328: Guy Winch | Emotional First Aid


science / science 700 Views comments

Negative self-talk amplifies painful experiences.

"We need to monitor our emotional health like we monitor our physical health. It has nothing to do with self-esteem, it has nothing to do with masculinity." -Guy Winch

The Cheat Sheet:
  • Why avoidance doesn't work and can actually make areas of your life worse. (10:30)
  • Chronic loneliness is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day: true or false? (16:50)
  • Stewing vs doing: how and why to avoid the former. (26:20)
  • Why affirmations are not useful. (36:20)
  • Failure distorts our perceptions: the study that proves this. (41:35)
  • How negative self-talk damages your emotional state even more than the actual event. (49:30)
  • And so much more...

If we all learned from childhood on how to take care of our emotional hurts, our pains and our struggles, what do you think the world would look like? Probably an incredibly different place than it does today. One person helping us move in that direction is our guest for episode 328, Dr. Guy Winch.

Guy is the author of Emotional First Aid; he also has a PhD and has been a trained psychologist for over 20 years. On this episode he discusses why numbing ourselves to pain doesn't help, the high health risks of loneliness, and what healthy habits to adopt in times of emotional distress...all of that and so much more on this edition of The Art of Charm.

More About This Show:

For over two decades, Guy has been a trained psychologist listening to what people talk about their experiences, and even more importantly, their own self-talk about those experiences. Along the way he's formed opinions and hypotheses in his field; before he shares those opinions, he researches the science that supports or disputes his opinions and he adapts from there.

One of the fundamentals he stands on however is people's need to treat themselves emotionally and to provide their own emotional first aid for their wounds. Very few of us are taught how to take care of our hurts and our suffering; we're all taught how to care for our skinned knees or sprained ankles, but rarely are we taught how to care for our emotions after we've been rejected.

Instead of taking care of our wounds, we often numb ourselves to the pain with alcohol, other recreational drugs, video games, sex or food. Guy says these things don't help us when we try to come back and address that area of our lives. If someone dumps us and we spend three weeks numbed out playing the latest WoW, we are going to have a tough go of it when we try to date again because we've spent three weeks avoiding the pain rather than coping with it.

But those of us who obsess over a situation aren't any better off either. If we focus on replaying and replaying the break-up in our heads we are doing even more damage the actual experience did. We're physically re-creating the pain for ourselves by mentally reliving it. As a species we're hard-wired to feel even the slightest bit of rejection; Guy shares the study that discusses how MRIs show the same parts of our brains are activated by physical pain AND emotional pain.

Instead of obsessing over a rejection or numbing ourselves to it, Guy offers a few tips. The first of which is to be aware and understand what's happening. Now that you know emotional and physical pain are experienced in the body in much the same way, you can stop beating yourself up for feeling bad about the experience. You're human, you're supposed to feel what you're feeling!

The second suggestion he has is a useful tool to boost your self-esteem when you're suffering. This is particularly helpful if you've just gone through a break-up or a significant rejection of some kind. Spend a few minutes writing 10-15 things you're good at. So if you've just been dumped, write 10-15 qualities that make you great in a relationship. For example: you're a good cook, a good listener, you have a great sense of humor, etc. Write those 10-15 things down.

Then pick just one of them and write for 10 minutes about why that quality is important and how you'll exhibit it in future relationships. You have to write it down, this isn't useful if you just think about it so be sure to spend 15 minutes doing this exercise. Doing so will help you feel better about what you bring to the table and will boost your self-esteem at a time when you really need it.

Guy and I discuss several more topics (including the health risks of loneliness and numerous studies highlighting the importance of emotional first aid), one final area worth mentioning here is how to approach failure. If we can experience a failure and examine where we could have done better and where we can improve for next time, we have a much higher chance of tackling future challenges rather than simply giving up. There are always things within your control in a situation, even when you've failed, and if you can pinpoint those and how you can adjust the next time around there's a much higher chance you'll actually pursue a "next time around".

Guy was a terrific guest who generously shares so much of his 20+ years of psychology experience and knowledge with us in this episode, have a listen to hear it all! There are several practical tools you can start using right away so check it out. And I want to thank him for joining us and to thank you for being here too. Enjoy the episode and we'll see you next time.


If you enjoyed this session of the Art of Charm Podcast, let Guy know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:

Click here to thank Guy on Twitter!

Resources from this episode:

Guy Winch's web site Emotional First Aid, Guy Winch's book on Amazon Emotional First Aid, Guy Winch's book on Audible Guy Winch on TwitterSchool of Greatness podcast

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