Randy Paterson: Mental Wellness in a Misguided & Misinformed World + Thriving in Adulthood

Randy Paterson Headshot

TUNE IN TO THE EPISODE:

Randy Paterson, in this very critical conversation, brings to light the essential insights and strategies for enduring mental wellness, resilience, and growth.

Our guest expert challenges the prevalent myths and misconceptions in our hyper-informed, social media-driven world, offering invaluable insights into how our narratives and behaviours shape our mental wellness.

From exploring the impact of childhood experiences to dissecting the ‘failure to launch’ phenomenon in young adults, this episode delves deep into the critical aspects of mental health that are often overlooked in traditional discourse. Dr. Paterson also shares practical strategies for managing anxiety, making decisive life choices, and the importance of balancing self-compassion with accountability. Whether you’re navigating the complexities of adulthood or rethinking your approach to mental health, this episode is a treasure trove of wisdom for anyone looking to lead a more resilient and fulfilling life in today’s challenging world.

Mental Wellness in a Misguided & Misinformed World + Thriving in Adulthood

About the guest-

Randy Paterson is a Vancouver-based psychologist and author (The Assertiveness Workbook, How to be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use). He also has a YouTube channel, PsychologySalon.

Shownotes -

00:03:00 – Dr. Paterson’s work & The conception of his book “How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use”

00:08:30 – Impact of information abundance on mental health

00:12:50 –  The psychology of victimhood 

00:15:30 – The Thought-Behaviour-Emotion Triangle

00:26:20 – Behaviour vs. narrative: Where to begin

00:34:20 – How to cope when you can’t change the past

00:38:20 – Failure to launch phenomenon

00:44:20 – Decline in resilience across generations

00:48:30 – Raising successful adults (with the mushy middle!)

00:53:50 – Expanding comfort zones & managing anxiety

01:00:00 – Developing decision-making skills for greater independence

01:02:00 – Self-compassion, accountability, & personal growth

01:06:00 – Cultivating an image vs building real capacity

01:11:45 – Emotional maturity & managing tough emotions

01:15:10 – Self-acceptance and rethinking constant self-improvement.

01:17:40 – Balance emotion with action

Resources + Guest Info

[00:00:00] Krati: What led to you writing the book , and doing this work? Because you have a very specific focus. So why do this work and why these particular themes?

[00:00:10] Dr. Paterson: Well, in the early 1990s I was hired to direct a program designed for a group therapy program, designed for people who had been hospitalized with serious clinical depression. Most of the individuals had attempted suicide at some point in the preceding few months, and the hospital was noticing that people were getting discharged from inpatient care and then getting readmitted very, very quickly, or at least An unacceptably high number of them were getting re admitted within six months.

And that wasn’t a big surprise because there wasn’t a lot of follow up. There wasn’t, you know, people would get discharged from inpatient care into the community. And the community and the life that they had been living is actually what made them depressed in the first place. That wasn’t a huge surprise.

So we had a group therapy program based on cognitive behavior therapy principles. That people went through, and we sort of had to get people on board with the idea of what in cognitive behavior therapy we often think of as the triangle, which means behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and how those interact and influence one another. If I was to go in there and tell them, Oh, gosh, this is going to be so wonderful. Cognitive behavior therapy is the most wonderful thing. It’s going to fix you right up. That really wasn’t going to work very well. So we had to come up with some kind of creative way of of getting people on board and one of the One of the exercises for that is that I had people imagine that they wanted not to get better In fact, they wanted to get worse so I had to imagine, maybe you could win 10 million dollars, let’s say, if you could make yourself feel even worse next Thursday than you do now.

How would you go about that? What are some things that would help you, in effect, win that money? And we would go around the room and get everybody in the group to identify certain things that they might do that would be helpful. People would say, well, I’d get no exercise, I would hang out at home, I would close the curtains I would eat a lot of junk food, or maybe not eat much of anything, I would have a sleep cycle where I was awake mostly at night, I would do an inventory of all my failings in life, and all the things that I haven’t done that I should really feel quite guilty about, and so on and so on and so on.

People did a variety of things. And we write all these on the board. And then I asked, when you wake up, and you already feel depressed, you know it’s already with you. What do you feel like doing? What are the, what, what are the impulses? And people would say things like, well, I certainly don’t feel like exercising, and I would circle that.

And I feel like eating junk food, and I would circle that. And so on and so on, and most of the, many of the things on the board would not get circled, but surprising number. And this really struck people in the group. They thought, gosh, it’s almost as though I am living my life as if I wanted to be depressed.

And I, I don’t think I do. I don’t think I want to be depressed at all. And so the question was, well, what, what about that? Is it that you secretly want to be suicidally depressed? And the answer was no. buT what happens is that our feelings influence what we want to do, what we’re tempted to do, and how we’re tempted to think.

And so it tends to create this spiral effect in people’s lives. And I notice that this is true in other people’s lives as well. Like if you ask people just non depressed people, just people who may be not as satisfied with their lives as they would like, What if you wanted to be depressed? What would you do?

And to really sit down, and I would invite people listening to this to do this, to spend 20 minutes with paper and pen and just ask yourself this seemingly nonsensical question, what would you do if your goal was Was to feel worse to have a bad life to be completely dissatisfied with the way that you were spending your days how would you do this and that feels like a bad way of spending time?

But all of us have lots of experience if you You know, if you’re on Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok, you’ve got lots of experience wasting your life. So, you know, wasting another 20 minutes is not a serious problem. So, if you do that, I think that you’ll actually come up with some really interesting things.

And you’ll begin recognizing, wait a minute. I’m already doing some of that stuff. And so that’s where the book, How to Be Miserable, really came from. And, and how to, inviting people to go, go through it and say, What if, just for a moment, my goal was to feel worse, what would I do? And it provides 40 strategies for people to feel worse.

And of course, implicitly feel better if they do the opposite.

So that’s where that came from.

[00:05:27] Krati: And it’s, it’s an amazing book. I, you know, there’s just such abundance of information in today’s world. Like there is something about everything available for you to read things that were not so commonly discussed or discussed only by certain professionals. It’s now being openly discussed and talked about.

And yet, We have never been more miserable than we are now mental health issues are on the rise. This is something I love. This is why I love your book because it, it reminds you that it is not that complicated unless like, yes, of course, you have some kind of psychological disorder or some kind of physiological issues going on.

Life was never meant to be this complicated and so From someone who is you know, you are you wrote that book. So I would love to know from you What do you think are would you pin down any primary cause for why people are so miserable now? Despite like all the help that is available despite all the understanding that’s available to them.

[00:06:26] Dr. Paterson: Well, I guess I might go in a couple of directions with that. First, the building blocks of mental health are actually quite basic. There are complicated mental health problems that are not going to be resolved just by paying attention to these, but If we have people who are depressed, or are very dissatisfied with their lives, or are miserable in one or another ways, and we look at them, typically, some of these fundamental building blocks are missing.

So Exercise, adequate sleep, on a reasonable schedule, reasonably okay diet, it does not have to be perfect, prioritizing social contact with others, and not spending two thirds of your waking hours looking at a screen. That, and a very few additional things, really go a long way. If we can get people’s, you know, when we’re seeing people with depression, if we can get their sleep on track, we know we’re, we’re, we’re really getting somewhere.

If we can get them exercising on a regular basis, we’re probably going to see some fairly substantial improvement. We may not take away the whole problem. you know, we’re going to be getting there. So I think that’s one of the things is that we’re just ignoring the foundations of mental health. A second factor I would say is mental health services themselves.

I mean, you, you make a good point that we’ve got more mental health services and more mental health information than ever out there. People can find out anything they want on the internet and lots of stuff on social media feeds is sort of pop psychology telling people how to do stuff. And we seem to have worse mental health problems than ever.

And so we have a natural three hypotheses. Hypothesis one, if it weren’t for all this mental health stuff, resources, information on the internet, and so on, things would be even worse. Hypothesis number two, the presence of all of these mental health resources, Doesn’t help at all. Doesn’t make any difference.

And hypothesis number three is that the presence of all of these resources and mental health information and public education campaigns is somehow making things worse. And it’s hard to tell what the difference is, or, you know, which of these is correct, but I suspect it’s number three. I think the reason we have more mental health problems is because we’ve got more mental health information.

And in fact, we’re causing some of the problem that that we’re seeing and that we’re trying to work against.

[00:09:09] Krati: Yeah, I I definitely agree with you I agree with you. I get the point that you’re trying to make and I have actually seen that happening like there there is now this growing literature on how childhood contributes to Your adulthood or the quality of life that you enjoy as an adult and now I see people like constantly taking everything back to the childhood constantly blaming which is I find that to be very unhelpful, like, for, to understand certain parts of your behavior, I, I, yeah, that would, could be helpful, but to constantly go blame things on something that cannot be changed anymore, I find that very strange.

So I do see that but here’s here’s what like Scares me a little bit, worries me a little bit, is that people seem to be having this sort of love for sort of this narrative that they built for themselves that makes them out to be a victim. Like, they, as much as they don’t see the value in suffering, they don’t Okay I want to understand what perspective you would recommend people maintain around suffering.

And also, if you’ve noticed that there is this tendency in people to play the victim, they seem to be enjoying that, is that, am I wrong? Or is that something you’ve also noticed? And if that is the case, how can we identify that tendency within ourselves?

[00:10:22] Dr. Paterson: Well, I don’t think people particularly enjoy suffering, but I think that the way that we construe suffering is potentially either helpful or unhelpful. The Buddhists tell us that suffering is a natural, expected, and frankly inevitable part of existence. And, and I think that that’s clearly true. Life is inherently difficult.

But what we have done in in modern society is we seem to have said, if you are finding this difficult, the likely explanation for this is that you’re mentally ill. As opposed to a more inclusive perspective, or even a Buddhist perspective, which is, if you’re finding it difficult, you’ve pretty much got it right.

It is difficult. Right? This, this means you’re sane. Heh. And so. I think that the idea that we shouldn’t feel anxiety, we shouldn’t feel depression, we shouldn’t feel sad we shouldn’t feel distressing emotions, we shouldn’t feel dissatisfied with our lives at times, and if we do, this means we must have some kind of mental health diagnosis.

I think that this actually contributes to problems for people. So people begin getting a diagnosis. either because somebody gave them a diagnosis after seeing them for five minutes or because they’ve gone on the internet and they’ve looked at the diagnostic criteria for a wide variety of illnesses and said, Oh, I think I have that one and that one and that one.

And we know that self diagnosis, if you read all the diagnostic criteria, it’s inevitable. You will find yourself. There’s no question. No one in history, I’m sure, has ever read through the DSM 5 or the ICD and and not found a disorder that seems to suit them. But if you then identify yourselves as, I am a depressive, I am a socially phobic individual I am this, I am, you know, whatever I am ADHD then that disorder becomes a fundamental part of your identity.

And in fact, being well is outside your fundamental, you know, your, your wellness is something that by definition is not you. And I think that that’s a fairly destructive message for people to. to have.

[00:12:45] Krati: Yeah, that’s so true. And you know, they always say that there is no such thing as a, as a truly healthy adult. And I feel like if that is the case, and perhaps that is the idea that we should be popularizing and letting people know that What in fact your experience is just part of life you’ve you’ve collected like i’m 32 32 years of living 32 years of experiences They can’t possibly be all good or all sorted through and well processed So I think yeah, you you’re absolutely right people do completely miss that point and there is this tendency now to label everything Let’s have a specific name for everything and it I think it makes you feel I don’t know.

I could be wrong. I could be making a very harsh judgment here, but I feel like Anytime someone is able to say, Oh, I have anxiety. I have depression. It changes how people treat you. And they sort of, it makes it feel like their, their suffering is more serious. They’re suffering, like they’re doing something important in life.

And they start finding their identity in those labels. You mentioned about, you mentioned these three things. Behavior, thought, and emotion. Would you prioritize one over the other? Because I feel like there’s a circular connection there that I would love to talk about.

And I would also, again, you know, want to bring it back to the perception that we have around our life, our childhood, all of these things.

[00:14:05] Dr. Paterson: Yeah. I mean, in terms of trial, I’ll mention behavior, thought and emotion a moment. But in terms of childhood, yes, I mean, we do have difficult experiences and many people do have traumatic experiences in childhood. And it actually can be useful in therapy to go back and, and rethink those because. We experienced them with the mind of a five year old, or an eight year old, and we just didn’t have the cognitive capacity to actually figure out, or resolve, or figure out, you know, what’s going on here.

And we can go back as an adult and almost re experience those phenomena and, and see how In fact, there was a way of understanding that or a way of processing it that we simply did not have access to when we were five. So there, there can be useful work there, but you can also, you’re quite right, I think, get stuck in, in the past.

And because we don’t have a time machine, we can’t make that event not have happened. It, we’re stuck and so at some point we need to voyage back from the past into the present and say what’s going on right now. And what’s going on right now is our experience. The things that we’re doing, the way that we’re thinking, and the emotions that we’re feeling.

And each of them impacts the others. If we can just hit one of them, let’s say well let’s make you feel really terrible. Maybe we’ll inject you with some drug that makes you feel really terrible. What do you want to do as a result of that? That feeling makes you want to withdraw, perhaps, turn down social invitations, not go into work or study you know, what have you.

A variety of different changes in your life. It’ll also affect how you think, because when you feel terrible, your temptation is to think about every other time in your life when you felt terrible. You know, experiences or thoughts that mesh with or match the feeling that we presently have. So if we do that and we begin thinking a lot of negative thoughts, that too will influence our behavior in a negative way.

And it will feed back and make us feel worse. And so we have this spiral going from behavior, to thoughts, to emotions, to behavior, thoughts, emotions, and going the other way. Emotions, thoughts, behavior around. So a double spiral, if you like, almost like DNA going in both both cycles and grinding us into the problem.

So what do we do about it? Well, one option that a lot of people really try to do is enter intervene at the feeling level. So we want to just not feel anxious. We want to stop feeling depressed. The problem with that is, it’s actually kind of hard to do. And, if we look at how you’re thinking, and if we look at what you’re doing, usually the emotions actually make sense.

They’re not crazy. They’re very sensible, right? If you are doomed, you’re a terrible person, no one on the planet has ever been as bad or as inadequate as you, and you’re sitting at home with absolutely nothing going on, and you’re eating junk food and having a mostly nocturnal sleep cycle,

Depressed mood, that’s how that feels.

That is a normal feeling to have in those circumstances. So we try not to work so much at the emotion level. Indeed, much of the work that we do with the emotions is to open up to them, to allow them to be present. And to give ourselves space to be anxious. You mentioned that people say, you know, I have anxiety.

They, what that means for them is that they have an anxiety disorder. But in fact, anxiety is a normal human emotion. I, I see public education campaigns that say things like 30 percent of I live in Canada, 30 percent of Canadian children have anxiety and I keep wanting to respond, no, that’s not true.

100 percent of Canadian children have anxiety because they’re alive and anxiety is a normal. human emotion. You’re going to have it. And you may not have it as intensely or as severely as some people, but if we tell people, you know, you’re a little weird because your anxiety is so extreme that it really sets you apart from the rest of the human race, they’re only going to become more anxious.

So it’s probably not helpful.

[00:18:55] Krati: Yeah. Yeah. There is a, you know, whenever I would meet someone and they would tell me, Oh, I’m having these thoughts or have big being so anxious, or I would myself experience anxiety. I would always tell myself, calm down, relax. It’s not that big a deal. It’s okay. It’s part of life. Let’s just figure this out one step at a time.

And that helps me a lot. And yet. When you say that to other people when you tell them that okay, this is part of life They feel like they’re being that you’re not validating their feelings It is this very like people value validation a lot. You need to affirm the other person’s feelings You need to make them feel like what they are saying is it matters you can’t Or, or maybe they make it about like, Oh, you’re blaming them.

You’re blaming them for the city. Cause nobody likes being told that, Oh, whatever the state of your life, you’re actually responsible for it. Which also means that you can fix it. If you’ve brought yourself to this place, you can go to a better place, but people don’t. Like that so much. Why is that barrier?

I would think you would want the power to be in your hands then have them be you know about some external event So why is there that barrier to taking responsibility and as you said like we have to make it about something huge Unfolding in our life instead of just Oh, yeah, everyone’s experiencing what I’m experiencing part of life Let’s take it from

[00:20:20] Dr. Paterson: Yeah, I mean, there are terrible things that happen to people. I’ve practiced in psychotherapy for, you know, well over 30 years. And just when you think you’ve, you’ve seen every terrible thing that can happen to a human being, a person comes in and tells you about three more. so This is not to deny, you know, Awful things happen.

I’ve known people whose family members have ended their own lives in front of them. I have seen people who have been maimed in terrible, terrible accidents. People whose entire families have been killed in war, and situations like that. So these very extreme events really do occur. And Often need, need some degree of processing and, and, and thinking about, and, and, and resolution that can’t be brought about by undoing those events, as. But you’re right in that yeah, people often resist the idea that they may not be entirely helpless because that means, oh, you think I’m bringing that up out on purpose. That’s actually a bit of a leap. We don’t believe that anybody gets depressed on purpose. Nobody seems to have a panic attack on purpose.

Nobody seems to be socially anxious and feel inferior to everyone around them on purpose. It’s something that happens outside conscious awareness. And it typically happens not because some Martian made us do the wrong thing, but because of those earlier experiences in our lives. What we can do by becoming more aware.

Of how what we’re doing and the way that we’re thinking is influencing us. We can then take charge of some of that. We’ll never take charge of all of it. We’ll never be in full control of our, of our behavior. We’ll absolutely 100 percent not be in full control of our thinking. And we will never, ever be in full control of our emotions.

But we can have an influence, particularly on our actions. And if we do that, often we can feel somewhat better. But it’s a little bit like, you know, smokers who, you know, want to reduce the risk of of lung cancer. And we could say, well, you know, perhaps if you quit smoking that that might help reduce the risk of lung cancer because I know you’ve got a fair bit of it in your family, we might say to them.

And in a sense, a person can say, well, you’re saying that if I get lung cancer, it’s my fault. What I’m saying is that you absolutely, 100%, did not intend to get lung cancer. But if you want not to get lung cancer, there might be something you can do to reduce the odds. Eliminate them? Sadly, no. Reduce them?

Yes.

[00:23:17] Krati: Yeah, I love everything you’ve shared Okay. , I feel like if somebody started reading your book and simply started taking those actions, things will change, I think, drastically for them within the first week itself.

Like, they’ll start seeing change very quickly because when you start exercising, when you start getting adequate sleep, when you change how you view the world, how you process things, I think things will be very different. But then there is this whole thing about the narratives that we spin for ourselves, the stories we tell ourselves.

So doing these things and taking these actions, especially where exercise and diet and sleep is concerned versus changing your stories, what you have told yourself over and over and over again, where, where would you place these on the list of priorities? Where would you start

[00:24:01] Dr. Paterson: Well, in, in psychotherapy, we would often look at what a person is doing in the course of a day. And so one of the things that I do, for example, is I send people home with a little calendar sheet saying, just for one week, I will never ask you to do this again. But for one week, each hour, I’d like you to, like, make a quick notice to what you’re doing.

Might be just TV, might be sleep, movie eating, whatever, you know. Then bring it on back and we’ll take a look. And often what we’ll discover is that the person is living a depressive life. Not surprisingly, because they’re depressed and they frankly just don’t have the energy to do much else, right? We can’t suddenly say, okay now this week, you know, live as if you’re not a depressed person because they just don’t have the gas in the gas tank to be able to do that.

But it is to some degree understandable how they’re feeling. And so we’ll try to begin working on that, to some extent, right? Let’s see, is there something this week that we could change? Typically something that seems insignificant. And almost always, it will seem so insignificant. That it just seems foolish.

So you haven’t, you know, left your home in a week. And mission one might be for this week, might be to leave your home for five minutes. This is not going to revolutionize your life. But it, it gets the ball rolling. So we’ll start usually doing something behavioral. And then, once we got something on the menu there, We’ll look at what is the story.

Tell me about yourself. Tell me how you understand yourself. What is your life about? And often we will get that extended narrative of failure, inadequacy, sometimes the universe being against me what have you. Nothing I do ever. works. And once we have those thoughts, we can begin looking at them.

Because the stories that we tell ourselves, we’re usually telling ourselves, to some extent, outside conscious awareness. We don’t even know we’ve got these stories. So we just tell the story as it is. We don’t challenge it. We don’t change it. We just let’s Make it clear. What is the story of life and and really spell it out And then we might look to see if if that story has any cracks in it You know, like maybe the story is nothing ever works out for me But actually there was something that did kind of work out partly once right so never Maybe not never maybe mostly Oh, but wait a minute.

Maybe there was that other, other situation. And could it be that some things don’t work out because we have this idea that they’re not going to work out, so we give up really quickly? In other words, could it be that the narrative is creating our life rather than our life creating the narrative?

So we’ll begin looking at how the story begins to influence us.

Very angry people are like that. Anger is almost always a story. It’s a story about what the other person means, what the other person thinks of us, what kind of character the other person has, what they do with the rest of their life, and so on. Even when somebody cuts us off in traffic, people often swear at people and they’ll Call them a name, which is about their character as a human being, based on one four second sample of their behavior.

We can begin realizing, maybe my story isn’t valid. Or it could be, but I would never know. Because I don’t have a big enough sample of their behavior. Maybe they were on the way to the hospital. That’s why they cut us off.

[00:28:07] Krati: Yeah. I love that example. And so true. I have, I used to have massive anger issues and you’re absolutely right. It was about the stories that I was telling myself and I want to come back to that. But would it be okay then with what you shared here to start with simply lifestyle changes? Because a lot of people don’t go to professionals instead they’re getting social media therapy.

So in those cases, instead of looking for some Grand reason, some big, you know, thing that is happening. You can just maybe start with a lifestyle change. It’s a good place to start.

[00:28:39] Dr. Paterson: you know one of the things that I would ask people and I ask people this in therapy But I I invite people not in therapy to ask this of themselves Imagine that we kidnapped the next 12 people who pass in front of your building your house your school Wherever it might be and we give them your life We make them do exactly what you do.

They’ll eat exactly what you eat. They will sleep exactly your sleep schedule. They will consume media exactly the way that you do. We’ll give them your boss, your job, your school, your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your everything. 24 hours a day, they will basically live your life. And at the end of the month, How do you think they would be?

It’s surprising how reliable that exercise is, because when we have somebody in the office who It’s feeling quite miserable about their lives, and often convinced that it’s their childhood that’s the problem. They will typically say, Oh, if we brought in a random person and they lived my exact life for one month, I think they’d be depressed. And I get the opportunity to say, I think you’re right. I think they would be too. And notice we didn’t give them your lousy childhood. So maybe what we need to do is to begin working on some of these building blocks. It doesn’t feel right. People feel like there’s got to be some deep psychological principle, some magical key that will unlock all of this.

And in fact, often it’s just, you need to get out more, you know, you need to exercise, you know, people often go to therapy, not because they don’t know what to do, but because they’re hoping for a shortcut. Is there a way that I can feel better without stopping drinking, without giving drugs, without exercising and, you know, like, how boring is that?

And without giving up my internet addiction and without socializing with other people. And, and. The message of a lot of therapy is, unfortunately, no. There isn’t a shortcut. You need to do the building blocks.

It’s not that the building blocks are always the only thing, but they’re a big part of the thing for most people.

[00:31:02] Krati: Yeah. Definitely. There’s an immense power in what you’ve said. I think that would, that firmly gives you back the autonomy that you feel like has been robbed because of the stories you’re telling yourself. I think that’s this immense power if you can just appreciate it. Now coming back to like I shared with you about my anger issues.

So obviously I’m, it’s like, it’s a long story. I wouldn’t want to go into that. But the, one of the things that was my therapist would say to me was I. I had this big thing that was big part of my story was I wasn’t loved as much as my sibling was. I wasn’t loved as much as like over and over and my then at one point my therapist asked me what did you do to earn this love that you want so badly what did you do to earn that love let’s talk about that. Let’s focus on that. And obviously, you know, you, at the time, that was what I needed to hear. Then you add more nuance to it and you, you know, start building on that.

But what helped me , throughout my therapy was constantly, constantly, constantly bringing the story. focusing on myself and only on myself and only on my actions. But I like the approach that you have in your book, which is a more nuanced approach, which I would love to talk about where you talk about how much of the blame you internalize, how much of the credit you take, how much of it you externalize.

I would love to talk about that because I feel like That approach is great, I like to talk about it.

[00:32:25] Dr. Paterson: Well, I mean, often there are people in our lives who’ve been, been lousy, you know? Parents sometimes do have favorites. And that harsh, you know, we can engage in a lot of therapy designed to deny reality. But sometimes, that was true. That was true. It brings us back to the question, and what are you going to do about it?

One option is that because we had a parent who didn’t take very good care of us, because something happened to us what I need is for the world to correct that. And then I can be happy. I need to get that apology from the people who neglected me when I was younger. And then I will be able to move forward.

But what this does is it places control in those other people’s hands. And in some cases, those people are dead. They’re not going to come back and apologize. You know? It’s been done. It’s over. And sometimes the person is so unreasonable, they can’t see it. Or they can’t admit what they did. And you’re never going to get that apology.

You’re never going to get that rerun of your childhood. And so the question comes back to us and saying, given that difficult things have happened in our lives, what are we going to do? How do we take control? But, but you’re quite right. I mean, being part of it is being able to acknowledge, no, actually some of my Resentment is well placed. Yeah, and that person should never have done that. Absolutely. And it’s not about fault. It’s I, I sometimes will say to clients, it’s important to remember that this is not a court of law. This is a therapy room,

[00:34:15] Krati: Yeah.

[00:34:15] Dr. Paterson: So we’re not talking about who’s, who’s to blame here. That’s not what, we’re not trying to figure out who to send to jail.

We’re trying to figure out how do we make change. And the only way we can make change is by making change with ourselves.

We can’t change anybody else.

[00:34:32] Krati: love that for the benefit of my listeners. I got to communicate a lot of what I figured out with that question. And later on, I. Shared with my parents. Okay. These are the things that were you did and they were not okay. You shouldn’t have done that Why did you do this? It hurt me some of it got acknowledged some of it They even said we were doing our best.

We like emotional intelligence are things that I introduced them to So you kind of have to understand that and that is the perspective I maintain Whenever we have like something old comes up and it’s like, okay So what you’ve said actually that is exactly how it played out and some of it got resolved some of it will never get resolved and you just have to You just have to learn to be okay with that because you’re building something and let’s keep the focus there so I love that and here’s where I want to talk about the failure to launch phenomenon because first of all, I would love for you to share what that’s all about and Yeah, let’s take it from there then.

[00:35:29] Dr. Paterson: Well, there’s a variety of transitions in life, you know from babyhood to childhood, from childhood to adolescence, and from adolescence to adulthood. And, and, and mostly that latter one. Is about independence from adolescent dependence on parents where we might be a bit rebellious and so on, but we still depend on them for money and support and they do our laundry and they make our food and that kind of thing.

Mostly, I’m hoping that most people in their adolescence are starting to take some responsibility for making some of their own food and doing some of their own chores. But then Adulthood is more about mostly being able to take care of ourselves. The reality is we’re not going to grow all our own food, you know, we’re not going to sell all of our own clothes.

So we’re always going to be somewhat dependent on others. But mostly, you know, I’m able to feed myself, clothe myself hopefully house myself. That’s not essential.

Maybe. And be able to function as an adult rather than a 20 year old, a 20 year old, 12 year old, if you like a child. And so what failure to launch is about, it’s, it’s not the greatest term because it’s got that term failure right up front.

I don’t really like that. I prefer calling it delayed transition to adulthood, meaning that the person is. Still living more the life of an adolescent when it might be time to move on into adulthood. In Japan, where this phenomenon is most widely known, the term is hikikomori. Which means feeling inward, being confined.

In Britain the term is neat, not in education. Employment or training and in North America, it’s more often called failure to launch, though. I hope we’ll come up with something that gets more widespread. In in use sometime soon, but essentially these are young people who are, you know, 2025 3040 who are living at home with parents.

Not necessarily a problem. Multigenerational households are just fine, but they’re not functioning as an adult within that. So the parents are parenting as if they have a child, they might be waking the The young adult up. They might be making all of the food. They might be providing all of the money. The young adult might be on the Internet all day, might be gaming all day,

might be very fearful about leaving home. And so everybody else does all the shopping, and so on. And so, in many cases, they’re almost housebound. And, and there’s usually a lot of social anxiety. The problem often comes about in part because they’ve been teased, or bullied, or felt inferior in school.

And then when, when school was over. Or once they left, they kind of got to stay at home. And parents are trying to help them and protect them, but in a way that has actually wound up disabling them instead. And so the mission is, how do we begin embracing adulthood a little bit more, and develop that independence?

When a, when a baby is born we do everything for them. We diaper them, we feed them, you know, they can’t even raise their head. So we move them around. And then a friend of mine once said that that having a child is basically nine months of saying hello and then 20 years of saying goodbye.

[00:39:30] Dr. Paterson: What that means is that there’s this steady ramp in which gradually we hand over responsibility for their own life to the child. But in many cases, That ramp has, has actually flattened out so that the young adult is actually not doing any more for themselves than they did when they were 10 years old.

Or indeed, sometimes the ramp is going in the wrong direction. You know, it’s going back towards childhood rather than forward towards adulthood. And I’ll reinforce what I, what I’ve said, which is that living with parents is not the problem. Indeed, what many people do, they live with their parents, they take on steadily more responsibilities to the point where they’re equal with their parents.

And then at some point, they may become, in fact, more than equal. They’re driving mom to her doctor’s

appointment. They’re doing the grocery shopping. They’re doing, you know, other things. They’re actually taking on more of the role than their parents are. And that’s, that’s totally fine. It gets mistaken.

North America often gets mistaken for, oh, the problem is you’ve got a kid at home. No, that’s not the problem.

[00:40:41] Krati: yeah, yeah. I see massive value in living with your parents. In fact, your grandparents, if that’s like in India, obviously, I’m in India, joined families are still they, they’re still very much, you know, the norm here and there’s massive value in it because how The parents live their lives and how the grandparents live their lives so different that there are multiple perspectives at play at all times in your life.

I have heard my parents story. My mother grew up in poverty. My father also grew up in very tough circumstances, built his business from scratch. So, knowing the struggles that they’ve been through allows me to be in tough situations and be like, okay. It’s fine. It is not that big like the what I shared with you.

And this is something This is what I want to ask you because I’ve spoken to a lot of people from their generation while I was doing volunteer work, I met really really old people 70 80 year old women Who wanted to change their circumstances. They didn’t blame anyone else for where they were in life But they wanted to go to the bank apply for a loan start a business It was amazing very inspiring to see now.

Here’s what I would like for you to please help me understand Why is there such a massive generational difference like what we are identifying as problems was just I mean I understand that there is now more talk about emotional intelligence mental health and and that’s great But what we now identify as problems were just you know part of life.

They were not catastrophized in any way They were able to take many many more hits than we are there is like I feel like this is just decline in resilience

[00:42:13] Dr. Paterson: Yeah, I mean Parenting really has two essential tasks. Task number one is keep the kid alive Basically nurture them, feed them, protect them, and so on. Task number two is prepare for your own death meaning Make that child into an adult who is capable of caring for themselves and, in effect, doesn’t really need you anymore. At least in North America, I can’t really speak to India. But in North America, we’ve gotten really, really good at protection and not so, not so great at preparation. And so there’s lots of 20 year olds who have never Wash clothes who have never cooked anything, who have, the parents have been worried that they’re going to cut themselves, and so they’ve never used a knife to chop up vegetables.

so They really have not been provided with those adult skills. aNd this seems to be a universal phenomenon from the little that I know of India where this problem exists. Sometimes emerges. I think it’s there too, in that paradoxically, it’s mostly men who are in this situation.

Young women tend to get out there a little bit, right? This is true. We know that by the age of 30, more women are living independently in Canada, in the United States, in Great Britain, in Italy, in Spain in Greece in a variety of other countries than their brothers. Their brothers are the ones that are stuck at home.

This doesn’t mean that doesn’t occur with young women. It does, but not as often. So it’s like, well, wait a minute. I thought the boys would be the ones to be raised to, you know, get the heck out of the house and go get a good job and so on. But I think what’s happened in a lot of societies is that the young women are still being trained in things like.

how to cook, how to do laundry and how to, you know, do basic home repairs and things like that. And it turns out that those are exactly the skills you need in order to be independent in order to get out there and take care of yourself. Whereas the boys, you know, would starve to death, you know, if left on their own.

So that’s a, that’s a that’s a, a problem. And I think we’re, we’re nurturing people to adulthood. Maybe over nurturing them and under preparing them. And I think that’s where a lot of this comes from. I think as well, we’re training people to believe that if they’re experiencing difficulties, then that’s a serious problem.

You know, that if it makes you anxious to do the laundry, then you really shouldn’t be asked to do it. But the way past almost any anxiety, is to move toward it.

I mean, that’s that’s true of almost all anxiety that the more you run away from it, the worse the anxiety gets. You have to move toward your anxiety.

[00:45:24] Krati: What advice would you give to parents now? Because I, especially I see this in America, like from what I have observed, obviously I’m, you know, I shouldn’t be commenting on. How things are happening over there, but some of it is happening in India also where people are like, we can’t say these things to our child.

Like we can’t say, Oh, anxiety is part of life. It’s okay. Buck up. Because they’ll take, Oh, I’m not being validated at home. They’ll react like this is a hostile environment. So how do we navigate this, this, like this political correctness being practiced, even in homes now it’s, this is so strange. How do we navigate that?

[00:45:59] Dr. Paterson: Well, I think in part, I mean, there are genuine serious anxiety problems that You know, people are not just going to be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and, and they can genuinely use help. So that’s, there is, there is truth to that. But I think in general what parents need to remember is those dual tasks, that there isn’t one job, protect your kid.

There are two, protect and prepare your kid, and spend a lot of time on that preparation. You know, in, in North America we talk about child raising a lot. Babies turn into children pretty much automatically if you feed them, right? They don’t necessarily turn into adults automatically. So really, we should get rid of the idea of child raising and call it adult raising instead.

Because that’s the destination we’re going for. We don’t want to wind up with a child. We want to wind up with an adult, capable person, able to handle life on their own terms. So that’s the way we should do it. And I think that we should view child raising as an apprenticeship, a 20 year apprenticeship to adulthood.

So that, you know, pretty soon, we don’t want to turn our kids into slaves. Not at all. Pretty soon, you know, when the kid is able to, let’s say, make their own bed, then they’re making their own bed. And when they’re able to be, you know, doing some of the chores around the house, then they’re doing some of those chores around the house.

And yes, they do still have time for their schoolwork, study, and very importantly, socializing with other kids. But they do have responsibilities. And that those gradually build up. We don’t want anybody reaching the age of 20 going, I don’t know how to work a washing machine.

[00:47:57] Krati: right,

[00:47:58] Dr. Paterson: You know? Or I wouldn’t know how to cook anything.

 

We want to have that ability. And the way that we do that is by spending even more time with our kids training them. Here’s how we do this. What a lot of parents seem to think is that you know, this happens automatically. You know, and so they’re just very critical of their kid. You’re so incapable.

You’re so helpless. It’s disgusting. Well, how much time have you spent showing them how to do this? None. Well, what did you expect?

[00:48:32] Krati: Yeah. Yeah. That is massively helpful. I hear a lot of the coaches online. People who are very tough and have achieved incredible results in life are raising their kids and also almost military like. environment. And I, I’m sure there’s value to that, but I find like, if that is happening at home, and when they move in the world, they’re being, you know, validated, or they’re being like everything is being treated so seriously, and they’re being given this massive amount of importance, there’s going to be such contrast between the two and such friction between those two experiences, they might just turn hostile to their parents.

Which you the

[00:49:12] Dr. Paterson: Probably.

[00:49:13] Krati: you are. Yeah.

[00:49:15] Dr. Paterson: Yeah, I mean there are, there is a as, as always, the, the, the benefit is in the mushy middle. Yeah, the ones who are completely treating their kids as, as, you know, little soldiers that’s probably not going to work out that well. The kid is not going to have, you know, very good emotional um, Self regulation and may know how to do things and may be able to make a bed like nobody’s business, but There’s going to be a lot of friction and man that person may not grow up to be particularly happy so they’re in the middle somewhere where we’re helpfully and kindly nurturing and viewing this process as a process of learning and developing Which doesn’t have to be a matter of, you know, the sort of military style, you will obey me, or, or else, kind of thing.

In fact, the nature of adulthood is not obedience. The nature of adulthood is, to a great extent, self determination. So, the military style may not actually

[00:50:20] Krati: Yeah, I I love your advice. I love what you’ve shared here Because I think assigning responsibilities that doesn’t get that is not happening. Like I don’t see that happening All that much when I whenever I see like families I observe them Parents are very it’s again. It’s I think has a lot to do with like single like one parent one sorry One child family where there’s only one kid and you want to give that kid everything.

And that just doesn’t end well. Now, from the child’s perspective, a child who grows up in an environment like that. I have had clients who experienced social anxiety, like women who now that they’re venturing outside of that safe, safe environment. Some of them lost their parents and suddenly their world turned upside down.

And now they’re venturing out. into the world and they experience massive panic attacks, which is very, very scary and a difficult place from which to, you know, build your life. But then how do they do it? Because if you’ve been in that very protective environment, eventually either, unless you are okay with not realizing your potential, not you know, experiencing the joy of overcoming challenges. If you want all of that, you’re going to have to, you know, start somewhere. So where do they start? How, what perspective do they carry as they go on to this journey? Right.

[00:51:42] Dr. Paterson: in working with people, I often talk about the different zones of comfort. And imagine a little box uh, uh, like a, a square that I might draw on a whiteboard, such as the one behind me. And Within that that’s your zone of comfort. We’ll say these are the things you feel comfortable with. So this Woman whose parents have have died.

Maybe she’s comfortable going to the market, you know, she knows people there. Okay, I can do that Right, but that’s about it Surrounding that an even bigger box is the Zone of Mild Discomfort. These are places you can go to and you feel, you feel a little fluttery. You feel a little anxious. You can do it. You can get yourself into that situation without having a panic attack and freaking out and running away. But it’s not really very comfortable.

And then there’s an even bigger box that’s the Zone of Extreme Discomfort. And this is where You you go into that situation, you get so overwhelmed with terror that you can’t stop yourself from leaving, from running away. Okay, what do we do? How do we overcome our social anxiety? Well, the idea would be to sit down with the person and really get a long, long list, as long as possible.

What are all the things that make you anxious? What are all the different situations that, you know, bother you? Bother you a tiny bit? Bother you a little bit? Bother you a lot? And then we’ll look and say, okay, so some let’s find the ones that are just outside your zone of comfort just a little bit, you know, like if we have somebody who’s, you know, used to going to this market and that’s all they do.

That’s all they’ve ever done. Right? As a matter of fact, it’s a big market and they only go to the first three places in that market because that’s all that feels totally comfortable to them. And they’ve actually know those people. Okay. Who run this? Well, what we’ll encourage them is to go to the fourth and go a little further, go a little further, go a little further, but we’ll do it in a planned way.

So if they go and they think, Oh, I’m okay so far. I’ll go a little further. Oh, I’m okay. I’ll go a little further. Oh, I’m a little anxious, but I think I can push it a little further. What they’re doing is they’re making their anxiety the controller of when they leave. That’s not a good idea.

What we need to do is plan with them.

What are you going to do? And then let’s go do that. Either, and sometimes the therapist might go with them, but sometimes it’s something they plan to do on their own, and if it’s totally okay, tough luck, they have to leave anyway,

right?

We make a plan, we do the plan, and if we’re more anxious than we thought, we try and stick through it, and if we’re less anxious than we thought, we don’t go any further.

That’s it. So we, we do exactly what we plan to do. That means that what you’re doing is determined by your plans and your will. It’s not determined by the amount of anxiety you have. We’re really trying to get anxiety out of the driver’s seat. We’re not trying to kill off your anxiety.

We’re trying to allow the anxiety to be there.

But it doesn’t get to tell you where to shop. It doesn’t get to tell you where you’re allowed to go. So gradually we work at that. And what happens is if you can get into this place that makes you a little anxious, maybe it’s, maybe it’s a bus. And you go to the bus, and the first time it’s kind of ugh, it’s not very nice, and I don’t really like it, and so on.

And the second time it’s almost as bad, and the third time it’s almost as bad. By the tenth time, okay, it’s a bus. I know. I know how this works. I know how to pay. I know how to get on. I know how to get off. I’m okay. Right? What’s happened is if we go to this destination in our zone of mild discomfort, repeatedly, it becomes our zone of comfort.

And what we’ve done is we’ve grown our zone of comfort by a little bit. And that’s what we want to do, is keep growing that. Paradoxically, at the same time, even though we’ve never gone to that market across town, the market across town is getting less scary. It was in our zone of extreme discomfort, and now, even though we’ve never been there, it’s now mildly uncomfortable.

Because we can go to all the markets in our, just using markets as an example we use, you know, shopping. Subways buses social settings eating in a restaurant, things like this where we try to get people into situations that make them just a little anxious

and survive it.

[00:56:49] Krati: That is massively helpful. Thank you so much for sharing that example. I think that would really, really help people. Now, another side of this is making decisions. People lean on others when they’re making decisions. A lot of the time they end up choosing whatever gets like the majority vote. So how do people start making decisions, especially when you’ve had a great deal of dependence in your life?

[00:57:11] Dr. Paterson: Well, you might actually use much the same idea of mild discomfort and extreme discomfort. You might list, like, what are all the decisions I might have to make. And maybe I’m ordering food for a dinner or something like that, and I’ve just gotten into the habit where I’m going to a movie with somebody, and I just say, whatever you want to see, whatever you want to see, that’s totally fine.

And, and we just identify things. Situations where it would be just a little bit easier to make a decision or to make your input or make your preferences known and make it your mission to do that. We’ll plan to do that. We’ll have people over and rather than consulting with everybody about exactly what they like and what they want and everything else, we’ll decide.

And we’ll do it. And, and we’ll expect them to not like it as much and tolerate that. And in fact, chances are they won’t be so awful. But you know, rank order the decisions. It might be that, frankly, if you, you’re thinking about buying a piece of property, maybe you always go consult your real estate friends. You know, you always, like, whatever. But deciding what movie to see. You know that I think I can do

so we’ll gradually work with that and you can get bigger and bigger decisions that way.

[00:58:41] Krati: Yeah, that is that is huge hugely helpful. Thank you for that okay, so then as a lot of what these narratives that people have for themselves, like we talked about, some of them, even if we, we were to admit that all of this is true, that in fact, terrible things have happened in your life, and there are cases of that, of course, like you pointed out, where terrible things have happened, and what they’re experiencing is, is very serious and needs Perhaps professional care, but sometimes that is not an option like a lot of the times people who come to these centers they they don’t have much resource So they are they seek whatever help is available and that help is never not always very professional.

I remember counseling people when I was not qualified to do because I was volunteering at such centers and the stories that I heard were so They were beyond my comprehension. I had only ever seen things like that in movies. So When that happens, these people need emotional support.

But they also want change and, and they also want to not stay in that place any longer than they have to. Then how do they, how do they maintain this balance between self compassion and accountability? where there is consistent growth happening in their life.

[00:59:51] Dr. Paterson: I don’t think that there’s a

 

[00:59:53] Dr. Paterson: real distinction between compassion and, and if you like accountability or, or goals to put another spin on it. In that we can look at why we react in certain ways to certain situations, and we can understand that. We can also understand that some stuff. We’ll never quite figure out why is it that, you know, one per that, you know, one person is afraid of heights and another person not and maybe you look back into your past and you can’t think of anything and there’s no particular reason you were never, never fell off a bridge or anything like that, but for some reason you’re afraid of heights and you can simply acknowledge that.

And, and actually treat yourself with a degree of compassion as I am a person who seems to have this, who knows why, that’s okay. This does not make me inhuman. This is a normal thing. Lots of people are like this. And, I might have a goal of being able to work in that tall building, or be able to cross that bridge in order to get to my friend’s house, and I can work on that.

So compassion, I think a lot of people see the way that you get to goals is by telling yourself how bad you are for not really already being there, you know, that you are this stupid, pathetic person because you can’t cross that bridge that look how many people go across that bridge every day, you can’t, what a complete coward and idiot you are.

This is the way that people try to motivate themselves to do better, and in fact, for the vast majority of people, that simply does not, right? You make yourself feel worse, you’re less likely to get over it. What you can do is treat yourself with compassion and say, you know what? I’m not even going to try to get over that bridge, but there is this really low bridge that’s

ridiculously low.

I’m just going to work on that. I’m going to go and I’m going to take three steps out, hang out there for 15 minutes. And then I’m going to go home, and that’s it. And that’s going to seem stupid. It’s going to seem trivial. It’s going to seem ridiculous to almost anyone else. And yet, it may be what I need, because that’s my zone of mild discomfort.

That’s something I can do. I know I can do and then gradually I can build it up from there so I can have compassion with myself. That does not mean I get give up and give in necessarily this tendency to motivate ourselves with the stick. You know, by beating ourselves up, calling ourselves names, virtually never leads in the right direction.

So a lack of compassion is not the answer for practically any problem.

[01:03:01] Krati: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that you pointed out that compassion and accountability actually go hand in hand. Holding yourself accountable is, is an act of compassion. I love that. Thank you for pointing that out. Now, another thing here that happens that I often notice is people start identifying with their pain, with the trauma that they’ve suffered, or they’ve just built up an identity that perhaps they are facing a lot of challenges in life.

And that identity is not serving them, but they don’t see it, obviously. A third person might see it, they don’t see it. So how attached should we be to identity? And because there are so many people, especially very, very powerful, successful people who use personas. So they slip into these personas as and when they’re facing big challenges.

So, can you please explain a little bit of that and how it can help people?

[01:03:51] Dr. Paterson: Well, a lot of people who’ve been through really difficult circumstances actually do take on part of their identity from them. So a person who had to take care of a parent who was ill with some desperate disease and the parent eventually died, that person may discover, you know what? That’s given me great experience with caregiving.

I’m going to be a caregiver, right? That actually becomes their identity. That’s who they are. A person who has been severely traumatized uh, including, including with violence or what have you. might become an anti violence activist of some type.

And that’s fine. That can be actually quite a healthy way of integrating the experience that you have with your life.

It’s surprising how often it’s not inspirational experiences that give people their focus and direction in life, but traumatic experiences that do. So, you know, to some extent that can be okay. For some people, their life becomes about avoiding any hint of the trauma that they’ve been through, and that keeps them in a kind of a mental jail.

And they’re, they might need to do some work on themselves to grow beyond that. It’s hard to know. In terms of personas, you know, a lot of people who are Wanting to be successful, they sort of dress for it, pretend to be like that, you know, they might take selfies next to some unknown person’s BMW, pretending it’s their phone, you know, putting that up on their account.

[01:05:36] Krati: Right.

[01:05:37] Dr. Paterson: ANd as a way of sort of getting this atmosphere around them. The unfortunate aspect of that is that the more they’re constructing this persona, the greater the anxiety is likely to be, to come because they’re aware that that’s not really who they are. That their public image and their private self are getting further and further and further apart.

And that seems to lead into emotional trouble for a lot of people. There’s a reason why genuineness is valued. There’s also a reason why stage plays are usually two or three hours long, because people can’t act for that long. You know, you can’t act forever.

Somebody is going to get into business with you or get into a relationship with you, get into a friendship with you, and you can’t act for the rest of your life.

Maybe they’ll marry you. You just can’t keep that up. Right? You can’t keep up that image. You in the relationships that you have, you’re gonna pretty much have to be yourself, because you’re not a good enough actor to keep that up for the rest of your life.

[01:06:50] Krati: Is consciously cultivating a different identity? That is an option. I mean, people, we, we do start doing that since the day we were born. But like, When you as an adult when you identify, okay, this is where my life is. I don’t like it This is a person i’ve become I don’t like it. I want to have like this completely different be this completely different person Then you’re consciously cultivating a different identity for yourself.

How would that work?

[01:07:16] Dr. Paterson: Well, I think of it as expanding your repertoire. You know, the life that you have led allows you to do certain things. You know, I can do this, I can do this, I can’t cross bridges, I can’t, I can’t drive I can’t swim, but I can do these things. And Maybe they want to be this, you know, completely different person.

What you want to do is expand your repertoire so that you, you have the option of not driving, but you also have the option of being able to drive, right? So you build up your skills. I think you work on your behavior to expand your repertoire. Many of us know how to do things that. We just don’t do anymore, you know, a lot of people beyond a certain age don’t play soccer anymore.

They know how to do it. They know what the rules are, but they just don’t do it. They’re not that interested. It’s, it’s a part of their repertoire that they’re not using. Whereas their ability to handle large scale business meetings, that’s a skill that they’ve put into their repertoire that they are using.

But it really is there. It’s really them. But it’s them. Because they built it. They built the capacity. And I think the distinction is between building the capacity and building the image. The image and the capacity are, are often two different

[01:08:44] Krati: Yeah. Would that also apply to emotional performance, emotional maturity? Like emotional maturity should very much just happen as you, you know, go from adolescent to teenage to adulthood, but we don’t see that happening. Like we see 40 year olds who are throwing tantrums and being. Like sometimes we see on, mostly we see it on social media and on like these weird videos that go viral.

So in those cases, but what you are saying, especially with the zone of discomfort exercise that you’ve, you know, you’ve walked us through. Is that, can we do that even with our emotional um, I don’t know what term to use here, but how we meet. People on how we meet our life emotionally, how we face it.

[01:09:28] Dr. Paterson: Yeah, I think we all experience a variety of uncomfortable or inconvenient emotions. Whether that’s rage. Anxiety, sadness, and so on. And those emotions bring with them the temptation to Guide our behavior. I feel sad, so I’m not going to go to school today. I’m going to stay at home and close the curtains and isolate at home.

Even though, realistically, that’s probably going to make me feel worse. It’ll make me feel better the moment I say I’m going to do it, but it’ll make me feel worse in the long run. So, a big part of, if you like, adulthood is developing the ability to override certain emotions. Or at least override their behavioral temptations so that, you know, your anger gets triggered, but you don’t actually hit anybody or you don’t, you know, explode into this tirade that will show up on YouTube.

You know, you have that ability to feel the emotion and not to feel fear. And not run screaming away. The emotion is fine. It’s allowable. Right? You don’t have to magnify it. By saying, oh my god, this might happen, this might happen, this might happen, and this other terrible thing might happen. You don’t have to indulge it in that.

You can allow the emotion to be there and say, and I’m going to the grocery store. So I will commit myself to You know, what I’ve decided I want my life to be about this morning, this afternoon, today. And I can allow any emotion that wants to be there to be there. It’s okay. But they don’t have to control me. So being able to override in that way, I think it’s essential. I think, for example, every parent sooner or later is going to get really frustrated with this screaming baby. And you need to be able to override that and say, yep. I’m frustrated, and the baby needs changing, so I’m going to do that.

Oh, but I don’t want to.

Well, tough. You’re going to do it anyway. I don’t feel like going into work today,

and I’m going to go into work today.

[01:11:50] Krati: Yeah Yes. Yes, I think you’ve you’ve Helped like to people who always look for validation I think that is excellent because then you are validating how you’re feeling you’re allowing that space and but also getting Shit done allowing life to actually grow and allowing yourself to grow. I love that.

Thank you so much for that Now to people who have been on this self improvement journey for a long time, but have experienced no change would you direct their focus? What advice would you give them?

[01:12:21] Dr. Paterson: Sometimes self improvement can be a bad thing, in that all the effort that you’re putting into it really is giving yourself a hidden message. And the hidden message is, you’re not good enough. If you were good enough, you wouldn’t have to be doing all this self improvement. So what I encourage people to do is to imagine that they are good enough.

I don’t try to convince them that they are because that, in many cases, is a bit of a lost cause. You know, we don’t have to get, get your mind there completely, but what if you were, like, let’s say you were a good enough human being.

Nothing needs improvement. How would you spend your life? So now your life is not governed by remediating all your flaws.

Now you’re fine. What do you want to do with it? And then, in effect, leapfrog the the self improvement process. And why not just live that life? I see a lot of people who You know, they read books. The only books they read are self improvement.

[01:13:32] Krati: Yeah.

[01:13:33] Dr. Paterson: And I say, you know, what if you were good enough? What would you read then?

Let’s start reading some of that stuff. Oh, you’d read Harry Potter. You know what, Rat? Like, I know you’ve got ten self help books, you know, in your shelf before that. Why don’t we bypass most of them and read Harry Potter? You can still read that stuff. You can still do your self improvement, you know, working out at the gym, or you know, learning something or going to psychotherapy or coaching.

But, in addition to that, let’s live at least some of your life As if you were fine. Because fundamentally, you probably are.

[01:14:18] Krati: Yeah.

[01:14:19] Dr. Paterson: Whether you feel it or not, you probably are essentially fine. So let’s spend some of the time doing that. And what will likely happen is that that feeling that you’re fine will begin to sink in.

Because you’re acting as if you’re fine.

[01:14:39] Krati: Yeah. Yeah. Again. Love that. Now for my final question uh, with what you’re observing in how the world is working right now? How the younger generation is doing things? What are you loving about it? What is one thing that you’re observing in the world that you are glad that this is happening?

versus one thing that you would caution people against.

[01:15:01] Dr. Paterson: I think people are, are concerned about a variety of issues. People are concerned about the treatment of diverse populations. peOple are concerned about the environment. And they’re taking action. Sometimes, they’re thinking, Oh, I should really be upset about this. My response is, will that help?

You know, what, what aspect of chemical pollution was you being upset there on the couch? How will that resolve anything? I don’t think anybody needs to be upset because upset doesn’t help. It’s a natural to be upset about some of this stuff, but it’s not morally imperative. But the action that people are taking, people are saying, you know, in addition to whatever work I need to do on myself, this world is in a difficult state and things need to get better.

And I will spend at least a little bit of my energy on that rather than on myself. That I would say is a positive development. Maybe not a new development, but it’s positive in that it’s happening now.

[01:16:18] Krati: Yeah, I love that. And, and you would caution people against not just being upset, but also taking action to go with that.

[01:16:24] Dr. Paterson: Well, some people, you know, I see people occasionally that are so upset about climate change that they can’t do anything, and this actually doesn’t help the climate.

[01:16:37] Krati: Yeah. So true.

[01:16:39] Dr. Paterson: You know, you, you being, you crying into the sofa does not prevent torture from taking place, does not stop any bombs from falling, does not stop gay and lesbian people from being executed, it does not stop any of the things happening in the world that are happening.

It’s not useful. What is useful is action.

[01:17:06] Krati: Amazing. Amazing. This is so, so great. Thank you so much, Dr. Patterson.

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Hi! I'm Krati Mehra

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I know what it’s like to fall apart and gradually put your pieces back together to build something better than what you had before and I share all my lessons in this space hoping that you will share my learnings without the struggle.

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