8 – Dr. Susan Carroll Berck: Digital Wellness and Career Success

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01:05 Tony:
Hello, it's Tony Howell, and thank you for listening to my podcast. In this episode, I have a conversation with clinical psychologist and author, a true changemaker, Dr. Susan Carroll Berck. We discuss the ideas of digital wellness, career success, and how social media is really affecting our relationships and mental health.

I am so honored and excited to introduce this incredible woman with her beautiful mind, generous heart, and magical powers.

Hello, Susan.

01:49 Dr. Susan
Hi Tony.

01:50 Tony:
Thank you so much for being on the show. For those that may not know you actually are my psychologist. So I want to start off by asking you to break down the differences between a psychologist [and] a therapist. Can you break down some of the common words and the different areas [provided in] mental health services?

02:19 Dr. Susan:
Absolutely. I think this is an important question and a distinction that a lot of people struggle with when searching to talk to someone, is: Who's the best person to talk to? And what are the strengths of each of those areas that you've just mentioned? Let me pull out the first one, which is a psychiatrist, and a psychiatrist is a medical professional. He's a medical doctor; he's been to medical school. And today psychiatrists largely deal with treating psychiatric disorders with psychiatric medication. This has not always been the case. You know, historically, psychiatrists played a much larger role, but with the changes in medical care and healthcare, psychiatrists at this point really have been relegated basically as a prescriber. There is another category in there too, that you didn't mention, but I'm going to throw it in since we're talking about this, which is a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

They often go by the title PNP. I know that you have lived and worked in New York City, but when you get outside of larger metropolitan areas, it may be harder to find a psychiatrist and people will find a PNP or a psychiatric nurse practitioner, which does largely the same thing as a psychiatrist. Their training is slightly different, but in my mind, they're very well qualified professionals.

The next description I will cover would be a psychologist, which is what my training is. I'm a clinical psychologist. And what that means academically is that we hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology. To call oneself a psychologist you have to have a doctorate degree in psychology and you have to have passed your licensing board examination. So it's not a name that people can just throw around. You can't major in psychology and say, oh, I'm a psychologist. It's a certain classification for people that have had a certain type of training. And you could go to a psychologist for, I would say any kind of mental health or a relational issue that you may have. They're really strong generalists. You can cover almost anything, even though people do have specialties. Psychologists are trained in a wide range of things from learning disabilities to psychiatric disorders to developmental disorders. We're trained how to work with people in that entire arena.

A licensed clinical social worker has some training that is very similar to a psychologist, but social work in general is a field that has to do more with connecting people to services. And while social workers, many of them also work as therapists, their training is different than [that of] a psychologist. I would say that they're more concerned [with] and their focus is really more on the fabric of social services that exist for people in their areas and their communities. And they can also provide psychotherapy as well. But again, their training is a little different.

And then the last arena is a psychoanalyst, which is a title that's undergone a lot of change recently, because what is qualified now as a psychoanalyst, I would say in the last 50 years has changed dramatically. In short, a psychoanalyst is someone who has an interest in advanced training used to be just for psychiatrist. And then it was just for psychiatrists and psychologists. And now anyone can go and learn how to be a psychoanalyst at certain institutes, with an interest in understanding more of one's self. Psychoanalysts in particular are people who do though have a certain type of training that allows for a more in depth examination of one's self, one's psyche, one's psychic functioning, and it's a different type of therapy than for example, behavioral therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.

This is a whole different approach to psychotherapy. So there's crossover with all of these, and there are also some pretty dramatic differences as well. So I hope that kind of gives people a sense of who are the people to go to. And I have to say, I probably have a little bias because of what my training is, but I don't think I misrepresented any other area in my description.

07:19 Tony:
All I know is that you work magic. That's what I can say.

07:25 Dr. Susan:
Well, that's very kind of you.

07:28 Tony:
I have your website as well as your resume, [&] I know that you're an avid learner. So you actually have two doctorate degrees, one in psychology and one in philosophy. Can you talk to me about the choices to continue your education and then what you're studying right now?

07:47 Dr. Susan:
Well, actually my doctorate to philosophy is actually in the field of chemistry. Life to me is a series of opportunities to learn and to grow and certainly my academic career and the choices that I've made have reflected somebody who's had a very strong academic interest in that. And that's an area where I excel and I'm working in other areas that aren't necessarily quantifiable by a degree. In my personal life, I'm working on areas that have to do with more insight oriented work, more of a sense of kind of spirituality and mental health from a different standpoint than maybe what you would get from opening up a textbook. So learning to me is, what we take the time to learn we get back tenfold from what that learning offers us. And I find that whole experience very rewarding.

My enthusiasm for that comes through in the work that I do with my clients. It really allows me to better engage, because I'm always learning. Every client I talk to on the phone, as I'm listening to them and we're working through something - I'm constantly learning, I'm looking at everything as a learning exercise, and it leaves you in a state of ability to just be open to what it is that you're hearing. It allows you to just be a receptacle of a certain level of listening that is required to really understand someone, and to me, that's really at the heart of what learning is.

09:39 Tony:
Listening is.

09:41 Dr. Susan:

09:42 Tony:
I like that. So I know that you also specialize in helping people with some career changes, including myself, and also serving young psychologists that are getting their degrees. Before we dive in there, I want to go back and can you talk to me about your choice to go into psychology? What was that moment for you? What's the why?

10:11 Dr. Susan:
It's an area that I think that when I was a youngster, I had a real intense interest in, but I didn't have a lot of… As young people, I think we allow our parents and our environment to steer us toward things that other people want to see us do. I would characterize the early years of my life in that category, where I did not learn to trust myself. I put my trust in other people thinking that they knew what was best for me. And I did things to please other people and professionally I ended up in an area where it just never quite felt like a fit.

And it took a friend of mine who got a very very horrible diagnosis of a terminal illness. And to watch her go through the process of facing this head on, I realized not only in our own mortality and the shortness of life, but the preciousness of the time that we have, and from watching her die, she gave me the courage to live, and she gave me the courage to pursue something that I had always had an interest in.

But somehow I couldn't find the ability to stop everything else in my life and go do this. Watching her go through her treatment and her illness and her subsequent passing, she passed away my second week in graduate school, when I was pursuing my doctorate in psychology and I credit her for really helping me make the decision of walking away from a very lucrative job. I sold my house, I sold my car. I moved into a tiny, tiny apartment. I put myself on a budget like nobody else would have at that time in their life, perhaps after making good money in the corporate world, and I went back to school for five years.

Watching her go through what she went through, it really fueled my determination that I was going to do this, and I was going to complete it. And I did. She's still a part of me. There's a lot of the love and the support that she gave me while I was giving her love and support through what she was going through. That was very transformative for me. And there were other situations too in my life that I think helped me. I've always enjoyed working with people. I've always been very motivated by what motivates people and knowing something about what makes people tick was something that was a very kind of innate part of how I was in the world.

It was an ability I had, but I didn't have any credentials around it. I knew that if I really wanted to do something I had to do more in the area being credentialed. And I made a lot of changes. I don't always recommend people to do what I did, but it was a transformative change, but it's one that I have no regrets and I really, really love what I do. My objective was to find a job that I never wanted to retire from. And I didn't have that earlier in my life. But I have it now. So I think part of happiness is finding a vocation, that's an avocation. And when they're one in the same at least for me it invigorates and recharges me, and that's a good thing.

14:32 Tony:
Yeah. I'm over here tear-y, thank you for sharing all of that. And I know that there will be people listening who identify with that, because there are a lot of artists who are in a profession of work that they love. That being said, I want to honor them and it's a tough business. One of the things I want to ask you, and you've worked with many artists and still do, - can you just, for the listener who might be dealing in a world of toxic masculinity or might be having other cultural forces, how does someone know when it's time to speak to a psychologist?

15:16 Dr. Susan:
That's another very good question. I think it's always time. I have a bias, but I think it's always a good time to have someone to talk to as a sounding board. There's this kind of stigma out there that, well I have to have something wrong with me, or this is for somebody who is crazy. On occasion I get that. Although I think that the stigma has pretty much fallen by the wayside. I think that we all need sounding boards. We all need people in our lives that are neutral but that have our best interests at heart, that are powerful listeners and can really take in and digest what it is that our goals, our motivations, our fears, our anxieties, and to metabolize it and give it back to us in a way that helps us figure out what it is we need to do.

I know you're in the east, but in our western lifestyle, we don't live a life anymore. Most of us don't really allow for that. We get up, we work out, we go to work, we push ourselves, we are frantic, we triple book ourselves for meetings. We go, go, go. We audition. We hold ourselves to these incredibly high standards. And then we come home and we're kind of spent, we're bonded. And hopefully we have someone in our life that we can talk to. They're not always a neutral party in such matters, and this is kind of how we go through a lot of our life. And especially when we're starting anew in our career, there's this enormous force that we're putting out there into the world of things that we have to go and do.

I think it's so much easier if we have a place to go to that's safe, that's confidential, where we can go and just air out all of this stuff that we carry around with these old fears and habits and proclivities. Sometimes they're past experiences, sometimes they're present things that are going on or in our lives. We need a place to go to kind of hash through all this. And we don't typically live a lifestyle that allows us to do this on a regular basis. So I would say, you don't need to be in crisis to reach out, to call somebody, to say, I'd like to start to talk to somebody. I think most people would make very good use of it.

17:58 Tony:
I would agree with that. And if I may, and you can volly this back, but I think the question that I have written down to ask you that I want to switch to is: What are some common misconceptions? So you could answer that, but if I may throw this your way - sometimes you don't have to necessarily meet every week (or three times a week, or even in person [since] there are other ways to proceed in today's modern culture) - [but] do you have anything to add in terms of common misconceptions around speaking with a psychologist?

18:32 Dr. Susan:
Yeah. I think the most fundamental thing I want to say is, it's not for this idea that it's for somebody who's not well or it's not for people who are standing on the street corner talking to themselves. Psychotherapy needs to be integrated into how we live our daily lives in some form or fashion. And it's important to find a therapist that will work with you based on what you have time and what you have budget for and the kind of work that they do. So, yes most therapists do want to meet with people on a weekly basis, but you'll find people who are willing to meet once a month or every other week.

I've had people I've worked with weekly for years, and we touch base once a month. They call it a tuneup. I think that's probably a very apt description, it's a little check-in and sometimes people find that they need to come back and meet more often. And other times people are fine with meeting on a less frequent basis or whatnot. So I think it's important to kind of have a sense of what it is that you're looking for and what it is that you have the time for. People do phone sessions now. People get on apps like Zoom and WeChat and these other apps to do psychotherapy if they want face to face psychotherapy.

Other times people would prefer a phone session. Again, you have to find a practitioner who's willing to work with you along those lines. Technology has allowed for a demand, some people want to close their door to their office and have a session sitting at their desk and that's possible now. So it's not like you have to stop your life to do something like this. For many people, they can do it online. You have therapists that will come to your office and meet with you. So there's a whole range of things that are available. And I would really encourage people, if they're interested in talking to someone, to get a sense of what it is they're looking for and find someone who is willing to work with them. You will find that there is a growing part of the professional population of mental health practitioners who are willing to work with people using what technology she has to offer.

21:08 Tony:
I know that we are going to head into a little bit of a social media focus, but in line with that, with digital, your website, SusanBerck.com says that you help people explore work, relationship and life challenges. So my first question for you is in your private sessions, does social media ever or frequently come up in these conversations?

21:40 Dr. Susan:
Absolutely. it comes up for a lot of people, I would say perhaps most frequently for teens and 20 somethings age group, because so much of their life has been characterized by social media as being kind of a dominant interaction between individuals. But it does come up, with people of all ages - but in different ways. I would say that it probably comes up in almost, I would say probably half the sessions, something in social media will come up. That will be the topic of our session. And certainly in today's political climate people are coming in and looking to talk about things. They're looking for a safe place because in our society today, we really don't know how to civilly talk about politics and religion.

People feel that with these issues, you almost have to be closeted today to talk about them. So there is a way that media, and in particular social media, does play a big role. I would say in the last few years, it's probably played the biggest role it has since I've been working in the field.

23:15 Tony:
That was a follow up question I wanted to ask, you said it's about in 50% of your sessions. Do you think that's an increase from say 25% or can you maybe put a percentage on it in terms of the elevated rates?

23:28 Dr. Susan:
Yeah, I would say that it's probably come close to doubling in the last few years. Since 2016, I would say with youngsters, it's always been high. With teens, junior high, high school, college age, it's been pretty constant, but for older adults, for people in the next generation, if you will, I'm hearing a lot more of it. A lot of people get their news from social media. A lot of people are kind of putting information out there about how they live their life on social media. A lot of what people are thinking about how others are living their life comes from social media. It creates a milu that is perhaps one that creates more anxiety for people in day to day life, because we all are screens. We all have filters of what we choose to promote about ourselves, and it can be very difficult for people.

And what it is that you're reading, because we don't really know what our sources always are. People can have very strong reactions to things that other people are putting out there. And it does create a lot of anxiety for people. It doesn't always have to do that, but a lot of what people come in here with are things that have created a lot of anxiety for them.

25:02 Tony:
So with that anxiety and the recurring triggers, do you have any tips for our listeners about how to bring a level of awareness to how they're using social media?

25:19 Dr. Susan:
I do. I think we should view social media and the way that we kind of think of any other media and some of the common sense practices that are exercised. If we're looking for things for news, for example, I think you pick responsible news sources and it's not something that we can deep dive on very easily. I encourage people to just pick a few news sources. Pick one or two major new sources to use and be careful of things that feel very inflammatory or things that are out there to just really provoke a reaction for the sake of provoking a reaction, but to be thoughtful about the source.

My feedback for other types of social media is in some way, social media is a form of advertisement and we need to think of it in that way. A lot of people will get on someone's Facebook page and read something and say, oh, their life looks so perfect. Look at all these things that they're doing. I'm certainly not knocking anyone for using social media as a way to promote an interest or a success that they've had. I think we have to be careful that we don't read that and think, oh, their life is perfect. And it's a way sometimes for people to look at their own life and to feel bad about the situation that they might be in, or the choices that they've made.

So I would just encourage people to use common sense largely with a lot of things, and just make sure that you continue to use a variety of different things to get your news. I know people don't like to pick up and call people on the phone anymore, but I still encourage people to do that. There's something that I think we miss by not hearing another person's voice, by not being able to just talk something through the process of talking, the process of questioning and unfolding and processing, it's not the same in the digital world as it is in the audio world or in the face to face old.

I think that sometimes we get so digitally focused that we forget: I can always pick up a phone and call somebody and say, “I'm not sure what's happening. I'm feeling this way. Let's work this out because I'm not feeling comfortable with how things have been going or the direction that I think things are taking” - to just be able to talk to people. I think there's something that has been lost in being able to talk to each other, especially with, I would say people under the age of 20 today, I think that's a challenge.

28:19 Tony:
Then my question is how do we fix it? Do you have any response on how we can start to create this idea of digital wellness?

28:31 Dr. Susan:
I love that term. You've talked about that term before, and it's a beautiful term because it really talks about what are healthy practices in the digital realm? I think that it's a challenge now, and I think it's going to be more of a challenge as digital becomes more integrated in our daily lives. I think more and more things in our home are going to be digitized. It's not just media, but it's how we're operating our heat or the temperature of our home or lighting or an alarm system. I mean, our lives are now so integrated with digital. What does it mean to be digitally well?

I like to go back to the old ways that we thought about mental health, which is when something starts to interfere with our personal professional life, when something starts to become a barrier, then we have a problem and that problem may be different for different people, we may have different thresholds, so it's not necessarily about where your threshold is versus mine, but it's about, do I know where my thresholds are and do I know what I need to do to maintain digital health in my life?

It's something that I'm always working on. It's very easy for me if I'm not sleeping well at night, I'll pull up my iPad, tap open Safari, and yes I get on YouTube. I'm listening to this or reading about this. When I start to see dawn come through my windows, it's like, “Oh, how did this happen?” We all can find ourselves some places where we can just deep dive and find ourselves being kind of swept out to sea in the digital wonderland. It's about how do we maintain a healthier balance in our life about, “okay, I'm going to give myself 20 minutes to go and just do whatever I want to do if I'm not sleeping well and I certainly shouldn't be doing digital in the middle of the night because I'm aware of the blue light and all that kind of stuff that we don't know about electronics and brain waves.”

But, I do what a lot of people do and I'll surf, but I give myself a timetable and I'll say, after this, the iPad gets turned off. I can pick up a book now, if I'm still not finding myself able to rest. It's really about keeping a balance in our life. I don't mean to sound it in a trite way, but I think it's going to become more and more difficult again, as digital becomes more integrated into our life. I think we're going to have to just be more and more self aware of what it is that we need to do for ourselves.

And it's okay if our mother, father, friend, peer, colleague, spouse, partner has a different threshold than us. There's not one size fits all. My husband can be on the computer all day and half the night. I can't do that. I'm not someone who can do that, but he likes to read online. I like to pick up a book. He likes to do newspapers online. I like old fashioned paper newspapers. I think we all have different ways in which we want to read and we want to take in information and we have to know where our thresholds are. I think part of digital wellness to me is figuring out where those are for each one of us. And it's not always so easy to figure that out, but I think that's the challenge.

32:31 Tony:
Hey, it's Tony with a quick interruption. And speaking of a challenge, if you're listening to this in August of 2019, I want to invite you to our seven day digital wellness challenge. Studies show that our screen time and social media use are causing increases in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more. But beyond the negative, there's an entire new world of possibility and you don't have to become a digital nomad like me. You can literally reach anyone and pretty much everyone around the world with just a few taps of your fingers.
So if you want to tap into that power, I invite you to join our free seven day digital wellness challenge to help you grow as an artist of the 21st century, create a stronger, healthier relationship with your smartphone and social media. Details are at the top of TonyHowell.me.

And now, back to the interview…

33:32 Tony:
Well, just with your understanding of the brain and then also relationships in the world, I would call it silence. I think it's what meditation does or disconnecting. People take digital detoxes, but how important is that? Or when do you think this idea of taking a break is—and is it a daily practice?

33:56 Dr. Susan:
I think we need to have times during and throughout the day that we are mindful of our digital use. I think the problem that we run into is that, we're almost like a Pavlovian dog, when a bell rings, they salivate. There's not much difference between that and somebody, I hear a phone vibrate in a session and the person has to look at it. It could be an incoming email, but we're trained to be so geared toward these devices that buzz and hum and sing music and play things and squaw and whatever it is that they do, that gets our attention that we're so qued into. And if we sit back and say, “Do I need to be aware of every email that comes in my inbox?” - given most of us probably get a couple of hundred emails a day.

The answer is of course not. The mailman doesn't ring a bell every time they put something in our mailbox and every letter that gets put in there, but that's what we're doing when we are so sensitized to the digital world. And healthy practices are about, there's times during the day that we probably should silence our phones. There are times during the day, we should probably also turn off our phones and devices. I know it's hard for people to do, and there are probably people out there that say, well, but you're not doing this or that. I think that we have to create some healthy boundaries for ourselves and be able to: whether it's an employer or whoever it is to say, “I'm available up until a certain time, and then after that I'm not responding.” And whatever time that is that you decide, to hold to it and maintain that.

It's very empowering to set those boundaries. It's something that people need to do a better job of doing. And sometimes it's just taking your phone off ring or silencing your phone or setting the little app on your phone with the little moon on it that says that you're not getting incoming calls past a certain time. I think those are really healthy practices and they're ones that people need to adhere to. And I think the more we set those, the more others are going to be respectful of our time because we are respecting our time the more others will be respectful of our time. And I think it has a contagion effect in a very good way. And we start learning about respecting time and “these are work hours and these aren't work hours.” We start being more mindful about how we work and the ways that we communicate with people not only during work hours, but more importantly after those hours.

36:54 Tony:
Well, you know that I agree with you, even though I'm still trying to find my work hours over here. But I want to play devil's advocate for you because I'm sure there's a listener who's skeptical, who says that doesn't apply to me or what if, what if, what if. So, let's say that there is a listener who is just trying to get a job, like they are working to find a job or their next client and they are in a circumstance where they are beholden to either their current employer or prospective employers. So just devil's advocate, how does that person create that idea of shutting off at a certain time?

37:34 Dr. Susan:
That's a great question. That's a really good question. It's important that, whomever we are, that we are able to be upfront with people about what are your expectations. If I have an employer that says, I really need you to be available. I have a woman I work with, she's an executive assistant for a very, very high-level person in the city, who is frequently somewhere in the world, other than in New York, and really needs her accessible to him when he needs. I've really helped her map out, “Okay, what are the times that you're going to need me available by phone and that you're going to need a return call? What are the times that you'll be emailing me, but perhaps I can respond to you in the morning rather than that evening, if it comes in after a certain time?”

So you can be accessible, but be clear about what are those boundaries with each type of content and way that people are trying to message you, what are the expectations, and that people can ask and then people can also put forward, well, “Here's what I would be comfortable with”, or “Would this work for you?” So I don't see people coming into every situation as just being a victim that has to roll over, but I think we can negotiate and make it clear. I'm fine with calls up until a certain time, and I'm fine returning emails up to this time. But after this time, if something comes in, I'm not going to get back to you until the following day. If there's a crisis, here's how I would like for you to reach out to me. And I think setting these things up makes the job clearer for both the employer and the employee that everybody's clear. You're not just wondering, “What am I supposed to do with this now? And I got an email and it's 11:30 at night, do I have to return it?”

If we set up certain expectations and boundaries with people, then we have a system to go by and if we need to go back and modify that, we can. But if we don't talk it through, then we have no system, and that's what makes people anxious, and when we get anxious, we get stressed. That's one of the biggest problems I see today with people, is we don't know how to talk about this. We don't know how to talk to people [&] we assume that people are just always accessible and we allow ourselves to always be accessible. So we set ourselves up in many ways to be contacted 24/7 friends, employers, [&] family, and I think we need to do a better job of letting people know.

There's a reason why we have certain hours. And it's not that you're not going to ever be able to reach me off hours, but here are the things that you can do. And depending upon what constitutes a crisis, and you can discuss what those things might be, here's how to get hold of me in the exception that there is something that is really critically going on, where you need to reach me immediately and not abuse that privilege, and I think that's important.

41:04 Tony:
Yeah. Creating the boundary and then having people honor it or not. And then dealing with that is definitely important. My question for you is that a lot of the listeners are artists and for the most part, they're veterans and celebrities, or they want to become that, like they're on their way to really establishing themselves. So how does this idea of boundaries and specifically with social media for those at higher levels, public figures, how do you recommend that they balance this idea of privacy and what's personal versus what's public? What is their work-life? What is their home life? How do we handle that in the age of social and digital?

41:50 Dr. Susan:
I wish I had an easy answer for that. I think people, again, need to determine what their own threshold is. I think for all of us, there's a certain professional threshold and if someone is a celebrity or public figure, part of your job is promoting yourself, your work, what you're working on, who you're working with. In today's marketplace, that's an expectation. And you've gotta make the rounds, whether it's the talk show rounds, Twitter, whatever feeds are going on, you've got to be putting stuff out there. And for people that have a certain degree of success, you're not doing it all yourself, but you have other people that are overseeing that process for you.

And for those that are earlier in their career and getting started, you're having to play that role sometimes solo, and that's a very difficult role. And I think for people getting started in the field I would encourage them to just be aware that everything is a bulletin board out there. So be careful with putting too much personal information out there. If you're promoting something that you're doing, whether it be a show or a product or a performance, to do it in a way that you feel good about, in a way that someone else could look at and be excited about what it is that you're offering and that you're communicating. And, to be very thoughtful about, we talk about things like mean tweets and people who kind of trash talk out there. And that the fact that any publicity is good publicity has kind of been the new motto for the celebrity world.

And I would have to argue that while there are people who feel that way, I also think that a lot of readers don't feel so good about that. And it's about, we have to be careful that if we put a lot of negativity out there, we have to be careful that it doesn't come back to us and it typically does, the idea of people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and we just have to be mindful that to keep things at a professional level for people is always a safe way to go. And if you're making your career by being a reality show celebrity, and really getting into talking more about, kind of trash talking, which is part of how people use their digital world. We just have to be aware that we're playing in a minefield and we have to be thick-skinned enough to be able to survive being in that space.

I think people get in trouble when they want to play in that space, but they don't really think through: is this something that they really have the constitution to maintain? So I think in those ways, we have to be very thoughtful about how we're using our digital devices, the ways in which other people are reading that. Tony, this has been important for you is, “What is our brand? What is it that we want to say about ourselves and how we promote ourselves, how we talk about ourselves and how we talk about others. All of that is part of the brand of us, the brand of who we are.” And so we have to be very thoughtful that what we project out into that world is how people are going to see us and how we behave and how we respond and what we say creates a certain image and whatever that image is you want, you need to be aware of the things that you do, and are you doing things that actually help to promote that image of whatever it is that you want to say about yourself.

And that's tough. I mean we could do 10 more podcasts on this topic, but I think just from a very cursory view, I'll just leave it at that, but it's a complicated topic and I'm so happy that you're talking about it and that we're talking about it.

46:19 Tony:
This was one of the most exciting interviews that I [have been] able to have. So I'm really grateful for you to be on the show. Before we sort of head towards the end and I know we have to, but hopefully we'll find another time to bring you back, but can you talk about some of those minefields? So for people who are actively using social media, particularly for their jobs, it's interesting Susan, just because I see a difference between an artist who uses social media to engage and then content creators who are using social media to become famous or to grow their audience. But in particular, can you articulate, what are the danger zones in this world?

47:06 Dr. Susan:
They're all over. It depends on what age group I'm talking to. It depends what are people's intentions with social media? I think that the thing that I see, and again, I'm talking about things more from a psychological point of view. I have a lot of artists that I see. Some are performers on Broadway, so they do live theater performance. I have a few people that are actors. I have a number of different writers, screenwriters, playwrights, and a lot of what I see people get in trouble with, is that when you're an artist, so much of your work is about who you are. You put your heart and your soul into something, whether it's as an actor, our work on stage, so much of it is about who we are and about being kind of a receptacle for all of this creative energy that will flow out of us as a performer.

And in today's marketplace, we all have a responsibility, I think to be digitally aware of what's happening. And there is a certain level of expectation that we all are going to have a certain level of, promotion, of what it is that we're out there doing, especially when other people are involved. And the thing that I think causes the most distress is when you have people who come on and just have something negative to say, you get backlash, you get mean tweets, you get some level. The mind fields are about people who just love to bash what someone else has done, or to put someone down or put their work down, or put down a performance. And there's a way that there's an energy that others kind of enjoy.

And again, again we can have a whole other show on this. I think there's a sadism that exists in all of us at some level, that when someone else is having a certain amount of success, there is a part in humans that we also want to destroy that success, in others in part because, it's not success that we are having. And, so it's easy to get caught up in this kind of backlash of a very negative publicity and feedback and trash talking that can occur, that for people especially artists can feel so incredibly personal because their work is about who they are. They're very present in what they're doing.

50:00 Tony:
It's identity.

50:01 Dr. Susan:
And I think it's very hard today to be able to, some of it you look at and you think, oh, this is just ridiculous. This person's bat shit crazy, excuse my French. But there are other things that people might pick up on something, but the way they express it can be very mean-spirited, and I think it's very hard. I think we tend to do more trash talking when people don't know who we are, we're an anonymous post or we're some set of initials in a cartoon character of a face that's out there, because there's an anonymity to it. People are more comfortable providing negative feedback. I think the minefield is that we get caught up in this and we start reading this and taking this at face value and not understanding the processes that are in place and that are happening, which allow for these things to happen.

And we can go through the fact that this is not, there's reasons why there were public hangings and people would come to watch the destruction of other people or there's a woman in the Bronx who was stoned to death back in the fifties, and people watched out their window and no one did anything. No one said, stop. There are these elements within human nature that I think can be so destructive. And if we're not aware of it, we get caught up in it and it becomes so personal and so painful. I think those are the biggest minefields that people get caught up in, and I think it's hard in those moments to be able to kind of zoom out in the way that you with the camera lens and really get a bigger picture of what's happening here and to take it a little bit out of the personal and into a different level of understanding, but it's hard to when emotions are involved. It's very, very hard.

51:53 Dr. Susan:
So that's what I would say is perhaps the biggest minefield for people.

51:57 Tony:
It's the sadism, is really what you think of it as. So let's take this lilypad and move forward. Now I know that you are currently working on a book, so can you tell us what that's about?

52:21 Dr. Susan:
Okay. I have a couple of things I'm working on. The thing that perhaps I think will probably happen first is I'm working with someone who works in career services and in staffing, she's a recruiter, and we're talking about putting together the whole area of how does one find kind of a professional footing and what are all the psychological factors and influences that shape what it is that we're doing, where we're going, how we're making decisions about our career and other things in our life and how they all fit together in a way that works for us. I think for people today, that is a very active, ongoing, and dynamic set of forces that are coming into play. I think that the mental health field has kind of viewed that as being well, that's something else, that doesn't involve us.

And I think it very, very much involves psychic forces, our histories, what motivates us, what it is that we long for, and how do we begin to be agentic? How do we begin to create and to craft a world, a lifestyle, a profession, and choices in our life that actually work for us? In many ways, Tony, you have exemplified someone who's doing a lot of this work by simply where you are and what you're doing, and the path that you took to get there. I think for a lot of people, they don't know how to even begin. They have some sense of, well, I'd like to be a digital nomad, but I don't really know what that means, but I don't want to give up my Manhattan apartment. And I like making $150,000 a year, but I really want to live in a camper in Nepal. There's this kind of mix of ideas that people are feeling about lifestyle, but yet we also have certain attachments to things.

And a lot of times you put these things all together and they kind of, they're like matter and antimatter, they kind of annihilate each other and people end up with nothing. I don't want that to happen. I want people to say, well, what is it that I'm doing? And how important is this to me? And how am I making this? How am I being mindful about where this fits into my daily life? And what are the choices that I'm making that are either supporting this or subtracting from this in my life? And I think so much of this we do unconsciously. We make choices and decisions that many times erode the things that are really most important to us. And we're not aware that we're doing it. And I think that's one of the most powerful things that psychotherapy can offer is that level of awareness of, if I want something I have to be aware of what it is that I'm doing, that's getting in the way of accomplishing that. And sometimes those are really hard things for people to look at because there are things we have a vested interest in maintaining.

So I think this is such a big part for people. And this is where we're going back to talking about this book, we're going to start by doing podcasts. And then from there, we're going to be writing a book and having a very candid dialogue on how to help people better understand, and to create the shaping forces in their life that are going to carry them closer to what it is they want to accomplish. And how do we do that in the field of staffing and recruiters and how do we utilize people that offer certain services that will help us perhaps be more strategic in the decisions that we make and the jobs that we take along the way. And so that's the first thing that I'm working on. And I have a couple of other things, but they're not quite as interesting, at least to the public.

56:39 Tony:
Well, I can't wait to hear about them. I want to ask you this because of this idea of career and identity and the book, how do you define the word success? Or how does one define the word success?

56:58 Dr. Susan:
That's a tough question. And it's one that I ask myself regularly because what I thought success was, and what I wanted in my twenties really modified itself in my thirties and when I got into my forties it became about a whole new set of things. And where I am today in my life, success is about really paying attention to the things that fulfill me, the things that I thrive on, the things that excite me. I really pay attention to what those things are. And as I've gotten a little older and wiser in my life, I've been able to let go of the things that my ego has said, well these are important because society thinks they're important. I spent a lot of time in my younger years being very invested in, well I have to do this because other people think that this is important, or this is a sign of what success is.

I think success for me is being able not to listen to that. I'm aware that that exists and it will probably always exist for me, but I'm also able to make choices that don't involve that and where I can pay attention to success for me in a certain day, maybe having an hour to go out and work in my garden or taking my dog for a walk. And I don't mean that every success has to be something as simple as that. It may be finishing a chapter of a book. It may be getting out and enjoying the two hours of sunshine that we're going to have on a rainy day. It may be spending time with a dear friend or a family member. It may be giving a talk in front of an audience where I'm talking about what I think are very important ideas and having a nice response from people.

It's a variety of things, but for me, and I think the important thing for people in general is pay attention to what makes you happy and not what you think the world feels is a measure of success. Because the danger in this is the latter of the two, is that's a trained car that once you get on it, it's hard to get off. And the sad thing is as soon as you have it, what you think is a measure of success, there's always something more that you want. And we end up living a life where we basically live, where we have what we want, rather than really wanting what we have.

We get caught up, all of us do. And I think that's the nature of living in this world is that we get caught up in these very kind of human competitive cycles. And we can do it in a moment's notice. We can find ourselves in these situations where we have to catch ourselves and say, “Is this really what I want? Is this really important to me at this moment”? And to kind of do a check in and refocus ourselves, but that takes practice, and we can talk down the road about mindfulness and the role that these kinds of things play and being able to flex that mental muscle and redirect ourselves. And at the same time, being aware of very human emotions, like longing and jealousy and whatnot and to feel those feelings, but it doesn't mean that we're missing out on something per se. It just means that it's a feeling that we're having, and it won't last. How do we sustain that while at the same time nurturing that which we do have, and really having gratitude for what we have in our life. And that is to me, kind of an ongoing process.

1:01:25 Tony:
And that is why I adore you so much. So thank you for being on the show. This month is what I'm calling #SocialFutureMonth. So whether it deals with social media or whether that's with just our society, I'd love to close with, what is your wish, your desire, your goal, your vision for our collective social future?

1:01:57 Dr. Susan:
I think in terms of our collective social future, is to realize the we're all in this together and that there is something very powerful that comes out of a collective of people coming together, recognizing where there's commonality, common interest, common feelings, a common ethos, and really coming together and using our digital world and using our mouths and using our eyes and our ears and our voices and our democratic system to live in a very purposeful way in the world. And to really have faith that the world is out there and it works for us if we're willing to do the work.

1:02:59 Tony:
Thank you, Susan. And thank you for listening. If you want to connect with Susan further, you can contact her at SusanBerck.com. She does take most insurance policies and has options for those without insurance or in financial need. Regardless, I would absolutely love it if you would go over there and send her a short thank you note through her website for her contributions to this episode. Again, that's SusanBerck.com. Of course, that's not all. I would also love it if you would share this episode with your friends or come over and review the podcast. If you want to hear more episodes with other changemakers, make sure that you get subscribed.

This is Social Future Month. Again, that's #SocialFutureMonth. So I'm going to challenge you to join in. Come on over to TonyHowell.me and get yourself signed up for this seven day free challenge examining your digital wellness.

Thank you so much for listening, and I cannot wait to connect with you on social media.

Artist or content creator? Listen to Author and Clinical Psychologist, Susan Carroll Berck (Psy.D., Ph.D.). Discover her research, stories, and practical tips surrounding social media and how it affects our relationships and mental health.

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