Emotional Awareness and Resilience Coach, Author, and Speaker

Lou’s Bio

As an Emotional Awareness coach, author, and speaker, Lou’s mission is to help people of all ages understand and gain ownership over their emotions, so they can live the life they choose.

Through his personal experience, having successfully completed a multitude of endurance athletic events over the past decade, including the Boston Marathon, Ironman, and ultramarathons, as well his study of eastern medicine and philosophy Lou has developed tools for building mental and emotional tools that have the ability to benefit anyone looking to bring their best selves to every situation.

Beyond his own practice, Lou transformed his knowledge into an accessible methods and tools that anyone can use in their own life. Through his presentations, workshops, as well as individual and group coaching Lou helps students, parents, mentors, caregivers, teachers, athletes and leaders gain ownership of their choices by knowing how to use their emotions in a way that serves their goals.

If You Want Resilience, Be Vulnerable

It’s time for me to watch something inspirational. I’ve just finished some work on an upcoming talk I will be presenting at Longwood University, and now I’m feeling dogged. Watching inspirational videos is something I do every day, not just when I need a little “lift up.” I learn a lot from other speakers who have walked the walk. I did my work for the day, but it’s been a low energy afternoon, so for an energetic boost, I’ve gone on to watch Brene Brown. She is speaking on vulnerability.

While I’m watching, I can’t help to think about all the emotional exposure that she’s going through, standing up there on stage, willing to be herself in front of others. How uncomfortable that must be. I start to think about all the emotional resilience that she’s built over her career. I mean, come on, she’s on stage, completely unclear how people are going to take what she has to say. She’s being authentic to herself talking about a subject matter nobody likes to talk about, let alone admit that they ever are…vulnerable that is.

I’m past my 10-minute quota of listening and now I’m in a curiosity phase. I wonder who else has something to say on building resilience through vulnerability. I jump on Google and search ‘how to build resilience’, and all of these things come up: how to build resilience in children; how to build resilience for parents; how to build resilience in Paris; how to build a cat full of resilience; resilience and your horse. I add the word ‘through’ to my search. Now I’ve got: how to build resilience through meditation; through psychotherapy; through eating a low-carb diet… Finally, I type in the ‘vulnerability.’ Nothing. Nada. My cursor is left alone blinking in the Google search. I can’t be the only one who’s ever searched for this, can I?

Maybe.  Because honestly vulnerability sucks to feel, and I can’t imagine ever intentionally searching for it. Unfortunately, the only way to be creative, to have love and joy in our lives, to feel happiness, and belonging, is to embrace vulnerability. To be fully ourselves. And that is some scary crap right there, but it doesn’t make it less true. Think about it. The only way to build our physical resilience is to withstand more weight, more stress, to endure. To literally bring ourselves to a point of physical stress that will make us exceptionally uncomfortable. But we are willing to do it because we want to get bigger, we want to get stronger, and we want to endure longer and become more physically resilient. In the same fashion, if we want to become more emotionally resilient, the quickest and most effective way of doing this – I believe the only way of doing this, is to allow for emotional stress, to allow ourselves to feel our uncomfortable emotions. Allow ourselves to be vulnerable. 

This means we need to love others without knowing we will be loved back. To try for that job that there is no guarantee we will get and know that we may feel like we failed if we don’t get it! To hope for an outcome in a situation that we can put effort in but have no guarantee that it will turn out the way we want. Every single time we say it’s OK to be ourselves, every time we allow our emotional door to open to feel joy, happiness, and confidence, but we also leave it open for feelings of sadness, anger, fear and anxiety. 

Brene said that being vulnerable is like walking into the arena. It’s showing up. If you’re in the arena long enough, a hard truth is that you’re going to get bloodied. As true as this is, I would suggest an alternate truth. A scarier truth that might lead you to vulnerability as a first choice instead of a last resort: 

You are already in the arena whether you like it or not. 

If you are breathing, have a pulse, and can feel. If you try to hide away or stifle your feelings from time to time, express them openly at other times, and even occasionally slam the emotional exposure door shut on others, you are in the arena. Even if you repress, run from, or ignore your uncomfortable feelings, it doesn’t really make them less uncomfortable does it? The truth is the world is filled with external stimuli that can have enormous direct effect on your feelings. The more you shrink away from ‘unwanted’ feelings, avoiding the situations in which you feel them or the people that bring them out in you, the more you try to avoid being vulnerable, the more emotional atrophy sets in, and thus the more uncomfortable you are. 

Emotional atrophy doesn’t mean that you feel less, it means that smaller and smaller things in the external world (people, events, etc.) have a greater and greater effect on you, leaving you feeling ever more uncomfortable. Because you are not building your tolerance, your resilience to feeling uncomfortable gets less and less and you recede from confrontations, altercations, uncomfortable discussions, as you stop ‘showing up.’ The act of showing up, of being present, of taking the risk to be equally available for happiness and disappointment is being vulnerable. And that vulnerability, that act of showing up fully, and practicing how to center yourself after every emotion, is the only way to build resilience.

What Creates Our Emotions?

Years ago, when my grandmother (we called her Nanny) passed away, I remember driving up with my mother to the funeral. She had asked me how I was feeling. It wasn’t sudden, but I was very close with my grandmother, and felt a deep sense of sadness at her passing. As we drove, I began telling my mother some of the things I remembered about my nanny. How Nanny would make me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when she watched me (she always used Goober, the peanut butter and jelly mixed together… loved that stuff), all the soap operas she would watch (she LOVED The Young and the Restless) and how when she got together in her backyard with the neighbors (the Capari’s), I could never quite figure out what the heck they were talking about because they would speak in Italian to one another, change to English for like a millisecond, then back into their native tongue.

When my mother and I finally got to the funeral I saw a great number of my family members all sharing in that deep grief and sadness I was feeling. Although I was at the funeral and feeling this sense of loss, there was also the fact that I was just talking about these great moments with mother that had us laughing for the last 15 minutes. I felt a bit guilty when much of the talk around the funeral was how sudden (what?) my Nanny’s passing was, or when I listened to people sharing stories about how sick Nanny was towards the end. The funeral itself had become filled with talk of my nanny’s only most recent sad and hopeless moments of illness.

I couldn’t help myself. “I have a story.” I said.

I started in with one of my favorite ‘Nanny stories.’ One about my cousin (who was more like a brother to me), who I am very close with. When he was around 14 years old, he called me from his house.

My cousin (very whispery tone): “Louie! Louie, you’re not going to believe what I did!”

Me: “What happened?” I was younger and just happy to be included!

My cousin: “I called Nanny and told her that her apartments were on fire!” Nanny owned these apartments behind her house. I was already laughing.

Me: “How did it go?”

My cousin (putting on a deep older gruff voice): “Is this Mary Bevacqui?”

Nanny [insert very old-school, broken Italian Nanny English]: “Eh, a who’s this, huh?”

My cousin (still keeping in character): “A concerned citizen, ma’am. The apartments behind your house are on fire!”

But before my cousin could tell her it was him – Nanny shouts: “Momma Mia!!!” (phone hangs up. Nothing but dial tone.)

I could barely speak I was laughing so hard, but I remember the tone of my cousin’s voice, he was so concerned with the repercussions.

My cousin: “I don’t know what to do Lou, I tried to call back but the phone -” 

Like a horror movie, I could hear footsteps on my cousin’s end of the line coming from the background and getting closer…

My cousin (panicked!): “Oh no, Dad!!! I didn’t mean –“

My Uncle (yelling!): “Boy! You are gonna’ get it!!!” Then the phone went dead! Nothing but dial tone.

I threw the phone down, creating distance from me and the punishment I’m sure my cousin was getting!

We were all laughing at the funeral and the crowd got bigger around us. More stories were told, one more entertaining and heart-felt than the next. We were all giving of ourselves, sharing these funny family stories. Instead of distancing themselves from it, they brought themselves closer. The energy and laughter were infectious.

There was great sadness at my nanny passing and we would all miss her terribly, but our connection with her could be celebrated in another way. I could determine how I felt. I wasn’t going to push away the sadness, but I also wasn’t going to push away the joy. The joy of having experienced so much life with my nanny. Funny, authentic, and real things that at first didn’t seem appropriate for the situation. For a funeral parlor. But there is a greater truth I learned that day:

I govern the way I feel by choosing my perspective and the actions I take.

Our environment can be a catalyst for our emotions. If we are not aware of how we want to feel or even what emotions are inside of us at any given time, we can easily take on the emotions of our environment. We may feel a false sense of responsibility to feel uncomfortable, sad, or forlorn because we believe that’s what a situation demands of us. But the truth is, emotions are felt within us. Though we try to push uncomfortable ones outside of us and bring the ones we think feel good to us closer, they ALL have to go through us. Therefore, one emotional truth stands above all else:

All emotions are built inside of you.

When we look for emotions outside of ourselves; when we seek them in situations, in people, and in events, we can quickly become disappointed or sucked into feeling something that we don’t want or aren’t actually feeling in the moment. I already had joy and a feeling of love and warmth for my nanny when I went to that funeral. Even though I also felt sadness and loss, my stories about my nanny were lighter and fun, and they leaned towards joyous memories instead of just getting lost in the sadness that was outside me.

The joy, warmth, and humor from recalling those memories, images, and focusing on those feelings that were subsequently created inside me caused me to leave my nanny’s funeral feeling two things: one was a great sadness for the loss. The other was great joy at having my family with me while we created memories together that reflected the kind of woman that my grandmother was to each and every one of us. I chose to recall good memories of my nanny and the emotions attached to them that filled me with laughter, joy, and love. Not only were those memories appropriate, they were necessary. Necessary to celebrate her full and rich life, as well as a catalyst for others to find the joy that Nanny brought to their lives.

Clear Your Emotional Mechanism!

Sometimes, after a situation has clearly been resolved, there can still be residual emotions hanging on in our bodies and minds. Creating an internal coach for yourself can help you clean up mental emotional debris after a difficult situation, so you can be fully present and centered in whatever comes next.

Let me explain what I mean: I was outside playing lacrosse with my daughter the other day. We both were having fun, running around catching the ball, and then one of those mental-emotional gridlock moments reared its ugly head.

The ball gets thrown into the bushes. Who’s gonna’ get it?

It always amazes me how ‘not lazy’ both of us were chasing down all kinds of balls for the last half hour, but here we are having it out about who should go into the woods and grab an overthrown ball not 20 yards away! I think the argument lasted for about 10 minutes, which means we probably could’ve gotten the ball at least 20 times in that time. Needless to say, the argument ended with the ball staying in its new home (the woods) and us not playing anymore.

Within about 15 minutes of giving each other “the silent treatment” we both apologized to each other, went out and got the ball together, and played for another five minutes, before having to go. After dropping my daughter off at her friend’s house, I was in a pretty crappy mood, and I couldn’t figure out why. It was the weekend and I was meeting a friend for a run, but you would have thought with the way I was feeling I was going to go carry large bags of wet cement for two hours. I couldn’t figure out what I was angry about, which in turn…was making me more angry.

Then it hit me.

I was still replaying the memory of arguing about the lacrosse ball with my daughter in my mind.

The situation had been over for at least a good hour, and yet I was still replaying it like a bad sitcom on TV late at night where I’m just too lazy to get up and change the channel! I start to beat myself up a bit for letting this non-helpful memory replay in my head for as long as I have, before finally calling my internal coach. An internal coach is an image, a voice, or even more importantly, the ‘feel’ of a person that you create in your mind. It’s best to base your internal coach on someone real that you truly trust and admire (walks the talk) and is someone you believe has your back and thinks a lot of you. But this person isn’t going to shy away from ‘telling it to you straight.’ They wouldn’t sugar-coat what you need to hear, they just won’t say it in a way that would leave you feeling like crap about yourself. (See my blog “Listen to Your Coach.”).

I imagine myself standing on a pitcher’s mound. My internal coach comes out on the field after more than a couple players (self-critical thoughts) have rocked my confidence…

“Clear your mental-emotional mechanism.” he says rather matter-of-factly.

I know from experience this means it’s time to for me to do one of two things (or both): 
      1. Change my perspective
      2. Change my actions

Both have the ability to stop negative self-talk, build self-confidence, and help me create the feelings I want. My internal coach starts in with the questions…

You had an argument with Sarah when you were playing lacrosse, and did you resolve the situation?

Did you both apologize to one another, get the ball together, and end up playing in good spirits for another 5 minutes?

Do you feel there is any unfinished business you need to deal with in this situation?

Are you looking forward to your run?
      Yes, I am!

How about a little opera music to get you in the –

Kidding! (My coach is sarcastic, shocking) How about some AC/DC, or really anything from your classic rock play-list…

I am already feeling differently! Once I turn on the tunes my mind is completely absorbed in the energy of where I am at the moment and looking a bit into the future at the fantastic run I’m about to take. ‘Reviewing’ with my internal coach took all of about two minutes, far less time (and energy) than the actual argument, or replaying it! And now I feel refreshed, energized, and confident that I can handle any difficult situations that come up for me.

Developing your internal coach may seem awkward at first. Yet, if you think about it, we all have an amazingly vivid internal critic, one who doesn’t pull punches as they throw unhelpful and hurtful criticism and judgement at us. If we don’t have an internal coach to off-set this voice, usually the loudest voice speaking (or the only one in this situation) is the one that you believe! This is why it’s so important to spend time building your internal coach.

It is immensely powerful to practice visualizing your internal coach to have the voice, mannerisms, and the feel of someone you know and trust. When I find myself going after myself (becoming my own worst critic) or even just need a bit of a boost or pep talk to get myself going, hearing, visualizing, and feeling the full presence of my internal coach quite literally inspires me. It helps me in the moment to be my best self. Instead of self-talk that is harmful to my efforts, the vital information and wisdom that my internal coach imparts on me feels like a combination of something they would say, and information I already know. These ‘pep talks’ boost my energy and help me think more clearly, so I can re-center myself and be ready for whatever comes my way!

Do you have a good relationship with your internal coach? How have you built it? How has it helped you? I’d love to hear how you use your internal coach in your life.

What people are saying

  • “I was having real difficulty, not just creating a relationship with my son and daughter,
    but being able to
    parent him without getting caught in my anger all the time.
    After being in Lou’s workshop, I definitely feel more in control
    of my emotions and actions at work, with my kids, everywhere.“

    – Educator and mother of two

  • “Lou is able to take things that most of us feel and have difficulty expressing and give words to them. He makes what we’re feeling accessible to us through humor and great story telling.”

    – Social Worker, mother of three

  • “Lou is one of those special peopl who gets kids AND adults.  You see it in his coaching cross-country as well as his books and workshops.  His compassionate treatment of children and adults alike as we learn to help each other grow in emotional awareness and skills is so needed today, so centering and enlivening.  Thank you Lou for all you are and what you do with it!”

    Sally Kendall, MT and Intructor