Amy Chan takes a scientific approach to healing the heart. She has explored the psychology behind love, lust and desire which we get to dive into in this episode. Take a listen to learn how to rewire your heart.
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Srini: Amy, welcome to the unmistakable. Creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us.
Amy Chan: Thanks for having me
Srini: It is my pleasure to have you here. So I got a hold of your book by way of your publicist. And when I saw that you had taken a science-based approach to breakups and heartbreak, I was like, yes, I want to talk to this person.
Srini: Only because I tend to like things that are backed up with science and logic, despite the fact that love is this very emotional thing. And so when I saw that, I was like, oh, this is a hell yes for me, because I really do want to understand this and dissect it because I like most people I've been through my own share of heartbreaks, but so I want to start with what I think is a very fitting question, given the subject of your book.
Srini: And that is, tell me about the first time you ever fell in love.
Amy Chan: Oh, the first time I fell in love, I was in my early twenties and I fell in love I'm doing air quotes right now. Because back then, I don't think I knew what love was, but I fell in love with this French artist. And he fell in love with me just as quickly as he fell out of love with me.
Amy Chan: But right after I bought us an apartment and he came home one day and he's I don't feel butterflies. I'm not in love with you. I love you, but I'm not in love with you. So that was kinda my first brush with love. And that's what made me dive into trying to understand the science and psychology of it, because it was just the one area of my life.
Amy Chan: I couldn't figure out. And I just had a string of heartbreaks one after another.
Srini: So I mean you're of Asian descent, right? What did your parents teach you about loving relationships growing up? Because I really am curious to hear what your experience with this was like versus mine as an Indian person raised in a marriage.
Amy Chan: So they didn't really teach me by way of, having conversations with me, talking about the person bees. Like my parents were immigrant parents that came from China, they worked their asses off and they weren't really around to parent me, but they had a very toxic relationship. And my father was an entrepreneur.
Amy Chan: My mother busted her ass helping her, him and she wasn't educated and he always put that over her. And what I witnessed growing up was two people that. Just didn't despise each other and, had these crazy toxic fights every day, but stay together because that's just what you do.
Amy Chan: Divorce. Just, wasn't a thing in our Chinese culture. And to this day, my dad's now 85 and they live in separate homes, but they're still together. And my mom's still every day goes and cooks for him and cleans for him and takes care of. Wow.
Srini: So know it's funny because I don't think that's isolated to just, Chinese culture, because I think I see this in Indians too, where you see people who stay together forever for one primary reason. And it's because it's so frowned upon in the community. Like you get such a stigma when you get divorced. I think I, I ended up writing this piece after the whole Indian matchmaking thing titled the south Asian arms race for, impressive cultural bio data.
Srini: And one of the things I said is that, in our culture, we put an expiration date on women, which I think is awful. And I think that, like mothers really put a lot of pressure on their daughters. It's are you, is your daughter really going to find the kind of guy you want her to find?
Srini: If you're always treating her, like she has an expiration date, like this is the opposite of unconditional love. And I wonder why is that? Like, why is it that people despite being miserable will allow the stigma of a community that judges. To keep them trapped in a relationship. They actually don't want to be.
Amy Chan: think that these beliefs often don't go questioned. When I look at my mother's generation where she grew up without, she wasn't allowed to have an education because her parents made her work and take care of the family. She didn't have access to podcasts and pop culture and Instagram feeds, stating motivational quotes.
Amy Chan: They grew up with these values that were deeply ingrained and I'm not going to say all the values were terrible. Some of them are wonderful, right? Loyalty, commitment family and sticking it through, despite the thick and thin those are part of the values. I know my mother grew up with.
Amy Chan: And so it's not even a question it's just not a shakable belief. Whereas I think that, I'm very privileged to have grown up in the way that I have and not having to worry about putting a roof over my head. I have all these opportunities. I have all these different ways of learning and I've also grown up in a culture in north America, which the individual was really prioritized.
Amy Chan: So it's about my self care and what's good for me and my independence versus this major priority and focus on the wheat and the family. And I think that there's, benefits and, pros and cons of both approaches.
Srini: Yeah. I think the thing that somebody said to me once is that, in places like India, probably places like China, they make it way too hard to get divorced.
Srini: And in places like here, it's almost too easy to put an end to our relationship. And I wonder based on the research you've done, what do you have to say about that? Because, it clearly, like there are times when it says it makes sense to say, okay, yeah, this just is not meant to be like, this is bad for all of us.
Srini: And yet, I think that is one thing I see in Indian people as the resilience to fight through something that's tough that isn't necessarily, oh, let's just get divorced.
Amy Chan: So I see a north American culture there's two main approaches that really stick out to me. One is the while I have so many options, if this is, once the, even like the chemistry and the less face.
Amy Chan: That I'm not in love with you. I don't feel butterflies. And then you just jump on to the next one and you jump onto the next one, right? There's this kind of this desire for the excitement and the passion and this kind of idea of the romance, which I don't think is grounded in reality, we now know through research around a year to two year, mark is when the chemical cocktail starts to fade.
Amy Chan: And that's where you see the breakup and divorce rates are generally around that time as well. And so I see that, I also see people stay. Really toxic relationships and not being able to get out. And, they will stay with someone who is either emotionally abusive or even physically abusive. And I deal with a lot of people who are in this category.
Amy Chan: I would say 30% of the people that I work with say that they are with someone who is a narcissist, either they display characteristics or they have the actual narcissistic personality disorder. And it's not that these are weak people. They're these people that are caught in a cycle and they're almost addicted to this intensity.
Amy Chan: They're addicted to the hot and cold. And for these people, they continue to be like, I can fix it. I'm going to get a return on my investment. And I have to really sit these people down and ask the questions. If you were to make this decision today, would you choose this person?
Amy Chan: And if you continue. With this, this direction of being in this hot and cold relationship with this person where your self-esteem is eroding every single day, where are you going to be in five years? What's it going to cost you? And yeah, there's the, that's like the divide that I see the extremes in north America.
Srini: Yeah yeah, I think that there are definitely two sides to this coin. And I want to come back to all of this, cause I know you went into depth about all this. So one thing I wonder. So in Indian culture, there's one thing that's very clear in that is that we put a high value on what the author, David Brooks calls resume values and a low one, I think on what people call character value.
Srini: Before we hit record, you had mentioned Indian matchmaking and somebody had interviewed me about this. And I said, look, if you look at the scenes where they're asking people about their partners, there's that scene with audio where you'll notice, she never mentioned a single thing about careers, money, nothing.
Srini: That is a bunch of accolades. It's all about character. And I set up like that is literally why I think she was probably the most likable character on the show. Definitely more likable than I was. But so the, that, and so I wonder, growing up in Chinese culture, Is that something that played a role because in my mind as much as I'd like to think, I don't have any biases.
Srini: I know there are certain girls. If I brought them home, my parents would be like okay, what the hell are you thinking?
Amy Chan: Yeah. I think you made a great point and those biases aren't even at the point where you bring them home and the biases can be so deeply subconscious that they're already there in your vetting process.
Amy Chan: And yeah, the career paths that. My parents encouraged when I was growing up was doctor, lawyer, accountant, right? Fashion designer, artists, like that's complete, just know those are hobbies. And that was not only what my parents expected of their children, but it was also what they expected and in who we dated.
Amy Chan: And so I had two older sisters and one of my sisters, she was a rebel and she dated the artist. She dated like the, the guy who like smoked weed all day and, my parents completely disapproved and the more they disapprove, the more she rebelled on them. And then my other sister went the route that they want.
Amy Chan: She dated Chinese guys and they're really like nice and sweet and they were happy with that. And so I witnessed all of this growing up and I think that it really did. Create a bias in me. So I only wanted to date people who had, who had money. And my idea was like, yeah, I'm going to achieve in my career.
Amy Chan: I'll do well in school. I'll get a job, but eventually I'm just going to be a stay at home wife, like my husband's going to bring it in. And so that was my plan. And that was the plan. I, I was dating to get married by the age of 15, like every person are you going to meet my husband? Are you going to meet my future?
Amy Chan: Like my kids that was just, and that was normal. I never questioned that. And it wasn't until everything fell apart. Like during one of my breakups later on in life that I just stopped. I'm like, wait a minute. Whose life am I living? Whose beliefs have I just absorbed through osmosis because these are not mine.
Srini: Yeah, I I really appreciate the fact that you said you were just stating to get married because I think that's so common even in Indian culture. Cause I remember by the time I moved out of my parents' house, like I think, it was quite late in my life. When I finally was making enough money for my business and I remember the first couple of months of dating and I'm like, okay, I must be terrifying people.
Srini: Cause I basically, it was like this pressure to be like, oh, every girl I go on a date with could potentially be the girl I marry. I'm like, this is a disaster. There's no way this is gonna work. But one thing I wonder is you, are you the youngest of the blinks? Okay. So this is another thing I wonder is that, you witnessed some of this in your older sisters.
Srini: And I wonder how. You know your own decisions about relationships based on birth order changed based on how you saw what folded unfolded with your siblings. Because my sister had got married, I think last year, what I keep that was two years ago and I couldn't help, but think I'm like, wow, this should be the other way around.
Srini: I'm the older sibling. And it's not and this was like the bane of my mother's existence for a long time. Fortunately, I think my sister getting married, got my mom to leave me alone. Everybody left me alone because Indian weddings basically just consume your life, especially if it's the daughter getting.
Amy Chan: Yeah. In terms of birth order, yeah, I'm the both of my sisters are married with children and I think also I was born and raised in Vancouver and all of my friends here are married with children. And then I left to New York to pursue my career. And it was a total change of scenery. Like everyone, there is single, like if you were married with children, you were not in New York city, you like left to the suburbs and you never saw him again.
Amy Chan: So it really changed because growing up in Vancouver, I had a lot of pressure. Like I just wanted to secure my partner and that was success to me that was living the dream. And it wasn't until I moved out of the city, moved away from all of it from family to friends that I was like, oh, I'm amongst other people.
Amy Chan: We don't talk about children all the time. Our conversations actually, probably never. We talk about businesses and series a and so they're really different conversations. I think that just being immersed in a different energy really, had a big influence on me because, I'm now I'm turning 39.
Amy Chan: And I'm not married. And my parents are super proud of me and they've they're not pressuring me at all because they're like, you're doing really well in your career. We're not worried about you. And that's, it's really not.
Srini: Yeah, I think my parents finally came to the realization that if we try to force this, it's going to end up, it's going to end badly.
Srini: Cause I see this all the time with Indian parents, they're just like so stressed out about their sons and daughters, getting married and it's okay, do you really think this is going to help them meet anybody?
Amy Chan: Yeah. And they want those grandkids, like that's a real thing.
Amy Chan: Yeah.
Srini: Yeah, absolutely. Let's get into the book because I think, like I said, what struck me the most was the fact that you took this very science-based approach to something that all of us experienced at one time or another. And that is, the pain of heartbreak and and like I was 36 the first time I really experienced this, which was way late.
Srini: But one thing that you say at the very beginning of the book is that the pain doesn't go away. Instead, it transforms it alchemizes into something beautiful. It becomes a part of your depth, your compassion, your empathy, to see another woman, or in case, in my case, also a man who was suffering from heartbreak and in one look, help her feel a little less alone.
Srini: That shared humanity, that compassion, that we're all perfectly imperfect humans finding our path, that connection is to love. And I think that struck me because I think, when we're like in the pain of. We're just so angry and mad. I remember going to a doctor and, like one of my friends is like, this is cause I was thinking to a pretty severe depression and I was, she was like, you drank a half, a bottle of whiskey and smoked two packs of cigarettes in a day.
Srini: She was like, you're punishing yourself. And so I wonder like, why is it that's one of our common resorts is to try to numb, whatever it is.
Amy Chan: Yeah. I think that it doesn't help that in north America, there is such a judgment on our feelings of good or bad. And then there's also a lot of pressure to be happy all the time.
Amy Chan: It's a multi-billion dollar industry and that's just not realistic. And, just like even looking at your social media feeds, everything is about being happy. And I just think that's the wrong goal because when we do feel the other emotions that are all part of the human spectrum we judge ourselves and I think that shame really keeps us in a state of suffering.
Amy Chan: I don't think pain is a negative thing. I think pain is a wonderful teacher. I think. Is humbling. And, I always joke, like never trust someone. Who's never gone through a heartbreak because it, it, when you have gone through that you experienced this sort of, I think just dropping to this low makes you have compassion and empathy for other people that you wouldn't be able to get through just reading through books or anything like that.
Amy Chan: And that's also why, even at my boot camps, any of the facilitators, they must have gone through something super dark, like heartbreak or trauma and gotten themselves out of it because otherwise people can't connect with them. And so I think that we, there's so many things that we just need to change the definitions of.
Amy Chan: And we'll talk about this later, but the deficient missions of love the definitions of what success in a relationship is. And our definitions of. Feelings and not judging them. And I think we're also not taught these tools of how do you cope with these emotions in a healthy way?
Amy Chan: I, like I know at a young age, I never learned this in school. It was never modeled for me as a child. And so when I felt something I just went into a hole. I went into my room and I was always taught that anger was not feminine and girls don't get angry. So I would always turn my sadness into anger.
Amy Chan: My, my anger to sadness. And this is something common. I see that women generally. Get angry or less and they turn it into sadness. It's almost like a reaction default. And so I think it's just really important that we start learning the tools for healthy, emotional hygiene preferably at a younger age, but it's never too late.
Amy Chan: Yeah.
Srini: I'm so glad you brought up that we weren't taught this in school because I think, yeah, I think my most popular article to date was this piece huddle, what we should have learned in school, but never did. And I put interacting with the opposite sex in, in that article, which was one of the most important things.
Srini: And as somebody who teaches this stuff, it always struck me that it was odd that something so fundamental to our existence is left out of our primary education because you're the nerdy Indian kid. Everything is basically, oh, that girl will never talk to me.
Srini: And if she doesn't, that means, I'm a loser. It's like we, as you say we're meaning making machines. Given the work that you do, what do you think we should be teaching kids about this? And why don't you think it's something that's in our education.
Amy Chan: Yeah. Yeah, it's not so that I learn how to dissect frogs, but I didn't know how to deal with anxiety nor even know what that word meant until I was an adult for more
Srini: useful in life.
Amy Chan: I think that the very first thing is, and whether you're a child or you're an adult is learning when you feel the emotion. Getting in tune with it, of where it is in your body, because there's also, if you don't learn to do that you could disassociate, so you disassociate from actually feeling it.
Amy Chan: So you don't even know, is it in your heart? Is it in your chest? Is it, where is it? I think that's really important. And actually just taking the time to allow yourself, to get really present with the actual emotion. And I think understanding that your feelings aren't facts and that the feeling will hit its chemical peak and eventually subside like a wave.
Amy Chan: And you're learning to learn how to surf those emotions as if you're surfing, which you're probably aware of. Cause you're a surfer, understanding like that, the intensity is eventually going to society and it's not forever. The problem is. When you feel an emotion and say, you're very young, you feel an emotion.
Amy Chan: And you're like, oh my God this is going to be forever. This pain, this anger, whatever it is, it's going to be forever. I'm going to do something now I'm going to react while I'm in this emotion. And I'm going to PR and that actually prolongs emotion, or you add stories to the motion, which prolongs the emotion.
Amy Chan: And I call it feeding your emotional monster. You never actually experienced that oh, like I'm super mindful with what's going on. It's going to pass. I'm going to breeze through it. Okay. The adrenaline starts to subside. Okay. I'm all right. You learn that, oh, these emotions are. Our temporary. But if you don't know that and you from a very young age, start reacting to them and repeat that over and over through time, what happens when you're an adult, when you feel the uncomfortable emotion immediately oh my God, I need to get rid of it.
Amy Chan: So you'll do something such as distract yourself, avoid suppress, whatever those coping mechanisms that you had when you were a young child. If you didn't interrupt them and learn how to shift them, you're going to do the same thing. And that creates a habit. And that creates.
Srini: Wow. So I think that makes a perfect segue to what I think is a perfect question to get us into the deeper part of the book.
Srini: And that is, tell me about your own first heartbreak.
Amy Chan: Yeah, I was living in Vancouver. I was, I had the perfect life on paper. I had a six figure job. I was dating the sky and I thought he was the one. We talked about our life, if we had children and how that would work and I would stay at home, I would write on the side for fun and I was living the dream and one day I, Find out that he cheated on me and my whole world came crashing down.
Amy Chan: I had put so much of my identity in him and us and our future, our plans that without that, I just didn't know who I was and I just crashed. I fell into depression. I stopped eating. I had panic attacks. I had thoughts of suicide and I just, I didn't think that the darkness was going to lift. I had never experienced something like that.
Amy Chan: And I couldn't understand because my whole life, I was a high-achieving person. I had good friends. I had, good job. And I felt like I was going crazy and I couldn't get out of it. And that was really scary for me. And I think I, I just felt even extra shame because I'm like, this isn't me, but I felt like I was possessed and there was nothing I felt like I was doing that could make it go away.
Amy Chan: So that's the catalyst that made me start. All of my work in dealing with breakups and helping other people. Okay.
Srini: So sounds like a similar experience to what I've had, where I just felt like this is never going to end. I can't stop thinking about this. It took months. And I remember sitting in a therapist office and he was trying to explain the grief cycle to me.
Srini: And I was like, we've been at this for three months. When is this going to be over? He was like, it doesn't work that way, dude was like, he's you can't just fast forward through this. But I think the place that I want to start is with, rumination, because I think that this is really common.
Srini: Yeah. I know it was, for me, it was just like, And I think the thing in, my own ruminations and I'm guessing this is a pretty common thing is I would literally replay every single moment of the relationship and be like, okay, I wonder what would've happened. If I hadn't done this. And it took me months to realize, I was like what does it matter?
Srini: The outcome is still exactly the same. No matter how many times I replay this story. And you say, you know that the emotional spiral worsens, when we repeat the story over and over walking, if not sprinting on a vicious loop, going nowhere, this is the mental trap of rumination the story, becoming a blur with no starter end.
Srini: So the question is then how the hell do you stop running?
Amy Chan: Yeah. So you have to think about it when you were in a relationship with someone. I have this exercise called the pie exercise, where you draw a circle and then you slice up that circle in slices of pie. And how much of that pie meaning your head space, your energy, your top Mount of time was devoted to the relationship.
Amy Chan: And usually this is anywhere from 50% to sometimes 90% for people who are more codependent. And so after the relationship ends, you have to think about this. You have 50% of this pie or 80% of this pie. That's now vacant. And if you don't strategically and proactive, Find ways to fill up that pie with things that light you up, you are going to use up that empty space with ruminating and thoughts of your ex.
Amy Chan: And so what I really encourage people to do is when you're stuck in this vicious cycle of thinking trap of ruminating and stuck in the, I should've done this, or maybe that or blaming these are all thinking traps that human beings are privy to. If you don't find something else to get obsessed over, you're going to continue going that route when you're in that thinking trap, you're in a disempowering fantasy because it doesn't matter what you do.
Amy Chan: You cannot actually change that outcome. You have no control over this person giving you closure or apologizing or any of those things. And so you're very disempowered. And so you stay in the state of suffering, but if you channel your energy and your focus into a new obsession and empowering fantasy, that will actually help you shift your focus.
Amy Chan: And so what does that mean? Right now? I'm working with someone who has been obsessed over his ex for a year. And so are what my, I, my challenge slash adventure towards him was, he really loves music and he's really wanting to play this. Mini concert for his sisters baby. And so I was like, okay, every day what are you going to do?
Amy Chan: You're going to practice. You're going to do this. And so w what he's been doing is every day he's been doing these workouts, he's been practicing so that he has this deadline that we have set, and he's accountable for this concert, he's going to play. And without even noticing. Cause he's so present in these activities, that amount of time that he normally is rereading emails and looking at photos and thinking and ruminating, he's now channeling to this thing.
Amy Chan: And there's a positive feedback loop. Cause he's feeling good about it. Every time he gets a little bit better, he's oh, I feel good. And so this has an automatic ripple effect.
Srini: Okay. So I love this. So I'm really glad you brought up the emails, things I was going to ask you about the social media thing.
Srini: Cause I remember, it probably was two to three months before I was able to finally stop stocking this person's Instagram feed and oh. And the, and what I realized is what's even worse about that is then you look at each picture and you have a story that comes with each picture that may not even be true.
Srini: So what role do, does all of that our modern sort of technology plan, all of this.
Amy Chan: So when we do that when we scroll the Insta feeds and stuff, it's emotional, cutting, right? You're pretty much a status and you are whipping ourselves. So I really try to tell people before you're about to engage in an action like that, just having a mental check and ask yourself, am I being kind to myself right now is the serving me.
Amy Chan: Sometimes that check alone will stop you, but if you're just mindlessly doing it, without those checks in place, you're going to just keep repeating it. And something to understand is when you're craving checking their social media, this is your body craving a hit of dopamine. It's not because that person is so amazing.
Amy Chan: It's because of. We used to get all these chemicals from this relationship. And now that you don't have it, you're even though there's been a divorce paper or there's a breakup your body, doesn't give a shit, your body's in a state of shock. And he's give me those chemicals. So your ex is like a drug dealer and you really not need to think of that like that.
Amy Chan: And you just want your hit. And and something that's so important is yes, you want to stop stalking their social, but you have to understand why. And this is where understanding the science and the biology helps you when you're with them. When you have neuropathways that have been wired together.
Amy Chan: And so every time after a breakup, those neural pathways are still intact. Every time you are looking at their photos or scrolling down memory lane, you're building up those neuropathways. Now, when you stop. And say, instead of, reaching out to them for some emotional charge, right? Sometimes we reach out knowing that we're going to get in a fight.
Amy Chan: We're still getting our hit. We're still getting endorphins from that. Sometimes we get addicted to the pain. So once you stop doing that and say, you're like, okay, I'm going to replace that habit. And I'm going to. Put on up dance playlist that I'm going to dance, or I'm going to play music, whatever it is, you now allow those neural pathways to start pruning away.
Amy Chan: And that needs time. And so when I talk to someone, so like this person that I'm telling you about, who's been ruminating about their extra year, who has every single day been telling the store or rereading emails trying to reach out. And we just started working via each other last month. I'm like, you actually just are going through the separation as of right now, because you have been obsessed over this person.
Amy Chan: So you've been in a relationship with this person up until now with a person who's not in a relationship with you. Every time you're, blaming your ex vilifying your ex and rehashing that story or hoping for them to change. You're just continuing being in a relationship with your ex.
Srini: Wow. Okay. So that actually raises another question. What have you seen as the differences between the way that men and women handle these situations? Because, I'll tell you, I think that the thing that all I remember that like this breakup like literally sent me to tears and I remember having conversation on the beach and the scroll basically more or less, so many words told me I wasn't making enough money to be with somebody like her at the time.
Srini: And I cried. And after that, I was like, I am never going to cry in front of woman again. And that was the conclusion I came to from that, which was probably not the right conclusion. But what I wonder is, okay, how does this differ for men and women in terms of the meaning they make out of these situations and how they handle it.
Amy Chan: So I'll speak in general terms, because of course, I don't want to make sweeping generalizations, but in what I have observed and what I've researched there is a difference between how men typically deal with breakups and women. So men have a tendency to district. Immediately. So they might go on a dating app right after they might go into another relationship right after.
Amy Chan: So there is this kind of not dealing with the pain and almost disassociating from it. So when I speak to someone who's moved on right after they're like, oh no, I'm totally fine. But they're actually not in reality because they're actually not in touch with their emotions. They've just been blocking it.
Amy Chan: What happens though? Eventually what I've seen is those. Those emotions and that pain, it catches up to you. So what are the catches up to them? And then they either regrets and they want to get back together with their ex or their interrelationship. And it's showing that baggage is showing up. Our emotions, they, the pain as well, they need air to breathe.
Amy Chan: And so if you're just shoving it down, eventually it's going to show up just in different places. And in times where you're not expecting what I find with women is there's more of a tendency to right away go inward and mourn. And then reaching out to usually, friends and talking about it over and over again.
Amy Chan: And there's this rehashing of the story. But what happens is the woman will generally move through. They'll go through it. It's terrible. They do the work upfront. It's awful. And then they move through it and then they move on and there's more of a clean slate versus having to deal with, this delayed reaction of the pain.
Amy Chan: And why is this, a lot of it could be socialization, right? What you just explained was like very typical of what's called the skin knee effect where, you know, when a little boy falls down, skins his knee, what are, what is he tall? Be strong. Don't cry. Get back up. Yeah. Whereas a girl Scouts falls is like, are you okay?
Amy Chan: Oh my gosh. It's okay. You're cuddled. And it's easy. You have permission to feel sad or upset and hurt and you get the time to, get better. Whereas the guys like, Nope, zip-up buddy BMS.
Srini: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's really fascinating because yeah, you're right. Absolutely.
Srini: Like I think that men, I think have this need to almost be stoic because like you said, it makes them seem weak. Which I think that this actually makes a perfect segue to talking about attachment styles, because I remember reading the attachment book and I remember looking at this and I was like, oh my God, I'm like, I have an anxious attachment style.
Srini: Fuck. I'm like, I'm screwed. I'm like, this is a disaster. And so one thing I wonder, and I've asked one other person, this is it possible to change attachment styles. And to, if you do have an anxious attachment style, like how do you prevent that from turning into something that ends up being almost propelling to another person?
Srini: Because it can be, come across as incredibly insecure.
Amy Chan: Yes, you can change it. I am an example of it. It's what's called an earn secure. And about 20% of the population does shift their attachment style through time and there's many different ways, right? Your your attachment style, you have to think of it.
Amy Chan: It's on a spectrum. And for example, if you are secure with some anxious tendencies, you have a great group of friends, you love your job. You're working out all the time. You have community, and you're dating someone who's secure as well. That anxious tendencies might not rear its head as much, but then maybe the pandemic hits.
Amy Chan: You lose your job. You don't see your friends, you're not working out. And you're the situation of your life is now really difficult for you. And so instead of having more secure tendencies, that anxious attachment starts to really take over. And so it really depends on your where you're at in life and also who you're dating.
Amy Chan: If you are very anxious and you're drunk and you're more likely you're going to want to be drawn to someone who's very avoidant. That attach to the different attachment styles are drawn to each other, anxious avoidant, to anxious. That's going to actually make you more and more anxious, but if you have an anxious attachment style and you date someone who's secure, they're able to go through those ups and downs.
Amy Chan: And in those moments where you're feeling self-conscious and you might need more check-ins or whatnot. Instead of being like, oh my gosh, you're suffocating me. Like when an avoidant would react to you, they'd be like, oh, I understand what you're going through. Okay. Let's work through this together. And so I think it's a combination.
Amy Chan: I think it's really, the goal is to be whether you're anxiously attached or avoidantly attached. There are two sides of the same coin. They both are rooted in a fear of intimacy. One fear is that intimacy is going to suffocate them. And one fear is that intimacy is going to abandon them. And so it is a dysregulation of, the nervous system and.
Amy Chan: And so I think the goal is whether you're anxious or avoidant is to become more secure not to become more like your partner. And so I think that there's individual work that needs to be done in that. And then when you're in a relationship like I used to, I struggle with my anxious attachment. I was probably very severe until I realized, like it was ruining all of my relationships because I would sabotage, I would create these coping mechanisms where I would hedge.
Amy Chan: And I would try to reject people before they could reject. And once I realized that this was my pattern and I couldn't just keep blaming everyone I really sought to get help on this. And I made it my goal to, to shift my anxious attachment. And then when I was dating people, I would be upset.
Amy Chan: I'd be like, Hey, just so you know, I struggle with this. These are the few things that trigger me. I'm not saying that this is your problem. This is something I'm moving through, but I want to let you know so that you understand, and that would bring up a conversation. And so I think you can have, an insecure attachment and still be in a very healthy, loving partner.
Srini: I early first that, so I it's funny because alongside your book, I was rereading Robert Green's book, the art of seduction, which was an interesting contrast, right? To read, one book that basically looks at it through the lens of persuasion and, in a lot of ways what comes across as manipulation.
Srini: And I guess, the content is that I there's one quote that always stays with me from that book. And it's, from some cortisone, some French cortisone who said, love doesn't die of starvation. It dies of indigestion. And that always stayed with me because I always thought, okay, so then how do you resolve that paradox of, having this, anxious, attachment style, coupled with that notion.
Srini: And also I think that, people read that and it ends up leading to a lot of people, trying to play games. I know this because I will pretty much wall people off the moment I get the sense that oh, they're pulling away. So I'm just going to be A lot colder and more ignorant to see, like just, evasive to see if it changes the dynamic.
Srini: And I had a dating coach told me, he said, dude, he's there are going to be people who are actually going to thrive on that. And he said, and those are the people you don't want to be.
Amy Chan: Totally right. If you being dismissive and hot and cold and not that interested in treating someone, not that well is what draws someone to you.
Amy Chan: If they're like, oh my God, that's attractive. That's a big indicator that person's unhealthy. I used to be that I used to be so drawn to avoid it people and people who put me on fifth on the priority list. This is completely a mirror of my dynamic with my father. But I was drawn to that.
Amy Chan: I was drawn to these unhealthy dynamics because inside I w my emotional health level, wasn't that healthy. And as I became healthier and I'm, you probably have noticed this as well with all the work you've done on yourself. That's just becomes a turnoff, like what used to be a turn on is now oh, like games.
Amy Chan: I don't have time for that. Cause growth. And then you just move along.
Srini: Yeah. I think this is I really love that you're bringing this up because it's one of those things that I think we spend a lot of time thinking about. So one thing you just alluded to was this idea that you know, this other person, isn't the first priority.
Srini: Now, the other thing you mentioned earlier is that, people lose themselves in relationships. Like I see this all the time with friends. Basically, they are joined at the hip with the person they're with like, you don't see them without the other person. It's I, I had a friend who was in a really, what looked like an amazing relationship, which turned out to be incredibly toxic.
Srini: And, I remember after the breakup, I was like, you guys were a package deal. I don't think I've ever hung out with you once where it was just the two of us. Since you've been dating him since you were dating him. And so there's this balance, right? Because it's obviously it's attractive to have your own stuff going on.
Srini: Even mark Manson in one of his books, he said, the best way to get in a relationship is to have something better to do than searching constantly looking for a relationship. So how do you balance those two things? Yeah,
Amy Chan: I see it all the time. How people start off independent, right? It's not like you get it, you state someone and you're like, oh, I'm just going to now completely merge with you and be codependent and just never leave your side.
Amy Chan: It happens very slowly. It happens, that first weekend where you're like, oh, I did have these plans with my friends. Like this is the only time they have available, I'm just going to change my plans. It's very slowly where we do these gradual things that kind of make us merge into someone else.
Amy Chan: And usually it's one person does it more than the other. And so I think it's really important for people to understand do you have more codependent tendencies? And like with that whole pie thing, you draw a circle and then you actually draw what is the ideal balance of your pie? And how does that look like that you can do this, whether you're in a relationship now or before you're even get into one, and maybe you see there, there's a slice of pie for education, for community, for whatever it is.
Amy Chan: And that you use that as something that you visually look at. To keep yourself in check and I've actually had to do this. Like I know for me, I have I'm secure now, but I have anxious tendencies because that was my attachment style growing up. And my partner is secure, but he has, were avoided.
Amy Chan: So he needs a lot of independence. I need a lot of connection, but what I do is I have to make sure like sometimes oh I'm doing that thing where I'm at what to merge. Like I'm changing my plans around because like I know he's available only in these times. So I will then go against what is just natural for me, which is to merge into someone else and be like, Nope, I gotta be really disciplined.
Amy Chan: Have my own workout, have my own community time, how my own saying and do that enough. So that becomes your norm. But yeah, I think. If you have these patterns, you actually have to be more diligent, more intelligent, and more disciplined in making sure that you keep that balance. I also see people who are unbalanced and have more co-dependent tendencies to over-give.
Amy Chan: And so what starts off as an even dynamic then they're like, oh I like this person so much. And then there's these ideas. Like I need to earn that love. Then they give more and then what happens? They're like, oh, that person isn't giving. And so they end up taking three steps for every one step that they're taking.
Amy Chan: And then there's this uneven power dynamic, which eventually erupts and the relationship crumble.
Srini: Wow. Okay. Let's talk specifically about boundaries. You say by not expressing your needs and your limits to your partner, you set them up for failure, was triggered your natural instinct for creating distance to avoid reaching this point.
Srini: It's important that you communicate clearly. Now, one of the things I know from some of the women I've dated is money has come up as an issue. Like I had an ex-girlfriend who basically her idea of me treating her well was $400 every, $400 dinners every weekend, and things that I basically couldn't afford.
Srini: And because I had no boundaries, I pretty much put our entire relationship on a credit card until we broke up. And I never was willing to step up and say I can't do this. And I wasn't willing to end the relationship because I was afraid of being alone. Yes. So there's that. Now one thing I remember having a conversation with a friend about boundaries and we're talking about this and it's the first time you do it, you feel like, oh, great.
Srini: I'm expressing my boundaries and the reaction from the other person isn't. So you're like, shit, that's what's was going to turn out if I express my boundaries. So how do we resolve those two, two issues?
Amy Chan: Yeah. I think there's two things that play right. One is actually the work on self and feeling whole enough as a human being and that you are enough.
Amy Chan: And that's probably, a forever journey. But we don't feel that. Then we feel like, oh my gosh, we can't express ourselves because we're just going to get abandoned. And so we're willing to submit or edit ourselves in order for someone to like us, because there's a root belief there that I'm not enough as I am.
Amy Chan: And so I think that's really important. You can't just change your behavior and then not look at the inside because the root of it is your beliefs. So there's that work that needs to be done. And then there's a practice of the boundaries. And part of that is there needs to be, This a boundary is something that if it's crossed that there is a consequence to that.
Amy Chan: And, if cross enough, or if that boundary is a big one and it was crossing, you have to be willing to be able to walk away from that relationship. I know there's a big difference between building boundaries and building walls. Sometimes we build a wall as a way to cope and to protect ourselves.
Amy Chan: But boundaries are porous. It can be a negotiation, it can be a collaboration. And so I think learning how to communicate and express yourself is really important. I've had friends who've been, they never were able to set boundaries their entire life, and then they. Learn read some book and they're like, okay, I'm going to do these boundaries.
Amy Chan: And then they would come across with these boundaries as like super hard and aggressive. And the person on the other side is already on the defense. And there's no way that conversation is going to go well. But I think you can state your boundaries without it being such a confrontation, confrontational conversation.
Amy Chan: It could be like, Hey this is what I'm feeling. This is what I prefer. What are your, what do you feel about that? Are you open to that and making it a dialogue and a collaborative conversation? I think that could be. Approach. And then also starting with small stakes don't if you're someone who's never been able to state your boundaries, I would not go and have a high stakes conversation as your first one.
Amy Chan: I would start small. I would start by, maybe calling your credit card company and seeing if you can get your credit raise, like these tiny conversations, maybe it's you went to a restaurant, you didn't like your food. And normally you just suck it up. But then you talk to the manager, you say something about it.
Amy Chan: You start with small stakes and you grow your muscle for being able to communicate your boundaries and your needs. It's funny
Srini: you say that. Cause I remember talking to a friend about this on the podcast and she was like, Trina, your mother. She was like, no, that's not how you start this conversation about boundaries.
Srini: She was like, that's the one place you don't want to start? I was like, good point. She's start with something. Yeah,
Amy Chan: for sure. All right.
Srini: Let's talk about what I think was my absolute favorite part of the book. And that is this whole idea of fantasy because this was me. This was me in every way possible.
Srini: Like I literally, I remember when I was dating this girl long distance, I'd even crafted the screenplay out in my head. It was going to be called Levin 20 cities. Like we would meet in one city every month and we made it to three cities in Sherbrooke. And I was like, that was like the ultimate wake up call of, wow.
Srini: I am living in a fairytale world and a friend of mine said, you have this Disney movie idealized version of love. And you said, here's what those fairytales, romantic movies and love songs create a culture of women shattered by love. We have unrealistic expectations of what it is to love and be loved for most people.
Srini: What we call love today can be categorized as variations up on certain themes we experienced as adolescents, intense lust and longing attraction and novelty and excitement, the desire to possess an idealize and the hope of feeling special when chosen. So let's talk about this. Why is this so common?
Srini: And do you think it's more common for women than it is for men? Because like I said, this was me and another.
Amy Chan: Yeah. I don't know if it's the difference between the genders and how common it is. I know it was me international growing up too. I think we read the same fairytales. And I think a lot of it has to do with the stories that we are read, that we read from a very young age, the fairytales, the movies, the love songs.
Amy Chan: Look at, Romeo and Juliet, that's your OJI, love story. And and that's not love like these, they met each other and within 40 hours, they were going to kill themselves for each other, for this idea of love. And so you don't know that you are taking in all these messages from culture, from pop culture, from stories and they are building your ideas and your expectations of what love is.
Amy Chan: And so I think that. In north America, there is a lot of issues with people who expect this fantasy and they expect that laws is this kind of chemically leaf fueled oh my God, I look across the room and I want to rip off their clothes sort of thing. And it's very romantic, but it's not realistic.
Amy Chan: And I know for myself, I also, because I had a very chaotic upbringing I escaped into fantasy. So that was a coping mechanism for me to deal with the tumultuous, fights that were happening at home. And I think all of these things sets up a generation of people who get really disappointed in love and, for myself being disappointed in enough times and then learning about wait a minute, this isn't love, oh, this is borderline love addiction.
Amy Chan: Oh, now I start to understand that sort of having me actually. Challenge those beliefs. And so I think it's super important for people to see. Again, I talked about it in the beginning. Change our definitions of what love is of what a successful relationship is. There's still this notion of happily forever after, call me, I don't, you can say I'm jaded or just, I'm a realist.
Amy Chan: I don't believe in forever. I think you could stay with someone for a very long time. And that might mean that die of old age together, but I don't use forever as my benchmark of success. And so I think that relationships are here for many different reasons. And sometimes they're here to teach us what you don't want so that you can finally create an opening to explore what you do want.
Amy Chan: You talk about that girl who won a $400 dinners. That is a person who does not know what love is. It's a transactional thing. And she has a dysfunctional relationship with money and love. And so yeah, sometimes I think we need to go through these things to learn. And sometimes people don't learn and their whole entire lives, they are in.
Amy Chan: These relationships that are, not satisfying, but that's all that they know. So that they think that's. Yeah.
Srini: It's funny because when my sister met her husband, I think her description was the exact same. She's like maybe, you just don't find those butterflies when you get older.
Srini: And that ended up being the guy that she married. And I think that, for both of us, it was like, no, cause that's actually not love. That's what we're taught to believe as love, but as not I think you may have read it. My friend, Rachel Resnick wrote this book called love junkie. And I remember telling her that I was like, I just want that buzz.
Srini: And she was like, oh God, she was like, you're a total love junkie. And I didn't. And I remember I refuse to read her book at the time cause I was like taking a hit too close to home. But now I think, six years later I'm like, yeah, you were spot on about that. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with that because in Hollywood, you have these beautiful endings, you have movies like serendipity where, some guy meets a girl.
Srini: He met seven years ago and like this, really poetic story unfold.
Amy Chan: Yeah. It would make for a really boring movie, if they show that every day the doing the dishes, like changing, like what happens in the law when you don't want to have sex with someone like, which happens, like the reality of relationships is not shown at all.
Srini: Actually let's talk about sex in particular. I think that the thing that struck me most, and I remember, and this is really not easy for a guy to hear. I remember a therapist was like, look, he said, if you actually want to have a healthy relationship, I recommend that you don't have sex with this person as soon as possible.
Srini: And I'm like, John, that's the stupidest thing I ever heard at the time. And then I finally started to realize, I was like, yeah, the moment you start sleeping with somebody, you stop seeing them objective.
Amy Chan: Yeah. So this is controversial, right? Because in this day and age we want to be like independent women.
Amy Chan: Hear us roar, do anything like, sport fuck. And for a while, when I grew up watching sex in the city, I was like, I want to be like, Samantha, I'm just going to have sex for fun. And use these guys. And it was very falsely empowering because it actually didn't come from. A root of like self-worth or abundance or confidence, it came from a place of actually major insecurity.
Amy Chan: And so it actually didn't help me, especially having an anxious attachment style, I would have sex with people and feel so attached to them and completely devastated when they didn't like me back. And so I think it's, learning about the different chemicals that do happen is important, right?
Amy Chan: Like when when a woman and a man has sex and there's an orgasm, the man will have a lot of testosterone, which can blunt out the effects of oxytocin and vasopressin, which is the bonding chemical. Whereas a woman, when she has an orgasm, she gets an increase of oxytocin and less testosterone. So she is more prone to bond.
Amy Chan: And so of course this isn't everyone, and there's a ton of people out there that can have sex with no strings attached. Amazing. But I think it's important for all of us to be honest, How are we with intimacy? And before we share the most intimate parts of ourselves have we been able to build up some sort of connection and trying that approach to see if the other approach didn't work?
Srini: Yeah. I think for me, I came to the realization, as, as annoying as it was, I was like if I am really into somebody, I cannot have sex with them without getting emotionally attached. That really struck me, but, so there's one section of the book where you talk about the story of a guy who was a friend that you got to know and started to soon find attractive.
Srini: And I wanted to talk about that because, there's this common sort of terminology among guys known as the friend zone. And we joke about it, right? Like the there, when I read that I couldn't help. But thinking of this episode of friends where, Ross is like crazy in love with Rachel and, he's trying to convince Joey that he's not in the friend zone and he's what are you talking about, dude?
Srini: You're the mayor of the zone. He was like in the friend zone is like prison. You're never getting out of it. With that in mind can you talk about that and this attraction spectrum idea? Yeah.
Amy Chan: I totally disagree that once you are in the friend zone and you're in a prison of it, because I'm an example of how that changed.
Amy Chan: So I, and I do, I in what I've observed, it's different for men and women. I think that. In what I've seen that when a woman is oh, this is a friend. It is possible for her feelings to change through time. I have seen less of that in a man seeing a woman and feeling absolutely no chemistry or attraction towards her for that to change.
Amy Chan: But I've seen some examples, but generally speaking. So sometimes it takes time for you to cognitively process that the chemistry is romantic. And that is the example that I discussed in my book with this guy named Carter, where I did an experiment because. I call your chemistry competence, which is your internal GPS, that points to the direction of who you're drawn to and who you're repulsed by.
Amy Chan: If our, if we didn't have a healthy, model of love growing up, or, early experiences that weren't healthy we can actually break our chemistry compass. So it starts pointing us in the direction of people who can wound us. And so the people were like, oh my God, I feel this attraction chemistry to are actually very unhealthy people.
Amy Chan: They're just striped with wounding patterns. So I was like, okay, my chemistry compass is broken because I'm constantly drawn to people who are. Unavailable who actually don't even like me. And so w I did this experiment this guy named Carter, like right off the bat, like he was not my type. He was an introvert, and nerdy.
Amy Chan: And I said, I'm like, Hey, I don't feel an attraction towards you, but if you want to hang out as homey, he's cool. And he just really genuinely was like, yeah I think you're an awesome human. I want to get to know you. That's totally cool. I never felt pressure with him. And so when I was doing the staining experiment where I would be open to dating people, I didn't feel chemistry with building up my tolerance of and familiarity with what healthy felt like.
Amy Chan: Eight months into the experiment, I was hanging out with Carter and I was like, oh, like you're hot. And I think what happened was a combination. Of all those people that I dated who were healthy, it started making me familiar. Oh, this is what healthy feels like. So it wasn't so foreign to me.
Amy Chan: And number two is I had chemistry with Carter in the sense, like I enjoyed hanging out with him. But I didn't know it was romantic. And I think through time, I just really came to appreciate his character and his values and all of that came together and it sparked attraction and there's three different meeting drives in the brain, all which can create love.
Amy Chan: There's lost, which is during my testosterone there's attraction, which is driven by dopamine. And then there's bonding and attachment, which is driven by oxytocin. Invasive precedent. Love could be sparked by any of these pathways. And so we're familiar with the lust, right? Like you meet someone, oh my God, you feel it.
Amy Chan: And then it turns into. Our relationship and bonding, but it can go the other way around.
Srini: Okay. So on the flip side of that, what about the guy who spends years pining after the girl who happens to be his friend that he's totally in love with, but ends up basically wasting his life, waiting for it to come around and it never does.
Amy Chan: I think that person is not in reality. I, I think the difference is if you actually are like, wow, this person's awesome. I want to be your friend. Then that's great. But if you are stuck in a kind of an obsession over this person, you're pining and you're not making space for other people that is you need to take a realistic look at your life.
Amy Chan: And that might even mean like you detox from that person so that you can allow that time and space for you to recalibrate. But yeah, I don't suggest, like if there's someone that is your friend that you have feelings for and that person's not interested. I don't say that you make that your mission to change their mind.
Srini: I am really glad you said that because I, in the last few years of data, I've had your roles oh, if you're interested in hanging out with friends and I've been happily to tell them not to be honest, I'm actually not I have no interest in being your friend. I like, not that there's anything wrong with you, I'm not interested in being your friend.
Srini: I'm looking to meet somebody. So it took me a long time to be okay with telling people that.
Amy Chan: Yeah, I think that's totally okay too. I think through dating, like there's some people that you're like, wow, you're awesome. And I want you in my life. And then there's some no, like if this isn't actually going to romantic thing, I don't want to keep investing in that.
Amy Chan: I have enough friends and that's totally fine. Cool.
Srini: All right. There's one last part of the book and I think I, I really love this line. You said, our greatest lesson in this lifetime is to practicing, just to practice opening our hearts, even when it hurts, especially when it hurts opening.
Srini: Our hearts is a constant practice of choosing compassion over judgment, softening over hardening love over fear and. I think that, when we get our hearts broken, we almost do the exact opposite. So why is that? And how do we not do that?
Amy Chan: I think when we inherently don't feel that we are safe, we need to build a wall.
Amy Chan: That's when we go to the extremes of coping, right? Suddenly we're like, I don't ever want to date again, like you're frustrated with the apps or you got ghosts and you're like, I don't want to do this again. I'm never, I'd rather be single. And these are all coping mechanisms and creating these walls around your heart is not a solution.
Amy Chan: It's just a way that you're dealing with the pain. And I think that what you learn the tools. Emotionally regulate when build your muscles of resilience, you realize like you are inherently safe and you will get back up. And so I think that changes the way that you approach love, because even if you love fully, truly deeply, and that doesn't work out, you know that yeah, you'll go through a time where you're hurt and you're going to grieve it and you'll get back.
Amy Chan: And so when you don't know that though, when you don't inherently feel safe and you base your identity on all these external things that you're like, no, I can't handle a breakup. I can't handle rejection. It's going to destroy me. And yeah, that's what I mean by that. I five years ago I had to close up my heart.
Amy Chan: Like I just felt so delicate and fragile and I associated love with pain. And a lot of this was subconscious. I would say I wanted a relationship, but if you looked at my behavior, I didn't, and it wasn't really, until I went through enough of doing the self work and healing, a lot of these wounds that have been kicking around for decades and getting to a place where I know I am safe.
Amy Chan: And even though I'm in a loving partnership, now I know that if it wasn't going to work out one day, according to plan. I would be okay. And there will be another person. This is totally different from what I used to think. I used to be like, no, this person is the only one for me, and this is the workout.
Amy Chan: And now I have a much more realistic approach.
Srini: Yep. Been there, done that. This has been absolutely amazing. I'm so glad we got a chance to talk. So I have one final question for you, which is how we finish all of our interviews at the unmistakable creative. What do you think it is that makes somebody or something I'm mistaken?
Amy Chan: I think. Woo. Wow. Great question.
Amy Chan: Let's see you ask me
Srini: that question again. Yeah. What do you think it is that makes somebody or something unmistakable?
Amy Chan: I think truly being you to the best of your ability, and that means not a projection or a presentation of. We are all special. We are all made of love. And I think that we, life happens and we create these personas and different identities and projections of who we think we need to be, and that's who we present.
Amy Chan: But if we just actually present ourselves as who we are and we have an open heart and we leave people better than how we found them. I think that makes you absolutely unmistakable.
Srini: Amazing. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your story and your wisdom and your insights with our listeners.
Srini: Where can people find out more about you, your work and everything that you're up to?
Amy Chan: Yeah. My websites were new breakup, bootcamp.com and my book breakup bootcamp. The science of rewind your heart is available at all bookstores and on social I'm at Ms. Amy Chan.
Srini: Awesome. And for everybody listening, we will wrap the show with that.
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