Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D., Lt. Colonel (US Army Reserves, Retired), has served on the stress management faculties at the Pentagon, the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, and the University of Maryland School of Public Health, where he received the Outstanding Teaching Award and other teaching/service awards. He is the founder of Resilience Training International, which teaches people how to prevent and recover from stress-related conditions (such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety) while optimizing mental health and performance under pressure. Glenn has written 14 books on stress-related topics including his latest one, The Adverse Childhood Experiences Recovery Workbook, which helps people heal the hidden wounds from toxic childhood stress, which lead to a wide array of adult medical and psychological disorders.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I often have felt that my life was tough enough to teach me empathy but not so horrific that I couldn’t function and be useful. My parents divorced, got back together again,n and divorced again. There were periods of joy mixed with tremendous grief. I grew up in New York in a close-knit community. I was blessed with good role models in my extended family and wonderful friends. I loved learning and sports, so school and church kept me meaningfully engaged and out of trouble. I grew up in a time, the fifties and sixties, when few people were struggling with the challenges that young people face today.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
My profession has focused on stress, trauma, and resilience. I constantly think, “I wish I knew when I was eighteen what I know now,” in terms of handling stress and downtimes. At West Point (United States Military Academy), I learned that experience leads to confidence if we are willing to work hard and learn the rules of success. It was later in life that I learned about the more important internals that leads to inner peace, security, and happiness.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
At the large research university where I worked for 27 years, faith was considered unscientific—the anti-tenure factor. Yet in the research I’ve done, including interviewing those who have survived severe adversity, it is precisely that faith that has almost always gotten them through the most troubled waters. I’ve found that to be true in my own life. So to the quotes mentioned above, I’d add a couple of others that I hold dear:
- With God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27)
- Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28)
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
This almost sounds trivial now, but it wasn’t when it happened. While in graduate school, I was earnestly courting a young lady who rejected me. I took it really hard. It was devastating. I doubted myself. With time, I was able to understand her problems and determine that I’d never again let anyone cause me to doubt my worth as a person. Eventually, that experience planted the seeds for understanding the nature of healthy self-esteem and how it develops. This culminated in writing The Self-Esteem Workbook, the skills in which have been found to significantly improve self-esteem in people of diverse ages. So from adversity came a source of great satisfaction—helping people find inner security and peace, irrespective of the externals around us that impact our happiness relatively little.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I’ve always had a great sense of curiosity and a love of learning. I’m no genius, but I’m willing to ask questions and persist in finding answers to those questions. I love to pick the brains of well-adjusted survivors to find out how they’ve coped. Although I’ve observed many examples of bad leadership, I’ve known enough good people to believe that most people want to be good and will be, especially if properly taught and led. Basically caring for people and wanting to help them overcome suffering has kept me researching and developing the books and courses I have.
What is your morning routine?
I learned at West Point that an unrested brain gets me in trouble, so I’ve strived for at least eight hours of sleep nightly. I usually wake up around 7 am, start the day with prayer, scripture reading, and often a five-minute foot-to-head stress reducer that I developed from various strategies around the world. Then at least an hour of aerobic exercise and calisthenics. A good breakfast, and then I’m at the desk.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
When I attend West Point reunions, I often hear that I look younger than most. I think it’s the habits I described above, plus eating well and not drinking or smoking that have collaborated with good genes.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
At West Point, we had over 20 credits per semester and only about 2.5 hours to study each night, so I learned to be really focused, work fast, and shun distractions. I’m a good time manager, making prioritized to-do lists each night. When I’m writing or preparing a workshop I can stay focused for hours, without needing frequent breaks. Perhaps part of this is loving what I’m doing, which is trying to help others be at their best at all times. Maybe that’s another lesson, that love is the greatest motivator
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
With so many wonderful inspiring books, it’s difficult to single out one. Among my favorites are:
- Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s masterpiece about finding meaning in adversity.
- Unbroken about Louis Zamperini, whom I had the privilege of interviewing. He survived 47 days on a life raft, then daily torture at the hands of the Japanese in WWII.
- In My Hands about Irene Opdyke, the Polish partisan who kept 12 Jews hidden in the basement while keeping house for a Nazi major upstairs
- Fire Road by Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the little girl who was accidentally napalmed in Vietnam.
Each book tells the story of one who overcame enormous hardship, maintained or grew an open heart, and was strengthened and changed through their spirituality.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
- “What matters most in the twilight years is having lived an honorable life” (LTG James McConville)
- “The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other in dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself; while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.” (LTG John M. Schofield, 1879)