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#287: Can You Change Your Relationship With Fear? | Dr. Abigail Marsh


There’s no shortage of fear these days -- the virus, the climate, racial injustice, political tumult… I could go on. But can you change the way your brain reacts to fear? Moreover, can you train courage? Abigail Marsh says yes; overcoming fear is a trainable skill. She’s an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at Georgetown University. She’s also the author of the book Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between. This is a classic TPH podcast conversation: an ace scientist whose area of expertise illuminates key aspects of the human condition. Enjoy.

Where to find Dr. Abigail Marsh online:

Website: http://www.abigailmarsh.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/aa_marsh

Book Mentioned:

Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between by Abigail Marsh: https://bookshop.org/books/the-fear-factor-how-one-emotion-connects-altruists-psychopaths-and-everyone-in-between/9781541697195

We care deeply about supporting you in your meditation practice, and feel that providing you with high quality teachers is one of the best ways to do that. Customers of the Ten Percent Happier app say they stick around specifically for the range of teachers, and the deep wisdom they impart, to help them deepen their practice. For anyone new to the app, we've got a special discount just for you. If you're an existing subscriber, we thank you for your support. To claim your discount, visit tenpercent.com/reward 

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Other Resources Mentioned:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: https://bookshop.org/books/the-goldfinch/9780316055420

Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg: https://bookshop.org/books/lovingkindness-the-revolutionary-art-of-happiness/9781611808209

The Overstory by Richard Powers: https://bookshop.org/books/the-overstory/9780393356687

Clara Barton: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/history/clara-barton.html 

Additional Resources:

Ten Percent Happier Live: https://tenpercent.com/live

Coronavirus Sanity Guide: https://www.tenpercent.com/coronavirussanityguide

Free App access for Frontline Workers: https://tenpercent.com/care

Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/dr-abigail-marsh-287

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
From ABC this is the ten percent happier Podcast Dan Harris. We care really deeply about supporting you in your meditation practice and feel that providing you with high quality teachers is one of the best ways to do that. Customers of percent happier app say. They stick around specifically for the range of teachers and the deep wisdom these teachers have to import
for anybody new to the app we ve got a special discount for you and, if you're in existing subscriber. We thank you for your support to go claim your discount visit ten percent dot com, slash reward, that's ten percent! One word all spelled out: dotcom, slash reward and, if you're already a subscriber thank you for your support. Hey guys, there is sadly, no shortage of fear these days, fear of the virus. If climate change racial injustice, political tumult, I could go on, but here's the question: can you changed the way your brain reacts to fear? Moreover, can you train car
each Abigail Marsh says. Yes, overcoming fear is a tradable skill. She's an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and the inter disciplinary neuroscience programmer Georgetown University she's. Also, the author of the book fear factor how one emotion connects altruist psychopaths and everyone in tween. This is, in my opinion, a classic Tpa, podcast conversation and a scientist whose area of expertise illuminates key aspects of the human condition I really enjoyed. This hope you will to here. We go Abigail Marsh well nice to meet you thanks for doing this. Absolutely it's a pleasure. So how did you get interested I fear that the great questions so my initial interest in social psychology, which is it The plan- I have my degree end.
Because I'm interested in facial expressions and non verbal communication in general, but how people communicate with one another and a little which had been dying over the years about why facial expressions look the way they do, and I find that a particular interesting topic, because they do look remarkably consistent across cultures, which suggests that there's something evolved and at least partly in eight about them, and that's really amazing right. I mean it's one of the Renault key piece of evidence that broke the back of radical behaviour as some decades ago that emotional expressions are interpreter all across cultures and lessening the really important, if that's true and some people had spent a lot of time, looking at the reason, in you know angry expressions of a particular way or happy expressions, but nobody really touched fear Fearest, a fundamental emotion. It seems really to know why we would communicate it to each other and how people interpreted and other people and it really was a flash for a moment,
based on the combination, of course, as I was taking as undergrad, where it occurred to me that the reason that fearful expressions look, the way they do is to elicit support and care from people who see them because they mimic the appearance of an infant. How face eyes, tat, highbrows, big eyes, the very surrounded appearance of the lower face, and they make you look infantile ends. That particular connection can help us understand so much about our nature as a social. be what emotion, therefore, what kind of social behaviour weakening from other people around us that one observation really has a lot of applications. So it's kind of expecting you to say that you had some lifelong struggle with fear, but in fact it sounds more like up academic. It well I mean you know. The same research is measured. I'm sure I mean I wouldn't say how lifelong struggle with fear, but of SAM, probably above average, in terms of cabin
city for anxiety and I've certainly had experiences where I was frightened for my life and I had the good fortune to be helped by other people around me, and so I am a hundred percent certain that that may be interested in this topic. To begin love are those things you're comfortable discussing. Oh sure, I mean it's not only one thing, but certainly the most important relevant event is the amount that happened when I was nineteen, when I was in a car accidents on a big Freeway and Washington State understate five as I was driving over bridge, to get back to my hometown late at night, I swerved to avoid a little dog, ran and find my car and becoming swimming and then unfortunate, hitting the like anyways some car into these fish tales and eventually doughnuts across the freeway and wound me up stranded and fascinated freeware on the overpass?
with no way of escaping a no phone and cars and summarised whizzing by me so fast they were making my car shake. I wish I was gonna die. I mean I was one of those things. You know they take time, slows down when you're feeling intense fear, that's true, I known a wide and no, I then and I really don't know what to do. I was starting to die in town. Stranger appear next to my car having come as I later figured out run across the freeway again, in the dark to rescue somebody. You never met before he got my horror. He figured out why, get my car back on. He threatened his way through Barrage of oncoming traffic to get us back across the freeway, and then he just disappeared, he's like it You need me to follow you. We ve also got like not an audio calibre. Okay, and he said. Okay, you take care of yourself them and off went in tonight. I, Still to this day, I think ass, a thank you. I don't know anything about him who he is on
that I owe him alive and that really inexorably changed the way that I think about people and social behaviour. Well, it's a dramatic storied actually connects to the thesis, to the extent that I understand it of your book, I'm just repeat the title which I will have stated in the introduction. The fear fact your, how one emotion connects altruism psychopath and everyone in between This is an example of extreme altruism that you just share with us. Without a doubt, he absolutely risked his life to save me. He deserved a battle for when he died at the very least, and what's so interesting about people like him, is that there's a really common tendency to assume that people who do her out things to help? Others are fearless you her. That word used all the time, but reference to heroes ends, but my research,
count as that. That's absolute, not true! That, actually, there's really there's much more interesting relationship between fear and courage and altruism. So what is it? So? What seems to be the case is that truly fearless people tend not to help us for people. For example, people who were psychopathic are one of the key features of psychopathy is a fearless disposition, as failure to respond to threats, or punishments for the potential for harm, and certainly people who are psychopathic do dangerous things, but there very unlikely to do heroic things, because our requires picking up on the fact that somebody else's afraid if you are doing something heroic or usually savings the else from danger, somebody else and afraid and you're acting to help them and what seems to be the case, if you don't experience, we are strongly yourself. You also don't pick up on,
motion and other people you have trouble detecting when other people are feeling at. You certainly don't appreciate why that state is bad and why you to alleviate it and so you're. Very unlikely to do anything to help other people are afraid, and so people who were very altruistic turn out to be the opposite, their people who are acutely aware of what it means to be afraid, and so they can empathize with that other people and when they encounter, people who are in extreme distress are much more likely to help, and so, rather than being fearless there truly brave, they have courage, which is a virtue, whereas fearlessness is really not so. a couple questions about this. Can we train disability, because I think about myself here- I think about myself all the time You know I have a lifelong relationships. Fear anxiety, phobias, manic. I don't know how altruistic I am.
Or heroic. I am I'm not trying to sort of needlessly self denigrate here. I've, but I'm curious. I feel like this is an area where I could grow. Is that a doable thing Absolutely I mean all it takes to overcome. Fear is a stronger motivation. You know again. The interesting thing about people who are psychopathic, who have also worked with extensively, is that they don't how many stronger motivation other than their own, while the right nothing motivate them beyond that they dont have principles, they Don T really care about other people, and so most of us have the capacity they really brave. As long as the thing that we are moving toward is more important to us than the risks that might otherwise drive us away and serve resembling, you have a child, my gases, even confronted with the Signor most phobic of if you now, I don't know if you like me and us have a dog phobia like if your son was being attacked by a dog. My
That is that you would be running in there to tear him away from the dog, no matter how afraid you are that's, because you love your son and his welfare is so important to you that it would overcome at least momentarily your fear for yourself and that's exactly what happens when for us to do what they do it just words. What s interesting about many address is that they seem to be mode aided by other people's welfare, even when they don't know those people, that's the remarkable thing about them as it. Most of us. I ve no jumped into a pool to save one of my kids who thought she was drowning. Now she was briefly drowning. She couldn't that fully close on my pocket and it didn't feel brave at all. I just you know she would screaming. I can still it's like her sound of her voice is like ice in my brain. Just remember your mommy help- and I was just in now I is terrifying. Distinctions can brown and their vision of thought about them.
it was interesting to me after this is ours are like that's what the alchemist I've worked with say there feeling when they decide to help other people. They say there feeling unthinking almost nothing, But you know somebody in his help, help them and but again was so interesting about them as they respond this way even to the distress and danger of people that they have never Matt ritual. Is there training. I know that I would dive in any circumstance I can imagine to save my son, but to save you you will now. I never met the nineteen year old version of Euro. I certainly had not met a highway. That's a different kettle of lavish now yeah, so it's almost certainly train about when we notice, mostly because we see lots of variation across time and across cultures, which means that there are forces that can move this capacity on that makes it sound simpler than it is right. There are lots of difficulties and trying to shape behaviour as in any kind of.
sustained or meaningful way. You probably know the psychology you're on the ability of most nudges to make meaningful changes in behavior is pretty spotty it's hard. But we know that is possible because people are becoming more altruistic towards people who are more removed from them all the time it's happening constantly and What has become more industrialized people? Social networks tend to get broader and more diverse, and that seems to generally improve the way we respond towards people that we don't know yet, particularly the way we risk two strangers and our willingness to help them, and so I can tell us a lot about the kinds of experiences that you know. or during our lives, will make us more likely to be altruistic and its both simple and difficult its. having the social experiences that leave you believing people around you are deserving of help that the people around you are mostly good and would help you if they could, and
most part. Luckily, we live in a culture where that's usually true, most of our real, so omen were all on social media all the time. I fully expect people to think I'm just completely knave and for that At that meeting I mean here's where it helps. I worked with people psychopathic. I know the bad people out there, there's no doubt about that. Some people just aren't nice and there never gonna, be nice, but we're working psychopathy has taught me is that there really different from the press and most people not like them at all, and some most of us in daily life have mostly really positive social experience has entered the degree you can have as positive social experiences with diverse sort of wide array of people in helped you contextual eyes all these people. Haven't met yet and Jim even more likely to sort of believe that those two
internet. You encounter, are, you know, still kind of in this general abstract idea you have of a person who is part of your social network and you'll be more likely to care about their welfare as a result of soul, museum agone restate that we evolve Four bias ban the Savanna somebody showed up, who have looked a lot different an you in your tribe looked, you would, I think, probably justifiably, be suspicious, so wouldn't feel necessarily a lot of, at least at first, a lot of altruism we have this in made by other ring tendency by leaf from one I'm here at the edges have been shaved off of that because societies together with the United States, has become more. You're a genius we're, seeing different types of people on tv and on our social media. That has in some measure,
ways raised, are altruism baseline, maybe so yeah. I would say that that's in large part, I think what's happening, I mean. The first thing I should say is that the capacity for altruism their capacity to want to help other people is a very fundamental part of who we are and species everybody, regardless of culture and again, with the exception of people who rather psychopathic, and there are quite different from other people on so that you will remember, but there's this wonderful hypothesis that has been coming out of the comparative biology, I anthropology literature called the South domestication hypothesis that ideas. Basically, those survival in the friendliest among certain speech, is that it become highly social and highly cooperative. It's very clear that they become self selected over time for a high level of cooperative, docile friendly nature,
and dogs or maybe the most obvious, such species. That is how they differ from their wild type cousins, the wolves. They are just mush friendlier and less aggressive and more cooperative with humans. But it's interesting is that all the features that differentiate domesticated species from their wild type cousins are also markers of humans and what makes us different from all of are non modern whom, as happens cousins and so it's very clear, based on all the sort of skeletal evident and as well as behaviour of it, and that we are basing this up domesticated. We evolved to be cooperative and to be pretty docile and two usually assume that other people can be trusted. Leases inserted the baseline assumption now that all breaks down when you have intergroup conflict in particular when you're interact
there's somebody that you think maybe a threat to your group and was so interesting about that, as that is actually a result of altruism right, because you wouldn't care about your group unless your interests I get passed on care about their group, it is care about themselves and so what's a hard about humans, is that the deep and profound way is that we become you know, sort of one with our group and that we, their welfare, is as important as our own is. The reason that we have these very deep between group enmity some time if we perceive that members of another group are somehow hostile to our own, threatening our own or a threading. The resources of our own and said to the degree that you live in a culture where life is not framed, as a battle between groups. You are more likely to treats novel new strangers
as not threatening the welfare of your group and so to treat them. As you know, a potential Ingrid member, which is great and to some extent the whole world, is becoming progressively that way. Now, because, in all the modern technologies, you use a really expanding the boundaries of we all think of it are groups. The only downside is that they also were having his pernicious effects on feelings of threats from other groups, and that will tempt on altruism, really effective claim, and so those are the sort of push polls opera. Until I wonder if there is another push full here, because another dimmer view of modernity and which I've heard argued to my ears convincingly. Is that, as we have larger social networks, but weaker ones, and particularly in the west, where under the
sway of this idea of individualism rather than community area and values, and I was a community area in values. Had their problems, were you know, but lots of people were trampled under foot lots of cultures, but individualism has its discontents as well. Where, with these weaker social ties, I've heard argue that that's leading to this epidemic of depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, etc cetera. How do you incorporate dad argument into the rosier one that you seem to gravitate towards a well don't think they're, necessarily in conflict with one other, unfortunately, general. We know Oh, that well being is a really strong promoter of altruism, and this has been shown in every way you could pass. They imagine. But what have been the subject of lobbying people sense of service satisfaction purpose in life, they have strong social ties, etc and its
international relationships in the higher the level of well being the more likely to be an altruistic them. Altruistic you are the higher level of lobbying. Engine of questions are all massive generalities with lots of individual relation and so, in general, the kinds of forces that promote, while being tend, also promote altruism and some of those are objective variables, so ample, as culture has become more prosperous and people are not suffering joke streams and deprivation. That tends to be a good thing for processing and I say this that the re I you know I m not saying is in a very wealthy people are the nice us and people who have you? No fewer resources, privileges are not definitely not saying that, but what I'm saying is there seems to be a positive relations between flourishing and process reality, which is a really good thing, because otherwise would have this horrific fashion bargain to make, which is Europe
book and either do well or they can do good, but we have to pick one and at least, if you look across geographic regions, that doesn't seem to be the case that regions in which people reporting higher levels of lobbying. You also tend to see higher levels of presidential behaviour, an interesting one of the variables that is all appears to be possibly associated with his variables is individualism. Cultural vary, but which is so interesting because of course, individualism has pernicious effects are no question about it. There's not one. We now their culture variables, don't tend to be better or worse than any serve the loot sounds, but they all have cost benefits in general, it actually a former Georgetown undergrad, who is doing in one of my classes, political paper a couple years ago. In general causes all around the world are becoming more individualistic. As time goes on, not a future price. Any most people would have figured that out and the one of the predictors of
Culture is becoming more individualistic as prosperity, so as cultures become, you know wealthier and again we're not an extreme while through just talking about rising up out of very low levels of wealth, end of it, those intends to rise and individualism, as it's meant in this kind of research is thinking of the individual as a unit of society and people's goals tending to survive revolve around in It all goes. expression and in it being so been. Relatively more individuals. Culture is people tend to make major life decisions about, where you go school, what kind of a job to tack but gender issues they prefer to marry? All of these things are based on their own personal preferences. What they believe will is sort of them most authentic choice. That is the most online, what they like, rather than the degree to which their choice is beneficial for their group,
and so, when you think about individuals in that way, it's not that's. Uprising. Individualism is associated with Bobby, because people are making choices based on the things that they prefer. but again it does have its downsides in it in one of them. Maybe this adaptation and soap, probably what's the cases that there's some balance, Queen individualism anymore. Collectivist focus, that is the sort of ideal and that balance may differ across cultures in terms of what is most likely to maximize both into them? the well being and lobbying of the group, but it does not true, that individuals necessarily a bad thing when it comes to promoting both person. lobbying, and we know that it's possibly associated with lobbying. Although again we may reach some acetate where it's not anymore, and it does seem to promote altruism particular toward strangers, not towards people they close with by you know, most cultures
Everybody's altruistic toward people are close with, but there is something interesting about how individualism may promote more precision toward strangers. In particular,. Much more my conversation with Abigail Marsh, read after this temporary
and happier is supported by better help online counselling we're in extraordinary times, and if your struggling with stress, anxiety or depression you're, not alone, better help offers online licensed professional councillors, who are trained to listen and help simply fill out a questionnaire and get matched with a councillor in under forty eight hours join more than a million people taking charge of their mental health with better help better help as an affordable option, and our listeners get ten percent off your first month with the discount code happier get started today at better help: dot com, slash happier, that's better h, e lp dot com, slash happier, let's go back to the question of a new kind of brought us here, a little bit at least to weather This sort of altruism in the face of fear is training, scale. What are the ways in which one can train it?
so the ingredients that seem to be necessary for altruism one of them in some sort of baseline level of emotional social sensitivity so having. You know having enough emotional sensitivity that you recognise somebody else is experiencing extreme distress and- Most people have enough emotional capacity to recognise when others are in distress, but there is something thence. Actually that having experienced extreme emotions yourself makes you more like their help, others in the future, so people who experienced significant when the Strasser trauma themselves. seem to be more likely to go on and help others in the future, possibly because it gives them a greater capacity for empathy attentively. But that's true, you know you, you have to know what it's like to suffer to really empathize with somebody else's suffering you're my work
had a brain tumor would choose eight and went on to become a incredibly compassionate doctor. I had no problems ever and where make up and talk to television cameras, relax do the math. Well, there you go with South Africa, are leaving needed. This study yeah. No, I think that you know the compassion is born out of suffering to some degree, not inevitably, but the relationship is clearly there, but not the most fun way to train the skill. Well, I do think it important to have experiences world right, even for example, to go out and just help people like if you want to become more competitive, start helping people because, as you know, the people who are out in the world who are helping people that is a form of suffering in itself. Unfortunately, you know it's in with other people suffering is enough and bring a lot of distress along with it and others, an interesting debate about whether, if
have compassion will then it doesn't make you suffered, as together people suffer. I have my doubts about whether it really possible to be compassionate and not feeling is suffering and response other people suffering but his we're. Having experiences in the world is, I think, an important part of being somebody who can be emotionally sensitive to others just to be on objectives are to catch up on point. I dont know that the argument- I am not an expert in this- and I know that the argument is that the difference between empathy and compassion empathy, which is like the pure feeling of somebody else's pain and compassion, which is that plus the desire too lenient and help. I dont know that the compassion nullifies all of the suffering, I just think it adds and ennobling aspect and empowering aspect dead, protects you against burn out. That's my weak understanding.
I mean that's actually exactly how I would describe it. That's a really good description. I think ass. I should better description likely to come up with. I like that alot there are some people who argue that Compassion Unum turn the whole thing into a positive experience, will prevent you from the suffering and responsible people suffering an item. I don't know if I really believe them the only way to increase ones, altruism, another really important way, because again, most of it do have altruistic motivation for people were close to, but the kicker is. How do you expand that pass to our own immediate circle of loved ones and a little more complicated answer better, a big part of it seems to revolve on. This idea of humility and the idea of sinking of yourselves. Embedded in a larger whole, rather than as being somehow more important or more central were in a fundamentally special compared to other people This took me by surprise. Actually, when I started studying that the extreme actress I study that day,
themselves never described themselves as extraordinary or heroes or especial by many of their altruistic. Kidney donors with, for example, on the size that there really no different than anybody else. They really believe that anybody, given the information that they had, would also want to dynamic it into a stranger, and I do believe that many more people might want to donate a canoe to a stranger than are aware of it But I think that actually incredibly important to not think of yourself as more special or better than anybody else mean it makes pretty centrally. You believe that you are the most special person. Then, why would giving away half of you were in a kidney resources, for example, be a good bad because you're the most important one so This can have the most value in your body, but if you can is that
everybody, has certain comparable worth figure, just one of many people out there, none of whom is more important than the other, and this presence gonna die without a kidney and you're, probably gonna be fine weather without it will then giving the kenyan to the other person seems like a completely obvious decision and that's the way most of the ultra. I've worked with seem to think about that. Why is this so welfare any less important than anybody else's and by the same token, why are there any more special? Why shouldn't be now they have a Canadian? They should just do it. I do really is something that can be train, to some degree- it's not hard wired trade, it doesn't seem to be. How would you train it, and wouldn't it harder. In a culture dominated by an individualistic outlook, it's actually not true. That's a really interesting and important point that individualism is not the same thing as narcissism beds.
a more about sort of individual expression and authenticity that can certainly go hand in hand with believing that each one of us deserves the capacity for authenticity and individual expression, which nice I mean again, it's nice that did not necessarily competing rooms. There was always do once a few melody gratitude? There's a big one in general thinking about things are grateful for keeping your gratitude journal. These are just really positive things to do base generally lead people to greater sense of well being, and they also increase your sons of humility, because you are. thinking of all the ways that you're fortunate due to forces outside yourself right all the things that you have to appreciate, which I think naturally lends itself to a more assertive, humble perspective on your own successes. Experiences nature interesting way seem to be a great way to generate a sense of humanity,
There's an interesting relationship between exposure to nature unprocessed reality, and I wouldn't say it's a rock solid finding that I'm a hundred Sure it's true, but I will definitely say that it seems to be true and what are the downsides? spending time in nature and having experiences of awe when confronted with the matter. C of the night sky or a sunset or mountains or towering trees seem to promote a sense of a small self. You know self is very small and embedded in a much larger universe and that sense of a small self. That's just me, no one atom particle and the much larger sea of people is really nice way to promote a sense of humor. What about meditation yeah? That's a really great question. There is some evidence that forms of meditation that are designed to promote your feelings of well wishes and
beneficence towards others may promote, altruism for some of the same reason. So this to be compassionate annotation, loving, kindness, meditation they seem like they should work for some of the same reasons. It's just mound, compassion, annotation, lunkheads, politician or distorted boot camp like you're training yourself to experience these feelings of compassion and well wishes for others, which necessitates. Thinking of others, as worthy of doing well of being in good health and being happy with I think for automatically levels are perspective on this playing field, so that promotes humility and the learning stand now emotional state outward toward more and more distant people towards even people that are difficult or who you finds intrinsically. Unlike a ball, tread yourself, you know, I think, feeling compassion for yourself rather then feeling extreme
emotions I killed and sham and self criticism is also important for altruism support to be able to figure resolve as well for your foibles. So there is some pretty good evidence. I think that's Process reality can be promoted by compassion. and ass meditation. Not every study shows that. So again, I think YO scientific studies, you think in terms of probability, is how likely is a particular to be trail, I would say I think, it's more likely true, the not than these hand imitation, promote, altruism, but I think we're still in the process of making sure that's true. I just point out that I am an avid practitioner of loving kindness meditate. and I still have two kidneys. So can we got you in doing this limitation where First, I was on a meditation retreat and I didn't have any choice because they were teaching it in the afternoons. Cat, that's a good reason
and so for many years I kind of did it, but you know- and I developed a better attitude when I started to see a lot of the sciences suggests. Can really good for you and even potentially impact your behaviour and that I got really into it after I got a hunk. I say this a tell a story: little sheepishly listeners of the show. No, this story in it out, so I won't be labour the point, but I had a three sixty review and it indicated that I don't know if I would be if I would be fair to summarize. The negative findings is indications of psycho pathology, but no kissing cousin so I got pretty deep into loving kindness meditation. I found that it's been really helpful. Importation I would say the most. Maybe the most useful aspect is having an easier friendly relationship with my own. Ugliness so that it
not only is me as much, and that leaves room a greater availability, that's an end of one, but that's the way I have experienced it. That's really call- and I think I I think that what I love about loving kindness and compassion meditation as that in some ways they very simple, right, you're, just training yourself to x, France, the state for a wider and wider network of people, which, in theory, should give you a sense of indebtedness in the larger fall, which is just beneficial and so many ways and I think it is consistent with what we know about, altruism, that you think of yourself as one part of a larger that's not divided into working groups right. This is downside of clash of cultures. That is a little hard to get from this, that the more you d find yourselves in terms of a group that you are part of the more you
to define some people is not in your group, and so the challenge is to make who we think of as our group as big as possible, and I think the promise of loving kindness meditation has to do to stop donations. I've been really fortunate and the research, the my lab, is right now doing that were working on some loving kindness, meditation protocols with Osborne who you know protein or at the book, loving kindness, meditation and assist amazing. I'm teacher in this respect. The shoe very good friend and teacher months been on the show many many times. Wonderful tat is a person I love. She is phenomenal, it's impossible not to feel true joy. After having a conversation with her. Yes, you can have a lot of profound effects that can be inconvenient to. I stopped eating animal products, which is a gigantic pain in the butt, but it has lots of. I found a lot of beneficial impacts, Well, I agree one other thing I read in preparing for this interview: while Samuel did the preparation and
you, and I saw a document that I read shadow makes my life easier than I deserve to be, but one of the little stood out to be as one way to develop this capacity for altruism in the face of fear is literature yeah Now, there's a really interesting body of evidence that read. It is also one of the reasons that as culture is how you know what I'm talking about like hundreds of years ago now, as the literacy became a thing, there's people search a reed there, was one of the many forces that seems to be generally promoting this global move towards greater empathy and altruism, especially towards strangers, and it's cool I want to start thinking about it does make sense, rabies reading about Finally, an M literary fiction seems to be one of the big movers, but really any kind of reading. That gives you the opportunity You be inside the head of another person
has all the ingredients of something that should work because you're really getting a chance to experience and other persons internal state and link it to your own experiences, which is greater. Two strands, empathy and you're doing it in response to a really just kind of a decent body. Might you know new reading about how, on a page, there's no visual cues, there's no, you know spoken, acts, answer clothing or anything that could mark them as different from yourself, your forced to see all the things that you and the person who may be, in fact very different from you? You know you list culture, far away or limit of a time, maybe is very different from you, demographically, your forced to share their experience, and so there is some evidence that people who read a lot of literary affection have stronger empathic capacities are attacking those. Let us once again, there is really no bad side effects to reading
let us act, and it may make you more about that. I guess you could raise them. Causation correlation questions there, but I will say that, just as a weird build on that notion for the last eleven or so years- and I became interested in meditation and Buddhism, I actually haven't read any literary fiction, except for one. I allowed myself a treat after I finish my first book of reading the Goldfinch which is unbelievably good and was really humbling after having written a book and then reading that and really how bad I am anyway. I recently had a very similar experience, because a friend of mine was meditation teacher who comes on the show quite a bit. Seventy Selassie were sent me a book. This is what I have said, love languages. She sends people articles and books, and so she sent me a book called the over story which won the
it's her prize and I started to read it. I had a lot of similar feelings I had upon reading down at tarts book the Goldfinch, which is wow. This person has indescribable genius. I think his name is Richard Powers, I've just in all that humans, the capacity to create on their own. This amount of beauty, page after page sentence after sons, but the other thing is that this is a book about, treves. It's a novel. It has human characters, but the theme is trees and I don't know if one can have empathy. Yeah guess about, came to demonstrate a lot of altruism direction of trees by like chaining yourself to one prevent one from being cut down that happens in this book. I've noticed that I am way more a tune to and care much more about trees as a result of reading this book,
oh, my gosh, how wonderful of everything about that, so my husband actually wishes recommended that book to be the historian. He read it and he had exactly the same feeling. I always have headed strangely sort of love relationship with trees. I reckon it seems rather my family, but I do love trees and my husband came away from his book feeling exactly that way about trees, and there is something about beauty that I think is so important, and so whether you brought that word up, because I think it's is coming to Pupu beauty a little bit as a purely cosmetic and as for the fluffy thing to care about, but I think beauty is sort of intrinsic to at all. I mean there's a reason that we, like him, you know virtue and beauty is one of those things that gives us a sense of are frequently that you know it's obviously profoundly positive experience to be confronted with something of great artistic beauty or great physical beauty, and it does give you a sense of
connected ass in a sense of joy, and so I think, having experiences that give you the privilege of experiencing the joy of beauty, is: in short to wellbeing. Being my guess is that it also is assessed data processing quality because that's so strongly related to the way we feel about nature and its also related to the experience of reading great literature. Ma am I love. Them was a lot here before we close, I be curious to hear your thoughts about how we can apply what we ve learned Over the past forty five minutes from you about fear and our ability to- I don't know if you like this but overcome in order to exhibit process reality and altruism. All of that, how can we operation lies it in the face of this her senses globally. That provoked so much fear the pandemic,
Rachel Injustice, economic decline and by the way injustice has well political unrest, and disagreement here in the United States on and on and on. How can we start to use the wisdom you ve imparted in this context The question so fear is obviously an incredibly useful emotion. I mean we needed to survive. People were psychopathic, do live less long than other people. I think in part, because they're not afraid enough. I think it's important to appreciate fear for what it gives us, but it is also important to remember that feelings are not truth and
possible to be afraid of something: that's not really dangerous or is not as dangerous as we fear it is and the way that people end up with a social anxiety disorders that prevent them from being able to function or it's from being able to reach their potential is by taking their fear to literally- and this is where it takes some judgment- and it takes some perspective bout, the fact that there are other things in the world that matter other than the thing we're afraid of this brings us back to the discussion. Altruism right, it's you know it's not that you are not afraid of. For example, I don't have your dogs but like if you, even if you were Fraid of dogs, you would get over that fewer immediately. If there was something more importance to focus on an that's really the best way for overcoming fear in general. Is to remember that it's just one signal we're getting and not always an accurate one and so
when you know that the thing you're afraid of is objective three, not likely to actually hurt you. You need to do the thing you're afraid anyway so mean it really comes back to the age old, saying that you know you have to get back on the worse after you fall off. Why is that? Because it scared, if or as a father, whereas it sucks, but the reason get back on its because that's teaching your brain that you can handle. It and the worst thing you can do in the face of things that scare you is to avoid them, because that just teaches your brain, that you should avoid them and a solidifies. The fear and ass for people end up with anxiety disorders, and so I think it's really important as much as we can to try to take the focus office
jobs and to focus on the things in the world around us that matter and go about trying to do good in the world and trying to master our fear as much as we can. I love your quota Shakespeare is that of ambition, as it is a good servant, but a bad master, and that's basically, this is true of every emotion, fears, also very good servant. It's a very bad master and the best way to overcome fears about all the legitimate Gary things happening in the world is to take action, take action to help other people who are worse off than yourself or maybe not even worse off than yourself, but they just need help poor yourself into com. Says that matter, hopefully in ways that involve getting off for behind her scream. Our brain needs the real world in Yemen. There's really cool stated that can address this past year. Looking at people's patterns of movement around Manhattan over the course of a frigate is advocated time, it was, but it was weeks. Maybe this Catherine, hardly it, and why you
and they found a really strong relationship between just the diversity of your movements in the world and given dad you're wellbeing were designed to move were designed to be an actual physical world doing things, and I think This world there were living in right now, we're just sitting behind our don computers. All the day gets people inserted a tailspin, sometimes and so the best recommendation. I can get people as to go out in the world and do things and do things that you find meaningful. They give you a sense of purpose because having a sense of purpose, essential for having a high level while being, and it is that sense of purpose. That is the thing most likely to help PETE the fear you may have the various dangers at the water is so in a covert context. Would an example be, like rate of getting the virus, I'm gonna where my mask and take the appropriate precautions, but that won't stop me from say
volunteer work or going to be a protest or voting or whatever it is. I think he's going to help other people and make a difference Actually you now, I have neighbors who spend their days, making sandwiches for people who don't have enough food right now, delivering things to people who really can't leave their house Oh, live in your neighborhoods on the ways the neighbour has really doing themselves together recently to make sure that everybody has the things they need during the epidemic has been really sort of an firing and heartening yeah, focusing on helping other people. I mean. One of my eyes were personally here is a car Barton who live swell, who her hurled houses just down the road from mine here, and you see she was incredibly anxious as a child. You know she has a wonderful quote where she says that people who observed her on the battlefield where she was the civil war who founded the American Red Cross, inventories, foregoing, unto battlefields and risking serious injury herself to tender, wounded soldiers and people would say or do the same thing. She was fearless and she said, but you know as a child, I knew nothing but fear. I was extremely fearful child
and then she had experience of caring for her older brother who had a terrible terrible injury and that experience of carrying helped her get over her. fear and even later in life, when she was experiencing bouts of depression, which she had many of she found that the best way to get over her own experiences of depression was to go back out on the battlefield and ten Gounod soldiers and focus on now. Rather, focusing on herself gotta get you out of that ruminative state that we know is so bad for wellbeing and health. You written that fear, gets bored easily and leads to Habituation Harry Harry you, I see em myself, that I am less scared of Right now and for some reasonably good reasons in that I live in a part of the world were transmission is quite low right now, caseload, hospitalization death rate, all quite low. The part of the North EAST where I live, so you know night. My aunt em, Cousin came over with some kids and play with my kids, and you know it
through caution to the wind a little bit and one level unthinking. Okay. Well, is this just a worthwhile risk for the well being of children or is it I've become of to the risk? And I just can't stay vigilant- that long Yeah, probably a little bit about. I mean we're learning more so, for example, if you all were getting together outside, I think the evidence has become more and more clear return. The transmission of this virus is less likely outside, and so I've become much more comfortable spending time outside with people that I used to be. Has it the data coming on. So that's been canonize, but yet no do you know. I know people who live in parts of the country that the virus, admissions very low who are still living such a cloistered existence and the pandemic that they remain very, very afraid of even objectives, not that risky encounters, and I do think that taking obviously smart boycott Sons, because we don't want no rest catching at mainly, I mean for me, I'm not at any particular time
categories. I don't want to catch him in at the stories are obviously you know it's clear that none of us is truly completely safe from the virus. Say I want to give it anybody else. I would feel awful if that happened, and so I do take reasonable precautions, but I'm not fool myself that we can ever bring our risk of any bad outcome down to zero. That's not the goal of life, and we have to take reasonable precautions, which, if you know any two people will differ, but I think you know, I think it's ridiculous, for people to argue against ring mask, because it's a very small costs with what the person very. They benefit associated without preferentially spending time and other people outside of the weather's nice there's not much of a downside and its coolly, much safer and going out and having little encounters where you realize that you know why we can keep going. We can keep doing that some of the things that we have and maybe not exactly the same way, but to bring all the odds of catching the virus down to zero at the expense.
Eradicating every other thing that matters of life for an indeterminate about time, in my book is not a reasonable sacrifice. Even now, like everything is just such a clause on mass on federal level, that doesn't mean that each one of us can try to do our best to protect ourselves in the people around us, while still doing the things that are necessary to keep her sobs and our values our loved ones gone. We are talking about the people arguing against masks. I find anti maskers to be extremely frustrating myself, and I wonder if there is some fear there. to fear of submitting to the finger wagging nanny state experts, fear of somehow diminishing.
Your masculinity, etc, etc that that Lamb chops will then we are very different. Amounts of access is good information and good resources, and so my general baseline assumption is that most people are doing the best they can. Most people think they're doing the right thing most of the time, and so I do believe that people who are very resistant to wearing masks in general- and there were obviously exceptions to this, believe that they are making their choices for reasonable causes, and it's just unfortunate that we don't have you no better national messaging from trusted authorities that would I welcome in this is just now there's no downside. You know that it's not going to lead to the fatal, build up of carbon dioxide. Her effort, you I've, heard some crazy rumours floating around.
This is not only going to benefit you, but it's going to benefit everybody else around you and if we all do it for a little while, then will really make a difference in. Let's all do it together and, unfortunately it way. I think what some interesting is the re. Now that information is cheap and you can get it anywhere, and so I think This is one of the reasons that people have a lot of fears about things that are not as big a risk as they worry because there's so much bad information out there and for yourselves, you know it. You read that you get eyeballs by selling conspiracy stories and fearmongering so. I don't necessarily blame people who have, lot of paranoia, meaning strong fears are things that are not actually dangerous because you now people are feeding them. Information like this very skilfully, even though you're not a loving kindness practitioner- and I say this in closing- you very skilfully expressed- and I agree with it-
some compassion and understanding towards people with whom we disagree, those who are wearing masks Sis II that day. they have reasons, even though we disagree with them that are reasonable in their minds for doing what they're doing. So. Bravo to you profess remarks Thank you very much. Absolutely it's been a pleasure big thanks to Abigail. I got a lot of that really proceeded one last thing before we go. We would appreciate it if you would do us a solid if you would take a few minutes to help us out by answering a survey, the team years at looking for ways to improve? So if you want to help us out hook us up, please go to ten percent dotcom forward, Slash survey, ten percent doc come forward. Slash survey! Thank you because it well to the team who were, so hard. But this show together two and a half times a week. Samuel John's is our senior producer. Moorish Schneiderman is our produce,
are sound. Designers are met Boyton and on your Sheikh of Ultraviolet Audio Maria work as our production coordinator, we get a ton of really helpful input from our keep. Each colleagues, such as joint point make Toby been Reuben, endless Levin and before I go of course, big thanks as always to May abc NEWS colleagues, Ryan, Kessler and just call him was the on Friday for a bonus meditation on fear. We share in Salzburg.
Transcript generated on 2020-10-10.