Anxiety & Panic Attacks – Seth Swirsky

Anxiety & Panic Attacks – Seth Swirsky

He’s authored Grammy-nominated hits for the biggest artists, put out his own albums, written best-selling books on baseball, and directed a documentary on the Beatles.  And for as long as he can remember he has struggled with anxiety, panic attacks and feeling disconnected.  What happens when you’re achieving your dreams but you haven’t dealt with the feelings underneath the drive to be recognized?  Seth got his masters in clinical psychology.  He opens up about his life and his approach to dealing with mental illness -especially depression and anxiety-, making art, raising kids and finding peace through a life lived with authenticity and meaning.

For info on or to purchase his book 21 Ways to a Happier Depression click here.
To see all the books, music, documentaries and art he’s done visit Seth’s personal website:
To learn more about him as therapist in Los Angeles visit
This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To try a free week go to and fill out a questionnaire.  Must be 18

The podcast is doing live recordings Aug 2 & 3 in Oakland.  For details and tickets go to

To become a monthly donor (and qualify for bonus content and goodies from Paul like the upcoming raffle for a free hotel at LAPodfest Oct 6-8) go to

To learn more about LAPodfest go to

To help fund Paul’s next trip to record international guests, especially in Ireland, go to

To make a one-time donations via Paypal go to

Help the podcast by shopping with our podcast’s Amazon link (it doesn’t make your product any more expensive – even bookmark it!)



Episode notes:

For info on or to purchase his book 21 Ways to a Happier Depression click here.

To see all the books, music, documentaries and art he's done visit Seth's personal website:
To learn more about him as therapist in Los Angeles visit

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To try a free week go to and fill out a questionnaire.  Must be 18

The podcast is doing live recordings Aug 2 & 3 in Oakland.  For details and tickets go to

To become a monthly donor (and qualify for bonus content and goodies from Paul like the upcoming raffle for a free hotel at LAPodfest Oct 6-8) go to

To learn more about LAPodfest go to

To help fund Paul's next trip to record international guests, especially in Ireland, go to

To make a one-time donations via Paypal go to

Help the podcast by shopping with our podcast's Amazon link (it doesn't make your product any more expensive - even bookmark it!)

Episode Transcript:

Transcription services donated by Accurate Secretarial LLC. You can find them at


Welcome to Episode 339 with my guest Seth Swirsky. I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking.

The show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I'm not a therapist. It's not a doctor's office. It's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck. The Web site for this show is Mentalpod is also the Twitter handle you can follow me at.

I also think I never remember to mention that we have a Facebook page for the podcast as well, and I believe it's

I want to read an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Lolita, and she writes, I'm a classic people-pleaser, an over-validating, over-sharing mess of a human. Last week, I was having a conversation with someone and we were talking about insecurity and feeling unattractive, so that's when I come in and, without thinking, blurt out that I have 100 photos of that person saved in my phone, therefore validating that they are, in fact, incredibly attractive.

Despite genuinely finding them attractive and without a doubt appreciating their existence, I actually only had one photo of them saved and that was for their contact photo. I got so caught up in the fear of someone else not feeling like enough that I was willing to risk looking like a stalker [chuckles]. Oh, man, the places that codependency will take us, and people-pleasing.

Bay Area, we are coming to do live shows again, August 2nd and 3rd. I believe that's a Wednesday and Thursday, and really looking forward to it. It's going to be the same theater it's always been, which is, I believe it's the New Parkway Theater in Oakland.

And also, Podfest, we're going to do a live recording of the podcast at L.A. Podfest in October, and Andy Kindler is going to be my guest, which I know will be a lot of fun. He's one of the funniest people I know. And that is in Los Angeles, October 6th, 7th and 8th, and as a reward to the people who donate monthly through Patreon, I am giving away a hotel room for that weekend. You would have to get yourself to L.A., and that's why I'm giving you a little bit of a heads-up notice, but I'll send, like an e-mail through Patreon to people to let them know that the raffle is starting, and what I'll probably do is just have you all pick a number and whoever gets closest to the number gets the hotel. So, actually, why am I mentioning it here? Because I don't plan. That's why.

In this episode, I say, he's going to play us out with one of the songs he wrote for Al Green [chuckles], another fuck-up of mine, I didn't place the mics very well when he recorded that, and so we're actually just going to put one of his songs at the end of the, very, very end of this episode, instead of the Mental Illness Happy Hour theme music.

I was at my support group tonight, and the topic came up of pausing. Someone was sharing about how they struggle sometimes to not immediately react with the first thing that pops into their head. And I thought, man, what a great topic, because for me, fear is like, my fear just has the fastest reflexes [chuckles]. I suppose it's what keeps us alive. But it just always, it's like a bad game-show contestant that always buzzes in with the wrong answer.

And if I can pause, I can allow a different emotion to come in, you know, love or compassion or just keeping my fucking mouth shut, or sticking up for myself in a way that isn't, you know, that doesn't escalate the situation. And it seems like, and I don't know if this is the case with you guys, but it is with me, that my challenge every day is how do I replace fear with peace.

And, because happiness is elusive to me. It comes and goes and it seems, it seems like it's [chuckles] really too high of a bar to expect every day, but I can expect peace every day, even in the middle of divorce, a dog dying, me getting kicked out of my apartment. I'm at peace. I'm at peace.

It doesn't mean I don't feel pain or cry or sometimes get scared, but these tools that I've been learning in my support groups over the years help me replace that fear with peace.

And the other thing that I've noticed is that, if I'm not dealing with my fears, when somebody does something that taps in to one of my negative self-beliefs, that sets off anger in me, because I think underneath all anger is some type of fear.

And if we don't do the work in support groups to find out what our negative self-beliefs are, how are we ever going to realize where our anger is coming from. And for me, that probing is not something you can do in a weekend. It's layered, and it was built up with as many layers as we lived through childhood or adolescence, and it takes a long time to peel those away and find out what the negative self-beliefs are, and here are three of the biggies for me.

That I am inherently unlovable. That I need to be spectacular in order to survive. And that I am afraid that my life is forgettable. And, as I say those out loud, I know those aren't true, but negative self-beliefs don't reside in the sharpest part of our consciousness. It's like a dull fog that permeates our life whether we want it there or not, and I think the best that we can do is to be conscious of it and to begin working on it. And the more we do it, it's kind of like a muscle, at least for me, because I know. I get in less fights nowadays. I don't get mad in traffic. And that's a fucking miracle. That is a fucking miracle.

I want to read this, just a little part of it. This person, she called herself Hodor, H-o-d-o-r, Hodor. I've been seeing a therapist for about eight months and have recently begun questioning if she is right for me. In many ways I've found her helpful, but there are things she does that I'm not sure I should ignore.

She tells me too many details about her personal life. That is a huge red flag. You know, there's a difference between letting the other, letting your client know that you are human and sharing an unnecessary amount of information with your client. I'm not a therapist, but I've talked to many therapists who have expressed this sentiment. And where is that line between helping your client feel comfortable enough to open up and sharing too much? I don't know, but that strikes me, when you're saying too many details about her personal life, that, to me, is a huge red flag.

She says I remind her of her daughter. Huge red flag. She plays with a fidget spinner throughout our appointments [chuckles]. I think that alone, honestly, that is one self-absorbed fucking therapist. Not even considering what it's like for you, you know, to not even ask you, first of all, I think it would be inappropriate either way, but to not even ask you, do you mind if I do this.
I fired a therapist who was bringing her dog in, and it was distracting me. And coupled with a couple of other things, she could never really remember where we left off, and it was just, I just started to feel resentful, and I thought, I'm paying this person. I am employing them. This is not acceptable. And I fired her. And that was growth, to be able to do that.

She also writes, she looks at the clock a lot. Now, I know a therapist has to look at the clock to see where it is, but when you're looking at the clock a lot, I see a pattern here, that this woman is not really serving you, and you're sensing it, and you wrote that you're worried that you're overreacting. I don't think you are. I think you should find another therapist.

And whether or not you want to share the reasons why you're looking for another therapist, and you also write that, you know, there are good things about her, but you are employing her. And that is a higher standard than you would have for somebody who was an occasional friend who's annoying. You deserve better.

And speaking of better, how's this for a segue into our sponsor, I use a therapist. Her name is Donna Keehn. I love her, been using her for months, and I didn't know what to expect from online therapy because part of the experience of what makes therapy really good for me in the past has been feeling the energy of that therapist.

And I didn't know if video, camera to camera, would feel the same, and it does. I feel that empathy from her. And I've been seeing her once a week, and I really like it. You can also do it by phone or messaging with your BetterHelp counselor, if you decided to. They have a lot of different options. But I think it's a great service, and there are many great therapists out there. Don't settle. You are paying them.

So if you would like to check out BetterHelp and try a free week of counseling to see if it's right for you, go to, and make sure you include the slash mental because then they know you're one of our listeners and that advertising on our show brought you to them.

You'll fill out a questionnaire and then they'll match you up with a counselor, and you'll see if it clicks with you. And you have to be over 18. So check it out. I highly recommend it. Again, that's

And here is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Daughter of the Year. She writes, when I was in middle school, I realized I was severely depressed and had frequent suicidal ideation. My family has always been a brush-it-under-the-rug type of family, so I was nervous about saying anything. I worked up the courage to tell my mom in the afternoon while she was ironing and watching Oprah. I said, Mom, I need to tell you something. My mom took a deep breath and exclaimed, I always knew you were a lesbian.


[Show intro]


PAUL: I'm here with Seth Swirsky, who is probably the most renaissance-y of the renaissance [chuckles] man that I have ever met, of the renaissance men I've ever met. Yet you don't wear sandals and a robe--


SETH: Well, you know, the robe, yes, but not tonight.


PAUL: Seth has written songs that were hits on charts. You have many albums out yourself as a musician. You've written books on baseball. You made an amazing documentary of people telling stories about their encounters with the Beatles. And you are a licensed therapist.


SETH: Yes.




SETH: Thank you so much.


PAUL: I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say fuck you.




PAUL: Where do you get the energy, and don't you realize you're making the rest of us look bad?


SETH: [Chuckles] I always go with my passions, you know. I just learned from a very young age, if you like it, trust it.


PAUL: Seth and I hit it off immediately. Melissa Broder was kind enough to suggest that we meet, and we did, and within, what, five minutes of meeting, you were at my apartment and we were geeking out about the Beatles, playing guitar, and just, it's amazing how many similar passions we have.


SETH: Absolutely. That was a lot of fun. I didn't expect that when we had coffee that day.


PAUL: Me neither.


SETH: But it really was fun.


PAUL: Yeah. Where to begin? One of the things that I want to talk about with your story, because I think it's very, you know, I kid in the beginning that, you know, fuck you and we're jealous because you accomplish all these things, but having talked to enough people that are always doing, sometimes inside there is a difficulty having the mind quiet, staying still, feeling like I must always be doing something. Is that something that you struggle with, or does it always come from a place of passion and it's not work? Are you able to just be without feeling like, I should be doing something?


SETH: It's a great question, Paul. And yes, I do feel like I can just be, but it took many decades of a deep anxiety state to get here. I've really had to learn how to be that way.

And, you know, when I got my first songwriting contract with Warner/Chappell Music in the early '80s, it was like everything I could want, of course, and here I am, writing for, you know, Celine Dion and Air Supply and whatever, and I'm, you would think that would make a person very happy. You're 22 years old. You're writing for the biggest artists in the world.

But I was in a very deep anxiety state, and I attribute it to having my head just above, if you're in a pool, my nostrils were just above the water, barely breathing. No one knew it, but it was very, very difficult because it was like all of the expectations of childhood and that I put on myself and that I imagined my parents had or my friends from growing up and camp and all, everybody that thought I was going to be a big success, well, here it was, and you'd better be.


PAUL: Because you were a smart kid who things came naturally to.


SETH: I was playing Hey, Jude in 1968 in my elementary school with all the classes in the auditorium, so it was kind of an expectation that, oh, he's going to make it. Well, I finally hit that stage of, here's your shot, and it was--


PAUL: Don't let, don't prove everybody wrong.


SETH: That's right. Here's, you know, what you wish for, you know, that famous thing. And it was a very, very difficult period in my 20s. It took a lot of just everyday survival, to be quite honest with you, it really was. You know, every day.


PAUL: Describe the thoughts that would go through your head, the feelings you would have in your body, and how you would approach any given situation in your daily life.


SETH: It got so bad for me in my mid-20s, I would say, all while I was having a lot of success. I had number-one hits. You would think that that would alleviate a lot. There wasn't a real money issue. I wasn't rich or anything, but I was having success.

And yet, everything I, I was definitely not suicidal, but I had a lot of suicidal ideations. Everything became about like, I just was very, I don't know if I was necessarily depressed as much as I was deeply anxious, to the point where, you know, I had to just make it through to 6:00, and then I, there was never a break.


PAUL: Do you remember what any of the concrete fears were, or was it just a general feeling of doom?


SETH: It was a general feeling of doom, and it was, everything had something to do with, there was a lot of suicidal ideation. You know, I'm just being very frank with you about it--


PAUL: Yeah, that's--


SETH: My mentor and boss had committed suicide the year before.


PAUL: Oh, no.


SETH: My very beloved uncle, when I was very young. I had, you know, I was aware of it, you know, and I think that I scared myself. I think a lot of people in deep anxiety states scare themselves. And, you know, it's like you can play a movie in your head of, I'm not good enough, what's going to happen if I do this, then my girlfriend is going to leave, what's going to happen if I do this, then the--


PAUL: The dominoes.


SETH: The dominoes. And it's very important, and I feel like I come by this honestly, it's very important to tell yourself to stop. You have to just stop that thinking, because the reality is very hard to see sometimes. You know, it takes a larger view to see your life, to say, you know what, I'm getting a paycheck, it's not what I want, but it's pretty good.

I'm living in a nice place, the sun is shining, nothing has really changed, you know, so you have to remind yourself of that, because to play those, I call them movies, if you play them, how does it not bring you down, Paul? You know it's going to.


PAUL: If it's played right, it'll bring you down.




SETH: Yes, yes. And I was playing a lot of them at that time, and it was a cascade. And in your 20s, you know, I always talk about this, Paul, in the sense of, you don't have a lot of tools in your teens and your 20s to go to, go-to things, and as you go through difficult times, you develop tools. You adapt and you, so that you know kind of what to do. So by the time you hit your 30s, 40s, 50s, whatever, you have a bunch of tools. Hey, that doesn't work, but this works, that doesn't work, but this works.

So, in my 20s, I didn't have a whole lot of tools and I was really trying to develop, I didn't know that, but I was doing the best I could to kind of keep my, as I mentioned to you before, my nose above the water, just breathing.


PAUL: It seems like the biggest mistake that people make when they're in anxiety is they think, if I can just figure out something that's going to happen in the future, it'll make everything okay, when, in reality, it's the exact opposite. It's just about bringing it into the present moment, right?


SETH: I couldn't have said it better. Look--


PAUL: Go ahead and try--




SETH: I'll do the best I can with a small example. I wrote a song. I co-wrote a song called Tell It to My Heart for an artist named Taylor Dayne. And nobody knew who she was. All of a sudden, I take a trip out to San Francisco, I get my rental car, the song is on the radio. I'm all of 25 years old.


PAUL: Wow.
SETH: My first hit record.


PAUL: That must have been so exciting.


SETH: It was fantastic.


PAUL: How did you ruin it?




SETH: I ruined it by, that didn't necessarily bring me out of the doom and the, just the, as you mentioned, the word cascading, it didn't bring me out of that. It doesn't, sometimes it doesn't matter. You could be having some huge successes, and I'll tell you, it adds to people's anxieties and depression when that thing that you mentioned, if I only get that, and then they get it.

And I always say, I have a saying that I tell my kids all the time, life is in the striving, not in the arriving.


PAUL: That's great.


SETH: You know, it's like you have to enjoy what you do as you go. It's not getting a Grammy. That's a nice thing. I'm not putting that down. It's nice to get an award, and it's nice to get those things. But you can't do what you do just for that, to think that that's going to make you happy. You have to enjoy what you do. Life is in the striving, not in the arriving.


PAUL: It's so funny because I just had a similar thought today. I was reading a book about EMDR and mindfulness, and so much of the battle is calming the mind down, like it's just a pet on a leash that just wants a chew toy 100% of the time.

And it's, it is, it always thinks that love or happiness is in the future, in some other place other than where you are right now, and making peace with the present moment is the only really door to find that, because I would imagine, in a situation like yours, okay, all of a sudden you get a number-one hit. You enjoy it for about five minutes, and then it's like, how am I going to keep this up?


SETH: Yes [chuckles], that's right. That certainly can happen. There's no question about it. And you're only as good as your last record and all those things.


PAUL: So, where did you, how long were you able to enjoy that?


SETH: Well, those were the heydays of MTV and that song was on MTV all the time--


PAUL: Oh, I remember it. I remember it.


SETH: I soaked it up. It was very wonderful to have, no question about it, but it really didn't get me out of that, as I call it, a deep anxiety state. It was very difficult to get through, Paul, it really was.

And I remember, I mean, I had very deep dissociation with that, too. I would very much feel like I would be in a room and I didn't feel like I was part of the scene. I wasn't in, I wasn't present.


PAUL: You felt disconnected from humanity.


SETH: Very disconnected. Nobody knew it because I said the right words, but sometimes I didn't even know how the words came out. I was very disconnected, dissociated is the word, a dissociative state I was in. So It was very, very difficult to enjoy all the things as they happened. I did enough that I can say that I did. But it was, two things were going on at the same time. I was succeeding in all the ways that on the outside it looked all wonderful and incredible, but I was suffering.


PAUL: If you had been able to form into words and had had the lack of fear to be completely honest with somebody, if somebody had said to you at a cocktail party, how are you really doing, what would you have said?


SETH: At that time?


PAUL: Yeah.


SETH: I let people in at the time, you know, my coterie of people, my girlfriend, who was a saving grace. I mean, I can't even begin to tell you what a saving grace, and she became my wife. We're not married anymore, but we're, we're good [chuckles], as they would say, three wonderful kids and the whole thing, but she was an absolute saving grace. And I tell her, to this day, that she was, you know, for many, many years.

So, there were people that I did let in, not necessarily, and I'm a big proponent because I'm a therapist myself, you know, I'm a big proponent in talk therapy and all that. I think it's very important. But I think it's very healthy to let people know how you're feeling. I really do. And not just to be enabled in it, but as a way of really hearing different views on, maybe they have an idea, you know, or just that they can listen.


PAUL: And sometimes, it just needs to come out.


SETH: It just does. It's--


PAUL: You know, which is why I think journaling is so important, because if there isn't somebody to share it with, just having to form it into a sentence and slowing it down by having to write it really does something.
SETH: There is no question about it, because I think we tend to do like, as just a, I'm just grabbing this out of the air right now, but in a break-up, you know, it's so hard to get through break-ups. I don't know anybody that it's ever really easy.

But when you start writing down things or typing them out, whatever, some more realistic view of the relationship comes out. And the same as when you are writing about yourself and the state that you're in, a more realistic view comes out. It's not all doom and gloom. It really shouldn't be, because most people that I'm with that says, oh, but this is happening and that's happening, all this stuff, I try to present, you know, a larger view of their lives. You know, and I think most people have more going than they actually can see.


PAUL: I think, too, when you write out your fears, you can kind of see how ridiculous and cartoony they are sometimes.


SETH: Yes.


PAUL: And then you're able to consider the alternative. What if it's really not that doom-y?


SETH: That's right.


PAUL: And what if that did happen, would that be the end of the world?


SETH: That's a great point, and I want to take that one step further to double back to a thing that you said a little bit earlier. I think what happens is, we get used to our fears and answering them and having that conversation every day and just being, you know, in our youthful days, I think.

And then if you start to overcome them, you still are used to a diet of fears. So, you think that, okay, when am I going to be free and clear of this, and you finally really do get free and clear, the house is paid for, the kids are doing well, whatever it happens to be, it's almost like it doesn't matter because your mind still wants to eat bad stuff.


PAUL: I always think of Howard Hughes and his germaphobia, because here is a guy that had, quote, unquote, everything, and his mind is like, oh, really?


SETH: Yeah, right.


PAUL: You're not safe from germs.




SETH: That's right. That's exactly right.


PAUL: And it destroyed his life.


SETH: That's right, yeah.
PAUL: But go ahead.


SETH: No, I just think that we have, we kind of have a diet, in a way. We know what we, our minds are used to dealing with this fear and this anxiety. It's almost like we need it. It's a fix.

And so at some point, when you say, a lot of people say, I want to get through this, I really want to get through this anxiety or depression or these bad feelings. Of course I believe them. They don't want to be living in a state like that. I don't know anybody that does. I certainly didn't.

But then when you kind of really get through the issues that, you know, you start seeing clear of a lot of those things, your mind needs to still eat the same thing it was used to. You kind of have to re-train it. You have to say, it goes back to what I was saying about movies, when those movies start and it's like, okay, but what if, if I do this, then she's not going to love me, if I do this, they're going to fire me, if I do this, you've got to say stop.

You really just have to say stop, because that's not the reality of what's happening. You can re-train your mind to say, that doesn't have value to me now, it doesn't have value to have fear about this or anxiety about this. So you really can have a clearer, you can make your mind and your state clearer, Paul. I really do believe it.


PAUL: I believe it, too. There's a couple of things that I remind myself when I start to get into a panicky state about the future, is I ask myself, would you have been able to predict where you are right now 10 years ago? Well, then why would you think that you're going to be able to predict where you are 10 years from now?


SETH: Absolutely.


PAUL: And you don't know what tools you will have in the future. You don't know what all of the circumstances of something would be. And so trying to anticipate that and prepare for that, our crystal ball is broken.


SETH: Yes.


PAUL: I don't know why we keep going to it. Do you think there's something genetically in us that allowed us to survive because that was in there and we kept the cave fire lit because . . .


SETH: Well, let me address that exactly dead-on in that point. I do think that, let's say at the age of 20 or 22 or 23, when we're supposed to go out in the world and kill the, you know, the wild beast and bring it home, I do think that, if we were satisfied, if we were satisfied at 20 or 22, you know, whenever we get out into the world to make our name and to make money and to make a life, then that's, there'd be nothing to project us out there. If you're satisfied, you're sitting on a chaise lounge at the beach, I mean, you know--


PAUL: Waiting for a tsunami.




SETH: Waiting for a tsunami, and, I mean, you know, figuratively speaking, fear and anxiety have a purpose, because they make us think, if we're not good enough, well, we've got to be good enough, and we don't have to, if we're aware of that, we don't have to let that be in us. We just don't.

But I do think it has a purpose in an evolutionary sense. I think that's what you're asking.


PAUL: Mm-hmm, yeah.


SETH: I really do. Because too many people have it. It's almost part of the human condition. If you're satisfied, you don't want, you want to get, you want to get satisfied.


PAUL: Right.


SETH: And if you're not satisfied, which seems to keep moving up as you go [chuckles], you know, you're never quite satisfied, people are never quite satisfied. That's the way, whatever you believe, if it's God, if it's genetics, that's the way we're made, because that is a, that makes you want to get off the couch.

If we were born satisfied, you know, if we were born and we got a check every week and we got a--


PAUL: I wouldn't be doing a podcast because somebody wouldn't have invented the Internet and MP3s.


SETH: That's exactly right, right. But there is a way, don't be down by hearing me saying that, because we, if we're aware of that, we can say, okay, I can make my, I can have my goal set to my satisfaction and I don't have to be unhappy to get that goal. I can want that goal, and that's very satisfying itself.


PAUL: And working towards it, but not waiting for happiness to arrive in the package of finishing that thing.


SETH: Yes, and not saying, well, you know, I'm all freaked out about X, Y and Z, that's going to be my driver. You know, the driver really should be, I want to get that, and so I don't need that, I don't need all those negative feelings that are running through me like a train every morning or day.

You know, fear is a great, it's a great motivator. It really is.


PAUL: It is.


SETH: It's a great motivator. I mean, I don't want it in my life. I don't know too many people that do. But if you can become aware that it's a very big motivator, you can really kind of put it on the side and say, you know, I don't need that. I can do it because I want to get there.


PAUL: Yeah. Fear shows up when passion can't make it.


SETH: I think so. That's right. And people are kind of taught, don't necessarily go with your passions, how are you going to make money with that? You know, how are you going to, you know, every single project I've ever done, Paul, I was a songwriter first, and then I started writing letters to baseball players and they all answered me and it became my first bestselling book called Baseball Letters.

And when I put that book together, I thought, now either this is really great or I'm crazy, I’m a crazy person, what is this, writing letters to baseball, you know, and I just decided at that moment, go with it, because I never wrote a song before I wrote a song. And I really do believe that, you know, every time I go to a party in L.A. and there's a pool there, everybody dips their toe in and they go, oh, it's too cold. I jump in, because I know I'm going to get warm. I know it. I've been in enough pools.

And that's how I go into every project that I do or every situation. I just know it's going to be all right.


PAUL: So where do you get, for people who have been let down time and time again, starting in their childhoods, where trust is so difficult, how do you get to that place where you can go from intellectually knowing you're going to warm up to your legs moving to get into the pool, past the fear, past the broken crystal ball telling you you won't?


SETH: You have to really like your own stuff, and that's very difficult because it's really you against the world in many ways when you're writing that novel or you're writing that screenplay or you're writing that song or you're painting that painting.


PAUL: Well, let's talk about, let's bring in things that aren't even creative.
SETH: Sure.


PAUL: Somebody that is afraid to go on a job interview because the rejection is just so painful to them. How do they break through that barrier of, I can't even get out of bed because I, this is just, I’m so afraid of this?


SETH: I think that people like that, and that's a vast amount of people, they have to take their, they have to start thinking of it differently, and they have to start thinking that all they have to be in an interview, I always use these two words, is good enough. You just really in life have to be good enough.

And that doesn't mean, I tell my kids, hey, I want you to get a C. You know I want them to get an A, but I'm not going to punish them if they get a B or a C happens or whatever. You say, if you're not doing that well in math, we'll figure it out, we'll get a tutor, you'll stay after school, I'll help you, whatever it is. And I think it's important that you're good.

You just set your sights, not super low and not, you know, but it's you set your sights on all I have to be is good enough, and what that means, how that translates, Paul, to people on the ground, I mean in a real way, is it relaxes them. Good enough just means all I got to be is me.


PAUL: And what about the person who feels like, I can't even, I'm not good enough, and they're going to see that I'm not good enough, where does that person begin to get better? Is that usually something that has been caused by trauma or abandonment or does that stuff need to be addressed first? What, where should that person begin?


SETH: Well, those are real issues and those are real things to address. But I would say to people that feel that, to look around them in their own lives, and to ask themselves, what relationships do I have or have I had? Well, I've had that longtime friend for a long time. Let's say they can only point to two great friends or three people in their lives. That's pretty good. God, I don't really talk to that many people. But the ones I talk to know everything.

You know, it's just keeping it simpler, keeping life simpler and taking down the expectations I think will make you breathe a little bit easier about who you are.


PAUL: And it's so difficult because our culture preaches just the opposite.


SETH: That's right.


PAUL: Look at this bigger house, look at this, you know--


SETH: Yes, yes.


PAUL: And we celebrate the person with the 16-bedroom house.


SETH: Well, I'll take it one step further, Paul, in these days that we're in today, you know, and I’m not denigrating it but I am saying--


PAUL: I'll do that.


SETH: Yeah, I'll leave the denigration--


PAUL: Leave it to me.


SETH: --to you. With Facebook, especially, you go on everybody's site and they're smiling and the kids look great and they've got, they're sitting in a hot tub, whatever it happens to be, but everybody's doing better than you.




SETH: I mean, it's the ongoing reunion. You never have to go to a reunion anymore. It's the ongoing reunion. You're seeing everybody that did well in high school is also doing well in life and you never, and if you're feeling down to begin with, oh, my God, it's just, it's a bigger crusher. But that's not the reality.




SETH: And that's what I'm saying, to double back to your question about, what do those people do, I would say just the reality is, when you mirror back, as a therapist what I like to do a lot is to mirror back what I really believe is going on in their lives, the wider view. They have to recognize that all those people on Facebook are dealing with their problems, too, diagnoses, you know, anxiety issues, depression issues. You don't see it, you know, but you've got to understand that that's there, too. We're all human beings. We're really the same.

You know, a guy with 10 billion dollars is not that different. Is life easier because you can just, I have a scratch on my car, let me get a new one? Yes, but that doesn't make for happiness.


PAUL: No. And the problems are just different.


SETH: That's right.


PAUL: And the feelings are just different.
SETH: Absolutely true. The people that I know with 25-million-dollar homes are saying, wait, that guy's house is better than mine, wait a minute [chuckles].


PAUL: Yeah.
SETH: They've got their own version of Facebook, too. But they're just people. They're just people.


PAUL: So, the person who, let's say somebody who had a childhood that was just emotionally barren, not necessarily dramatically abusive, but there was just no intimacy, there was no discussion of emotions. It was just what, you know, what are you achieving. How does that, and so that person has a deep, deep feeling that just being they are not worthy, that they need to do something to be okay, what, where does that person begin?

Do they open up about their childhood and process that pain, get insight into what they missed that a parent should have taught them? Do they learn that from their therapist and then see the world differently? Or do they just, you know, take a couple of thoughts with them out into the day that are powerful enough to ward off their anxiety, because their perspective has changed, or all of the above?


SETH: Well, you say all of the above, and I was going to put that in a different way of saying, there's so many different things a person like that could do, but just to mention one specifically. I know that when I was having my identity crisis, if you want to call it, in my 20s, and I didn't know, I thought I knew who I was but all of a sudden I had no idea anymore, I went to group therapy.

And I've, you know, when I got my master's in clinical psychology, I took a number of courses in group therapy and have dealt in a lot of those groups. It's very, very helpful for people, the kind of issues that you're particularly mentioning, Paul, and bringing out, because I think what happens in group therapy, in a good group, is you recognize right before you, right there and then in the moment, that a lot of people feel like you do, and that really starts to give you the building blocks of confidence that, hey, you know what, I'm not alone in this, I'm not alone in this, and it's a very important thing.

So yes, there are a number of different things you can do, to go to your question, but I'm trying to be a little bit specific here in saying, a group is a very powerful tool--


PAUL: I couldn't agree more. I think connection, to me, human connection is where spirituality meets science. It's the big bang of, for our soul. That's been my experience, because isolated, by myself, I can't get beyond the intellectual, but when I feel the energy of somebody else as we share our stories, laugh with each other, cry with each other, and I realize I'm not alone, something shifts chemically in me.


SETH: Yes.


PAUL: And my spirit is lifted, and that, to me, is spirituality. I don't understand where it comes from, but I know there is empiric evidence. I feel it.

And leading a life that is based in ethics, trying to be ethical, striving to be connected and conscious of other people around us, that, to me, lets that energy in and I, it's hard to put into words, but it, that's where I learned trust, because in childhood trust didn't work out so well, and I learned to trust again in support groups, and that allowed me to let different self-beliefs in that maybe I'm lovable. And that was, that was a game-changer for me, and I could not have gotten to that just by going to therapy.
SETH: Yes.


PAUL: But I also needed therapy because I needed to understand what was abusive, what do boundaries look like, all those other things.

Do you feel like support group and therapy is a pretty good one-two punch for kind of dealing with things? Is there other things that you think could be substituted in there, for--


SETH: Well, I absolutely do. They're different, but they're very, I would say, important. I really do. I think they have, they serve a tremendous purpose. And to go back to your question, and that was really my initial answer to your question, it's, to be specific, it was group therapy for that specific kind of thing, where you have no trust so you're kind of floating out there in the world. I know you probably felt that.


PAUL: Oh, my God.


SETH: You know, where you're just floating along and you have no history of trust. I mean, it was broken or, and I'm being general now.


PAUL: Yes. And you are anticipating judgment.


SETH: Right.


PAUL: You are positive nothing but judgment and pain is coming your way.
SETH: Yes. And there's just nothing [chuckles], you know, the train, you're on the track and, okay, hit me, I mean, there's nothing you can really do about it.

But when you're in a group with people that have very similar background and similar issue with that, I think that's very powerful, much more so than a lot of people really know. It's different than an individual therapist, but the way you used it, as you mentioned, as a one-two punch, I think can be enormously helpful to getting you to that next level of real understanding and getting you, you know, to another level of a happier existence.


PAUL: Yeah.
SETH: You know, I really do.


PAUL: So what, were there things in your childhood that you think made you into an anxious person that felt that they always had to be doing, aside from people saying you're this wunderkind who's going to do great things--


SETH: I did tell you I was Jewish, right? Does that, does that suffice--




SETH: --as an answer?


PAUL: That's it. Move on.


SETH: Let's just, I mean, come on, that wraps it all up in one, no, I'm kidding.




SETH: You know, I'll tell you, I was, I had, I think, a very happy childhood, and I wanted a guitar, my parents bought me a guitar. They never looked at my grades. They always said, play me a song you're doing. They didn't really, they didn't say, you've got to be a lawyer or be a doctor or anything like that, so there wasn't that much judgment per se, and you would think that's a very fantastic thing, right.

But the reality is, I wet my bed until I was in sixth grade. Every time I went to my friends' houses, it was known that I was going to wet my bed the next day. You know, I mean, talk about embarrassment, you know, talk about--


PAUL: That must have been really embarrassing. Wow.


SETH: --oh, it was so many friends, and it was just like, I just, you just have to go through the wall and say, well, it's going to happen, and you--


PAUL: And your friends knew it was going to happen?


SETH: Well, they ended up knowing it was going to happen. You know, I mean, you just--


PAUL: And would they give you a hard time about it?


SETH: Initially, you know. It wasn't, you know, that's the kind of thing kids give you a really hard time about, but, fortunately, a lot of the moms in that, you know, in our community, whatever, they were understanding of that, even back in the '60s and '70s, but it was, I never knew when that was going to end.

And, you know, I have to tell you that there was frustration there by my own parents and by other people--


PAUL: Oh, yeah.


SETH: --or, you know, I mean, like, come on already, you know, and try to, what? What should I do [chuckles]? I don't, you know, I don't know what to do. And it just ended. I sucked my thumb until I was 12 years old. I had to hide it all the time. I remember babysitters came over and I would duck under the, there were a lot of things I hid.

And one other thing I want to mention is I was in, I went to Israel when I was 14. I went with my grandfather, who had, was kind of a big deal there. He was putting up buildings and all this, you know, kind of things in the '70s and, and I'm in the hotel room and I started, I literally started to have a full-on panic attack. I didn't know it at the time. I didn't know what it meant. What does a panic attack mean? You don't know what that is at 14.


PAUL: Yeah.


SETH: Especially, you know, then. And I remember telling my grandmother, I'm having a heart attack, okay. Now, a lot of people think that these days, when there's so much to read about it and you know, no, it's not, and, but at 14, in 1974 [chuckles], you know, I really thought I was having a heart attack. So, I had a lot of signs of some very heavy anxiety that I didn't know was going to be coming, and it hit me directly in my 20s.


PAUL: What do you think specifically about being in Israel triggered that? The fact that it was so close after the 1973 was, was it--


SETH: No. I think it was because I was away from home. I was away from my own parents and my own house, and I was really out of my cocoon.


PAUL: Did you have boundaries as a kid?


SETH: Yes, I definitely did. And it was [chuckles], the belt helped make those boundaries.


PAUL: Yeah?
SETH: In a way that was, I think was more like old-school, not, you know, to use the word punishment is, but it was, you know. I wouldn't ever be that way with my kids, but I have a deep love and affection for my parents, so it's not like, what did you do to me?


PAUL: Yes.


SETH: You know, it was more like--


PAUL: And I think there's a difference, too, when you were spanking a kid with the belt back then because you wanted to guide them and you thought that that was a way to get that home versus you're doing this because you can't control your anger as a parent.


SETH: That's the real debate in many ways. Now, you know, I have three kids of my own. I think I only put my hand to the back of my kids' pants one time, like, you know, stop doing that, you know, it was shrieking in a restaurant and then the whole nine yards, but it never needed to happen, so I had a different perspective as a parent. You know, you don't really need to, not even really, you don't need to go there. You shouldn't be going there, okay?

But I don't really look back and blame my parents at all. First of all, it was very rare, but it was, it was kind of what they knew. It was old-school, you know.


PAUL: Were they anxious people?


SETH: No, not particularly. They were just, they're hardworking and just don't say that to your mother, you used that word to your mother--


PAUL: So they sound like pretty average parents.


SETH: Oh, yeah, no, they were really terrific--


PAUL: Average in a good way.


SETH: Oh, yeah, but there were, you know, like in every family [chuckles], there are stories, you know.


PAUL: Yeah. So how much time have you spent in your life asking yourself, why the fuck can't I just relax?


SETH: Yeah.


PAUL: And what, have you come up with anything?


SETH: Well, I've come up with ways to help it quite a bit. I really have.


PAUL: But you're not necessarily interested in wanting to know its point of origin.


SETH: I absolutely want to know its point of origin, but that doesn't mean it readily is available to you. You know, sometimes you know--


PAUL: I think it's the least important thing--


SETH: Yes. Oh, I shifted--


PAUL: --but I find it incredibly interesting, to want to know--


SETH: Absolutely. I've been in therapy since I've been in my early 20s, since college, when it wasn't, no one went to a therapist at your, you know, in your school. You know, there was one person on campus and whatever, but I always found it interesting. I was never afraid of it. You know, I always felt like I could get something from it.

And I always thought of myself as kind of an intense person. You know, and--


PAUL: You don't accomplish what you've accomplished without being intense.


SETH: That's interesting. I never heard it put that way, but I--


PAUL: You don't casually write, you know, three bestselling books on baseball, you--




PAUL: You don't casually just do, you know, all of those things. I think, that's just my opinion.


SETH: Well, I do get quite intense about things in terms of when I make them and when I promote them and whatever. I mean, it's like I can take a certain period off and it's a rest period, and I don't hammer myself for it. I don't say, wait a minute, you haven't made anything in six months or a year, and now it's going on a year and a half. What's up? I don't get on myself.

I've learned, because I know that once I get that idea, and I start working on it, it's like, get out of the way. I mean, really, if you're in my path, it's going to be, you know, [chuckles]--


PAUL: And does your family understand when you're in that zone?


SETH: Oh, they really do. I don't, I never neglect them, but just, it's a different me in a way in the sense of making a project. You know, I love to finish. You know, starting is always fun. It's always fun. You come up with a title and you have an idea and you tell all your friends, but most of the time I've found that, of people that do that, they never, they never finish. You know, I always see finishing as the fun. Finishing is the best feeling.


PAUL: And the hardest.


SETH: It's very, very difficult. I make it, maybe I’m making it sound easy. It's certainly not.


PAUL: No, especially if you're a perfectionist.


SETH: Absolutely.


PAUL: How do you, because you strike me as somebody that wants things to be perfect.


SETH: Oh, yes.


PAUL: So, how do you get through that anticipation that this isn't going to be perfect?


SETH: I believe it will be perfect. I really do. And I don't, I don't rest until it is perfect in the way I envisioned it. When I think of an idea, I always ask myself, is it a book, is it a movie, is it a song? You know--


PAUL: Is it a puppet?
SETH: It is a puppet? Who knows what it is? But I've had enough experience of being in the different arts that I feel like, okay, I can do these things. So, what is it actually? And once I come up with what I think it is, you know, yes, it's better as a book, I very, very, very rarely go to a major corporation, a Sony or a HarperCollins or whatever it happens to be, I never go and try to sell my idea.


PAUL: You just start doing it.


SETH: I need to make it myself because that's where the detail comes, and I don't, I'm not interested, I mean, I care what an editor says or something like that, but only when I've answered all the questions about the book. In other words, or, well, the book that I have--


PAUL: And then it's easier to sell, once you've got something you can put in their hands.


SETH: Because editors, what they see, or music companies, what they hear, all they have to decide on is not the actual creativity of it. They're on to the next. And I trust myself very much now. I didn't at a certain time, but as, again, if there's a pool, I'm jumping in. I know it's going to be fun.


PAUL: And isn't really what draws us to something the details and the execution of it rather than the concept of it--


SETH: Aren't the details the best?


PAUL: --and yet that's the concept, is the thing that the gatekeepers are only interested in, which makes no sense.


SETH: Yes. But for me, I have to actually make the book I'm doing at the time or the record I'm making. It's all in the detail for me.


PAUL: That's the exciting part to me about art.


SETH: It's so exciting. I love doing it. Some people say, you know, are you making money on that record you put out, or how do you do that when you don't, some things I make money on and some things I don't. And I don't, both of them I love as children. Both of them, I love my work. I really do love my work, to be honest [chuckles]. I know the way that sounds, but I think you're understanding what I'm saying in the context--


PAUL: No. I don't think you could do all the things that you do if you didn't love it.


SETH: I really, I just, I love it because so much went into it and I did the very best I could with all the details. Isn't the fun of life itself the details? So, it's the same as art. You know, I love a movie that has these little things that you see. I can watch The Graduate a thousand times, because of the details.


PAUL: And that's, to me, the real corrosive quality of obsessing about the future, is you miss out on all the details that are happening in the present moment with you. You miss out on all of that, and that's where the beauty of life is.


SETH: Yes.


PAUL: And when I see the details, when I can be present and see the details of the world around me, it changes my perspective on my problems, who I think I am, who I think other people are, because I see how complex and mysterious the world is and why would I try to pretend that I can map this out.


SETH: Well, well said, and I would just like to add something to that that I think really does help people live, quote, unquote, in the moment, because that seems to be a very, everybody says, I really, I want to live in the moment, and they can't quite grasp that. They try so hard. They can't quite do it. And I think I have the formula, Paul.


PAUL: What's that?


SETH: That you're not--


PAUL: Do I need to get out my quill pen?


SETH: You don't, what is that over there? I thought that's what that was, but okay.




PAUL: That's a chisel and stone. I've ditched that for the quill pen.


SETH: Excuse me.
PAUL: I am very behind.




SETH: I found that, when I actually thought about every single thing that's happened in my life, I really, I thought to myself, you know what? I don't have a single regret. Now let me explain that, because that sounds like, if you just heard that, it sounds like you've never made a mistake. I've made a thousand mistakes. I make a thousand mistakes every day, every day.

But I don't regret anything because I recognize that what we do, every decision we make, whether it's, where is that restaurant again, I think I'll make a left, oh, you know what, I made the wrong turn, I've got to go this way, but you made that left because you made the best calculation you could at the time. That's where you thought the restaurant would be. You made a decision about, you might say, I should have taken that role in that movie they offered me back then. Damn, why didn't I do that? I made such a mistake. I was crazy to do that.

You can't hammer yourself for the decisions you make in your life because everybody is doing the best they can at the moment, and that helps you to live right now. It helps relax you and helps you really recognize, if you don't regret anything, if you understand that you are doing the best you can, all the calculations that go into it.

I don't mean you've got to sit down and write it all out, should I do this and should I do that, but there's many calculations that go into, should I take that job, should I reprimand my child, or should I, you know, whatever it happens to be, you really are doing the best you can. And it's that recognition that every decision you make is really, on some level, for the good.


PAUL: And many of the, quote, unquote, mistakes are so instrumental in you doing something after it where you had learned something from that mistake--


SETH: That's right, that's right. When I look at, I mean, there was a moment I walked into Clive Davis' office, the president of Arista Records, one of the giants of the music business, and I got my first big meeting with him and his whole A&R staff was around, and he said, I'm going to give you a chance, I knew I had a chance to play one song, and this was my moment.

And I chose a song that I loved that I wrote at the time. He was looking for something totally different, and I played the wrong song. Could my career have been bigger? I ended up having hits with him and his company at some point, but I keep thinking back to that moment, I should have played that, everybody would have been so, but they weren't. It was like not a great meeting. And I'm not used to that.

So I thought, you know, damn, I should have played something different, but no. I thought that was going to be the best thing at the time. So instead of playing an upbeat, fast song, I played a slow song that really kind of just didn't skyrocket up. And it's a great example for me that I always go back to. I did the best I could. I learned from it.

So at the next meeting, you know, that I had two years later or whatever it was, it's like, you can't Monday-morning quarterback your whole life. You have to really accept that you're doing the best that you can.


PAUL: Yeah, no, you blew it. You blew it. You fucked up.




PAUL: That was dumb.


SETH: Thanks, Paul.


PAUL: That was dumb. Nobody plays a slow song for Clive Davis. I'm a little shocked.




PAUL: Were you nervous?


SETH: Oh, I did the best I could to hide my nervousness. I was, I mean, I had read his autobiography when I was, you know, 15 years old, and that was one of the fun things, by the way, of being a songwriter, because I grew up in a house and there was a green chair in the corner of my room, and every night I would like listen to Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers and whatever, Al Green, all these people that I loved, and before I knew it, I was writing songs for them and my name was on their records with songs that I wrote and I met a lot of them.

And I still, at this age right now, I'm still in awe. I say, God, it was like I grew up with them and then they were singing my songs. It was so, it was a great feeling--


PAUL: That must have been amazing.


SETH: It really, really was, you know. It just, it's amazing to hear their voices on my songs. It's hard to kind of believe.

One quick thing I want to mention to you, Al Green did a song of mine called Love Is a Beautiful Thing.


PAUL: I would like you actually to play it at the end of our interview because I love it.


SETH: And I would be beyond thrilled to, and I appreciate that. At the beginning--


PAUL: Let me finish. But you blew your meeting with Clive Davis. There will be no guitar playing here.




SETH: I'm still not going to regret it, Paul. I'm going to try not to.

But when I found out Al Green was doing one of my songs, that was a big thrill, obviously, right. And then at the beginning of the song, it was just a straightforward kind of pop song, and then at the beginning of the song he vamps a little bit, and a vamp is when the chords kind of go around and the artist is kind of saying some words over it.

And what he did that ended up on the record is, he mentioned all of his I think seven or eight number-one songs on this. He goes, let's stay together, because I'm tired of being alone [singing], and I'm thinking, Al Green is putting all of his hits that I listen to on my song. So, that's what he thinks of my song. It was one of those fan-, just like through-the-roof moments of like, that was one of the great moments of kind of like making it, you know.


PAUL: That's so funny because I thought you were going to say, and he fucking changed my lyrics, that prick.




PAUL: That egotistical prick couldn't do it the way I fucking wrote it.


SETH: They all, and they all try to take, you know, they all want a piece of your song, too, you know. Like I want the, you know, half the writing credit.


PAUL: Sure, so let me change this chord to that chord and this--


SETH: Right, but, you know, I never said yes to that, never once.


PAUL: If you want it, you've got to take it as is.


SETH: Air Supply was the first act to do one of my songs and their manager came to me, and he was a very rough guy. You know, he was like, and that's what a manager needs to be.


PAUL: That's so funny, though, Air Supply's manager was a badass.


SETH: You would, you know, he managed ELO and Rod Stewart and a lot of people that, you know, he was a very rough guy, and he, I remember him calling me up and he goes, I was like 23 at the time, he said, yeah, your song is going to make the record. I said, fantastic, that's so great.

He goes, yeah, here's the thing. You're going to have to give us 50%. And like, everybody gives the money because, come on, you know, you're in the door of the music business if you're writing for an artist like that. And I just remember saying, like, if this gets out that I'm giving away part of my, what I do for a living, then everybody's going to ask forever.

So I said, okay, I'll give you 50% of my song, but you give me 50% of the gate when they play live.




PAUL: Did he get pissed off?


SETH: He said, you know what, kid? You've got a lot of balls, and I'm going to let you keep all of the publishing--




PAUL: Oh, that's fantastic. That's fantastic.

Let's circle around to you becoming a therapist. What led to that, and how long ago was that?


SETH: Well, in 2011, I was separated from my, I was in a long-term marriage with, and I really always say, to a very wonderful person, because that's what I think she is. And I--


PAUL: Why did you roll your eyes, though, when you said that?




SETH: Oh, no.


PAUL: Just trying to get you in trouble.


SETH: Yeah, right. Oh, I'm in a lot of trouble now.

But, you know, when you go through, you know, I dated her for five years before we were married, so we were together for a quarter of a century, my entire adult life. It was a long time, you know. So you kind of question a whole lot of things. You're kind of in midlife in many ways, and you want to, you know, and I've always had a, I've always loved psychology.

And growing up, you know, my mother and I used to just, whenever there was a party at the house and people would come over and they would dance at my house and all this kind of stuff, we would always analyze people after the party. You know, like, isn't that interesting that she said that when he was in the room, you know, that kind of thing, so I always had a proclivity for analyzation and trying to figure things out.

And it just seemed like a perfect time for that, so I applied for the master's program in clinical psychology, and, boy, it was just a tremendous experience. It really, really was. I mean, I think, you know, I went to college back in, you know, whenever, you know, back in, you know, when you go, when you're 18 to 22 years old, and I wrote a lot of paper then, but this was like . . .


PAUL: What did you get your degree in, your undergrad?


SETH: I got it in English and American history, both things. And I wrote a lot of papers and I took a lot of tests, but, you know, you're still 18 and 19 and 20 and you're just like rolling on it, you can be up all night because the test is tomorrow, right.

But when you're 50 and you go back to school, that's another story, because you think you're done with education if that's not your thing, even. You know, I went to college because everybody did. You know, and that's what you do. You grow up in a Jewish community, that's what you do [chuckles], you know, but to go back to school, that was a lot.

I wrote 104 papers in 18 months.


PAUL: Good lord.


SETH: That's a lot of papers, you know, and then there's 3,000 hours of seeing, of, you know, patients that you have, of clients, is actually what the word is today. But--


PAUL: You don't call them nutjobs?


SETH: Not, you know, mostly no--


PAUL: Not to their face, not to their face--




SETH: That's right.


PAUL: Just on the paperwork.
SETH: Absolutely, absolutely. And I, it just was a nice fit, you know. I just, I really enjoy, I enjoy, I enjoy helping people. Look, I went through a lot in my own life, you know, on both sides of it. And I remember there was one time I was walking, I was in my mid-20s, and my head was filled with so many, as I was mentioning to you, suicidal thoughts and deep anxiety and just trying to stay alive, and I was never going to do that, you know, but I--


PAUL: What was the fantasy?


SETH: There was no real fantasy.


PAUL: So you're lazy deep down.


SETH: Yeah, right.




SETH: I just, it just kind of kept cropping up, and that's depressing-making. A lot of people don't realize that their depression comes from having so much anxiety.


PAUL: Yes. That was so, I used to think I was a chill person, until I got in touch with my fears, and I realized, oh, my God, it's anxiety.
SETH: Yes.


PAUL: Just because you're not shaking and talking a mile a minute doesn't mean you're not anxious.
SETH: That's right. That's exactly right. People can hide it the best that they can--


PAUL: Oh, yeah.


SETH: --but you know what it feels like inside. And I, just to pick up on that, I remember walking one time and I was feeling that tremendously dissociated thing and just thinking, how am I going to get out of this? I really didn't, I didn't ever think I would emerge, Paul. I really never really believed it. And then it occurred.

I glimpsed, and I call it glimpsing, when you, it's not that you have to come out, but if you can just glimpse it for a moment, you could say, there's value in looking over the mountain. That means that you're ready maybe to go over that mountain.

And I did. It took five and a half years of hell.


PAUL: What was the glimpse?


SETH: I moved to L.A. from New York. As a songwriter, you know, there's a lot of action out here, like there is in New York and London and Nashville, but a lot was happening out here. I got married and I moved out here, but I was still having anxiety attacks every single day, every night. I mean, I really had a bad case of it. I still do, in many ways, but I really know how to handle it now. It doesn't beat me.


PAUL: Okay.


SETH: I have too many tools now that I know what to do at any given time, so it doesn't linger.


PAUL: And I want to talk about what those are after you finish your thought about, so you moved to L.A.


SETH: Yeah, so I moved to L.A., and I remember just thinking to myself, you know, one day I'd like to be able to help people that I know what they're going through. You know, it was such a real experience I had, such a, I know what it is. I know what it is, and I especially know what it is as an artist.

So, a lot of my clients are comedians, scriptwriters, you know, people that just, on many different levels, but they have so many anxieties that bring them to such a place. It's not just about selling a work. It's like, what am I doing? I’m not doing anything. Everybody seems to be doing that and I'm not doing, you know, all the things we've kind of covered in many ways, you know.

But I really know from it, I really know at the sidewalk, if you know what I mean. I know what it's like looking up and thinking, I'm never going to get out of this. And it's so bad and it's just--


PAUL: Why continue?


SETH: Yeah, it really was like that. And when I moved out to L.A., I became a volunteer at the Suicide Prevention Center for two years, and that was a tremendous experience, just, I just was so happy that I had emerged, that I just wanted to kind of give back. It's as simple as that. And that's kind of why I went into it and--


PAUL: And that connection, that connection is so magical. I mean, is it possible for somebody to manage anxiety without something or someone to trust?


SETH: Well, you know, that's the key word, right there. You really need, whether it's your therapist that you trust.


PAUL: Or a higher power or your support group or karma or whatever, I mean, is it--


SETH: Absolutely. That's right. And the more, the better.


PAUL: Yeah.
SETH: Like you were talking about before, we were talking about a group and your therapist, so you had a dual thing going. I think that's wonderful. I think as many things as you can get, and I don't mean, if you have five things going it's better than seven. I don't mean that. But if you have, if you're building a foundation for a house, you need it to be strong at the base, and it's obvious that it's not strong if you have issues of trust and not being able to. So you have to rebuild that house.

And the way to do it is by, like we were talking about, a group or some very close friends, that you can really talk to and really say the stuff.


PAUL: And let them love you in return.


SETH: That's right, yes.


PAUL: I think it is almost impossible--
SETH: Nonjudgmental.


PAUL: --to feel a sense of trust in the universe without letting people love you. I don't know, I can't imagine it. I can't imagine it.


SETH: There's so much judgment going on anyway, just by going to work every day and there's so many things, and, you know, all judgment isn't bad. You know, we make judgments, too. We want good things, so we judge certain things, but it's the kind of judgments, do you know what I mean, that can be very deleterious to a lot of people.


PAUL: Yeah.


SETH: So, as I said--


PAUL: Discerning would be a better thing to aim for than judgmental.


SETH: Very true, very, very true, yeah.


PAUL: So, the tools that you break out when you're feeling anxious.


SETH: Yes. I have a number of, I have 21 of them [chuckles].


PAUL: And they're all fidget spinners.




PAUL: You have a great book, called 21 Ways to Happiness--


SETH: To a Happier Depression.


PAUL: --a Happier Depression, I'm so sorry--




SETH: Yes, no, it's okay. No, it's--


PAUL: And it's a very simple book. It's readable probably in, what, an hour or two?


SETH: That's the point of it. It's filled with watercolor paintings and things like that, but it's 21 ways to, it's 21 tools, not to cure depression. That's a big thing. I'm not, you know, but it is a way of alleviating anxiety and depression. These are the tools that kind of I've been talking with you about, you know, that can really help alleviate. You know, if you alleviate 10%, because you know it's that top layer that's the hard part. It's the top layer.


PAUL: The crème brulee of the depression.


SETH: Very true. It's very true. And I couple anxiety in there as well. So, I wrote the book because this was all the things that I, you know, I had gone through all these things, and I say it in the preface, and I’m speaking to you in every chapter, there are only two or three pages each, as you mentioned.


PAUL: It's a good bathroom book, and that's not a put-down. That's like it--


SETH: No, yes.


PAUL: --to me, also a good book in that vein is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, which is like read a paragraph or two and see if it centers your day, helps your perspective.


SETH: And I made sure, I did not want to do a workbook. I didn't want to do, you know, any of those things that make it difficult. It's already difficult to have these afflictions. It's very hard.


PAUL: Well, what I liked about your book is it starts with meet your mood where it's at, don't try to change it, try to go with it, and maybe add this to it--


SETH: Absolutely.


PAUL: --and see if that doesn't bring about a second or third thing that might be enjoyable.


SETH: Well, you really got what I was trying to put out there, very, very much so. It's the don't be afraid of it, it's okay, and here are some things, here are some tools. So, you know, it's a very colorful book. It's very rare these days to have a four-color book, so it's filled with color. It really is a rare thing. I was thrilled when Sourcebooks said yes to this book. I was thrilled.

You could put this book on your night table or you could put it anywhere, so if you're going through one of those anxious periods or a panic attack or something like that, just looking at it, you know you have something there. It's there. You don't have to read through that chapter again to get to that, to get to that, and then write and do all those things. It's just a number of things that you might not have thought of before, but things that have helped me.


PAUL: And kind of a reminder that there is a way to make friends with the present moment, which is really what mindfulness and meditation is all about.


SETH: Absolutely, absolutely. Absolutely. And by the way, I just said 21 things that have helped me, but also, I've taken those things and they've really helped my clients. You know, and I didn't know, I didn't say, hey, I'm going to do that. It just kind of came out.

And I was giving them certain things to think about, and before I knew it, I just, I just came up with the title, 21 Ways to a Happier Depression, and I thought, well, that kind of lightens it a little bit and that's really what I want to say, you know, about alleviating. I'm not going to cure depression.


PAUL: Yes.


SETH: I don't ever say that. I'm not going to cure anxiety. But if I can just help people, give them a few more tools in their toolbox, I'd be thrilled. And if I could just say one more quick thing?


PAUL: Yeah.


SETH: I'm getting so many letters from people, so many, I should say e-mails, but that's the most gratifying thing, you know. I put, I've had a lot of records out there in the world and I've seen people mouth my words in restaurants and all the things that you'd think are the most wonderful things, but it's these e-mails from people that really give me, it just fulfills what I was trying to do, and I don't know, you can imagine.

You know, I mean, it's a very, when people, when a 17-year-old girl writes you and she's telling you that she never thought that she would get through X, Y and Z, but that idea in, you know, Chapter 17 helped her, or the paint-box idea, you know, where you're just painting circles and squares, you know, different things and different-aged people, so I know it sounds like I'm touting my own book. I don't really mean to be doing that. I'm just saying, it's a very gratifying experience to have this book out right now.


PAUL: And it makes sense to me, then, that you would be able to get to a place where you don't have regrets, because all of the, quote, unquote, mistakes led to you writing this book, which helped a 17-year-old girls.


SETH: Yes, exactly right.


PAUL: What is your Web site, if they want to buy a book or listen to a CD or any of the other fucking shit that you have?




PAUL: Just do nothing for a year and let the rest of us catch up.


SETH: That is too extremely kind. You know, I tell people to go to Amazon, because it's just so easy to get it there.


PAUL: I'll put the link on our--


SETH: Oh, wonderful. Oh, I appreciate it.


PAUL: --Web site for this. But is there a Web site for you that has all of the stuff that you've created?


SETH: Yes, yes. You might want to get out a pen because it's complicated, Paul.


PAUL: Uh-huh.




PAUL: How did you get that? You had to buy that from somebody. There's no way you got that first.


SETH: Well, you know, back in 1972, when I invented the Internet, no, kidding.




SETH: No, I didn't know who had, and I looked it up and it was a woman who was a farmer in New Mexico, and her last name was Seth. So I wrote her a letter and I said, listen, I'm an artist and this is the new way of putting my art up there, not just selling my books and my music and stuff, but just to put it up there, and I wondered if you would be interested in selling it? She sold it to me for $500.


PAUL: Wow.


SETH: And, you know, she said, it's just very gratifying. She loved my, I sent her all my books, and she happened to love baseball, and it was just really a nice vibe. And, you know, people, when they sell their houses, they want the person that's buying it to love their house.


PAUL: Yeah.


SETH: And so, it was just really, got along really well, so it wasn't, really it was never about the money. I don't even know what name Web sites go for, but I just, it's been kind of easy to, you know, put out there.


PAUL: It's amazing, if we put out an energy into the world that has some vulnerability to it and honesty and principles, it's amazing what it can be met with. It's amazing.
SETH: Yes, yes.


PAUL: Yeah.


SETH: Vulnerability is a good thing.


PAUL: It's strength. I used to think it was weakness.


SETH: It is. That's right.


PAUL: But it is the ultimate strength.


SETH: It really is, and no one quite recognizes that, but it really is very strong to be vulnerable, so I'm glad, it's interesting that we just, you brought that word up and, yeah.


PAUL: So, how about taking us out with some of Love Is Beautiful?


SETH: Love Is a Beautiful Thing.


PAUL: Love Is a Beautiful Thing. I would like to fuck up the name of maybe a third thing that you've done. The documentary is Beatles Stories?


SETH: Yes.


PAUL: I got one right.


SETH: Oh, my God, that's--


PAUL: I am such a terrible host.




SETH: Not at all.


PAUL: You would think that I would, after bungling all of the names of people's projects for six years, I would write shit down, but why would I do that?

As I mentioned, that's the end of the interview. As I mentioned, he was going to play a song live for us, and when I listened back, my mic placement was bad and, being the audio snob I am, I asked, can we just put a song from your album on, so at the very end of this episode, you will hear a song of his from his album Circles and Squares, a song called Far Away. It's a really beautiful song.

And speaking, you know, actually, before I get to that, this episode that you're listening to will soon be transcribed and available on our Web site, and many thanks to Accurate Secretarial for donating their time and helping out the show.

I wanted to, that book that he has, 21 Ways to a Happier Depression, there's a guy that I'm mentoring in one of my support groups, and he's been obsessing about an ex of his, and I thought, you know what? Why don't I suggest that he go to an art store and get some paint supplies and try painting circles and squares, and so we'll see how that works with him. I should really go do it, too.

Oh, I want to remind you guys, I am trying to get to Europe again to record more international guests. I was able to record about eight guests on this last trip. I really want to get to Ireland, and I've got about six or seven listeners that I think have interesting stories, and just some other guests spread around. So a listener was kind enough to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for that, and I will put the link to that on the show notes for this.

And also, Patreon, if you would like to become a monthly donor through Patreon, we'll put the link for that. It really helps out the show. It helps keep it going. Advertisers come and go, but the consistency of monthly advert-, monthly donors is really the king-, the thing that, am I drunk [chuckles], is really the thing that keeps the podcast going and keeps me from totally freaking out.

And there's another way you can support us. You can do a one-time donation through PayPal, and you can help us by shopping through our Amazon link if you're in the U.S. I hope to put one up eventually for people outside the U.S., but for right now, if you go to our homepage and click on that, do me a favor and bookmark it, and then every time you go to that URL, or Web address, whatever you want to call it, and you buy something at Amazon, we will get a small portion of that, and it doesn't make your item any more expensive. And that's another great way to help out the show.

And spreading the word through social media about the podcast really helps. It'll be nice, sometimes I'll go look at our stats, and I'll see a spike in the stats and it doesn't really say where it comes from, so I’m always kind of puzzled. Like this, what is today, Thursday, yesterday and today there was a big uptick in downloads and I have no idea what caused it. So I'm just assuming it's word of mouth and it just always makes me smile when I see that.

All right, this is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Labor Pains. And she writes, my mom and I have had a contentious relationship throughout my older teens and to this day. Since I was a child, my mom has always called me at the time I was born to sing me Happy Birthday. Oh, my mom used to do that, too.

My 29th birthday came during one of the very few positive times in our relationship. I had the day off so I slept in, but when I woke up and turned on my phone, I saw that I had a voicemail. I listened to the usual birthday serenade, which my mom ended with, you'll always be my baby girl and I'll always have the scar on my vagina [chuckles]. Oh, my God. I'm happy to say that, whenever my mom called me with that, she did not say that.

This is an e-mail that I got from a woman who calls herself Teresa. And she has borderline personality disorder and she had a therapist let her go, and the therapist would not give her a reason why or why so suddenly. And it, it really kind of threw her into a bit of a tailspin, and so she wrote me an e-mail and saying, have you heard of something like this happening? And I said that what I have heard of is that some therapists won't work with clients who have borderline personality disorder, for one reason or another, but there are therapists who do and who understand it and know how to teach the tools, like dialectical behavior therapy and other things.

So, if you're out there and you have BPD, don't let it discourage you. And one of the things that Teresa wrote me back was to say that she is still going to find a therapist, and she writes, I've been going to more support groups recently and I've felt that thing you talk about. I had never felt it before myself, but I recognized it between other people there and I finally felt it for myself this past Friday.

I guess losing your shit in front of other people is where you start. It absolutely is. It absolutely is, and it, it's funny because we dread the thought of it, and yet it is the very thing that can make someplace feel like home. And I just wanted to say to her, high-five, you are walking through the fear, you know, those feelings of rejection and the confusion, why did my therapist, you know, stop working with me? And that's where a lot of people would quit.

But I'm really, dare I use the word, proud [chuckles], I'm not the parent of Teresa, but I suppose as a listener, that she could see that she is worth the fight, and that is strength, you know. That is strength, because when you feel like you want to give up but you press on, you know, that's what they teach people in the army to be a good soldier, is despite the fear, you walk through it. And I don't know anybody that doesn't feel fear. I think fear keeps us, [in high voice] fear keeps us alive, but it also keeps us in prison. I don't know who this [chuckles], this new voice is, but I don't think Mean DJ Voice will get along with it.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself the Suppressed Storm. And she's straight, in her 20s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts.

My older brother touched me and I him when we were younger. While I think it felt good, as a child I always felt shame and guilt. As we got older, I better understood that this didn't feel good and I began to turn my brother down when he would initiate these sexual interactions. Even as a teenager, he would occasionally ask, even beg, if we could do, quote, stuff, and I had to be adamant about turning him down. For years, decades, I felt disgusting and ashamed.

With my face buried in my hands, I finally confessed my past to my therapist. The shame was overwhelming. My therapist helped me work through what felt like a traumatizing experience. I now realize how normal these experiences are, and I'm not a disgusting human because of what happened. I was simply a child who didn't understand how to process what was happening.

I have even been able to share this with my husband, who has done nothing but love me, accept me and support me. It's been one of the most healing processes of my life. That is so beautiful and such a great example of the lemonade that we can make in recovering from trauma, neglect abuse, that when we are at our most vulnerable and somebody else, for lack of a better word, catches us, there's something so life-affirming about that, something that I think goes to the very core of our DNA.

Ever been physically or emotionally abused? She's been both. My mother only physically hurt me a few times, but I think due to fear and guilt she kept it to a minimum. My mother was the sort to shame you public, turn her back or wince with disgust when you tried to hug her and roll her eyes when you entered the room. Wow, I can't imagine the message that must be buried in a kid who experienced that constantly.

I grew up thinking my mother didn’t like me, oh, well [chuckles], there's your message, and I am convinced that still to this day she teeters back and forth between loving and hating me. Anger was accepted, but expressing sadness was shameful and bad. Love and joy was earned.

My father, passive and afraid of my mother, always trying to win her approval, never protected his children because he was under her abuse as well.

Any positive experiences with the abusers? There are positive experiences, which greatly complicates my feelings about my mother. She was a woman that would go to bat for her kids, fight and defend if the time ever called. If I ever had any trouble at school with peers or teachers, she was adamant about defending me.

She attended all sporting events and cheered me on with my grades. Positive experiences came when I did something worth praising, got an A on a test, said something funny or clever or had a great tennis game. The praise, love and joy felt so good that I spent my childhood earning and achieving affection and love.

Now, as an adult, I realize that a majority of these positive experiences are based on shallow events, on conditional purposes, yet it did allow me to bond with my mother.

I sometimes wonder who is worse off, the child who is just clearly neglected or the child who is only praised for accomplishing and doing things that the parent can show off to the community, because that's what strikes me about your mom, is all of the things that she praised you for were things that parents typically boast about. And yet, any kind of vulnerability you showed was shut down, which is really, really unfortunate and I'm sorry that you had to experience that.

Darkest thoughts. Being alone in a cabin or small house in the middle of nowhere with a small garden and a porch. I spend my day to myself, isolated, working on my garden and living a very simple life. I genuinely believe that my marriage is the best gift life could have given me. It has helped heal so many wounds. It's changed how I love and can be loved, but even with that, there's something beautiful about being alone in a peaceful place.

I don't know, I may be romanticizing it. I think that sometimes it also means I wish I could just hide and manage my storm or demons on my own. I have a hard time managing the stress and pressure of life, so much of which I put on myself. And I wish I could escape it, to a lonely cabin, preferably. I don't share this with anyone because I think it will hurt my husband, even though I think he would be very understanding.

Thank you so much for sharing that because I think so many of us have that fantasy, that we want to feel some type of connection to the universe without the complications of people's personalities and needs. And reading that, I was like, wow, that sounds really good [chuckles]. Are they renting the one a mile away from that, because maybe I'd like to do that?

And I think all people, including people that are married or living with somebody else, I think you deserve time by yourself. I don't think there's anything unhealthy or hurtful about that. You know, obviously there's a fine line in there, but I would bring it up to your husband. And he sounds like an understanding guy, and you deserve it. You deserve to at least see what that's like.

You may find after two days you're lonely and you want to come back. I did that once camping. I was like, I'm just going to be with myself and nature and my higher power, and within 24 hours, my hot dog had rolled off the barbecue into the dirt and I said, fuck this, [chuckles] and I packed up my shit and came home. But at least I got to experience that. So now I know, I'm sad and lonely [chuckles].

Darkest secrets. The issue with my brother is my true deepest, darkest secret, which I have now shared with two people. I guess my other secret is that I felt very sexual at a young age. I started masturbating when I was around five years old or so, after I had unintentionally stimulated myself.

Growing up, I felt like there was something wrong with me because I was taught that only boys think about sex, girls not as much, so I felt like I had the mind of a boy. It wasn't until I was a young adult that I learned that that wasn't the case and that I am, in fact, quite normal.

Sexual fantasies. After listening to this podcast, I understand that my sexual fantasies are nothing out of the norm, although I wish it wasn't my fantasy. I would never want this to happen to me, but I do fantasize being raped or gang-banged, desired or wanted by several men, taken against my will. Why do women fantasize this? What does it mean? Maybe those questions aren't important, but I'm curious, nonetheless.

I think all of us can't help but be curious why the things that turn us on turn us on. And I think we can embrace what turns us on, while also being curious about it, you know, not waiting for an answer to go, oh, okay, it's okay now to, you know, picture such-and-such when I'm having sex or do such-and-such act with a consenting person.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? Fuck you, Mom. Fuck you, Dad. But please, still love me, question mark. Now that is a T-shirt. That is a T-shirt. Because their love feels conditional and people don't say fuck in my family [chuckles].

Oh, I, you know, there is just something that really perturbs me about the people who are emotionally abusive but don't allow swearing. That is just a special kind of hypocrisy. And look, I know we're all hypocrites. I'm a hypocrite. But just let me have my moment, won't you? Let me have my moment of looking down on somebody other than myself.

What, if anything, do you wish for? Peace. Content. The calming of my inner storm. For my heart rate to slow down and stop feeling like it's going to burst out of my chest.

Have you shared these things with others? Yeah, you may not be able to tell by the way I have been answering some of these questions, but I have worked through so much of my past. I've talked with a therapist. I've completed DBT work. I love DBT. I have a solid support group and people who love me.

But due to some recent shifts and changes in life, my emotional storm is triggered and I'm having a hard time processing it all. I cry a lot, which actually feels good because I used to think crying was bad and shameful. Now I cry so I can release emotions, feel the emotions that I once would not let myself feel.

Such a beautiful survey. Oh, how do you feel after writing these things down? I'm Googling self-love after I finish this. Filling out this survey, going through the Web site, listening to the podcasts, it all makes me feel like I am part of a club full of misfit toys, but we got our own island and we can say fuck you whenever we want because it's not about you, it's about me, and we can accept each other for that. We can accept each other because we know we're all going through the process.

That's one of my favorite surveys that I've read, because you're clearly doing so much work and making peace with things that you used to really, really struggle with, and that's beautiful.

This is an e-mail I got from a person, and they write, hi, dear. I am Captain Kristin Marie Greased from Orange, Connecticut, United States. It's so weird because I’m from Chicago, Illinois, United States, North America, Earth, Milky Way. I wonder, no, I don't know if we . . .

I am U.S. Army special force team working at U.S.-, wow, this person is an entire team. That is impressive. That is impressive. I saw your profile today and I love it and decide to drop few words to you because you match the type of person I will like to start a relationship with. Thanks and have a nice day.

Well, I did have a nice day, Captain. I salute you for thinking of me. And I'm, you know, you drop your words, your few words, and I caught them. I'm glad I caught them. But I'm confused when you say, I saw your profile. I don't know if you mean a picture of me online or you were walking by in the street and I was turned sideways. I'm going to assume, because you're from Orange, Connecticut, United States, that it was the latter, but I don't know which profile you saw me on. Maybe you saw me on Or you might have, I don't know, not many people go to anymore. It's really kind of the MySpace of social media.

But my profile, I don't know if I've ever read my profile to you guys, but I write, I enjoy sadness-driven eating, canceling at the last minute, and sending important calls to voicemail. Will you join me for inconceivably long naps or watching me in helpless amazement?

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by Oosh McGoosh. And I just want to write, just read one portion of this. Let me see, she's in her 20s, straight, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused, not sure if she was physically or emotionally abused.

I think the way my mom treated me was emotional abuse. She was an alcoholic and an anorexic and was always telling my sister and I that we were fat. Yes, that's emotional abuse. And that no one would want to be friends with us or date us because of it. Yes, that is emotional abuse.

I don't know if that, I'm not sure that your mother, that you wouldn't be taken away from a parent who was saying something like that, a parent that was saying that to a kid, because that's every bit as bad as hitting your child.

I remember once we were walking down the street and she was mad that I didn't have anyone to hang out with that day and she called me a loser and told me that I didn't have any friends. I just ran down the block, I was so hurt.

Any positive experiences? So many. I love my mom and I know that she loves me but just is so caught up in her illnesses and it just so happens that I am a trigger for her, so I objectively understand her behavior, but I'm getting older now and I think I have to start cutting ties. That kills me to admit, though, because I really do love her and hate to upset her.

Well, I know very much what that is like, and you know, sometimes an option is that we have to love somebody from a distance. Compassion is good but never at the expense of compassion for ourselves.

Darkest thoughts. I think about my mom dying. When I was younger, I would think about it while I went to sleep, what I would say at the funeral, how people would be nice to me and how I would get out of schoolwork, how much easier my life would be with just my dad.

Darkest secrets. I used to masturbate my dog and my cat by rubbing their penises. It started off as curiosity and then my cat actually seemed to like it, question mark. My dog didn't do anything, so I stopped pretty quickly. I never got any pleasure out of rubbing. I just found it interesting how my cat would react. I don't do it anymore, but when I scratch his belly he pushes my hand down to his penis [chuckles]. It's so crazy, like he wants me to jerk him off.

I don't think it's like he wants you to jerk him off [chuckles]. Yeah. She writes, I don't, though, too weird. Well, I got to say, you know, it is hard when that threshold has been crossed to go back to just being friends with your cat [chuckles]. You know, we all do stuff that puzzles us. I think we're just naturally curious people and I, I hope that didn't come across as me mocking you or putting you down, because I'm not. I, if I could have got my dog to blow me when I was a teenager, yeah, I would, I'm not even going to, let's move on with the survey.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Weight gain and gluttony. I've never been with an overweight man and I'm not particularly attracted to them, but it's the only thing I masturbate to. Even thinking about someone eating too much at dinner or not fitting in clothes can get me off. I suppose it has something to do with my mom controlling what I eat. It used to really gross me out that that's what I like, but I think I've just accepted it. Masturbating feels good, so fuck it. High-fucking-five to you, man. High-fucking-five.

I really think there is, and maybe it's me giving the podcast too much credit, but I'm seeing more recovery in these surveys. I'm seeing more people accept their sexuality and cut ties with toxic people and starting to do things to love themselves, and it, it is really exciting, really exciting to read, you know, whether it has anything to do with this podcast or not, but I'm so glad you guys share this. And if you haven't ever taken any of our surveys, it greatly helps the show, so if you're looking for a non-financial way to help us out, please consider going and doing that.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Angels Poop Rainbow Sprinkles, and she writes, discovering that my pet rabbit had four beautiful babies and bursting into tears, being told by my mother that it's okay to cry out of happiness. That just is so awesome. What a, just a perfect moment of a parent and a child connecting and that kid learning about emotions and safety and being human.

This was an e-mail that I got from a woman named Casey, and although, it could actually be a man as well, and Casey writes, Casey had written about having stopped taking meds and seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist because they felt like they weren't making much progress, and they are cynical about the fact that they can ever overcome their feelings of emptiness, depression, suicidal ideation, struggling to get out of bed and anxiety.

And I wrote back, Casey, I'm so sorry you're struggling. I've been there. I'm not a professional so I can only tell you what worked for me was staying with the psychiatrist, because I trusted him, and trying different meds and always letting him know what was going on with me, if something was working or wasn't working or was working but had an intolerable side effect, and then we would try something else.

You know, it's really frustrating and it takes time, but in the meantime, be kind to yourself. You wouldn't insult a cancer patient who wasn't responding to chemo. Well, depression is a sickness and it's not a weakness. It saps our vitality. And I don't know what to tell you about the therapist that you feel like you're not clicking with, but I do know that being really depressed can make it challenging to connect to a therapist or friends or a support group. But whatever you do, don't give up.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, and this one is, I don't . . . I was going to say it's really dark and, you know, a trigger warning or whatever, but anybody that's listened to the show, you know that really if I, there could be a trigger warning every five seconds.

And this is filled out by a guy who calls himself In the Shade, and he's straight, he's in his 20s, he was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. He writes, I lived with hate in my heart.

Ever been the victim of sexual abuse. Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. I accidentally walked in on, on two separate occasions, my father fucking my seven-year-old sister. I was eight. Within that year, my parents found me on top of my sister, naked. My sister had asked me to do it, so I lied and said I had seen it in a magazine.

He has also been physically and emotionally abused. Yeah, I would say that walking in and seeing your father raping your sister is absolutely sexual abuse, and anything that happened between you and your sister at age seven and eight with something like that going on in your house, that's, that is on that parent who is creating that environment.

He writes, my father took his anger out on me most. He was a strong roofer with rage in his eyes. We were helpless. He belittled and cursed and hit the three of us, but mostly myself and my sister. I hold a deep resentment and rage towards my father.

Any positive experiences with the abusers? My wife, son and I are currently living with and supporting my parents, but things are different. He is different and, I believe, afraid of me. I have become stronger and intolerable [sic] of his bullshit. We smoke weed together. Still, I fucking hate him, yet do I protect him and carry his burden.

I am the only one who fucking knows. My sister repressed the memories. Fuck me. Man, what a load to bear. What a load to bear.

Deepest, darkest thoughts. There is something I wrote about the rage within me, but I had to confess there is something much darker. I have thoughts of young girls, sexual thoughts, and it drives me insane with self-hate at times, but at other times, I give in and look up Lollycon or some other hentai and there is a darkness in me which gloats at the obsession despite my experience as a child. It calls me a pedophile, and I can't say it is wrong.

I have never acted on this, other than masturbating furiously to drawn images of little girls, in parentheses, Lolly. I absolutely do not intend to act on it in the future. At times, I hate what I am. At others, I blame God for allowing that shit to happen to me.

I have never met or talked to somebody who was immediately comfortable with a sexual fantasy that they don't act on with, you know, that would break laws, that didn't wrestle with that, and what turns you on has no bearing on how moral of a person you are. It's what you do with it. And if you're not hurting somebody, masturbating to drawn images, stop beating yourself up, you know.

Darkest secrets. I fucked a much older woman than myself that I met on the public bus one day, in the midst of my 10-year heroin addiction. I suppose that's not surprising, given the situation.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Forcefully sodomizing a girl. Oh, God, kill me.

You don't need to be killed. You don't need to be killed. You know, I was talking with somebody the other day, it was a woman who has fantasies similar to yours, and she fantasizes about being the girl in the situation.

And, you know, she and I were talking about how society demonizes people who have fantasies that are illegal, and we're talking about people who fantasize it but don't act on it, you know, don't go out and actually hurt un-consenting people, and she and I were saying that, you know, people say, oh, yeah, that person should be pushed off a building or this, and I think, no, that person should be fucking given a trophy for fighting that battle within themselves and not hurting somebody. That is a fucking hero to me.

And you can take that however you want, because I don't give a fuck. I don't give a fuck. If you're not hurting somebody and there is a war within you because a dark part of you wants something, and it's not a choice in you. What we're turned on by is not a choice. And you don't give in to that, in real life, that's a hero to me. That's a fucking hero. And I hate seeing people be shamed for. Dan Savage refers to people who don't act on it as gold-star pedophiles, and I think that's a good term.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I can see why you did it, but I fucking hate that you did.

What, if anything, do you wish for? Happiness, question mark. For people not to be either afraid or disgusted of me. I'm not afraid or disgusted of what you shared, of what you've done and what you think of.

Have you shared these things with others? This is another level of sick. I have shared much of what fucks with my head to counselors and in 12-step programs, but not to this extent.

How do you feel after writing these things down? Terrified. Is there anything you'd like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences? Use places like this to let it out. Don't hold the secrets in. Get it out, however you can. Perhaps it will ease the load. And never act on what you feel when it comes to these things.

Dude, I want to give you a hug and a fucking high-five because you are a soldier. You are a fucking soldier. You, yeah, and you know you say that you smoke weed with your dad. I wonder what would happen if you didn't do that and you just felt the feelings that you were feeling and honored what you wanted, meaning if you didn't feel like hanging out with your dad you just didn't because that's your right. Because I think when we're using drugs or alcohol to cope, not to relax but to cope, because there's an addiction or trauma or something, I think it can really slow down our healing.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend, and she writes, my mom and my grandma, my mom's mom, were always very competitive with each other. I don't know why that was, but perhaps it had something to do with narcissism, of which they both had traits. My grandma had cancer and was in hospice awaiting her final days.

My mom, not to be outdone, ended up in hospital at the same time with a very unexpected tragic illness. I honestly thought she was trying to get the attention back on herself. That feeling was short-lived when I realized how sick she actually was. It became clear she was going to die, and I asked some family friends to let Grandma in hospice know.

They came back to tell me my grandma had taken a turn and looked like she would die that night, too. Yes, they both died, hours apart, on the same day. Part of me rests happily knowing that they went together, not alone. Part of me feels like they may have been trying to beat each other to the grave. At any rate, I can now make great jokes about saving money with a double funeral and only having one day to grieve instead of two.

The only ironic thing that makes the story that much more ridiculous is the day they died was the day after my father died exactly 10 years earlier. That day, well, he was very practical and would not want me to forget his day of passing, so naturally, it was Father's Day. This was four years ago, and I still affectionately refer to June as Death Month. Oh [chuckles], thank you for that.

And then finally, this is a Happy Moment filled out by Wonder Woman, and she writes, not too long ago, I was in the bathroom getting ready to take a shower when a single thought shot through my brain. I am so much more than I think I am. I can do so much more than I think I can do. These ideas struck me so deeply that I wrote them down and ruminated on them during my shower, even crying a few happy tears.

I know logically that this is only a single moment and I'm going to have plenty more negative thoughts pop up, but I can only hope that those two sentences are a beacon of positivity that I can keep going back to.

To anyone who is having trouble fighting the negative thoughts, you are so much more than you think you are and you can do so much more than you think you can.

You know what I love about that? There's so many things I love about that. What I love about it is, to me, that's what recovering looks like, is just these little moments, just stringing together little moments, and tucking them away, and before you know it a week has passed and then a month and then years, and yeah, sometimes there's backsliding, etc., etc., but yeah, thank you for that. Thank you, all of you, for supporting the show and filling out the surveys and all the things that you do.

It just means so, so much to me, and I think it has a lot to do with feeling some of the resilience I've been feeling in going through the personal stuff I've been going through these last couple of months, and it's nice to feel resilient. It's nice to feel peace in the middle of the storm. And I think it's really there. I think that's doable for all of us.

And maybe I'm being unrealistic, but I think if we're willing to ask for help and talk to professionals and do the things that they suggest that we might want, not want to do, just to try them and give it time, I think we can have lives that are so much more fulfilling than we think they can be.

Yeah, you're not alone, and thanks for listening.


[Far Away by Seth Swirsky played in closing]