Episode 5: Being Alone
Are we in the midst of a loneliness epidemic? Well, it depends who you ask. This week's guest, Dr. Mark Epstein, a therapist in New York City and a practicing Buddhist, believes that loneliness is simply one of life's everyday traumas. A ubiquitous human condition that doesn't only visit the unlucky but almost everyone, much like sadness, fear and even death.
Dr. Epstein is also the author of a number of books that bridge Buddhist teachings with Western psychology. During his interview on this episode of "Is Anybody Out There?" he offers great insight into these two traditions, simultaneously quoting Donald Winnicott, a British child psychoanalyst, and the Buddha.
In dealing with everyday traumas such as loneliness, he guides us away from quick fixes and instead, offers an alternative of mindfulness and self-reflection that's grounded in Buddhism. Through anecdotes, Buddhist fables and personal practices, he informs us that meditation encourages us to sit with these uncomfortable and unpleasant emotions in order to understand our feelings of incompleteness and to find solutions to help us navigate a way out. And when we do, we might even emerge more enlightened. Meditation and mindfulness, he believes, are ways for us to unlock the transformational potential of trauma because a hidden kindness often gets woken that we can apply towards ourselves and others who might need help.
Mark Epstein MD is a psychiatrist and author of 8 books about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy, including Thoughts without a Thinker, Going to Pieces without Falling Apart, Psychotherapy without the Self, The Trauma of Everyday Life, Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself, and the forthcoming The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life to be published in January 2022 by Penguin Press. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School.