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    How To Handle Dread | Saleem Reshamwala

    Take action to connect with nature, research your surroundings, and get involved in local activism or politics to combat feelings of dread. Remember that these emotions are common, and seeking community and agency can help alleviate them.

    enNovember 28, 2022

    About this Episode

    Today we explore the entire dread spectrum with Saleem Reshamwala, who took a deep dive on this very common, very uncomfortable emotion. What is dread, exactly? What evolutionary purpose does it serve? Most importantly, how do we deal with it? What are the antidotes?


    Reshamwala has worked for The New York Times, PBS, and also TED, where he hosts a podcast called Far Flung. He is also the host of More Than A Feeling, another podcast here at Ten Percent Happier. Saleem and his team recently launched something called The Dread Project - we shared their first episode kicking off the series last week. It’s a five-day series that investigates dread. Each day of the challenge, listeners tackle dread in a different way. You can sign up for The Dread Project at dreadproject.com.


    In this episode we talk about:

    • Dread-management techniques, including: journaling, drawing, and welcoming your dread to the party inside your head
    • How to face dread when it comes to climate change 
    • And the biggest dread of all— death



    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/saleem-reshamwala-527

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Even when faced with difficult situations or knowledge of future events, it's important to find ways to adjust and experience moments of joy amidst the dread.
    • Dread is a common feeling and can be managed by finding solutions and sharing experiences. It can also be a warning and used to prepare for important things. By sharing solutions, we can find pockets of joy even in the midst of dread.
    • Dread is an adaptive emotion that can aid in anticipating potential danger. Journaling can help in dealing with dread, but one should focus on the positive aspects and not worry about perfection. Being easier on ourselves is essential for mental well-being.
    • Write, draw and meditate to process difficult emotions. No need for fancy tools, focus on the process rather than the outcome. Metaphors created through art can offer new perspectives and help with emotions that are hard to verbalize. Accept all emotions during meditation to transform and process them.
    • Acknowledge and accept your emotions instead of fighting them, viewing them as party guests. Reframe your thoughts and understand their positive intentions to protect you, allowing you to move on in a sane fashion.
    • Acknowledge negative thoughts and feelings, express them through drawing, and gain a new perspective. This exercise helps identify and address subconscious sources of anxiety, leading to potential confrontation and overcoming of fears.
    • Recognize genuine life-threatening dangers and use rituals and visual symbols related to death to process mortality. By accepting inevitability of death and using time purposefully, we can lead a more fulfilling life.
    • Instead of fearing death, approach it with intentionality and build rituals around it. Fill up your life to the edges and make it bubble over, acknowledging the preciousness of life. Seize every moment to live life to the fullest.
    • Accepting death as a natural part of life can remind us to live in the present, appreciate what matters, and cultivate a sense of connection and joy.
    • Being present, grateful, and connected to others can help reduce feelings of dread and increase appreciation for life.
    • Taking time to observe and connect with nature can help reduce fear and instill hope and positive action towards navigating the climate crisis. It can change how we perceive and move through the world, offering a grounding and calming effect.
    • Take action to connect with nature, research your surroundings, and get involved in local activism or politics to combat feelings of dread. Remember that these emotions are common, and seeking community and agency can help alleviate them.
    • The Dread Project offers a variety of tools and prompts that can help you better understand and balance your emotions. Join the project for daily prompts and listen to the More Than a Feeling podcast for additional insights.
    • Empathy, respect, and learning from others' experiences are essential to coping with high-stakes conflicts or tragedies. By listening to others and finding new coping methods, we can heal and move forward, even in difficult times.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Overcoming Dread: Finding Joy in Tricky Realities

    Dread is a common and uncomfortable emotion that can range from existential to mild. Salim Rush Wall's interest in dread began when a listener's poetic email about their experience with existential dread caught his attention. Salim's interest in dread was further piqued when his family received some medical news that left him feeling paralyzed. He met friends who had figured out ways to find pockets of joy even in such situations. Despite the availability of information about future events, we need to find ways to adjust, live life and feel good even with tricky realities that might happen or we know are going to happen in some cases.

    Understanding Dread: How to Cope with Fear and Turn it into a Positive.

    Dread is universal and can range from existential dread to everyday worries. It is important to not feel isolated when dealing with dread. Finding solutions and tools that allow you to keep living your life is key. Dread can be useful in alerting us to something important to think about or prepare for. By sharing information about how to get through dread, we can introduce other thoughts and find pockets of joy even in the midst of it. Hearing other people's personal stories related to dread and sharing solutions can be helpful. Dread is fear plus time and can manifest in different ways, making it a spectrum of emotions.

    The Positive Side of Dread: Harnessing It for Better Preparation

    Dread is not always a negative emotion and can be a useful tool for preparing and taking actions. It is an adaptive emotion and has aided humans throughout history in anticipating potential danger. However, the balance lies in extracting the good part of dread without letting it overwhelm us. Journaling is a useful practice for dealing with dread, but one must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There is a tendency to attach high standards to even self-care practices, which can make us miserable. Therefore, it is important to be easier on ourselves and focus on the positive aspects of dread to prepare ourselves for future situations.

    The Power of Journaling, Drawing and Meditation in Processing Emotions

    Journaling can help with dread by getting things out of your head and onto paper. It allows you to see your problems in a different way and find more useful ways to process them. It doesn't need to be done on a fancy journal, any scrap of paper and pen will do. Drawing is also a useful tool for creating metaphors and seeing things from a different perspective. Art therapist Naomi Cohen Thompson suggests that metaphors created through drawing can help process emotions that are difficult to put into words. Jeff Warren suggests letting all types of emotions happen during meditation, which can be transformative.

    Welcoming Your Feelings as Party Guests

    Viewing your feelings as party guests and welcoming them, allows you to accept and acknowledge them instead of fighting them, which only makes them stronger. Just like how some party guests may be obnoxious, your feelings may be unpleasant, but it's about accepting their presence and reframing how you view them. It's not about giving them control, but rather acknowledging their positive intention- usually to protect you- and then moving on in a sane fashion. Reframing your thoughts can also be helpful in accepting and understanding all of the different parts of how you're feeling and thinking about something.

    Reframing Negative Thoughts through Drawing

    Reframing our negative thoughts and feelings can help shift our perspective and ease our dread. Getting it out of our heads, such as through drawing, can help us see it as something outside of ourselves, allowing us to view it in a new light. This exercise can help us to identify and address subconscious sources of our anxieties, even those we may not have been aware of. By rooting ourselves in what we are feeling, we can identify and acknowledge our fears, allowing us to confront and possibly overcome them.

    Combining Exposure Therapy and Memento Mori for Fear and Anxiety Management.

    Exposure therapy can be a helpful treatment for fear and anxiety. Memento Mori, or surrounding oneself with symbolic or visual reminders of death, can also be beneficial in normalizing mortality and prioritizing how time is spent. While fear and panic can be uncomfortable, they stem from the organism's attempt to protect itself and compute danger. It's important to recognize and acknowledge genuine life-threatening dangers while also not over-emphasizing non-life-threatening ones. Rituals and visual symbols related to death, such as the Mexican skull motif, can provide a way of processing mortality. Ultimately, accepting the inevitability of death and using time purposefully can lead to a more fulfilling life.

    Embracing Mortality to Live Life to the Fullest

    Talking about death can be enlightening as it reminds us to make the most of our limited time here on earth. Instead of fearing death, we should learn to approach it with intentionality and build rituals around it. Death is non-negotiable, but how we choose to live before that day is up to us. We should aim to fill up our lives to the edges and make it bubble over. While death can certainly be sad, we should also focus on the reminder it brings about the preciousness of life. Every tradition acknowledges that our time on earth is limited, and it's up to us to make the most of it.

    Embracing Death to Appreciate Life

    Being mindful of death and surrounding ourselves with reminders of it can help us appreciate life and focus on what's truly important. People who face death and are around it can be surprisingly lively and appreciative of life, as it reminds them to not take anything for granted. In many cultures, death is not quarantined but rather accepted as a natural part of life, and even celebrated. The Islamic tradition, for instance, involves helping wash the body of a deceased relative. Embracing death and facing it without fear or denial can bring us closer to joy and connection, reminding us that pregame is over and we should live fully in the present.

    The Positive Effects of Experiencing Death First-Hand

    Experiencing death up close can make you more attentive and connected to the world around you, and less focused on dread. It can shift your focus towards what's happening in the present, and make you more grateful for the time you have. Being more connected to those around you can make you feel more human and less scared, allowing you to interact with others in a more present way. By being attentive in the present moment, it reduces the amount of time spent in dread and allows you to appreciate life more fully.

    The Benefits of Connecting with Nature During the Climate Crisis

    Connecting with nature can provide a grounding and calmness that helps navigate the climate crisis more skillfully. Observing nature can take us out of negative information and moving towards action. It can change how we perceive the world and move through it. Different people have different reactions but exposure therapy can reduce fear and exert positive action. Whether it is looking at the age of rocks, the trees, insects or understanding the land's history, connecting with nature can make a positive impact in our lives. Observing nature and connecting to people working in nature offers positive aspects. Even though the climate crisis is already here in many ways, connecting with nature can alleviate the dread and instill hope and action.

    The Power of Action and Connection in Combating Dread

    To combat dread, take action and connect with nature by researching and learning about the land around you and finding pleasure in it. This can be a first step towards taking action, whether it's getting involved with local activism or volunteering. Additionally, agency as an antidote to dread can also apply to politics, such as volunteering or voting. The Dread project has helped normalize the experience of dread and provided a sense of community for those experiencing it. It's important to remember that strong feelings of dread are common and that seeking connection and taking action can help alleviate these feelings.

    The Dread Project: A Collection of Tools to Help Approach Dreadful Emotions.

    The Dread Project is a collection of tools that can be used to approach dread, and you can try out and see which ones help you. It's not about every tool being a step-by-step exact thing that magically cures dread. The project's prompts and activities are useful anytime and can help balance emotions. Anyone can join the project and visit the dreadproject.com to get email prompts every day for five days. The main idea is to develop creative ways to acknowledge your dread and understand it better. More Than a Feeling podcast has multiple episodes focusing on various topics such as how to confront grudges, which can help give people insights into how their emotions work.

    The Power of Empathy in Coping with Difficult Situations

    Empathy is crucial in situations of high stakes and conflict, where everyone is hurt and feeling the pain of the tragedy. Respect and understanding of this pain can go a long way towards healing and forgiveness. The project of exploring tools to cope with Dread reminds us that we can always learn from each other's experiences and find ways to feel better in difficult situations. Listening to others' stories can help us move through life and experiment with new coping mechanisms, even if they don't work all the time. Yasmin's podcast, Childproof, is also a great resource for parents looking for advice on raising children. Overall, empathy, respect, and learning from others are key to coping with difficult situations.

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