Ep 254: Susan David Ph. D on uncomfortable feelings and emotional agility.
I am so excited to be sharing my conversation with Susan David with you.
Her book "emotional agility” was one of the books I devoured in the first few months of coming off of meds, as I tried to learn more about my head and about what’s going on when I get triggered with panic or rumination.
The wide angle view of Susan’s work is that discomfort or indeed uncomfortable feelings is the price of admission to a meaningful life.
When I first saw her Ted Talk, “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage" which has well over 3 Million Views by now - this was like a revelation to me.
I say to Audrey all the time - I have these moments where it’s like we’ve hit the “release” button on the pressure cooker - just one small string of words or an idea can free me from the swirling vortex of rumination.
And when I first heard Susan’s hypothesis, this was like permission to have this discomfort within my body - and that indeed absorbing it and realising that not only was I bigger than it but also that it would pass - well that was incredibly liberating. Bear in mind that I needed to be on meds for a long time until I was able to hear such things and have them stick - when I was sick and experiencing psychosis it wouldn’t have mattered if A Harvard Ph,D psychologist like Susan David sat in my kitchen and told me this like she does today - it simply wouldn’t have mattered.
But thankfully I have healed a lot and I’m getting about doing the daily work so that ideas and concepts like this can indeed stick in and make a difference to my day.
In fact just this morning, Audrey and I were coming back from the airport after a lovely week away in Bali, when I did something I shouldn’t have done on three hours of sitting in a chair plane sleep.
I opened twitter and saw an article claiming that the Trump administration was using an unstoppable and cataclysmic climate change projection of a 7ºC rise by 2100 was justification that car emission regulations weren’t going to make a difference to why not lift the restrictions and just go to town on emissions since we’re all going to die anyway.
Now if you’ve read my book you’ll know that Climate Change was my trigger - and indeed the paranoid delusions I was experiencing convinced me that such a scenario as this projection was happening today and I was the only one that knew about it.
So as I sat in the back of a cab, my body just teetering on the edge of sunburn and tan after a week reading my Yuval Noah Harari book in the sunshine, my wife texting the dog sitter trying to reunite us with Frank later that day, the familiarly cool and punishing stab of fear pierced my stomach.
Crisp and precise, my intestines turned to macrame and my heart nearly bursting through my ears. I could hardly breathe and as I look at the peerless blue sky and a man walking past in shorts I feel the icky tendrils return into my brain, the blue sky is bad, it should be cloudy this time of year - why’s he wearing shorts? It’s supposed to be cold? These two things clearly mean this article is correct, fuuuck here we go… I’m suddenly completely disconnected to the present. I’m no longer in the cab, no longer with Audrey, no longer basking in the glow of a week in Bali lying around by a pool reading books with my lover.
I’ve been hijacked and I’m now imprisoned in a cage of future fear that feels completely real in my mind, utterly disconnected with where my body actually is.
So I go straight to my tools. Breathe. Get control of my breathing. Feel my feet in my socks. Get into this moment. Get into my body. Reach out and touch Audrey on the hand. Connect with her and this reality right now, not the one in 82 years from now.
Breathe some more.
Where is this feeling in my body?
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