This week on the Calmer You Podcast I speak with Julia Samuel, Author of Grief Works and her new book This Too Shall Pass.
We chat about:
- What is the ‘fertile void’?
- How busyness stops us from healing
- How to handle changes in your life
- What to say to someone who is grieving
- The particular struggles that millennials face
Chloe: Hello, and welcome to the Calmer You Podcast. This is your host Chloe Brotheridge. Welcome. I am a coach, a hypnotherapist, and I’m the author of The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl.
On today’s Podcast
And today, on the podcast, I’ve got the wonderful Julia Samuel, MBE, who is a psychotherapist, and she’s also the author of two books; Grief Works, and her latest book, This Too Shall Pass, which is all about how to navigate changes. And you know, we’re so scared of change, aren’t we? On one hand, we really want change, we want transformation. And on the other hand, how many of us can get stuck keeping things the same because change just feels too scary, and it feels safer to stick with what we know even though it’s uncomfortable.
So, we talked about this whole topic of change. We discussed what’s known as the fertile void, and I love how Julia explains this and how we can cultivate this in our lives, and it can help us to handle changes in our lives. We talked about how business stops us from healing and what we need to do instead. We also get into the topic of grief and what to say to someone who’s grieving and how to handle that yourself about something that’s affecting you at the moment. We also touch on the particular struggles that millennials and those of a similar generation face. So, I want to let you know that I have some free resources for confidence, self-esteem, and anxiety. If you want to grab those freebies, head over to my website, CalmerYou.com/Free, and I’ll send you lots of resources, worksheets, downloads, updates about the podcast. Head over to CalmerYou.com/Free. So, let’s get into the interview with Julia Samuel. Welcome, Julia. Thank you so much for joining me. How are you today?
Julia: Really well. Lovely to meet you, Chloe.
Chloe: Could you please share with us what it is that you do and how you came to do the work that you do today?
More about Julia Samuel
Julia: So, I’m a psychotherapist and I’ve been a psychotherapist for 30 years. 25 years I worked in the NHS at a big NHS hospital supporting families when babies died and children died. So, I was the counselor for pediatrics and maternity.
From there, I helped started or established and launched a charity called Child Bereavement UK, which was supporting families when a child died or when a child’s bereaved. From there, I sort of taught a lot and lectured a lot. I’ve gone into private practice in the last few years, about the last five years. And I wrote another book before and this is my second book. So, I’m a seasoned therapist and a new author. So, one is kind of an old hat and the other feels exciting and scary. And I’m not even sure I can call myself an author.
Chloe: Amazing. And I can’t imagine work more, I don’t know, intense than working with people that have lost a child. I think that’s incredible that you’ve done that work. What was that like?
Julia: I loved my job. I mean, I loved being in the NHS, I love being part of something that’s much bigger than me. I love the nurses and doctors and the whole place, and it felt like the mother and father of my professional self. I went in there and I was like, 34 and I left 25 years later. And so it gave me a lot, but of course, the work was very, very intense, and very profound. You know, I felt very, it’s a sort of overused word, but I felt privileged to be with these young families, parents at the most intense, most intensely painful and frightening time of their life. And you know that they let me in and to be able to support them and to try and– you can’t make better what’s been so bad, but you can support them, so they can find ways of living again and loving again, given the terrible thing that’s happened. And that actually is very connected to my new book, which is called This Too Shall Pass. And the sort of premise is the same that life has changed. Some of the changes we have control of and we choose, a lot of the changes we don’t have control of.
So, at the extreme end, you’d have a child die, but at the other extreme end of a living loss you could be sacked or your partner tells you they don’t want to be married to you anymore, and you thought you had a happy marriage. And the process, the adaptation process is allowing ourselves to feel the pain, not blocking the pain, to find ways of expressing it, and adapting and growing through the change. Because it’s the things that we do to resist the change that over time do us harm. So, most of the things that we do to resist change our busyness because we don’t think when we’re busy, we don’t feel– I mean, we think a lot when we’re busy, we don’t feel so much, it cuts us off. Any kind of anesthetic, drink drugs, work obsessions; all of that blocks feeling and to heal, we need to allow ourselves to feel the pain, and then that frees us then to be released. So, it’s the paradox. You know, the more we allow ourselves to know and feel what we don’t want to know and feel, the more likely it is that change will occur, and the more likely it is that we will then grow and thrive.
Chloe: I think that’s such an important message. And I think not many people actually realize how much busyness can stop us from dealing with our feelings, and how often people hear about people losing their selves in their work after something terrible happens. But how many of us say that we’re busy? Maybe 90% of humans in this culture, and so we’re probably not dealing with a lot of our feelings really, because of that.
Dealing with our feelings
Julia: That’s right. I mean, there’s a kind of badge of honor that if you’re busy, you’re so important. But also busyness is an amazing distraction. And I think one of the big messages through the case studies in my book is that if we are to thrive in life, we have to know ourselves. And to know ourselves, we have to kind of allow space for that, to be aware of what’s going on inside us to let feelings come through. And if we’re constantly on our computers, tapping constantly, working and thinking; feelings, that part of our brain doesn’t emerge, because when using the neo frontal cortex, we’re not using our emotional selves. So, we’re cutting off huge intelligence within our bodies and within our whole system that we need to support us, to balance us, to inform us. So, people have this sort of white knuckle push, thinking that if I push forward, if I stay busy, if I get there, then I’ll be happy. And my message is, we need to do both.
Of course, you need to be busy and get your tasks done. But you also need to allow space to kind of allow feelings to emerge, to follow your own instincts to be in touch with yourself. And that then allows you to connect with others because busyness disconnects you from other people. And you know, the thing that I’ve learned in 30 years is that the most important thing in life is our love and connection to others. And in order to do that, we need to slow down. If you think of your emotional self, when you’re very busy, you don’t feel very much. So, if you want to connect to someone else, heart to heart, when you look at each other, you have to kind of breathe and slow down, and then you kind of feel the movement with them, and they feel it with you. And then stuff happens, you feel a real connection.
Chloe: What comes to mind for me when you say that is how we feel so connected to our phones, we feel so connected to other people, but it’s not real connection. It’s this kind of false connection and how many couples are lying in bed together on their phones.
Chloe: And that sort of thing and not getting that connection, not actually giving themselves the space. Because we’re never bored anymore, really. There’s always something to read, there’s always a game on our phone or a podcast to listen to. We never maybe just have that quiet, quiet time to actually allow ourselves to be or feel or–
The fertile void
Julia: And let the fertile void emerge. I mean, I heard, I think it was on a podcast that we touch our phone 2,000 times a day. And it’s the last thing we touch before we get to sleep, it’s the first thing we touch when we wake up. And really, we want to be kissing our partners goodnight, if we’re lucky enough to have one, and we want to be connecting with the world and breathing in the new day before we touch our phones so that we feel alive. So, I mean I’m by no means the only person saying this. Thousand of people are saying this, that there’s a sense of emptiness that people have, and this sort of searching and looking and wanting. And it’s from this drive and digital obsession and connection, that in a way builds that emptiness rather than kind of properly being aware of all your senses, sight, touch, sound, and smell, and that’s how we’re human. You know, we’re not machines and we’re addicted to machines.
Chloe: You mentioned the fertile void and I really wanted to ask you about that because I think that’s such a beautiful sounding phrase.
Chloe: What is that exactly?
Julia: It comes from Fritz Perls who is the founder of Gestalt, so it’s not my phrase, I stole it. And it’s often like with most things, a contradiction that we need space in order to have fertility. And so it’s a fertile void. So, when I talk about it in my book, it’s that when something ends, whether it’s a project, whether it’s a relationship, whether it’s a job, we ourselves, say, “What am I going to do next?” And people say to you, you cannot have a– I mean, you’ve had a baby, someone said to you, you can have another one if you’re going to leave your job. They say where are you going? Are you looking for a new boyfriend? They don’t allow you space between the end of one thing and the start of something else. And what I find with all my clients is that people find the process of change very difficult, uncomfortable at one end, kind of agony at the other and part of that is the not knowing and not knowing themselves and their sense of identity. Who am I now if I’ve lost my job or my partner? And rather than leaping in for fear of that not knowing, really to make the wise decisions, we need to allow space.
Living the loss
We need to allow space to feel the living lost, the sort of sadness of what has been and let it kind of come through our body like the weather like a sort of storm. And then that can clear the space, to have new ideas, to have a kind of openness to what is the right decision for us. Because if we do that frantic, I’m just getting out of a job. You know, I’m getting a new boyfriend. We miss out on so much of our own wisdom, and then we may pay the price later. And also we don’t learn from the loss. So, a new experience needs to teach us so that we take that wisdom with us into the next phase of life. And we ignore that wisdom, we don’t change and we don’t adapt. And that means we’ll be hit by the same problems every time they come up against us. And research shows that change, you know, the seven year itch is a thing, it happens every seven to 10 years whether it’s developmentally or from events or from external events. So, we need– each of us needs to find our own pattern and way of changing that supports us and enables us to thrive rather than limits us and shrinks us.
Chloe: So, when you say that the seven-year itch is a thing, it’s not a fact of life or what is that?
Julia: It’s psychology research. So, there’s quite a lot of psychology research really from the States that that came from, that if you look at the patterns of people’s lives, there’s a whole area of research about developmental psychology, about where we are likely to be at a particular stage of our life, what happens to us in different stages of our life. And one of the things they researched was how much we change and when we change. And it’s, of course, individuals or individuals, but it is, if you look at yourself, I wonder if you look back over the last sort of 10 years or seven years, or even five years, because there’s always flexing it, of who you were before, and where you’ve got to now and how much has changed; what has expanded? What has grown? Where do you think you’ve learned? Where do you think you’ve ignored the learning? And what would you like to have kind of reaped from what happened to you?
Chloe: Interesting. So, you mentioned life is change, and you talked about this in This Too Shall Pass. Why do you think we’re so resistant to change or a lot of people say I don’t like change? A lot of the people I work with have anxiety and they don’t like change at all. What’s that about?
Life is change
Julia: I mean, I think there’s two sides of it. So, there’s the kind of PR, advertising shiny life side where change is exciting, you know, change your life, change yourself and your book and it could become the perfect version of yourself with the [??? 14:10] had, the dewy skin, and the sort of glowing teeth. So, there’s kind of that side of it, which we kind of think we ought to embrace, but never think we can really ever get there. But the reality of change, I think, for most of us, although some people, you know, we learn about change from what is modeled from our parents. So, if we came from a family system, Mom and Dad and generations of families that have embraced change, were more likely to be able to embrace change. But why most of us don’t like change is because we like the comfort of familiarity because it feels safe. And it may be a horrible place that familiarity, but at least we know it. And there’s that bit of us, I don’t know if this is true of you where even when you kind of know you’ve got to that shitty place in yourself where you’re giving yourself that shitty committee and kind of self-attack; there’s a horrible familiarity that also feels kind of coldly, warmly comforting because you kind of feel no one can hurt me now, because I’m here and down here.
And whereas if you dare to change, you go out of your comfort zone. It’s unfamiliar and it may be incredibly thrilling, but you don’t quite know who you are because your identity changes as you change. You have to then become someone who can in your case, interview in podcast, that’s a sense of identity that’s changed. You may have thought of yourself as someone who was very shy and I’d never be able to do that. And now you have to own this new identity of I’m Chloe and I am a podcaster. And so the beginning that discomfort may want to make you run away, but you dare to embrace it. And then it becomes part of you, and that is the cycle of change for all of us. You know that kind of you move in, you dare, you test, you have a little taste, you withdraw, you go in again and we move in and out of it. It’s not that you flip the switch. It’s a very long answer.
Chloe: No, it’s really interesting to know this. So, it’s something about identity and fear of change. And if you identify someone– [control] or control, that’s such a big one, control.
The illusion of control
Julia: Yeah. The other thing I say in my book is that we think if we have control, then everything’s going to be alright. But if you really think about the most important things in life, which is life; who’s going to die and who’s going to live and what people think about us, whether we’re loved or whether we’re not loved by the people around us. Those fundamentals which are the key to the sort of happiness of our life, we have no control over. We can influence them, not get drunk and fall off a wall or not drive drunk. But basically, we have no control. And so this idea of control is a complete– I can’t even think of the word.
Chloe: Illusion, maybe.
Julia: Illusion, that’s the right word. Thanks.
Chloe: Okay, yes. Such a shame isn’t that like I’m so in control of things and then life sends a little reminder like no, life has its own plans. [crosstalk]
The benefits of structure
Julia: But you need control, you know, like organizing your day in structure I think really helps you. So, I’ve got eight pillars of strength in my book and one of the pillars is about structure. Because when the winds of change come whistling through your system, if you put some sense of structure in it that you know that you’re going to exercise, you’re going to have breakfast, you’re going to do your work or whatever the order is, you might do that you do it completely the reverse. It helps stabilize you when you’re feeling a lot of turmoil internally. So, I’m not saying don’t have it, it’s just recognize it for its limits.
Chloe: So, having that structure, a lot of people, we talked about their routine and how helpful that is when they’re going through something to keep that routine. It’s good to hear you affirm that. Can you give some examples of the sort of changes that you see people navigating, and how you might help them navigate them? I know in the book, it’s really beautifully written and you have different case studies and stories of people’s lives going through different changes. Can you sort of share an example of something around that?
Love – case study
Julia: So, in the section on love, one of the people that came to see me was a woman who’d been married 25 years and she had three daughters. And she was a gardener and she was deciding in this next phase of my life, her children were beginning to grow up, the last one was going to university soon. Do I really want to stay married because I’m not having sex with my husband? You know, we parent fine, we live together fine, but I want a new version of myself. And she was actually at the time having two affairs. So, one with a man who she’s been having a relationship with for a couple of years, and then another, a colleague who she had an affair with for about a year, but then he ended the relationship.
So, she came with a lot of confusion, she was Catholic, so a lot of confusion about what’s wrong with me that I need two affairs. I’m upset that one’s ended, but I’ve still got the other one and also, am I wrong having an affair while I’ve got my husband? So, who am I? What do I believe? What do I want? What’s right for me? Do I believe the old rules about what you know, fidelity in marriage? What is right and what is wrong? And our relationship created, I hope, a safe place for her to unpack all of that. What she’d learned from her parents, what she’d believe herself, what was true for her.
One of the things was that she’d never had a son, and the young man, she had an affair with, actually in some ways with the son she’d never had. So, she began to understand herself. Once she knew what was going on, that she had a real handle on her internal landscape, it helped inform her when she looked at her world and what she was going to do and how she was going to go forward. And actually, she got much closer to her husband, she continued with the affair which the husband knew about, he never wanted to talk about it.
So, whenever she would try and bring up their relationship, this may be familiar to many of your listeners, a husband would say “Why ruin a nice day by talking about stuff like this?” And so she, you know, she was just silenced all the time. But she found a way of being, that she knew that she wanted to be a mom, with a mom and dad and a family that one of her things she was proudest of was the family. She didn’t want to break up the family, she didn’t want the children to be responsible for their dad.
So, she kind of was adventurous and she had a long term affair that she managed while she stayed married while she worked while she was a mom, and kind of came to peace with that. And one of the things she said at the end is that I folded a lot of my past into my heart. So, you never go forward without your past being in you. But you have to kind of fold some of it away in order to free you to step into your new future.
Chloe: So, it sounds like this is really about getting to know where things come from, where you’re coming from, and how that has informed how you’re dealing with the situation now. And I suppose that’s why having therapy or you know, reading a self-help book can be really helpful to help you to get to know yourself in that way.
Making the best decisions for yourself
Julia: Yeah. I think we distract ourselves rather than know ourselves. And the more awareness we have, and the more information we have, about what’s going on in us, then we’re better, we’re more likely to make better decisions. But also, I’m not saying be obsessed. You know, get off, get out and have your life and have fun and dance and be busy and work and do all these things. But when it comes to the important times in your life when you’re making important decisions, give yourself the space and the time and the relationship with a friend or a journal to really explore so that you make the best decision for yourself rather than from fear.
Chloe: Really remembering the times that I’ve had therapy in the past. And when I first started having therapy I’d never talked about myself before and that was excruciating for me. I feel sorry for my therapist. She was very patient but just being able to like hold the space with me kind of like, desperate to jump out of my skin basically, because I find it so awkward. But going through that process and staying with it and examining the things that I’d never really thought about before, never really considered like, where anxiety came from, and all that sort of thing was just so powerful. So, I have a lot of respect for all the therapists who do such an amazing job of helping people when they really are trying to avoid dealing with stuff.
Julia: Yeah. And you were brave going to a therapist when it was so counter to everything that you’ve done and you’d known, took a lot of courage to go and dare to kind of feel that heat and that discomfort and expose yourself in that way. I mean, I more than a therapist, I have my clients who kind of dared move forward and do that for themselves.
Chloe: I think it’s good to have this conversation about therapy because it’s helping to normalize it and I hope you know, yeah, people feel more able to go and seek therapy themselves through having these sorts of conversations. Can you tell us a little bit more about your work with helping people with grief? Because often when I hear from people who’ve lost, I don’t know someone in their lives and found that sometimes people will avoid talking to them and avoid bringing up the topic. They’ll talk about the weather and actually, there’s this huge elephant in the room, this person just lost someone. And I suppose your role has been actually to work with those people to do the thing that a lot of people are so afraid to do. Can you talk a bit more about how you’ve supported people with that in the past?
How to support someone grieving
Julia: Certainly one of the things, why we find it so difficult is that people are– So, there is very much a stigma around death. And there’s this kind of magical thinking that if I don’t think about it, and I don’t talk about it, then it’s not going to happen to me, it might happen to everybody else. And then that means that we have very little knowledge about how to talk about it and what to say. So, when a close friend of ours or someone in your family is bereaved, we don’t have a language. And then we’re frightened to getting it wrong and making somebody feel worse. So, we say nothing, or we talk about the weather like you said, and actually what people need most is acknowledgement that you know, you cannot fix this. You know, like with change in This Too Shall Pass, you can’t fix somebody’s life. But by being loving, so the single biggest predictor of good outcomes for people who are bereaved and it will be true, whether it’s a living loss or death, is the love and connection to others. It’s the support you get at the time in following the loss. And that’s what we need most.
And so when people are grieving someone they’ve loved and they’re missing that love, when people step away from them by not talking to them, it makes the bereaved person feel worse than they already do. So, the only thing you have to do is kind of dare to move towards them to acknowledge it, all you have to do is say, “I’m so sorry, that so and so has died.” So, it’s interesting, you use the word lost. And that is often what people use. But also it’s a word that avoids the word death. We use so many metaphors lost, gone to a better place, passed over, passed away. And really, the person has died, they haven’t passed away, we haven’t lost them. They’ve died. So, that you know, we have this incredible discomfort and this desperate need to fix. But we can’t fix people. I mean, I’ve heard many other people on your podcast talk about that, and it doesn’t have to be around death. If we can kind of recognize that by sharing our humanity, by being compassionate, by being willing to sit with someone when they’re distressed, whatever the distress, then that is how people manage their pain is by bearing witness.
Chloe: And you mentioned that living losses. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Julia: That all of us will have multiple losses. So, I mean, from the moment you have a child, so for those first months, your loss is yourself as an independent parent, that you could just get up and get dressed and get out to work. Now you have a child, you’ve lost that freedom and you are the core of this baby that’s needing feeding and changing and looking after. So, that’s a loss of your independent self. And then as a parent, you have to learn to adapt as your child adapts. So, when the first time you send them to nursery, kind of letting them go and not being with them all the time, too. I had a case study in the book about Lena whose daughter was getting married. And you know, she was losing control of her daughter and the fight was about the marriage ceremony, and often it’s by the napkins or the color of the flowers. But in reality, it’s about the pain of the loss of the relationship as it was as your adult child leaves you, you shift in importance to them, you have to step back and re-calibrate your relationship as a parent. You give your children roots and wings. So, that is a living lost but that’s a long one over time as a parent. But you know, every day we kind of take things on that we have to take in and then we have to let other things go. Does that make sense?
Chloe: Yeah, yeah. So, it’s not necessarily a person dying, we can still experience these losses along the way in our lives.
Julia: Moving house, moving country, moving jobs, getting a health diagnosis, you know, grief starts at the point of diagnosis when you, one minute you thought you’re a healthy person, you had the life of a healthy person in front of you and then you’re given a life-threatening or life-limited diagnosis. That’s grief at that moment because your life changes forever.
Chloe: And you mentioned just now the eight pillars of strength, which you mentioned in the book as well. You mentioned focusing, can you share what that is? I thought that was a really interesting one to– a tool that people can be doing. Yeah.
Julia: Yes. Focusing: It’s allowing the wisdom of your body and the knowledge of your body to speak to you. So, it kind of begins to turn off the chatter in your mind. And I get people to close their eyes and breathe and move their attention internally their body until they find the place inside themselves that they feel most sensation.
Then I get them to breathe into that place and describe it and does it have color, does it have a shape? They see a sort of black hole, if that black hole would speak, what would it say? I follow where that takes them. Often, in a way, it’s a bit like analytic therapy, that it’s your unconscious speaking. But it’s a more visualization version of it. And it’s incredibly useful and powerful giving us yeah, the wisdom within ourselves that’s there already that we just have to access.
Chloe: I love the idea and getting us I suppose to focus on the feeling and turning it into a thing almost that can speak– [crosstalk]
Julia: Yeah, and what’s it telling us.
Chloe: Yeah, that’s really powerful. I hope people are going to try that listening.
Julia: What do you use? Do you meditate, do you–
Chloe: I meditate. I do TM.
Julia: Do you?
Chloe: Yes, Transcendental Meditation, and I try to journal because I’m definitely one for– I think it’s part of, when you use Instagram for your job, I kind of, quote-unquote, have to be on there. And it’s such an easy escape. And I find myself if I’m having an [crosstalk] argument with my partner, “Oh, wonder what’s happening on Instagram at this particular moment.” So, I have to really be aware. And it’s a great reminder for me having this conversation now to keep listening to what I’m feeling in the moment and focusing and processing rather than just staying busy and that sort of thing. So, thank you.
Love and conflicts
Julia: And also in the book, there’s a whole section on how to deal with conflict in the love bit–
Chloe: Oh, yes, yes.
Julia: –about you know, that we need to fight, that we learn from fights, but we need to know how to connect and resolve after a fight. Otherwise, the fight builds up like this huge pile of poo under a rug that you go back to the same fight and you have it again, and again. There’s Johnny Gothman who has got these four horsemen of the apocalypse, and what he says he can be with a couple for five minutes, and he can tell within five minutes, whether their relationship is gonna survive or not from how they communicate with each other. Whether they’re stonewalling, whether they’re standing apart; all the different things that we do as a couple. So, we need to learn how to fight.
Chloe: Wow. Yeah, I remember reading about that about contempt and how this micro facial expression that people sometimes make of contempt, slightly downturn lips is a sign that your relationship is not going to be lasting very long basically, so be careful of that one.
Julia: Women are more likely to be contemptuous than men.
Chloe: Oh, really? That’s interesting. That’s interesting. I was really interested by one thing you spoke about of different generations and the different things that come up in different generations. And probably most people listening to this are probably millennials or yeah, Gen X and Gen Z, And you mentioned a few things about the specific issues around kind of change, the millennial space. Could you speak about that a little bit and the struggles there?
Julia: So, I think there’s lots of things. There’s the context that they’re in that sort of environment is very different. So, I’m a baby boomer. So, I think millennials believe with some credibility that we’ve stolen their future. You know, we’ve burnt the planet and we’ve spent the pension. And so we had a kind of very fixed attitude to life and for work, for instance. You had employment, you had your education, then you had employment and then you would retire and you were likely to do the same job within the same company, for your lifetime.
For millennials now, that is extremely unlikely. So, one of the reasons why my books’ important is that for work, you have to learn to adapt, that you’re likely to do many jobs at the same time, or do a job for three or four years and come out, retrain to another job. And this idea of the hundred-year life that you’re likely to be working until you’re 70 or 75. That changes your perception of why would I start having a full-time job at 23 when my parents want me to if I’m going to be working for the next 50 years. Parents looking at their children saying “I’ve spent all this money on you, all this time and you, and by the time I was 23 I had a full-time job.
What are you doing going off to the Himalayas and meditating? You know, get on and be a grownup.” And so there’s a conflict around expectations without including what’s changed, but also the big thing is someone called Jeffrey, American psychologist talked about emerging adulthood.
Because young people today have been educated much more, they’ve been parented much more. They’ve been brought up in a completely different world, they’re not likely to be fully mature until they’re kind of 28 to 30. Whereas–
Chloe: Wow, what a relief.
Across the generations
Julia: I know and it depends what you call fully mature. And I’m 60 and I can still feel 12, you know, at times in my life. But you know, by taking responsibility, by being willing to commit, whereas when you’re in your 20s, what he talks about, you want to experiment, you want to try things out, you want to find out who you are, you want to check out more of your identity and much more now, your sexual identity, your relationship identity.
All of the norms of marriage, all the institutions, they have broken down, boundaries are broken down, so there’s much more choice but that choice can be so be overwhelming. Like if I can have a polyamorous relationship, what does that mean? Or you know, and that goes against what my parents and what I saw and we’re very likely to model our life and our parents, it’s very confusing.
The difficulty in finding a job because of the economic crisis in 2008, the fear from 9/11. So, there’s, I think, what I see with I’ve got eight case studies of millennials in my book, and what I see is that everything I experienced as a young person, people feel now of uncertainty, fear, excitement, curiosity, wanting to try things out, but they feel it with the volume turned up. So, what everybody feels is intensified.
And a lot of that is because of digital media because everything you see is played out on digital media. So, you see your friends and you know so much more, so you compare so much more. And comparing yourself to others is a route to absolute 100% misery. So, that’s a very long question. And there’s tons more. It’s, I’m like a kind of– I’m very interested in this subject, I think it’s really interesting.
Chloe: Yeah, it’s fascinating. I always think about in terms of jobs, the fact that there’s always so much choice of what we could do, and [??? 37:25] pressure that you can do anything, you need to be famous, you need to get loads of Instagram followers, or you can be a pop star or you can’t just have a normal job now. It’s like, there’s always pressure and I think it makes it so much less content with stuff and that discontent and you know, it causes so many problems.
Julia: I agree. I mean, one of the questions I asked in the book is that everyone says to you now go for your dreams, reach your stars, and I kind of think that’s pretty unfair. Like you want to fulfill your potential. You want to flourish and grow through your life. But if you set goals for yourself that are way beyond the reality of what they’re likely to be, you’re going to just be so disappointed with yourself all the time. So, one of the questions I asked my clients is, what do you think it is reasonable to expect of your life? What can you kind of build for your life that you really care about what matters to you?
When people think about it seriously, it really isn’t about followers and being famous and being a superstar. It is much more about having someone to do nothing with, you know, to sit and watch a Netflix series with supper and a cup of tea, with coziness, go for walks with, talk to or not talk to. That’s really what’s important, and have a roof over your head and you need to work and pay the bills.
Chloe: Yeah, I think, yeah, one of the things I’m really taking away from your book is about how the– our relationships are the most important thing in our lives and how we need to cultivate those as much as we can and yeah, come back to what’s really important, I think.
Why all our relationships matter
Julia: But I think all our relationships matter. So, I think our work relationships matter a lot. I mean, I’m not saying work doesn’t matter. You know, talked about love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. So, we need our work to give us purpose and meaning and to feed our curiosity and to have a kind of go, a place to head towards. And our work relationships are really important so that we go home and we kind of have something we can talk about, and we meet new people and you know, your work must be a huge part of who you are. And you know how you feel about yourself in the world. So, I think it’s all relationships that matter, not just our love relationships; our friendships matter, our girlfriends. I mean, I wouldn’t survive without my girlfriends.
Chloe: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. I’ve been going to women’s circles in the last couple of years–
Julia: Have you?
Chloe: –and realizing how important that is to have sisters and get to share in that way, I think is so important. I hope more people are realizing how important not being lonely as I heard on a podcast this morning that being lonely is like smoking 15 cigarettes a day to feel.
Julia: 7.7 million people live alone in this country of 60 million, and most of them are women. So, that’s a big figure.
Chloe: Yeah, yeah. Gosh.
Julia: But with your dreams, I mean, how realistic do you think your dreams are? So, in the next few years, what’s your dream?
Chloe: I used to have a lot of goals and a lot of things I would write down like wanting to be on the TV. And I’ve, in the last couple of years kind of calmed down.
Julia: Dialed down.
Chloe: –quite a few things. Yeah, I’ve achieved quite a few things. I’ve realized, “Oh, yeah, it’s quite fun when that, quote-unquote success happens.” But actually, it’s not that big a deal. It’s not really worth stressing yourself out or beating yourself up over or–
Julia: Burning yourself out.
Chloe: Yeah, burning yourself out. So, I’ve still got dreams about getting married, my boyfriend knows this. But yeah, I have taken the pressure off myself. I did use to put more pressure on myself, I think to achieve things.
Julia: And I mean, what research shows is, I mean, I think it’s really interesting. It shows that you’re maturing, doesn’t it, in some ways?
Chloe: That’d be nice.
Julia: Well, it shows that you’re processing and you’re listening to yourself. So, if you’d stayed fixed of what you felt two years ago, you’d have this slight sort of armor wouldn’t you, like I’ve got to be successful, but it feels that you’ve let yourself learn and you’ve let yourself expand and you’ve let yourself grow, develop through what you’ve learned, which has meant that you feel calmer and wiser. It is interesting you want to get married when stats are that less people are getting married now than ever before.
Chloe: That’s interesting, isn’t it? More people are just living together or not.
Julia: I mean the stats on marriage are 42% of marriages don’t survive. There are less people getting married– There are less people getting divorced than before but that is because less people are getting married and the biggest increase is people who are cohabiting. But people who cohabit are three times more likely to separate.
Chloe: Ah, than people that are together that they–
Julia: They’re married.
Chloe: So, separate houses maybe is the answer. I haven’t thought this.
Julia: Well, there’s that– the people who are living apart together, the LATs, but that tends to be much more people who have second or third relationships later in life. I mean at your age, you’re likely to want to have children so you’re likely to want two of you to bring up a family together.
Chloe: That’s very interesting to me. Very interesting. I heard that married men are the happiest and then married women, the least happy, and single women are happier than no, the happiest then– No, is that not right?
Julia: Well, maybe married men are happy.
Chloe: Okay. Yeah.
Julia: I mean, in the Harvard long term study of 75-year study of looking at happiness, people who have committed loving relationships are wealthier, healthier, happier, they live longer, they are richer, and they have happier children. So, on every measure and they have a better memory and they get– well, I said, healthy. So, on every measure, people who have loving stable relationships do better.
If you get divorced and you then have a loving, stable relationship, you go back into the thriving category. So, I mean, it affects every aspect of our life. But we need to learn how to be in a relationship, how to grow in that relationship, how to adapt and thrive together. And that’s a tough ask. It’s not easy, and it takes insurance and giving, you know, kind of being a bit patient and being pissed off because he doesn’t take out the bins or, you know.
Chloe: Yes, this is very pertinent to me in my life right now.
Julia: I’m just about to have my 40th wedding anniversary.
Chloe: Oh, wow. Congratulations.
Julia: We’re renewing our vows.
Julia: And I think certainly one of the things I think is that she’s the person I most want to run over, or really kind of I’m most furious with, but I’ve actually never wanted to leave him. You’re still the person I want to wake up with and the person I want to go to sleep with. So, I mean you have the most extreme feelings about him. And, again, if you look at research, indifference is the opposite of love, not hate. So, it’s how you kind of learn to love and hate each other and live together and have fun together and be a part and be together and all of these things.
Chloe: Do you have any advice for happy relationships for those who are listening and for me?
Julia: I think you have to kind of work out how we fit together. I think the person you choose to be your partner, if you’re going to have children is the most important decision you make in your life. So, don’t make it from the in love having amazing sex brain. So, that’s my first kind of very strong belief. Because you don’t really know yourself, you don’t really know them. But do we fit together? Do we have the same values? Do we go through the tough times well together? Do we support each other? Are we mainly kind to each other? Do we have fun together? All of those things, do we build bridges of communication? And do we fight well? Do we love well? I think with kindness, having fun is probably the two big things. Respect. You respect someone who is kind to you, and then you reciprocate. If you set up patterns together that create, reciprocate good relationships, and vice versa.
Chloe: Really good advice, I think. I often think that relationships are the hardest things in life, but also the most rewarding, I suppose [??? 46:44].
Julia: Yeah, that’s true.
Chloe: Yeah. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve shared. It’s been absolute gold. I’m gonna really look forward to listening back to this when I’m editing it and learning some more. Where can people find out more about you and buy your books and that sort of thing?
Julia: So, I’m Julia Samuel, MBE on Instagram and on Facebook, and I have a website www.JuliaSamuel.co.uk, so you can find me on there. My book will be in all the bookshops and Amazon. And it’s been really lovely to meet you, and thank you for taking the time to read my book and thinking about these things. And it’s lovely to meet someone who is so curious and engaged and that’s such a lovely way for you to go forward in your life [??? 47:31] to see.
Chloe: Thank you so much. Thank you for talking to us. Thank you so much for listening. I really hope that you gained a lot from this episode, come on over to Instagram and let me know what are you taking from this episode find me at ChloeBrotheridge. And I would love it if you would leave me a review in the podcast app or an iTunes, subscribe to the podcast, leave me a rating. And is there someone in your life that would really benefit from this podcast, you can let them know by sharing this podcast. I’d be so so grateful. So, I’m just wishing you a wonderful week ahead, sending you loads of love. Hopefully, you’ll tune in again and I’ll see you soon.