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The Adversity Advantage

Sep 28, 2020


COVID-19 challenged not only the physical strength of those who suffered from it, but also the mental health of many people suffering from depression due to lack of social connections and interactions.


Are you one of those who feel so lonely during this pandemic? Do you question yourself why you always feel like something’s wrong with you? Then you must hear what my guest says about these.


My guest today is none other than Lori Gottlieb. She is a psychotherapist and a writer. She is the author of the book “Maybe You Should Talk To Someone” and writes the weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column for The Atlantic.


A quick overview about how Lori became a therapist:

Lori started working in the entertainment business because she loved stories and the human condition. So whether that was through film and labor through television, she really felt like the reason that people watch those shows and the reason that they make people laugh or cry is because the stories are about being human. 


And then she worked in a real ER, where she spent a lot of time, because they used that to do research. And their consultant on the show, who was an ER physician said, “You know, I think you'd like it better here than you might in your day job.”


Being skeptical at first, Lori still ended up going up to Stanford for medical school. And when she got there, managed care was just coming into play. And she realized that she wasn't going to be able to really spend time with her patients in the way that she wanted to. So she started writing, in a way to help people to tell their stories.


Then she left medical school to become a journalist. And after working as a journalist, she had a baby. And she felt really disconnected from other adults during the day, because she loved her child. And for sure, new parents can relate to that feeling -- the need to connect with other people who can speak.


So she called up the dean at Stanford Medical School, and said she maybe needs to come back and do psychiatry. And the dean said, “You're welcome to come back. But you'd be doing mostly medication management. And you really want those longer term, deeper connections. So why don't you get a graduate degree in clinical psychology, and then you could do the kind of work that you've always talked about doing.”


So that's what Lori did. And she feels like she went from telling people stories as a journalist, to helping people to change their stories, as a therapist. 


Right now, she still does both. She writes books, she has a weekly column, she has a podcast, and she has a clinical practice. And everything she does is all about a story in the human condition.

What does isolation do to people's mental health?

As humans, we want to be connected to other people. And even in pre COVID times, Lori thinks that there was a sort of epidemic of loneliness happening because she sees it with her patients.


A lot of the times what happens is we’re kind of distracted by all of these things that are not nourishing to us. And we don't realize how disconnected we are. 


People feel anxious, sad, angry, having difficulty in relationships, and having insomnia or addiction. Whatever is happening, people are looking for something else to fill the hole of what really needs to be where connection would go. 


So during this time, people are really struggling, because they didn't have a lot of practice. And they didn't cultivate those connections. 


And now, the silver lining to this pandemic is that people are really saying, “Wait a minute, I need to prioritize the connections in my life, and I need to prioritize the connections that matter.”


Idiot Compassion vs. Wise Compassion

Idiot compassion is what we do with our friends. Our friends will tell us a story, and then we'll say, “Yeah, you were right. They were wrong. That's terrible.” which just reinforces our very narrow view of a particular situation.


Wise compassion is what people can get in therapy. We hold up a mirror to someone, and help them to see something about themselves that maybe they haven't been willing or able to do before.


Productive Anxiety vs. Unproductive Anxiety

Productive Anxiety is when you are reasonably worried about something and it's productive, because it makes you take action to protect yourself. And so we are reasonably worried about getting COVID, so we are wearing masks, we are socially distancing and doing other things that we need to do to take care of our physical immune systems.


Unproductive Anxiety is an obsessive rumination. It's like the distraction from doing something productive. You're just ruminating about something and it might not even be about COVID. It might be about that thing that your partner said to you that you can't get over with. You're like, “I can't believe they said that” and you won't let it go.


Being Envious

Envy is sometimes really useful, because it tells you what you want. When you feel envy, it's because somebody else has something that you want in your life, too.

Tune into this episode to be able to know the answers to your questions, and understand why you feel that way about yourself during the pandemic.


Lori Gottlieb is so amazing, and she can surely enlighten anyone who hears her speak about human conditions and how to effectively deal with it.


Connect with Lori: 










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