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398: The Right Kind of Suffering | Paul Bloom

2021-11-22 | 🔗

Is there a good kind of suffering? Paul Bloom says, yes -- there is a kind of suffering that you choose. This voluntary suffering can reduce anxiety and make your life more meaningful. This episode explores that idea, along with: why we are hardwired to worry about bad things (and why that’s ok); the difference between chosen and unchosen suffering; post-traumatic growth and why it’s not always true that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger; benign masochism and the blurring of pleasure and pain; and cognitive empathy vs. emotional empathy.

Dr. Paul Bloom is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto and the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University. He is the author of six books, the most recent of which is called, The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the ten percent happier podcast, I'm Dyin Harris already hello, welcome to the show, to say the least suffering as some pretty negative. allocations, especially Buddhism, where the whole goal is to uproot suffering. But is there a good kind of suffering My guest today says yes, there is a kind of suffering that you choose. A voluntary suffering that can make your life more meaningful and also referred, your anxiety problem. a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the Brooks and Suzanne Reagan? Professor emeritus of psychology at Yale University he's the author of six books, the most recent of which is called the sweet spot the pleasures of suffering and the search for meaning This conversation we cover why hedonism is not our natural state. Why we,
hard wired to worry about bad things, and why that's not such a bad thing why? Paradoxically, people strive for happiness are often the most unhappy that fritz between chosen and unclosing suffering, post, traumatic growth, and why it's not always true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger but nine masochism. I love that term and the blurring of pleasure and pain. Why suffering can be fun and pleasurable. The brain as a difference, engine suffer ring as an escape from the south and the overlap with an distinction from meditation practices and dive into Paul's previous book to talk about the difference between native empathy and emotional empathy before that one quick item of business If you are a regular listener to this podcast, you may have noticed that we ve had a lot going on over on the ten percent happier app. This fall from meditation challenges to the brand new twenty percent happier pod.
asked: there's never been a better time to join our community of Mediterranean on the app to make sure you have it try it out were offering ten percent happier subscriptions a forty percent discount until December. First, we don't do discount of this size all the time and of course nothing is permanent, so get this deal before it ends by going to ten percent dotcom slush forty, that's temperature, one word all spelled out: dot com, slow four zero for forty percent off your subscription I'll, kick it off with Paul bloom right after this one, comes to what truly matters at mega food. It's the power plants and nourishing soil for quality ingredients to help grow a healthier world they do, what matters to them, so you can do what matters to you like being present. Saying yes, or maybe even taking some you time to listen to your favorite, podcast and all
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my nemesis actually do: the opposite of nemesis toe the sweet spot, the pleasures of suffering and the search for meaning the pleasures of suffering. What on earth does that mean it sounds crazy, paradoxical largest, just weird, you would think suffering is the opposite of pleasure in August, of happiness, but what got me into it, look was. I was really interests in cases where they didn't seem to be true. Where he seemed to seek out suffering It's like spicy foods are hot bass, scary movies, endurance exercises and we take pleasure in a BBC em take taking extreme. Now for some sort of pain, some sort of anxiety, some sort of struggle we seem to like it, and now You know I was very interesting mystery why that could be so, and I was impetus from my book. Anyone got into that. I said become interests and suffering.
That we want but does seem to at pleasure, but more adds meaning and purpose to our lives. Raising children, endurance, rock climbing. You know starting a business that sort of thing, and so I you two suffering is good in two ways: it could give you pleasure, bokassa, giving meaning show how you defining suffering, because I think there's a universe of suffering that might come to the mind of the average person that that might go beyond what you're talking about, because I I think of suffering it can include raising children, especially since my six year old, is now in the habit of calling me jerk circuit include raising children, but could also include you know getting hit by a car or you know getting a cancer diagnosis. Yes, so There is a good distinction here. One distinction run through my book is the difference between chosen suffering and and shows the suffering, and my book is about suffering. You choose
you know you you, you choose to engage and were later relationship certain activities under was in suffering, getting assaulted, getting hit by a car. giving cancer is pretty much. You know better People are more resilient than we think we are There is much to be said about that, but for the most part, those are not events. You should welcome. common sense that seem battery an airbag for you. The sort of suffering which I think carries benefits enjoy types that we opt for and a lot of my book talking about pleasure. What's been called benign masochism, love that phrase yeah. It's not mine, psychologist polarizing, it's a lovely phrase, masochism right, we're not, a sharp enough fingers here. We're not talking about something heavy duty. We're talking about you know your ankle is brain and prolonged away on it. You put your tongue in your team, where it hurts a little bit you
to cry when you see a certain movie are terrified. It's it's pain, this under control, and it's not that severe. You do often hear people who have gone through chosen suffering say that it added an enormous amount of meaning to their lives and Viktor Frankl, quite famously man, for meaning Viktor Frankl. What was the holocaust survivor? Talk finding meaning in the suffering of the concentration camps. My wife had breast cancer and talks about how There was a kind of thing she uses this term, but I think it's a popular term, this kind of post, traumatic growth that she expected Stan. You know I've heard it many times. What's your take on that. You know for a guy who wrote a book in favour of suffering, I'm somewhat sceptical, so you're right posters. Growth is big. Distes is supposed this post and ideas that post traumatic This isn't just resilience. It's you go through your struggle. It's in some way similar to PTSD, but you cannot bear
side of a person. May with more meaning in your life, more connections more gratitude may be kinder and people certainly think they do in often. I wouldn't doubt that this could happen sometimes, but when people do a deep dive into this data, for two things. One thing is, although people say their lives, and transformed into different people and the latter objective measures sometimes do not better at all, sometimes or worse, and indecision. Something is when you do study with control group. It turns out tat people Terrible things happen to them often said They benefited usually in a much better people, but people who didn't have terrible things happen and bill went through life normally also tend to say their better people, were powerful storytellers and I dont want to escape. I think in some cases, suffering really can transform us in a positive way, but I think I'm chosen suffering for the most part doesn't reliable benefits and the Good NEWS here,
and George Bonanno hasn't new book on this call end of trauma. The good news we're a lot more resilient and we think we're so used to be thought that area have trauma, you're, gonna, be messed up inevitably and actually, that's the exception. Resilience is mortal rule, but let me If I can sum up your thesis here on this narrow aspect of the book, jeez, that Ngos is offering his tat something we should be going to look for, but it's possible in these cases that it can lead to prose dramatic growth, but sometimes it does. and its story were telling ourselves about it and sometime actually it just leads to your life, sucking even more because something terrible haven't. You exactly right and I think it's and a good to know, because one of the and fortune The consequences of too much talk, opposed. Dramatic growth is the burden on people who have had terrible things happened before
is just an audience of saying well, ok, now you gonna grow can be better egg. Get on that project and some people just say. Look I just want to recover. I want to get back to normal leave me alone. I think in some way, if it happens, is wonderful but expecting happen. It seems like an unreasonable burden. You I get that expecting it to happen, can seem like an unreasonable burden but I've tried channel all the people listening who had what they might consider character, building experiences that are, you know the key sign posts in their life's history and now says, is Paul. Guy coming, tell me well, I didn t grow and learn as as a consequence of this stuff. Well, they'll push back on you, but I think, feel ass. If a lot of people who say I was assaulted a year ago, you know I was paralysed? Might my son died and I gotta tell ya, I'm calling my way back here and is
just that I don't. I wish you'd never happen, which is which even post traumatic growth people say that people wish it never happened. That's fine busy! Now, I'm not actually kind better more spiritually fat. I'm just you know making my back I think a lot of those people too. But again it is possible to go through on chosen suffering and come out. The other side kinder, better, more spiritually fit rolling that out, I am not really matter but I'm officer not ruling out that nothing at all could happen to you in any time goes by NATO assets and then, if just add to it, throwing everything that makes people talk about post Dick static growth. Which is something really good happens to you. You get married professional competence, and then you also come out of it better. You come out of some positive development better. Yes,
ok, there's a lot in your differential here. They are allowing for a whole spectrum of results from on chosen suffering as opposed to the sort of popular the notion that may be somewhat damaging if not also somewhat incorrect that something bad gonna have to do it, you'll be better on the other side of this. Don't worry about it. That's exactly right! I'm allowing for it. You know we're complex the creditors, all sorts of things can happen, but a sum was a tell me: here's an interesting psychological process that we almost all, Stu. I take no evidence, doesn't supporter benign. if it were so be nice bed these were actually good things, but bad things are often babblings. Ok, go to chosen suffering, let's get to the good
Have you can talk about some of the benefits that you ve come across in your study here? That can come to us from the right kind of chosen suffering, yeah and I can be found two categories: do you think about pleasure often shows the suffering could be part and parcel of experiences that we really get a kick out of it, a lot of fun to eat spa HE foods and to compete and endurance competitions and got a sad movies and and scary movies, good hearted MRS get really scared and hats. That's a fund made out a lot of the pleasures. We get into involve suffering and we can either talk about something which I think connects our interests pretty well, which is the idea that certain sorts of suffering can provide sort of escape from south in. and there's an overlap here with wood, meditation practices and then the whole leather. Category is suffering. a part of a meaningful life where this
sort of things that give us meaning. They say why that was important. That was significant, inevitably requires frank suffering, not of a sort of ouch pain. But in source of anxiety in difficulty and struggle and worry, and that's a very Some kind of benefit still, I think, are really important benefit as he said a lot there in that brief answer- and I think it's worth unpacking three components that I heard I heard pleasure, I heard sending of the self and a kind of liberty? From anxiety, so let's start with pleasure: why is it that going You'Re- a haunted house or watching a scary movie or eating spicy food or, as you reference before Beady S m, this kind of controls, forever benign masochism. What why does that give us pleasure so.
These different answers to that. The simplest answer anything which applies lotta cases is we enjoy playing with contrast, people described the brain as a difference engine and does work from neuroscience psychology, suggesting that if I asked you how you doing you're only proper response, is compared to what it says, and if you, if you are playing a game and you lose dollar. If you expected to win that sad, If expected lose ten dollars. You happy ends experiments they give you mild pain if you were expecting something pleasurable, it hurts if you were expecting something much worse than she feels good. A blurring of pleasure and pain, and we play with this You think I'm movie like a John Wick Classic Prevention. Theirs part of the beginning of the month spoiling much us into trailer where, the russian mobsters kill this guy's dog is very sad, and you feel sad wanting it. But then there is the pay off were John with kills everybody
and so it's a contrast that we do we play with them that we enjoy, and you can't have the positive about the negative gotta get me you talk about. It drew up a gory movie and there have been various sort of. I think it may be safe to call. moral panic around violence. Oh games and violent movies and Just talk to my wife about this over dinner last night that that I don't think, there's any evidence that This kind of benign masochism of watching things that are horrifying on the screen, not just scary, but like violent and gory it doesn't seem to lead to people in the real world doing a lot of violent and gory thinks I mean There has been a million studies. Let's say looking at this and they find little or no effects. Sometimes they find a short term effect, which makes sense you just playground. theft auto or you know, shoot em up game and you bit piped up when you leave it, but they
The idea that these violent video games make you more violent as no evidence for it, and it was a big piece of evidence against which is over the last twenty years. The game I've gotten more and more and more violent and the street have become safer and safer and safer took a line of how gory and violent video games are an juxtaposed online of the crime rate of violent crime. It'd be like an Ex one goes up. One down now. I'm not saying video games make us nicer. That's the desert, the too much but Video games makes us worse, really is one of the least support to try needs you could find in psychology Is there some evidence that doing this kind of frank. Putting yourself through the horror of a video game has some sort of benefit? It's like a rehearsal in some way fur I don't know, evolution airily. Is there some something to be said for this work? I think with video games
I don't need any evidence either way. I don't think there's evidence is bad for your own interests. Evidence is good for you, but there, an evolutionary account which I think is actually pretty possible for why we might like negative aversion games and movies and books and stories. Why would like to have them with plenty of islands and which is were just actually drawn to explore? The negative? Is even cities daydreaming you know you daydreaming, you might you wherever it can go and people, they dream a bad snuff dependent about. Oh, my God will happen. If I lose my job or somebody of dies? My house burned down, and we find infection is imaginative, Ray nations a sort of worst case scenarios like is ill remove easy that these days eat or some sort of zombie movie. Where the word has collapsed and chaos or isn't it and your movie were good as fighting evil, and these are. Of natural habitats. We have, and we cannot accept
and in a safe, prosperous country. We don't go to war. We just watch people go to war play war on video games an evolutionary account is, is actually really good to think about and practice and worry about bad things. So, there's negativity by Yes, that's been wired to us through evolution may serve many purposes, but one of them you're, arguing or positing here could be that Jim, indulging, the negativity biased by watching a zombie film allows some part of your brain rehearse, how you would behave in a zombie apocalypse? That's right and You know that's one way of putting it. We're sounds really done, which is well there's not going to be a zombie apocalypse, but the cool a zombie movies- and this is this- is I think your point? Is that they're not about really zombies the collapse of society, the real dangers and zombie movies are never does zombies, people that right, yes in the walking dead.
Zombies are pretty dangerous for the most dangerous people or the other living people yeah. The show forgot about zombies, there's only just background noise to the cruelties. People. That's what we're what were drawn to and you know you brought up a more general negativity, bias anything that Spain's along about our psychology and what capture interests you our waters, interest people in the room and one's a really nice generous person. What was really nice meeting Gus unnoticed notice, him or her. But if one of them is a murderer psychopath, it's really important for me to focus on that person. The negative as much stronger than the positive. This is for reasons of survival yeah. It's reason for survival and and prospering and reproduction the wage usually put is. imagine the best thing that could happen to you today for the rest of the day And then imagine the worst in the world, There's a lot worse for you, then the best
he's got any endorses francisque you die and everybody you loved eyes and that's pretty catastrophic the boy ass it is, I don't know when a lottery, something has really nice, but not as good is about is bad and in fact, there's some evidence coming from, and why you that people who do a lot of positive fantasizing thinking a lot about what it be like when I get a girlfriend? What would it be like when I get it? by one actually do worse in the world an argument. Is they get some satisfaction from the positive fantasizing that partially satisfies your appetite, so they don't have to go do the things as much as people who fantasize about that sounds intuitively correct. However, too much now Fantasizing sounds like a horrible way to live, and I say that from the variances from the inside pocket yeah. So. there was an optimal amount of anxiety and rumination and worry and it's more than makes us happy. You know, I think, there's
adaptive logic, touring alot about your kids about life about your health because you worry a lot and you prepare and maybe ninety nine and one hundred times your preparation doesn't make a difference, and you shouldn't worry so much, but that one time out of a hundred mix of worthwhile but you're, absolutely right, everything there are extremes in you worry too much. You find yourself an anxiety disorder, and you are not is able to function but this guy Nessie, whose an evolutionary psychiatrist point out. We always talk about people's anxiety disorders of too much anxiety. We never talk about we have to, lazy, and he says these are you you don't make it into the psychiatrist office. You find him in morgues more in prisons in because, because They just take too many chances. That's really interesting well I may live long and free, but I'll be worrying allowed, while about it genes will thank you for your service,
did mention, though, that this kind of benign masochism can liberate us from anxiety. What is the mechanism there soon That's a really interesting issue which I'm sort of struggling with, and this came up in the context of the essence. Why would somebody willingly be hurt, are humiliated punished by another person and in again, of course, as always controllers a safe work, just as all voluntary, but this? psychologists. Roy Bow Meister suggests that one of the thing said the sort of experience gives you is a sort of escape from the south in that in the south. is a noisy thing and often just like you get sick of another person. I think you get sick of what's going on in your own head earliest, I can. The cost and voice. The self doubt obsession about past worries about the future and one thing pain. for you. Is it obliterates on that it captures your attention, captures your focus,
and one thing I'll I'll ask you this witches I'm not sure whether its in some way the same as meditation, which is often described as obliterating myself or the opposite. Meditation, in which case you just stop of yourself and One reason why, despite having read your book and got into it for a while, I kind of struggle with meditation is because I can't quit the voice of myself, and so I prefer things like come, listened gas store endured exercise which kind of gets me at my own head my doing wrong. What's our aid simple, that one source of the misunderstanding lies in the word quell, because There'S- and this is absolutely from her from deep experience in dodging my desire to quell voice in my head, but implied That word is a kind of aggression. or a aversion
The voice in your head is a little bit like a bad guy that get stronger the more you fire your Reagan at it to that kind of aggression that you bring to the voice in your head, whether it's over Or just saddle aversion is going to make everything worse. Meditation was a very tricky, this stance that it requires it's like of Yo Game, where you can move forward. If you want to move forward, have to kind of get into and you'll only get into this position at by the way four nanoseconds at a time you might get into a kind of equipoise a kind of when Nimitti warrior like okay with whatever comes up, that is the kind of attitude were training which very to get. It chill what you can do it you just at the kind of suffer a little bit That's benign masochism, in my view, at its
tax. You know like the being willing to set and stew in all of the and the whole catastrophe. we're. Eventually you get to see it all of the way you might see a horror movie. It's like it's happen. It's like color on a screen. If it's not actually you but you're, not taking it. So personally, so I don't want to go so far as to say doing it wrong, but maybe there is a slight attitudinal shift that would open the thing up for you known as nicely put this list put in some way. Then it is the goal is the same. I mean getting suddenly slapped or hit our orders mapping rubber band on yourself, whatever it does for that second, you not focusing on yourself you just focusing on experience itself. I talk about. look how the first time ever aspired and brazilian jujitsu with somebody much younger than me and much stronger than me, a much better me it was you know this incredible experience and I realize afterwards Wall what's happening
I was thinking about nothing, but you know not having my arms pull the work for my body, and I wasn't thinking about asthma going, and you know how my relationships and so on that list Let me say a little bit about meditation and in this context- and I apologise to any actual meditation who's out there who are listening here for any since I might be about to commit, because I want to claim to understand it the way you know a lot of train meditation teachers do but there are unquestionably is value to doing. Really sort of extreme activities that take you, out of your head. You know, I'm regularly exercise in a way that is so that I e to all my existential worries go with thinking for a little bit. They always come rushing back in, of course, I am in no way diminishing devaluing that what I think the differences meditation. Is your actually
opening the door to the whole mess. So that you can be familiar with it in a way, that you are no longer owned by it. You develop a sort of positive, this passion a sort of warm this passion of us. As the great meditation teacher Rhonda said, you become a connoisseur of your neuroses and then familiarity, and I think the Tibetans talk about merit patient as a kind of familiarization with the mind allows you to not be so owned by it. So you have to go through the work of just being inundated with
like the bad news of what your life is actually about. You might think your life is about to tv tenure at Yale and being a great dad and then yeah. It is, but in many ways your life is about what's for lunch, and why did that? Jerk get first author on this, the study that was just published in the annals of whatever and ok with that is immensely valuable in a way that I think, provides abiding benefits that the episodic escape from. Discursive mind that is provided through a jujitsu match. Does not, I think, that's that's really was a really interesting, and I grieve every word that I think that using pain in order to from the self, which is, I think, as a say. College, large his interest in why people do these things. I think that as part of the answer, but I entirely
Cept I do that provides no lasting benefit, doesn't make you a better person, doesn't make you see the world more hazardous, doesn't make you a connoisseur of your own neuroses. feels good and it's just enjoyable at the time. and for the most part, I think the use of suffering pain, to enhance or generate pleasure is its benefits. Is a key issue pleasure. It doesn't make you a better person. It doesn't give you a more true representation of reality. So now in comparison with meditations little but unfair, because adaptation windows and properly, as so much more promise for other things wall. This point not a talking about of suffering is most fun, but No, they you're being fair to yourself and your argument here, because I think that big net release felt those moment Where are you transcend the self and you're? Not stuck in your stories?
I mean I haven't around the data, but I can't imagine that doesn't have a positive serve creed of effect over time it may be there from the one provided by meditation, but certainly complimentary. It might. It would be interesting and studies of people who practise speedier SAM, for instance, and is used to be thought as a forum Pathology of mental illness, but if it was you'd expect these people to be worse than the rest, small, depress more anxious and none of that the tend to be pretty psychologically healthy, and It's an interesting idea whether these practices could some way make them better than average. I really in addressing idea and not your strew but is worth pursuing isn't there some evidence, though, that having healthy pursuits with Alex Soo Jung can park? My call he's a writer who wrote a book called rest. He might call this sort of active rest. I don't know if BBS fit and maybe but vigorous exercise. I ever a friend of a friend
is really really of the huge connoisseurs roller coaster. Obviously, exercise has many many physiological psychological benefits, but even something like road. There's where you're making a lot of friends your part of a community you're having the. thrilling moment you traveling the world to go on these big rollercoaster. I can imagine that these have this I to say that I am very much not a meditation fundamentalist, I think there are many ways to improve your life and de I don't hold meditation in some. You know I don't look down at all the other mechanisms. Yeah, I think the probably is a relationship between engaging in these sorts of pursuits and being a happy fulfilled. Good person go both ways. I think if you, if you're ok, if your life and you're not in a bad place, a lot easier to do these things, you know it correlation and causation always hard to pull a part here.
People who do rigorous exercise are often happier, but maybe I just because if you depressed is really hearted, rigorous exercise but she's rely on the couch and watch Netflix, but you know I kind of agree with you in this gets into this kind of slides into a little bit more of the the meaning issue wishes. one of the things about difficult pursuits exercise, I don't be a connoisseur rollercoaster, for that matter, is it requires. Discipline control, mastery and those are good things to have. And it might be nurturing them in some domains makes them more available. Another domains. I saw it. Think, although you know I am Changed my mind: if evidence comes against it, that having kids engage and sports or artistic activities and musical activities above and beyond the specific pleasures they get from the skills they get from it. It gets demented. Habit and ability to have discipline to seek out differ.
Activities to understand the value of work and struggle and sacrifice, and I can a wholesome and goods. Later on life yeah. I believe that too, but that I think I had my belief. This is a bit more because I've heard it said so many times the video games right It's true true and I gotta be cautious. You know when I until I see double blind study of all her old bells and whistles and everything be cautious of these sort of homespun wisdom, but it seems to make sense, which is it does seem as if you could get the right sort of appetite for difficulty. This, often comes under things, a grip. Conscientiousness, which are Instead good things to have, and if you could, through there Yes, focusing on one thing get this appetite, then it others and you're right. We should be sceptical, but if that would work you very powerful, much more by conversation,
Paul bloom right after this with master class, you can learn from the words asked minds anytime anywhere, and your own pace learn the order. making with spike league for how to bring your create a vision to life with ease array, try songwriting with Elisa Keys and cooking with Gordon Ramsay the past. Phillies are endless with over hundred war class instructors ready to teach you that thing you ve always wanted to do is closer than you think get. Fifteen percent If your annual membership today at Master class, dot com class, fifteen, that's master class, dot, com site class, fifteen begging, as you may have heard. I recently left my job at ABC News, to focus full time on this meditation side. Hustle, that's the Good NEWS, the bad news. turns out somebody's gunning for my job and the competition is steep. His name is Matthew, Hepburn and he's an star meditation teacher who is now going to take the insights you get from my show and double them
at these new show is called twenty percent happier and it's a brand new podcast that offers deep wisdom for imperfect people, He talks with the rank and file meditate authors who, like you, are endeavouring to apply their meditation practised everyday lives and you're gonna get to just dropped on people who are willing to be super candid about issues such as workings idea, the inner critic, difficult relationships and the pains of parenting so, whether you're a fan of my show or you're completely sick of me. percent happier, is gonna, give you the best of both worlds. Twenty percent happier is available exclusively inside the ten percent happier app download the app and tap on the pod casts tab to start listening. What would you recommend to people in Arms of
picking out and systematizing benign masochism in in a life. I guess one thing I do is I recommend we reach a couple of other books. recommend a reader flow by the holly except me? I ever tragically died just a week ago. and he talks about flow experiences which our experiences of difficulty and struggle not too hard too easy and the value they give to life, and he talks about seeking out So did vice, I would give sort of channeling him his trial and activities of the sort, at once. You get started an hour, you go by and you just lost track of time that's how you know you're in flow you forgot to eat. You forgot, I'll call. You friend, back you forgot to pick up school. You just kind in this flow experience and I asked him to read about that. You were recommended, which is a man search for meaning one of them.
Franco says. Is that a very powerful factor in how resilient we are and how much we thrive is whether we have a large scale mean four pursuit in life, do we have something to live for? add one more practical thing which from research ashes, research, tenant, universes, Toronto, witches Suppose you want to be happy, you say don't care about. I don't care about meeting and I can run morality and I care about you. I just want to be happy eyes does he's a real advice is don't try to be happy, trying to be happy is reliably correlated with not being happy with being defined sweeping anxious, and this could be a few reasons it could be because when you focus on something is often hard to do, it is like I don't know pride trying to good. Kisser gets in the way of being a good kisser, but another thing is often people don't try and railway. They connect happy swift possessions or status or money and happiness is related to all of those, but not as much as we think it is so
maybe a better way to be as to discredit, pursue a meaningful good life and then sort of happiness I come to you as a by product. How has writing this book about the pleasures of suffering? Impacted you All the couple ways for thinking of writing, as you know, is it some form suffering a form of discipline, daddy's dead, though its amended I'm the three and a half years and do a five year project of writing a book and thing in my life makes me suffer more than this That probably speaks to how privileged I am, but nothing makes me suffer more. I mean it's, the simplest thing I just wake up each morning and try to rate for an hour, and then I I say, often fail. I found myself email So my gmail and you will notice believest after haven't twitter, incredible, never once and they say no once I finish your internet out one. So so struggling with alone,
The term project that has significance demeanor as important to me is is sort of living out. What I thought about an hour, but also you know is sometimes you just talk to people, and this is what he up to an already working automata blue paper politeness. They tell me about what book is about and I tell them as they hate. Let me tell you something new tat story. People say and I ve learned a lot about people's masochistic pleasures sums stories that we cannot talk about a family friendly podcast, but have also learnt about deeper goals. People at that people say you know I'm training for a marathon, I'm. to build, is the great desire work to engage the sensory spiritual practice and it's not fun. It's not pleasurable, but but it's a value, as I wrote a book we appreciate, the value of difficulty and suffering in pain and people's lives. Yeah that very much.
For me, this is my second. You know four five year spent on a book and I think it fits perfectly into benign masochism. It is in its source of enormous suffering and struggle, and I've and ethnic step away from the computer and lie down on the floor. You comfortable saying the topic of your new book love. Oh, so I'm going to try to answer them doing something Jesus bizarre- I'm really try to bite off something large and it's also a memoir, so it's very embarrassing and so there's that, but but it definitely areas I feel like benign nine masochism, because there is a lot of suffering, but I'm learning so much I've your aging and improving as a person- and I have this goal- but I try to constantly remind myself in reorient myself toward which is this book- could help other people yeah. If you ask people what the meaning,
activity. What because it is such a strange word has meaning when world does that mean people give you a list of criteria and it exactly what you're talking about figures meaningful activity. It has to be difficult. happen over an extended period of time, you're talking about many years, and it has have significance. You have to go leave, data will manner at will, make a difference and often, and I saw the narrative sort of a story behind it and read a book as you're, describing as all of those things and if its meaningful gonna be hard. You right in the book that we're not natural, in this. If I add the sort of summarised it The third thing radical claim and making, but that I want people took to take seriously monogamous summit to take seriously- is that it is of motivation, motivational pluralism, and this is full term. But what the term means is that if some gives you a one word answer to what
people really want the wrong. It's not pleasure is also not meaning. Not truth is not. Love is not beauty, some morality, it's all of those things we want many things and Now you too fat your writing a book suggesting that you want meaning you want you want purpose. You want to make a difference, but the fact That is a really hot day. You probably enjoy real cool drink means. You want pleasure to and so we want many things and we struggled to a proper balance between them here, where I'm going with that. You said it's an awful term, but I love motivational pluralism. Maybe not the most lovely thing I've ever heard, but I just I think, a capture something that that I've heard my meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein talk about motivation as a spectrum before which I have found very liberating because There are times when I'm writing my book, and I realise that I'm looking for applause and that I get
really embarrassed about the fact that, unlike writing, my own Amazon reviews in my mind and imagining the TED Talk and blah blah blah and I've been unlike wham, only doing this for solve this. Mercury selfish reasons, a nagging spin into a whole universe, toilet vortex around that. But in fact Joseph Point is, if you look carefully at while you anything it's gonna, be a range from high minded like I want to help other people or I want to learn. I want to grow to veto the more a callous and crass reasons, and so for me, motivational pluralism captures that I don't know if you think, I'm misunderstanding it, though no, I think that's it. That's a deep point. One of the things we want is applause. We want to be appreciated, we want to be respected, it might loved found attractive and someone end, we're mammals were primates? the idea that we can get beyond that is incredibly unrealistic and also
maybe not even that if I met somebody who says, I literally don't care what other people think of me, I find the worrying, because somebody other people to write other people can give you feedback as to how you doing if everybody around me says like giving a donkey I should really pay attention to that, and applause is, is from a kind of healthy motivation, so yeah and in Europe buddy continuum. You write about pluralism, which is that that's all you're doing with a book that sounds like self defeating and I'm not very good. You helping people which you mentioned refers is another good motivation, but we just stopped the horse two of them and that I had to me just brings me back to the value of meditation witches it has taken. on the great meditation designed master. He once said that if you look long enough it your mind, you're gonna see Hitler and I think that's healing invaluable, because a number of levels one, Is that dinner? Seeing of it? That's the kryptonite for Hitler like it
oh for your murderous rage is the being of it can allow you to not be owned by it. Is also a very reliable route to compassion. As you see, I may by nature very judgmental person, but I can feel my judge mental ISM declining slightly I'm still supercharged myths up, but I away my good mom it's what I've had enough sleep. I can look at somebody losing it and say her yeah. That's in my mind too, and I find that a much easier way to go through life rather than the seemingly comfortable relaxed back into my chair, confident and judgments role that I have occupied for many many decades its here and I also think it's more moral. I think one of the Euro things traps to fall into it when it comes to morality, when it comes to right and wrong,
is assuming that your views and views of your tribe are plainly, and obviously the good ones and people disagree with you. There monsters are you idiots monsters and The world does contain idiots and it does contain monsters, but I think, for the most part, the people who have these very different views are people, just like you and me just situated differently with different different motivations, different backgrounds, different information sources and once you could understand and realise this, so alien you're a better position. To understand people a better position to engage in productive conversation. I mean it. get to the thesis of NOM Nom being super selfish and then talking about my own stuff rather than your book, but it does get to the my inchoate notions about what the thesis of this book I'm writing is, which is and I will use them serve terms- that might be triggering for people, But- I view a warm
relationship to your own. Miss got your own catastrophe, your own ugliness, as self love, which is that a very loaded turned itself. They could sounds. You know, auto erotic, good, sound, super cheesy whatever, but I'm trying to my work here, trying to co op that term and set talk I did not really much more down to earth level of yeah that just be Ok with yourself, that is self love, and that self love has GEO political consequences, because when you can be ok with your own ugliness, you recognize it in others and are less judgment. on that, I believe, is an antidote to the kind of idle, ism, bigotry and bias that is dogging us on a planetary basis. Does that does not make sense for you yeah it does. I mean,
My book before here was a critique of empathy and our unit at emotional and ethically thus astray, but will we How can it hears cognitive, empathy and Robert Right has spread of four? over again made argument exactly at argument that understanding other people, understanding and not treating them as aliens are monsters are idiots, is the key too often to geopolitical, with them in peace, where it puts a common ground- and I really like it, doesn't sound that cheesy. Maybe self love is a phrase, would retire, but it doesn't sound. That's cheesy. To think of that. You know. If you, you have to become both the bad parts of yourself, because people had was bad parts too, and if you things are disgusting, an unthinkable, you can't relate to other people. You know if I'm unforgiving of my own selfishness of the unforgiving of yours, but if I
shit, my own see where it comes from, and I see yourself as nothing is among you know you just like me, the human and we can do talk and work around it, I think it's an interesting inside. Can you just grab it? Prince between emotional empathy and while you wrote a whole book against it and the cognitive empathy The content of empathy is what we're talking about now is understanding was going on other people's heads and, I don't think I'll. Remember these tremendous force for good, But what is is a form of intelligence, understanding, other people and like any form of intelligence. crosbie tremendous force for evil. So If I want to help you if I went good deal with your honest work together understand. because I had great but If I want to mess you up torment, you calling you seduce. You also understand and goes on. Your head is great, and some psychopaths have very high carbon empathy is how they can be such terrible people. My book was in
rested in emotional empathy feeling what other people feel. So, your anxious I get anxious, you're happy. I get happy and I think this is can be great, can be great. Source of joy could be great source of personal connection, but The problem is from a moral point of view. If we lit guide us. to narrow. You naturally feel empathy for people who look like you the same: skin color, the same ethnicity, a symbol, situations, but he doesn't nationally turned to strangers. but he is also in this been disconnected meditation work. Exhausting This work by the neuroscientist Tanya singer Buddhist Monk, you regard were they they find they argue in all sorts of ways. At emotional empathy, it leads to burn out into exhaustion both the compassion or love which doesn't have that effect. So the subtitle in my book against empathy is the case for rational compassion and
in connection with our interests. Gus met mine from us taken, argued. We won waves or quell empathy. The way I've been taught and This may not aligned with your view, so be curious to hear any corrections. You have it could I haven't read against empathy. Empathy is viewed. or emotional empathy is feeling what other people feel compassion is adding on the desire to help. So there's this ennobling, empowering aspect that doesn't exhaust you, I think that's exactly right, except, I wouldn't say, adding on, but I might say instead of so imagine, you know, Friends- and you are extremely anxious about something emotion- empathy for me to get anxious for me to feel your anxiety and you could see right away whether it might not be a good thing. You may want to be calm and support it and said I'm freaking out to compassion would be for me not to feel your anxiety
I understand your anxious. I love you, I care for you to see what we can do is try to try to get you in a better place and what, hard and singer argue is that meditation could be one thing, helping you along the route that sort of not Emily cat. everybody's emotions to deal with people who are in power misery and and and and all sorts of and chosen suffering. And yet still be sort of cheerful and positive through this and use that positively? Doubtless, it is a little bit of emotional empathy as long as it doesn't get to carry if as long as you not too caught up in it is it helps also like, for example, my son is anxious he caused by it honestly both of his pair. her anxious and all of our forebears and when I'm handling my son's anxiety appropriately, which is not always the case my desire to help is filled in part by understanding his experience from the inside, like I know what it's like for him when, when he's act,
so isn't that emotional empathy and is in a little bit of that useful as I moved or compassion it was a subtle distinction here which is worth keeping in mind, which is your sons, freaking out and comes to you, and my point would be you're, not a your best helping them. If you freak out yourself even a little bit looking out, is not a good thing. But- and this is your point, I think you have to understand him and understand what it's like to be him. You would have had had to feel anxiety yourself in the past. If I go Therapists, because I'm intently lonely, I dont think I wanna go to you've, never been lonely who's, never felt what it's like cuz that would get in the way of calling it a see if the so called. Remember that sells ultimately ground or Kandeel turned red in person.
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instantly room is entirely online. So next time you need to buy a car just grab your phone go to room dot, com and check out thousands of great cars never were getting increasingly settle, and hopefully this a useful but just thinkin about their something. That's been said, the Dalai Lama, where you know he can be fronted with somebody talking about something really sad and he can feel sad news. and move to, a wish to help and the counter will end and he's right back at happy, and I just wonder whether there isn't some value in being able to touch in to this sadness, honour real visceral level, again button very quickly, moving to the ennobling, empowered,
aspects of wanting to help, but there is some feeling in there. You know it. It's a good. I've heard this before no objection, to my view, sometimes from therapists, some therapist say you're dead on right. This sum is deeply depressing field or sadness and feel anxiety. I design it is like an attorney they can better. Others have said similar to what you're saying, which is its fun they say I wanted her taste it a little bit. I wondered feel a little bit from through my system. As may be as motivator as a way to really remind me at a deep level what this is like and then I get rid of it. So I've never met a single person, says yeah. I really want to feel it are feeling because Such a person wouldn't survive a single day of working with people, but but idea of attack that is an interesting idea- and I wouldn't be quick to say it's wrong- but to go all the way back up to your main thesis fur against empathy again, the prior book prior to the sweets,
is that, if were guided only by this, the passions that be aroused by feeling other people's feelings. Well, that's that is a faulty tool because we tend to empathize most with people who look like us. Anders there's a million laboratory studies, but a real life. Examples are very potent if you have an attractive white girl gets It gets trapped in a well or something or lost in a foreign country. The western world, comes to an end as we we focus on that, and we think this is the most important thing in the world. You have a thousand people who are our skinned and speak a foreign language and they all die, though world shrugs doesn't even notice, because we're too often guided by our got feelings and got feelings favour our own, so
we see real moral development happening when we say listless scent of narco forgot, but be compassionate and then use are rational. Side was the best way to act laboratory studies which ass you see how much we used new pay, to save the life of a single child. You have a picture and a name So how much would you pay the satellites of ten children? No, there's no names, the one beats the ten and nobody could look at dancer that's perfectly good as where my should work. It's suggests that a natural way for our minds to work, but we can transcendent. On a related note, a former colleague of mine for maybe see news reporter named Steve Odin saw me and producer named Jasmine, rounded report for Nightline, my former home, that looked at the fact that when black people go Miss.
In the media. Basely doesn't pay attention to it, but when white women go missing, it becomes a huge story, and that just seems like a great example. your thesis of emotional apathy misfiring, I think that's right and I dont think journalists are to blame. I think they're they're trying to appeal to an audience who knows what they want to see, but, of course, every news network. If you look at time they spend taught him a different stories, the store this will focus on the distress of people like us, more software, attractive, morceau affair. If, if we could feel like it, action with them in a lot less or with, if their black Orpheus different language from from a foreign country, and I think this just a fundamental part of our emotions work, but I also think, we can them. Let me ask before I let you go and ask a few more questions.
but the sweet spot and this notion of chosen suffering or benign masochism. Can we take this too far? Yes, For instance, one way to take her to fire is get so much involved in vicarious suffering there, We consume it for pleasure and we we actually try to make it go away. We don't try to make it get better if we find just some stories of suffering fascinating and we delve into them in a scratch some each between us, but we are so. into that that we have We ve lost their appreciation. That is why we should try to stop that burden and chose the suffering of others is a bad thing. We strive to stop data, be okay going awry? will you write about in the book that one of the reasons why paying can be pleasurable is that it can lead to social satisfaction or grass and social status, and that I would imagine, could lead one to hurt oneself. Yes,
exactly social signalling, a sort of zero sum in that, if your capturing his attention for me to do it. I went up you at an to one at me. If you want to get in, then you can these cycles, just like people get bigger, bigger houses, people might get bigger and bigger pain and war more damage to the body, and be a cases where there's definite downsides gears, Think there was any upside to the global, unplanned suffering of the pandemic? Yeah the certainly downsides you know so much people died, so much everything from them to trauma. Semi life projects derailed and everybody has her stories, and it is a lot more. Some people are more than others, but it goes in some way back to what you said before about post traumatic growth and suffering wishes. There's also a
thousand stories are maybe million stories of people whose lives improved in different ways and may be just because you know I didn't want to go to school, air and fuller. I was passed, now in a situation where I was in a long distance relationship, my partner and then if only to some way, I could teach at Yale while being in another country and while a miracle happened, and then I can in so but more to the point of question you're asking I be surprised if the deprivation and struggle, in some people unleashed hidden reserves that, even though they have may be established social connections. Rebecca summit as a blue collar paradise built in Hell, which is about natural disasters and Natural disasters often bring people together now covered was a funny sort of disaster because of isolation. It was made the London
let's were all huddled together, it's more like we're, just in ordering and breeds and stained by ourselves, but still there are some communities it didn't come together. Do the coffee so yeah, I think, there's all sorts of ways in which that sort of suffering, even though and chosen did bring benefits cried said. This goes back to where you are dissection of and chosen suffering before. Yes, oh there's some people for whom will lead to post traumatic growth. There are many people from they will just suck but they'll get over there. Some people, for whom it will suck at actually will create unrecoverable wounds like death. That's exactly right does is accurate. it's been a pleasure to talk to you. Is there something I should have asked? Is there an area to which I should have guided us that I failed to do not a one? I think this was a great conversation, though I think we had we had all
the points, and in a few more I didn't expect us send a talking about those rate. That was great for me too. Can I push you before? I actually let you go to plug this book anything else. You ve ever written your website, your social media present just plug everything. I know it's a little embarrassing, but please do it. Oh my god, a plug everything out. My twitter is a part loom. At Yale, website as Paul bloom dot net, we'll have a series of articles, including some new Yorker articles. I've written on different topics and my book is the sweet spot issues of suffering, the search for me, but there are prior books, knowing our prior bookstores against empathy, there's how pleasure works just babies, Descartes's baby, there's my my from a bachelor in the meanings of words, if you're and university press book and if your parent and you want to see how your kids learn to talk, that's the book to get
you buy them by all of them. Argue your shower unsociable meeting at at at at at at at at at Paul. Thank you very much for doing this, really pretty Thank you so much. This was great. Thank you all the show is made by Samuel Johns Gabrielle Sacrament, Dj Cashmere, Justine Davy came by Coma Maria were tell and gently with audio engineering from the good folks at Ultra vires, audio will soon on Wednesday, for an episode about How to get out of your head with the will oblige Baker
Transcript generated on 2021-11-22.