An interview with Stephen Gilligan – Part 2

Today’s Musings


Hi all…
Living in Thailand gives me a much greater sense of living with nature than I have ever had before. Even though I have traveled throughout much of the world, I still am very definitely a “city boy” and thus living here is proving to be a new and exciting experience. Here is some of what I have been noticing and thinking about…

When you live in a place where it never really gets cold and there is a lot of rain as well, then everything just grows, and grows, and grows. With a fair amount of the greenery in the compound I live in, you can notice growth on a daily basis. Having grown up in New York City, I am familiar with the saying “The city never sleeps,” but here in Thailand I think a better saying would be “The vegetation never sleeps.” Sometimes living here seems a bit like an Alfred Hitchcock movie because everything just keeps on growing and taking over more and more space, including attaching to the walls of my house. I had a dream the other night that I slept for a week and upon waking up vines were blocking most of the light from coming in through my windows. Dreams are rarely if ever, true to life!

I am finding it hard to know what is a weed and what is a plant that has been added by our gardener. On two occasions I went around the compound with our landlord and said “Why don’t I pull this out before it overtakes the space?” and her reply to my queries was, “Oh no, don’t pull that out, that is a plant we use for cooking.” So I have started to pay more attention to some of my neighbors when they are out working in their yards, and it is becoming clear to me that there is a lot of local vegetation that is part of the basic Thai diet. It pleases me to see people living in harmony with nature.

Being that it is always either warm or hot here, the housing is not at all airtight, and that means that I have a number of creatures that share my house with me. I am guessing that I have at least a half dozen geckos in the house at any one time. I find these “guys” to be cute and they do help in eating whatever insects they can get ahold of. I have been tempted to go to a local pet shop and see if they sell “gecko food”. Feeding them would be my way of saying thanks, but then I realized they might no longer bother to eat the insects in my house.  I had a bit of a startle response today when I opened my mailbox and a gecko jumped out!

Yesterday I found my first toad inside my house and I must admit that I got a bit squeamish. I was pretty certain it couldn’t bite, but “Who knows what this beast might be capable of!” so I called in my neighbor knowing that he is a toad enthusiast and he trapped the little critter and set him (or her?) free out in the garden.

Part of my neighbor’s consideration in liberating the toad was to not leave it in a place where one of the local cats would have easy access to it. The cats in my neighborhood are another source of learning for me. I have a number of small screens in my house that slide open and closed and I was surprised to find two of the screens partially opened the last couple of days. My first thought was, “Hmm, it hasn’t been all that windy, so I can’t imagine how these screens got opened.” Well today I went to my upstairs bedroom to get a piece of clothing, and there was a local cat napping on my bed! Turns out that the cats have learned over time how to scratch the screen open, and they do the same with some of my neighbors as well. I don’t so much mind seeing a cat in my room but open screens lead to mosquitos coming into my house, which definitely is not fun when it comes time for me to sleep.

So I must say I am currently at a loss for what to do. If I keep all the windows closed the house becomes too hot. Keep the windows open and I am bound to be sharing the house with cats and mosquitos. All of which left me consideingr how I could benefit from these tiny challenges. Which lead me to an idea for a new business- Gecko rentals! I could gather and train a troupe of geckos to go into houses and consume whatever insects and other critters are there, and charge a few dollars a month for this service. But prior to starting up such an enterprise, I think I would need to figure out what to do with all the of the tiny “droppings” the geckos invariably leave behind. Hmm, do you have any ideas that might prove useful here? If so, we could perhaps become business partners.

Today’s Learning


With today’s podcast, we are finishing up the interview with Stephen Gilligan, who is a licensed Psychologist practicing in California and has developed his own method of therapy called “Generative Self.” If you didn’t catch the first half, we suggest you go here and have a listen first.

Having been an active participant in the interview with Stephen Gilligan, I have listened to today’s recording a number of times, and I feel that there is a lot of great information presented in a friendly format. Here are some of the themes that stand out the most for me:

The meaning of everything that takes place in your life depends on your belief system and frame of mind. Break your arm in early life and this might lead to your studying physical therapy as a profession. Or, it could lead to your forever complaining about how clumsy you are. Get kicked off your high school basketball team as a freshman because the coach felt you just weren’t good enough, and this could lead to your feeling and acting like a failure for years to come. Or you could instead use this early failure as the fuel that feeds your fire of personal determination, much like Michael Jordan did. The choice is always yours to make, whether you realize it or not.

In a number of our podcasts, Tony and I have talked about “positive intention”- believing that someone does what they do for reasons that are meant to be helpful and life affirming. Sometimes it takes a good deal of soul searching to come up with someone’s positive intention, but we believe it is crucial to do so. In his own words Stephen said much the same. In our model of the world/our belief system, we believe that people always have positive intentions, but often we have less than stellar strategies for fulfilling our intentions.

Another theme was- Believing that we all belong to numerous highly intelligent systems. Universe, earth, nature, the various communities we belong to… especially “the community of self”. Stephen and I talked at length about how every aspect of every one of us has the propensity to be highly intelligent and life affirming. In our work with clients Stephen and I both often ask “In regard to the health challenge you have, what is the deeper life affirming message your somatic self is attempting to communicate to you?” In other words, “What is the positive intention hidden behind your presenting symptoms?” These are not easy questions to answer but if you believe that your entire system really wants you to be healthy, you might discover that the illness you have can wind up being a great gift. Maybe not a gift that you would ever ask for, but a gift nonetheless… as Stephen would say “a terrible gift”.

Much of what we talked about in our interview with Stephen was built upon the understanding that “life is not necessarily easy” and we of course know this from our own personal experiences. Sometimes what takes place in our lives is hard to come to terms with. In my coaching practice I particularly like to work with people who are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, be it a serious injury or illness, or a business situation that has really gone sour. One of the first things I listen for is my clients determination. It is not uncommon to have someone say, “Gee, what you are suggesting to do won’t be easy.” A common response by me will be “Yes, likely the way forward won’t be easy. Do you want to go for it nonetheless? Accomplishing something great is rarely if ever, easy.” In conversations with friends and clients I often like to playfully say “Life is a full time activity.” I am not sure that we ever get to fully retire and take it easy. Indeed many people who live a long life always have something new that they are wanting to accomplish or create.

We talked about a number of other topics as well, and it is our hope that you will listen to what we have to say and draw inspiration for your life going forward.

You can click the button to read an outline of the interview and also listen to Part Two. Enjoy!

Podcast - stephen gilligan part 2

In Community,

One thought on “An interview with Stephen Gilligan – Part 2

  1. briancullen

    Thanks for that lovely piece, Charlie. You had me totally there in Thailand hanging out with the geckos and cats and mosquitos. And now I get to go to Gilligan-Land, one of my favourite places, and not just because there are no mosquitos.


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