In this new episode, we are diving deep into the world of emotions and success.
Have you ever wondered why working hard for years may not lead to the rewarding experience you’ve always dreamed of?
Or why so many people treat emotions as obstacles to success?
This episode reveals profound insights on how repressing emotions can actually hinder our ability to fully enjoy the rewards of our hard work.
We’ll explore the fascinating concept of alexithymia and how the pursuit of success can become a monotonous grind devoid of true fulfillment.
Hop on board for a transformative exploration that challenges conventional wisdom. Because perhaps, just maybe, the real magic isn’t just in attaining a goal, but in the fullness of the journey itself. This is an episode you won’t want to miss.
Show highlights include:
- The Truth About Success: Why Hard Work is Meaningless Without Emotion [00:02:08]
- Success ≠ Happiness: The Myth You’ve Been Believing [00:03:21]
- The Secret to Emotional Strength [00:08:11]
- How To Rebuild Your Emotional Intelligence [00:11:41]
- Discover the Effects of Poor Proprioception [00:15:13]
- The Surprising Solution To Mastering Your Emotions [00:19:08]
- Discover How Releasing Trauma Can Boost Resilience [00:22:21]
- How to Rise From The Ashes of Deep Shame and Exhaustion [00:25:42]
- Are You Unsatisfied at The Peak? Here’s Why [00:28:14]
- How to unlock hidden emotions for ultimate fulfillment [00:35:03]
- The secret dangers of emotional suppression [00:37:16]
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:
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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, and in this episode, I’ve got a tantalizing promise for you. What if I told you that all the good stuff you’ve been chasing, happiness, joy, peace, certainty, significance, connection, fulfillment and love, are already within your reach even before you’ve made it?
Now, reflect on those good things I just listed off there. What do they all have in common? These are all emotions. They’re not trophies or numbers in a bank account. They’re emotions. [00:52.0]
Now let’s think about this in the way that most people approach their lives. Most people try to attain some level of worldly success through hard work and discipline over the span of years or decades, and they lose sight of why they’re working so hard in the first place. They buy into the achiever’s trap, this lie that decades of hard work that you don’t even enjoy, will finally lead to a reward that is so pleasurable that it far surpasses all of the painful hard work that they didn’t enjoy, leading up to it all those decades lost.
Along the way, they demonize emotions, seeing emotions as just getting in the way of clear thinking that would improve their productivity, that would then make them more money or more successful faster, and these emotions, at best, are things to be used along the path to finally getting that reward decades down the road. [01:50.7]
So many people rely on repressing their emotions, because they do get in the way they think, and as a result of repressing their emotions for so long, years and decades, not only are they unable to fully enjoy the reward at the end, when they finally reached that peak decades down the road. And, of course, not only are they unable to enjoy that decades-long journey along the way, because they’ve been repressing their emotions in order to get there, in order to survive the grind, and of course, enjoyment is an emotion itself, so they’re not feeling that. But even worse, they’re like lab rats on a treadmill, having lost sight of the bigger picture of why they’re even doing this in the first place, only to discover towards the end of their lives, that their lives were not well-lived.
Without emotion, what we often label as success is just hard, tedious work with no greater meaning. It’s grinding days and sleepless nights without any real meaningful rewards. You’re climbing a ladder only to find out it’s leaning against the wrong wall. [02:53.8]
Many people believe that once they achieve a certain level of worldly success, these good emotions are supposed to just automatically flood in. But how often do we hear stories of successful people at the peak of their careers, feeling emptier than ever? And that’s what all the empirical research has proven. The outside world might see the glitz and glamor, but, inside, internally, there’s an emotional desert. It’s because success doesn’t equal happiness, and that’s the myth that we’re busting today.
What if you can experience all these beautiful emotions, even before reaching the pinnacle of your perceived success? What if you’ve got the sequence backwards? Consider what Alan Watts pointed out before and I’ve shared in the previous episode, life, like music, is meant to be played, to be enjoyed along the way. It’s about the experience, not the end goal.
Tony Robbins, he also emphasizes that achievement is not the end game. It’s the fulfillment that we get along the way that truly counts. Renowned psychiatrist Irvin Yalom delves into the idea that the essence of life is about living fully, experiencing at all, and not just waiting for some far-off goal to be realized. [04:13.4]
But the question for us is, why do so many of us still get it wrong? Why are we so often in this frenzied race towards a mirage? Part of the answer for many of us lies in our upbringing and social conditioning. Many of us were handed to this blueprint of life, often unconsciously out of our awareness by our parents, our schools, our societies, our communities, and it’s a blueprint that screams, “Achieve. Succeed. Get to the top and then you can be happy,” or “and then you can be attractive enough to get the women that you want.”
This is what I call a legacy burden in IFS therapy-speak. It’s like a baton that’s been passed down through the generations. Our parents in all their positive and good intentions might have been also misled themselves and up to your grandparents, your great grandparents, all the way up the line. [05:09.3]
How many times were you told, “Once you finish school, then you’ll be happy,” only to be given the next milestone. “Once you land a great job, then . . .” “Once you get that promotion, then . . .” and it goes on and on and on, but the destination keeps shifting, and happiness remains ever elusive. It’s like being on a treadmill that just keeps going on forever running tirelessly, but going nowhere.
As I covered in the previous episode, it’s like we’re in a matrix of achievements, but without emotion, pushing off our happiness, to some undetermined point in the future, and even worse, we trick ourselves, we achievers, into thinking that we are without emotion, as if we are some perfect robots or something. But in fact, we have a lot of emotion. It’s just that we’re unaware of it or we lack the courage to face it, so we repress it because we think it’s getting in the way, but we are full of emotion going on. It’s just that we’re not good at accessing it or doing anything with it, or even feeling it fully. [06:12.8]
It’s time now to break free, to realize that we can and should experience the profound emotions that are right here that are going on right beneath the surface, right under our awareness. Not tomorrow, not after that promotion, not after hitting the seven-figure mark, but that is available today.
Expanding on what I covered in the last episode, let’s dive deeper into a little-known but pervasive issue that could be holding you back from a fulfilling life, and that is alexithymia. In case you want to know how it’s spelled. It’s A. It’s “ALEX” and then “I-T-H-Y-M-I-A.” Alexithymia.
Imagine going through your days feeling detached. Your friend excitedly shares news about their promotion, and you know you should feel happy for them, but you just don’t. Or you’ve achieved something that you’ve been aiming at for years, but instead of elation, you just feel numbness. Does this sound odd? Welcome to the world of alexithymia. [07:17.0]
The word itself is derived from a Greek, meaning, lack of words for emotions. It represents a state where you have difficulty recognizing or describing emotions, both in yourself and in others, and it’s not like you don’t have emotions, we all do, but people with alexithymia have difficulty articulating or even identifying them easily. It’s like being colorblind, but for emotions. Just as someone colorblind might see the world in a limited palette, someone with alexithymia experiences a similarly muted emotional landscape.
Okay, so how does somebody get here? Answer: emotional repression. [07:58.6]
Growing up, many of us were taught to stifle our emotions. Maybe you heard things like boys don’t cry, or just stay strong, or don’t cry, or keep a stiff upper lip or something along those lines, toughen up. Over time, constantly pushing down these emotions resulted in us losing touch with them entirely. It’s like flexing a muscle. If you don’t flex your emotional muscle, eventually, it just sort of where there’s a way. It deteriorates.
The Mega bestselling author Bessel van der Kolk and pioneer in trauma research, he has shown that when we continually suppress our emotions, especially traumatic ones or extreme ones, our brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for emotions, starts to disconnect from our prefrontal cortex, which is the core of our conscious cognition—and the result? Alexithymia. [8:51.6]
So, this three-episode series began by answering the question, “So what? What’s the big deal? Isn’t it easier to go through life without the burden of messy emotions? Let’s just get clear on that, if the past two and a half episodes have not been clear enough.
No, it’s not better to be without emotions, and here’s why. Number one, I’ll just give you four. I’ll list off four reasons here. One, relationships. Okay, so emotions are the foundation of deep connection. Deep connection itself is an emotion.
Without recognizing or expressing genuine emotions, relationships remain shallow. They’re not even relationships really. You can’t genuinely empathize and it makes you seem distant or uncaring. Have you ever tried explaining a beautiful sunset to someone who has never seen colors or never seen ever? That’s how the emotionally-connected world feels to someone with alexithymia.
The second area is in decision-making and I covered this in depth in a previous episode. Have you ever had an instinctive feeling about something, like a gut feeling? Those are emotions guiding you. People with alexithymia can become notoriously indecisive, because they don’t have access to those preferences or desires which are emotions that would otherwise guide them. They’re like sailors on a vast ocean, but without a compass. [10:13.0]
The third reason is your mental health and wellbeing. Suppressing emotions doesn’t make them go away or vanish. It’s not like that you can kill them off. They’re still there. They’re just buried, and they’re ready to erupt, because you’re putting pressure down on them to try to get rid of them to exile them, to hide them, and then this leads to unexplained or seemingly unexplainable outbursts later, or stress or anxiety, or even depression over the long term.
Then I’ll give the final reason, your physical health. There are mountains of research on how unprocessed emotions get stored in the physical body. This can manifest as unexplained aches, chronic pain, or even severe conditions like fibromyalgia. Emotions demand to be felt one way or another. [11:03.6]
Now, the most crucial point is that the richness of life is in emotions. The joy of holding your child for the first time or the thrill of a first kiss, the calming piece of a sunset, the exhilaration of achievement, these are all emotions. You strip away the emotions, and what’s life but a robotic series of events? If life’s core then is in feeling, then by repressing emotions, you’re missing out on life itself. It’s like going to a concert with earplugs on.
If any of this resonates with you, know that it’s not too late. Just like any skill with time and effort, we can rebuild our emotional intelligence. Psychotherapy, especially experiential approaches to psychotherapy, like Gestalt or IFS therapy, provide valuable tools to reconnect with our lost emotions. It’s not about dredging up the past, but about reconnecting with the present with a vibrant palette of emotions that make life worth living, and unfortunately, we can’t selectively mute certain emotions. It doesn’t work that way unfortunately. When we try to dampen just some emotions, we end up dampening all of them. [12:16.7]
The upside is if you want a life filled with color, with highs and lows with the roller-coaster of joy, love, excitement, and part of that rainbow of emotions, that spectrum includes sadness and anger. Then you’ve got to start by looking within, and feel those emotions, recognize them, embrace them, feel through them, and only then do you truly start living.
Unless it sound like I’m standing on some soapbox preaching down to you, I have personally struggled with and suffered through decades of emotional repression and didn’t even realize it until I was suicidal, standing on the edge of a 57th-floor ledge. I’m not looking down on anyone who has alexithymia or suffering from something like alexithymia. I am sharing this as a fellow traveler, and, later, I’ll reveal more about how I overcame this. [13:11.3]
But before I get into that, there’s one more concept to revisit here and to expand on, which is proprioception. Another big word, what does it mean? Picture this, you’re reaching out for a glass of water, but you don’t have to look at your hand or measure the distance or calculate angles. You just do it, and that knowing where your hand is in relation to the space, understanding the space your hand occupies, and directing it without having to look at it precisely where to go, is thanks to good proprioception. It’s like our body’s sixth sense, the sense of yourself in space, and just as emotional repression can mute our feelings, it can also disrupt our proprioception.
Think of a time when you were overwhelmed with emotion, maybe anger or fear. Did you clench your fist, tighten your jaw? Did you furrow your brow? Did you feel a pit in your stomach? Or did you feel your heart and your chest beating really hard or loud? Are emotions manifest in our bodies? [14:13.7]
Constantly suppressing these emotions means that we’re constantly ignoring or overriding our own bodily signals, and over time, what happens is we begin to lose touch with our own body, leading to poor proprioception. We’re not even good at feeling our own bodies from the inside on what’s going on in our bodies. Trauma, even minor trauma, especially when it’s repressed, it gets stored in the body and disconnects the mind from the body. The body remembers even when the mind forgets.
What are some of these symptoms that you might notice? I’ll give you four.
First it’s physical coordination. Right, so poor proprioception, it’s like trying to navigate the world with blurry vision. It can lead to clumsiness or frequently bumping into things, and even persistent pain due to incorrect posture or movement that you’re not even aware of or notice. [15:06.6]
Another is mental wellbeing or health. A disconnection from your body can feel like you’re floating and not grounded. It can lead to feelings of dissociation, where you feel like you’re observing your life rather than living it, just sort of floating out of your body.
A third is interpersonal relationships. Our bodies communicate as much if not more than our words. Poor proprioception can lead to body language that’s incongruent with our words, which sends mixed signals, making us appear insincere, or untrustworthy, and we’re unable to control how we’re perceived or how we come across to others because we’re not even aware of exactly how we’re coming across.
The fourth is a loss of enjoyment. You think of the joy of dancing, like the rush of a sport or the piece of a yoga pose. All these need a well-tuned sense of proprioception. With poor proprioception, these activities can become sources of stress and pressure rather than joy. [16:07.1]
Let’s ground this in a real-life example. Imagine Sarah, a high-powered lawyer, she spent years honing her mind pushing down her emotions to project strength. Over time, she’s noticed that she’s become more accident-prone, often misjudging distances or tripping. Her friends joke about her two left feet.
But more than the physical toll, she feels disconnected emotionally, like she’s constantly on autopilot. Her relationships suffer, because even when she’s there physically, she’s not really there emotionally or even mentally, and this isn’t just clumsiness. This is a life devoid of the rich tapestry of experiences that her body could offer.
One of the greatest tragedies about this is that many people suffer from poor proprioception without realizing its root cause. They try physical therapies. They go through a lot of trouble to do different types of movement training or yoga, or physical meditation, and while these can help, they’re often just band-aid solutions. [17:09.3]
To get to the root of the issue, you’ve got to go deeper and reconnect with those repressed emotions, and in so doing, reconnect with your physical body. Psychotherapy is especially one that integrates body and mind, like certain forms of somatic therapies can be incredibly transformative. They teach us to listen to our bodies and recognize the signs that our bodies are giving, and then to respond appropriately. They help us heal, not just emotionally, but physically.
Emotions aren’t just abstract concepts. They’re deeply tied to our physical bodies and being. Repressing our emotions doesn’t just rob us of a rich emotional life, but also a rich physical one. Life isn’t just about moving from Point A to B. It’s about feeling the ground under our feet, the wind on our face and the thrill in our hearts. Living with emotional repression is like seeing the world just purely in grayscale. Recognizing, accepting and expressing our emotions, on the other hand, turns the world into high resolution full color. [18:14.4]
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.
Now that you understand the significant effects that emotional repression can have on our minds and bodies, especially in the forms of alexithymia and poor proprioception, now let’s explore the hope and solutions that exist, especially in the realm of therapeutic processes. [19:25.8]
The one that I’m the biggest champion of is IFS therapy. If you’ve been following this podcast for any length of time, you must have heard me mentioned this, Internal Family Systems—that’s what IFS stands for—it dives deep into the idea that our psyche is composed of various parts inside us that we have protector parts and we have exiled parts, and so on. When trauma or significant emotional events occur, part of our psyche can get stuck or isolated, and this can manifest as alexithymia where certain emotions are barricaded away with the parts that are barricaded away. [20:00.5]
IFS therapy is sort of like diplomacy. It helps us in negotiating between these parts, helping them to integrate and communicate better. It’s a process that helps you access your true self, your higher self, which can then take a more effective leadership role with the different parts, so instead of suppressing a part of you that carries sadness or anger, you learn to listen, understand and heal that part. This not only brings emotional relief, but it starts to recalibrate your physical body’s proprioceptive sense, as emotions get physically embodied and then released.
Gestalt therapy is another potent approach. It emphasizes the here and now. It’s about being present and complete and integrated. Imagine a scenario in therapy where you’re asked, “How do you feel?” and then you just draw a blank. The Gestalt therapist might redirect with “What do you feel in your body right now?” This process draws attention to your bodily sensations and emotions, and links them together. It integrates the fragmented parts of ourselves, helping to make us whole. [21:07.8]
Then there’s the category of different types of approaches called somatic therapies. A very well-known one is the one pioneered by Peter Levine called Somatic Experiencing, which posits that trauma disrupts our body’s natural ability to regulate arousal. The fight or flight response gets stuck in “on” mode, and this method works by releasing this pent up energy and restoring the body’s ability to self-regulate, and this experience can be profoundly grounding and liberating.
Another example of somatic therapy is Hakomi. Hakomi therapy combines mindfulness and body-centered techniques, like a gentle excavation of the self, uncovering buried emotions, memories and beliefs, and then integrating them in a healthy whole. [21:56.2]
Then, of course, there’s yoga, and not just the yoga that you might do at the gym. I mean, the more original form of yoga, which is a practice that’s been around for millennia, thousands of years. Beyond the physical postures, yoga, at its core, is a meditation and awareness practice. It brings together the mind, body and spirit. The breath work, the postures, the awareness, they all work together to help you access, and if you can stay with them, release stored traumas, improve your proprioception, and if you can stay with it, build emotional resilience.
Decades of research has shown how trauma lodges itself into the body, whether directly through physical movements or in a more minor way of just noticing what’s happening in your body when you’re feeling certain emotions. The body needs to be involved in the therapeutic healing process, and it could be through regulated breathing, rhythmic movements, or even psychodrama theater, which is another style of therapy that I haven’t gone into and won’t have the time to dive into this time. But no matter what approach you ended up taking or approaches—I recommend you try lots of different approaches—engaging the physical body is paramount. [23:06.6]
How do we take all of this knowledge and apply it?
First recognize the importance of a holistic approach. The mind and body are interconnected facets of the same substance that as you. Psychotherapy, the good psychotherapy, experiential psychotherapy, and somatic psychotherapies acknowledge this and work on polishing all the different aspects that make up the facets of the jewel of you.
Second, patience is essential. These therapies aren’t quick fixes. They’re journeys, journeys of discovery, understanding and healing. But with every step, every session, you come closer to your authentic self, to a life where emotions are embraced, not shunned. This is assuming you are working with a good therapist.
If you’ve tried psychotherapy, as I know that so many people have, but they haven’t been working with good therapists and they’ve just given up on the whole thing, check if I have some availability. You can find it on my website and look under the Home menu for therapy, and then if there’s availability, get in touch with us. But do not give up on therapy just because you’ve had some bad therapists. Good ones are out there and they’re just in the minority, so keep looking, and try different therapists out until you find one that really clicks with you. [24:20.6]
Investing in therapy is an investment in yourself. Consider the price of living with emotional repression—strained relationships, missed opportunities, and an existence devoid of the vibrancy that emotions can bring—and then weigh that against the cost of therapy. The scales tip heavily in favor of making that investment in you, and your future life and future happiness.
In my own life, for the first 35 years or so, the dominant parts of my life that were running the show that were taking responsibility for getting these goals met were intellectual parts, cognitive parts. These were parts that we’re really good at school and enjoyed actually a lot of school, especially when I got to university and got to pick my own major and courses and theses and research projects, and these were also the parts, believe it or not, that oversaw my developments as a pickup artist, as a player, to be more accurate. [25:16.8]
They figured things out in terms of social dynamics and dating dynamics, and were really interested in and had fun with experimenting with different techniques and strategies and methods, and so on. But these intellectual parts couldn’t figure out fundamental human needs, like love, connection, worthiness, because these were fundamentally emotions and these intellectual parts weren’t very good with emotions. They didn’t have a lot of experience or comfort with them, so it was like trying to figure out how to make changes on the FM spectrum when they were living in the AM, to use a radio analogy. [25:53.1]
They didn’t know what to do to get myself out of this hole that I had fallen into when the girlfriend that I had been dating for almost five years at this point, and this was over a decade ago, cheated on me while she was out on a girls’ vacation overseas, and then sort of showed this off in a devastating way, a way that’s devastating for the way that I had been leading my life up to that point, that sort of narcissistic validation-seeking, validation-based way, which is how players [are]. Of course, they’re very attuned to status and status markers, and the validation and approval that is required to verify that status externally.
So, her cheating on me and then flaunting it on her social media struck at the core of my identity at the time, and my intellectual parts not only didn’t know how to get out of it in a way that was meaningful, other than just doing the same old again, climbing the social ladder and so on, again, but the intellectual parts also didn’t know how to handle the overwhelming feelings of shame that were erupting. [26:57.4]
At the same time, I was finding I was incredibly tired. It was really hard to get out of bed. I remember many times running to the bank to try to do some banking before they closed in Singapore at 3:00 p.m. and getting there basically in my pajamas and flip flops at 3:05 p.m. and cursing the fact that they closed so early, and then just recognizing that I was dependent on Red Bull and other sources of caffeine to get me through the day.
One of the things that got me out of this suicidal doldrums was getting training from Tony Robbins, starting at his Tony Robbins events, the Unleash the Power Within, his feeder event, the one where you all walk on fire and he’s got this Dickens process on the third day.
I ended up doing four of these in the span of 11 months in four different countries, three continents, and as a result, I was able to at least access that warrior energy, these warrior parts of me that were basically asleep, and they were, it turns out, very aligned with my intellectual parts, these intellectual achiever parts. So, they were all geared up together, and at least now I didn’t have to rely on caffeine or drag myself out of bed every day. I was able to at least access physical energy almost at will. [28:07.7]
But the warrior plus the intellect combined is still a pretty one-dimensional type of energy. It was harnessing the strength of the warrior to still get out there and grind and hustle, and my intellectual parts were smart enough to realize that that wasn’t going to meet the emotional needs that weren’t being met anymore.
Because I was already at the top of this mountain peak that I had spent my whole life climbing at that point and it still wasn’t satisfying and it was still lots of hard work, and then I had to climb yet another one that wasn’t going to be any higher. It was just getting back to where I was. It was like spending several years, arduously climbing a mountain, getting to the peak and then being blown back all the way to the bottom again and having to being told to climb it again. It’s like I’ve been up there and I don’t believe all these lies to the people who haven’t been there are spending their entire lives trying to get up there, so what was the point of it? [28:59.5]
At this point in my life, I had already met people who had climbed much higher mountains than I had and we’re still sharing how empty their lives were at the top. And I could harness this warrior energy to get up to the top faster, sure, but again, what would be the point?
There was a moment when I was getting drunk too often and too much each night, and then starting to get into fights with friends, good-natured sparring battles that got, apparently, the next day I’d find out, a little too physical, slamming my friends into walls and then laughing about it, realizing that this warrior energy is just sort of eating itself up with no proper outlet, and all of the outlets that were being presented by the intellectual parts, I knew it was meaningless, so there was nowhere for it to go in any kind of meaningful direction.
All the achiever goals that you all are working so hard to get to were all meaningless, and are all meaningless still, in my perspective, getting a Lamborghini, a yacht, a private jet, getting a billion-dollar valuation or net worth, or sleeping with a hundred beautiful women a year. All of this was meaningless. [30:08.1]
It’s good for short-term pleasure. You get a little hit of the pleasure the way you would when you taste a good wine or have a nice meal, but it’s not lasting. Those material goals that I just mentioned, aren’t just like opening a bottle of wine and then you’re done with it. For many people, that’s a lot of hard work and, in some of these cases, it’s decades of hard work.
Not only my own personal experience of climbing my own mountain, getting to the top and realizing this was empty, but also all of the self-reports and all of the research proves it. It’s all pointing to it. You’d have to be blind to not pay attention to it. I understand if you’re in your 20s and you believe the lies because you haven’t experienced it yourself, and I hope that you don’t have to sacrifice decades of your life to actually pay attention to what the research shows. But I already figured it out. I already knew that in my mid-30s. I knew that from personal experience and then it caused me to pay attention to all the research that I had thought was just some old guys talking, researchers. [31:06.5]
Along this journey, I had been talking to some good friends, including Mark Manson. I’ve got to credit him for making me take psychotherapy seriously. I turned to psychotherapy, and I got a really good psychotherapist, for the first time in my life. I had worked with other psychotherapists who were okay, but this was my first really good one, and he challenged me to feel not just warrior emotions, like anger and excitement and hyper energy, but also the emotions that I struggled to feel, like sadness.
Sadness, for me, was the gateway emotion to all of the other good stuff. But whenever we got to sadness, I would just have these emotional barriers that it was sort of like a vault and you’ve activated the lock and, boom, it just comes and shuts you down and you just hit this anvil and it just goes boom and the walls come down, and it happens so quickly that the emotion just goes. These are parts that I’ve mentioned before that blank or numb, in my case, intellectualize and start to stay up in the head. [32:06.8]
So, that was almost a whole year’s journey of just staying with the sadness and just getting a foot in the door, and trying to pry that door open and holding that door open to the sadness as long as I could. One of the most transformative experiences in my sessions with this therapist was that he was crying along with me. In fact, he would usually go first and cry longer at the beginning in the first few months than I was, and he was a confident man, he wasn’t like a wussy boy or whatever, and that helped to hold the space for me to feel whatever I was feeling, no matter how tender or fleeting, or vulnerable it was, like sadness, and I wasn’t alone in my feeling.
So many of us, I would say, all of us, especially men who grew up in a kind of toxic masculinity of “Toughen up,” when we were younger and we felt vulnerable emotions, like sadness, we were left alone to deal with the sadness. [33:05.8]
Crying alone in your closet isn’t healing. What’s healing or, in psychotherapy terms, what is a corrective emotional experience that is necessary for healing, is feeling whatever is under there, the pain, the sadness, and not being alone with it. My defenses, my automatic unconscious defenses towards vulnerability were so strong and so quick to get triggered that I would just go into the intellect, and then the moment was gone and I couldn’t access that tender feeling again.
So, I actually hired a method acting coach to work with me one on one to help me to stay with these various emotions, because that’s what method acting is. You’re supposed to not just pretend to have the emotion, but the best way to actually act out the emotion is to actually be feeling that emotion in the moment, and that’s the best way to sell it to the audience. [33:53.0]
Then I got actually really good at getting to the sadness quickly and staying with it, and in an almost jock kind of way, it was like a superpower. Because when I could enter into my vulnerability, without needing anybody to react in any particular way for me, but I could be there for my own parts and my own pain and I don’t need anyone to meet my needs, while I’m feeling that emotion, it was one of the most powerful, immediate ways of connecting with women, even women you’ve just met.
But that was just the beginning. Opening the door to sadness broke down the dam that was damming up by access to this flood of emotions on the other side, and then it was so beautiful for me. It was so enjoyable to actually feel the sadness that it was being repressed, because along with that sadness came flooding out this unconditional love, and I’ve talked about this before my goddaughter who was the sort of guide to get me to that sadness, because every time I thought of her and how much I missed her when I couldn’t see her, it was easy for me to access sadness, and love was the flip side of that. [35:03.1]
The more that I allowed myself to go there, the stronger I got with it and the better I got with it, and it was like a skill to be able to access the most amazing, pleasant, enjoyable feeling of sadness, of this complex of sorrow, of agony, of love, of unconditional love flowing from me, far more enjoyable than any of the masculine or the typical masculine emotions that dudes tend to stay in.
That breaking down of the dam, starting with the cracks in the dam and then having the dam break and having access to the rich resource of emotions that were underneath the whole time, but being repressed, and along came all of this energy in my physical body. [35:50.1]
I don’t even have time right now to get into the somatic therapies that I dove into in the movement work, but all of that helped to free up these emotional blockages that were holding me back from enjoying life right here in the present in the here and now. Not needing to go out and earn it through this unenjoyable, painful, arduous journey of achievement, only to put it off until I get to the peak and then to find out that it was all empty and meaningless anyway, but that all that good stuff is available to you right now, if you’re able to access it. You’re sitting on that pot of gold in you right now, and I’m still on this profound journey that I hope never ends, or at least continues until I pass.
Let’s recap here real quick. We’ve gone through some pretty heavy, profound topics today and I want to make sure we’re all on the same page before we end off. We started with a simple but profound promise of a life that is filled with genuine emotions from the aesthetic highs of joy and love to the grounding realities of peace and self-awareness, and sadness and bittersweet feelings. [36:59.4]
The true treasures of life aren’t just the tangible successes, but these beautiful, intangible feelings, and we explored how, ironically, in our pursuit of success and achievement, we often shut ourselves off from the very emotions that are supposed to be the rewards, and that leads to some debilitating problems.
Emotion isn’t just about feeling good. It’s about feeling, period. When we cut ourselves off from emotion, conditions like alexithymia and poor proprioception creep in.
You might remember our earlier discussion on alexithymia. A state where you can’t identify or describe feelings in yourself. Think about the depth of conversations that you end up missing, the connections that would remain superficial because you can’t articulate or even recognize your own feelings.
Then there’s poor proprioception, which can be summarized as a reduced sense of self awareness, a reduced sense of being in your body from the inside. It might sound a little abstract or esoteric, but consider the small pleasures, the gentle thrill of a cold breeze, the warmth of a loved one’s touch, the sheer joy of moving to your favorite song, or being able to just isolate parts of your bodies that you can feel what’s happening there. [38:10.6]
Imagine being detached from all of that, and that’s the tragedy of diminished proprioception. It’s like you’re not even in control of your body. You don’t have that fluidity of movements where you can control it to make it do what you want.
These aren’t just abstract concepts. They have real-world severe implications. Relationships suffer when we can’t express or even understand our feelings. Personal growth stalls. We become observers of life rather than active participants. Perhaps the most painful realization is when you’ve climbed the ladder of success, only to find out it’s leaning against the wrong wall, a wall devoid of genuine emotional experiences.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The therapeutic tools we’ve gone through, IFS therapy, Gestalt, the somatic therapies, yoga, they’re not just for those with clinical conditions. They’re pathways to a richer life, an invitation to reconnect with yourself, and an opportunity to experience life in its fullness, in all its vibrant, emotional range of color. [39:13.7]
It’s time to change the narrative. Instead of sacrificing the present in hopes of a happier future, let’s focus on the present. If we can find happiness, love, joy, peace, and all those other wonderful emotions now, then the future automatically becomes brighter. So, don’t wait to begin this journey of emotional rediscovery now.
Invest in yourself through the therapeutic process, just as I did. Not as a last resort, like I ended up having to do, we’re hitting rock bottom, but as a proactive step towards a richer, fuller life. Instead of achieving to be happy, let’s happily achieve. Success is not the key to happiness, but happiness, genuine, emotion-filled happiness, is itself the reward, is itself the key to success, and a lot more. [40:02.1]
So, embrace your emotions, even the ones that you may think are painful right now. Feel through them, understand them, express them. Find a professional who can make sure that you are not alone with those painful emotions. Go through the therapeutic process, because in doing so, you unlock a life of real richness, depth and fulfillment.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you have any feedback whatsoever, I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment, send me a message. If this has helped you in any way whatsoever, 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. Until then David Tian, signing out. [40:39.7]
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