Friday, 19 October 2018

Why we all need to practice emotional first aid

Dear Reader,

I saw a TEDx Talk recently on emotional hygiene by Dr Guy Winch (7 million views). I could resonate with many points in this talk. I found the concepts and examples on loneliness, failure and rejection very compelling. He talks about how we are partial dealing with emotional wounds compared to how much care we give for physical wounds.

Dr Winch talks about his twin brother who is also a psychologist:

“We didn't study together, though. In fact, the hardest thing I've ever done in my life is move across the Atlantic to New York City to get my doctorate in psychology. We were apart then for the first time in our lives, and the separation was brutal for both of us. But while he remained among family and friends, I was alone in a new country. We missed each other terribly, but international phone calls were really expensive then, and we could only afford to speak for five minutes a week. When our birthday rolled around, it was the first we wouldn't be spending together. We decided to splurge, and that week, we would talk for 10 minutes.

I spent the morning pacing around my room, waiting for him to call -- and waiting ... and waiting. But the phone didn't ring. Given the time difference, I assumed, "OK, he's out with friends, he'll call later." There were no cell phones then. But he didn't. And I began to realize that after being away for over 10 months, he no longer missed me the way I missed him. I knew he would call in the morning, but that night was one of the saddest and longest nights of my life. I woke up the next morning. I glanced down at the phone, and I realized I had kicked it off the hook when pacing the day before. I stumbled out of bed, I put the phone back on the receiver, and it rang a second later. And it was my brother, and boy, was he pissed.

It was the saddest and longest night of his life as well. Now, I tried to explain what happened, but he said, "I don't understand. If you saw I wasn't calling you, why didn't you just pick up the phone and call me?" He was right. Why didn't I call him? I didn't have an answer then. But I do today, and it's a simple one: loneliness.

Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. It makes us believe that those around us care much less than they actually do. It makes us really afraid to reach out, because why set yourself up for rejection and heartache when your heart is already aching more than you can stand? I was in the grips of real loneliness back then, but I was surrounded by people all day, so it never occurred to me. But loneliness is defined purely subjectively. It depends solely on whether you feel emotionally or socially disconnected from those around you. And I did.”

Warm regards