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


Whereas the pandemic modified lives in ways in which most had by no means skilled earlier than, Fiann Paul was higher ready. The Icelander isn’t 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 skilled 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 Data uniquely positioned to assist the remainder of us emerge from these arduous instances 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 once I’m giving a lecture I ask a query: ‘Who do you suppose would win in a battle between a tiger and a shark?’ The reply is: It relies upon the place. The one in its native surroundings will win. For explorers, problem is the native surroundings 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 figuring out at residence. When sport is your career, figuring out just isn’t enjoyable. You’re all the time pushing actually arduous. That’s why I by no means take heed to the music I actually like once I work out, lest I taint it with an affiliation with discomfort. Understanding at residence has the same impact on the best way 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 essentially the most normal degree, Jung would say that difficulties are obligatory for growth. 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. It is usually an excellent alternative to take the time to ponder one’s route and the standard of 1’s path in life, as an alternative of strolling it mindlessly. Jung would probably additionally encourage creativity reminiscent of writing or paintings.


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 in the course of the lockdown.

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

So we ought to be glad for this hardship as a result of it would make us stronger? Unpack that for us.
Like muscle mass rising from weightlifting, minds attain their potential when uncovered to some degree of frustration. With out sufficient weight, our muscle mass received’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 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 character 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 big improve in irritability. However frustration as an expertise isn’t solely measured on one axis. We have now many points that relate to the encircling world, and every has its personal standards. In relation to one’s profession, we might have a look at the continuum of stress as being a barometer, however a scarcity of that means or success could 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. It is very important make it possible for neither threshold of frustration is exceeded.

What’s essentially the most optimally annoyed you’ve been?
A few of the greatest 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 dimensions of buildings buffet the boat. It actually looks like a collision with a truck. That is all with out the same old comforts of enough sleep, meals, and hygiene, and sometimes whereas injured. Humidity, which stays at 100% 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 wrestle with retaining hope. Such intense deprivation of all these primary comforts makes a month forward of you’re feeling like an eternity. The extraordinary strain makes hoping for issues sooner or later incomprehensible.

What would typically make me maintain on was understanding that it might 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 all the time remind myself how folks endure comparable or worse deprivations of consolation of their every day lives, typically day-after-day, but handle to stay impressively joyful.


What else helps you push by way of the powerful instances?
Mature psychological defenses, like humor, versus immature defenses, reminiscent of appearing out or blaming. Humanity has achieved very effectively 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: “because of ongoing analysis on the advantages of chilly publicity, heat water shall 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 accomplice or your expedition mate—in confined areas and demanding experiences?
I solely search for loopy folks as rowing crew mates [laughing]. Throughout the expedition I deal with the objective and attempt to suppress the sensation of discomfort. In relation to residing in an condominium with one other individual, some problem is to be anticipated; relationships don’t flourish when neither accomplice has sufficient area to themselves.

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

For those who can’t entry nature, attempt to channel all of your power 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 necessary 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 should be outfitted with a mixture of attitudes: ‘First optimism, then endurance, subsequent idealism, and final of all braveness.’ These apply effectively to at least one’s lockdown survival guide. These should 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 as a way to attain the objective.


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