In this new episode, we delve into the fascinating world of emotions and explore how a life well lived is more like a captivating piece of music rather than a relentless pursuit of achievements.
Have you ever found yourself constantly striving for the next milestone, only to feel empty and unsatisfied when you finally reach it? Well, you’re not alone. Society has conditioned us to believe that worldly success is the ultimate goal, but what if we told you there’s a different way to approach life?
Join me as we challenge the conventional notion of success and delve into the vital role emotions play in our existence. Discover the transformative power of embracing and understanding our emotions as we navigate the journey of life.
Are you ready to break free from the achievers trap and start savoring each precious moment? Tune in to this captivating episode to uncover the secrets of emotional well-being and learn how to embrace the beautiful art of living.
Grab your headphones, prepare to be enlightened, and join us in this immersive exploration of emotions.
Show highlights include:
- Science reveals this secret power of emotions [00:01:10]
- Logic fails without this crucial element [00:05:26]
- Here’s why a logical man struggles to make decisions [00:07:32]
- The hidden power struggle within your mind and why it decides the quality of your life [00:11:00]
- Discover this secret to both pleasure and fulfillment [00:16:36]
- How to break free from the trap of a success-driven mentality [00:19:34]
- How to avoid an empty, unfulfilled life for good [00:21:58]
- The Truth About Life’s So-Called Success Journey [00:24:23]
- Powerful Ways to Embrace Life’s Challenges [00:30:23]
- Discover the Secret to True Inner Happiness [00:32:09]
- Here’s how to make sure life doesn’t pass you by [00:37:27]
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:
Listen to the episode on your favorite podcast platform:
Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in relationships, attraction, success, and fulfillment. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. In this episode, we’re diving into a topic that, if truly understood, can shift your entire worldview.
By the end of this episode, you will uncover a deeper meaning to life, a purpose that’s intrinsically tied to emotion—and why is this so crucial? Because there’s an unsettling yet prevalent myth in our achievement-obsessed culture that rationality, high performance, and worldly success are the be-all, end-all, and that’s a slippery slope. If these become the sole pursuits of your life, you will inadvertently bypass genuine fulfillment, authentic love and lasting happiness. [01:07.8]
Now it’s time we busted a big myth, that emotion, that heartfelt sentiments we often push to the side, is somehow a secondary player in a well-lived life, that pure reason, sheer achievement, and peak performance, that those are the ultimate goals. But here’s the thing: science and psychology are revealing a completely different story to that myth.
Emotions aren’t just some nice-to-have things. They’re at the very core of our being. I’ve mentioned the eminent professor Antonio Damasio before on this podcast. He is currently the David Dornsife Chair in neuroscience, as well as a professor of psychology, philosophy and neurology at the University of Southern California and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute, and also heads the Brain and Creativity Institute. [02:00.4]
He’s also the author of Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, as well as several other groundbreaking books, as well as hundreds of articles, and one of the most cited academics out there. If you don’t know his book Descartes’ Error, you absolutely must get it and study it. It is one of the classic foundational books in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, and I’ll be drawing on his work, especially his work in Descartes’ Error, for this podcast.
One of Damasio’s profound findings is that people who’ve lost the ability to feel emotions because of brain injuries aren’t, it turns out, super-rational beings. Ironically, they struggled to make the simplest decisions, decisions that you and I would find obvious. Why? Because emotion is a vital component, even for rational thinking and standard social interactions. [02:56.5]
Moral psychologists like Jonathan Haidt even argue that our reasoning often is just post hoc justification for our emotional automatic reactions. Our emotions are like elephants and our rationality is merely like the little human riders sitting atop this giant elephant. Take love, for instance. Can you imagine a life without it? Imagine that you get all of the rationality and all of the achievement goals that you are aiming for, but you don’t feel love. You don’t get to feel this emotion. What kind of life would that be?
I can tell you. I’ve worked with individuals who have achieved everything they’ve aimed for in terms of their career. They’ve taken their company to a billion-dollar valuation or have exited for multiple billions, and on the other side of that, they’re coming to me to work with me to find love in their lives and to find connection, and to actually enjoy their personal lives, because a life without love and connection is a very empty unfulfilling life. [04:01.7]
And when I say “love” here, I hope you’ve followed enough episodes that you know I’m not just talking about romance. In fact, that’s not the core of what I mean by the word “love.” In fact, you can buy romance, but what you can’t buy is actual unconditional love. Real love is about connection. It’s about belonging, understanding, being seen and appreciated for who you really are and all of who you are. It’s about looking at another human being and feeling this profound bond. It isn’t a side effect. It’s the core. It’s the essence.
But in the relentless race for more, for more accolades, more milestones, we often end up sidelining or we’re told to sideline our emotions. We’re sold to this narrative that if we get too emotional, we’re derailing from the path of success. But, in reality, you end up sidelining life itself. The dangers are real. [04:56.1]
Dive deep into the psyche of individuals who’ve tried to live by the gospel of pure rationality and you’ll find a whole host of problems. For example, alexithymia. I’m going to get into this in more detail later in this episode. Alexithymia is a condition where you struggle to identify and express the emotions you’re feeling, and to even be aware of what you’re feeling. Another example is proprioception issues, where you lose connection with yourself in your physical body.
These aren’t just terms, there are real issues faced by real people all around the world, perhaps even by you listening right now. As I’m going to be showing you in this episode, emotions aren’t just a part of life. They’re the core of life. They’re the whole point.
Okay, so let’s start by diving deeper into the intricate dance between emotion and rationality. What’s the connection between emotion and rationality? Most of us grew up in cultures that glorified logical thinking and sidelined emotion as a weakness. But what if I told you that logic stripped of emotion can’t even function properly? [06:03.6]
Antonio Damasio in that groundbreaking book Descartes’ Error that I mentioned earlier, in that book, he shared the story of Phineas Gage. For those of you who don’t know, Phineas Gage was an affable railroad construction foreman, but an accident shot a rod straight through his head, damaging his frontal lobes.
Miraculously, Gage survived this, but there was a catch. While his intellectual abilities remained intact, his whole emotional life was flattened. This damage to his frontal lobes didn’t turn Gage into a super-rational, unemotional logic machine. Instead, it turned his life into chaos. He couldn’t make simple decisions like what to eat for breakfast. He couldn’t hold down a job, and his personal relationships completely disintegrated.
So, why did this happen? Every time we make a decision, we’re assessing options based on value judgments, and these judgments, they’re inherently emotional. It’s our feelings that tell us whether something is desirable or undesirable, literally, because desires are emotions. Without emotion, Phineas Gage couldn’t assign value to anything. [07:16.8]
Now, Damasio further shares the story of a patient of his, Elliot, whose brain damage was localized, but led to a similar inability to feel emotions. On paper, Elliott was hyper-rational. He was calm and he was never impulsive. But this super-logical man couldn’t even decide between two appointment slots given to him.
Damasio suggested that this is similar to the philosophical dilemma of Buridan’s ass. This refers to a 14th century French philosopher, who is referring here to a donkey, but I just like to use the word ass as it’s sometimes referred to. Buridan’s ass. This is a hypothetical donkey placed equally distant between two bales of hay, unable to decide which one to go to because neither path is more attractive than the other. Neither bale of hay is more attractive than the other. [08:08.4]
On a hyper-rational consideration, they are exactly equal, so in order for the donkey to have a preference or to make a choice, he’d have to make an arbitrary choice, and as a hyper-rational being, that would go against his rationality, to make an arbitrary choice, and because there’s no emotion or desire already built into the decision-making process that we all come to a decision with—like when we, as humans, hear about that situation, we just go, “Oh, just pick one,” because we don’t want to die. Already built into that is the desire to not to die and that’s already a desire, or the desire to eat or to drink. Those are already desires, so already built into our decision-making in the background, unconsciously out of awareness for us, just an assumption that we’re used to living with is that desire is already built in. Emotion is already built in. [09:00.3]
But if you imagine a hyper-rational, in this case, donkey, and then build into the scenario that there are no rational grounds to prefer one path to the other, then what happens is exactly what happens to Buridan’s ass. Unable to decide which one to go to, because neither is more attractive than the other, the donkey just stays stuck, and then, eventually, starves and dies.
Thought experiments like this emphasize something profound. Without emotions, there is no preference, and without preference, there’s often no decision, unless you introduce some kind of arbitrariness to the whole thing and then it’s no longer rational.
So, emotions aren’t just fluff. They’re not just extra. They’re at the core of our human existence. They’re what get the whole thing going, the whole project of whatever the heck it is that you’re doing your purpose, so to speak. Emotions are foundational to not just our rationality, not just to our decision-making, but to our lives, to whether a life is lived well. [10:03.8]
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner, right, you probably know about his books. Thinking, Fast and Slow is one of his bestselling books. He’s a pioneer researcher, obviously. He has reinforced this very point. His work has revealed that we have two different thinking systems, and the first system is fast, intuitive and emotional. The second is slower, more deliberate and more logical, and most of the time, it’s the first system, the fast emotional system driving our car of decisions, and a slower logical system is not the driver. It’s the navigator. It’s helpful, but it never dominates.
This is sort of like the analogy I gave earlier that Jonathan Haidt really ran with, but that he was inspired by Freud and his metaphor of the horse and the rider, and Jonathan Haidt gives us the beautiful metaphor of the elephant and the rider. Our emotional side is this big giant elephant, who sometimes gets triggered and rampages through the jungle, and our rational side is this little, incy, tiny rider on top of this elephant. [11:05.8]
And if they disagree on where to go or if the elephant is triggered by something and starts rampaging through the forest, who do you think is going to win this battle of control? This massive elephant or the tiny human rider on top?
Another one of Jonathan Haidt’s points is that human reasoning isn’t predominantly about finding truth. It’s about social and emotional contexts. We’re not driven by logic alone. Instead, emotions, especially moral intuitions, but also social considerations, these all play an immense role.
Now, I’m not saying to throw rationality out of the window, obviously. You can even tell, in this episode, I’m walking you through a rational analysis of why emotions are more important than rationality. Rationality is vital. It’s vital to our technological advancement, our development in terms of civilization, so I’m not taking away from rationality here. Instead, what I’m doing, or I’m hoping to do anyway, is I’m putting it in its proper place. Rationality is vital. But thinking that we can or should detach rationality from emotion is a grave error. [12:12.8]
Strip away emotions and we strip away the very values, the very fuel that propels us forward in life. Descartes’ Error, drawing from Damasio’s famous book, was to brainwash us into thinking that it’s because we think that we exist. Cogito, ergo sum, we are not just androids. We’re not just Commander Data, to use the Star Trek reference. We’re not just robots. We’re human beings, and at the core of a well lived human life, is emotion. Without emotion, you feel nothing, not just pain and anger and sadness, but also joy and happiness, and pleasure and enjoyment and fulfillment. [12:55.6]
So, what if you’ve achieved all the worldly success and material wealth that you have aimed for? Congratulations, you’re a great robot. But then you’d feel nothing, because we as human beings are not just thinking beings. We’re feeling beings, and without those feelings, without the joys and the sorrows, the highs and the lows, we’re like ships without compasses, or like a colorblind animal looking at a rainbow and missing all the richness of the different hues of colors.
Human thriving needs emotion to even get started. Emotion isn’t the enemy of reason. It’s a partner in the dance of life, and together, emotion and rationality, they weave the rich tapestry of the human experience. They bring color to our world, depth to our experiences, meaning to our journey. There’s a pervasive belief, especially among men, that to feel is somehow to show weakness, and this stifling, fear-based mindset robs us of the full spectrum of the richness of the human experience. We grow up being told to toughen up to suppress our tears and our fears. [14:11.2]
But let me ask you this. Imagine achieving everything you’ve ever dreamed of, every ambitious goal, every milestone, and then imagine feeling nothing when you get there. Nothing. Just emptiness, no pride, no elation, no satisfaction. Just emptiness. What would be the point of all that hustle, all that sacrifice? It would turn out that you were the biggest sucker.
You sacrificed your enjoyment of your present life for some idealistic lie about the future, about some future payoff. But in order to survive this ultra-marathon of discipline, willpower, hustle and grind, you had to repress your emotions. You were unable to enjoy the journey along the way, and then when you got to the end, thinking, Finally, I’ll be able to rest and enjoy the satisfaction that would finally come from all this hard work and sacrifice, except now you’ve dead into your feelings for so long that you can’t even access what you’re feeling. [15:10.5]
And instead, you’re told to feel good about yourself and the hard work and sacrifice you’ve made, because you have somehow created value through all of this work at this company or at this job for so long. But you never got to enjoy it. You got exploited, and after decades and decades of hard work and sacrifice, putting off your enjoyment of life, and in your old age, settling for deadened affect, a numbed sensitivity to emotion, there you are in your old age and that’s it. So, the lie of modern society makes suckers of us all, unless we can awake from the spell. [15:50.3]
The renowned psychiatrist and really gifted writer Irvin Yalom, in his textbook, Existential Psychotherapy, he presents a hedonistic solution. He says, “The purpose of life is simply to live fully, to retain one’s sense of astonishment at the miracle of life, to plunge onself into the natural rhythm of life, to search for pleasure in the deepest possible sense.” These aren’t just empty words. They’re a call to embrace life in all its facets. Life isn’t just a task to be completed, but a gift to be unwrapped, cherished, and savored.
He quotes from another psychotherapy text, “Life is a gift. Take it, unwrap it, appreciate it, use it, and enjoy it.” Now, those of us who are more moral-minded might be thinking, what about all the noble pursuits, like creativity or love, or contribution for a cause? And, yes, those are all essential, and even these loftier pursuits can be encapsulated, can be contained within the framework of this kind of enlightened hedonism. [16:57.7]
Whether it’s getting lost in creative flow, loving deeply, or contributing to a cause greater than yourself, each of these can be seen as avenues for deep-seated enjoyment. They’re not just duties or distractions. They’re pathways to pleasure in the grandest sense of the word. They’re ways of experiencing happiness and fulfillment.
The very talented meditation teacher Sarah Blondin—I highly recommend her work—she, too, reminds us of the sacredness of our feelings. She urges us to recognize that emotions, even the ones that we might have been conditioned to avoid, are indicators. They’re signposts pointing us to our deeper truths, anger, sadness, and joy and love. These are colors of the emotional rainbow that offer a distinct shade of human experience, and if you miss out on any of those or if you don’t let yourself experience those, you’re blind to a major part of what it means to live a rich human life. [18:01.0]
Imagine if you had spent your entire life blind to certain colors, you would have missed out on the full beauty of the world around you. The same is true for emotions. By shying away from certain feelings, especially the ones society might deem unmanly, we’re robbing ourselves of the richness of life, so stop prioritizing achievements at the cost of emotion. Recognize that a life without feelings is a life that is only, at best, half lived. You don’t want to be a robot in your life, only to come to the end of that hard work of pretend to be a robot, only to find that it’s all empty and nothingness. [18:37.8]
No matter their physical strength, for many men, emotions are too much for them to handle. It’s why they can’t give women the deeper levels of emotional intimacy and connection that they crave. It’s why they fail to be the man that modern women desire most: a man with inner strength, a man who has mastered his emotions.
Find out how to master your emotions through David Tian’s “Emotional Mastery” program. The Emotional Mastery program is a step-by-step system that integrates the best of empirically-verified psychotherapy methods and reveals how to master your internal state and develop the inner strength that makes you naturally attractive, happy, and fulfilled.
Learn more about this transformational program by going to DavidTianPhD.com/EmotionalMastery.
That’s D-A-V-I-D-T-I-A-N-P-H-D [dot] com [slash] emotional mastery.
Here’s another way of putting it, at getting at why the achiever’s trap is so pernicious. What if life were like music instead of a lab-rat treadmill that we’re trying to embrace and make less bad so that we can get the pellet at the end? What if instead of life being like climbing a mountain and not enjoying the climb, what if it were like music? If you look at the physical universe, it’s very similar to art. It’s essentially playful. There’s no final endgame, no eventual destination the universe is trying to get to it. It just starts and then just expands outwards in increasingly intricate patterns. [20:11.3]
What if life were like art in that regard? Specifically, let’s take the metaphor of this particular art form of music. When someone plays the piano, we don’t say that they “work” the piano. We say they “play” the piano. The beauty of music doesn’t come from reaching the end of a composition. If that were the case, then the best pieces of music would be the ones that finish the fastest.
But that’s not how we experience or value music, and here I’m drawing from a fabulous talk by Alan Watts. Imagine attending a concert, just to hear the last chord. You show up, and then, boom, that’s it, everyone goes home. Or dancing with the sole aim of reaching a specific spot in the room, the final spot, the X, and the music starts, the dance starts, and then, boom, they all just end up there and it’s over and clap and we go home. Ridiculous, right? We wouldn’t bother going to watch this sort of thing. [21:02.2]
The beauty, the joy, the purpose, it’s all in the dance itself, not where the dance ends up. The point of the music is to enjoy it, not the final chord. But somehow as we grow up, society doesn’t teach us this. They approach life in a very different manner, in a way that is actually a dangerous lie.
Our schooling, our culture pushes us down this long corridor of achievements, constantly dangling the next carrot. First it’s graduating from one grade to the next. Then it’s about finishing high school, and then it’s about getting into college and then getting through college, and then after college, perhaps it’s grad school.
Then after all this formal education, you’re supposed to step into the real world, but then in the real world, you’re chasing after job promotions, climbing the ladder. You’re trying to get savings. You’re trying to get your dream house, and the next big thing, the next big thing. And before you know it, you’re middle aged, and you pause to catch your breath and you realize you’ve arrived—you’ve achieved all you were supposed to achieve that you set out to—but, strangely, the feeling isn’t exhilarating. It’s just hollow. [22:11.5]
It’s heartbreaking to see people, so many people who’ve spent their entire lives working towards something like retirement, only to reach that stage with no energy, passion or zest left to actually enjoy the few remaining years they have. They’ve envisioned this grand finale, but when the music stops, there’s just silence.
If you’ve always imagined life as this grand pilgrimage leading to a monumental final destination, be it, finally, success or that level of wealth, or that dream girlfriend, or finally being that guy, that mythical alpha male that you have as an ideal in your head, whatever it is that you’re striving so hard for, sacrificing so much of your enjoyment of life for, then you’re in for a rude awakening, because in obsessing over the endpoint, we also often forget to enjoy the journey or even that the point was to enjoy it, and in essence, we’ve missed the whole point of life. [23:16.8]
What if life were meant to be like a song or dance, or listening to a symphony with four movements, and it wasn’t a race to the finish line? While the music plays, we shouldn’t have been planning our steps to the end. We should have been dancing the whole time. Now, I’ve been paraphrasing Alan Watts, but I think he actually put it more powerfully, so I’m going to quote from him directly and give us all another chance to let this sink in. Quoting from Alan Watts:
Music differs from, say, travel. When you travel, you are trying to get somewhere. In music, though, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest. And there would be composers who only wrote finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crackling chord… because that’s the end! [24:05.2]
Same way with dance. You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room because that’s where you will arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.
But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our conduct. We have a system of schooling which gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded and what we do is put the child into the corridor of this grade system with a kind of, “Come on kitty, kitty.” And you go to kindergarten and that’s a great thing because when you finish that you get into first grade. Then, “Come on, come on,” first grade leads to second grade and so on. And then you get out of grade school and you got high school. It’s revving up, the thing is coming, then you’re going to go to college… Then you’ve got graduate school, and when you’re through with graduate school, you go out to join the world.
Then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance. And they’ve got that quota to make, and you’re gonna make that. And all the time that thing is coming – It’s coming, it’s coming, that great thing. The success you’re working for. [25:03.5]
Then you wake up one day about 40 years old and you say, “My God, I’ve arrived. I’m there.” And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt.
Look at the people who live to retire; to put those savings away. And then when they’re 65, they don’t have any energy left. They’re more or less impotent. And they go and rot in some, old people’s, senior citizens’ community. Because we simply cheated ourselves the whole way down the line … we missed the point the whole way along.
It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.
You’ve got to hear it in his original British accent with this wonderful animation. You can find it on YouTube. I think After Skool is the YouTube channel.
Thinking about this metaphor, you can even look at the journey of life as something that you enjoy, because I used to love traveling just for the sake of traveling. As you journey through life, many of us have been conditioned to suppress our feelings, to push them deep down. We’re told, often implicitly, that showing emotion is a sign of weakness or vulnerability, especially if you’re a man. [26:10.0]
But what’s the cost of such emotional repression? Over time, this emotional muzzling can lead to a condition called alexithymia, a fancy term that essentially means having trouble identifying and describing feelings. People with alexithymia often find it challenging to understand their own emotions, let alone those of others. This isn’t merely about not having the right words to describe them. It’s about a disconnect from one’s own emotional world.
Then there’s proprioception. This is our sense of self movement and body position. That is, how it feels from the inside. If you close your eyes while you feel something, it’s that level of sensitivity and awareness from the inside of what’s going on in your body. People with poor proprioception have to look at their bodies to know what’s happening to their bodies, because they’re not sensitive enough and aware enough from the inside. [27:05.2]
Now, it might seem that emotions and the body are unrelated, but, in fact, emotions and the body are deeply interconnected, because where do you feel the emotions in your physical body? If you’ve ever felt butterflies in your stomach or noticed your heart racing when you’re nervous, you’ve experienced this link. When we detach from our emotions, we also end up losing touch with our bodies.
Here’s where the groundbreaking work and perhaps the person who is most responsible for making this groundbreaking research available to the general public, Bessel van der Kolk, in his mega bestselling book The Body Keeps the Score, he points out that trauma, especially early emotional trauma, can lead to a disconnect between our physical bodies and our minds. We start living in our heads while our bodies carry the weight of unresolved emotions and unexpressed feelings. The body, as he puts it, keeps the score. [28:00.2]
Without a clear, emotional and proprioceptive connection, a lot of problems ensue. On the mental-health front, we see issues ranging from depression and anxiety to more severe dissociative disorders. We struggle mightily in relationships when we are emotionally muted. How can you connect with someone else if you’re disconnected from yourself? And, physiologically, the toll of emotional repression isn’t benign, either. Chronic stress, sleep disorders, even issues like heart disease, can trace their roots back to unresolved emotional trauma.
We’re holistic beings. After all, our mind and emotions are rooted in the physical body. If you shut down the physical body, you’re also going to be shutting down your thoughts and feelings. They’re all interconnected and one emerges out of the other and vice versa. They emerge from each other. We’re unique in the evolutionary world, in that we can think ourselves into physical pain. Conversely, what makes something painful versus pleasurable is also in our interpretation of the phenomena, so it goes both ways. [29:06.8]
Here’s where modalities like IFS therapy (Internal Family Systems therapy), Gestalt therapy, how they come into play. Gestalt therapy, overall, emphasizes the holistic nature of human experience, pushing for a unified sense of self. It teaches us to reintegrate our fragmented emotional experiences so that we can feel complete and live in the present.
IFS gives us tools to understand our complex internal emotional systems. It allows us to heal by recognizing and addressing the needs of our various internal parts, and all good therapeutic approaches, including, of course, Gestalt and IFS, suggests a fundamental truth: to heal, to thrive, we must feel, not just the good feelings, but all feelings. To truly live, we must reconnect with our emotions, rekindle that dialogue between our minds and bodies, and bridge any disconnections. [30:04.1]
So, if you find yourself stuck in life, feeling numb, or disconnected or blank, remember, emotions aren’t the enemy. They’re, in fact, the gateway, the necessary path through, and they are the destination. They are intrinsically valuable. They’re the thing to enjoy, in and of itself. They’re the whole point. They’re the different doors to a richer, fuller, more authentic life, so we need to embrace them, feel through them, even the challenging ones, even the ones that seem painful at first. And we can learn from them and we can let them guide us towards a life that’s truly worth living.
Let me tell you briefly about a client named Evan. When Evan first came to our online courses, and then, later, into private coaching, he was first looking to get his lifestyle together so that he could have a thriving social life and not feel so lonely so much.
As we did the therapeutic work, taking him through the therapeutic processes, including processes that led him through powerful emotions that he had been repressing for decades—he was in his 50s when he came to us—even doing his own inner child work through the therapeutic process, led him to make amends and to rekindle his relationship that had been strained with his own children. [31:17.8]
After several months of going through the therapeutic process, he was reporting that life was a completely different experience. It was like he had been looking at life as if through black and white lenses and, suddenly, he took those off and he was able to see the richness in all of the color in high definition of his current life, and then the potential that his future held in store for him.
Now, he was overcoming multiple decades of trauma that he had been repressing, but after just several months of going through the therapeutic process and really applying himself, his life already took on a much deeper level of meaning and enjoyment, and it’s still an ongoing journey for him as it is for all of us. [31:57.1]
The beautiful thing about it is when you approach the journey in the right way, the whole point of the journey no longer becomes about the destination. It’s the enjoyment of the journey of life all along the way, and so you get to enjoy all of the wonderful stuff, the good stuff that everyone else puts off, hoping that they’ll get it finally at the very end.
But if you approach it in the right way, like it’s a piece of music, or that life is music or a dance, and the whole point of it is to enjoy it before it ends, then you get to enjoy all those good emotions and the whole richness of all of the emotions, even the ones that you might be afraid to feel right now.
If you approach it in this other way that comes as a result of going through the therapeutic process, then all of these emotions, even the ones that you are afraid of right now, become another piece of the beautiful tapestry of life—and this is a very different approach from the willpower and discipline, grind and hustle, beat yourself up to force you to slog through to the end so that you can finally rest in and finally enjoy life, that is a sucker’s life. [33:02.3]
Okay, to recap now, we started by diving deep into the heart of what makes life worth living, and it’s not just the chase, it’s not just the achievements or the societal badges of honor. What if it were like music, dance, the rhythm of life? It’s about feeling. It’s about feeling life. Emotions, as we discovered, aren’t the seasoning or the garnishes to the dish. They’re the main ingredients.
I can’t stress this enough. Emotions aren’t just secondary to a good life. They’re central. They’re at the core. Repressing our emotions isn’t just a harmless choice. It’s a road that leads to disorders like alexithymia, where one becomes a stranger to one’s own feelings, and the disconnect that we create between our mind and body, our heart and soul, is more damaging than people realize.
Here’s where it gets even more serious. When we consistently prioritize achievements over emotion, we embark on a dead-end journey of nothingness and emptiness. All those hours, days, years, grinding away, sacrificing our present life in order to chase far-off dreams, ticking the boxes that society has thrust at us, and for what? For a moment of satisfaction, at best, that feels empty, hollow, because we’ve forgotten how to feel along the way. [34:19.8]
In this relentless pursuit, relationships suffer. Bonds that should have been nurtured with love, understanding and empathy get strained or even severed. Ultra-achievers lost in the quicksand of this trap of this lie end up sacrificing their marriages, end up sacrificing the relationships with their kids for some far-off achievement that they believe blindly will finally make them feel whole, but it doesn’t, only to look back on the shattered remains of their lives.
Our mental health ends up deteriorating. The world might see a facade of a successful individual, but behind closed doors, it’s a panorama of sleepless nights, anxiety and loneliness that’s more profound, because it’s repressed into the unconscious so that it can’t even be worked on, but it’s still there working on the person, and because it’s a loneliness from one’s own real self. [35:14.0]
But there’s another path, a brighter one, if you’re courageous enough to take it. Imagine a world where you allow yourself to feel every emotion, every flutter of joy, pang of sorrow, when you’re not running from your feelings, but embracing them. This isn’t about wallowing in sadness or getting stuck in anger. It’s about recognizing emotions, feeling them fully, and then feeling through them, because all emotions are like waves, and some of them, if you’ve repressed them for decades, a very long time, when you open the door, end up turning into big tsunami waves that threaten to overwhelm you, and so it’s helpful to have a professional at first, to help you titrate the flow of these repressed emotions. [35:58.3]
But then all emotions are waves and, eventually, they’ll subside, and over time, you will learn that they’re not so scary, and then you’ll learn that no matter what type of wave it is, you can ride it and it can be a great high, and it can be very enjoyable, and it can make life deeper and richer.
Just imagine the deep rooted happiness that you can experience in the present moment when you’re fully in tune with your emotions. Not a kind of fleeting pleasure that comes with a new purchase or a short-lived achievement, but the kind that resonates deep within that makes you feel alive, vibrant, truly present, this type of happiness and joy that doesn’t depend on external factors, but as a result of a harmonious inner world.
Investing in learning to navigate this world of emotions isn’t just beneficial to you. It’s essential. It’s the point of life. It’s about learning to dance in the rain, not just waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about realizing that every emotion has a role to play in our life’s symphony, and by repressing any part of it, we’re missing out on the full spectrum of our human experience and then it’s over. [37:09.5]
Life is too short and far too precious to live it halfway. It’s a gift, a marvel, an adventure. Don’t rob yourself of its richness. Embrace every part of it, especially the core, the emotions, because in the end, they’re the threads that weave the tapestry of our stories.
As we wind down here, I urge you, don’t let life pass you by in a blur of ambitions and achievements. Stop. Breathe. Feel, and revel in the wonder of the present moment that’s there available for you to enjoy right here right now, because it’s in this where the true essence of life lives.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode. Please come back to the next episode where I’m going to be diving deeper into the actual how-tos. How do you do this therapeutic process that can allow me to experience all this happiness, joy and fulfillment that comes as a result of undoing repression? [38:05.5]
I’m going to be getting into that in the next episode. Thank you so much for listening to this one. If you’ve got any feedback whatsoever, I’d love to hear it. Put a comment in here or send me a message. And hit subscribe or like on whatever platform you’re listening to this on. If this has benefited you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think could benefit from it.
Thank you so much for listening. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. David Tian, signing out.
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