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The Brendan O'Connor Show on TV, Radio One with all care pharmacy discover a team that's always here to support you at all care, taking care of communities across Ireland.


You know what we'll do now? Let's take our heart rates down a bit now and we'll talk to our friend, Tony Bates, clinical psychologist Tony. Good afternoon. Good afternoon, Brendan.


Tony, what we're going to talk about this week, and this is relevant to anyone really with any Irish blood heritage, is the benefits of opening up and why it's actually damaging for our health to bottle things up when we're hurt.


We need to talk. And when we and we also need to unburden ourselves of some of those secrets that no away at us and when we can.


It has a tremendous benefit not just for our emotional health, but but it gives our physical health the boost.


And when we can't, when we can't or don't, we we there's a cost to our physical and emotional health. So that's what we want to talk about.


And I suppose we've always known that that talking is good. You say since kind of Freud really started this.


Yeah, I think every every celebrity culture has had to find ways to talk about the things that have been challenges for that culture.


And, you know, I mean, particularly it has had ways for people to unburden themselves.


So so Native American tribes that there's these rituals where people must kind of reveal a lot of their secrets and their their misgivings before they can benefit from any of the physical healing rituals that they might be going through. We've we've had confession in this country, which has been well, you can think of it another way is one of the ways certainly was that it allowed people a space where they could unburden themselves.


And I think, you know, one of the best people for me on this subject is Pegg's Sayres. And she said that, you know, we she said everything that was coming dark upon us, we would disclosers to each other.


And that's what give us a consolation of mind.


And I think that's what we're looking for, you know, because holding secrets inside a holding upset inside is is very stressful on our system. When we bury things, we bury them alive and they're in our bodies. And that takes the energy to keep them there. And that compromises our immune system.


Yeah, yeah. I heard it like a.. Like if you push bouncy ball underwater and the pressure it takes to keep a ball full of air under the water and how it flies up in another way.


But listen, it's interesting that you say that people would think of it as that. If you're bottling stuff up, you might have a troubled mind. But this thing and it's funny, keeps coming up in the charts we've been having here with the philosophers and you and stuff that you go back to this notion. I finally read, by the way, that Dr Van Der Cox book, The Body Keeps the score, body keeps the score. But that day that this is all manifested physically as well for us.


Well, you know, I mean, when you think about it, let's just take the brain. I mean, the brain processes a lot of what happens to us and remembers that.


But the brain can't feel it's not an organ that can feel it's only way to feel is is through the body. So when something is registered in the brain, it's stored in the body.


It's it's held in our tissues and ourselves and our muscles and our organs.


And, you know, what we're beginning to do now is to listen in psychotherapy much more carefully to what the body is saying to to the nuances of sensation and feelings that people have.


And rather than just go for the the kind of the story, we're actually beginning to listen to what somebody is experiencing now, not just in the past, but right now. And it starts with the body.


And that will lead much more specifically to what it is that they need to talk about.


There's a book you want to mention or opening up. I like this book. This is by James Pennebaker. And he's just somebody who was he started his work as an FBI psychologist. He worked in lie detectors. And what he learnt from the men who gave those works, those machines, was that they they never really believed that the lie detector could get someone to cut someone out that well. But what they did use the machine for was to get people to.


Open up and make confession, and typically their strategy was, you know, somebody would come in and talk about something and as they talked or conceal certain information, their biological indicators are suares, heart rate, blood pressure, all of these things, you know, were elevated.


And what they would say is, look, I'm sure what you're saying is true, but I the machine is jumping all over the place here. So how about you go and talk to Mike over there and I'll adjust the machine. I will do it all again. And invariably what happened was the person went and talked to somebody offsite in a room and they confessed. And when they did, they felt better. And when they retook the test, all their biological indicators were normal.


So he kind of had the idea, what is it that why is it so important that even when you're going to face a prison sentence or even death, that it still is better for your body in that moment to speak the truth? And so he began, his whole life's work has been about looking out at the effect of speaking and writing on our our physical health and mental health.


He's not a therapist, but he he he his book is fascinating.


OK, that's called Opening Up. Yeah. There were also studies on gay men. And I suppose this is like a chronic secret keeping long term. Yeah. Who conceal their orientation over over years. Yeah.


One of the studies he looked at was a study in UCLA in 1980 90, which started in 1982, 81, 82, and then it continued for nine years and they tracked the experience of 300 gay men. And of those who were open about that, they divide them into two groups, those who developed AIDS and those who didn't. And of those, you know, who who who didn't develop AIDS, the ones who had been open and about their sexuality were people that they had far fewer physical complications.


The ones that had to hold those secrets are secrets at that time.


They had that they had like three times as much illness over the nine years. Amongst the those who developed AIDS, they they found that those who had not been able to disclose their secrets had had many more complications and and died sooner.


So so that and we see this in this new series. It's a sin.


I mean, it's not just the infection as as much as it is the burden of holding secrets and not being able to be ourselves.


Yeah. Yeah. And like the the sadness about them dying in that series in most cases was not really about the physicality of their doing. It was about the circumstances in which they died and their lack of connexion with friends and family and taken home and everything.


And listen and give us a little bit of science now, which is that that Roy talking and opening up is so healing in terms of what happens, the brain.


Well, I think I think when we're upset, you know, we we my emotions centre of the amygdala sort of becomes quite heated.


And as it does, the more recently evolved part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex goes offline. At least it's operating quite below par.


So if you like, I have my mind, my body and my mind is churning around with feelings and images and thoughts.


But I can't access the part of my brain that is able to soothe me, to calm me and to help me think about things in a more flexible way. Looking at things from a different perspective.


Maybe so in one way, and this is a bit crude, but in a one way when I'm upset and I can't think and when I go to talk to someone, I'm borrowing that person's prefrontal lobe. In that moment, there's a lot more will come back to. But, you know, in that moment, that's what I need. I need some voice that's soothing and calming and that gradually helps me to think, because when I can't talk and when I can hear myself talking, I settle, I become grounded.


And maybe for the first time I actually connect with what I'm feeling and what I what's upsetting me. Very often we don't know. We just feel very upset after a certain event and we can't quite make sense of it. So so that's what happens to people. And so but it is very important, that soothing, calming voice that people who listen can bring to the situation.


And then you make a key point here, which is that letting off steam are venting is not enough. Or the key then is you need to reconstruct in some way. Yeah, exactly.


That for a long time. Certainly when I was training in my career, there was a. Feeling broadly that if we just let off, if we discharge emotional hearts and pain, that it'll be fantastic. And I spent many hours, you know, in training, you know, beating cushions and lying on the floor in Grainge Gorman Protestant Church with over Brown and just really, you know, a primal scream therapy.


Yeah, yeah.


You know, I remember having these phenomenal kind of explosions of affect and that. But you can leave and wonder now what was all that about? But meanwhile, everybody was telling you, God, you did great work in there.


And I didn't know what was something inside me needed discharge, that's for sure. But there was no sense of reflecting on that. And I think when something upsets us, it's not enough just to say that I found that very upsetting. That is important. But it's important that we have some place to say what was it about that situation that upset me? And maybe it touched off an old wound, you know, some fault line in my soul that was was was kind of triggered by that, you know?


But but it's important to do that because otherwise we we just we just keep discharging and that that wound itself do anything. And if we discharge anger and we'll just work ourselves up to a greater sense of distress rather than bring any sense of clarity or relief.


Yeah, there's a texture here, says our attorney base is really saying is when the poems are open, we can all go and talk crap again, which is which is kind of has a point to luckly, who should we talk to?


What kind of person are we looking at?


Well, I mean, that's a really good question. And I mean, you know, we talk about talking, but actually it's a very risky thing to do for most of us at some, you know, because the things we need to talk about are deeply personal and we feel very vulnerable.


And, you know, to to talk and not to be heard are to be belittled in some way is is can be devastating. So so, you know, goitre said Televis person or or else keep silent.


And there's a sense that we we should be choosy about who we unburden ourselves to.


And I think well, the first thing I'd say is that the person is the person we need to talk to as someone who makes us feel safe in the world and someone who is, you know, themselves imperfect.


They're not some amazing person. It's only imperfect. People can offer empathy. I mean, because they they struggle to and and therefore they they get us what we're saying.


We need someone who who really gets that whatever is going on is important to us.


Even if we can't find the words, we don't need them to say, look, you're overreacting, you're not being reasonable because we know that already we all feel inside that we wish we were more cool about the whole thing, that we were calmer about the whole thing.


But we're not. So we are where we are.


And we need to know that the person we speak to, that whatever we say, we will not lose our dignity.


And that's very important that that that and that's something for us to remember when somebody does come to us and wants to talk as well as is issue.


I think I think we need particularly at the moment, because people are suffering and hurting very acutely at the moment and all kinds of ways. And what's making all this more difficult is that is the dynamic of isolation that I can't talk, you know, when I most need to. And maybe the people I'm kind of living with are not good people, but they're not the most appropriate people for me to talk about this issue to.


So so therefore, I'm and maybe Zoome doesn't quite cut it for me. So, you know, I think that's really hard.


It aggravates the pain people are feeling at the moment.


And if we don't if we don't have somebody or we're not in a position to have the right person for us, you do think journaling and just writing is an option, too?


Well, most of the book on opening open up is about the research on writing.


And there's no doubt I mean, it's not everybody's cup of tea, but it is it's amazing to to write things down. And the evidence is very strong that it can help. When we write, the first thing we do is we slow down because we have to.


And we we stand back from our difficulties and we think about things more slowly but more objectively.


So writing is a kind of a contemplative exercise because we we pick pieces of our experience and there may be just words and feelings that report on the page.


And we give them room to breathe. And and when we do that and this is very important when we do that, they don't initially make much sense.


We just have I was angry. I was hurt, you know, with. But what Pennebaker found is that people did this on a daily basis, that as he followed their journals, the journals began to naturally come together to coheres and to make sense and words like I realised. I understand those words came in laterally at the end of the day, and they began to feel that they were able to process what had happened.


So they were almost doing a course of therapy on themselves. Yes.


And I mean and I think, you know, hysterically, the whole idea is to try to think of writing as a form of drawing.


You know, that's where we're drawing with with with letters, you know, but but to give yourself a freedom to to just let go and whatever. Yeah. Symbolically you can.


And of course, it brings the body back into it as well, doesn't it? As we were talking earlier, there's a release for the body there. Listen, there's a text there, which I'm not going to read it. I just need to digest of it. Is that somebody saying that maybe secrets are sometimes there for a good reason and they do protect things and they protect families and stuff like that?


Yeah, of course. But, you know, I think of the an national movement and they have a slogan, you're only as sick as your secrets.


And I think one of the 12 steps to recovery requires that we make an honest inventory of our lives and disclose it to someone we trust. And the idea is that until we deal with the heart that we've known and the heart we've caused, we don't have a future. We just have the past repeating itself over and over.


And I think we've all been there where in families and in our own lives, things that hurt us keep repeating. And the question is, you know, is that good enough?


And sometimes the secrets we keep are not doing anybody any good, even though I'm not telling people, you know, what to say and what not to say.


There's a time and a place. But I think we all have families that we all think of examples of secrets that were kept and eventually they come out. And probably when they did it was for the best. I mean. Yeah, yeah.


And sure, look, sometimes it happens and everyone goes, what was the big deal there? But that secret was allowed to corrode everyone's lives for 50 years. Yeah.


Listen, in terms of I suppose we have to get in touch with our vulnerability. And if you go to another person and you open up to them, it is it is opening up your wounds. But you say we have to manage our vulnerability as well.


Well, I think that, you know, when you think about mental health this term, we're all using all the time.


I mean, there's been various studies on what are the ingredients of mental health. And the two top factors and mental health are that, number one, you're in touch with reality. And number two, you're open to experience.


So let's just take the present situation. If I'm in touch with reality and I'm open to experience, I'm probably feeling very vulnerable at the moment. And because in a sense, mental health is a willingness to be vulnerable and to be affected by things, to engage with things. So, you know, it seems to me that that at the moment we are a lot of people are hurting and angry and sad and upset. And it seems to me that that's inevitable and it's quite normal and it's quite important to see that it's OK to have those feelings.


And it's not a sign there's something wrong with them.


You know, it's it's so I think that sense that if we think of mental health as vulnerability, I think it's far better than mental health as something that somehow insulates us from things or that stiff upper lip probably keep a tight rein on ourselves. That's not mental health, mental health, sanity at the moment as being upset.


And we might be more there might be more appropriate to worry about the people who are completely fine.


Yeah, yeah. It's back to when we spoke about resilience. And, you know, I took a lot out of that. You were explaining that it doesn't mean being rigid.


It means like being going with the flow and being able to be flexible and get upset where appropriate.


Listen, there's there's another point you want to make. I know. And for funny column, O'Connor made it last week as well in a different way. And this is about the importance to us, particularly at the moment. I think, Tony, your message here all the time often comes down to one thing, which is to connect, to reach out and everything. But you also wanted to say to people about those soft connexions in our lives at a time like this, how important they are.


Yeah, I what I do I do think that I mean, we're a population at the moment. Many people are hurting. And it's I mean, there some people need specialist and community services and they should be and will be very. Busy for the next 12 months. But but how do we handle this as a population? I think we're all much more aware of trauma and distress and obsess, but we haven't yet found a comfortable way of talking about these things.


I think a great deal of conversation happens with our national broadcaster. And I think that's really fantastic, because in an ironically, I think the national broadcaster has been a tremendous national listening service for the last 12 months. And I'm hugely impressed with how important that has been for people. And again, how you guys just listen or listen.


No, no, no, no, no, no, no.


I'm serious. It is very important. It is not just it's not it's one of the ways we're managing this. But I think between ourselves, between, you know, on an everyday basis, we need to be more attentive to when somebody might need to talk.


And we need to be more appreciative of the sort of the low level connexions we have with with with people in our neighbourhood and in our lives are not to think that they're irrelevant to our mental health or our physical health.


They're part of what keeps ticking over and, you know, and not just thinking of ourselves all the time. That little chat with somebody else, you know, that you kind of come across in the course of your day, can be very important to them, can be and can be lifesaving.


And you may never know us. And it may not be that they tell you about their deepest secret. But it's a connexion where they're talking in some kind of authentic way. Authentic connexions, bring us mental health, I think, you know. Yeah, that's the key.


Yeah, right. Listen, Tony, there is a couple of novels you want to recommend to get. We're not going to get to them, OK, today, if that is that OK? Sure. Do will I mention the names of many people can have a look and then maybe the next day, the next time you're here, we might, you might just go back in and briefly. So Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman. And as you were, Elaine Feeney is there is there a couple of sentences, literally a couple of sentences that would just give people an idea of what they're looking for there?


These are both books about women with secrets, you know, and there's the beauty, the beautiful unfolding of that secret. Over the course of the book, one is kind of very gentle and heart lifting the first and the second. Alain's book is is is dark, but funny and gritty and honest.


And yet I often Franz Kafka said a book must be the axis for the frozen sea within us. And I think Leon's book is is that book. It's marvellous. And I recommend to listen to it on audio. And Kelly does the an amazing performance of the book on audible dockum, which greatly adds to the pleasure of the whole experience. I certainly loved it. So, yeah.


Good. Tony Bates, wonderful, as always. Thank you so much for that. Text through there says, according to the broader, holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die. That's Barg in Blancher Stone, The Wisdom of Lunchers Town. There you go. We did trigger a lot of people with that mentioned. And Fagg, we probably should have put a trigger warning at the beginning of that. A lot of traumatise listeners out there hearing about pain.


But there you go. Take the broader message from listeners. Tony Bates, thank you. Let's take a break.


Email Brandon Arati Desai.