Guy Winch: Heartbreak Hygiene – Transcript
Caitlin Schiller: Welcome to Simplify! I’m Caitlin Schiller. Normally this is the part where you would hear Ben say, “And I’m Ben Schuman-Stoler.” Except today Ben is not here, and I have sitting in the studio across from me a new member of the Simplify and Blinkist family, Terence Mickey. Terence has come to us all the way from the Lower East Side in New York City to help us out at Blinkist and to do just a number of amazing things. Terence, why don’t you tell people what you’re up to here and introduce yourself?
Terence Mickey: Hi, I’m Ben. Sorry, already off on the wrong foot. I’m a writer, podcaster, filmmaker, and I will be doing new audio experiments here at Blinkist.
Caitlin: Hooray! Terence has already brought a lot of experimentation and wonder to our lives and also really improved my reading list. So today this episode focuses on Guy Winch who is––among other things––a psychologist and a writer. He also has some TED Talks out there that you’re going to want to go watch after this, I’m sure. They’re really great. He works on emotional first aid. So basically really practical ways to deal with the gooey stuff of being human, and not just deal with them––to really honor them.
Terence: He has a tough road ahead of him in kind of equating emotional pain with physical pain. Most people will acknowledge physical pain, emotional pain we like to hide. And kind of his discovery that patients were feeling embarrassed about losing a pet or a partner. He kind of validates their experience. That’s kind of––for me––the beauty of his work.
Caitlin: We really just don’t honor emotional pain the way that we should, and Guy Winch is here to help us all with that. He’s incredibly empathetic as you might realize but don’t expect that this interview is all fluff and snuggles. He is also incredibly practical and will, you know, tell it to you like it is. Guy Winch designed a three-step ritual for getting over a heartbreak, that is really something that I think all of us could use at one point or another.
Terence: That you expertly teased out of him in the interview that hopefully will be in his next book.
Caitlin: Indeed. Yeah, so should we get right to it?
Caitlin: Heartbreak hygiene with Guy Winch. And stick around because after the interview Terence and I will be back to construct a book list for you of further reading that has to do with this topic and probably other things too. So see you then!
Terence: Cool. See you on the other side!
Caitlin interviews Guy Winch
Caitlin: Hi Guy! Thanks so much for being with me today. Could you please introduce yourself?
Guy Winch: Yes, I’m Guy Winch. I’m a psychologist, I’m based in New York City and thank you so very much for having me on the show.
Caitlin: I’m really really excited about it. You have recently written a book called How to Fix a Broken Heart, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. We don’t have manuals for that kind of thing. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to write this book or why you’re interested in it?
Guy: Yeah. I’m a psychologist, and so I have a private practice. And one of the things you see in private practice is people get heartbroken for all kinds of reasons. And as a psychologist, my experience was seeing people really suffer from heartbreak, and really make pretty much every mistake in the book: “I have no idea what steps I need to take to heal, how to evaluate different things.” You know, thinking in those days about “Boy, I wish there was some more information out there for people so they could do this better and have a little bit less pain and distress.” And so that’s how that came about really.
Caitlin: So Guy, what does heartbreak look like actually in a severely heartbroken individual. How does that manifest?
Guy: So for the lucky few who have not been through it—and I know that some of you will have not been through it—it is this incredibly sharp pain. This feeling that your world has just come to an end. That everything around you is crumbling. Your body literally goes into some kind of emotional shock where you feel these feelings of unreality that, you know, everything feels surreal, that the world is going on around you but your world has stopped. Your world has crashed, and yet everyone around you seems normal when you are completely devastated. It’s the only thing you can think about. You obsess about it. You go through every moment of the break-up, you try and understand it, you think about the person, you try and undo it.
And this is all true of regular severe remission also. We try undo it in our minds: “But what if that call hadn’t happened? What if I just said something different? What if I just woken up and it was a regular day and not this day?” And it’s literally something that’s difficult to wrap our head around. And so it’s completely decentralizing. People, even if they try and get themselves up and go through work, they are distracted, they are not themselves, they are completely preoccupied. And that can go on for a very long time.
Caitlin: Yeah, and you specifically in this book focus on two kinds of heartbreak that are less visible than other kinds. We have specific rituals and specific time-off allotments for the heartbreak of losing a loved one when they pass away. But we don’t have specific protocols for romantic heartbreak or the heartbreak of losing a beloved pet, and that’s what you chose to focus on here. How much of the problems or the troubles that you see in your practice come down to these kinds of “trivial loss?”
Guy: Well, in fact, what unified those two things for me was those were the only two times that people were in real grief, like really feeling very, you know, feeling the loss, feeling absolutely sharp grief, that they came in and apologized: “Oh, this is silly, but…” or “I feel foolish, but…” In other words, when somebody lost a relative when somebody lost a dear friend, no one came in and saying, “Oh this is silly but my best friend died and I’m a wreck.” But if it was their pet, or if they were adults and this was not a marriage but just a relationship, and it was a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, a significant other of sorts, they would feel in some way weird or foolish about feeling so bad about it. And so that’s what alerted me like, wow, it’s not just that we don’t know how to heal these things. We have the added burden of feeling bad about ourselves, for even having the feelings we’re having.
Caitlin: Actually what I think is really interesting is that you frame this as grief. Heartbreak is a kind of grief and we don’t really give it that that credence.
Guy: Exactly! And you know what, both of those things––pet loss and romantic heartbreak––they share all the hallmarks of traditional grief and loss. They have all the physiological responses. And by the way––of course not for all people––but you know, some people get through a loss of a first-degree relative rather well. But for people who really are affected by the loss of their pets or by a break up, it can be extreme. And for anyone who’s been through the pain of romantic heartbreak, for example, they might remember that it was the most painful centralizing dominant experience they ever went through.
Caitlin: Actually, you know, you said grieving and heartbreak share all the same physiological hallmarks. Could you talk a little bit about how emotional pain and physical pain are related?
Guy: So yes, one of the things that I think is really interesting is that when we look at what happens in the brain when a heart is broken, then you see something really interesting. What they did in this experiment––I’ll just describe the experiment of it because I think it’s an interesting one––they had people who had been through a recent heartbreak bring pictures of the person who broke their heart, and they had them lie in a functional MRI machine, and stuck the picture to the top of the tube and had them relive the break-up while they were looking at what happened in their brain.
And then what they did is they had a second edition, in which they gave the people the break, put them back in the tube, and they started to compare what their brain look like when they were experiencing physical pain. So they placed heat transducers on their forearms with settings from zero to ten when 0 was “meh” and 10 was really intolerable pain––the duration was seven seconds––and they built it up. And it’s roughly when the pain hit 8 on that scale of 1 to 10, when 10 was intolerable pain––it’s only seven seconds, mind you––which is where they start to see similar responses in the brain as they did to the heartbreak condition.
And what was interesting there is that this is physical pain that is nearly intolerable for seven seconds. When we are heartbroken, we are experiencing that pain for way longer than seven seconds. We are experiencing it for hours, for weeks, for months sometimes. You know, not continually, but with bursts and with continued durations of really sharp pain for a very long time. And so this is super serious. If somebody was in physical pain that was 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being intolerable, and they were living like that for weeks.
And then we would have real sympathy for them, we wouldn’t expect them to function at their jobs or in school. We would understand that “wow, they’re going through something.” We don’t afford that same courtesy to people who are heartbroken because we don’t perceive it in the same terms. And that experiment really did a lot to kind of make concrete really how painful heartbreak is, and how extended it can be, and how impactful it can be.
Caitlin: Why don’t we extend the same kind of understanding to heartbreak as we would to other kinds of pain? Where do you think that comes from?
Guy: Well, we don’t extend the same understanding to emotions in general as we do to physical health, for example. One of the things I speak about is emotional health and how it tends to be very neglected and marginalized. And we all wake up in the morning, and we brush our teeth, and we floss. We spend more time taking care of our teeth than we do our emotions. We don’t have any practices of emotional hygiene or ways in which we prioritize how we’re feeling and address it, rather than just note it.
And so there’s a general way in which both psychology, but especially emotions, really are marginalized in a lot of people’s minds. I have had people sit in a session, one person––you know, I speak about this and talk sometimes––sat in a session and said to me literally, “I don’t believe in feelings.” And now he was saying it while his wife was sitting next to him in a couple therapy session, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. So she’s in distress and crying, and he’s announcing: “I don’t believe in feelings.” You know, like feelings were a unicorn or an alien something that we really need verified sightings of or something. And that person wasn’t rude, they just kinda felt like “Well, feelings shouldn’t matter. We should be willing to override them.”
And no! A) We should not be able to override them, feelings are extraordinarily informative. They are the basis for most of our decisions and for a lot of what we do in life, they are actually super important for our basic functioning. People who don’t have feelings, they have issues with their functioning. It’s literally not a thing we can do without. But certainly to recognize that all kinds of situations in life can cause emotional pain and distress that is true suffering is a real basic that, even to that level, many people don’t even accept that basic premise. And that’s how far behind we are in terms of our sophistication emotionally.
Caitlin: What do you find people spend the most time on, when they’ve had their heart broken that they really should drop, that’s really not serving them at all?
Guy: So that can vary for different people. But for most people, there are these things that get stuck on. And for anyone who’s either experienced it, or experienced a friend going through it, you have done or you have heard the person say to you for the 15th time, “I just can’t believe that they did so and so and so. I just can’t, you know, believe that they said that. But just a week before the break up, they sent me this card. Can you believe they sent me this card a week before the break up?” And you’re like, “Yeah, I believed that the first 20 times you told me. But I believe it still.” And we can see the person being a little bit stuck on it because they’re not getting past that point, it’s not making sense to them even though they get it.
And I’ll just get this an example. Because this is something that comes up all the time in a breakup. But just a week before they said “I love you.” Just a week before we were on vacation, and everything seemed fine. And they don’t understand and, therefore, they think––and this is what traps people––therefore, something crucial happened in that week that caused the break-up.
So let’s go back with a fine-tooth comb on every possible memory I have of that week, on every recollection of that period since the last time I remember things were good and figure out what I did wrong or what was that straw that caused the break-up. And that is folly, that’s not useful for this following reason: That is not why breakups happen. People drift emotionally––whether that drift happens quickly or slowly over time––but they get to a point where they are considering breaking up. And very very few of them will tell you. They won’t tell you. People don’t––whether it’s a divorce or they are going to break up––they won’t tell you that. They will, you know, nurse and figure it out until they reach a decision.
And so a week before the break up, they hadn’t decided yet. They were pretty sure that we’re going to do it, they didn’t quite know when, they were waiting for this, they were trying to figure out that. But they knew they were going to do it, and while they knew it, but weren’t ready, they were faking it. And I don’t mean that in a Machiavellian manipulative way, they were just “Well, let’s not have a miserable life in the meantime.” And oftentimes it’s not that they hate you, it’s just that they don’t love you anymore. And so they can fake it easily because they do like you, they do enjoy you, it’s just not there anymore for them.
So for them, it’s just like, “Yes, and then I decided I’m just going to do it now.” So nothing happened in that period between the vacation and the breakup, or the “I love you” and the breakup, or the lovely card and the breakup –– nothing happened. And so going on that search is useless. It is just conspiracy-theory-making because there’s nothing to be found there. Because they just told you when they were ready to tell you.
Caitlin: People almost get addicted to the story about what might have happened. They get addicted to being detectives. Could you actually talk a little bit about how addiction and heartbreak are related?
Guy: Yes. So that’s one of the interesting things about heartbreak that most people are not aware of. And I thought it was very important to discuss in my book, and to give a lot of examples of how this happens, is that when we look at what happens in our brain when we are heartbroken, we see very similar activity that we see when opioid addicts withdrawing from heroin. Literally, or cocaine, say. Because the reward centers in our brain are going crazy.
Now if you think about a heroin addict who’s looking for a fix, wouldn’t surprise you that they’re looking for a fix now. There is nothing else they are doing right now because they need a fix. So that’s the only thing they’re doing. They are acting out of character, doing desperate and terrible things to get that fix. They are stealing to get money, they are prostituting themselves. They are, you know, they’re not showing up at work. They are neglecting their children. They’re doing terrible things, and we understand that. Why––because the craving for heroin. When your withdrawing is so severe, that’s all you can think about. ‘
Now, it’s extraordinarily similar what happens in the brain with heartbreak. And so we are craving the other person. We are craving a fix. But we don’t think of ourselves as addicts. And so an addict, when they’re doing that, they know what’s going on, they’re not delusional, they understand, “Yeah. I need a fix. I’ll do anything.”
But when we are heartbroken we give ourselves all kinds of excuses, “Oh, you know what, they said their sister’s wedding was this weekend. Let me just go and see if they winked. Oh and now I’m here with all the other pictures.” In other words, we’re getting our fix of them, but we’re not saying that to ourselves. We’re just indulging this compelling compelling instinct.
Like in other words, we feel so compelled. We really act out of character, like some people say, “I feel like I’m going crazy.” And again, if you were a heroin addict, you wouldn’t feel like you’re going crazy. It would be super clear: “No, I’m craving the substance that I really need.” It’s the same thing. So we have to understand we’re not going crazy. This is our brain’s reward centers misfiring, and going, “Where’s that thing that was making me happy and without which I feel like I can’t live?!” And that’s what that’s about.
Caitlin: I’d like to talk about techniques actually for making this better. But it struck me as you were just speaking that one of the techniques that people tend to use is––I think we call them serial monogamist––is that when they lose one relationship, they just bounce to another. Is that ever a good idea or ever a good technique?
Guy: So look, even the way you said it now, “serial-monogamous,” you actually didn’t have a subtext of criticism in your tone, but many people do. Because it sounded: “Well, they’re just not dealing with the feelings and just jumping into another relationship.” And I have a very specific way of looking at that. They just got broken up with. So they’re heartbroken. If jumping into another relationship helps them feel less pain––yes, go at it. In other words, they were broken up with, they’re not getting back to the other person. So there’s no reason for them to wait around, and just to wait around in pain to “process their feelings.”
If they have the alternative of jumping into another relationship, then go ahead, jump into another relationship. You know, most people will be in a situation in which they can’t quite fake it in a new relationship emotionally and otherwise, because, you know, their new partner will be looking at them and saying, “Why are you crying when we’re having sex?” And really the answer is “because I’m thinking about my ex, and I’m not really emotionally available and able to be in this new relationship, I’m just trying.” And so you can’t really get away with that, if you’re not built—if you don’t have the emotional ability to do that.
And for those who do, you know, go ahead! And some will say, “Well, that’s not fair to the new person.” And it might not be, but I know plenty of situations in which it actually worked out in the long-term with a new person. So it’s not that that’s… Again, if somebody can do that emotionally, I think they should feel that they can go ahead and do it. And really the same is true of pets.
Caitlin: That is actually not at all what I was expecting you to answer. I thought you were going to say, “You should never jump into a new relationship.” But it’s interesting to me to hear you say, “if that works for you then you should do it.”
Guy: Let the hate mail begin! But look, seriously, I mean, I just found people to disagree with that. And I’m again, it can be very clear that for those who can by all means. I mean, those who can’t, can’t usually fake it for long enough for that to have an impact. But if you’re worried about the person themselves, “Oh, you’re not ready. What are you doing?” If they are not ready, they won’t able to. If they are able to, they are ready by definition. So, the proof is in the pudding.
Caitlin: That’s totally fair. I’m thinking about the anecdote or the passage in How to Fix a Broken Heart where you talk about a man named Ben who had a beloved dog that exited his life. And that was just really really gutting for him.
Guy: When you write a book like about heartbreak, and you’ve been a therapist in private practice for 20-something years, you have a lot of cases from which to choose. I mean, you’ve worked with so many of these cases, who do you include? Like, whose story do you want to tell? Who has an interesting story to tell? And in this story, the fact that this guy lost his dog was absolutely as regular, as standard, as undramatic. I mean, it was dramatic because the guy lost his dog, but it was not unusual for losing an animal.
Why I chose that story is because that same person had lost both his parents in the same year some years before. And I had a direct comparison in working with him through those two instances in his life, of how he responded to the loss of both his parents versus how he responded to the loss of his dog. And why I chose that case was because his reaction and the loss of the dog hit him so much harder, was so much harder for him than the loss of his parents.
And initially people would say to me, “Well, he’s a terrible person then, if that’s the case.” And he actually wasn’t terrible person, he cared for his parents. But you know, his parents lived in a different state. He would see them maybe once a month. He would go down to visit, he would speak to them on the phone once a week. They were not a part of his daily life, they were not, you know, a part of his daily routine.
His dog was. He worked from home, his dog was with him literally 24/7. His dog has been within him for many years, through the loss of his parents, had supported him through the loss of his parents as animals do––unbidden, they’re extremely supportive––and helped him with his loneliness after his divorce. In other words, the dog was not just a part of his daily life, but it was an incredible important component in his emotional support system, in his social support system. And so it was an interesting comparison to see, OK, here’s somebody who loses both his parents––which was surely his only family, he was an only child––and yet it was the loss of the dog that absolutely devastated him.
Caitlin: So it sounds like it really comes down to a matter of regularity of that presence in your life, because then you sort of have to re-envision a whole identity away from that beloved person or object.
Guy: That is absolutely true. That is a very key component. I think that’s true about loss in general. Loss affects us in all kinds of ways but it is going to be compounded the more the person, the animal, whatever it is that we lost was a part of our daily life because then its impact and its ripple effects are going to be just much, much broader than if it were intermittent. And so yes, that really does compound things.
And you also mentioned, you know, the term “identity” and that’s a very important aspect in grieving, in general, as well. Because, you know, we define ourselves, for example, often by a couplehood. Like I said, even the pronouns we use: “Oh, how was your vacation?” –– “Our vacation was great! We went to this and this place. We loved it. We really enjoyed this restaurant. We hated that movie!” In other words, how we speak about the experience in couplehood literally is defined by different pronouns that I’m not just arbitrary, they actually define our sense of self. We see ourselves in couplehood as part of the unit, as part of a mini tribe as it were. And then suddenly we are no longer part of a mini tribe anymore –– we are isolated, we are alone. And we have or maybe a larger group affiliations and tribes, but our core tribe that mini tribe is no longer. And so it’s a very fundamental loss to our sense of who we are and how we function in the world and how we see ourselves in the world.
When we break up a relationship, or let’s say that if our dog dies, then there are very fundamental aspects of our lives that just got changed, there are very daily tangible things that are going to be different. If it’s a break-up, for example, our weekends were always about “Well, what will we do together?” We’re never alone on weekends. We were always with our partner. We didn’t have to worry about plans or this or that. You know, we could watch TV, we could take a walk, we could do whatever. Suddenly it’s no longer “we,” it’s “I.” And I don’t know what I’m going to do on my weekend. And I’m not sure, you know, I’m coming home to an empty apartment at night, and I don’t know what I’m going to be doing with my holidays, and I used to refer to myself as a “we” and now I’m an “I.” And all the other couples we used to hang out with because that was a couple’s thing, I’m now not fitting in with anymore because I’m not a couple, and I lost all that socializing opportunity, or the friends that went with my other significant other rather than staying with me. So there are so many tangible real real changes that occur in our lives. It really feels like we’re living a different life and it’s a new chapter.
Caitlin: If you were to design a heartbreak ritual to help people suffering from from a loss like this, what would it look like?
Guy: Ah! Yet another wonderful question! And I say that of course to store the time as I think. Thanks!
Caitlin: Here I was thinking that I was actually good at this. Thanks, Guy.
Guy: Look, so first of all, it would not involve alcohol or ice-cream, which probably does for most people. When I say to the most people, “What’s your go-to soothing mechanism?” They go, “Tequila!”
But the ritual I would probably compose would have several parts to it. Because the several stages of grief––and I don’t mean the five stages because those are not necessarily in favor these days––but there’s several stages, you know, there’s a stage of this kind of disbelief of, you know, just coming to terms with the reality. And so part of the ritual would be one in which we are wrapping our heads more and more around this new reality. So I would have the social support there, and the person’s ability to talk through what happened with their friends. Because they more they can talk it through––at least at the beginning––the more they can begin to wrap their heads around it.
I would involve a purging section to this ritual because I believe that for most people––and not for all––but for most people it’s useful to, in order to get over someone, you have to have them out of your sight as it were. So you would not need reminders about them all around because you kind of have that anyway in your head. And so the idea is trying think about them less, because the goal of recovery from heartbreak, if you think about it, is to think about the person, or the animal, or the loss less and less, and to have less pain associated with those thoughts from when you have them all the time. That would be the goal.
So in order to do that, we need to diminish their presence in our mind. And therefore, let’s not be friends on social media at the moment. People say, “But what if you want to be friends later?” Then reconnect later. I think it’s fair if somebody broke up with you to say, “I’m going to not be in touch on social media, and block you for a while temporarily. And I hope it’s OK with you if I reconnect a little bit later. I just need to do this for right now.” And for most people it’s like, “Sure, that’s fine.”
For many of us this idea of “No, no, we can be friends.” No, we can’t! We’re trying to get over them, you cannot be friends. It is an excuse to try and stay in touch. But when you’re staying in touch, you’re not just, “Oh, yeah, we’re friends on Facebook.” You’re looking at their feed, you looking at their Instagram pictures, you look at their YouTube postings. You’re really stalking them to in a way keep them in your life and delay that feeling of they’re no longer in your life. But they’re no longer in your life. And so the sooner you kind of adapt to that reality the better.
It’s similar with the pet. I mean, you might want to keep… It will feel very disloyal the day your dog dies to go and remove their feeding dish, or to go and take the cat’s litter box out. But if that feels disloyal the first day, do it the second. Because the reality is the dog isn’t there, you don’t need to memorialize them with their bowl and their litter, because then when is the right time to remove it? You’ll feel guilty whenever you do it, right?
So in those rituals, there would be a support, there would be a purging component. And there would have to be an identity component of really thoughtfully redefining how we see ourselves in this new chapter, how we want to see ourselves in this new chapter, what are the opportunities we can find in this loss to, you know, pursue things that we weren’t able to. So we had to compromise in our relationship. Because our partner wasn’t into golf, so we didn’t golf. And our partner wasn’t into cooking, so we never really cooked.
And so, but now, oh, they didn’t like that friend or that relative, so now we can see that friend, we can see that relative, we can do the thing you wanted. We can get back to aspects of ourselves that we felt were defining for us before the break-up––well, before the relationship rather––and we can connect to those again. And the same with a loss of a pet. It might very much highlight voids in our life, but then it would be useful for us to pay attention and then to find ways to fill those voids.
Caitlin: That’s great! So we have first social support essentially is the bedrock ingredient here. People need to have the social support in order to get through this reality check component of this is over now. This is the thing that genuinely happened, and I have to reckon with it. And then you have purging, which is get rid of all the mementos essentially, whether they’re digital or physical. And then you have identity, reshaping identity. So that’s three steps. And those are what I guess good heartbreak hygiene would look like.
I guess, I’d just like to wrap up with two things. One is, if you could leave people with an idea about heartbreak and about, I guess, about emotional pain, what do you wish people understood better about emotional pain and heartbreak or they did differently?
Guy: I guess my wish is that people really understood that emotional pain should be considered in the same way we do physical pain. We have a lot of empathy for people who have physical pain. It’s a natural response: “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry you’re hurting.” Empathy with emotional pain is limited. That friend who’s heartbroken, we will reach a point before they are recovered that we are kind of over it, that we are losing our empathy and starting to feel resentful that they still need to lean on us so heavily. Why aren’t they moving forward?
And indeed, people do get stuck. And this is part of why I wrote the book to help people not get stuck. But we do need to understand that our internal subjective idea of when somebody should be over something is our internal subjective idea and not their reality. So we should have empathy for it.
And when we are the heartbroken people, we have to remember that number one: your emotions are not silly, they are not foolish, they are not embarrassing. They are extraordinary real. Anyone in your situation—Anyone—would feel a degree of what you’re feeling––whether it’s your degree, or one notch below, or one notch above, its going to be in that range––everyone. And so you are not an anomaly, and there’s nothing wrong with you for having the response that you’re having.
People can be heartbroken––and I talked about this in the book, and I bring examples of this in the book––after a single date. There’s no minimum amount of time. And people can come out of a two-year relationship kind of like, “Uh, all right.” So it’s very individual. It depends on context. It depends on all kinds of things.
But be self-compassionate, don’t judge yourself and understand that there are things you need to know to recover more quickly. And understand that if it’s your friend, there are things they need to know in order to recover more quickly. And so at least have that dialogue with them, that it’s not just about time and waiting it out, it’s about taking steps.
Caitlin: Great. Thank you. So then, the last thing that I wanted to ask you is about books. What have you read lately that you really enjoyed? It can be related to your field or it can be anything else that you think is illuminating and interesting.
Guy: So this is related to my field, it’s a colleague I have who writes books that I really like because they’re very tangible, practical, action-oriented books. The latest book is called The Healthy Mind Toolkit by Alice Boyes. And her first book is called The Anxiety Toolkit. And it’s very very practical. It has a lot of self assessments and very specific tools. I believe that psychology needs to be a practical science for people. So go say to people you know like “Oh, you need to get there” is great, but telling people how to get there is greater. And she does a good job of breaking that down.
I also recommend Martin Seligman’s book Flourish. I think, there’s a good job of highlighting emotional health, which is, I guess, the thing that I’m most interested in. And just to throw out the general book that everybody’s read already, but I’m just throwing it out because I did enjoy it so much, and that is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari about the summary of human existence in human history. And it’s a massive best-selling book, most people have heard of it and read it, but it’s really an enjoyable book to read.
Caitlin: Yeah, that is a great one. I’ve never heard of the of the first one you mentioned, The Healthy Mind Toolkit. I’ll look into that.
Guy, thank you so much for taking the time to talk today. It’s been really wonderful to learn from you. And I appreciate it.
Guy: Thank you very much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Caitlin: Do you want to say “welcome to the bookend?” Should I say “Welcome to the bookend?”
Terence: Welcome to the bookend! Here we are.
Caitlin: Are we recording?
Caitlin: Oh! Welcome to the book end, you forgot to say “where we end with books.”
Terence: Oh, where we end with books.
Caitlin: Yeah, where we end with books: in the book end.
Terence: This is the end and we’re ending with books because there’s no better ending than with books.
Caitlin: The happiest of all endings. So we just heard from Guy Winch, who gave us some ideas as to how to deal with a broken heart. Terence, is there anything in there that you think that you’ll be using in the future or talking about to friends who were going through heartbreaks?
Terence: You know, I think it’s just validating to hear someone say that your emotional life is as real as your physical life. And I think, you know, just giving advice to friends during heartbreak or taking care of yourself during heartbreak, I think honoring whatever you’re experiencing and validating it –– that’s the key takeaway for me. And how easily it is to forget that because I think we want to hide our pain and the kind of messy feelings. But that’s kind of really where all the good stuff is.
Caitlin: Yeah, totally agreed. I got to kind of wondering about this. And I wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that we’re really visual creatures who have five senses, but we really prize visuals. And what we can, you know, see with the naked eye as opposed to what we would have to sort of experience with other senses and intuition.
We talked to Cheryl Strayed really early on this season about how important intuition is and how trusting what you feel actually is. And I think dealing with a heartache you have to trust how you feel there, too. And it doesn’t have anything to do with… I mean, sometimes you can see physical symptoms of heartache, somebody will look, literally look down at the floor, sometimes have the slim shoulders, maybe they’ve been crying––but you can’t necessarily tell what that’s about. So you have to sort of observe in yourself and in others the fact that there’s so much going on below the surface all the time and to honor the fact that that is true. And I also love that Guy Winch gave us the opportunity to agree upon that.
Terence: Yeah, definitely.
Caitlin: My pick for the book end this time as a book that both Terence and I have read actually, we’re super excited about––it is called A General Theory of Love and it was written by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon. They’re all psychiatry professors at UC San Francisco, and it deals with human emotions and biological psychiatry. This book is incredible.
Terence: It is incredible.
Caitlin: Yeah, it deals with love and human connection from a scientific standpoint and from lots of fonts of the arts. So you’ve got dance in there, you have––I don’t know––all kinds of visual art, poetry, writing. It really just takes you through the neuroscience and the cultural artifacts of love and human connection, which is amazing. You love this book too, yeah?
Terence: I loved it and it was my introduction to attachment theory. So once I read this, I was kind of on an attachment theory drag. Which basically is––for those of you who don’t know attachment theory––it’s just like the attachment to your parents, like whether you’re secure/insecure.
Caitlin: Or disordered, or disorganized.
Terence: Yeah, and it’s just a kind of a fundamental bond that starts your life and it plays into how you relate to other people.
Caitlin: Yeah, it kind of sets that mold. It was also my first introduction to attachment theory. But it was the first brush for me with this really crazy idea that our limbic systems––so that thing that makes us all our emotional selves––are not at all self-contained, and that they’re impacted and revised by the people around us all the time: the people you work with, the people who live with you, your roommates, your family. We literally make one another. And it’s just such a miracle and we can only be as emotionally healthy as the people around us are to us––which is part of why I hired Terence.
Terence: And which fits into Guy Winch’s work, because he’s really showing when you lose that kind of companion, like how it fundamentally changes your day-to-day experience and your life.
Caitlin: Right, it’s your missing a part of your identity almost or one of the things that shapes it. It’s like having a wall knocked out of your house. Do you have a house now or do you have a lean-to?
Terence: It’s a great book. I highly recommend that book.
Caitlin: Yeah, if you love Oliver Sacks or Steven Pinker, this one will be for you. OK, so that’s my book. Terence, do you have some books for us?
Terence: I do. Similar to that one in the sense that this author is pulling from a lot of different places: film, literature, psychology. It’s On the Way to the Wedding, which if you do a search, you may come up with a romance novel–– it’s not that one. The subtitle––wait for it––is Transforming the Love Relationship and it’s by Linda Leonard. She’s a Jungian analyst and she really is looking at kind of what, like the desire to having meaningful connection to another person, and what happens when that can go awry, and kind of how to connect with yourself first before you have a union with somebody else. There’s one chapter where she uses Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders as this kind of through line. It’s not a light read, but it’s really, really good.
Caitlin: Wow, cool. I have not read this one. But now I really want to. I also saw Paris, Texas when I was an undergrad actually, it was part of my Classics and Film course, and it was really wonderful.
Terence: Great movie. Another one––this was by chance the day after I moved to Berlin. I was wandering the streets, went into a bookstore, randomly picked up this book––In Love.
Caitlin: What is it?
Terence: Alfred Hayes’s In Love.
Caitlin: Terence is holding up a slim volume with a black and white photo of a woman on the cover.
Terence: Yeah, it’s very slim. I know most of the recommendations are nonfiction. This is fiction, but I’m going to make a case. William Maxwell, the fiction editor of the New Yorker, said that literature is psychology in action. And I sometimes think that literature gives us like an experiential version of what a nonfiction book can give. So Guy Winch is talking about, you know, heartbreak and experiments. And this book is just really like the inside of someone’s mind as they’re going through a heartbreak. He only wrote like… This is really the only book that he’s known for, but he was a pretty recognized film script writer. I never heard of him before, randomly picked up the book. But when I thought of this episode I really thought, “hm, that book did such a good job of showing the kind of almost like craziness that one can go through in the midst of losing somebody.”
Caitlin: Yeah, that addiction cycle that Guy Winch talks about. How it’s an actual literal chemical addiction.
Terence: He knows it in that one.
Caitlin: So you just found this in a book shop, was it just in your neighborhood?
Terence: Yeah, it’s a pop-up bookshop. I mean the great thing about Berlin is there seem to be books everywhere. And the cosmic joke was that I shipped all these books here, paid beaucoup bucks to send them here. And this one cost me half a euro.
Caitlin: Did your books ever come?
Terence: Some of them.
Caitlin: OK, awesome. Thank you so much. Those are cool recommendations. I don’t know those two. Great. See this is what Terence does for our lives. Awesome. So, this episode of Simplify was produced by me Caitlin Schiller, Terence Mickey, Ody Constantinou, Nat Darozhkina, Ben Jackson and Ben Schuman-Stoler who’s recently perfected homemade kimchi that is “Fresh, easy, brighter than a lot of other kimchi.” He’ll send you the recipe if you email him.
Terence: And a big thank you to that team and everybody at Blinkist who makes this podcast happen. It’s a really a labor of love and everyone’s love is appreciated deeply.
Caitlin: Deeply deeply… Cool. You can find us on Apple podcast, Spotify, all the podcasters you know and love. We would love to hear what you thought of season 4 and what you’ve learned, how you like the guests, who else you’d like to hear on Simplify. Let us know what you think: we care and we use your feedback to make changes. So, email us at [email protected] or on Twitter: I’m @CaitlinSchiller. Terence is… I don’t know if Terence wants to share.
Terence: What is it? @terence_mickey.
Caitlin: OK, cool. And of course last thing I’ll say, Simplify is made by the same people who make Blinkist––obviously, we’ve talked about it a million times a day, but Terence and Ben and all of us, we all work there and it’s a personal development tool that takes insights from the world’s best-selling non-fiction books and condenses them into focus little capsules of knowledge that are available in audio or text, takes just about 15 minutes to listen to those. So yeah, Terence, do you want to tell people about the voucher?
Terence: Yes. So if you want to try it, we made a voucher code for this episode. You can get 14 days free if you go to blinkist.com/friends and type in the voucher code: heart.
Caitlin: Cool. Great. So see you guys next week in the last episode of the Season. Ben will be back for that one. Alright then, this is Caitlin checking out.
Terence: Terence checking out!
Terence: See ya!