11 Dr. Greg Siegle: What if Freaking Out and Shutting Down are Perfectly Normal?

Dr. Greg Siegle is director of the Programme in Cognitive A'ffective Neuroscience (PICAN) at the University of Pittsburgh. Last month, June 2019, he was also awarded the Honorary Chair in Cognitive Science at the University of Amsterdam. He’s devoted to understanding interactions of cognition and emotion, particularly their associations with mental disorder and recovery such as depression and anxiety.

**Shownotes **

  • 1:00 Lecture at the University of Amsterdam: “what if freaking out and shutting down are completely normal?"
  • 2:50 Most interventions in mental health is to decrease emotions
  • 4:10 “Healthy” people dissociate every day
  • 4:57 Freaking out and shutting down are both part of the process (e.g. spider-phobia)
  • 6:11 Dissociation is stigmatized in mental health field
  • 7:33 There’s a continuum from compartmentalization to total dissociation.
  • 8:26 Detachment in mindfulness share a lot with dissociation
  • 9:02 Pre-frontal cortex lets us put the choice back to our hands
  • 10:02 We’re already doing emotional regulation unconsciously all the time
  • 10:15 Naked card experiment
  • 12:13 Emotions at the workplace - can you cry and completely disengage like a zombie?
  • 13:10 Performance suffers when emotions are suppressed
  • 14:00 Not preventing a person from using the coping mechanism that helped them survive
  • 14:44 Greg’s lab policy - What if doctors and nurses, not just patients, are also allowed to have emotions?
  • 15:30 A real-life example in Greg’s workplace
  • 18:50 Including “allowing emotions” during the interviewing process
  • 19:54 Some Asian employees do not feel like expressing emotions, which is also okay
  • 21:00 Communicating and checking in as the new normal
  • 23:00 Black employees feel less safe to express emotions
  • 24:58 Allowing people to shut down makes it safer for them to come back when they’re ready
  • 25:24 Orgasmic meditation - when the environment is safe, women having sexual abuse histories do not have problems to have arousal
  • 26:52 It’s the lack of safety that prolongs shutting down
  • 28:28 Set and setting are made explicit in psychology and psychiarity
  • 29:20 Lab may not be the ideal place for either stimulation or intervention
  • 31:26 What does it mean by “leaning in” to the emotions?
  • 33:03 To allow the regulatory mechanisms to shut off
  • 33:50 Chinese saying “wuwei”
  • 34:26 What if you don’t work too hard? Allow the process to play out
  • 35:12 Not regulating emotions might work as well
  • 35:40 Depression: leaning in to the rumination; take the power back
  • 38:11 Give anxiety a “worry time”
  • 42:05 “Play time” - Does the world end if I ruminate right now? People actually ruminate less if it’s made explicitly as a process.
  • 44:20 “Surfing” high emotions, even enjoying it
  • 44:47 People like BDSM and haunted house playing with high arousal
  • 46:00 Why is it hard to play with emotions in daily life?
  • 47:42 Not just individual efforts to regulate emotions, but also power relations
  • 48:25 Women are more stigmatized to show emotions at workplace
  • 50:00 What if workplace training includes “really hearing the content and saying I hear you when someone’s expressing emotionally”?
  • 51:15 Shutting down in relationships
  • 52:45 Emotions are stored in the body
  • 53.45 The somatic marker hypothesis, formulated by Antonio Damasio
  • 55:21 “Where are you feeling emotions in your body”
  • 56:01 Body awareness can be double-edged
  • 57:31 Our relationship with pain - what’s it telling me?
  • 59:40 Arousal is arousal - why not playing with that
  • 61:01 One story about arousal may not be more valid than other ones
  • 62:58 The time course of arousal is slow; make use of it
  • 64:24 Make-up sex can be a valid re-direction of arousal
  • 65:30 Artists using their hard emotions to create
  • 66:38 Vibration can lead to vigilance that’s neither positive nor positive
  • 67:30 Meditation is not just about distancing
  • 68:20 Philippe Goldin, laughter meditation
  • 69:30 Detaching as spiritual bypassing
  • 72:05 First learn to swim and surf, and then dive into the extraordinary state of mind
  • 72:35 What does neuroscience say about when to surf, and when to dive?
  • 73:51 Allowing the dark side as part of every day - it’s all one person
  • 74:03 Use your “darkness” as a great resource, as a superpower
  • 75:25 The middle way
  • 76:40 Not stigmatizing the reactions is healing
  • 77:55 Embodied dissociation
  • 78:25 Not just regulating individual patient’s emotions, but change their environments as well
  • 80:23 Better environment for depression - not isolating, but also ok to want to stay alone
  • 81:20 Interpersonal therapy
  • 82:01 Depressive realism
  • 82:20 What about the socio-political cause for depression - fetishizing productivity?
  • 85:16 Both personal an structural changes needed
  • 85:50 Local changes can make a difference - have hard conversations, reclaim power
  • 87:25 **Be your own scientist, play with emotions, do not be scared of them **