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Mark Epstein, MD – I, Me, Mine – Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #130
While the unchecked ego might be popular at parties, it can get us into all kinds of trouble. Mark Epstein, MD combines psychotherapy and Buddhism to help people live with the self.
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All through the day… I, me mine, I me mine, I me mine…
That George Harrison song on the Beatles’ last album pretty much sums it up. They recorded it in 1970, and 47 years later, our egos seem to be running just as rampant as ever. While the unchecked ego might be popular at parties, it can get us into all kinds of trouble. This is not breaking news. Over 2000 years ago an Indian prince sat under a tree and thought about the problem of self. His insights and solutions became what we now call Buddhism. And a century ago in Vienna, Sigmund Freud came at the same issue from a somewhat different angle, giving us psychotherapy.
My guest today, Mark Epstein, MD, is a psychotherapist and author who combines both approaches to help his patients and readers live with their demanding egos. His new book is Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself.
Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:
About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.
Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.
- "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
- "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"
How do you write away the personal hole in your heart when that hole was left by a man half the world idolizes? Steve Jobs' daughter, the writer Lisa Brennan-Jobs, on the process and effects of writing her beautiful memoir SMALL FRY.
- "If I hadn't gone back with a fine-toothed-comb, a lot of these assumptions I had would have just been the air I breathed into my future."
- "There is something like theft in a memoir. If you want to write about yourself you have to write about other people who are unwitting and don't want to be written about…"
Artist, "bird noticer", and concerned citizen of the digital state of the world Jenny Odell looks at many different ways of resisting the attention economy, sinking into the reality of our lives, and finding solidarity and agency with others.
- "Someone is defining the terms already by asking the question. And if you're not attentive, you will accept those terms."
- "It's really hard to draw a hard line around an entity in any ecological system. And I think this is a great description of the self, too."
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