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← Why we all need to practice emotional first aid | Guy Winch | TEDxLinnaeusUniversity

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Showing Revision 26 created 02/19/2015 by Ivana Korom.

  1. I grew up with my identical twin,
  2. who was an incredibly loving brother.
  3. Now, one thing about being a twin
    is it makes you an expert
  4. at spotting favoritism.
  5. If his cookie was even slightly bigger
    than my cookie, I had questions.
  6. And clearly I wasn't starving.
  7. (Laughter)
  8. When I became a psychologist,
  9. I began to notice favoritism
    of a different kind.
  10. And that is how much more
    we value the body than we do the mind.
  11. I spent nine years at University
    earning my doctorate in Psychology,
  12. and I can't tell you how many people
    look at my business card and say,
  13. "Oh, a psychologist,
    so not a real doctor."
  14. As if it should say that on my card.
  15. (Laughter)
  16. This favoritism we show
    the body over the mind,
  17. I see it everywhere.
  18. I recently was at a friends' house,
  19. and their five-year-old
    was getting ready for bed.
  20. He was standing on a stool
    by the sink brushing his teeth,
  21. when he slipped, and scratched his leg
    on the stool when he fell.
  22. He cried for a minute,
    but then he got back up,
  23. got back on the stool
    and reached out for a box of Band-Aids
  24. to put one on his cut.
  25. Now this kid could barely
    tie his shoelaces,
  26. but he knew you have to cover a cut,
    so it doesn't become infected,
  27. and you have to care for your teeth
    by brushing twice a day.
  28. We all know how to maintain
    our physical health
  29. and how to practice dental hygiene, right?
  30. We've known it
    since we were five years old.
  31. But what do we know about maintaining
    our psychological health?
  32. Well, nothing.
  33. What do we teach our children
    about emotional hygiene?
  34. Nothing.
  35. How is it we spend more time
  36. taking care our teeth
    than we do our minds?
  37. Why is it our physical health
    is so much more important to us
  38. than our psychological health?
  39. You know we sustain psychological injuries

  40. even more often than we do physical ones.
  41. Injuries like failure or rejection,
    or loneliness,
  42. and they can also
    get worse if we ignore them.
  43. And they can impact our lives
    in dramatic ways.
  44. And yet, even though there are
    scientifically proven techniques
  45. we could use to treat these kinds
    of psychological injuries, we don't.
  46. It doesn't even occur to us
    that we should.
  47. "Oh, you're feeling depressed,
    just shake it off, it's all in your head."
  48. Can you imagine saying that
    to somebody with a broken leg,
  49. "Just walk it off, it's all in your leg."
  50. (Laughter)
  51. It is time we close the gap between
    our physical and our psychological health.
  52. It's time we made them more equal.
  53. More like twins.
  54. Speaking of which,
    my brother is also a psychologist.
  55. So he's not a real doctor, either.
  56. (Laughter)
  57. We didn't study together, though.
  58. In fact, the hardest thing I've ever done
    in my life
  59. is move across the Atlantic
    to New York city
  60. to get my doctorate in psychology.
  61. We were apart then,
    for the first time in our lives,
  62. and the separation
    was brutal for both of us.
  63. But while he remained
    among family and friends,
  64. I was alone in a new country.
  65. We missed each other terribly,
  66. but international phone calls
    were really expensive then,
  67. and we could only afford
    to speak for 5 minutes a week.
  68. When our birthday rolled around,
  69. it was the first
    we wouldn't be spending together,
  70. we decide to splurge,
  71. and that week
    we would talk for ten minutes.
  72. I spent the morning pacing around my room,
  73. waiting for him to call,
  74. and waiting,
  75. and waiting,
  76. but the phone didn't ring.
  77. Given the time difference, I assumed
  78. "OK, he's out with friends,
    he will call later."
  79. There were no cell phones then.
  80. But he didn't.
  81. And I began to realize,
    after being away for over ten months,
  82. he no longer missed me
    the way I missed him.
  83. And I knew he would call in the morning,
  84. but that night was one of the saddest
    and longest nights of my life.
  85. I woke up the next morning,
  86. I glanced down at the phone,
  87. and I realized
    I had kicked it off the hook
  88. when pacing the day before.
  89. I stumbled out of bed,
  90. I put the phone
    back on the receiver,
  91. and it rang a second later,
  92. and it was my brother,
    and, boy, was he pissed.
  93. (Laughter)
  94. It was the saddest and longest
    night of his life as well.
  95. I tried to explain what happened,
    but he said,
  96. "I don't understand,
    if you saw I wasn't calling you,
  97. why didn't you just pick up the phone
    and call me?"
  98. He was right.
  99. Why didn't I call him?
  100. I didn't have an answer then,
    but I do today, and it's a simple one.
  101. Loneliness.
  102. Loneliness creates
    a deep psychological wound.
  103. One that distorts our perceptions
  104. and scrambles our thinking,
  105. It makes us believe
  106. those around us care much less
    than they actually do.
  107. It makes us really afraid to reach out,
  108. because why set yourself up
    for rejection and heartache,
  109. when your heart is already aching
    more than you can stand?
  110. I was in the grips of real loneliness
    back then,
  111. but I was surrounded by people all day,
  112. so it never occurred to me.
  113. But loneliness, is defined purely,
    subjectively.
  114. It depends solely on whether you feel
  115. emotionally or socially disconnected
    from those around you.
  116. And I did.
  117. There's a lot research on loneliness
  118. and all of it is horrifying.
  119. Loneliness won't just make you miserable,
    it will kill you.
  120. I am not kidding.
  121. Chronic loneliness increases your
    likelihood of an early death
  122. by 14 percent.
  123. Fourteen percent.
  124. Loneliness causes high blood pressure,
    high cholesterol,
  125. it even suppresses
    the functioning of your immune system,
  126. making you vulnerable to all kinds
    of illnesses and diseases.
  127. In fact, scientist have concluded
    that taken together,
  128. chronic loneliness poses
    a significant a risk
  129. for your longterm health and longevity
    as cigarette smoking.
  130. Now, cigarette packs come with warnings
    saying, "This could kill you."
  131. But loneliness doesn't.
  132. And that's why it's so important
  133. we prioritize our psychological health.
  134. That we practice emotional hygiene.
  135. Because you can't treat
    a psychological wound
  136. if you don't even know you are injured.
  137. [Pay attention to emotional pain]
  138. Loneliness isn't the only
    psychological wound
  139. that distorts our perceptions
    and misleads us.
  140. [Failure]
  141. Failure does that as well.
  142. I once visited a daycare center
    where I saw three toddlers
  143. play with identical plastic toys.
  144. You had to slide the red button,
    and a cute doggy would pop out.
  145. One little girl tried pulling
    the purple button, then pushing it,
  146. and then she just sat back
    and looked at the box
  147. with her lower lip trembling.
  148. The little boy next to her,
    watched this happen,
  149. then turned to his box,
    and burst into tears
  150. without even touching it.
  151. Meanwhile, another little girl
    tried everything she could think of
  152. until she slid the red button,
  153. the cute doggy popped out,
    and she squealed with delight.
  154. So three toddlers
    with identical plastic toys
  155. but with very different
    reactions to failure.
  156. The first two toddlers were perfectly
    capable of sliding a red button.
  157. The only thing that prevented them
    from succeeding
  158. was their mind tricked them
    into believing they could not.
  159. Now, adults get tricked this way
    as well all the time.
  160. In fact we all have a default set
    of feelings and beliefs
  161. that gets triggered whenever
    we encounter frustrations and setbacks.
  162. Are you aware of how
    your mind reacts to failure?
  163. You need to be.
  164. Because if your mind tries to convince you
  165. you're incapable of something
  166. and you believe it,
  167. then like those two toddlers,
    you'll begin to feel helpless,
  168. and you'll stop trying too soon
    or you won't even try at all.
  169. And then you will be even more convinced
    you can't succeed.
  170. You see, that's why so many people
  171. function below their actual potential.
  172. Because somewhere along the way,
    sometimes a single failure
  173. convinced them they couldn't succeed,
  174. and they believed it.
  175. Once we become convinced of something,
  176. it's very difficult to change our mind.
  177. I learned that lesson the hard way.
  178. When I was a teenager with my brother.
  179. We were driving with friends
    down a dark road at night,
  180. when the police car stopped us.
  181. There had been a robbery in the area,
    they were looking for suspects.
  182. The officer approached the car,
  183. and he shined his flashlight
    on the driver.
  184. Then on my brother in the front seat,
    and then on me.
  185. And his eyes opened wide, and he said,
  186. "Where have I seen your face before?"
  187. (Laughter)
  188. And I said, "In the front seat."
  189. (Laughter)
  190. But that made no sense to him whatsoever.
  191. So now he thought I was on drugs.
  192. (Laughter)
  193. So he drags me out of the car,
    he searches me,
  194. he marches me over to the police car,
  195. and only when he verified
    I don't have a police record,
  196. could I show him I had a twin
    in the front seat.
  197. But even as we were driving away,
    you could see by the look on his face,
  198. he was convinced
    I was getting away with something.
  199. Our mind is hard to change
    once we become convinced.
  200. So it might be very natural to feel
    demoralized and defeated after you fail.
  201. But you cannot allow yourself
    to become convinced you can't succeed.
  202. You have to fight
    feelings of helplessness.
  203. You have to gain control
    over the situation,
  204. and you have to break this kind
    of negative cycle before it begins.
  205. [Stop emotional bleeding]
  206. Our minds and our feelings,
  207. they are not the trustworthy friends
    we thought they were.
  208. They are more like a really moody friend,
  209. who can be totally supportive one minute,
    and really unpleasant the next.
  210. I once worked with this woman
  211. who after 20 years of marriage
    and an extremely ugly divorce,
  212. was finally ready for her first date.
  213. She had met this guy online,
    he seemed nice and successful,
  214. and most importantly,
    he seemed really into her.
  215. So she was very excited,
    and she bought a new dress,
  216. and they met at an upscale
    New York City bar for a drink.
  217. Ten minutes into the date,
    the man stands up and says,
  218. "I'm not interested", and walks out.
  219. [Rejection]
  220. Rejection is extremely painful.
  221. The woman was so hurt,
    she could't move.
  222. All she could do is call a friend.
  223. And here's what the friend said,
    "Well, what do you expect,
  224. you have big hips,
    you have nothing interesting to say,
  225. why would a handsome,
    successful man like that
  226. ever go out with a loser like you?"
  227. Shocking, right,
    that a friend could be so cruel.
  228. But it would be much less shocking
  229. if I told you it wasn't
    the friend who said that.
  230. It's what the woman said to herself.
  231. And that's something we all do.
  232. Especially after a rejection.
  233. We all start thinking of all our faults
    and all our shortcomings
  234. what we wish we were,
    what we wish we weren't,
  235. we call ourselves names.
  236. Maybe not as harshly,
    but we all do it.
  237. It's interesting that we do, because
    our self-esteem is already hurting.
  238. Why would we want to go
    and damage it even further?
  239. We wouldn't make a physical injury
    worse on purpose.
  240. You wouldn't get a cut on your arm
    and decide,
  241. "Oh, I know, I am going to take a knife
    and see how much deeper I can make it."
  242. But we do that with psychological injuries
    all the time.
  243. Why? Because of poor emotional hygiene.
  244. Because we don't prioritize
    our psychological health.
  245. We know from dozens of studies,
  246. that when your self-esteem is lower,
  247. you are more vulnerable
    to stress and to anxiety,
  248. that failures and rejections hurt more,
  249. and it takes longer to recover from them.
  250. So when you get rejected,
    the first thing you should be doing
  251. is to revive your self-esteem,
  252. not join Fight Club
    and beat it into a pulp.
  253. When you are in emotional pain,
  254. treat yourself with the same compassion
  255. you would expect from a truly good friend.
  256. [Protect your self-esteem]
  257. We have to catch our unhealthy
    psychological habits and change them.
  258. One of the unhealthiest and most common
    is called rumination.
  259. To ruminate, means to chew over.
  260. It's when your boss yells at you,
  261. or your professor makes you
    feel stupid in class,
  262. or you have a big fight with a friend,
  263. and you just can't stop replaying
    the scene in your head for days,
  264. sometimes for weeks on end.
  265. Now ruminating
    about upsetting events in this way
  266. can easily become a habit,
    and it's a very costly one.
  267. Because by spending so much time
  268. focused on upsetting
    and negative thoughts,
  269. you are actually putting yourself
    at significant risk for developing
  270. clinical depression, alcoholism,
  271. eating disorders
    and even cardiovascular disease.
  272. The problem is, the urge to ruminate
  273. can feel really strong, really important,
    so it's a difficult habit to stop.
  274. I know this for a fact.
  275. Because little over a year ago,
    I developed the habit myself.
  276. You see my twin brother was diagnosed
  277. with stage III non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  278. His cancer was extremly aggressive,
  279. he had visible tumors all over his body.
  280. And he had to start a harsh course
    of chemotherapy.
  281. And I couldn't stop thinking
    about what he was going through,
  282. I could't stop thinking
    about how much he was suffering.
  283. Even though he never complained, not once.
  284. He had this incredibly positive attitude.
  285. His psychological health was amazing.
  286. I was physically healthy,
    but psychologically I was a mess.
  287. But I knew what to do.
  288. Studies tell us
    that even a two minute distraction
  289. is sufficient to break the urge
    to ruminate in that moment.
  290. And so each time I had a worrying,
    upsetting, negative thought,
  291. I forced myself to concentrate
    on something else until the urge passed.
  292. And within one week,
    my whole outlook changed,
  293. and became more positive
    and more hopeful.
  294. [Battle negative thinking]
  295. Nine weeks after he started chemotherapy,
    my brother had a CAT scan,
  296. and I was by his side
    when he got the results.
  297. All the tumors were gone.
  298. He still had three more rounds
    of chemotherapy to go.
  299. But we knew he would recover.
  300. This picture was taken two weeks ago.
  301. By taking action when you're lonely,
  302. by changing your responses to failure,
  303. by protecting yourself-esteem,
  304. by battling negative thinking,
  305. you won't just heal
    your psychological wounds,
  306. you will build emotional resilience,
    you will thrive.
  307. A hundred years ago,
    people began practicing personal hygiene.
  308. And life expectancy rates rose
    by over fifty percent
  309. in just a matter of decades.
  310. I believe our quality of life
    could rise just as dramatically
  311. if we all began practicing
    emotional hygiene.
  312. Can you imagine,
    what the world would be like
  313. if everyone was psychologically healthier?
  314. If there were less loneliness,
    and less depression?
  315. If people knew how to overcome failure?
  316. If they felt better about themselves,
    and more empowered?
  317. if they were happier, and more fulfilled?
  318. I can, because that's the world
    I want to live in,
  319. and that's the world
    my brother wants to live in as well.
  320. If you just become informed,
    and change a few simple habits,
  321. well that's the world we can all live in.
  322. Thank you very much.
  323. (Applause)