Finding Your Mojo

Service for Those Who Are “Nervous in the Service”

There are many reasons to seek help from therapists, just as there are many symptoms and conditions that cause distress and prompt people to pursue relief. In addition to the variety of diagnoses and ailments afflicting those seeking assistance, people visit therapists to find direction, gain insight and advice, get support and validation, and overcome obstacles to personal development. People want to feel better, perform better, and make good decisions.

Psychologists and other mental health practitioners often “label” disorders and conditions according to traditional diagnostic methods and nomenclature and also according to the categories and biases of their own experiences. Therapists develop their own “style” of treatment, whether it’s a conventional approach or an individualized “eclectic” blend. Nevertheless, the implicit agreement between therapist and patient involves the goals of relieving the patient’s expressed concerns and symptoms.

Though methods and modalities vary, such goals as reducing or eliminating depression or anxiety are examples of therapeutic efforts that most patients can measure with regard to the demonstrated efficacy of the applied treatment. As a veteran psychologist, I’m accustomed to listening carefully to patients and helping them identify and articulate desires and objectives that create a clear path and an effective plan for the productive resolution of their issues.

Occasionally, patients present with an anguished but indistinct plea for assistance with a diffuse but, nonetheless, profound problem that is interfering with the quality of their lives. Some of these patients specifically request that I help them “find their Mojo.”

As you can imagine, “finding the Mojo” is not established in sanctioned treatment plans, nor is it taught in graduate schools or recognized by insurance companies. It may be a patient’s attempt to express certain hard-to-identify and vague maladies, symptoms, and complaints that are intruding on the person’s capacity to attain contentment and a sense of fulfillment. But just what specifically is a “Mojo,” and is it a legitimate focus of treatment and an identifiable problem with achievable solutions?

In popular jargon, Mojo refers to a magical charm or a magnetic quality denoting something desirable. People commonly use the term Mojo to connote being on-track, having motivation, direction, or zest, and the capacity to move forward with one’s interests, needs, and agendas. When an individual feels lost, overwhelmed, confused, or hopeless for some time, he may voice, “I’ve lost my Mojo.” Alas, a seeming disappearance of verve, zest, direction, and purpose is replaced by a swirl of confusion over the reason for being.

When someone is “in the zone” and moving productively forward with vim and vigor, he might use a famous line from an old blues song that aptly describes his spirited state of mind: “I’ve got my Mojo working…”

(Got My Mojo Working is a blues song written by Preston Foster and first recorded by Ann Cole in 1956. Muddy Waters popularized it in 1957, and the song was a feature of his performances throughout his career. A mojo is an amulet or talisman associated with hoodoo, an early African-American folk-magic belief system. Rolling Stone magazine included Waters’ rendition of the song is on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time at number 359. In 1999, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave it a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and it is identified on the list of “Songs of the Century.”)

What do we do, then, to help someone who has “lost his Mojo?”

Well, well… here we are at the intersections of behavioral science, technology, philosophy, and spirituality—junctions at which I find myself constantly. It is in this familiar and often bedazzling environment that I live my life, searching for meaning, trying to anchor it with instructions and landmarks to science and measurement, while intending to lead my patients out of the woods.

Helping people find their Mojo is what I do—though we often start with more modest, step-by-step progressions. The presenting complaint/request to “find one’s mojo” is at once both vague and unscientific and brash and brazen—like asking for marriage on a first date! It’s okay; I can handle this, break it down into manageable pieces, and uncover coordinates and sign posts along the way.

What’s involved in finding a lost Mojo? Where do we look, and how do we know when we’ve found it? What is a person’s Mojo anyway, and does it vary from person to person? Are there recognizable common denominators when we find it? How do we safeguard the Mojo, so it doesn’t become lost again? Is there such a thing as Mojo Deficit Disorder (MDD), so that we can strive to legitimize the condition and make it the justifiable focus of treatment? And, oh yes, what is the cost of Mojo-finding treatment, and how does this fit into the budget and align with other conventional expenses?

Welcome to my world, a world trending toward skepticism and suspicion, a nebulous conglomerate of hope, mistrust, and misunderstanding, a world in which I apply experience, science, compassion, and integrity to give people the tools and power to make their lives and the lives of others better.

There are a lot of specific and concrete things I do that get people better, help them achieve their goals, and lead more satisfying and worthy lives. I suppose I do help people find their Mojo—but that is not what they report afterward, and it is never a banner that I fly in front of my office. You will not hear me boast socially or professionally that I help people find their Mojo.

Mojo Components

We can think of the “Mojo” as a sense of inner self, a comfort and familiarity with one’s well-being and inner balance. When you have your Mojo, you are centered, you know who and where you are, and you have a sense of belonging and of purpose. It is the normalcy with which most people identify and upon which they depend. We take it for granted until it is not there—just like we take for granted most aspects of biological health and wholeness. The Mojo may be a bit of a mystery, but, in truth, it is hardly magic. It may seem ethereal or indistinct, but we know when it is there and when it is absent. When your Mojo is “working,” you are “on,” but when it is not, you are “off,” lost, defunct, and often in a state of lament and mild to severe turmoil.

This mysterious Mojo can be tethered to scientific parameters in the domain of neuropsychology. It also has roots in the province of spirituality. My world combines both, in which neurophysiology forms the basis for normal or aberrant feeling, thinking, wellness, and orientation. Far from being exclusive or parallel, biological and spiritual well-being are mutually integral. They listen and talk to one another.

Let’s start with the foundation of self-regulation. This term describes the natural systems of body and mind keeping harmony, maintaining and recalibrating biochemical “imbalances,” and regulating processes such as sleep and wakefulness, attention and perception, mood changes and recovery, fight-or-flight responses and self-soothing, appetite drives and satiety, and goal-oriented motivation and vigor. We take self-regulation for granted, unless there is a glitch that brings symptoms to the forefront. Similarly, we take circulation, respiration, immune response, etc. for granted until something happens that makes us seek relief or repair. We don’t typically look “under the hood” unless something is wrong.

We may not find the Mojo “under the hood,” but that’s a good place to start. When life “under the hood” becomes too hot or disruptive, the Mojo finds it uncomfortable and tends to go away. We want to invite it back by making the engine smooth and obedient, responsive and efficient.

When we are irritable, exhausted, ill, addicted, resentful, fearful, or ensconced in a host of potential and tempting vulnerabilities, the Mojo leaves. The Mojo is an entity of health, harmony, hopefulness, lovingness, and freedom. It is incompatible with persistent negative emotions and an attitude of entitlement. It requires self-regulation and functionality to thrive. My observation is that people don’t “lose” their Mojo as much as they chase it away, unwittingly, of course. Losing one’s Mojo is the global evidence of the collateral consequences of poor self-regulation and spiritual torpor.

Mojo Search and Rescue

Let’s discover how to locate and retrieve a lost Mojo. I don’t know of an app or tracking device like “Find my iPhone” for this, but there are tried-and-true methods of getting your mind and body back on-track so that your Mojo will want to come home.

First, you’ll need to re-establish and improve your self-regulation, the housekeeping functions of the central nervous system. Problems in this arena typically affect moods, concentration, sleep, clarity of thinking, frustration tolerance, stress management, overreactions, and cravings. A number of habits and interventions can improve self-regulation. Among the better ones are proper physical exercise, proper “rest” and schedules for work, leisure, and sleep, proper diet, and exercises for your brain: the most versatile and efficient brain exercise I know of is EEG neurofeedback—training the brain with computers.

A trained and experienced neurotherapist can help you get your brain and self-regulation back on-track. It doesn’t take long to do so and will restore and/or improve your functioning beyond what you might expect. And it lasts! When your brain is shown the paths of balance, it recognizes this and adopts it as the “new normal.” EEG training is safe, fun, natural, and non-invasive.

Many people rely on psychotropic medications to relieve symptoms and restore balance. However, this has significant downsides. Medications have side effects: many are noxious or intolerable, but even those without noticeable adverse effects prey silently upon organ and systemic health. Sooner or later, they take a heavy toll. The deleterious effects of such medications are well-known and documented. But your doctor ignores or downplays them because he or she thinks that the meds are in your better interest now and your doctor will most likely not be the one to deal with your medically induced illnesses years down the road. In addition, because medications are typically the recommended solution, your doctor probably does not know about or believe in a viable (and better) alternative to pharmacological management of your symptoms and Mojo-deficit woes. Parenthetically, if you do try to discuss your lost Mojo issues with your physician, you are inviting another prescription, probably a strong anti-psychotic drug.

Sometimes psychotropic drugs work well—at least temporarily. But side effects notwithstanding, many of these meds stop working and/or require increased dosages (with their attendant side effect thresholds and dangers, as well as the need for additional drugs to counteract side effects). Just as you would not want to live in a crack house, your Mojo finds the drug environment in your body uncomfortable and inhospitable.

Second, you’ll need a viable way to reduce or eliminate your negative emotions. It is remarkable to observe the extent to which most people are driven or impeded by negative emotions. The conventional medical/therapeutic approaches to dealing with negative emotions are:

  1. medicate them
  2. re-think them (cognitive therapy: i.e., if you learn to reframe your thoughts about these feelings, they will not seems so bad)
  3. discover through some kind of therapeutic analysis the root causes of these emotional sinkholes
  4. just toughen up and get over them—that’s the way life is

The layperson’s most common approaches (by default) for dealing with negative emotions are:

  1. tolerate them in misery
  2. blame others or take it out on those around you
  3. self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol

As you may surmise, my view is that none of the methods listed above work very well—and your Mojo undoubtedly agrees!

You and your Mojo need viable, natural methods for eliminating negative emotions, quickly and completely healing traumas, and efficiently self-soothing in the face of triggers, cravings, and provocations.

Fortunately, there is a very effective way to accomplish all of these using nature’s own solutions to healing oneself. Nature uses codes to encrypt and store emotional information. It is nature’s way of cordoning off the intruders so that your survival is not disabled or imperiled. It works much the same as white blood cells increase and marshal to the task of surrounding, separating, and preventing infection from taking over. While your immune system is fighting infection, you pay the battle costs by experiencing fatigue and symptoms while your body rebounds in order to survive. In recovering from emotional assault, the costs of this battle are the emotional disarray and the traumas you suffer while you isolate and overcome the problem. By tapping in the codes and supplanting the nervous system with the signals it needs to “expunge” or deprogram the invaders, you can eliminate any negative emotion or trauma and restore yourself to equanimity. This technique is called Thought Field Therapy. You owe it to yourself to learn the self-help techniques and/or avail yourself of professionals who can assist you in implementing this process. You can learn more about this and other methods of “Mojo detection and retrieval” in my book, Living Intact: Challenge and Choice in Tough Times.

Third, when you’ve regained emotional control and equanimity and are thinking more clearly, you may want to consider the context in which you experience your circumstances. Finding your “identity,” re-visiting and confirming your values and beliefs, determining and verifying that your purpose and commitments are legitimate and appropriate endeavors—these are salient human spiritual and emotional desires. But it’s overwhelmingly difficult to undertake this adventure when you are reeling from symptoms, side effects, cravings, withdrawal, and erratic self-regulation. So, first you stand, then you walk, then, maybe, you run. I hope this sounds sensible and resonates with you, because it is the practical truth.

Fourth, your Mojo is no fool, and is likely to be very particular and loving about maintaining a healthy relationship with you and others. You see, your Mojo wants fidelity, but not exclusivity. You and your Mojo must work together to love and care for others. It’s the way Mojos work. If there is any magic, it must be in the mystical way that when your Mojo’s working, other people benefit.

Fifth, finding your Mojo and ensuring that it stays with you goes beyond being healthy and well-balanced. It also involves living with good habits and being productive and prudent. These things are necessary, but not sufficient. Maintaining your Mojo and keeping both of you (actually, all of you, or y’all, as they say) well requires that you find your place in the universe. Given how vast, overwhelming, and inscrutable this is, I offer some advice: you must find a spiritual foundation, one that withstands the relentless shifting of the material plane.

We all need a navigational system with a moral compass and coordinates aligned with the Creator and His eternal perspective. In contemporary life, most of us now use digital devices that coax us to “allow current location” in order to locate places and things and to guide our way. This is helpful in getting from point A to point B, and, when you lose an your electronic device such as a phone, may help you locate it. But man’s advanced navigational systems will be futile in finding your Mojo. God knows where it is, and He will gladly return it to you if you ask, listen, and obey.