Friday, 20 February 2015

Ted talk: Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch

I saw this Ted talk a few days ago by psychologist Guy Winch, talking about how learning how to care for ourselves emotionally is just as important as learning how to care for ourselves physically.  As he points out, when someone breaks a leg you don’t tell them to ‘walk it off, it’s all in your leg’, so why do we tell people with depression to ‘get over it, it’s all in your head’?  

I’m posting this here for two reasons.

1. A lot of authors tend to be introverts, or, at least, tend to work in a solitary environment that can lead to loneliness and depression over time.  Winch mentions something that happened to him when he was living away from home for the first time.  He was away from his family and friends and waiting for his brother to call on their birthday.  When the call never came, he became depressed.  When asked the next day, why he hadn’t called his brother he didn’t know the answer.  But the answer, Winch explains, is that he was lonely and that sadness had created a block in his mind, making him believe that no one cared about him.  While depression has made some headway we don’t acknowledge how crippling loneliness can be, and how it can lead to depression.  Nor do we acknowledge that it’s easy to feel lonely in a crowd, nor how many other problems can stem from emotional pain that’s left unaddressed.

2. I think the insights he points out about emotional health would be beneficial to know/understand for writers.  Getting into the heads of your characters is important, as is knowing their psychological make-up.  Winch points out some interesting things that could make character development deeper.

My only complaint about the talk is that, though it makes its case about the importance of teaching and maintaining emotional hygiene, he doesn’t give any practical ways in which to go about it.  Either in learning how to develop emotional health/hygiene or teaching it to others.  Of course, a quick Amazon search shows he’s written a couple of books on the topic, notably Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts.  I’ll have to give it a read sometime. 

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