Noted author, and rabbinical leader Dr. Abraham Twerski, an Orthodox Jew; and, Tom Gagliano, whose roots are Italian Catholic and who is a high profile leader and successful entrepreneur in the field of addiction and self-help therapy, have joined forces to create this book, “The Problem was Me”(Gentle Path Press –July 2011). Tom Gagliano and Abraham Twerksi inspire readers to silence their inner voice of self-doubt and fear and begin living proactive, satisfying lives.
Tom Gagliano has developed unique methods and procedures that have been embraced by doctors, institutions and patients to help individuals deal with their childhood wounds. Besides his valuable psychological insight from his life experiences, Tom holds a Master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University.
Besides helping those with destructive behaviors, this book will also bring an understanding to many of us with loved ones who act in ways where they sabotage their own happiness when it comes their way. Also this book will provide some with a blueprint, a blueprint to give our children the healthy messages that may have been denied to many of us.
In a Q/A session, Tom discusses his book, his connection with Dr. Twerski, and the three essential elements that a person needs in order to change their destructive messages.
How does a successful business man decide to write a self-help book?
About ten years ago, I started to spend less time in the business world and more time helping those who suffered like I had from addictive behaviors. I had been in recovery for many years and had spent time going to 12 step meetings, retreats, and therapy groups. Through my life experiences and the insights I’ve gained in my journey with recovery, I developed certain techniques which I applied to help others. I started groups in a school on Sundays and in my house, free of charge. Some of the therapist whose clients came to this group wanted to meet with me to discuss my methodology, as they started to see a difference in their clients. One night I had dinner with two gentlemen who attended one of these groups and they suggested I write a book telling my story and the story of others that have found a better life using these techniques. As always, I went to my support group for guidance and they encouraged and supported this idea.
I see your book contains a chapter on spirituality. Because of this spiritual focus, how would someone who is an agnostic or atheist benefit from reading the book?
This book is not designed to sell spirituality, rather it is a book designed to help anyone free themselves from the childhood messages that have created harmful results to themselves and those around them. Whether this creates a trust in a higher power or not, this book will help the person examine the ways they sabotage happiness when it comes their way. I changed my perspective from believing all higher powers were angry and vindictive to finding a loving higher power. In the meantime, I changed my perspective on people as well.
Can you briefly describe the methodology you use in your groups that makes them so successful?
I use two forms of written assignments to help participants achieve success. The goal of the first assignment is to increase people’s self-awareness as to how they became who they are today. In addition to increasing self-awareness, the second written assignment suggests ways to take healthy actions which will contradict the commands that their internal critic, who I call the warden, commands them to play.
In your book, you talk about a warden? Who is this warden?
My warden is a fictitious character who sits on my shoulder with a bat. He is an internal critic that swings his bat at me whenever I make mistakes; he negates my ability to have compassion for myself. He creates a belief in me that mistakes are intolerable. The warden caused me to identify myself as a mistake, not just the incident at hand. The warden instilled a very peculiar definition of intimacy in my belief system. He showed me all the ways to avoid intimacy (closeness and trust) because the message I received was that intimacy was painful and should be avoided.
What was one of the AH HA moments in your life?
Surprisingly, even after years of recovery, I still did not trust people, believing no one did anything nice for anyone unless they had a payoff. At my father’s funeral, I was shocked to find so many of the men and women I knew in recovery had arrived there to support me. A feeling of warmth overwhelmed me. They were there for me, I was important to them. I never felt this in childhood. That night I felt special. This is when I decided to give back anything I had to help others who suffered from childhood wounds.
How is your book different from other self-help books?
My book gets to the underlying reasons we act the way we do. In order to find inner peace we need to become aware of our childhood messages and the ways these messages create intrusive inner voices in our adult life. These inner voices created by the warden chain us to play roles that can be harmful to the person and those around them. My book increases this awareness in a way that is different from other books. It answers the question, “How did we get to point A in our lives, and then to point B, C, and D?” If we just start at point D in our lives, we won’t understand how we became who we are. Without this level of awareness we may never find compassion for ourselves and those around us. We need to learn the way to love ourselves if we are to allow the love of others into our lives.
Who could benefit from reading your book?
Anyone who struggles with a negative self-image, self-hatred, or intimacy issues will find that this book can change their perceptions. The stories in my book will show the ways people can come to understand that they are not bad people who deserve to be punished, but rather discouraged people who need help. This book will also supply parents with a blueprint on the ways to give their children positive messages that might have been denied to them in their childhood. Finally, this book can bring an understanding to many of us who have loved ones that refuse help and love when it is offered to them.
How did it come to be that you would connect with the “most famous psychiatrist in Pittsburgh” Dr. Twerski?
Dr. Abraham Twerski is a friend of someone who attended my group. This person set up a meeting between me and Dr. Twerski. I asked him for guidance as I never wrote a book before. He is a very kind and humble man who told me he was in the middle of writing his own books but would try to find time to eventually read mine and offer feedback. A few weeks later, he left a message on my cell phone telling me this book needs to be published not only for addicts but also for all others and clinicians as well. I kept this message on my cell phone for a very long time.
You discussed three essential elements that a person needs to change their destructive messages. Can you briefly discuss them?
First, you need awareness for a person to understand what is broken inside in order to know what needs to be fixed. Secondly, one needs to take healthy actions. Awareness alone will not change anything. If a person does what they always did, they will get what they always got. Most of the time, the person will not feel like doing these actions but they have to do what is uncomfortable to do. Thirdly, you need maintenance. If these actions are not maintained, the warden’s voice will grow in intensity and the people will once again become chained to his commands. In essence, without awareness you cannot take positive actions, and without positive actions, there is nothing to maintain.
Was there a book which inspired you to write this book?
I was reading a book called the “The Purpose Driven Life” and there was a section which stated that the people you trust most in your life will help direct you on your true calling. I read this at the same time I went to my support group for guidance on the book I wrote. I also went back to college after 27 years for a master’s of social work at Rutgers University. I could not have achieved either of these goals without my support group and family holding me up when the warden was trying to pull me down. “The Purpose Driven Life” was the book that helped me put my trust in others.