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RHR: Becoming the Best Version of Ourselves, with Scott Barry Kaufman


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There’s a common assumption that health is simply the absence of disease or symptoms. In the same way, people often define happiness, or a meaningful life, as feeling good or being successful all the time. But there’s a much broader concept of health that is often overlooked. In this episode of Revolution Health Radio, I talk with humanistic psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman about the impact that self-transcendence and self-actualization can have on our health and well-being, our resistance to disease, and our ability to live as long of a health span as possible.

Revolution Health Radio podcast, Chris Kresser

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The story of Maslow finding the Esalen Institute
  • A background on Kaufman’s work
  • The definitions of self-transcendence and self-actualization
  • If a person can be happy without being self-actualized
  • How various disabilities and health difficulties can lead to opportunity and transcendence
  • The importance of community actualization
  • Choosing how to respond when faced with adversity
  • Cultivating the ability to grow post-traumatically

Show notes:

Hey, everybody. Chris Kresser here. Welcome to another episode of Revolution Health Radio. This week, I’m really excited to welcome Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman as my guest.

Dr. Kaufman is a humanistic psychologist exploring the depths of human potential and is the author of a book that I recently read called, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization. Dr. Kaufman is the author of several other books and several publications. He received a PhD in cognitive science from Yale and has taught at Columbia, NYU, and the University of Pennsylvania. He also hosts The Psychology Podcast, which is the number one psychology podcast in the world. But Transcend was my introduction to Dr. Kaufman, and it was one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time.

The more I have worked with patients, and I’ve been doing this work for 13, 14 years, the more convinced I become that our mindset, our psychology, how we relate to ourselves, and how we relate to the world around us is just as important as the diet that we eat, whether we get enough exercise and sleep, how we manage our stress, etc. But it’s often excluded from conversations about health and well-being. And I’ve seen this in my own experience, my own journey with chronic illness. I’ve also seen it in working with hundreds, if not thousands of patients now and training hundreds of practitioners and health coaches. And I think COVID[-19] even shined the light on this further. There are things that happen in life that we don’t always have control over. And how we respond to those things, how we hold ourselves, [and] how we relate to other people is really what determines the quality of our day-to-day experience. And that in turn has a powerful impact on our health and our well-being and our resistance to disease and all the stuff that we talk about in terms of preventing and reversing chronic disease and living as long of a health span as we can.

So, in this episode, we’re going to talk more about the idea of self-actualization and transcendence, how Dr. Kaufman got interested in this, and the role that it’s played in his work. We’ll talk about how being well is not always about feeling good, which is a concept that I’ve shared over the years, and I was really interested to see it in Dr. Kaufman’s book, as well. We’ll talk about how being well came to be associated with always feeling good, particularly in the [United States], I think, and other Western or industrialized societies. We’ll talk about the role of meaning and purpose, and what the different forms of meaning are and how they contribute to health and well-being. We’ll talk about a concept called “post-traumatic growth.” We’ve all heard about [post-traumatic stress disorder] (PTSD) and post-traumatic stress. But there is another possible response to trauma, which is growth, and those can even coexist. We’re going to talk more about that. We’ll talk about the growing body of research suggesting that loneliness and lack of social connection have a powerful impact on our life and much more.

So I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did. [It’s] definitely one of my favorite shows, and [I] look forward to hearing your feedback. All right, I bring you Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman.

Chris Kresser:  Dr. Kaufman, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show. I have really been looking forward to this.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Dr. Kresser, it’s so exciting to talk to you. I’ve heard such great things about you.

The Story of Maslow Finding the Esalen Institute

Chris Kresser:  I think I mentioned this to you in the email when I originally reached out. Back in, like 1998 to mid- to halfway through to the year 2000, I was living at the Esalen Institute and used to spend a lot of time in the Maslow room there.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Awesome.

Chris Kresser:  And I got really interested at that point in the heritage of Esalen and all of the people that were involved and started reading Maslow’s books, and that was my introduction to his work. So how did you become interested in Maslow’s work specifically? And then in the idea of self-actualization and transcendence more generally?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, I can definitely answer those questions. But maybe we could tell your listeners how Maslow encountered Esalen Institute.

Chris Kresser:  Sure, yeah. That’d be fun.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  He’d never heard of Esalen Institute. Actually, at the time, it wasn’t called Esalen; it was called “something Lodge,” I think. And he and his wife Bertha were writing, they got lost, and near that Esalen area, the hills are very steep, and it’s kind of scary. You hear the rocks and you hear the water hitting against the rocks and you’re windy. And they were like, we need to stay somewhere; we need to get off the road. It’s too dark. So they just pulled into this place that Maslow described as a spooky place at the end of nowhere, I think, is what he told Michael Murphy that it looked like.

And when he got there, there was this really gruff Chinese man at the front counter who said, “What do you want?” And Maslow said, “Hey, my wife Bertha and I would really like to stay here tonight.” And he said, “Write your name here.” And Maslow wrote his name down, and the guy looked down and saw it and said, “Abraham Maslow?” And one of the co-founders, Dick Price, came running in and was like, “Abraham Maslow, we built this whole thing based on your principles,” and then he showed them all the copies of the book they had everywhere. And later on, Maslow would end up becoming quite good friends with the co-founders of Esalen and then be quite part of it. But it’s just really funny how that happened.

Chris Kresser:  It is. That’s a legendary story that gets told all the time at Esalen. And my little tiny, tiny post part in that was that when I was at Esalen, I worked as a gate guard. So I was the guy who was checking people in when they arrived and met some pretty interesting people that way, as you can imagine, as well.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Amazing.

A Background on Kaufman’s Work

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, so how did you get interested in Maslow’s work and in self-actualization and transcendence?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I’ve been interested in this implicitly, so implicitly I’ve been interested in the idea of self-transcendence my whole career, or well, self-actualization for sure. Even as a little kid, I was very curious why some people were fulfilling their potential [and] others weren’t, and differences in talent and ability fascinated me. I started to study the science of intelligence when I was in college. I actually grew up with a learning disability, an auditory learning disability, and it really motivated me to understand the limitations of human potential. And it’s a long story, but when I finally got a chance to study it in college, I started off studying intelligence, like, the science of intelligence. What are individual differences in intelligence, why are people different, and how do you measure it? But I realized that it was human potential and self-actualization that really interested me.

I don’t think it became as clear to me as it did until I encountered Maslow’s writings and the rest of the humanistic psychologists. When I was at [the] University of Pennsylvania, about five, six years ago, I was teaching a course on positive psychology for undergrads there, and I was preparing a lecture on the history of the field of positive psychology. I was reading a textbook and I was reading some of Maslow’s descriptions of self-actualizing people, and it really resonated with me. I love that way of thinking; I love those characteristics. Those characteristics didn’t overlap much at all with modern day even positive psychology, characteristics of happy people. I always felt something was missing in the field of positive psychology. I was like, well, the characteristics of happy people may not be the same thing as the characteristics of self-actualizing people. And that was really exciting to go down that rabbit hole, and boy, was that a rabbit hole I went down. It led to this book.

The Definitions of Self-transcendence and Self-actualization

Chris Kresser:  Yes, yes. So what is the difference, from your perspective, in the characteristics of self-actualizing versus happy people? How you, and maybe you could define those terms, as far as how you think of them. What is self-actualization? What is transcendence? And how do those differ from what we are pointing to when we say happiness?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I think self-actualization, the way Maslow thought of, is what is that unique potentiality within you that can make the biggest impact, that can like, when fully realized, make you feel most alive, creative? Aliveness was a really big one. Humanistic psychologists were very curious to understand what it mean[s] to be an experientially alive human. They were interested in science, but they were also very interested in the experiential aspect of humanity. When people are feeling well, when people are feeling like they have a life of meaning, what is that experience like, versus depression and sadness. Self-actualization, I think a lot of humanistic psychology has really sold it as that unique capability in you that, without it, you’re not all that you could be. There are basic needs that have to be met. We all want, to a certain degree, [to] have some connections. We want some safety. We want a lot of safety. We want to feel like we matter. We want to feel a sense of self-esteem, like healthy pride, that we’re accomplishing something, that we’re competent in some way, that we’re authors of our own life story. But we all want those things. Self-actualization is this thing, it’s like, what is really unique about me? What can I really uniquely contribute to the world?

Maslow really got into [self-transcendence] the last couple [of] years of his life; he saw it as a higher motivation than the need for self-actualization. And so then, he started to distinguish between his non-transcending self-actualizers and his transcending self-actualizers. And so that was an insight he had just in his personal journal; I think I printed the journal entry in my book.

Chris Kresser:  I remember that, yeah. So just [to] make sure I’m tracking you, transcendence is self-actualization that is dedicated to, let’s say, a higher purpose or purpose other than your own gratification or personal advancement.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Self-transcendence is less clearly defined. And Maslow wrote an unpublished essay. It was a certain number of maybe 46 different definitions of transcendence. He wanted to illustrate the fact that people can use [it] in lots of different ways. What I tried to do is present a definition of transcendence in my book that integrated all those definitions, that wouldn’t. An umbrella that would encapsulate many different meanings of the word “transcendence.” I define transcendence as this emergent property of integration of your whole self in the service of realizing the good society.

So my idea of transcendence is very much more horizontal than vertical. You’re not above anyone when you’re striving and motivated for transcendence. It’s not like you’re motivated to be enlightened and no one else is enlightened. Psychology actually called it [the] “I’m enlightened and you’re not enlightened” effect that narcissists have.

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  It’s not about spiritual narcissism. It’s about how I can be so integrated within myself that there’s a great synergy between my being and the world, so that what is good for me is automatically good for the world. That’s a very high level of integration. And I think that starts to get us to a very healthy form of transcendence.

Our “response ability,” or ability to respond to uncontrollable circumstances, determines the quality of our day-to-day experience. In this episode of RHR, I talk with Scott Barry Kaufman about the impact that self-transcendence and self-actualization can have on our health and well-being, our resistance to disease, and our ability to live as long of a health span as possible. #chriskresser

If a Person Can Be Happy without Being Self-Actualized

Chris Kresser:  I like that definition. So how does this relate to happiness? We just [recently did a] second episode with Robert Biswas-Diener, and then I had Kennon Sheldon on recently, and we talked about different perspectives on happiness and eudaimonia and these other concepts. Can a person be self-actualized and unhappy? Can a person be happy without being self-actualized?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Oh yes.

Chris Kresser:  How do all these intersect?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yes, and yes. Big fans of both of those legends that you just mentioned. I drew a lot on Ken Sheldon’s work in my purpose chapter and had delightful conversations with him. I think he read a draft of the chapter to get his feedback. I draw a lot on their work; I draw a lot on the legends in the field of positive psychology. But the idea of happiness, I think people define it in different ways. And even within the field of positive psychology, some people would define happiness as just life satisfaction and positive emotions. So how satisfied are you with your life and an evaluative component to your life overall. And how much frequency of joy do you have in your life? To me, both of those things are divorced from self-actualization, quite frankly. In fact, there could be zero overlap between the two.

Chris Kresser:  Zero correlation?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  There could be, actually. I could see a case where someone is really being all they could be. Their talents are used to the full, they’re really contributing that unique potentiality within them, [and] they’re being creative. But they’re always striving for more. They don’t feel a valuative life satisfaction. They’re not satisfied. They don’t even, quite frankly, want to be satisfied. Because they know that it’s more important to satisfy others. And especially when you get to the level of self-transcendence, you really do get to a kind of motivation that is beyond health, beyond happiness. This is actually what Maslow called it. He said it [is] beyond health, but I’m going to now say beyond happiness, as well. It’s a stage or it’s like a form of consciousness, and Maslow called it theory Z, and that’s what I tried to, like, complete his theory Z. I tried, but no one’s heard of theory Z. But yeah, but you have, I bet you have.

Chris Kresser:  Yes, I have.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I feel like you’re a fellow traveler in this space.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, I think so.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  It makes this conversation very exciting at a very deep level. But I think that thinking about that level of transcendence, that level of consciousness, where you’re beyond happiness, where happiness is not the motivation. So it’s about motivations, right? If your primary motivation is transcendence, then you can live without happiness every now and then. It’s like when your primary motivation is food, well, that’s your primary motivation. You can’t live without food.

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  When your primary motivation is connection, you feel like if one person rejects you, you’re going to die. You can be locked into a primary motivation of any of these seven needs that I talk about in my book. But when the B values, like the values of being themselves, there [are] no further things you want from them, but they are goods in themselves. You strive for justice, you strive for beauty, more meaningfulness in your life, more perfection, more. Maslow had a whole list of the B values. I’m trying to think of one more. Do you remember? Excellence, excellence.

Chris Kresser:  Excellence, yeah. That’s a good one. I think of people like Gandhi, of course, and Mother Teresa, who devoted their lives to big social problems that they made a huge impact on. And one could imagine that they weren’t happy and cheery all the time. In their quest to achieve their goals, they were enduring a lot of hardships, and intentionally in both cases, right? A lot of deprivation and hardships. And yet, nobody could argue that their lives weren’t just imbued with rich meaning and purpose and value and everybody knows their names. And so that is a really interesting dialectic there between those concepts.

How Various Disabilities and Health Difficulties Can Lead to Opportunity and Transcendence

Chris Kresser:  I want to draw, maybe make another analogy that you alluded to or referred to in your book, which is, I found as a Functional Medicine clinician over the years, that the idea of what health is, is often not interrogated or questioned. And there’s a default assumption that health is simply the absence of disease or symptoms. In the same way that some people define happiness as just feeling good all the time, or living a meaningful life is feeling good all the time. But you talk about in the book, I think there’s a direct quote, “Being well is not always about feeling good. It also involves continually incorporating more meaning, engagement, and growth in one’s life. Key things in humanistic psychology.”

And I’d like to discuss this broader definition of health with you because it’s become a key theme in my work, that health is not just feeling great at the top of your game every day. There’s a much broader concept of health, which includes how you relate to yourself, how you relate to the world around you, the sense of meaning and purpose and connection with others that is so much further beyond just not having any pain or dysfunction in your body. So yeah, I’d love to talk a little bit more about that. Does that come out, I know that that can come somewhat out of Maslow’s work, and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. There’s a lot of discussion about that, because people [are] in the most extreme, challenging circumstances and still [are] able to find some meaning and value there.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, we’re very much aligned on that, and I love that. And I love the work you’re doing. I am working on a book right now with a former student of mine, Jordyn Feingold, who just finished med school. She’s now a doctor; I’m very proud of her. And she is trying to start a field of positive medicine. It’s just such great alignment with what you’re doing. I’d love to make an intro if you would be interested.

Chris Kresser:  Please.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  But what we’re working on together is a workbook for post-traumatic growth, and especially to help people maybe reframe and see what they could have, what they could learn from, and even grow, dare I say, from the past year and a half. But this reframing really, on the surface, may not seem so profound. But in practice, if one really puts into practice this way of thought that you have just outlined, it is quite revolutionary on the whole system, because it’s a very whole system view. Right? And that’s really what humanistic psychologists were interested in is how is all this stuff integrated and how does all this stuff, all the parts of the system interact to produce something that’s greater than the sum of its parts? Like, what you’re talking to right now, whatever this being is; I know, from my perspective what I think this being is. But this being is an integrated emergence of a lot of parts, and I would, quite frankly, not like to be identified with any one of those parts, please. So the question is, how do we combine all this stuff, integrate, accept, fully accept? We accept our pain, right? It could be physical pain, but we can accept our emotional pain. And in certain ways that we integrate and that changes the emergence. All these decisions we make change that emergent being, right?

Chris Kresser:  So, you speak a little bit about this in your book, this idea that being well is just feeling good all the time that often is unquestioned. But it’s not necessarily the way that people look at it all around the world, is it? Because (crosstalk)

Scott Barry Kaufman:  (Crosstalk) cultural differences.

Chris Kresser:  There’s something cultural. Is there something uniquely Western about that idea?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah. There’s something uniquely Western about the search for happiness as a search for feeling good. Because other people might actually view happiness, you could see, like, Eastern philosophy perspectives, happiness being wisdom. [For] Americans, that doesn’t feel very American as apple pie, does it, that happiness is wisdom? It doesn’t feel American. But, yeah, you’re certainly right. There [are] also cultural differences in terms of, well, certainly collective versus individualistic pursuits, and even notions of self-actualization itself.

There’s something that I’ve enjoyed doing from this book is to have communication with indigenous people, about their notions of self-realization, and it’s very grounded in the collective actualization.

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  And community. I think that if there’s something that is missing from my book, a big thing that’s missing from my book, and if I, in the future for other books, I would, maybe there’ll be a 10th anniversary edition someday or something, I want to talk more about the importance of community. And I think that’s super, super important, and something that Americans, I mean, we love it, we appreciate it, but it’s not incorporated so much into our conceptualizations of happiness is it?

Chris Kresser:  Right. No, the very roots of the nation are individualistic, right? And the founding of the country was based on that strong ethos of individualism, perhaps more than any other country in the world, I think. I want to come back to community because I share your passion for how that relates to our own sense of self and wellness. But before we move on to that, staying with the theme of health being something more than just feeling good all the time and bringing in meaning and purpose, which you covered in your book and your discussions with Ken Sheldon about this, it seems to me, and not an exhaustive study, but I’m a pretty prolific reader, and biography is one of my favorite genres. So I’ve probably read, I don’t know, 150 biographies of famous notable people over the years. And I haven’t done, like I said, any formal analysis, but I’m going to say, off the top of my head, that at least 80 percent of those people were dealing with some significant health challenge. And I would say, not necessarily, despite that, but maybe even in part because of that, they were able to transform that challenge into some seed of opportunity, or creative urge or new insight or new way of seeing the world that wouldn’t have been there if it weren’t for their challenge. And that sense of purpose and meaning of transforming that and offering it to other people is in part what allowed them to achieve what they were able to achieve. I’m just curious, if you have a similar idea, or have come across that or what your thoughts are about that idea?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Well, there is good research suggesting that you could do systematic analysis, and you do find a larger percentage of eminent people have had physical disabilities in the general population. There’s a beautiful book about that. I’m trying to remember the title of it, like When Doors Become Pathways or something. Can you get that stuff out if I can find it [really quickly]?

Chris Kresser:  We can put it in the show notes, for sure. Yeah, you can send it to us and we’ll put it in the show notes.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  It’s called When Walls Become Doorways: Creativity and the Transforming Illness by Tobi Zausner.

Chris Kresser:  Oh Zausner, yeah.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, she presented analysis of the biographies of eminent painters who suffered from physical illnesses, and concluded that these illnesses led to the creation of new possibilities for their art by breaking habits, old habits, provoking equilibrium and forcing the artist to generate alternative strategies to reach their creative goals.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  So there’s something very powerful about that. I also, I want to, actually the first public article I ever wrote was for Psychology Today in 2008. It was called “Confessions of a Late Bloomer,” and I did some of my own analysis of that and found that a lot of people are late bloomers because their potential was squashed. But that potential being squashed actually is what led to them being an amazing achiever. A creative achiever at some point. So yeah, [I have] a lot to say about that topic. I’m very passionate, very passionate about it. Not just physical, but I would add mental illness.

Chris Kresser:  Yes.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  In this mix, I would add neurodiversity. I’m working personally with kids on the autism spectrum who are geniuses. I work in the field of 2e, twice exceptional. And these kids simultaneously have some disability, a lot of them have physical disabilities, a lot of them have mental disabilities, mental difficulties, learning difficulties. I don’t know, I haven’t been that big a fan of the word “disability.”

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, we need a better term for sure. Differences, I mean, it’s what’s clear in the 2e. What I love about the 2e movement is, and I would just extend this broadly to all health challenges, is the understanding that for someone with [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] (ADHD), for example, the nervous system functions differently. And there are some things that are challenging about that, and there are some things that are actually really amazing about that and that confer that person with almost supernatural abilities. And you can look at famous entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, and all kinds of different personalities that were again able to achieve what they did. Not in spite of, in this case, their ADHD, but largely because of it. Because someone with ADHD is constantly looking for the next novelty and the next new thing and looking at, and not satisfied with things as they are. They don’t tolerate boredom very well. So they’re not going to be the person that just goes to the job in a cubicle and stays there for 40 years. They’re going to go on to the next thing.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Well, you’re saying a lot of things where I keep nodding my head. I’m like, “Yes, Yes, brother. Yes.” I mean, you go down the list; you see all these ways that a lot of things society says are absolutely disabilities or absolutely difficulties in certain contexts can be very, very valuable and can lead to amazing creative breakthroughs. Being an outsider, another one that I’m really interested in, is, or even just, being immigrants to this country, or being in a different field, and trying to make a contribution to a field. This is a phrase that creative psychologists, that psychologists of creativity have called it, unusual experiences. So the extent to which people can have unusual experiences tends to lead to creativity.

They did this really cool study where they put [people] in a virtual reality environment and they kind of reversed all the normal things. For instance, the laws of physics [were] reversed, and as you get closer to something, like the object is the opposite of its spatiality, than it’s supposed to be. And they also ask people to, like, well, if you put milk in your cereal first, put it in last. Or put in the milk first, whatever. Change up your routine; change up the routine.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  And they found that that led to greater divergent thinking. Just even in that, like, 15-minute psychology study. So imagine, building that up to like, every day of your freakin’ life.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Growing up as a kid without these unusual experiences from others.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, yeah, it makes perfect sense to me, and it’s all part of the neuroplasticity, what neuroplasticity has helped us to understand about forming those pathways. So yeah, for me, my listeners know about my own experience. I had a pretty severe chronic illness in my early 20s while I was traveling. I got really sick while I was traveling in Indonesia, and I wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation with you if that hadn’t happened. I wouldn’t have entered the field of Functional Medicine, I wouldn’t have written books about it, [and] I wouldn’t have learned to care for myself in the way that I have. I’m almost certain of that, because I was essentially forced to do that. If I didn’t do that, I was going to die. That was pretty much that straightforward.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Amazing.

Chris Kresser:  And I wouldn’t have developed the relationships that I’ve developed; I wouldn’t have been married to my wife, I’m almost certain, because I wouldn’t have been in the type of environment where I met her. And there’s this really interesting razor’s edge from a physical, and I think a mental health standpoint, too, where, yes, we want to do everything we can to improve our subjective experience, our health and well-being, our energy levels, smooth digestion, all the things that we want. And at the same time, I have a growing concern with the kind of obsessive focus on that almost to the exclusion of everything else.

And I can give you a really practical example where someone with a chronic illness might stay up for four hours online, like researching a cure, the next thing to do or going to, like, see the next doctor. And I get that; I’ve been there myself. But what if some of that time at least was spent playing with your dog or your kid or practicing guitar, like, learning a new instrument, or volunteering at the local animal shelter or something that’s actually going to produce a different quality of experience in your life. And ironically, or maybe not ironically, that actually then does lead to a virtuous cycle that creates more health. Instead of the more direct path of, I have to figure out how to cure this problem and get rid of every symptom that’s associated with it. It’s a tricky balance.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah. And as you very well know, [for] a lot of traditional doctors, [it] would [be] hard for them to wrap their head around that concept that maybe we shouldn’t focus on the most immediate medicine or the most immediate physical remedy. Maybe we should actually first target the mind. I mean, that’s like speaking a different language to some people. This is why we need to think of this as a whole person sort of perspective and change medicine along those lines.

Again, I’m just so proud of my former student, Jordyn. I’m such a dork. I keep talking about her because she was my best student ever. I remember she was an undergrad at Penn, and just out and now she’s doing this positive medicine work along these lines. But I think that that’s really, in certain circles, a revolutionary way to think about it. But I’m going to give you an analogy because I think about this, as well, in terms of psychotherapy practice. And I’ve argued that one of the best ways, like a lot of people who have suffered from neuroticism, or quite constant negative rumination about themselves or even narcissism. And especially a form of narcissism I’ve studied called “vulnerable narcissism,” which really makes people prone to depression, because they don’t feel like they’re being appreciated enough. When they end up on the therapist’s couch, I like to think that the best way to help that person is to help them stop thinking so much about themselves. And I’ve said this, I’ve tweeted this out, stuff like this, “[Has] it ever occurred to you that maybe the best path out of the neurotic hell you’re in is to get outside yourself in some way?

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  And so I’m just seeing a great analogy there between a lot of stuff you’re doing and what you’re saying there, and that kind of transcendence work I’m trying to infuse into psychotherapy practice.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, I’d love to meet Jordyn, because it sounds [like] we probably have a lot to talk about. In the last few years and in my own experience, when I was really struggling still with the physical symptoms and the illness, I just intuitively figured out that I would, I call it now zooming in and zooming out. There were times where I was able, where I needed to focus on seeing doctors and taking supplements and special diets and things to improve my physical symptoms. But I also noticed over time that [when] I only did that, my life was pretty miserable. It didn’t really feel like it was worth living, when that was the only thing that I was focused on. And part of how I ended, this was actually how I ended up at Esalen because I had reached a point where I was exhausted from just attending to the physical aspects of the illness and I wanted to explore the emotional and the psycho-spiritual side of things and see what I could learn from that. And I also just knew that I had to have more pleasure and joy in my life, and that Esalen was a pretty good place to get that and to practice that.

And sure enough, as you could probably predict, just the experience of that pleasure and joy in the exploration, everything that came with that, really shifted my health in a way that I don’t think more strict diets and more [of] the right kind of supplements and all that stuff, which I have, of course, deep respect for, and it’s something I do still in my work. But I’m just really increasingly encouraging my patients and listeners to explore these other dimensions as valid and powerful pathways to greater health and well-being.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I love it. If you look at the effect of stress on our epigenetics, it can be quite profound in lots of ways. And I’ve seen the research on what it does to the body when you have. For instance, did you know that they did this big analysis on Twitter of different words that are used and its link to heart disease?

Chris Kresser:  No, I didn’t.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  So they found they could go county by county, and they found that counties were on Twitter, they tend to use words that were coded to be more like curse words, and like negative, like in negative ruminations and things. The people in those counties, it predicted the county level, the amount of heart disease in that county. And what was interesting is that they found that these predictions of being able to, these machine learning algorithms that were able to collate all this wealth of data, just from the words people used, their consciousness, the output of their consciousness, that was a better predictor of heart disease than every other cause of mortality that they looked at combined. I have a chart; I have literally the chart that shows better, you can look at cholesterol levels, you can look at, and actually (crosstalk).

Chris Kresser:  (Crosstalk) body mass index, all that. Yeah.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah. There’s a chart where it’s like they have all combined, you just see the bar is much bigger for Twitter, language.

The Importance of Community Actualization

Chris Kresser:  That’s fascinating, and it reminds me of a study that I frequently talk about. And we can segue into this, as well, because I know you talk about it in your book, and we can use this to come back to community and the importance of community. This study found that social isolation and loneliness were greater risk factors for early death than virtually anything else and often by a very large margin. Greater than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, for example. Greater than having high blood pressure. Greater than having [a] high body mass index. Not having true confidants, not having people that you could confide in, not having a sense of place or community turns out to be more of a threat for early death [than] any of these traditional risk factors that we consider.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, when I read that, the statistics, I’m neurotic, so I started to be so terrified of ever being too lonely. I would be like, could I just spontaneously have a heart attack because I feel really lonely. Yeah. But not to make light of a very, very important finding. This research is groundbreaking. John Cacioppo did so much revolutionary research on that, and he passed away recently. I don’t think it was from loneliness, but it was from something else. But he was a legend in this field and really documented a lot of those findings you’re talking about.

Chris Kresser:  So if we fast forward into the future, it’s the 10-year anniversary of Transcend, and you have a chance to add a chapter on community, what would it contain? What would [be] the thesis or the main ideas?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Oh boy, I really do. Because look, here’s the thing: I want to admit my blindsightedness, because I’ve learned a lot from, even just more about indigenous perspectives. I think that there’s a beauty to the whole concept of community actualization. The word “self-actualization” just in and of itself feels individualistic.

Chris Kresser:  Selfish?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I mean, it’s like yourself. But the idea of what is community actualization. What does it mean to live in a particular community where all the inhabitants really care, really, truly care about the welfare of the whole? Like self-actualization, I talk a lot about caring about the whole of yourself and integrating yourself. But I think that maybe that’s not my next book, but someday a book on what it mean[s] to have an integrated community so every individual feels like they matter, they belong, and their talents and unique strengths are being actualized. But also, do we just care about them because [of] their unique talents and strengths. We care about them because they’re human.

Something that also blew my mind was reading the research on how we treat the elderly in America and contrasting that with.

Chris Kresser:  It’s horrific.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  It’s horrific. And looking at all that, in Greece, there’s a place called Ikaria where they live to over 100 on average, and the old people say, “We forget to die,” and I was reading descriptions of how they treat the elderly there. And I’m like, of course, if we would never exclude someone from our community. So I think the idea of community actualization is extremely important.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, I really agree. And it’s something that’s becoming more important for me. I’ve been talking recently about what I call the ecosystem of health and disease, where we recognize that health and disease are not just individual endeavors, right? We have this idea that we’re in full control of our health, which we’re not; we have a lot of influence and more influence than conventional medicine often recognizes. We’re not just passive recipients of medication. But on the other hand, let’s imagine if I grew up in an inner city neighborhood where the air quality was horrible, where there’s lead in the water, which is still happening in many cities around the world, where “I live in a food desert; I don’t have access to grocery stores that have fresh produce. I grew up in a very traumatic situation.” Where does the self begin and end in that situation?

That person’s health and well-being from a mental and physical perspective is inexorably intertwined with the context and environment in which they grew up. And it doesn’t even have to be that dramatic of an example. It can be just from like, whether we were breastfed as an infant and whether we were born via C-section or vaginal birth. These are things that we obviously didn’t have any say over, any control over, and yet they very much impact our health, just as the health of our community that we’re living in now does in terms of things like water and air, but also the words people are using, to your point from [the] Twitter study and what else is happening around us. So it does seem to me that an excessive focus on self, at least as it’s narrowly defined, misses a lot of important pieces of the puzzle.

Choosing How to Respond When Faced with Adversity

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Oh, for sure. This is a rabbit hole that I’m sure you don’t want to go down. But I get [into] a lot of debates with Sam Harris over whether or not we have free will or not.

Chris Kresser:  Big topic.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  We had a two-part, four-hour debate that was not settled on my podcast about that. And if you take his view that, I mean, because you said something like, well, they don’t have control over where they were born, and whether or not they were born through the vaginal canal. But do we have any control over, what do we, but let’s go even further, like, what do we actually have? Do we have control over the genes that we were born with? Do we have control over the genes that would code for psychological traits, like grit and resiliency? Now, look, some people, you could take two people and they can be in the same exact environment. And some people, because of their personality disposition, actually are more likely to succeed than someone else.

So there are individual differences, and there [are] individual differences in, dare I say, cognitive ability that are predictive. We can’t just sweep that under the rug as completely irrelevant. It’s all the environment. There are individual personality and cognitive dispositions that play a role. But I think that kind of thinking about the fact that none of us chose that can maybe give us compassion for others, and also maybe make us realize not [to] take so much credit for our own successes, to make us want to help others. I think there actually could be a hopeful way of viewing the situation where you recognize the role of luck is much more pervasive. What I’m trying to do is take what you said, and even go in further and say, look, the pervasiveness of luck, actually, I can tell you, it pervades a heck of a lot of things, even the psychological level that we take for granted, especially people who then become successful. You know the Success magazine stories about how I became rich and famous.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, you got lucky. No, of course. Again, this is another area where, yeah, [a] very deep rabbit hole. And I love it. Let’s do that at some point, but maybe not in this venue. But I do want to expand on that a little bit, because the flip side of that is bad luck, right? That we have good luck, [and] we have bad luck. It was bad luck for me that I happened to be surfing at a break where locals had dug a trench between some stagnant water that cows were defecating in, and that water went out into the river through the river mouth into the surf break, and I swallowed some of it, and I got extremely sick. But was that bad luck? Or was that good luck? Because that led to a whole bunch of other things that happened later on. And I don’t know who’s in control of that. But even though I’m intellectually fascinated by the discussion around that, from a practical perspective, what interests me more is what you alluded to. What can result? How does my relationship with myself change when I accept that I’m not in full control? And how does my relationship with other people change?

Well, there [are] some interesting ways that it can change. One is more compassion and empathy for myself. Like, wow, I’m doing the best I can. I got hit with something totally out of my control, and now I’m just going to … It’s not like the guilt, blame, and shame game. It’s responsibility. I love that word. To me, it means [the] ability to respond. How am I going to respond? Am I able to respond? And rather than who’s to blame? Who’s in control? Like that can turn into a whole distraction, I think. And it’s just like, okay, I got sick for various reasons. What am I going to do? How am I going to be able to respond? How can I treat myself with empathy and compassion? How can I treat others who are dealing with those kinds of problems with empathy and compassion? That’s the part of that whole free will discussion that’s interesting to me, at least in the context of chronic illness or any kind of chronic issue that we might be dealing with.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Brilliant, brilliant. Well, look, we should write an article together, coining a new term called “response ability.”

Chris Kresser:  I like it.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  It’s not responsibility. It’s, we literally, you literally (I’m giving you credit) just coined a new phrase that can have its own meaning. R-e-s-p-o-n-s-e a-b-i-l-i-t-y.

Chris Kresser:  I like it. Yeah, it’s been a powerful concept for me because the way that word is typically used has such a heavy kind of connotation to it. And this is much more prosaic. It’s just like, are you able to respond? I’m not in control of what happens, but I do have some—and this is where Sam Harris will disagree with me—ability to respond. I do have some influence over how I respond. Or it appears that I might.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  (Crosstalk) At least you fooled yourself; you fooled yourself into thinking that you had some control over it.

Chris Kresser:  That’s what he would say, yes.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I’m a compatibilist. so I tend to defend there are free wills worth wanting, and that’s one of them. Also, your capacity, I think a big free will worth wanting is your capacity to ever correct and be able to inhibit impulses that once seemed impossible to inhibit. Like the person who overcome[s], I mean, I stand in wonder and awe at people who overcome addictions. And they say I’m one, two years, three years sober. I mean, that’s really, truly grounds for celebration, right? Because there was a time in that person’s life where they wouldn’t even imagine that it’d be possible for them to go a day, more than a day without it. And here they are, and they got to a point where they’re at three years, four years sober. So, to me, that’s incredible, [and] that speaks to the incredible aspect of the will, the human will.

Chris Kresser:  I agree. Yeah. I’m tempted to go there. But I’m going to stop myself because that (crosstalk).

Scott Barry Kaufman:  We have a lot to [cover].

Cultivating the Ability to Grow Post-traumatically

Chris Kresser:  That can turn into a four-hour discussion. But I want to refer back to something you mentioned. It was in the context of our previous conversation. But it’s something I talked with Ken Sheldon about, and I’m really fascinated with myself, which is post-traumatic growth. So I’m always careful to be clear about this when I talk about it, that I’m not denying the existence of PTSD and the reality of PTSD and the very real impact that trauma has on people, and the myriad ways that that can affect one’s life throughout someone’s entire life span, even if that trauma happened at birth. I have a deep appreciation and respect for that. And as someone who’s been through some pretty intense trauma and has been able to grow from it, I think, to some degree, I also have a deep appreciation and respect for the opportunity that trauma can present. So how do we look at that? And what is it that enables somebody to grow post-traumatically, versus not to grow? Not to walk through that door that could get, or even see the door that happens in the case of trauma.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, I love all those caveats, and there are research studies showing quite clearly that people don’t prefer that the trauma happened. That’s not what we’re saying. And it often gets misconstrued that way. There’s such a poignant story of this rabbi who lost a son, and he said, “I would give up all of the growth, all of the increased connections and spirituality I had since my son’s death in a moment, if it meant I can get my son back.” So I just want to be very clear, that’s true. But [he] can’t get [his] son back. And Irvin Yalom, existential psychotherapist who was a big influence on me, says, “You must give up hope that the past will change.” Really think about that; really think about that.

Chris Kresser:  I love that quote. I just have to stop you so you [can] say it again, “Give up hope that the past will change.”

Scott Barry Kaufman:  “You must give up hope that the past will change.” It’s not going to be different. So what choice do you have? And not only what choice do you have, but what opportunities do you have? And there are, it turns out, a lot of opportunities that these things can afford us that can still fill up our bucket of meaning even when all else has felt lost. Because what are the alternatives? When you’re in the pit of despair, and you feel like all has been lost, what’s the harm in having or adding a little meaning to your life in that moment? Right? Of course, that’s a silly thing. What’s the harm? The question is, what enrichment to your life would it give? A lot. We’re in the business of helping people go from negative 50 to positive 50, right? Not just saying, you’re at negative 50, and, well, just stay there.

Chris Kresser:  Right, this is something that comes up a lot. One of the things that we do is we have [an] [ADAPT] Health Coach [Training] Program. And as you may know, health coaching is firmly rooted in positive psychology and cultivating character strengths and building psychological capital, and the acronym “HERO,” hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism. And so there’s often a lot of discussion about this. How do we take something, and then, of course, with COVID[-19 for the] last year and a half, I’ve talked a lot about it, as well. How do we take something that for most people and by most accounts ranges from a terrible nuisance and a life change in almost every aspect in life to all the way up to death and serious disability and disease? How do we transform that? And even for someone who’s listening to this, who might, it’s not COVID-related, maybe they just were diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or cancer, or maybe they’re struggling with serious depression or some other mood or behavioral disorder. What does the literature say and just our own experience? How can they cultivate the response ability? What are the things we can do to cultivate that ability to grow post-traumatically?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I think a lot of it comes down to how you process the trauma. And also, there is a certain time course, I think, that you don’t want to, you never force people to do any of this stuff if they’re not ready. Oh my gosh, if you’ve just lost a loved one, the day after the funeral, you don’t say “Okay, time to grow.”

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Get the freak out of here with that bullshit.

Chris Kresser:  You’re going to get punched in the face.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Let’s have some compassion for the humanity of the suffering, as well, right? And the necessary experience of that and not diminish that; there could be value sometimes in pure suffering. That might be a controversial statement itself, but I think that helping the person process it over time in a way that is productive will add meaning to their life in a more deliberate way. See, the thing is, [for] most people, it’s [a] very common human experience when you’ve had trauma for it to be very automatic, like intrusions, automatic intrusions of, whoa, I could have done something different. Or you just keep thinking of the incident over and over again. You see that a lot with post-traumatic stress, right?

Chris Kresser:  Sure.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  And that’s the default response to trauma. But there are skills that can be learned to more deliberately take control of those ruminations. So I’m not saying that those intrusions or ruminations are going to go away. That’s not the goal. But the goal is to take control of them. And I really like [James] Pennebaker’s work. I really like the idea of the importance of journaling, the importance of getting your emotions out, and reflecting on the experience on paper, or electronically. To really have discussions with people about what could be the larger meaning. [It’s] called intentional post-traumatic growth. It’s possible to learn skills of hope. So Martin Seligman’s seminal research on learned helplessness was in dogs and rats, and, eventually, humans. He and his colleague found after many years that it’s actually the exact reverse that our default response to trauma is hopelessness. But what is learned, it’s not learned helplessness; it’s learned hopefulness. So we can learn hopefulness through deliberate[ly] taking control of our processing on how we process our intrusive thoughts, how we process our traumas, in ways that we can grow from in many different domains from creatively to spiritually to relationships, to feeling [an] increased sense of purpose, to wanting to help inspire others to increase to new strengths. A lot of people discover that they had strengths they never knew they had, or they even just have the strength for resiliency that they never knew they had. And that in and of itself can be a really profound realization of oneself.

Chris Kresser:  So, along those lines, uncertainty is, I would argue, just the inherent quality of life in general. But there are times and places where that’s more obvious and perhaps more pronounced than it is at other times and in other places. And certainly, with COVID[-19], we’ve been living in a very uncertain time, for lots of reasons. One of my favorite quotes from your book is from the mathematician John Allen Paulos, who said, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” So why is that so important, especially in this day and age?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Oh, so important. Wanting, thinking that you have control to send, or expecting. I think a lot of people expect control, at least before [the] COVID[-19 pandemic]. And now, one upside of COVID[-19], I think, is that people are going to lax their control a little bit, maybe appreciate the things that come to them more, things that come to them organically and spontaneously. If it’s just from a nerdy psychological perspective, there’s an idea called psychological entropy, which can be likened to entropy of any other system, like a thermodynamic system, where more disorder in the system really can lead to dysfunction of the system. In humans, the more we have, the more we feel like we can’t manage all the uncertainty coming at us, the more likely we’re going to be prone to depression, prone to anxiety, prone to physical system breakdown. It affects the epigenetics; it affects lots of things. It affects the brain; it affects the neurons, etc., etc.

So, if we can learn how to manage uncertainty, this is going to be one of the most important skills that a human could possibly learn and almost accept it, not just manage it, but learn to accept all the uncertainties that are arising, I think at a very high level of consciousness, one starts to even get excited by uncertainty and move right toward it.

Chris Kresser:  That’s absolutely been the case in my experience. And as I noted before, some of the most transformative changes for me have occurred after moments of traumatic incidents, or moments of great uncertainty where I didn’t know what life had in store for me, and there was a lot of stress behind that. But necessity became the mother of invention, so to speak. And new pathways were opened up by that uncertainty. Whereas when I was so certain or so sure of what I thought the outcome should be, or at least I believed I knew what it should be, then I’m not paying attention to what else is there and what else is available. I just want to make a distinction. You said it very clearly. But I think often, when we think of controlling uncertainty, we think of controlling life to make it more certain. Like what are the variables that we can cement our control around to hold on to that certainty. But I don’t think that’s what you’re saying. You’re saying managing our relationship to uncertainty or managing how we respond to uncertainty more so than trying to control those variables.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, that’s exactly right. And you see the extreme manifestation of that in people with [obsessive-compulsive disorder]. And there’s a wide range of, again, I don’t like the word “disorder.” But there are a wide range of diagnosed disorders that make it more likely that you’ll have psychologic entropy much quicker, much faster. So people [who] score high in neuroticism would prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know. They almost, in psychological things, will take the worst outcome immediately, [rather] than the potentially even worse outcome. But it’s that uncertainty that causes them to even make self-destructive decisions.

Chris Kresser:  Because just the potential for ruminating over all of the other worse outcomes is more odious than an outcome that you know is bad right away.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  That’s exactly right.

Chris Kresser:  That’s interesting. So this also comes back to context. I think something you said before that I recognize, but it was in the flow of the conversation I didn’t want to stop was, so many of what we call disorders, and I want to include any kind of chronic illness, autoimmune disease, [and] any kind of ongoing chronic health problem in this bucket, they’re context-dependent, right? I don’t know if this is from your book; I love Erich Fromm, and I’ve come across this quote a few different times. But “To be sane in an insane society is itself a marker of insanity.” It really gets right to it. It’s like, if we’re living in this modern world where you’ve got environmental toxins, air [pollution], water pollution, traffic, and high-stress environments, and processed and refined foods on all sides of us. Then you’ve got technology companies that are trying to harvest our attention and sell it to the highest bidder. And it’s kind of amazing, in some ways, to me that anybody is healthy and well and thriving in this kind of environment, because the context itself is so unhealthy. And I wonder sometimes whether some of these things that we call disorders in a totally, in a different context. Let’s imagine someone, going back to ADHD, [who] is living in a tribal environment where a kid is not expected to sit in a school and shift their attention when the bell rings. They get really absorbed in something, then the bell rings and they’re supposed to go on to something else, and they’re learning stuff that’s totally out of context. And they’re labeled as having a disorder because they don’t want to sit still and focus on that.

But in a totally different environment, like in a tribal kind of ancestral environment, that person could have become the shaman, or they may have been a gifted hunter or protector because their attention was always on the horizon, so to speak. And I think that so often with illnesses and with the what we call disorders, they’re so highly context-dependent, and we often leave that out when we talk about them.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I agree. Completely agree.

Chris Kresser:  So what have you got on the horizon, Scott? You mentioned you’re working on this book with Jordyn, Positive Medicine.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  It’s a workbook.

Chris Kresser:  Concept a workbook, and what else? I’m curious, what other irons do you have in the fire right now?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Well, something that might be a great synergy between us is I’m putting together a certification coaching program for self-actualization coaching.

Chris Kresser:  Oh, wow.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, yeah, I’m really excited about that. And [I] have again Robert’s feedback on that. I know he helped you a little bit with your course.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, he’s on the faculty, actually, of our course. So we’re very lucky to have him.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  He’s wonderful. I’m putting together a team of top-notch positive psychology coaches to help with the design of that. So I’m really excited about that. And [I’m] also excited about the other offerings we’re making with our Center for the Science of Human Potential, such as, maybe a self-actualization coaching program for educators down the road.  [It] would be so cool to help teachers see themselves as coaches as opposed to teachers.

Chris Kresser:  Absolutely.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Teachers/coaches.

Chris Kresser:  Absolutely. Yeah. I think that lifelong learners and growers and developers of all kinds, of self and others. Yeah, that’s great. Let’s stay in touch about that. I think coaching has so much potential with, and this is, I’ve been in therapy many times in my life. I have an appreciation for psychotherapy and what it can offer. So I’m not saying this as a dig against psychotherapy. I have many friends who are therapists.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I love all the disclaimers.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah. And (crosstalk).

Scott Barry Kaufman:  My dog’s a psychotherapist.

Chris Kresser:  And my dog has been in psychotherapy. No, my dog has not been in psychotherapy. I know that happens, but my dog has not been. But coaching is really interesting to me because of that focus on building on what’s working, cultivating strengths, learning to build resilience and grit. And if COVID[-19] did one thing, it made it so apparent how necessary those skills are for thriving and flourishing in life.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I couldn’t agree more. I am sold. I’m sold on the idea of, or the value of coaching done well. It’s a very unregulated industry.

Chris Kresser:  Yes.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  So there [are] all sorts of people. I’ve been really blessed to know people in the field who I can bring together in an a-plus team of people who really have their heart in it to help people. And yeah, I think that it’ll be a nice horizon for me.

Chris Kresser:  Absolutely. Yeah. [I’m] excited to learn more about that. And I agree with you that coaching has been kind of the Wild West up until recently.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, that’s for sure.

Chris Kresser:  And then health coaching has, fortunately, seen some really positive developments there. There’s now a National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching that defines the scope of practice. And they teamed up with the National Board of Medical Examiners who determines the scope of practice and licensing requirements for specialty board certifications like gastroenterology, rheumatology, etc. So there’s been some needed and appreciated rigor that’s been recently added to the field, and our program is one of the few that’s fully approved by the National Board [for] Health & Wellness [Coaching].

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Congratulations.

Chris Kresser:  Thanks. I share your advocacy for coaching, and I also share what I assume we share [is] the desire to elevate coaching.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Elevate the quality.

Chris Kresser:  The quality of it to where it could be. You have people like Robert Biswas-Diener who are coaching and approaching it with a level of rigor and quality that is incredible, amazing.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I strive for that.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, that’s what we want to achieve. And then there are lots of programs out there, unfortunately, that are just kind of a weekend training, and they don’t actually even teach those core coaching skills of asking powerful questions and deeply connecting with the person that you’re working with, and the things that are so important to building that, dare I say, therapeutic relationship.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, in a Carl Rogers sense.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  In a person-centered sense.

Chris Kresser:  Unconditional positive regard. That’s the key thing in coaching. So, on our side (crosstalk). Yeah, go ahead.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I’ve been so impressed with how much, like, we have mutual interests at such a nerdy level.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, we’ve got to stay in touch for sure. And I’m deeply grateful for your time coming on the show. I know listeners are going to get a lot out of this. Where can people keep up with you and find out more about your work and stay abreast of what you’re doing?

Scott Barry Kaufman:  So you go to ScottBarryKaufman.com, and I also have a podcast. It’s called The Psychology Podcast, and I love talking to people on there. And yeah, but Scott Barry Kaufman, or also HumanPotential.co. You can go there and find out about our new center. Hey, thanks so much, Chris. I really appreciate this opportunity. I didn’t even realize the full extent of how much overlap there was in our passion. So this is, I feel very energized.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, I think I had a better sense of it than you did, because I read your book.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Fair enough.

Chris Kresser:  So, as I was reading, I see all of the authors that we both know and love and some similar quotes. And yeah, I have to say, I read about four books a week generally. And I have for years and years, and your book Transcend was one of my favorite books that I’ve read in a very long time.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Wow.

Chris Kresser:  And I was talking my wife’s ear off, and I think I highlighted about half of it because I read on Kindle and because I can highlight and then I can export those highlights to Evernote, and then I go back and review the highlights. And I think when I printed out the highlights, it was like 40 pages of highlights. And I was like, wait a second; this is like a third or a quarter of the book.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  I do that, too, with books.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah. So there’s definitely a lot of synergies and interests, and I’d love to stay in touch.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah.

Chris Kresser:  And thank you again, and I highly recommend Scott’s book, everybody, Transcend. Get it at Amazon and all the places. If you liked this podcast, you will love the book for sure. So Scott, [I] would love to have you back on at some point.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Yeah, brother.

Chris Kresser:  Maybe when some of these projects you’re working on now have come to more fruition, we can talk a little bit more about them.

Scott Barry Kaufman:  Sounds good to me, Chris. It’d be delightful to stay in touch. Thanks.

Chris Kresser:  Great. All right, everybody. Thanks for listening. Keep sending your questions in to ChrisKresser.com/podcastquestion. We’ll see you next time.