them in a while either. We’re all in this together, so lets parse this out a little bit.

When the pandemic hit and we all got permission to work from home, you were probably extatic. “This is awesome,” you thought, “PAJAMAS!” But it’s not that simple. Without the energy of the office environment it’s kinda hard to get into the groove. And yes, the modern open floor plan isn’t ideal for focused work and we used to gripe about that, but not seeing anyone for weeks on end gets old quickly.

When no one is watching, it’s way to easy to check out Hacker News or Twitter or Reddit for a little while and then go down a rabbit hole of understanding how exactly how those mRNA vaccines work or what’s the latest projected layout of Starship is. Hours, days, sometimes weeks go by like that.

Without the discipline annoyingly imposed by the office environment, we’re left to our own devices, our own discipline and we often find it lacking. Instead of making actual progress on our work, we submit vague progress reports and list the problems we encounter all the while building up shame, guilt and fear.

Emotions are a funny thing though, especially negative emotions. We don’t like ’em. And we’d do anything to not feel them. So when the guilt, shame and that quiet terror of being found out come up, we want to run away. And what’s a better refuge than the conveniently endless feeds on social media (not to mention the autoplaying Youtube videos)?

But wait a sec, didn’t we just say that the guilt started with procrastination? Is it also causing it? Oh, now we’re in deep. Real deep.

I don’t know if your boss actually knows you’ve been lying massaging the truth. She’s likely in the same boat, fighting the same demons, too preoccupied with her own procrastination to notice yours. But you know, and so do your pajamas. This positive feedback loop between negative emotions and procrastination is only going to get worse – unless you do something.

The problem with emotions is that we only know two ways to deal with them – express them or supress them (by distracting ourselves). And neither gets us the result we are looking for, which is breaking out of the cycle.

Luckily, there’s a third option, not commonly taught and not well understood outside of postmodern new age circles. Emotions can be released. Releasing emotions isn’t about expressing them, talking about them or thinking about them. It’s about allowing ourselves to feel them, fully, staying with the unpleasantness for as long as neccessary. And letting them evaporate. It’s as natural as taking a shit, but unfortunately we’ve been taught to keep emotions bottled up (especially the men among us). Imagine eating without ever taking a dump. Yeah, that’s what holding on to emotions feels like.

The easiest way to release emotions is to ask yourself a simple question:

Could you allow yourself to feel this fear/anger/guilt?

Contemplate this question. Don’t try to derive an answer, the answer itself isn’t important. Let the question bounce around inside your head for a little while. You may feel something starting to shift.

For some of you, perhaps those who’ve had experience with meditation or therapy, this should be enough. Others may need more help.

That’s why I build Wuju, an app that can help you process and release emotions. My stats of around 2000 people show it can drop the intensity of any negative emotion by up to 90% within a few minutes. If you’re stuck in a procrastination loop, it might be worth a try.

(Wuju is subscription based, but you can try it for as long as you need to see if it works for you.)

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

Truth has no sequel

“So you want to be rich? Here, it’s not hard. It’s not meaninful and beyond a certain amount, not even necessary, but here. It’s possible.”

This felt like another voice was taking control of my hand. I was writing the words, but it wasn’t me saying them. I could resisted if I wanted to, but I was too curious.

“But how?” I asked, “What do I need to do?”

“It’s not what you need to do,” the voice said, “it’s what you need to become. You see,” the voice went on, “You need to stand in the infinite river of abundance and dip your hand in to drink from it.”

“What does that mean? How can I step into this ‘river of abundance?'”

“You don’t need to step into it,” the voice said with a touch of annoyance, as if talking to a small child, “You are already in it. Everyone is, they just don’t see it.”

“I don’t understand this,” I said, “What do you mean? Is there a way I can understand?”

“I don’t know,” said the voice, “maybe. Lets try it this way,” it said, deep in thought, “What is the easiest way for you to make money?”

“I guess I could go back to programming.” I replied, “I’m pretty good at that. But I don’t…”

“There!” The voice interrupted my train of thought, “You see?” it said, now sounding like a teacher talking to a slightly dim student, “Did you see how you stopped yourself from exploring this?” it paused. “Do you actually want to be rich?”

“Well, yes,” I concured, “I do, but not at any cost.”

“OK,” it said, “so what do you actually want?”

“I WANT TO BE FREE!” I shouted within my mind.

“Well, that sounds closer to the truth,” the voice in my head said. “Do you realize that having more money wouldn’t actually free you from it?” it asked.

“Well yes,” I replied, “I guess this makes sense. If I have more money, I’ll still believe in its worth, and in how it reflects on my self worth.”

“So in order for you to be free,” the voice continued, “you have to free yourself from the illusion of money.”

“I understand this intellectually,” I admitted, “money is an illusion created by people, but what does this mean?” I asked, “I still need it to buy groceries, pay rent, even to be on this retreat here with you.”

“Oh really?” the voice asked incredulously, “Didn’t you notice that we both reside in the same head, using the same hand to write this dialog between us?”

“Well, yes, that’s true,” I conceded.

“And didn’t you notice that you’re actually getting groceries for free from the Food Center every week?”

“Sure,” I said. We’ve been using the Food Center services since the pandemic broke out and I lost my job, “But we still shop at the grocery store.”

“And why do you do that?” it asked.

“There are some things we want that the Food Center doesn’t have,” I said.

“‘Want‘, you say, so not necessarily ‘need‘?”

“I guess not,” I admitted, “I guess we could survive on the food we got from the Center. But this wouldn’t be fun or tasty, and I like fun and tasty…” I trailed off.

“And here we are,” the voice said, “the first junction. Do you want ‘fun‘ and ‘tasty‘ more than you want to be free?”

“Of course not,” I replied adamantly, “that’s absurd!”

“Well, your actions show otherwise,” the voice concluded.

“They do, don’t they,” I said. “Yeah, I can see that now. So what else am I doing that’s in the way of my freedom?” I asked.


“What do you mean ‘everything?'”

“Everything that you do is in the way of your freedom.”

“So you’d have me do nothing?” I asked not really sure what he was saying.


“But… I don’t know what to say to that,” I said, “Do you want me to sit on my butt and do what? Nothing?”


“I don’t understand.”

“Well look at it this way,” the voice explained patiently, “Has anything you’ve ever done made you feel any more free?”

“I guess,” I mused, “ocassionally. There are moments. Actually, ” I said, “right now is once of those moments of freedom.”

“Really? Tell me more.”

“Well,” I said in my head and wrote in my jouirnal, “I’m writing this conversation down. I know the next thing each of us is going to say. It’s…” I looked for the right word, “it’s effortless. I mean, my hand is getting tired, and I’m worried I won’t have enough juice to finish writing it all, but I can just slow down. And take a breath. And my handwriting is suddenly more legible. This is amazing. I could always do that? Just like that?

“Of course you could,” the voice said, smiling, “You see, you misunderstand ‘doing’ as something that requires effort, force, going against something. That’s a uniquely human perspective,” it said. “Trees don’t do anything. Yet they grow and evolve, survive fires, have offspring. Everything happens naturally. This effort idea that your world has come up with is quite absurd to be honest.”

“Wow, hold up a second,” I said, “You’re… you’re not human?”

“Well,” it thought for a bit, “yes and no,” it said. “I reside in the same body as you, we share the same mind, languages, memories. But I’ve been around much, much longer.”

“Like thousands of years longer?” I asked.

“It’s hard to explain,” it replied. “Where I am from, time doesn’t work like that. It exists, but it doesn’t flow in a single direction like what you percieve.”

“Oh boy,” I said, feeling we were getting off track and wanting to squeeze out a bit more out of this bizarre conversation, “OK. Lets step back for a second. I’d like to get back to my business.” I’ve been working on an online mental health app for the last 6 months and sales were still abysmally small. I was growing frustrated, which was why I took a couple of days to myself and closed myself off in a small cabin in the middle of nowhere. It was also the reason I took a mild dose of psilocybin, hoping to see something that I couldn’t see in the everyday hustle. Looks like I was getting my money’s worth.

“Why can’t I get my business off the ground?” I asked.

“You’re struggling, that’s why,” the voice replied. “You’re like a fish out of water, wiggling around, flopping your whole body,” it said. “Relax. The first thing you need to do is relax,” it paused briefly, “and take a look around.”

“OK,” I said. “OK. OK, I’m relaxing. Here, I’m even writing slower. This actually feels good. But what does it have to do with anything?” I asked.

“Give it a few more minutes,” the voice said, “It’s coming.”

“What is?”

“The realization. It’s on its way to you.”

“I thought time and space were meaningless or something in your world,” I quipped with a smile.

“It is. And I can also see we’re merging back,” it said, growing fainter. “This journey is almost over. But the realization,” the voice said, “the insight, it will come. And it will seem trivial and obvious when it does. And it will seem completely unexplicable to anyone you tell about it.”

“I’ll be honest,” I said. “I was hoping for some sort of grand finale. Something that would make this into a great story that others could read and be moved by.”

“It is already that,” the voice said, with a twinkle in his eye, as if he realized the absurdity of it all. “Because it’s true. ‘Critics hate him,’ they’ll say, but readers will love it. Just don’t pretend it was you who wrote it,” it warned. “And don’t try to write a sequel for it, because, ” it said, fading away…

“Truth has no sequel.”

“How can we help him?” asked the first nun. “He’s going to come back from his psilocybin journey and forget that he has access to infinite wisdom.”

“Well,” the other nun said in my head, “he has this idea of ‘integration’ – making changes in his physical life that would make the wisdom he experienced during his journeys stick.”

“That’s absurd!” the first one replied.

“You really like this word,” the other one said, smiling.

“I do, and it is,” I heard. It was getting hard to tell the two wisely, female, caring voices apart. I had gone into the shower to freshen up after my conversation with The Guide when I suddenly became aware of this dialog. I wondered if I was perhaps going crazy, but went to my desk and started writing, deciding to call the nuns Anna and Betty.

“He can’t possible expect to somehow encode infinite wisdom into a mere ‘change of lifestyle’,” Anna said. She paused, then tilted her head to one side and said, “but maybe there is something we can do.”

“I’m listening,” Betty said, intrigued.

“He understands that consciousness is maleable and can change quickly, right?” Anna asked.

“Yes, I do think he’s already realized that’s true,” Betty concurred.

“Well, if we replace the physical realm problem of his ‘failing’ business with one of concsiousness where it can be resolved instantly, that would help, wouldn’t it?” Anna wondered.

“Go on,” Betty urged her, excitement in her voice, “this is fascinating!”

“So, he says he can’t get people to buy his product, correct?” — “Yes.” — “And he doesn’t know why, right?” — “Indeed.”

“Well,” Anna continued, “he prides himself on being empathic and being able to see things from other people’s perspectives. Why don’t we nudge him to imagine a conversation between himself and a potential buyer, trying to sell his product, this Wuju?”

“I love it!” Betty exclaimed. “This will let him see what’s wrong and what he’s missing.”

“Let’s leave him to it then,” they both said in unison and faded into the background of my thoughts.

Heeding the nudge I got from the nuns, I turned a page and started writing.


ELI: Hey, check out Wuju, it’s awesome!

GUY: Wha.. What? Who are you? How did you get inside my head? Get out of here, I was in the middle of something.

ELI: No no, listen, you don’t understand, Wuju is truly awesome. It can change everything. It can solve all your problems.

GUY: Sure it can. Can it make coffee too?


GUY: Listen, dude, I don’t know who you are, how you got in here or what the fuck you’re trying to sell me, but I want you out. Now!


GUY: I said NOW!

ELI: Kthxbye


ELI: Hey, excuse me?

CHAD: Yes?

ELI: Can I show you something?

CHAD: Ehm, I’ve got a minute, but… yeah, you seem nice enough, watcha got?

ELI: Oh wow, thank you so much for agreeing, this means so much to me, you know I’ve been looking for someone who will…

CHAD: Yeah, yeah, I said I only had a minute and you already wasted half of it. What did you want to show me?

(fumbling with his phone)

ELI: So, yeah, this is Wuju and it’s like this mental health app that can basically help you release any negative emotion you may have and…

CHAD: Say what? Oh, sorry, I got distracted. You see there’s this really hot chick that’s been texting me and she’s free for some hot lunch if you know what I mean, yeah? Alright, buddy, nice thing you there, I’m sure it can be super useful for some people, I’ll be sure to tell all my friends about… whachama call it?

ELI: Ah… Wuju.

CHAD: Yeah, Voodoo, that’s it. Yeah, I’ll tell everyone about it. Alright, see ya!

ELI: …


ELI: Hello sir! We are representatives of the Wuju corporation. We’ve been working for over a decade on various mental health applications and we would like to help your Suicide Prevention Center to streamline and revolutionize your Suicide Prevention measures so they don’t require any personnel on hand.

MAN: I, ah, Ahem. Yes, well, sure, this all sounds very interesting. Why don’t you fill out this form here for our, ahem, technical partners and we’ll get back to you when the time is right. I’m sure your products are every bit as good as Google, IBM or Yahoo.

ELI: …


ELI: Excuse me ma’am, do you have a few coins to spare? I haven’t eaten all day.

WOMAN: Here you go honey, get yourself something to eay. And take a shower, will ya? You’re kinda you know – (wrinkles her nose) – stinky.


(walks up to a sad looking young woman sitting by herself on a park bench)

ELI: Hey, how are you feeling?

GIRL: Wha?.. Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m alright.

ELI: You don’t look alright to me.

(reaches out and puts a hand on her shoulder)

GIRL: I’m… I’m…

(starts crying, Eli sits down next to her)

ELI: It’s OK. Just tell me. It’s OK.

GIRL: I just feel so lost. I don’t know what to do anymore. I tried everything. I spent God knows how much money on therapy and meds and I just still feel like shit. I’m such a loser.

(Eli puts his hand behind her back in a gentle hug, she leans her head on his shoulder)

GIRL: You know, you’re a complete stranger, but I feel safer with you than I have in months. Thank you, thank you so much!

ELI: Yeah, so actually, I have this little tool called Wuju that you could pull out any time and it will make you feel better. I promise!

(pulls out his phone and loads the app to show her)

GIRL: You… what?! You’re trying to sell me something!? Get your hands off me! Stay away, you hear me? You stay the fuck away from me or I’ll call the cops on your ass!

(storms away from the bench)



ELI: Hi, is this the New York Times?

OPERATOR: Yes, how may I direct your call?

ELI: I’d like to speak to a reporter please.

OPERATOR: Do you have a story to report, sir?

ELI: Yes I do!

OPERATOR: Alright then. We have the sex and violent crimes department, the terrorism and beheadings section, the crazy family drama group and the dirty politics devision. Where would you like me to transfer you?


(hangs up the phone)


ELI: Excuse me sir, do you have some spare change?


(on his knees)

ELI: Oh God almighty in the heavens, also know as Jesus, Yahve, Allah and… Buddha?


GOD: Listen.

ELI: Oh… what? I didn’t… err… didn’t actually expect you to respond.

GOD: You didn’t? OK then. Bye!

ELI: No… no, WAIT!

GOD: Yeah?

ELI: What am I doing wrong? What isn’t it working?

GOD: You’re working too hard to see you aren’t working on the right thing.

ELI: What do you mean? What should I be working on?

GOD: You need to find a place where your clients hang out…

ELI: Yeah, yeah, I know all that…

GOD: And then you need to be humble.

ELI: But… I’m already humble, humble as a doormat, humiliated, stepped on, rejected more times than I can count. I’m done with this. That’s it. Here are the keys to my life, do whatever the hell you want with me.

(turns to leave)

GOD: Hey, Eli?

ELI: Yeah? (turns around)

GOD: Welcome home. Now I can help you.

. . .


(sitting at a simple desk outside a depression convention center)

ELI: Hey there.

GUY: Hi… ahm… I heard there was this Wuju thing that could help me with my… ahm… depression.

ELI: Sure. Let me show you how this works.

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

“I feel so tired of everything”

I can’t talk to my friends about my problems because then they call me an attention seeker, say my issues are petty and trivial, they then think of me in a negative way and it makes them want to talk to me less in general, or they simply don’t react to my cries for help because it’s too draining. I know they can’t be my personal therapists but I just need somebody to be on my side with things.


Hey friend, I hear you.

This is the exact moment where change can happen. When you’ve completely tapped out all the empathy other people can show you, when you’ve talked to everyone you could, when you feel all alone, exhausted, terrified – that’s the exact moment you can turn inwards and find that you are capable of self-empathy.

We all are, we’ve just never been taught that it’s possible. No one’s ever told us that the softest hug, the kindest words, the deepest compassion and the sweetest medicine for our pain always resides within us, right next to it. The more we suffer, the more compassion to ourselves we have, hiding just under the surface, right under our self judgement.

If you look inside, you’ll see a frightened and lonely child, sitting by herself, in the dark, waiting for someone to be with her. That child is you, but you are no longer her. You’ve grown and you can now give her what she could never get from anyone else. You can sit with her, listen to her, hug her, play with her. Give her the attention she always craved for.

Cry with her.

This can be a beginning of a wonderful journey to peace, to love, to emotional self sufficiency. Sharing your pain with your boyfriend and with your friends becomes much easier once you find a way to first take a stab at it yourself. You won’t come off as needy or dependent anymore. On the contrary, you’ll radiate strength, compassions and vulnerability and people will naturally gravitate towards you.

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

How to fight suicidal thoughts

How to fight suicidal thoughts?

I feel so exhausted, I see all around me the things I want but it’s like a locked item in a videogame. I am done, I feel like I have nothing left. I struggle to wake in the morning, I struggle to stay awake during the day, I am just struggling to keep my head up. I can’t think straight. I seem to struggle with basic tasks. I thought about talking to some of my friends about what I’m currently sitting through and honestly, I’m terrified. I don’t want to lose them as friends, but I’m also terrified of trusting them with something so very personal.


Hey friend, I hear you. You had more than your share of bad luck and horrible experiences and life seems like a crazy climb up a sandy hill. Every step you take seems harder than the previous one, every day it’s harder to get up, harder to hang on, harder to keep it all together.

The title of your post really struck me – you asked how to fight suicidal thoughts. You’re not supposed to fight them. You can’t win against your thoughts. You may have realized by now that you don’t have any control over what thoughts you have – nobody does. So fighting is not what this is about, but pain is.

You carry an incredible amount of pain and grief inside you. This post is only the tip of a huge iceberg of pain you’ve carried around for a very long time, most of your life form the sound of it. That’s why it’s so hard to get up in the morning, that’s why it’s so hard to do even the most basic things. The weight of your pain is crushing you and you’re tired of resisting it.

The thing about pain is that while you can’t resist it indefinitely, you can allow yourself to feel the full extend of it. I’ve been down that road – the tears, the snot, the howling, the shaking and the complete exhaustion that follows. It’s awful, and it seems like it would never end. But it does. It does.

If you have enough courage to consider taking your own life, you have enough courage to face the pain in its entirety, to let it flow through you and out of you so you can step back into life.

I wish you luck my friend. It’s a rough road to travel, and you’ll probably need to travel it a few times before you’ve worked through it all. But the road does have an end and there’s light at the end of it.

Good luck.

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

How learning to let go of my emotions changed my life

A couple of years ago a coworker convinced me to try fasting. I’ve never done a fast before and it didn’t make any sense to me that not eating would do any good, but I was in an exploratory state of mind and this coworker left a powerful impression on me so I thought I’d try it.

I decided to do a 48-hour fast to start with. I packed a bit of food for afterwards, a meditation cushion and a nice fuzzy blanket, drove to a tiny village not far from here and checked into a small hotel. It was the middle of winter, everything was covered with soft snow and the quiet was deafening.

To keep me entertained, I brought a copy of The Sedona Method, a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while but felt like I needed some space away from work and family to actually get into.

About an hour after I got to the hotel and set up my nest I felt the first pangs of hunger. “This is going to be interesting,” I thought. The book presented a method that promised to help me release my emotions. The idea seemed absurd. I didn’t know there was anything to release about emotions – I just felt them. What was this “release” business about? Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try.

So what was I feeling? I was hungry, that was obvious. But under the hunger, there was something else. Fear. It was hard to notice at first, but the hunger was mixed with an incredible amount of fear of being even more hungry. Looking out the window at the beautiful white vista I suddenly understood.

You see, my grandparents lived through the Siege of Leningrad in 1941-1944. It’s estimated that 1.5 million people died from hunger during that time. Throughout my childhood I heard repeated stories of extreme cold combined with extreme hunger (they’d boil shoes to get a bit of nutrients out of the leather). This stuck way deeper than I could have imagined, and even though they have both died quite a few years ago, I apparently still carried the scars.

With the snow outside and the hunger inside the images of that war came rushing in. I found myself howling, crying, shaking in agony. It seemed like it would never end. But it did. It took about 20 minutes for my body to process enough of that trauma to return to the book – and the method.

“Could you let the fear go?” the book asked.

– Yes.
– Would you?
– Yes.
– When?
– Now!

I took a deep breath in. My breathing slowed down, the knot in my belly loosened and I felt some tingling in my feet. I looked around inside my mind. The fear was gone, but there was something else. Deep grief. Grief for my grandparents and what they had to live through, for all the people who suffered and died in Leningrad and most of all for myself, the child that I was, listening to those stories, the emotions I denied myself, the loneliness I felt so many times in my life even when I was surrounded by people.

– Could you let the grief go?
– Yes.
– Would you?
– Yes.
– When?
– Now.

I didn’t feel that hungry anymore. I could feel the emptiness in my stomach but without the fear and the grief, it didn’t have as much power over me. My mind was blown. If it was possible to release hunger, a profoundly physical experience, what else was possible?

I kept releasing emotions as they came up using the same technique throughout the whole 48 hours. I drank plenty of water and slept a lot, but otherwise felt clear and deeply connected to my core. After coming back from my little retreat I started practicing The Sedona Method multiple times a day, with every negative emotion that came up. A few months later I decided it would be easier for me if I built a little app to help me with the process. Wuju was born.

The app has evolved quite a bit since then and so has my understanding of emotions and how to work with them well. But the basic truth still blows my mind to this day – we don’t just feel emotions, we hold on to them. And if we allow ourselves to feel them, and then let them go – they go away.

If you haven’t tried Wuju yet, you’re in for a treat, and maybe a life changing experience.

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

The end of depression

“I shouldn’t have done that.” This was the first thought that popped into my head when I opened my eyes. I was laying on top of my mountain bike with my leg stuck awkwardly underneath it. It was broken. I’d been chasing a friend of mine who was about twice as good as I was, and it was my 3rd fall of the day. It was the last one too.

My friend helped me hobble to my car on my broken left ankle and get my bike in. Driving home (and shifting gears without using a clutch that my left leg couldn’t operate) I realized I couldn’t get up the stairs to my apartment. Shit. I needed help. I was 28, an Israeli army leutenant and a startup founder and I needed to ask my parents to take care of me because I couldn’t. My ego wasn’t liking it one bit.

The shame of the embarrasing fall, being immobile, the collapsing economy of late 2008 that caused our startup to grind to a halt and staying in my teenage room that I left with so much flair threw me into a serious bout of depression.

I couldn’t sleep at night, and I couldn’t wake up in the morning. I couldn’t think and I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t focus enough to watch movies or read books. I was running out of cash and needed to start looking for a job, but I just couldn’t get started. I didn’t answer my phone, even when my business partner or friends called to see how I was. I was in the shit.

I was thinking about this story the other day and wondered what would’ve happened if someone gave me a phone with Wuju running on it back then. I would’ve probably taken a look at the list of emotions, clicked on Apathy, saw that “Could you allow yourself to feel the apathy?” question and thrown the fucking phone at the fucking wall because why the hell would I want to do something like that?!! And then I would start to cry.

This could have been the beginning of my journey to heal from depression and reclaim my life. In reality it took another year, lots of meds and another full-on collapse before my journey began in earnest.

Depression might be the result of a chemical imbalance, it might be genetic, it might be the result of trauma or that your life is just shit. In my experience, none of that is even close to the root cause. After looking for answers for more than a decade, I reached a different conclusion:

Depression is our natural response to very powerful emotions, very powerfully repressed.

In Freud’s days the most powerfully repressed emotion was sexual desire, which was why he framed a lot of his thinking around it. In my own life, it’s usually been anger. For others it can be shame, or fear, or – as is the case in some religious families – doubt.

Our culture (and this seems to be true for most of the world, not just the West) only allows us to feel and express specific emotions at specific times. You can be sad at a funeral, angry at a football game or scared at the movies. But try to feel any emotion outside of its socially approved context and you’ll be ridiculed – by your own internal judge if not by the people around you.

We hear it all around us as we grow and we internalize a lot of it.

  • There’s nothing to be afraid of.
  • What are you getting all worked up for?
  • Don’t be so sad, it’s going to be OK.
  • Stop being so emotional!

Everywhere we turn we get told that our emotions are illogical, unreasonable, limit our ability to get ahead in life (or make money) and in general are a huge nuisance that we should ignore, rationalize away and suppress.

They are partially right. Emotions are indeed illogical, unreasonable, arise without cause, and, improperly managed, can cause havoc in our lives. And so, when they spontaneously arise we shove them into a little black box in the pit of our stomach. They accumulate and fester there until we need so much energy to keep everything bottled up that we have no will left for anything else, like taking a shower or brushing our teeth.

Exploring and safely expressing emotions is the common trait in most effective techniques that deal with depression. And when I say effective I mean truly healing, and not just aiding with suppression like SSRIs. Good therapy can help, so can good friends, although both have a limited capacity for our emotions as they typically are repressing some of their own. Therapeutic use of psychedelics can help too, although the experience can be quite violent.

And then there’s Wuju, the app I originally built to help with my own depression and has been helpful to many people since then.

If you’ve been depressed for a while and you want to try it, make sure you take it real slow. Start with Apathy or Tension, peel it back a bit and see what other emotions arise. Whatever arises, whether it’s Fear or Anger or Shame or anything else, go there, lean into it. If you need to throw your phone, aim it at a cushion, you might need it later. If you need to scream – scream, if you need to growl – growl, if you needed to cry – by all means, cry. Make sure you’re in a safe space where you can allow yourself to let go and give yourself all the time you need. You might need a blanket to wrap yourself up in, some water to drink, and a box of tissues. It can be intense, but it usually doesn’t last very long. And it feels amazing afterwards – like a great weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

The emotions will come back. They are our birthright, or most defining human trait and they carry a lot of hidden wisdom in them. You’ll need to come back to Wuju again and again, lean into whatever is going on, feel it, let it go, and then do it all over again. It’ll get easier over time and there will be less to work through, but I suspect it will never fully go away. I wouldn’t want to live without the richness of my emotions even if I have to “manage” them for the rest of my life, and I suspect the same might be true for you too.

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

I built an app to fix my depression

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was working on a startup in 2007. I went to the doctor, told him I was feeling mild flu symptoms for a couple of months, he asked me a few questions, determined that I had depression, gave my some SSRIs, and sent me home.

It worked for a while, but then 2008 happened, our startup collapsed, the stakes got higher and the depression came back. I tried different meds for a few years and every time life took a bad turn the doc recommended I up the dosage. I could see this how would eventually lead me to a straitjacket and started looking for other ways.

Over the years I tried various forms of therapy, studied and actively practiced life coaching, got married, had kids, moved to another country and changed everything I could think of about my life. Unfortunately the dark bouts of depression remained.

About four years ago I stumbled on a book called Highly Sensitive Person that absolutely blew my mind. I realized I had very intense emotions that I was culturally programmed to repress, which caused my psyche to overload and go into full apathy mode also known as depression.

I’ve been on a path to figure out how to process my emotions without repressing them and combined my personal experience with several non-mainstream techniques to build Wuju. It’s an online app that can help you tap into your hidden emotions and release them so they no longer influence your behaviour or cause depressive symptoms.

I’ve used it in the last 18 months to deal with parenting two kids, surviving infidelity, losing my job, starting a business, and managing covid anxiety. My longest bout of depression now lasts a couple of hours at most, and even that is pretty rare. Others have used the app to deal with loneliness, social media and porn addiction and a general sense of being stuck in a rut.

I can’t make any bold claims yet, but the stats I have from close to 1,000 people show that a single use of the app causes apathy, tension and fear to drop by about 70% and anger by almost 90%.

You can try it too:

You can try the app for free but full use is subscription based. If you need it but can’t afford it please ping me and we’ll figure something out.

Your mental health is your responsibility and this is an experimental tool that may or may not work for you.

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

How to stick to good habits without being hard on yourself

Say you decide to start meditating. You get one of those meditation apps that guide you gently through the process and get to it. You feel pretty good the first time. The second time feels nice as well. By the end of the week with 5 sesssions under your belt you think you’ve got it, the habit is locked in.

Then the weekend comes and you stay up late drinking beer with some friends (responsly keeping social distancing of course). The next morning your alarm goes off, reminding you of your morning sit. You snooze it. And then you snooze it again. By the time you get out of bed, the sun is up, it’s too warm, you’re hungry, the dishes from last night need washing and you convince yourself it’s OK to skip it – just today.

The next morning you wake up intending to restart your habit, but you feel some resistance. Your knees hurts and your mind is messy and you think maybe you’d skip another day. By day three of the pause, the guilt and shame set in and the doubt arives: Could you ever do it? Could you ever stick to anything? Could you ever amount to anything? By day four you decide that meditation isn’t for you and it might take years before you try it again.

Most guides on the internet will tell you to never skip that set on that first day of not feeling like it. But that’s impossible. We’re human beings, not machines. We fail and we need to work with that.

Of all the different ways to describe meditation, there is one I found particularly useful. Instead of viewing meditation as an exercise in clearing your mind, the teaching goes, it is the practice of returning your focus to the breath again and again. Importantly, meditation happens not when you’re already focused on the breath, but in that instant when you catch yourself lost in thought, and return your focus to the breath. It is this repetition of losing yourself in thought and then finding your way back again that trains your mind to be present and that’s where most of the benefits of meditation come from. Curiously enough, the same approach works on a higher level too. The meditation habit isn’t primarily about meditating daily. Instead it’s about about restarting your daily practice when you invariably lose it (often for reasons outside your control).

Now, this post isn’t about meditation, it’s about habits in general. And this approach is useful for any habit you want to set up. Learning how to restart habits after skipping a few days is more important than setting them up in the first place.

You’ll need to learn how to do four things:

  1. Forgive yourself when you skip a day (easy)
  2. Forgive yourself when you skip two days (harder)
  3. Forgive yourself when you skip three days (oof)
  4. Forgive yourself when you skip four days (yeah…)

This will give your natural motivation four whole days to resurface by which time you shouldn’t have a problem restarting the practice.

And if you meditate / exercies / eat well / write a thousand words only once every four days, it’s still a consistent habit. A few months of that will change you for good (and help you set tighter habits).

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

How fear of success causes procrastination

You probably know about the fear of failure, that impending sense of doom when looking at your goals, comparing them with your abilities, and finding them lacking. But that’s not the only thing that can get you stuck, frozen and unable to move. Fear of success can do it too.

But how’s that possible? The promise of success, you might think, is a powerful motivator that should get you going in the morning and keep you going until late at night. But that’s not all it is. Imagine someone who wants to climb mount Everest. They secure funding, build a team, train like crazy for a year or more all the while imagining that spectacular moment at sunrise on top of the highest mountain in the world, at the peak of their game. They imagine standing there, looking around and wondering – “OK, so now what?” That void, that sense of the future accomplishment combined with a devastating uncertainty of where you go next is what fear of success is about.

Turns out we’re not afraid of the actual success (which is why the title is a little misleading), we are instead afraid of the loss of identity that comes with it. If you’ve ever graduated, or got that job or that girl, or travelled to that exotic place you’ve always wanted to go, you probably experienced this. It is amazing for the first few hours or days, but then it fades leaving an emptiness in its stead. After defining yourself in terms of your ultimate goal for a long time, you suddenly don’t have that which leaves you a bit lost.

Your egoic minds recognizes this potential future and can try to sabotage your progress to keep you in the chase for as long as possible. And the harder you push to reach for your goal the more resistance you’re going to experience. So what can you do? You can’t stop pushing for your goals, can you? That won’t get you anywhere either.

The usual advice to try and enjoy the path, not the destination, applies of course. If you can find joy or peace in every step along the way and hold the goal gently without being too attached to it, the resistance should lessen considerably.

The other part is feeling your fear fully, deeply, and honestly. Find that knot in your belly, that tightness in your throat, that tingling in your elbows (yeah, don’t ask) and tune into it. Imagine yourself after having achieved your goal, staring at the void and the uncertainty. Brace yourself for the unknown. And dive in. By aiming at slightly beyond your goal, at the emptiness just after it, you’ll find the freedom you need to pursue your dreams.

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.

How fear of shame causes procrastination

You’ve got a big presentation to give in a month. All the big shots are going to be there, you’ve been working on this project for the last year and it’s going to be great. You can see the standing ovation, the accolades, the smiles. So why does day after day goes by without you starting to work on it? Why can’t you bear staring at that empty slide deck and the pull of YouTube videos is so strong? Why can’t you just sit your ass down and get to work?

What you’re experiencing is fear of shame. And even though the positive thinking part of you, reinforced by years of listening to well meaning productivity gurus, is generating the images of a standing ovation, the fearful, younger part of you is sensing the potential of crushing shame. The unplesant images don’t come as easily, but if you stay with the sensation you’ll probably note the tight throat, deer in the headlights, OMG what have I done feeling you’re dreading. The silence. The dubious looks. The desire to run away and hide under a bed.

And while you’re sitting here, getting angry at yourself for being on Reddit all day long for no reason at all, you’re missing the fact that there’s actually a profound reason for you to be running away from working on this presentation. Fear of shame is a very intense demotivator and is way sneakier and nastier than the actual experience of shame.

When we feel shame when we failed at something, it’s real, it’s strong and most of all – it’s justified. We know what happened, we know why we’re feeling this way and we usually aren’t judging ourselves for the feeling itself (just for the actions). It’s an awful sensation but because we’re not fighting it, it eventually goes away. Fear of shame on the other hand hides in the shadows and creates the perception that there’s no reason to feel what we’re feeling. So we fight it, or as is more commonly the case, we run away from it. And what’s a better place to run to than the autoplaying, autoscrolling, autoloading madness of YouTube, Netflix and Reddit?

Follow me @finereli where I write about emotional intelligence and mental health.