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Your Survival Instinct Is Killing You: Retrain Your Brain to Conquer Fear, Make Better Decisions, and Thrive in the 21st Century Hardcover – March 21, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


Recommended for best in self-help reading
—, January 24, 2013 
“Compelling. Readers with an interest in the mind-body connection will find this guide to better health compelling. Schoen does an excellent job in explaining the complicated science behind them.”
—USA Today
“[Reprogram] the brain to no longer equate discomfort with imminent danger, and achieve a state of ease despite life’s inevitable hardships.”
—Wall Street Journal
 “Schoen provides exercises and techniques to tame the anxiety monster and the mayhem it causes. Relief is in sight.”
—Success Magazine
“A useful new book. So many solopreneurs are held back by often-irrational fears — if this is true for you then this book is for you.”
“What you'll learn: You have the power to change areas of your life that you may previously have thought were impossible to control, whether it's how you age, how you deal with stressful situations or that "need" for a third helping of ice cream before bed.  A book that can enhance every aspect of your life, from your mind to your body to your spirit.”
“Discomfort training (which helps people conquer their fear and make better decisions) would unquestionably lead to substantial improvements in worker productivity, performance and health. Train your brain to lift decision making.”
—Investor’s Business Daily
“Amazing. I love this book.”
— Patricia Fitzgerald, Huffington Post
“This book can improve your outlook on life”
—Scientific American
“[This book is] short on theory and long on practical tips you can actually use. One let me reduce my heart rate by 6 to 8 bpm in less than a minute. Take that, Zen masters!   Need to better manage discomfort and stress so you can perform better? (Wait--why am I asking? Who doesn’t?)  This is your book.”        
—INC Magazine

“This book is outstanding...  Dr. Schoen is unconventional, and so is this book.  Ancient wisdom with new findings in brain research lead to a startling conclusion: What has allowed our species to survive is driving us crazy.  There is something you can do about it—read this book, and follow its advice. Reading this book is like having a conversation with Dr. Schoen and that can change your life.”  
—David Logan, Ph.D., New York Times #1 bestselling coauthor of Tribal Leadership and The Three Laws of Performance.  Professor, USC (University of Southern California) Marshall School of Business
“Dr. Marc Schoen knows what it takes to be resilient and healthy in these modern times. It is not, as some would have you believe, to replace feelings of pain and discomfort with feelings safety and comfort, but rather to allow these seemingly incompatible feelings to sit side by side to inform and shape one another. Grounded in solid theory and evidence as well as engaging stories, including his own, this book is a must-read for any one facing mysterious physical ailments.”
—Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., author of Positivity and Love 2.0
“I know so well how easy it is to fall into the trap of using food, addictions, or other forms of avoidance as protection from my fears of being uncomfortable. Reading Dr. Schoen’s book was challenging.  It felt so close to home—almost too close and personal in fact.  Yet as I came to understand the message of this book, it became so much more obvious to me.  This book is about the unavoidable - being uncomfortable.   Dr. Schoen’s book offers a gift:  How to successfully manage your discomfort and fears, and equally as important, how to use the discomfort in your life as a vehicle for empowerment.”       
—Carnie Wilson, Celebrity, Singer, TV host, and author of Gut Feelings, I'm Still Hungry and To Serve With Love
“Dr. Schoen puts his attention to the discomfort, disappointment, worry and impatience that influence the quality of our lives profoundly but about which science and medicine are so often silent.  He does a brilliant job of connecting brain research and our every day coping strategies.  Readers will find new ways of understanding and mobilizing the mind/body connection for stress management.”
—Sara Latz, JD, MD 
UCLA Clinical Professor of Medicine
UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior 
“The essence of success is age old....Work Hard, Work Smart and Manage Your Fear. Dr. Schoen has unlocked the essence of fear and discomfort management. This is a must read for any human that has ever started or thought of starting their own business. A fast paced impact treatise for everyone who wants to win!”
—Robin Richards, CEO of Vivendi Universal Net USA, founding president, COO, and Director of, Inc., Chairman and CEO,, Inc. Magazine's 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year Award
“Dr. Schoen, an experienced hypnotherapist, has written an informative book to counter stress and heal your body. He teaches you to develop positive habits and lead a more powerful, productive life.”
—Judith Orloff, MD, best selling author of Emotional Freedom, Second Sight, and Positive Energy
Assistant Clinical Professor, UCLA Geffen School of Medicine

“Not only is Your Survival Instinct is Killing You endlessly fascinating and readable, but it has applicability to every human being, young or old.  This book actually fills you with hope, while giving you the tools you need to create the changes you want—and is filled with insights and useful examples about what makes us tick.”
—Betsy Brown Braun, Child Development and Behavior Specialist, author of the bestselling book Just Tell Me What to Say and You’re Not the Boss of Me
 “Most of us make the mistake of thinking that life is all about happiness—not realizing that so much of what we see, feel, and do is colored not by the desire to be happy, but by the very real and hard-wired need to be safe. Until we understand this basic fact about ourselves—and, thanks to Dr. Schoen, what we can do about it - we can't begin to truly thrive.”
—Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., author of Succeed and co-author of Focus
This is an incredibly informative, exciting and useful book for lay readers concerned about their own health as well as healthcare professionals treating patients wishing to learn a new approach.  Dr. Schoen explains how we can develop a new relationship with “discomfort”, which is at the heart of ill health and compromised performance.  This book is written in a style that is as if you were having a conversation with Dr. Schoen.   He brilliantly explains much of the current scientific research in ways that a non-scientist can understand.
Larry Drell, MD
Medical Director
Anxiety and Depression Therapy Services
Washington, DC
"Dr. Schoen does a great job of using real patient stories to show how our mind and body are inseparable.  Through his insights, readers will better understand how our reactions to life's challenges can trigger some of our most challenges health problems.  They will also gain some valuable tools for combating their complex medical issues."
Steven Tann MD
UCLA Clinical Professor of Medicine
“In a world with more creature comforts, we see more impatience, discomfort, anxiety and depression. In a world that provides us tools for connection, the paradox is that we are technologically hyper-connected yet disconnected from ourselves. What is the effect of being on alert constantly—handling a barrage of emails, texts, and a never ending to do list? In Your Survival Instinct Is Killing You, Dr. Marc Schoen reveals the effects of living in a constant state of fight or flight and details the toll that this lifestyle is taking on our health. Fortunately, Dr. Schoen also provides brilliant insights and practical tools on how to counteract the effects of these 21st century stressors. This is a must read for anyone who is overwhelmed with the demands of modern life and needs a way out before it's too late—in effect, this is a must read for everyone!”
Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, DAOM, LAc, CCN
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Medical Director, Santa Monica Wellness Center
Author, The Detox Solution
Health Editor, Huffington Post

About the Author

Marc Schoen, Ph.D., is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA Geffen School of Medicine.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press (March 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594630976
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594630972
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The problem this book deals with is nothing new. Stress or "discomfort" using the term of the author is killing us. It's an adaptation that no longer servers us in the modern and relatively safe world. Nothing new there.

The author however has some interesting and very practical advice on how to connect these feelings of discomfort with other positive feelings such as a challenge in order to mitigate their harmful effects and even in fact turn them into a positive. Some of his "fifteen" techniques aren't anything new such as taking technology breaks and connecting with real people. However he does introduce some rather unique and useful ideas.

This book has Amazon's "Search Inside" feature and I recommend you take advantage of it and preview the book before you buy.

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D. Schultz on April 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is brilliant! I encourage one to read and re-read it. While its title initially intrigued me, it almost made me turn away. The thought that something within me, which is innately designed to help me survive, could also be turning against me was troubling. Turns out, my close-call with avoidance of reading this book (a potential uncomfortable experience) is exactly the book's point. We're all becoming increasingly uncomfortable with being uncomfortable, so we avoid it at all costs. If I'm correctly understanding the premise, our non-stop, multi-tasking, never-slow-down world, where our brain rarely gets a break, is setting off a series of chemical reactions between the limbic and cerebral parts of our brain, causing us to be in higher states of what Schoen calls agitance, ultimately causing our survival instinct to be set on code red 24/7. Imagine, always being in fight or flight mode.

So, naturally, we work to avoid discomfort (what our brain is translating as life-threatening), and maladaptive habits form, such as addictions, compulsive disorders, physical illnesses, insominia, protective and avoidance habits, etc. The more we avoid uncomfortable experiences, the less tolerance we develop for being uncomfortable, causing our limbic brain (the emotional part of the brain) to view all forms of discomfort as fear, and a threat to our survival. To make matters worse, the limbic brain is innately designed to bypass the cerebral (logic) brain when survival is at risk. So, logic is literally bypassed.

I like how thoroughly Schoen explains what is happening in our heads. It's empowering.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Book-Movie-Music Lover on July 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Everyone's looking for ways to solve their problems and alleviate the pain in their lives. The current rage in New Age books is to suggest that you can achieve a perfectly happy life by "just thinking positive thoughts." Do that, and everything will work out. "Read our books. Attend our seminars. Buy our tapes. Do what we say, and life will be glorious."
Of course, this drivel doesn't work. If it did, people would stop buying these books, because their problems would have been solved, and their pain would have been relieved.
"Your Survival Instinct is Killing You" turns all of this nonsense on its head. And it does so without the author even feeling a need to point the finger at New Age silliness. He focuses on what does work, not what doesn't.
The book's basic premise can be summarized in one sentence, straight off page 26 of the book: "You need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable."
From there, the author skillfully explains why it is important to experience life as it is, and then respond appropriately.
I won't give away his insights and solutions, but, trust me, they are remarkable. I have read thousands of books in my life, and only rarely do I find one that offers truly new and useful information. This is definitely one of them.
Congrats to the author. This is masterful work.
I know that a lot of people who write books and release movies ask their friends and family members to write glowing "reviews" on this site to beef up sales. Feel free to click on my "See All My Reviews" link, and you will find that I am not one of those shills. I am a completely independent and objective reviewer. I don't even know the author.
This is just a really good book that will change your life if you follow the author's recommendations.
It will be especially useful to New Age devotees who are tired of "doing nothing" and wondering why life doesn't work out.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Shark on March 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm a trial lawyer, a transactional lawyer, and a real estate investor. I've spent decades making tough, high-stakes decisions under pressure. I have sought out and tried many stress-management resources with varied success. While this book is so much more than "just another stress management" book (it's really more of a life management book), I was most interested in how I could use these strategies in my law practice and real estate investment decision-making. This proved to be a fast read, with many illustrative case studies to get out of the academic theory into the real world, and provides several strategies I have not heard of before, that I put into practice immediately with great results. I give this my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.
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