Ocean Explorer (and Psychoanalyst) Fiann Paul Explains How To Use Frustration as Gasoline

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Whereas the pandemic modified lives in ways in which most had by no means skilled earlier than, Fiann Paul was higher ready. The Icelander is not any stranger to fixed companionship, stress, frustration and discomfort. Over six record-setting expeditions, Paul has spent greater than 160 days within the confines of a row boat with a number of different drained, hungry and cranky colleagues.

The story of his most up-to-date effort, the place he led a 600-mile row throughout the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica in 2019, is documented in The Unimaginable Row, a documentary now streaming on Discovery+.

These experiences alone would qualify him as an professional on how to deal with the persevering with psychological challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. However Paul can also be a psychoanalyst. He defended his thesis on the Carl Jung Institute in Zurich earlier this month.

The mix of accolades and lived expertise makes the holder of 33 Guinness World Information uniquely positioned to assist the remainder of us emerge from these arduous occasions mentally stronger than earlier than.

MEN’S JOURNAL: How has the pandemic and lockdown been for you?
FIANN PAUL: It has not been very simple. Generally after I’m giving a lecture I ask a query: ‘Who do you assume would win in a struggle between a tiger and a shark?’ The reply is: It relies upon the place. The one in its native atmosphere will win. For explorers, problem is the native atmosphere and due to this fact it is vitally tough to outperform them in tough circumstances. In distinction, every day life and leisure are sometimes hardships for us.

For me, what was particularly difficult was understanding at residence. When sport is your career, understanding shouldn’t be enjoyable. You’re at all times pushing actually arduous. That’s why I by no means hearken to the music I actually like after I work out, lest I taint it with an affiliation with discomfort. Figuring out at residence has the same impact on the way in which I understand my residence. Critical regime-based sweating at house is simply not enjoyable.


How would Jung have suggested us to do to deal with the pandemic and lockdowns?
On probably the most normal degree, Jung would say that difficulties are obligatory for improvement. I feel that the lockdown is a chance for many people, particularly career-focused Western males, to lastly decelerate. It is a chance to be taught extra about ourselves and really feel a bit extra. Additionally it is a very good alternative to take the time to ponder one’s path and the standard of 1’s path in life, as an alternative of strolling it mindlessly. Jung would most definitely additionally encourage creativity akin to writing or art work.


What do you do?
My expertise working as a therapist has made me conclude that there are three fundamental components stopping melancholy, which I each domesticate in myself and encourage others to domesticate: 60 p.c bodily exercise, together with common sleep and wholesome meals; 30 p.c contact with nature; 10 p.c friendships. All these components are severely restricted through the lockdown.

However what we additionally know is that on this planet of enterprise, necessity, slightly than funding, generates probably the most helpful innovations. Our minds work equally. A state of full consolation really isn’t optimum.

So we must be glad for this hardship as a result of it would make us stronger? Unpack that for us.
Like muscle tissue rising from weightlifting, minds attain their potential when uncovered to some degree of frustration. With out sufficient weight, our muscle tissue gained’t develop and an excessive amount of weight will injure us. An optimally annoyed, and thus effectively educated, thoughts develops resilience as a core high quality. Such resilience is an important attribute.

Psychologists name this ‘optimum frustration.’ It’s outlined as a irritating expertise that stimulates the event of the maximal potential of a person. Every of us is psychologically characterised by a sure optimum threshold of frustration which, as soon as addressed, stimulates the utmost potential of persona to be developed.


How do you discover the optimum quantity of frustration and the place ought to we search for it?
Each impediment in life is a irritating expertise. The primary signal of exceeding the optimum degree of frustration is a major enhance in irritability. However frustration as an expertise isn’t solely measured on one axis. We’ve many facets that relate to the encircling world, and every has its personal standards. In the case of one’s profession, we could take a look at the continuum of stress as being a barometer, however an absence of which means or success may be simply as irritating. One would possibly function effectively at excessive ranges of stress, however nonetheless really feel full lack of success in what we’re doing. You will need to be sure that neither threshold of frustration is exceeded.

What’s probably the most optimally annoyed you’ve been?
A number of the finest weightlifting for my thoughts has been my rowing expeditions. On these expeditions, whereas within the cabin, I’m often in a cramped, chilly, moist, darkish area. Throughout a storm you’re typically sharing it with somebody, whereas waves the scale of buildings buffet the boat. It actually looks like a collision with a truck. That is all with out the standard comforts of ample sleep, meals, and hygiene, and infrequently whereas injured. Humidity, which stays at one hundred pc on polar oceans, places the very best toll on one’s psychological state. Your sleeping bag feels as if a bucket of water was simply poured on it, with out exaggeration.

Throughout such expeditions I felt for the primary time what it means to battle with conserving hope. Such intense deprivation of all these fundamental comforts makes a month forward of you’re feeling like an eternity. The extraordinary stress makes hoping for issues sooner or later incomprehensible.

What would typically make me maintain on was realizing that it could possibly be worse. The degrees of consolation that we’re used to are usually not loved by the overwhelming majority of the world. After I really feel hopeless on expeditions, I at all times remind myself how folks endure comparable or worse deprivations of consolation of their every day lives, generally each day, but handle to stay impressively joyful.


What else helps you push by way of the robust occasions?
Mature psychological defenses, like humor, versus immature defenses, akin to appearing out or blaming. Humanity has executed very effectively laughing at our personal helplessness and it is a very wholesome therapy for our psyche. For instance, I pranked the constructing the place I reside by posting an elaborate announcement ostensibly from the constructing committee, written in scientific jargon, stating: “as a result of ongoing analysis on the advantages of chilly publicity, heat water might be disconnected this winter. The analysis nonetheless is freed from cost.”

What recommendation do you’ve for getting together with different folks—whether or not it’s your companion or your expedition mate—in confined areas and worrying experiences?
I solely search for loopy folks as rowing workforce mates [laughing]. In the course of the expedition I deal with the objective and attempt to suppress the sensation of discomfort. In the case of dwelling in an house with one other individual, some problem is to be anticipated; relationships don’t flourish when neither companion has sufficient area to themselves.

For us, dwelling in developed international locations, it is usually a brand new and tough expertise when our capability to regulate our environment is considerably decreased. We all know that divorce price is rising now. So so long as it’s doable, I might suggest taking a brief break by your self and attempting to get in touch with nature. Nature reduces stress hormone ranges for fairly a couple of days. Nature could also be a 30-minute drive away, however from a purely sensible perspective, it’s price it!

In the event you can’t entry nature, attempt to channel all of your vitality into creativity or one thing developmental. Possibly begin on-line research and attempt to think about that that is just like the expedition objective, which is extra essential than the discomfort on this second.

impossible row crew
The Unimaginable Row crew, left to proper: Colin O’Brady, Andrew Towne, Captain Fiann Paul, Jamie Douglass-Hamilton, John Peterson and Cameron Bellamy. Discovery


The rest you’d like so as to add?
Well-known explorer Ernest Shackleton believed that explorers must be geared up with a mix of attitudes: ‘First optimism, then endurance, subsequent idealism, and final of all braveness.’ These apply effectively to at least one’s lockdown survival handbook. These have to be the plates that we placed on the figurative weightlifting bar for the thoughts. This mission that we’re all collectively on, identical to an expedition, requires our cooperation and endurance with a purpose to attain the objective.


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