My grandma died a few days ago.

She died at the ripe age of 91, but she didn’t die from old age. No, she died from emotions she couldn’t let go.

A little over 30 years ago, on a cold day in April 1990, my parents and I were leaving Russia for Israel. We were leaving everything and everyone behind and going towards the unknown.

For people who lived behind the iron curtain, the West was an unfathomable fairytale land of beauty and possibility, but the gates only worked in one direction.

At the time there was no telephone service between the countries, no travel, no possibility to visit, and even letters took ages to get delivered not to mention opened and read by KGB officials.

This was a sort of goodbye you say when someone goes to fight in a war somewhere far away. There’s no way to know if you’d ever see them again.

I was 10 years old at the time and I remember very little, by my grandma lived through that day again and again for the next 30 years. How she sat by my bed, her only grandson at the time, awake through the night, holding my hand, afraid to let go.

The sense of anger, the betrayal and the loss stayed with her. She never forgave my father (her son) for leaving. She never accepted how much better life was for us in Israel than it could ever be in Russia.

She became more and more depressed over the years. As I grew up and started my own personal and then professional journey into depression, I tried to talk to her, tried to help.

I even tried to get her to drink some St. John’s Wart tea when I visited (it helped me a lot for a few years and there’s research backing it’s efficacy). She didn’t want any. She didn’t want to feel any better.

She held on to her sorrow and misery with an intensity that my love couldn’t match and eventually I gave up too.

Her husband, my 95 year old grandpa, stayed by her side and took care of her as she withered away. She took out her frustrations on him, called him names, disrespected him, yelled at him. And yet he stayed and kept taking care of her.

He desperately wanted to move to Israel to be with his children and grandchildren. She refused. He stayed with her.

For the last 6 months she barely got out of bed. She was still physically able to, but she didn’t have the will. The emotional pain exhausted her. About a week ago she lost consciousness, never to wake up.

She lived the last 30 years in a state of excruciating emotional pain. And even though she tried to talk about it every chance she got, no one around her could take the depth of her misery and the intensity of her bitterness.

I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you grandma. I’m sorry I couldn’t find a way to help. I’m sorry that I was far away. I’m angry that you couldn’t put your pride aside and come live with us in Israel. But I understand.

There’s a silver lining to this story. My grandpa is coming to live in Israel. He’s  fucking amazing. He’s 94, almost blind and barely able to walk and yet he’s organizing the funeral, selling their possessions and getting ready to move to a different country.

He’s going to have a few blissful months or maybe years surrounded by family. He’s earned it.

Grandpa Mark, you’re fucking awesome!


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

Digging deep

I was driving with my wife down a narrow mountain road in British Columbia. We were passing through a mountain range full of old silver mines back from the silver rush of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. These old mines got me thinking.

Say you’re digging for silver. You start at one spot that seems promising and keep digging and digging with singleminded focus. You go deeper and deeper, determined, optimistic, yet you don’t find anything.

Your friend on the next hill over is taking a completely different approach. Every day he finds a new spot and digs there until sundown. The next day, he starts digging at a new spot. He only ever digs 8 or 10 feet deep, but he digs in a lot of places.

Which one is going to strike gold (or in this case, silver)?

The real answer is – neither. Silver typically appears at about 50 feet (totally made-up number) so your friend’s micro-mines are coming up empty. But silver also comes in randomly distributed patches in the ground. So your single deep hole is unlikely to yield anything either.

There’s a third way. This reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a guy I served in the military with. I was 19 years old and still had a black-or-white outlook on life. “You can either study one subject in depth, or many subjects superficially,” I said.

“You’re wrong,” he replied. He was a bit older and a tad wiser. “You can study a decent number of subjects to a significant depth.” He later proved his point by successfully pursuing three different Masters degrees – at the same time.

Digging deeply, but not too deeply, in multiple places, but not too many, seems to be the answer. I suspect it holds true for financial investment, for finding the right market for your product and for choosing topics to build a Twitter audience around.

This could even be applied as an argument to having multiple children or engaging in polyamory.

But I might be pushing the metaphor.

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

A product-market misfit

A couple of weeks ago I went through a bit of a depressed state because I realized Wuju wasn’t really working out. I wasn’t able to latch onto an audience or the right kind of clientele.

When I came out of it I decided that I needed to do a little bit more research about Product Market Fit because obviously I didn’t have it. I read a few articles, and an e-book about this and the most important takeaway for me was I needed to talk to my current customers and ask them this very specific question:

How disappointed would you be if you couldn’t use Wuju anymore?

I was going to use that to find the people who are using the app to its full potential then lean into that and make it amazing for them. That was the main takeaway from how to find PMF, and I was really excited.

I sent out some surveys and reached out to some people that I thought were using Wuju on a daily basis. Turns out they weren’t actually using Wuju on a daily basis. In fact very few people responded to my survey and out of those who did only two or three said they would be very disappointed if they couldn’t use it anymore.

Not only did I not have the amount of users I thought I did based on my rose-tinted interpretation of my usage statistics, the ones who were using it weren’t using it that much and definitely didn’t depend on it. I thought I had two or three dozen people using Wuju. Turned out I had maybe three or four people using it consistently outside of myself, my wife and my 7-year-old son.

This was another emotional slump, because not only don’t I have product market fit, I don’t even have enough users to figure out what that product market fit might be. And this is after spending a year on various forms of marketing and audience engagement and after having maybe like 2,500, maybe 3000 people try the app out.

So it’s not clicking. Obviously people are looking for a solution to their depression and anxiety, but , whatever I’m doing requires a level of awareness and experience with meditation and a kind of introspective ability and a level of personal responsibility and discipline that most people just don’t have.

So now I am back to square one or even square zero. And I have this understanding that while Wuju is is a really wonderful piece of tech when used correctly, it’s not a product, at least not a product that could be sold to anyone, yet.

In its current form it is a tool that requires lots and lots of skill to use and lots of discipline that most people just don’t have. And now I’m regretfully and painfully moving away from Wuju the product and the Wuju name.

I’m stil passionate about the realm of emotional wellbeing and mental growth and now I’m looking for a problem to solve that has a few attributes:

It’s a problem people know they have, which is different from a problem they don’t know they have. It’s a problem they already perceive as difficult and challenging and maybe even debilitating, or causing pain.

There’s a group of these people who talk to each other in some way, shape or form so it’s not just, you know, one person here, one person there, and the only way I can reach them is with massive ad campaigns. And ideally these people would have some baseline of introspective capability or experience.

And I’m trying my best to not come up with a solution before I identify a proper problem, which is much harder to do than I anticipated.

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

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 meaningful 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 eat. 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, Yahwhe, 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.

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.