Do you often find yourself in situations or circumstances that you never asked for? If so, a) you are a human being, and b) there are tools available that can help you make the most of any situation. Psychological Flexibility is a key component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and may be the key to becoming unstuck, even when you find yourself in completely sticky situations. Tony refers to a couple of articles on Psychological Flexibility from the website http://workingwithact.com https://workingwithact.com/psychological-flexibility-at-work/the-role-of-psychological-flexibility-in-building-performance-and-wellbeing/
With the continuing "sheltering" rules spreading across the country, PLEASE do not think you can't continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch, you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.
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[00:00:21] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode 306 of the virtual couch, I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage family therapist. A certified mine will have a coach and host of waking up to nurses. And if you haven't checked that podcast out, please go give that a give it a look. Give it a I think there's about twenty one episodes now and it's a thing. It's a whole new thing, and I did not expect it to take off the way it is. So if you have appreciated any of the podcasts I've done in the past on anything narcissistic related, then go check that one out. And especially because we're identifying over there that narcissistic personality disorder is truly a small percentage, a very small percentage of people. But if you start looking at things in terms of emotional maturity or emotional immaturity, it's it just opens up your world, your mind to be able to just really view others and yourself in a way that I think we all have these emotionally immature tendencies or traits. And it can really, I think, help people do a little bit more self confrontation in a very positive way. If that sounds like an oxymoron, I can understand that, but so that people can start to understand what does showing up a little bit more emotionally mature look like to be able to express my needs, maybe not be able to react to what others are saying that I should think or feel or do.
[00:01:31] But I had no intention on talking about that right now, but they'll give that a shot. Waking up the narcissism is another podcast that you can find wherever you're listening to this podcast, feel free to give that a shot. And I also, we are getting ready to launch the fourth episode of Fourth Edition Preston Pug Meyer and I are getting ready to run our fourth edition of my magnetic marriage course, and I understand from the feedback of people that have taken the first three rounds that there is absolutely nothing. I gain nothing by playing small as the Marianne Williamson poem that I so love and have quoted on several episodes says that it is a wonderful program and it is literally teaching people to communicate and have better marriages than they have ever known that they could have. And I feel so confident about that. We're going to have some testimonials from this third round that are going to be coming up in the next couple of weeks, but we're going to run another round in March. Right now, I'm realizing as I'm saying this out loud, but I'm going to be extremely authentic. I don't think we have the landing right now. If it is there, it would be at Tony Overbay dot com slash magnetic. But if anything, go to the contact form on my website and shoot me an email and I will make sure that you are first in line to learn more about when that magnetic marriage course is coming again.
[00:02:42] And I'm going to talk a lot about it in the upcoming weeks because I really feel confident about it, and I know that it changes lives. It changes me or just it really does. So today's topic, I am so excited to talk about this. It is a concept called psychological flexibility, and it's one of those that I really don't understand why. I haven't talked about this before three hundred and six episodes, because it's a key component to the concepts of acceptance and commitment therapy. So to get to it is story time. So a couple of weeks ago, I was at a basketball game and it is my son's senior year playing for his high school team, and I just truly do not want this season to end. It has been amazing. It has been so much fun to watch. So it was our first home game for our league and we had played a dozen or so preseason games and our team was pretty good and we went down early and our team, the Lincoln fighting zebras. Yeah, you heard that right. Not that they're zebras in our area and I know that there's a story behind that. I can't pull it right now. But the Lincoln fighting zebras had battled back. So in this particular game, first league game at home, the game went into overtime and in overtime, with less than 10 seconds left, they had a player get fouled and he goes to the line to shoot a couple of free throws.
[00:03:53] Well, he's in one and one for those, you know, basketball terminology. If he made the first shot, then he got a second one and we were down by one point and we had no timeouts, so their player missed the free throw. My son Jake gets the rebound. He's a senior. He dribbles the length of the floor. He glances up at the clock. He hesitates everybody in the gym. I feel like I thought he would shoot. He's a shooter. And then he drove to the basket. He got fouled and with two seconds, left the zebras down one in overtime at home in front of the screaming crowd of fans known appropriately as the zoo, now know that my wife does the score book for the team, and I filmed the game and I put the other highlights afterward. And we both look at each other and we are both equal parts crying and wanting to throw up. We wanted Jake to have this moment so bad, but also I cannot even begin to imagine what that pressure would feel like, especially for a at that point seventeen year old high school kid who has had a couple of years of just craziness with the pandemic. And are they in school? Are they out of school? What a school even look like.
[00:04:53] So Jake has handed the ball. The crowd goes quiet. Players on the opposing team and their crowd start screaming and going nuts and pounding bleachers, and he calmly hits the first free throw. The place erupts. It goes nuts. All the people from the zoo go insane. The game is now tied. The ref hands them the ball and their players are talking to him. You could just cut that intensity, I think, with a butter knife and he dribbles. He spends the ball on his hands and he calmly sinks the. Free throw the zebras are up by one. The other team throws a desperation shot up as the buzzer sounds and the crowd swarms the floor, and my son gets to experience a moment that I think that people can only dream of. Now the video is on my personal YouTube channel, not the virtual couch channel, and I'll make sure I link it into the show notes, because it is just so fun to watch and feel every bit of that moment. So why do I start with that story today? Because it was in talking with Jake after the game where I realized the true magic of that moment. I asked him what he was thinking about during the final drive during the free throws, and he said when the guy missed the shot, he thought, I need to get the ball. And when he had the ball, he thought, I need to dribble it down the court and I need to see what happens.
[00:06:00] And when he saw the clock running out, he thought, Does anybody open? No. Can I get a shot off? No. So I need to drive the ball. And then he said when the ref handed him the ball for the free throws, he thought, I need to breathe and then I need to dribble and then I need to shoot. So I wish I could tell you that I that he practices mindfulness daily, and it's not that I haven't suggested it, and he's actually tried it on occasion. Even the Headspace app, they had a collaboration with the National Basketball Association for a while, and I really thought Jake would enjoy that and love that. But what Jake's experience was in the world of acceptance and commitment therapy or act? My favorite therapeutic modality is called psychological flexibility. Some in the app world call it Psych Flex, but I like the full name psychological flexibility. So according to the website, working with psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in the behavior in the service of your chosen values when everyday language. This means holding our own thoughts and emotions a bit more lightly and acting on longer term values and goals, rather than short term impulses, thoughts or feelings. Why is this important? And I'm going to be quoting this website working with Ask.com, and I'll put the link in the show notes, because it has so much amazing information on acceptance and commitment therapy.
[00:07:20] But it's because our thoughts and emotions tend to be unreliable indicators of a long term sense of satisfaction or long term value. We really have little control over our thoughts and our feelings and our emotions. They often just come and go. They tend to ebb and flow. Sometimes it can be dramatically. Sometimes it can be within the very same sentence. We can go up and down. Our thoughts can be excited or happy, and then they can be dark and ominous. I feel like almost every day I'm talking to somebody that says, But no, you don't understand. I can think some dark thoughts and I think, Oh, absolutely, we all do. And that's just part of the human experience. But it's what do we do? What significance do we give those thoughts? That is really the key because if we trust our thoughts and emotions and then we act only based on them, then we can often overlook the more important or sustained patterns of action which bring true meaning, vitality and richness to our life. And so it's for that reason that a couple of researchers cashed in Rottenberg define psychological flexibility as the measure of how a person no one adapts to fluctuating situational demands, which means a measure of how a person adapts, adapts to all the things that can happen in any given moment.
[00:08:27] That also psychological flexibility is a measure of how the person reconfigure his mental resources. Number three shifts their perspective and number four, and this is so good balances, competing desires, needs and life domains rather than focusing on specific content within a person a definition of psychological flexibility. You have to incorporate all kinds of transactions between people and their context and what's going on in their environment. So our environment are the people in our world, the thoughts that go through our head. Those things are all changing at any given moment when we find ourselves just really doing the why or what's wrong with me, or why am I thinking these things that the reason is because you're thinking them. And so we need to step back and take a look at our thoughts, even our feelings or emotions in context, which is the episode I did last week. And we need to look at him with curiosity because they're happening and we'll have a lot of other thoughts, feelings and emotions. But when we can just learn to recognize that, that's what they are thoughts, feelings and emotions, then we can start to move toward things that really matter. Now here is what is amazing to me. There are some. There are some questionnaires that are pretty prevalent in the acceptance and commitment therapy world. And what they show is that a lack of psychological flexibility has been shown to accurately predict the following higher anxiety.
[00:09:42] And again, this is a lack of psychological flexibility higher anxiety, more depression, more overall pathology, a poorer work performance, the inability to learn substance abuse, lower quality of life, depression, alexithymia which is just this whole flatness, this apathy, flat ethic, anxiety sensitivity, long term disability and extreme worry, in other words, almost everything. So how does one build psychological flexibility to build it? There are three skills which are trained which are absolutely necessary, and the first one is being able to increase awareness of the present moment. What does that mean if you just started to tune out, stay with me that it really means at any given moment when you just recognize your thing. That it is being able to increase your sensitivity to what's happening right now. And so you can discriminate between what you are observing with your five senses. What am I smelling? What am I feeling? What am I hearing? What am I seeing? What am I tasting versus what our minds tell us is happening? The next skill, which is absolutely necessary that you must train yourself on is diffusion and diffusion is the ability to watch thoughts come and go and then choosing which thoughts to act on rather than getting cooked by difficult or disruptive thoughts. So it's not about changing your thought that is so key, but it's about changing your relationship to the thought diffusion. If I go back to if you give anything, if you point your mind toward anything, your mind is going to come up with the what I like to call often the yeah, buts.
[00:11:08] So let's go back to that example I've given in the past where if you hear someone talk about, I remember I used to go speak at schools when I would go do my 24 hour run around a track to raise money for all the local schools. I did it for about six or seven years in my town and I would go speak to all the schools. I would do a little piece on the news and I would say that OK, running a bunch of marathons and ultramarathons led me to find myself in this position where this is where I could give back. And I'm going to run around this track for twenty four hours and the kids are going to come out and run with me during the day and people are going to come out at night and we're going to have this amazing party in your town and we're going to raise all this money for schools. And I can't tell you how often people would think I'm going to do that. I'm going to start running and start doing marathons and half marathons, marathons, ultramarathons. I want to do that. And I would often say that if any of you right now are hearing that and you think, you know what, I want to do that I want to make a difference, I want to run.
[00:12:00] Then you'll get a little dopamine bump and it feels amazing. But then watch the thoughts just pop up the thoughts of, well, I've never been much of a runner to begin with or I don't even know where I would start, or I don't really have a lot of time or I don't really have anybody to run with. I don't have a specific training plan. And so our brain is going to come up with a whole lot of thoughts. A lot of thoughts that their goal, bless their heart, is to try to get us to not take action. And that can sound absolutely insane. But this is where I keep going back to think of your brain as they don't get killed device. So when you think I want to do this new thing in the brain doesn't know what that new thing is, it doesn't know, is it scary? Is it safe then that the brain is going to come up with a lot of thoughts that are going to say, How about we sit this one out? How about we do this one later? How about we throw a bunch of obstacles in your way? And so you can still tell yourself, No, I'll get to that later. I'll do it later. I'll do that when I'm when I have a little more time, when I have this new job, when the summer hits, I'll do it.
[00:12:53] I'll do it later. Instead of just recognizing that, oh, our brain is going to come with all kinds of thoughts. Yeah. In that scenario, I may never have been a runner before. I mean, I have a training plan. I mean, I have the right shoes. I mean, I have, but those are all just stories that my brain is trying to hook me to. So diffusion is recognizing that I'm just going to watch those thoughts come and go, and I'll choose the ones to act on that are in alignment with my value or in alignment with my purpose or the direction that I want to go in my life. And that leads to the third part where they talk about to build psychological flexibility. So you've got this increased awareness of the present moment. What can I do at any given moment to bring you right back to here and now? And there are people that will say when you recognize you are thinking or feeling, or if you find yourself just starting to notice that you're feeling a little bit flat or down, that one of the first things you can do is just bring yourself to the present moment. What do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? What can I touch? And then the taste one is interesting. I don't know if you grab a piece of chocolate or that sort of thing or taste the if you're by the sea, the salt air.
[00:13:51] But it's coming to the present moment because the coolest thing about any kind of being present or mindfulness practice again is not trying to clear your mind or stop your thought. It is recognizing that there are a lot of thoughts and some of them are not going to be unproductive. Are there? Some of them are going to be unproductive. So when we notice that we come back to the present moment and the way to do that is what am I seeing, thinking, feeling, hearing or tasting? So then once you come back to the present moment, once you diffuse or unhook from these unproductive thoughts, now psychological flexibility is ultimately about focusing attention on what we really want from life, increasing awareness of our individual values, and then that will build motivation. And it enables us to take positive and sustained action, even if what we're going to do is challenging. Because is running 24 hours around a track challenging absolutely is telling myself that it's challenging and that it may be difficult and I might not be able to finish true. Absolutely. But are those productive thoughts to a value of mine, a value based goal of being able to give back or connection with the community? No, they aren't. So that's where I can diffuse from them. Unhook from those thoughts because my brain has a whole bunch of thoughts going all the time.
[00:14:59] In a nutshell, according to the Working with Ask.com website, these three skills help counter the factors that underpin poor performance. Psychological flexibility enables people to focus on and engage fully in what they're doing, rather than getting pushed around by their thoughts and feelings, and they get to commit to doing what works more for them. I like starting with that story. The. Sports story for Jake is when I was doing a little bit more research on psychological flexibility. One of the examples they give is in the world of sports psychology and how sports psychologists emphasize the role of a right mindset to athletes telling them they need to clear their mind. They need to be calm and be confident. They need to remember their successes, which sounds amazing. But the reality is that performers are just as filled with doubt or worry or negativity as the rest of us, even at an elite level. And I can tell you as somebody that's worked with professional athletes or politicians or speakers or people that are in front of the camera and various in various environments that those those fears, those doubts, those worries that negativity is absolutely there. And sometimes it's even at a larger scale, because sometimes these people have such people have eyes on them, they could fail bigger and they often hear about the things that they don't. They may hear about the things that they aren't necessarily as excited about and hear about them on a larger scale.
[00:16:16] So it isn't that people that are taking action or having these lives that we all believe that we always thought we would have or we wish we would have. It's not necessarily that they just get these breaks handed to them, although certainly that happens right place, right time, those sort of things. But right place, right time. With the persistence and effort and being able to take action on things that really matter to you are absolutely a formula for success. So being again back to this role of a sports psychologist where they say that the reality as performers are filled with doubt and worry and negativity, then focusing if they try to focus on getting rid of the thoughts, which how often do you hear that that you just need to change your mindset, you just need to change your thought that focusing on getting rid of these thoughts and act I. Psychological flexibility in one website alone pointed to over eight hundred peer reviewed journals of talking about the importance of psychological flexibility versus trying to simply change the thought. So by trying to simply get rid of thoughts that is most often counterproductive if the athlete tries to get rid of negative thoughts. Research shows that the thoughts can even be more influential, not less, which reads, which leads to even greater entanglement, as they say. And this is where I go back to thoughts depression does not work.
[00:17:29] Telling yourself not to think about something absolutely causes you to think about it. It's why we can't tell ourselves to not think of a chocolate cake right now, not think of a white polar bear and not think of a yellow pinto from my high school years because I just thought of all of those. Because when I literally tell myself, Don't think about them, your brain is programed to say what? This so telling yourself to not think something and trying to get rid of a negative thought, trying to get rid of unproductive thought is absolutely not effective. Recognizing it is a thought, and I'm not even going to look to that or I'm going to defuze from that and I'm going to I'm going to keep coming back to the present moment because I have a lot of thoughts, absolutely productive and trying to get rid of those thoughts. After researchers also say detracts focus from the present moment. If an athlete starts saying it's OK, I'm a good kicker, I just need to take a breath, I just need to relax, then they're not actually focusing on the kick, but focusing on their thoughts. And when I talked about earlier and I know this might seem like I said the opposite, but if you go back to the example that my son said of when he was handed the ball, then he just thought, I just need to take a breath, I need to dribble and I need to shoot.
[00:18:29] But what he was doing is wasn't thinking those things. He said he was doing those things because he the thoughts were probably racing through his mind of all of the things that if you miss this, you need to focus more, you need to do whatever. But he just needed to do and he just needed to be in that present moment. So over time, if negative thoughts are evaluated as bad, synonymous with a lack of confidence or the wrong mindset, then we come to fear our own natural response to new experiences. And this increases our tendency toward experiential avoidance. Experiential avoidance, then, is the I will find anything to do other than what is in the moment because I don't want uncomfortable feelings. We need to learn how to be present and accept thoughts and feelings. So that allows us to see negative experiences is absolutely normal while being able to refocus our attention on whatever the behavior is in front of us. So when we recognize that the thought is just a thought that it's not a negative thought, it's not a bad thought, it's just a thought, then we don't beat ourselves up about the thought as much. And then we don't waste time or emotional energy trying to change the thought. We recognize the thought. And over time, that practice of coming back to the present moment is how you recognize and your thoughts don't have as much of this negative impact or influence on you.
[00:19:40] So in summary, working with Ask.com says by using the skills of psychological flexibility in the pursuit of values based or values directed behavior, people experience a much higher level of motivation, task focus, wellbeing and performance. I told the story not long ago about a problem I had with my car. I had run through a very big puddle, and afterward I heard something scraping on the ground and it was a dark, rainy night. I was dressed pretty decent. I was with my wife, and when I finally pulled over to take a look, my mind was absolutely racing with unproductive thoughts. You don't know what you're doing. You don't even know what you're looking for. You don't know how to fix things when he's going to think you're a wimp? She's probably she can probably take care of this better than you can. You're going to get your clothes dirty. And it was in this exact print. All the psychological flexibility that allowed me the ability to or the opportunity more like to recognize all the chatter going through my head and just recognize it as just that it was chatter where those stories true or false, I don't know. A lot of them were true, but they weren't. They weren't very helpful. They weren't very productive. So we hear so often that we are a product of our thoughts that our thoughts lead to our emotions and their emotions to our behaviors.
[00:20:42] So simply change the thought, and it will eventually lead to a behavioral change. And I recognize that may help in certain situations. I was talking with my friend Nate Christianson, who's been on the podcast. He helps me run my path back course. We're working on some really cool stuff for men's groups moving forward. And we were talking about this where in my back program, there is a module called wrong thought right. And when people would bring up that this was a really important module during our group calls. At times, I would find myself thinking, I don't know, that was not supposed to be that cool because wrong thought right simply consists of when you recognize a thought that has led to a coping mechanism that you no longer want in your life, you immediately label it as the wrong thought, and you quickly tell yourself what the right thought would be. So let's say that nobody's home, and that's one's trigger to typically view pornography. Then in that moment, they're supposed to say, OK, wrong thought, and then immediately replace that with the right thought. The right thought is, I want to do something more productive. I'm working to put this behind me and again now I realize that does have a place and often in the initial phases of recovery or in the initial phases of mental health or trying to work on yourself that it is something to do.
[00:21:45] It is a new tool which eight is a better tool than not doing anything. But eventually we're working to a place where you recognize that the thought of wanting to look at pornography is simply that it's a thought. It happens when a trigger occurs, a trigger like opportunity, a trigger like boredom, a trigger like stress and trigger like hunger or anger or loneliness or being tired. So while that thought that wrong thought right may initially be a helpful tool to just change a thought that I try to help people go from the it's a tool to what is the best tool, and I'm I believe psychological flexibility is the best tool because it's recognizing that you are a human being full of all of your experiences, and they are simply that they're your experiences and your experiences lead you to act and react in certain ways. Why? Because they do. And there's nothing inherently bad about you or terrible about you or your thoughts. They just happen, and it is absolutely what you do with them. That is ultimately what matters, and I'm constantly noticing myself wanting to waste time. Watch more YouTube videos or TikToks because I have seen very good YouTube videos and funny TikToks, but thinking I want to watch them and then actually watching them are two completely different things. So giving yourself grace and employing the tool of a psychological flexibility is truly what will move you away from the What's Wrong With Me story because nothing is wrong with you.
[00:23:02] And eventually you get toward the check out this thought. My brain is telling me that it would be more fun to watch. You two probably would be. Thank you, brain. Good looking out. But I'm currently working on a value of consistency with producing a weekly podcast, so I need to get back to writing and recording. And then your brain says, What did this episodes are done? What if you can't find anything to record about? What if this is the one where they find out that you don't know what you're talking about? And then my brain? Absolutely, I will. I will acknowledge that would really be a bummer. Thank you. Let me get back in touch with the present moment and focus on the Google doc that was in front of me, my fingers hitting the keyboard, the outline in front of me. And it was funny because I was literally doing that this morning and now I'm recording it and in this present moment, and I'll be darned if my brain isn't literally like looking at the clock right now, telling me that when I was doing the writing, I had a client 40 minutes. Now I have a client less than ten minutes, so I need to wrap this episode up. What if I keep rambling? What if I don't finish it? And then my client literally knocks on my door, which I don't think that they're going to do? But those are thoughts.
[00:23:57] That's fascinating, but I'm not going to be able to do much more with this episode. That's a true or false true story. We'll note that, and we'll start to wrap this up. All of those are wonderful questions that my brain is asking me or proposing to me. But are they helpful or productive? Not necessarily. So again. Thank you, brain. So I come back to the present moment back to the story of my son. Last night we played a rival school literally last night, a school where parents, I probably should have edited this part out. But they swear the kids like sailors. I know because I sat right behind the sport table across from our student section, so the filming would even look cooler. And this school's parents were immediately to my right and it was very fascinating. The team beat us in their home gym last week and they stuck a kid on my son the entire game. If you've ever seen the movie Hoosiers. They did the thing where the kids surely knew what my son had had for dinner a couple of hours earlier. The kid was probably very familiar with my son's deodorant, the smell of his hair gel, meaning that he could not have been closer to my son wherever my son went. Last week, I knew that it got to my son. I felt like my son was rattled.
[00:24:55] He was caught up in those thoughts. Last night, he was absolutely present. We talked about it earlier in the day. We traded a few texts. My son took what the game gave him and he distributed the ball. He stayed in the corner as his man followed him everywhere and cleared out the lane. He set screens. He rebounded, and at one point we were up by twenty eight points. Earlier in the game, he had got open. He hit a couple of big threes in the first half to ignite the crowd. And by the end, they fouled him a lot and he made a lot of free throws. And after the game, he said. He was happy that they got the win, but we spoke later last night and he said that he had an absolute blast. He heard their players calling him all sorts of things. He heard the crowd calling him all sorts of things. And when he was subbed out with a couple of minutes left and we had the win in the bag, he just smiled over at their crowd. And yeah, I have that on camera too. So my challenge to you is to think about these concepts of psychological flexibility. As you go about your day, your week notice, your thoughts, your feelings and emotions, they're there. They are happening and your brain is doing its best. It's trying to warn you it's trying to distract you, but ultimately you're not your brain and learning to view your thoughts simply as thoughts and coming back to this present moment so that you can take action on the things that really matter to you.
[00:25:58] Like enjoying a moment or a value of adventure kindness in my car example? Those are the keys to a more fulfilling, value based, purpose filled life. And it's not trying to work yourself through some mental gymnastics. It's simply trying to learn to be the best you and learn to come back to the present moment so you can take action on things that matter. Once again, I completely forgot to run the Betterhelp.com ad, so if you're still here with me and you're looking at the world of online counseling, do me a favor and go take a look at Betterhelp.com slash virtual couch. Get 10 percent off your first month's services, and I am just so grateful that we're I think I just passed another. I think it's five million downloads or something like that with the podcast and three hundred and whatever episodes, and I could not be more grateful. I never anticipated that this would be where I was at with the podcast, and it's all because of the listeners. So thank you so much for tuning in each week for sharing the podcast for any ratings and reviews and all those things that you do. So go out there and have an amazing, psychologically flexible week. Taking this out per usual is the wonderful the talented Aurora Florence with her song It's Wonderful and I will absolutely see you next time
[00:27:00] On the virtual couch.
[00:27:06] Compressed emotions flying
[00:27:08] Past our heads and out the other end, the pressures of the daily grind, it's wonderful. And plastic waste and rubber ghost are floating past the midnight hour. They push aside the things that matter most wonderful. And 12. News of discount fraud.