Big Feelings Book Summary - Big Feelings Book explained in key points
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Big Feelings summary

Mollie West Duffy and Liz Fosslien

How to be Okay When Things Are Not Okay

4.2 (325 ratings)
25 mins
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    Big Feelings
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    One day, Liz, the coauthor, got a headache. A really bad one. It was so bad that she could barely walk, and before she knew it she found herself in the hospital.

    It wasn’t a tumor – great. It wasn’t an aneurysm either. But . . . what was it?

    While they searched for a solution, a variety of doctors gave Liz a slew of treatments. Botox to the head. Steroids for her eye muscles. And antiepileptic drugs, which first gave her a crippling panic attack on the Chicago L train, and then, when she quit cold turkey, landed her back in the hospital.

    But the worst thing of all? The uncertainty of not knowing what was wrong with her. It’s always the uncertainty. Uncertainty sucks.

    Scientific studies back that up. How would you feel if you were told you had a 50 percent chance of receiving a mild electric shock? You’d be anxious, right?

    But how would you feel if you were told the probability was 90 percent?

    A group of scientists actually did that, and guess what: people felt more stressed – three times as stressed – if they had a 50 percent chance of receiving the shock.

    Because when it was 90 percent likely that they’d be shocked, at least they knew it was coming. That’s how much people hate uncertainty.

    So what do you do when you’re faced with it?

    Rule 1: don’t avoid the problem – sit with it. It’s all too common to push uncertainty away by busying yourself with other tasks. Don’t do it. Let it in. Face it head-on. Try counting to 90. Chances are the panicky feeling will have subsided.

    Then, get specific. Ask yourself: What are you really anxious about? Literally, what do you think might happen? And how would each possible scenario play out?

    Now, of course, when you do that, don’t start catastrophizing. Remember that the worst-case scenario isn’t certain to happen – far from it. Be sure to plot out the best-case scenario, too.

    But acknowledging exactly what you’re really worried about will put you well on the path to dealing with uncertainty in the healthiest way you can.

    When you’re plotting out your scenarios, you’ll realize there are some things you can control and some things you can’t. As the famous saying goes, what you need is the wisdom to know the difference between them. Do your best in what you can control, and accept what you can’t.

    Oh, and what happened to Liz, by the way? She learned to live with her migraines and took all the steps she could to tackle the pain without causing herself further harm. It’s far from perfect – but she’s learned to deal with it. And her uncertainty has turned into acceptance.

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    What is Big Feelings about?

    Big Feelings (2022) is a guide to coping with some of the toughest emotions we ever face, from anger to despair. By acknowledging and facing up to these emotions, it’s possible to work through them.

    Who should read Big Feelings?

    • People feeling overwhelmed by big emotions
    • Anyone who struggles to open up
    • Self-help enthusiasts after advice

    About the Author

    Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy previously cowrote No Hard Feelings, which is about emotions in the workplace. Fosslien also works at Humu and her work and illustrations have been published widely. Duffy is an organizational and leadership development expert who writes on workplace culture.

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