Overcoming Trauma (Tim Ferriss)

🤔 What I’ve been thinking about

Ouff, that was heavy.  

I don’t think I’ve ever had a podcast that touched me as much as Tim Ferriss’ latest one with Debbie Millman, where he opens up about being sexually abused as a kid and his ongoing mental health struggles.

I had to stop working while listening, and thought about it for the rest of the week.   It made me sad hearing Tim’s voice getting shaky at times, even though he remained remarkably composed.  

I like Tim Ferriss. To many, he’s just the “4 hour workweek guy”. But listening to his podcast, I came to appreciate his interviewing style, always showing up well prepared, a great listener who lets his guests shine. I’m pretty sure that he’s an empath who doesn’t love the limelight.  

When hearing Tim (reluctantly) talk more like in the episodes with his friend Kevin Rose, it dawned on me: Hey, this guy is really well-read and smart! I admire his clarity of thought and his ability to break down complex problems. I remember him stating that he sees himself more as a teacher than a writer. Others will cynically say that’s his job, but I always felt like he sincerily wants to help others with his tips and resources. And this sincerity shows, and I think it’s why he has been successful.  

I guess Tim has been kind of a role model for me. For once, interviewing inspiring people and getting paid for it sounds like an awesome life (and even have them writebooks for you:) And there just aren’t that many other inspiring male role models around, at least for weirdos like me.  

But what I like most about Tim is his humbleness, he seems to be really down to earth. I’ve never seen him putting others down, there’s no toxic cynicism and “drama”, it’s all positivity and growth. And there’s no bragging with his money or success – on the contrary.  

He seemed so self-conscious and doubtful, at times, that I wondered: What the hell is going on? HE shouldn’t be struggling, he’s rich and smart and probably ripped, he knows everybody, he has everything going for him!
Him talking about fear-setting, learning from the Stoics or making psychedelics research his mission didn’t seem to make sense.

He did talk about being the victim of bullying, his depression and a suicide attempt in college – but to be honest I may have dismissed it as one of those typical, half-made-up motivational speaker “poor loser turns into rich winner” origin stories.  

This seems inappropriate now and I’m sorry for it. I really believe Tim struggles (which proves to me yet again that fame and wealth can’t protect you from your demons. They might actually make them worse).  

Listening to Tim in this podcast, I began to understand why I related so much to him: He’s like me, in many ways (except for that minor famous millionaire thing that I don’t have:)

Here are a few things that he mentioned in this podcast which made me sit up and take notice, because they’re pretty much true for me as well:

  • His childhood being mostly a “black box” without memories
  • Being very hard on himself. Being unable to acknowledge when he’s done something well. Using work or other things to numb feelings
  • Bein very analytical, abstract-thinking and looking for the bigger picture, the patterns in everything
  • Being in a hyper-vigilant, fear-based state towards the world and himself. “I’m always at a 6 in fight or flight”, he says. This resonated with me especially: “Even a minor disagreement or a loud noise can send my heart rate to a 100+ beats per minute, and it will stay for hours”

And there’s much more. But I don’t even want to talk about myself, or Tim.

Here’s what matters: The podcast was really valuable to me, and you might want to listen to it as well and look at his shownotes. Even if you’re doing fine. The podcast is not really about the details of his story, but about how to cope, how to heal, how to grow, which is what I love so much about Tim. It’s forward-looking and optimistic, to then extent possible, instead of staying in this toxic state of victimhood, trapped in the past. It’s the only right way, I think. Him and Debbie talk extensively about strategies to overcome this trauma, such as therapy, antidepressants, psychedelics or Heartrate Variability training.

And wow, I learned a lot. Here are some notes I took (all of these are immensely profound and important lessons which I’d love to explore further at some other point):

  • Ask yourself: “What are you unwilling to feel?”
  • “Nobody has a monopoly on suffering”. “Everybody is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
  • “Don’t retreat into stories” (this really resonated: “I’m having a non-verbal panic response to a perceived threat (from my reptilian brain). Then, given that really strong physiological response, I’m crafting a story (in my thinking brain) to justify it.”)
  • If you had to endure similar trauma: You are not alone. It can get better, it’s not hopeless
  • Ask yourself: How can I make meaning out of this (the trauma) – how can I turn it into a gift?

There’s nothing smart I can add, so I’ll end with this: Thanks, Tim, even if you’re not going to read this, for having the courage to open up about all of these sad things. You didn’t have to do this, but I know you did it because you want to help, you want to heal. This podcast changed me, and I sincerely hope that Tim and all of us who struggle in similar ways don’t give up.

😴 What might help you find calm


Intentional ASMR Picks:

Here’s an up-and coming ASMRtist with a nice British accent: ASMR Eliza. Check out her hearing exam & ear cleaning video, for instance

Unintentional ASMR Picks:

  • Even if you don’t like the Pokemon, you might like this older video of a guy (PrimetimePokemon) showing his huge card collection. I enjoyed the heavy page turning and crinkling sounds
  • An Australian clinical psychologist sharing his techniques to relieve fear of flying (his voice and accent alone are relaxing:)
  • Here’s a calmly narrated video on Aspergers in adults (it’s interesting, too)
  • I made a compilation of book repairs by a Syracuse University library employee – there are some great cutting and other ASMR triggers in there!
  • Finally some unintentional Casino ASMR by me playing Roulette (I especially liked the stoic Blonde dealer at the beginning)