Interview with Debbie Fisher, iheart senior trainer

by 16 year-old Naomi

1.How did you get involved in iheart and how did it start?

About six years ago I heard Terry Rubenstein, iheart’s founder, speak at a conference in London about how to find resilience in the most challenging situations and I was so impressed. I was a teacher in a school at the time and realised this would be so valuable to be able to teach these concepts to my students. So my involvement goes back to the very beginning in 2016. A group of us realised that it would be very helpful to reach younger people to prevent lots of suffering before they became older. That way, we could be preventative, instead of managing people’s problems as adults.

2. How have the iheart principles changed you personally?

iheart has changed me. It has enabled me to uncover my own resilience in difficult times.

I will give you an example: last week, I was rushing out of my study on my way to teach an iheart session at a school and I flew across the floor and hurt my wrist badly. As I lay on the floor, I quickly filled up with false logic thinking: this is the worst thing ever! Poor me. Then I had an insight: this situation cannot take away my wellbeing. The human mind is not affected by our circumstances. My mind isn’t. So I picked myself up emotionally and physically and drove to the school to deliver the programme. On the way booked an x-ray appointment. I didn’t take painkillers; I gave the lesson and didn’t notice the pain. Then I went to the hospital and found out that it was a full fracture.

There are small and big examples like this every single day, when I tap into my own resilience. I can stay calm inside me. It is the most wonderful thing to know you are not dependent on someone to make you feel better or complimenting you to feel good.

3. Have you used the iheart principles in raising your own children?

iheart explains all human behaviour and I am always interested to see this with my own children. There are times when I forget that my wellbeing doesn’t depend on their behaviour. Recently, I was on my way to teach a programme and I asked my son to feed the dog. Later that night my other son called to ask who should feed the dog because he noticed the dog looked hungry. I realised then that the first son had forgotten to feed the dog! Believe you me, in that moment, I was not calm and quiet. My mind went into reactive mode and I started feeling angry and frustrated. Then I had another insight – this was an instance my own mind creating frustration and anger. The dog will be fed. It’s ok. Someone else will feed the dog. I had a choice. I didn’t have to be crazy.

4. My mom told me that it used to be common for people to get psychological help in their adult years, yet I see that in the iheart programme you focus on teenagers. Why?

Most young people have been taught that their wellbeing depends on other people’s opinions and on material things. They are looking in the wrong places for their wellbeing. They are looking for approval and validation on social media and through advertising.

Those who survived the horrors of the Holocaust over 75 years ago show us that we have resilience inside of us. Generations ago, people knew they could handle life’s challenges. It wasn’t the end of

the world when things didn’t go their way. People were more independent. Nowadays, most young people attach their wellbeing to social media and advertising.

5. I understand that teenagers are more depressed and anxious than they used to be. What do you think is the reason for the depression and anxiety?

Social media has amplified and intensified the obsession with what other people think about you. Teenagers need to look a certain way and to have certain things to gain approval. This is covering up their innate wellbeing. It is an illusion.

6. Normally psychology methods and treatments work one-to-one. Your programme does a lot of group and classroom work. What is the advantage of group work?

In a classroom a student can learn from every person in the room. Every student has an opportunity to share their understanding. This creates a rich learning environment with peers and the conversation becomes very deep. You learn from everyone, not just the teacher.

7. Why is iheart focussing a lot on schools?

When students are calm and more at peace with themselves, they are better learners. They participate more, have more confidence and are motivated to learn. Schools knows that students are struggling, and they can’t improve academically until the students’ wellbeing is taken care of. When that is taken care of, the students naturally become better learners.

8. Why do you think that people believe they are not responsible for their own wellbeing?

If you believe your wellbeing is dependent on things you have, like your environment, other people, etc, then your logic tells you that you don’t have to take personal responsibility for your own wellbeing. That’s when you start to look in the wrong places to feel better, but it becomes exhausting and is a never-ending search.

9. I saw on one of your videos an interview with a girl who was about 8 or 9 years old and she was talking about iheart. I was surprised that she could understand the concepts. Do you find it difficult to teach children that age about wellbeing?

Not at all. My experience is that adults generally think they have the answers, but young people have open minds and adapt quickly without any difficulty. Young people can think very deeply.

10. I hear iheart is coming to Israel. Do you think it will be successful here? What are the plans for the organisation in Israel?

I do think iheart will be successful in Israel. Israelis face real life-threatening challenges daily and there is a huge need for young people to develop these skills. The creation of the State of Israel is living proof of resilience.

Let me tell you the story of the missing watch: There once was a farmer who lost an extremely valuable heirloom watch in his barn. He searched everywhere but couldn’t find it. He even enlisted help from the local children. They also looked all over the barn but couldn’t find the watch anywhere. Then a little boy, the youngest of all the children, approached the farmer and asked him for a final chance to find the watch. The farmer agreed and the little boy entered the barn on his own. After a short while, the boy emerged holding the watch. The surprised farmer asked him how he found it. The boy replied: “I did nothing. I simply sat on the floor in the middle of the barn. And listened. And in the complete quiet of the empty barn, I heard the ticking of the watch. Then I just went in the direction of that sound and found it.”

The answers are found in the silence of our minds. That’s where we can find our wellbeing. iheart shows us where to look and where not to look, and why we sometimes forget that it is inside of us in the first place.


Naomi’s comments on her interview with Debbie:

· My teachers and the school principal are constantly talking about how our words can destroy a girl, but I know now from iheart that is not true. I am responsible for the way I feel – it can’t come from the outside.)

· I did not know a lot of this information beforehand. For example: why it is important to work in with groups of young people? I learned that children can learn from each other and not just the teacher.

· I was quite surprised to learn that even younger children can understand these concepts and are deep thinkers.

· Debbie explained that Holocaust survivors had an innate resilience that enabled them to pick themselves up and create a new life. I had never thought about it in this way.

· I found the story about the little boy and the watch helpful. The boy did not have to do anything but listen inside himself to hear the watch ticking.

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