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

While 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 Impossible Row, a documentary now streaming on Discovery+.

Those experiences alone would qualify him as an knowledgeable on how to deal with the persevering with psychological challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Paul can 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 Records uniquely positioned to assist the remainder of us emerge from these laborious 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. Sometimes after I’m giving a lecture I ask a query: ‘Who do you think would win in a fight 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 subsequently it is extremely troublesome to outperform them in troublesome circumstances. In distinction, day by day life and leisure are sometimes hardships for us.

For me, what was particularly difficult was figuring out at dwelling. When sport is your occupation, figuring out isn’t enjoyable. You’re all the time pushing actually laborious. 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. Working out at dwelling has an analogous impact on the best way I understand my dwelling. Serious 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 common stage, Jung would say that difficulties are mandatory 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 study extra about ourselves and really feel a bit extra. It can be 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 such as writing or art work.


What do you do?
My expertise working as a therapist has made me conclude that there are three most important components 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 components are severely restricted in the course of the lockdown.

But what we additionally know is that on the planet of enterprise, necessity, relatively 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 can make us stronger? Unpack that for us.
Like muscle tissue rising from weightlifting, minds attain their potential when uncovered to some stage of frustration. Without sufficient weight, our muscle tissue received’t develop and an excessive amount of weight will injure us. An optimally pissed off, and thus nicely skilled, thoughts develops resilience as a core high quality. Such resilience is a crucial attribute.

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


How do you discover the optimum quantity of frustration and the place ought to we search for it?
Every impediment in life is a irritating expertise. The first signal of exceeding the optimum stage of frustration is a major improve in irritability. But frustration as an expertise isn’t solely measured on one axis. We have many features that relate to the encompassing world, and every has its personal standards. When it comes to at least one’s profession, we might have a look at the continuum of stress as being a barometer, however an absence of that means or achievement will be simply as irritating. One would possibly function nicely at excessive ranges of stress, however nonetheless really feel full lack of achievement in what we’re doing. It is vital to ensure that neither threshold of frustration is exceeded.

What’s probably the most optimally pissed off you’ve been?
Some of one of the best 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 house. During a storm you’re typically sharing it with somebody, whereas waves the dimensions of buildings buffet the boat. It actually looks like a collision with a truck. This is all with out the same old comforts of adequate sleep, meals, and hygiene, and infrequently whereas injured. Humidity, which stays at 100 % 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.

During such expeditions I felt for the primary time what it means to wrestle with retaining hope. Such intense deprivation of all these primary comforts makes a month forward of you are feeling like an eternity. The intense stress makes hoping for issues sooner or later incomprehensible.

What would typically make me maintain on was figuring out that it may very well be worse. The ranges of consolation that we’re used to aren’t loved by the overwhelming majority of the world. When I really feel hopeless on expeditions, I all the time remind myself how folks endure related or worse deprivations of consolation of their day by day lives, generally every single day, but handle to stay impressively joyful.


What else helps you push by means of the robust occasions?
Mature psychological defenses, like humor, as against immature defenses, such as performing out or blaming. Humanity has finished very nicely laughing at our personal helplessness and this can be a very wholesome therapy for our psyche. For instance, I pranked the constructing the place I dwell by posting an elaborate announcement ostensibly from the constructing committee, written in scientific jargon, stating: “due to ongoing research on the benefits of cold exposure, warm water will be disconnected this winter. The research however is free of charge.”

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

For us, dwelling in developed nations, it’s also a brand new and troublesome expertise when our capability to regulate our environment is considerably decreased. We know that divorce price is growing now. So as lengthy as it’s attainable, I might advocate taking a brief break by your self and making an attempt to get involved 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 value it!

If you possibly can’t entry nature, attempt to channel all of your vitality into creativity or one thing developmental. Maybe 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.

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


Anything else you’d like so as to add?
Famous explorer Ernest Shackleton believed that explorers should be outfitted with a mix of attitudes: ‘First optimism, then patience, next idealism, and last of all courage.’ These apply nicely 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 so as to attain the objective.


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