A highlight from #341 The Art and Science of the Worlds Gooiest Cliche | Barbara Fredrickson
Ten percent happier. Podcast i'm dan harris. Hey hey one. Of our primary missions on this show is to rescue vital ideas that have lapsed into cliches. There's so many important concepts out there that many of us might be tempted to dismiss because they're encrusted with cultural baggage or have been reduced to potentially annoying or sappy slogans. So for example. We've talked a lot on this podcast about things like hope or gratitude or listening to your body all of which can to some of us at least sound like the type of empty bromide that you're spin instructor yells at you. Well encouraging you to peddle faster but in fact these are all incredibly important operating principles for a healthy life and not for nothing. They're all backed up by hard science so today we are going to tackle what may be the oldest cliche of all time love. That word has been ruined in many ways by hollywood and pop songs for many of us. The mere mention of the word conjures images of tom cruise with tears in his eyes. While the string music swells declaring you complete me but in my view and in view of my guest today who has way more standing to make this argument by the way love needs to be usefully defined down in other words we need to knock love off its plinth and apply it to a much wider range of human interactions. We also need to think of love. Not something magical that requires luck or money or looks but instead as a trainable skill one with profound implications for our health. Barbara frederickson is the keenan distinguished professor in the department of psychology and neuro science at the university of north carolina. At chapel hill. She's written two books. One is called positively. The other is called love two point. Oh in this interview. We talk about how she defines love on her research. How meditation can help build skill again. That's something she has researched extensively. How taking a few extra minutes to chat with people even if you feel busy can have psychological physiological and even professional benefits and how to manage social anxiety as we emerge from our covid cocoons which is something. A lot of you guys have been asking us to address. I should say Before we dive in this is actually part one of a two part series running this week coming up on wednesday. We're going to drop an episode where we're gonna talk to a a scientist from yale. She studies really how to create social networks. Even if that feels uncomfortable and by social network. I don't mean something like facebook i mean actual networks actual human beings that you see in person so she's got a lot of practical and actionable advice about how to do that. Which again some of us might feel is a little tricky to do with some intentionally. So that's coming up on wednesday before we dive into today's episode. Though i do have one more order of business if you are a longtime listener you have heard me talk about our companion app many many times. You might even be a little sick of it. Why do we keep talking about it. If i want to meditate. Can i just go to youtube and search for a guided meditation for free or sit in silence on my own or use another app. First of all yes. You can do all of those things. There are many many ways to learn how to meditate. And if you found one or more that work for you that's great. However i do think there's something special about the relationship between what we're doing here on the podcast interviewing world renowned experts getting their take on issues that impact our everyday lives and then in the app where we share practices specifically chosen to help. You apply those lessons into kind of as i like to say pound them into your neurons in a conversation. Right here on the podcast. A few weeks ago the meditation teacher seven selassie hit on something key about this relationship between the podcast. And the app here. She is talking about that. I'm a big proponent of integrating what i would call integrating study in practice so combined with our practice are what we call insights. That's why this tradition is called insight. Is these moments and you're so great at articulating that in bringing people on to kind of discuss that like what is it that we're learning. And then how do we can incorporate that back into the practice. It's a little embarrassing. Admit to play you a sound bite. Where seb praises my interviewing skills. And so i i do that a little sheepishly but i think she really does articulate brilliantly. Why we're so gung ho about the symbiosis between the work we do on the podcast and the work. We do the app practice and study work best in concert because you're working several parts of the mind at once and that's how i learned from my teachers sort of engaging prefrontal cortex through reading books or articles that said likes to send me or talking to my teachers directly but also then doing the practices. Which kind of speak to a deeper part of the mind. And that's really the experience. Were trying to bring you. At ten percent happier writ large the wisdom of experts explained in a relatable way alongside practices to help. You apply what you've learned. So i encourage you to give it a try by downloading the ten percent happier app for free wherever you get your apps. Okay enough out of me when shut up now and bring in an awesome guest. This is really one of my favorite interviews in recent memory. Here we go now with barbara frederickson professor frederickson coming on the show. Oh happy to be here. Please call me Okay love two point. Oh what do you mean by that. My goal is to try to help. People see that love something that we all put up on a pedestal. And think is important makes the world go round is potentially more than what we typically think of it as we typically. I think a lot people think of love as romance and marriage journal. Inner circle said people that you interact with and my background is as in motion scientists. And i'm looking at love as an emotion so those moments when you feel moved by love and those happened in close relationships but similar points of connection positive connection happened with strangers and acquaintances. We don't like to call that love. And i think that's to our disadvantage that we only envision or imagine love is happening in certain relationships certain special close relationships and not just serve part of the social fabric of community so what. I argue that we could all use upgrade in our view of love to also include those small moments of connection that you have with anybody whether you know them well or not that they're similar properties between when we connect with any other human. Of course it's a different kind of special when it's your loved ones but it matters as well in terms of our connections with acquaintances strangers at are you talking about the level of the brain here not just the brain but all of our physiology. I define love as co experienced positive emotion so that really opens it up to be. We're both interested together. Or we're both excited about some new idea at the same time together and doesn't necessarily always have like cubans zero involved in it. So as co experienced emotions go. When we co- experience a positive emotions are physiology comes more into synchrony our heart rate start mirroring one another sweat gland activity. There's also research from neuroscientist to to show that there's a whole brain coupling across people who are really close communication following each other's words. Well so and this happens more. So when you're co experiencing or collaborative -ly experiencing positive emotion compared to a negative emotion negative emotions kind of pull us more separate from other people worse positive emotions. It's kinda like when that positive emotion unfolds. It's unfolding across two brains. Bodies in unison. And we as western. Academics don't tend to think of emotions as being distributed across people we think of them as belonging to one person or another and sell. This view gives us a question. Now let me question your thesis just for a second not from truly skeptical standpoint because i actually think we deeply agree but just for my own understanding. I love my son. He's six he hurts himself. I feel anguish because of his anguish. Isn't that an expression of love but it's not a positive emotion. I think that's a an expression of your deep bond with your son and we have with. Our children is that we have compassion for their suffering. I actually think that even though the most obvious emotion in that situation is negative. Your son's pain and then you're kind of feeling for that pain. There's also a threat of positivity in any compassion expression because when each of us to suffering in somebody else recognizes that. That's a relief that you're not alone that somebody is meeting you where you're suffering and when we are able to provide that support for anybody but i loved ones especially that feels like wow i want to be here for this person and you can feel good about being able to be there rather than. I'm glad i was here to be able to do this. So even though you're connecting over something that's painful or difficult. There's never only one emotion in his situation. There's a lot of blends and there's some blended positively and there just compared to hurting yourself a nobody's around. You know feeling hurt and being seen in that hurt. If you'll recognized you feel understood. Cared for validated. Those are the hallmarks of what relationship. Scientists say are the core of intimacy feeling that other people get you and use that knowledge for your benefit all makes complete sense to me And we've talked a lot on the show but the ennobling aspects of compassion to go back to your primary thesis.