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


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 Not possible Row, a documentary now streaming on Discovery+.

These experiences alone would qualify him as an knowledgeable 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 mixture 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 straightforward. Generally after I’m giving a lecture I ask a query: ‘Who do you assume would win in a combat between a tiger and a shark?’ The reply is: It relies upon the place. The one in its native surroundings will win. For explorers, issue is the native surroundings and due to this fact it is rather tough to outperform them in tough situations. In distinction, each day life and leisure are sometimes hardships for us.

For me, what was particularly difficult was understanding at residence. When sport is your occupation, understanding will not 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 an analogous impact on the way in which I understand my residence. Severe 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 essentially the most basic stage, Jung would say that difficulties are mandatory for improvement. I believe 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. It’s also a very good alternative to take the time to ponder one’s path and the standard of 1’s path in life, as a substitute of strolling it mindlessly. Jung would most probably 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 foremost elements stopping melancholy, which I each domesticate in myself and encourage others to domesticate: 60 % bodily exercise, together with common sleep and wholesome meals; 30 % contact with nature; 10 % friendships. All these elements are severely restricted throughout the lockdown.

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

So we needs to be glad for this hardship as a result of it can make us stronger? Unpack that for us.
Like muscle tissues rising from weightlifting, minds attain their potential when uncovered to some stage of frustration. With out sufficient weight, our muscle tissues gained’t develop and an excessive amount of weight will injure us. An optimally annoyed, and thus properly skilled, thoughts develops resilience as a core high quality. Such resilience is a crucial 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 stage of frustration is a big enhance in irritability. However frustration as an expertise isn’t solely measured on one axis. We’ve got many features that relate to the encircling world, and every has its personal standards. With regards to one’s profession, we might take a look at the continuum of stress as being a barometer, however a scarcity of which means or achievement might be simply as irritating. One would possibly function properly at excessive ranges of stress, however nonetheless really feel full lack of achievement in what we’re doing. You will need to be sure that neither threshold of frustration is exceeded.


What’s essentially the most optimally annoyed you’ve been?
Among the finest weightlifting for my thoughts has been my rowing expeditions. On these expeditions, whereas within the cabin, I’m normally in a cramped, chilly, moist, darkish area. Throughout a storm you’re usually sharing it with somebody, whereas waves the scale of buildings buffet the boat. It actually seems like a collision with a truck. That is all with out the standard comforts of ample sleep, meals, and hygiene, and sometimes whereas injured. Humidity, which stays at one hundred pc on polar oceans, places the 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 maintaining hope. Such intense deprivation of all these fundamental comforts makes a month forward of you’re feeling like an eternity. The extreme strain makes hoping for issues sooner or later incomprehensible.

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


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

What recommendation do you could have for getting together with different individuals—whether or not it’s your accomplice or your expedition mate—in confined areas and disturbing experiences?
I solely search for loopy individuals as rowing crew mates [laughing]. Throughout the expedition I concentrate on the objective and attempt to suppress the sensation of discomfort. With regards to dwelling in an condo with one other individual, some issue is to be anticipated; relationships don’t flourish when neither accomplice 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 manage our environment is considerably diminished. We all know that divorce price is rising now. So so long as it’s attainable, I’d suggest taking a brief break by your self and attempting to get involved with nature. Nature reduces stress hormone ranges for fairly just a few days. Nature could also be a 30-minute drive away, however from a purely sensible perspective, it’s value it!

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

impossible row crew
The Not possible 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 outfitted with a mix of attitudes: ‘First optimism, then persistence, subsequent idealism, and final of all braveness.’ These apply properly to at least one’s lockdown survival guide. 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, similar to an expedition, requires our cooperation and endurance to be able to attain the objective.


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