The first thing that I learned is that, yes, we do need to be doing something; everybody needs a purpose, everybody needs a reason to live, something to drive and motivate them. And as I sat there alone, I felt the emptiness. It wasn’t from a lack of doing things or doing something. No, it was from a lack of doing something meaningful — making a positive difference. That leads to the second lesson, that we all need someone to love, and we all need to belong.
With the success of the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this difficult period in our history. But before we jump back into the routine of the normal life that we lived in 2019, it would be a shame not to pause to reflect on what we have learned during this time. The social isolation caused by the pandemic really was an opportunity for a collective pause, and a global self-assessment about who we really are, and what we really want in life.
As a part of this series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interviewHuman Behavior Expert, Dr. Patrick Wanis.
Patrick Wanis, Ph.D. helps people rapidly change their behavior. He developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and specializes in safe trauma healing and release. Wanis has also developed multiple online psychological and behavioral assessments on Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, Mindfulness, Relationship Breakups, Self-Defeating Behavior, Individual Core Values, and Authenticity. His clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. Over five million people have read Wanis’ books in English and Spanish. https://www.patrickwanis.com/
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
I grew up in Australia, but I’ve traveled and lived in many countries across the globe. I’ve been shaped by everything that I’ve experienced from trauma and abuse to performing comedy hypnosis shows on cruise ships & in resorts; from working with individual clients who have experienced extraordinary childhood trauma, to teaching interactive workshops for 1,300 people on relationships and personal development.
One thing that stands out for me my experience living and working in The Gambia, West Africa. There, the people taught me to be grateful for and to enjoy the present moment. They will be happy because the sun is shining. They will be happy because they are in the company of friends and family. When there is a real loss, they will wail and cry to release it; when there is joy, they will celebrate by dancing — all of them regardless of age. Watching them dance at a Christening, birthday party or naming ceremony taught me to participate rather than spectate.
I believe that through working with individual clients and really helping them to get to a place of self-acceptance and self-compassion despite all of the suffering that they experienced, I was able to do the same for myself. ‘We teach what we need to learn, is what I promote, and when we teach, we are also learning the same thing we teach.
Are you currently working from home? If so, what has been the biggest adjustment from your previous workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
I have been primarily working out of home for many years, so that transition was easy. What was challenging was being inside my home for so long and not being able to present the small and large-scale, interactive, experiential-learning workshops for corporations. I miss being able to help and connect with groups of people on a deep level.
What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?
I think it would be safe to say that most people really miss socializing, and you will probably laugh or be shocked, but what I miss the most about my pre-Covid lifestyle is the monthly, full moon parties in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys. This is a huge beach party where you can dance on the sand barefoot. It is one giant party with great energy, where everyone dances with each other and has fun — with no judgments. Oh, and you are doing it under the full moon with swaying palm trees!
The pandemic was really a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic?
I would like to see people be kinder and more considerate of each other. No one really enjoys wearing a mask, but I do it because it shows that I care and am considerate of others. Even if the mask is controversial because some argue it does little to protect you, the act of putting on a mask with a group of friends is a gesture that says, “I care about you.”
What if anything, do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response? We’d love to hear some stories or examples.
We can learn from every experience — even the painful ones. What I didn’t expect was that the Pandemic would force me to reevaluate my life. That is what I did. I completely questioned everything that I was doing, the way I was doing it, and why I was doing it.
It also helped me to realize that what really matters to me is human connection and finding significance by being able to help and positively influence other people. It also led me to end some relationships where I realized they were just not healthy. I think it gave me more confidence to say, “No” and to walk away from toxic situations. I know that is shocking news coming from a behavior expert! In the past, I would have stayed to continue trying to help or save the other person even though it was unhealthy for me.
Overall, Covid-19 and its isolation and lockdown pushed me to look at the big picture, question and affirm my values and to treasure time and real friendships, while letting go of the unhealthy ones.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
I was truly shocked to realize how difficult it was to overcome the isolation and the physical aloneness.
I still pushed myself to do yoga every morning and to look for small ways to find meaning by calling friends and checking up on other people and doing my best to lift their spirits and give them hope rather than wallowing in self-pity. There were times that I just felt this extraordinary heaviness that I realized was sadness and grieving of things that had been lost.
There were times that I had to push myself to have a cold shower or so I could get myself out of a depressive or bleak mood. I also created videos to give people techniques to overcome sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness. I was able to teach myself those same things.
I teamed up with a friend and colleague, Chris Burres (a research scientist with a product MyVitalC which was shown to extend the lifespan of test subjects by 90%), and together we gave over 40 podcast one-hour-long interviews on the link between Covid-19, lack of sleep and the immune system. I spoke in detail about how to overcome the emotional impact of Covid-19 and the isolation, uncertainty, anxiety, and sadness. I recorded an audiobook, “Neutralize The 7 Emotions That Are Holding You, Hostage, Right Now” just in response to the pandemic, and the book is full of action plans — things you can actually do to help you get through the difficult times and overwhelming emotions.
Aside from what we said above, what has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
The hardest thing for me was the lack of social connection and the lack of social events. I could not even host small dinners because people were too afraid to get together. The way that I coped was to use a simple technique that I teach. When you feel a particular emotion, stop and say, “I notice I am feeling sad. Hmmm. That’s interesting. I wonder why I’m feeling sad.”
By saying this aloud and just responding with a matter-of-fact tone of “Hmm. That’s interesting”, you are able to separate yourself from the emotion. Now, that emotion cannot overwhelm you.
Next, I answer the question of why I am feeling this particular way, and I look for a solution. So, for example, I was able to recognize, ‘Oh am feeling sad because I miss my friends or I miss being able to dance on the beach at the full moon party. That makes sense. What can I do about it?”
In turn, I call up my friends and see how they are doing and we talk about what I or they are missing.
Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
The social isolation of the Covid-19 Pandemic completely transformed the way that I look, perceive, and experience life. It changed many of the trite quotes that I had adhered to. I had previously believed that the focus should be on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing.’ I am sure you have heard the saying, ‘I am not a human doing, I am a human being.’ Well, I found this quote to be inaccurate, as I will explain.
- The first thing that I learned is that, yes, we do need to be doing something; everybody needs a purpose, everybody needs a reason to live, something to drive and motivate them. And as I sat there alone, I felt the emptiness. It wasn’t from a lack of doing things or doing something. No, it was from a lack of doing something meaningful — making a positive difference. That leads to the second lesson, that we all need someone to love, and we all need to belong.
- We are hardwired for connection. And contrary to so many teachings about spiritual Enlightenment and being on your own, I realized that relationships are truly critical to our sense of satisfaction, meaning, and fulfillment in life. I created a video highlighting my belief that at the end of your life there will only be one regret and that is not what you did but what you didn’t do. You won’t regret not having a bigger house or being more famous or richer. No, at the end of your life you will regret that you didn’t love enough, that you didn’t express more love. So, I called friends and family to express love!
- The third lesson I learned is the significance of mutual support. Everybody needs someone to believe in and I think everybody needs someone to believe in them. This is another part of human connection, and this is another part that gives our life meaning. And despite my own belief of how strong, intelligent, wise, and invincible I am, I realized that is not true! I do need support and it gives me great meaning to be able to support others.
- The fourth lesson I learned is how important hope is. Even when everything seems to be hopeless and stuck, with so much uncertainty and anxiety, during COVID-19, that it is only hoped that can lift us even out of the situations that we interpret and conclude to be hopeless. Hope is not simply the belief that things will get better. No, hope is about believing that you can still take charge of your life that you can still make things better and so therefore you continue to dream and to set lofty goals, -goals and dreams which drive you and motivate you. This is hope: setting goals and striving for them.
- The fifth and final lesson I learned from the social isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic is that I was experiencing an emotional void. It didn’t begin with the pandemic. The pandemic just brought it to the forefront, and I realized that despite my work, popularity, effectiveness, and success as a human behavior expert, there was still a void inside of me. And then I discovered that this void was created by a lack of meaningful connection. I had, in fact, been doing everything alone my entire life. I wasn’t fulfilling the very things that I teach.
And yes, I believe that we teach the things that we need to learn. And the healing for my emotional void was to fulfill the four lessons and insights: To focus on purpose, to establish love and connection, to make sure that I belong, to give as well as receive support, and to focus on hope.
Thus, I believe above all, we need to shape and sculpt our future from the place of hope and optimism with a belief in our own capabilities while still feeling connected to the people around us, expressing love and living from meaning and purpose. I continue to practice this!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?
My favorite life lesson is something that I teach, inspired by Stoicism: Get clear about what you can and cannot control, put all of your energy and focus only on the things you can control, and practice accepting the things that are outside of your control.’
That teaching really helped to remind me to be wary of wallowing in self-pity or misery over the things that were lost and over which I could not change. It pushed me to focus with hope and optimism on setting new goals, even if they were small things.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
The person that I would really love to have a private breakfast or lunch with is Bill Campbell who coached Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Steve Jobs (Apple), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Eric Schmidt (Google), Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google), John Donahoe (eBay), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), and Jack Dorsey and Dick Costolo (Twitter.) Unfortunately, Bill has passed. His teachings are extraordinary, with a particular focus on caring for your people, and if I cannot meet up with him, I would love to meet up with some of the people that were his students.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Follow my work at https://www.patrickwanis.com (or @behavior_expert.) I write a weekly newsletter and have been doing so since 2002, but be prepared that I will challenge your beliefs with my writings and perspectives.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.