About this episode

In this episode of Bewildered, Martha and Ro answer a question from listener Josephine, who's trying to understand and overcome her resistance to doing things that are good for her. The culture tells us that if something is good for us, we should just do it! Otherwise, we need to punish ourselves. There's only one problem with that: Punishments don't work. To learn how Martha and Ro use kindness and creativity to get past inertia and move through transitions, be sure to listen to the full conversation!

Image for Episode #48 How to Get Started for the Bewildered Podcast with Martha Beck and Rowan Mangan
How to Get Started
Show Notes

Click here to watch the full episode on YouTube!

There’s a quirk in our human programming that says that whatever state we’re in, we prefer to stay in it—and, like toddlers, some parts of ourselves might tantrum at transition times.

In this episode of Bewildered: How to Get Started, Martha and Rowan answer a question from listener Josephine, who is trying to understand and overcome her resistance to doing things that are good for her.

Martha says that one of the things that is universally true for all cultures is this reluctance to move from one activity or state of being to the next.

The cultural message we get is that these kinds of transitions should not be an issue—if something is good for you, you should just do it. Otherwise, there must be something wrong with you, and you should punish yourself.

However, as Martha points out, punishment doesn’t work and is actually counterproductive. Instead, she recommends recognizing all the different parts of your psyche—and being respectful and loving toward the part that’s putting up the resistance to change.

To learn the effective ways Martha and Ro use kindness and creativity to get past inertia and move through transitions, be sure to listen to the full conversation!

Also in this episode:

* Ro makes plenty of references to half-nudity. (Enjoy!)

* Martha shares the scientific definition of inertia. (Enjoy!)

* Lila’s got a job to do, and it’s brutal.

* Ro tells Hestia where she can go.

* a big shout-out to the toddler community

 

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Transcript

Please note: This is an unedited transcript, provided as a courtesy, and reflects the actual conversation as closely as possible. Please forgive any typographical or grammatical errors.

(Topic Discussion starts around 00:11:59)

Martha Beck:
[Intro Music] Welcome to Bewildered. I’m Martha Beck, here with Rowan Mangan. At this crazy moment in history a lot of people are feelings bewildered, but that actually may be a sign we’re on track. Human culture teaches us to come to consensus, but nature — our own true nature — helps us come to our senses. Rowan and I believe that the best way to figure it all out is by going through bewilderment into be-wild-erment. That’s why we’re here. [Music fades] Hi, I’m Martha Beck!

Rowan Mangan:
And I’m Rowan Mangan. And this is another episode of Bewildered, the podcast for people trying to figure it out. Isn’t it Marty?

Martha Beck:
Yes. And so what are you trying to figure out at this moment in your life?

Rowan Mangan:
Do you ever think, is everyone as weird as me?

Martha Beck:
Constantly.

Rowan Mangan:
And they just don’t talk about it?

Martha Beck:
Constantly.

Rowan Mangan:
You know where you do that thing where you just like, this is what my life is like and I’m familiar with how odd it is, but I don’t really see that oddness represented around me?

Martha Beck:
What oddness do you speak of, in specifics?

Rowan Mangan:
All right, so what I’m thinking of is something that happened last week where I was in New York with Lila at our apartment and our babysitter came over, lovely young woman. And in that morning, I had been a little bit sleepy, Lila hadn’t slept well. And so I was sort of a little bit taken aback when she turned up, because I might have just dozed off a little bit on the couch.

Martha Beck:
When the babysitter turned up.

Rowan Mangan:
The babysitter.

Martha Beck:
Okay.

Rowan Mangan:
Sorry. And-

Martha Beck:
Lila is a baby.

Rowan Mangan:
Lila is-

Martha Beck:
Just in case this is their first listen.

Rowan Mangan:
I’m sorry. Lila is a baby. Some random baby. Babysitter turns up. I’m a little bit sleepy and taken aback, and “Oh gosh, is it that time already?” I’m in my PJs. I’m in my PJs.

Martha Beck:
Shocking.

Rowan Mangan:
I’m not ashamed of that. That’s okay.

Martha Beck:
That’s not odd.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s okay, isn’t it?

Martha Beck:
Yeah. Totally.

Rowan Mangan:
So I’m quickly… Because at 8:50 I was like, “Oh crap, she’s going to be here.” So I’m quickly making oatmeal for Lila. Here’s the oatmeal. Babysitter comes in, she’s talking to me. I’m in the kitchen, she’s near the kitchen.

Martha Beck:
And you punched her in the face.

Rowan Mangan:
I did nothing of the sort.

Martha Beck:
Oh, you’re not odd. Go on.

Rowan Mangan:
All right. So what happened, it was Lila, is it in a bit of a clingy phase and really needed my full attention, and the attention, not just of my face, but also my hands in that moment. But my hands, as I spoke to the babysitter, this is the multitasking reality of a mother. Talk to the babysitter, deal with the toddler underfoot, juggle my cup of coffee, very important part of the morning. Her oatmeal. So, a bowl of oatmeal on one hand, coffee in the other hand.

Martha Beck:
Okay.

Rowan Mangan:
Can you picture it?

Martha Beck:
I’ve got it. Got it.

Rowan Mangan:
I’m painting the word picture for you. I’m walking. I’m trying to walk towards the babysitter to get this show on the road while we chat. Now what happened at that moment, Marty.

Martha Beck:
Yes?

Rowan Mangan:
Is that Lila grabbed my pajama pants as I tried to walk forward.

Martha Beck:
I see.

Rowan Mangan:
And her clinginess, she just transferred it all away from me, myself and just into those PJ pants.

Martha Beck:
To the pants.

Rowan Mangan:
These pink, flannel, big, gold PJ pants. And so maybe this is the bit that maybe I’m weird. I don’t like to wear underwear to bed.

Martha Beck:
Oh my God.

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t, it’s not comfortable. So when my pants were pulled down, in front of the babysitter that we don’t know super well yet, well enough to trust her with our kid, but not well enough to get naked.

Martha Beck:
Get naked, I would think.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, that happened. We didn’t mention it.

Martha Beck:
No, you never will.

Rowan Mangan:
No, I don’t know. I don’t feel like we’re closer necessarily from that. I would’ve expected maybe that there’d be, or maybe she would’ve gone out of her way to find an opportunity to do the same thing so that I felt better about it.

Martha Beck:
You think she would just drop trou right there. We’re all good. This is great. No problem. I think this actually may become a barrier to intimacy, ironically, getting naked at first friendship is like, you’re never going to get over that.

Rowan Mangan:
In fairness, I was only half naked. But it’s just not the regular half that you expect when people are half naked.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, you would sort of want the other half if you had to choose.

Rowan Mangan:
If I had to choose.

Martha Beck:
And so would probably the babysitter choose the other half.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s interesting because I wonder if that’s cultural, which half is more private? Is that cultural or is that nature?

Martha Beck:
They have bars or they did when I was there 100 years ago, called No-pan bars. So like we have Hooters in America where the waitresses have-

Rowan Mangan:
I know I do.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, speak for yourself. But in Japan, they have these No-pan bars where the women have blouses on, but nothing from the waist down. So I think that, that is more the focus there. I’m not sure. Maybe if something’s more sexually desirable, I don’t know. Maybe they just think that part is less embarrassing for some reason.

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t know. Maybe the whole thing is that it’s half, it doesn’t matter as much, which half as the half is concealed, half is revealed.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. I just picture you sailing out of the kitchen like Venus in the Botticelli, just naked.

Rowan Mangan:
In a clam shell.

Martha Beck:
In a clam shell. What babysitter wouldn’t be pleased to work for such a family?

Rowan Mangan:
A cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal.

Martha Beck:
The divine oatmeal. What you should have done is just handed both of them to the babysitter and said, “For you, madam,” and then done a little dance. No, I meant for this to happen.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s what I tried to convey, I tried to convey like, “Oh, this again.” And I kind of quickly put the coffee and the oatmeal down on the counter and grabbed my pants. But all the time, keeping this facial expression of like, “Oh, kids.” Anyway.

Martha Beck:
Wake up Australia.

Rowan Mangan:
Wake up Australia.

Martha Beck:
You should have said, “Wake up Australia,” because that would make her think that in Australia you get up, you have your coffee and your oatmeal, you drop your pants and that’s the morning.

Rowan Mangan:
Thank you for saying that because I just really want my Aussie listeners to appreciate that whenever someone is in front of me and I’m driving and the red light has changed to green and they haven’t moved yet, I like to say, “Wake up Australia,” and I’m bringing that to America.

Martha Beck:
It’s cruel because Australia’s asleep at that moment.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my God, you’re so right.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. It’s cruel.

Rowan Mangan:
Marty, save me from myself. What are you trying to figure out?

Martha Beck:
Everything swirls around this two and a half year old who is just laying waste to our lives. I’ve talked before about Lila’s brutal strength.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s true.

Martha Beck:
The child is uncannily powerful. Right? Always has been. And now, I’m not only seeing the strength, I’m seeing how she filters it through her two and a half year old filter of, you would filter things through a filter, of perception and how she experiences what we do for her. Because yesterday I was sitting, we’d gone into the bathroom. This is a big, exciting adventure. When she was born, I had decided she could not come in my bathroom. And except that then I would allow it on certain occasions and it would become special and ritualized.

Rowan Mangan:
I just need to say she doesn’t mean in the toilet.

Martha Beck:
No, no, no, no. Just there’s a vanity with drawers and makeup and brushes and things. So she found some necklaces that were tangled. So I was sitting on the bathroom floor untangling the necklaces, tender moment with my child. I’m down at her level and all of a sudden, –

Rowan Mangan:
Love that, untangling necklaces. You just say it as though weaving baskets.

Martha Beck:
And suddenly, I get a vicious blow to the head. Sorry, our producer’s not going to be happy with that. I wasn’t happy. It was a solid thunk. And I look up and there’s Lila with a hairbrush and she says, “Okay, Muffy, time to do your hair.” Wham and it hits me again. Bam, bam. And I start to get just savagely beaten about the head and face and she’s like, “Hold still Muffy. I just need to do your hair.” Wham, wham, wham. And then she goes, “We’re just going to get it out of your eyes.” Bam. My hair is not long enough. She got in my eyes, but this is what she’s been subjected to as kind of a reenactment of a trauma. So then by the time she’s done, my hair is sticking out in a billion directions and I have black eyes and she’s like, “There, isn’t that better?”

Rowan Mangan:
What I love about it is… Oh, there’s so many things I love about this story. One – raised by lesbians. Clearly, we’re trying to convey to her at all times, I’m not trying to make your hair look good, I’m just trying to get it out of your eyes. For God’s sake, don’t judge me on the quality of the ponytail that I am now constructing. That’s for sure. But then I also love that there’s a real psychopathic kind of vibe there where she’s hitting you and going, “Don’t worry, mommy. I’m just getting it out of your eyes.”

Martha Beck:
This is probably how she experiences the world. She’s this tiny person and we come at her with objects and randomly strike her in the head and say, “We’re getting it out of your eyes.” Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s funny because I apologize a lot and I thank a lot and that’s working out well with Lila on the whole. She’s pretty good with her manners and her pleases and thank you is pretty good for-

Martha Beck:
Yeah, I have to say at one point she said, “Sorry, Muffy,” and then hit me again.

Rowan Mangan:
This is what I was going to say is that because what generally happens is like, okay, so I’m getting her undressed here in the bath and the top that I’m pulling off over her head is a little bit too tight. And it clips her nose and I go, “Oh, sorry.” And so it’s like she now mimics that when she’s a little bit hurt. She goes, “I’m sorry.” And I’m like, “What have I done to her?” She’s terrified of me. She’s apologizing for now me hurting her.

Martha Beck:
This child is just learning lines and running amuck. When she says, “Oh, sorry,” she’s saying to herself, “Far be it from me to do anything to discomfort you. You deserve to feel good all the time.”

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, well that’s good. That’s all right then.

Martha Beck:
It’s good. It’s good. But she just be careful when you’re around her, because she can hurt you.

Rowan Mangan:
How’s your head today?

Martha Beck:
They’re tender spots, yeah. Patches of missing hair. But it’s out of my eyes.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s out of your eyes.

Martha Beck:
Actually, some of it got ripped out and went into my eyes. That’s how she experiences us.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. There we go.

We’ll be right back with more Bewildered. I have a favor to ask. You might not know this, but ratings and reviews are like gold in the podcasting universe. They get podcasts in front of more faces, more eyes, more ears. All the bits that you could have a podcast in front of, that’s what they do. So it would help us enormously if you would consider going over to your favorite podcasting app, especially if it’s Apple, and giving us a few stars, maybe even five, maybe even six. If you can find a way to hack the system, I wouldn’t complain. And a review would be also be wonderful. We read them all and love them. So thank you very much in advance. Let’s just go out there and bewilder the world.

All right, so let’s move on to today’s topic, which is today we’re going to do a BeWild Files episode. We are loving these. We’ve got so many awesome questions from you all. BeWild Files for new listeners are the types of Bewildered episodes where we talk about what you’re trying to figure out. Because it’s not all about us. Okay? It’s not all about us. If you want to figure out how to do this and send your question, you go to rowanmangan.com/bewildered and then you’ll find out how to do it. And there’s a very specific way to do it. But today we’re talking to, well, we are, we’re talking with everyone, but we’re listening. First we listen, then we talk.

Martha Beck:
Good plan.

Rowan Mangan:
To Josephine. So let’s hear Josephine’s question.

Martha Beck:
Okay.

Josephine:
I’m trying to figure out why I have so much resistance towards doing things that are actually good for me and that bring me actual joy. Because my initial feeling towards those things is usually dread, I have to really force myself to do them. And I wonder if it’s really supposed to be that way. I always feel happier and lighter after having done them, but fighting with the resistance every day is tiring and it makes me feel unable to trust my instincts, given that they’re telling me not to do the things that are actually good for me. Do you have any advice on this? Thank you.

Martha Beck:
What a brilliant question.

Rowan Mangan:
Such a brilliant question.

Martha Beck:
We can totally relate to this.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my gosh.

Martha Beck:
Today I have physical therapy, which is my favorite thing. It has made me so much healthier and stronger. And when as the time comes close to go to physical therapy, I will do everything I can to not go in there. Driving along, I will consider turning and doing so many other things because part of me seems to be afraid of physical therapy. I seem loath to go to physical therapy even though I love it and it makes me feel good. Same with writing, same with art projects, same with parties. No, don’t make me, and then I go and it’s good.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. I should’ve really thought about this more when I was in my phase of pulling my pants down in front of new strangers because I dreaded it. But I think maybe at that time, it might have been a good time to actually listen to my instincts.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. You could get No-pan work.

Rowan Mangan:
I could. Oh, I could, let me tell you. Yeah. But writing is such a huge one for me with this.

Martha Beck:
Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
What I was saying to Marty, it’s like you don’t want to get in the bath but you don’t want to get out of the bath. That to me is the classic sort of thing. And anyway, but what does-

Martha Beck:
Do other people have that? Do we all have the don’t want to get in the bath, don’t want to get out of the bath?

Rowan Mangan:
I believe it to be universal.

Martha Beck:
I have don’t want to go to sleep, don’t want to get up.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, same principle. Same principle. So what does the culture say about it?

Martha Beck:
I think the cultural message is like, this should not be an issue for you. You like it, you know it’s good for you, just do it. Why would you not? Are you crazy? And yet, I think everybody has this ambivalence.

Rowan Mangan:
And you know, who knows what it is for Josephine? I don’t know. But it did strike me listening to her question that the culture assumes when we are having to switch activities, I have to start this new thing. It’s really good for me. I know it is. But the culture says you are unitary, you are one thing, you are same all time. You come out of factory, ready to go, batteries included, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum. And I don’t think we are unitary in that way. And so I feel like maybe part of what I struggle with, you struggle with, Josephine struggles with is, and by the way, physical therapy is a terrible example because that’s just objectively a horrible thing to do.

Martha Beck:
It’s wonderful. I hate it.

Rowan Mangan:
Whatever. But yeah, I think maybe what we’re all struggling with is that when you have to switch from one kind of self to another self, that’s really difficult, that there’s an inertia in us that wants to stay with what we’re doing. And it’s hard to go into a different state. It’s hard to take off your clothes, sorry for always talking about taking off my clothes, and in the cold bathroom and get in the bath. Even though you’re going to be warm soon, it’s still hard to take off your clothes.

Martha Beck:
It is. It’s very, very hard. And I want to say something about the word inertia. Sometimes people mistake it for inertness, just laziness and lying there. But inertia literally means a body, once set in motion, will continue in the same direction until acted on by an equal and opposite force.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s the only thing I ever learned in physics. My friends and I, such idiots. But I have to just say this because some of them will be listening and they will remember this, is that whenever we would pull up in a car and slam forward a bit, we’d go, “God damn you inertia,” every time. Such squares.

Martha Beck:
Well, life is kind of slamming up against the car dashboard over and over and over because we do have different parts. I’ve talked before about IFS, internal family systems therapy, which is this brilliant system, it works so well therapeutically, simply-

Rowan Mangan:
Also known as parts psychology.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. There are different fields of parts psychology. And the whole idea is that every part of you, we’ve always known there are different parts of us, but that every part of you is a whole and complete personality… Not that you have dissociation. But if you want to talk to the part of you that loves to cuddle in bed, it’s literally a different person from the one who wants to jump out of bed and get going with the day, drop your pants and get the oatmeal.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. So I think we’re trying to switch from one part to another, like you say. So for me, I might be an admin, tick things off my list, achieving, achieving. And then I have to go into writing, which is such a different persona and also gets dopamine from really different things. It’s slow and it’s nuanced and subtle. And admin is like, and it’s done, the bill is paid.

Martha Beck:
An admin chick is like, “Look at all the dopamine I’m making over here. Why would you want to go there?”

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, yeah. So anyway, I have the writer kind of part and I have admin chick, then I have this other part there. And I mean, you are right. They’re so distinct.

Martha Beck:
So distinct.

Rowan Mangan:
Because we talk about my Hestia self, like my goddess of the hearth self, which I haven’t been inhabiting very much lately. It’s interesting. But it’s the part of me that cooks hearty, lovely food for my family and likes to clean up and create, and buys flowers and puts them on the table.

Martha Beck:
And the funny thing is when she’s up, you talk like she’s always up.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, I know.

Martha Beck:
Oh, I love it. I had a client once, a famous, famous person, who I had lunch with her and then the next week she was like, “Remember the times we used to have.” And I was like, “You mean lunch?” But she’d extended it into this long relationship. And you do the same with Hestia. Oh, I just love all the cooking we’ve done here. This is a cruel thing to say, but you had to have certain items of cookware when we moved here.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s completely normal.

Martha Beck:
That you have literally never used.

Rowan Mangan:
How dare you. I’ve used them twice.

Martha Beck:
No, the tagine.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, the tagine was purely decorative. And I must say it’s lovely piece of our studio.

Martha Beck:
That’s right, now it’s part of the studio.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. The tagine hasn’t got a lot of use.

Martha Beck:
Podcast chick came out and said, “Up yours, Hestia. I’m taking the tea.”

Rowan Mangan:
That’s so true. It’s so true.

Martha Beck:
You’re literally stealing from each other.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, yeah.

Martha Beck:
Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
What are your parts? Tell me about your… Just for example. I know there’s loads.

Martha Beck:
The writer self is this manic focused, gum chewing, disciplined, and then there’s-

Rowan Mangan:
Can I say something really interesting?

Martha Beck:
What.

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t know if you’re going to like me saying this, but when Marty was writing her last book, she’s a very weird person, you guys. I don’t know if you’ve picked this up yet.

Martha Beck:
It’s true.

Rowan Mangan:
One of the things she likes to do is to know pH levels of her body. And she’s always trying to get more alkaline, more alkaline, more alkaline. I won’t talk about how she gets the readings, it’s not relevant. But, when she was writing her last book, when you would write and you were always complaining and grumpy about it-

Martha Beck:
Oh, hate it.

Rowan Mangan:
Struggling through. And you would go into your little room and get your little reading, and you would be more alkaline than any dietary or anything.

Martha Beck:
Once I’m in it. Once I’m in it, it’s swimming through a deep ocean and I don’t even need to breathe. It’s like,-

Rowan Mangan:
But your body.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. My body loved it too.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
That’s what Josephine was saying. These are good things. These are nature, but they’re human nature. So it kind of goes beyond just what an animal would do. There are things that we can do that are deeply engrossed that animal could not do that. So it’s nature but human. But then there is, I’m writing this book right now about anxiety and how the opposite of it is creativity in some ways. So I thought I got to walk my talk. I’m going to do all the instructions that I give in the book for enhancing your creative side. So I used to draw and paint all the time when I was a kid and I was like, “Oh, I haven’t done it for years.” And I thought, I’m just going to do this to see if it works.

Rowan Mangan:
Guys, sorry folks, I have to say she’s being very modest here. She’s a very accomplished painter and artist. It’s not like she last picked up a Crayola when she was nine.

Martha Beck:
Well, it was a really good nature culture thing because the reason I kind of slowed down and stopped is like, “Oh, do we need a painting for the wall? Oh, could I sell that? Oh, that could be the cover of a book.” I was always using it for something. But this was just, I’m going to open up my creative side and what I draw or paint doesn’t even matter. I just keep stacking them up. But it’s been a very weird month.

Rowan Mangan:
I’ll say.

Martha Beck:
Artist self is not going to stop. It was like letting a bear out of a cage. I’ve been getting up at four in the morning and painting like 12 hours a day. Whenever I get a chance, I went to a therapist to talk about, it’s really been severe. And it’s because artist’s part was starved for art. And she don’t like to change states. Oh, no she doesn’t. But then, somebody’ll call for a session or whatever, I’ll go online and do a group call and I’m completely obsessed with the other person. All I want to do is understand their psychology. And then artist self doesn’t even know their name.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
It’s quite disconcerting in some ways.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s really fascinating. It’s really fascinating. Because it feels like to me like that there’s just something in our programming. I don’t think it’s wrong or right, but there’s just a quirk in our program thing that says, well like inertia, it’s our physics that whatever state we’re in, we prefer to stay in it. And that seems kind of natural to me. Like the thing with toddlers, everything is parenting when you’ve got a toddler.

Martha Beck:
Or when you are a toddler, which I am at heart.

Rowan Mangan:
Your artist self really is.

Martha Beck:
Oh my god. Lila had to say to me the other day, because I’m doing watercolor and the best part of your body to judge how moist the brush is, which is really important, is to touch it to your lips. And I was sitting there painting and my two-year-old came up and said, “Oh, Muffy, don’t eat your paint.” I’m like, “I like it. Go away.” Anyway, yes, I am a toddler and it’s all toddlers and they have tantrums at transition time.

Rowan Mangan:
Any parent of a toddler will tell you that you get them in a thing and that so much of managing your toddler’s insanity, I’m just going to say it, is preparing them for transitions, managing how to make it as easy as possible to go through transitions. And it’s interesting because… Why do you think that is?

Martha Beck:
Well, I actually think it’s an adaptation that makes us able to learn intensely, more than other species. And we have this mutation called neoteny that is present in other animals only when they’re babies. And they learn very, very rapidly and then they just stop. We have that, and a mutation in our genes never turns it off. So we’re curious, like toddlers, our whole lives.

And speaking of curiosity, you have this genius way, which I think is transferrable to adults, of getting Lila out of a tantrum, a transition tantrum. And she is a very dramatic child as well as very powerful. So she throws her mighty power against the floor and Ro just quietly picks up a book and starts reading aloud to herself about, oh, I don’t know, the Gruffalo.

Rowan Mangan:
Hi, I’m Larry and this is my book.

Martha Beck:
And just softly reading and Lila’s, and checking to see how you’re responding. And then she’s finally like, oh, the curiosity pulls her into the state of wanting to be reading books.

Rowan Mangan:
I need to say that these aren’t full on tantrums, these are more protests because when she’s in a full on tantrum and I could be reading, it doesn’t matter, if she’s lost in it, she’s lost in it. So the analogy only goes so far.

Martha Beck:
Yes, there are tantrums and there is drama.

Rowan Mangan:
Yes. It helps a lot with drama and with our own drama too, potentially.

Martha Beck:
It’s so interesting because I have a friend who is not a two and a half year old, they’re in their 60s now I think. And used to want to be invited to things and I would invite them to things and they would not come. At the very last moment, they would cancel very, very reluctant to actually travel to something. Always asking to be invited but never coming. And finally, I just got frustrated and started saying, “You’re not really invited, but here are the things we’re going to do.” And they’d be like, “Oh yeah, I can’t come. But what, you’re going to be… Oh, really? You’re going to track bears? Okay, all right.” And then they would say no, and then they would show up. It was exactly the same thing. Triggering curiosity actually is a way of appealing to human nature. It’s a powerful force. Maybe curiosity is the force that is powerful enough to switch the inertia of a state.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, that’s interesting. So if I have to write a novel and right at the beginning of it, I’m not really getting paid to it yet, so how can I trigger my curiosity about it? I’m trying to think how do I apply that, the curiosity or the-

Martha Beck:
You have to make an unanswered question. You have to have something go on in the very first page that’s like, “What?” Right?

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
Like the protagonist makes some oatmeal, drops her pants for the babysitter and you never explain why.

Rowan Mangan:
I’m starting to think actually on that it might’ve been deliberate by Lila just as a stunt. She might’ve just been like, “Hey, look at this.”

Martha Beck:
Now that you mention it sounds very much like her.

Rowan Mangan:
It does, doesn’t it? All right. Well let’s come back to this. Let’s try to figure out how we come to our senses on this topic right after this.

Martha Beck:
So here we are again talking about how to switch states to doing things that are good for you and you like, but you don’t want to do them at first. And it was so interesting because we always say, okay, what’s the cultural story, then what does nature do? And it’s like, what would a lion do? What would a tree do? And this was different.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
It was different. And we realized that there is a nature to us that it really is genuinely unique.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. And Marty used this phrase, maybe you’ve heard it before, human nature. And I was like, oh my god, human nature. Right, and that is exactly where this falls because it’s not a lion won’t behave this way, a tree won’t behave this way. Hard to imagine, I know. Mind you, trees are terrible at changing states.

Martha Beck:
No, they’re not. They’re like, “Winter, cold. Ooh, I’m getting undressed.” No problem. Drop their leaves.

Rowan Mangan:
No, they complain about it.

Martha Beck:
Oh, well.

Rowan Mangan:
And they’re slow.

Martha Beck:
Only on our timeframe. Anyway, the reason I would say this is human nature. We don’t want to give the out of saying, “Well, of course my mother did this or that. It’s her human nature.” No, no, no. To be human nature in my book, it has to be something that’s true across cultures. So it has to be any human would pretty much do this with a working set of human psychology. So one of the things that I think is universally true for all cultures is this reluctance to change states, having to be-

Rowan Mangan:
It’s a big claim, that everyone.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. And the other thing is the cultural responses usually just do it, do what I say, do what the culture says. And I do believe it’s universally true that when you shove someone into something, they start to shove back. We don’t like to be controlled or pushed, and that is universal.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s like the instinct to pull back. There’s some word for this, it’s like an evolutionary thing. You know tug of war?

Martha Beck:
Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
Like what a dog does. The dog has the same thing. When you fight with a dog, if you pull, they pull back.

Martha Beck:
That’s so interesting.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s some sort of, I don’t know, it’s an instinct. And I feel like it’s the same thing. It’s like if you push me, I’m going to dig in my heels.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. It’s a terrible sad example, but it’s still interesting to look at the wild child of Aveyron.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, yeah.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. He was this poor kid who was probably literally raised by wolves. Something fed him for a few years, but he was cognitively really impaired from growing up in the woods and probably eating rocks or whatever. So a psychologist adopted him and he didn’t know language, he had never been socialized. But when they tried to force him to do something that wasn’t at its usual time when he was used to it, he would fight like crazy. That resistance to being shoved was really wide awake in him, even though he had very little socialization. And everywhere I’ve been in the world, I’ve seen the same dynamics. So I think it’s human nature.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. And we need to only look to the toddler community.

Martha Beck:
The toddler community.

Rowan Mangan:
To see how true it is.

Martha Beck:
We really want to reach out in this podcast to the toddler community.

Rowan Mangan:
Our friends in the toddler community, you know who you are.

Martha Beck:
Bam. But the takeaway from that is if you want to switch states in accordance with your nature, don’t be mean or pushy with yourself, it does not work.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Don’t think about self-kindness as, softy, softy, la, la, pathetic. No, it doesn’t work.

Martha Beck:
Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s ineffective.

Martha Beck:
Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
Just be nice to yourself because it’s more effective.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. So it’s not like, “Oh, I’ll do anything you say.” It’s like, “Honey, we’re going to do this and I understand you don’t want to.” It’s that kind of position that you take vis-a-vis yourself. And I think you have to prepare yourself. This is actually good psychological research on change that there has to be a contemplation and a preparation phase before people actively go into a transition. So you need to be prepared psychologically a little bit ahead of time.

Rowan Mangan:
So now we’re applying this to ourselves, like I have to go write on my novel for an hour. And I don’t feel like it, so I have to prepare. “In five minutes, it’s time to turn off the television, Lila, and then we’re going to be going upstairs and you’re going to be getting in the bath.”

Martha Beck:
I like to give myself a little reward before I do something. People want it to be reserved to after. No kidding. This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to paint for 12 hours and then I’m going to do something else for five minutes. No, really, I have to say, look, I will let myself listen to an audiobook for five minutes, lie down and listen to an audiobook, and then I’ll be ready to switch into a coach mode and go on Zoom and do things and whatever. And if you come in and say, “Marty, have you checked your calendar,” and I have to switch right away, it is murder.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, I know.

Martha Beck:
Because you’re the one I murder.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. You are not pleasant at these times.

Martha Beck:
It’s called action priming it. You psychologically prime the transition. Like, okay, yes, five more minutes of this or an hour of that or yeah, two weeks vacation and then it’s back to the grindstone at the No-pan bar.

Rowan Mangan:
I like to reward myself before, during, and after. I find that that’s the maximal way to reward myself.

Martha Beck:
Actually, that’s not far wrong because… Okay, here’s the thing. There’s an underlying thing in Josephine’s question that we’ve already pretty much dispensed with, which is we only do things that are rewarding. There are very few things that we try to do that are not intrinsically rewarding and good for us.

Rowan Mangan:
We specifically, or we generally?

Martha Beck:
The two of us and Karen and basically, everybody in our house except Lila. She’s got a job to do and it’s brutal. So you prime your action before and you give yourself something enjoyable. Then when you switch in, if it’s good for you and you like it, it is enjoyable when you’re there.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
And then afterward, it feels good and you give yourself a reward. So it is before, during, and after.

Rowan Mangan:
So what we need to look at then it seems to me is just how to ease that period before, because Josephine’s accepted, “I feel so good.” And I think she even means during, to an extent, and after. Well, it’s the starting. So we’re going to tell it, tell that part ahead of time, the part that you’re in at the moment.

Martha Beck:
Right.

Rowan Mangan:
Okay. We’re going to be doing some writing soon. It’s all right. Okay.

Martha Beck:
Be respectful of it. It reminds me of Frodo in Lord of the Rings, trying to get the ring to throw it into the crevasse at Mordor. And he’s gone through like 8,000 pages of adventures and he can’t do it. He gets closer and closer, the ring is heavier and heavier. And when he is supposed to, spoiler alert, when he is supposed to throw the ring into the crevasse, he puts it on his finger instead. He just can’t let it go. And then something else happens that I won’t spoil, but the ring goes into the crevasse people.

Anyway, it’s brutal and it gets worse and worse and worse and worse as he goes. And I think what we need to do is know that it’s going to get, the inertia is going to push back harder and harder. So we need a transitional activity, you were saying this, a transitional activity that’s fun, that leads us toward the new thing.

Rowan Mangan:
Right. But I don’t know what that would be. I just think it sounds like a good idea.

Martha Beck:
No, you do this. Remember your fun machines.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, okay. But that’s not transitional. I guess that’s like me tempting myself towards the thing. It’s a way to reward myself before, during and after. So one of the things I used to do is there, I don’t know if it still exists, but there used to be an app that you could write in that made your key keyboard sound all clacky like a typewriter. And it really makes you want to write because you’re like-

Martha Beck:
Clickety, clickety, clickety, click.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. So I actually wrote about this a while ago in my Wild Inventures Substack. I wrote a thing about morning self and how I trick my morning self into writing by setting things up the night before and putting the coffee on so it’s right there and there’s a lovely big chair and I make sure the chair’s all clear.

Martha Beck:
See? And the Hestia part of you is doing that.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
So she comes up and does that.

Rowan Mangan:
They can help each other.

Martha Beck:
We’re a community that is suddenly now helping each other do things instead of in opposition.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
I want to do this, you want to do that. No, I’ll do this for you. I’ll make that more fun. And then you’ll do that for me, it’ll make things more fun.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. It’s interesting because it’s like, it’s so easy to think of ways to punish yourself for not doing it. When I said that thing about a writing app, another one came into my head, which used to have a thing where you would be writing and if you stopped for too long, it would start deleting what you’d already written. And I’m like-

Martha Beck:
Oh my god.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s what we think we have to do to make ourselves do things.

Martha Beck:
Oh my God.

Rowan Mangan:
But what we actually have to do is make it go clickity, clackity, clickity, clackity, clickity.

Martha Beck:
I know. I wrote a book once about being healthy and fit and whatnot and… Don’t ever read it. And I talked about how to reward yourself. And I even mentioned that in experience with animals, reward as a reinforcement for behavior is 51 times more powerful than punishment. So you need 51 sticks for every carrot, just use carrots. So I was like, set up rewards for yourself.

And I had so many people after that book came out and said, “I have trouble coming up with rewards and punishments that work well enough.” And I’m like, “There’s no punishment in that book. No. No, it’s stupid. Don’t use it. It doesn’t work.” But culturally, we are very dedicated to punishment when we don’t do what we think we’re supposed to do. It doesn’t work, it’s counterproductive.

It reminds me, when I was writing that book, I wrote a whole chapter about a pig learning to push a shopping cart without ever even having it demonstrated. And the trainers just, they put a pig in a room with a shopping cart, and then at first just when it came close to the shopping cart, they would throw it like a kibble and it started hanging out around the shopping cart. Then it had to touch the shopping cart before it got kibble. Then put one leg up. And after a couple weeks it was just strutting around the room, pushing the shopping cart, and collecting kibbles.

Rowan Mangan:
Do you know about clicker training?

Martha Beck:
I have heard them click.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. You’d probably use it with a pig. I’d be surprised if they didn’t actually, because it’s such a good way of doing that is that you click at the moment, they do the right thing because you can’t make the food happen at the exact second. But you have a little clicker, and the second… They use it with horses a lot as well. They can really understand it and they get their reward really quickly after-

Martha Beck:
I want a clicker.

Rowan Mangan:
I know. I actually had one.

Martha Beck:
Could we do clicker training on each other?

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my God, yes. The clicker itself is a reward.

Martha Beck:
Anything that clicks, like the clickity, clickity, clack. I think clicking, there’s a reason that’s a word we talk… that just clicks for me. I think clicking is the answer.

Rowan Mangan:
I think we’ve finally figured it out.

Martha Beck:
Wow. I’m going to take that to physical therapy later because-

Rowan Mangan:
Actually, you know what else is the same? Playing pool, playing snooker. The sound that the balls make as they click together is inherently rewarding.

Martha Beck:
It is, but I can’t make it happen right, and that makes me want to kill myself with a broken pool cue.

Rowan Mangan:
But happen right. If you can just make them click, if that’s your goal, the clicking. Don’t worry about the holes. Don’t worry about the little holes.

Martha Beck:
Anyway, this is getting very complicated because if you just had a clicker, that would be fine. But if you’re setting up a billiard table in my office where I’m writing so that you can make a click every time I write something good, that’s just a lot of work. And we’re going to have to incentivize ourselves to get into that mode really hard.

Rowan Mangan:
Starting to sound like the Google office’s have these snooker boards everywhere.

Martha Beck:
Limber up, bro. Take your pool of cue, I’m going to write now.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Well, I love it. And I also think that we can use each other and other people to do this. One of the things I try to do with writing is there’s like a writer’s community that I’m a part of and they do this thing that’s from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM every day my time zone. And I just turn up for that. I log onto Zoom, everyone’s muted out. You have a little chat at the beginning, hi. And then clickity, clackity, clickity, clackity, clickity, clackity, clack for an hour. And every now and again, honestly, I just open it up. I just look at their little faces. Everyone’s still working. Yep, still working. All right, me too, I guess.

Martha Beck:
Guess that’s really good human nature usage because we are social primates and social primates do things together. And even those of us who are introverted and, not anthropomorphic, and not androgynous-

Rowan Mangan:
Misanthropic?

Martha Beck:
Misanthropic. Yeah, even us, we like doing things when there’s a group of people doing it.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
It feels easier somehow.

Rowan Mangan:
It does.

Martha Beck:
So yeah, somewhere between that and exotic animal training. I pay money, pay somebody money to show up and make you do it.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, yeah.

Martha Beck:
I’m going to go in later today and the goddess of physical therapy is going to make me do things that you have never imagined. No one has ever imagined the things that this woman makes me do.

Rowan Mangan:
Wow, I think we’re going to have to have a conversation.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, I mean it like it sounds. I don’t know how she thinks this up. How can you do nine different things to my body that I’ve never done before? And she can isolate the one muscle I’ve never used in my life, the one. And I have to adopt the weirdest positions to get this to happen. And I’m just like, “Oh, Bridget, I love this, how I hate you.” It’s very, very conflicted. She’s a goddess. I can’t deny.

Rowan Mangan:
Listeners, if your partner suddenly starts talking about physical therapy, you might want to have a discussion about BDSM, dominatrixes, dominatrices.

Martha Beck:
Dominatrices. Nerd sex. Could I have two dominatrices please?

Rowan Mangan:
It sounds like you’re doing just fine with one.

Martha Beck:
Well, some of us need two.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, okay. I’m a little worried about that. But as far as Josephine goes, I really think that, and for all of us as well, if we have this issue, it’s not your issue, that’s a whole different thing, it’s a whole different show. Transitions, moving into things that are good for us and we enjoy, if that’s hard for you, such a great first world problem, isn’t it? Then actually using creativity to make the transition itself fun. Focus on that transition moment instead of now I’m in this state, I will be in this state, how do we bridge the two states?

Martha Beck:
And being respectful and loving toward the part that doesn’t want to stop instead of saying, “You have to stop now.”

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
It’s like, I so get that you love to paint or that you love to cook with a tagine or whatever it is. I get it, I totally get it. You’re going to get to do it later. And now we’re going to do something else fun. Look, click, clickity click. I used to go when I was writing that book about the shopping cart pig, I thought this is a great idea. And I gave myself two weeks to write this book before the deadline.

Rowan Mangan:
Of course you did.

Martha Beck:
I had other things going on. And so, I wrote like 20 hours a day and I’d be writing at three in the morning and my eyes would be all blurry. I’d put the type set up to 90,000 pixels. And then if I finished a section, I would go to the all night pharmacy and I would buy myself something really shiny, pens that lit up, little glitter bows to put in my hair, whatever. And I found that appealing to that part of our nature that like sparkly objects, weirdly worked. I also sent myself cards congratulating myself, and here’s how weird it was, when I got them, they made me so happy.

Rowan Mangan:
How did your physical therapist feel about this?

Martha Beck:
I don’t know.

Rowan Mangan:
You didn’t get punished at all for it, did you?

Martha Beck:
Well, depends on what you call punishment. I’ll just say this. She handed me a cup of coffee and a bowl oatmeal. It’s just human nature. Bam.

Rowan Mangan:
All right. So if that hasn’t sorted out all your confusions.

Martha Beck:
We can change states now. We stop podcasting.

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t want to.

Martha Beck:
I don’t either. We’re just going to have to keep them here forever.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. This is the podcast that never ends.

Martha Beck:
We’ll let you guys go, though, folks, we’ll let you folks go and find a shiny object and a lovely transitional trick to get you to your next happy thing.

Rowan Mangan:
And, stay wild.

Martha Beck:
Stay wild.

Rowan Mangan: 
We hope you’re enjoying Bewildered. If you’re in the USA and want to be notified when a new episode comes out, text the word ‘WILD’ to 570-873-0144.

We’re also on Instagram. Our handle is @bewilderedpodcast. You can follow us to get updates, hear funny snippets and outtakes, and chat with other fans of the show.

For more of us, Martha’s on Instagram, themarthabeck. She’s on Facebook, The Martha Beck, and she’s on Twitter, marthabeck. Her website is, MarthaBeck.com. And me, I too am on Instagram. Rowan_Mangan. I’m on Facebook as Rowan Mangan. And I’m on Twitter as RowanMangan. Bewildered is produced by Scott Forster with support from the brilliant team at MBI.


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