Jan. 9, 2023

Satya Doyle Byock | The Quest for a Balance Between Meaning and Stability

Satya Doyle Byock | The Quest for a Balance Between Meaning and Stability

Satya Doyle Byock, who wrote the book on quarterlife (literally!), offers a roadmap to navigate the struggles of this overlooked stage and find your way to a fulfilling, stable adulthood.

Feeling adrift in the vast sea of quarterlife? In this episode, we sit down with psychotherapist and author Satya Doyle Byock to discuss the challenges and opportunities of finding balance between meaning and stability in early adulthood. Byock, an expert on the overlooked stage of quarterlife, shares her insights and offers a roadmap to navigate the struggles of this critical developmental period.

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Srini: Satya, welcome to Unmistakable Creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to join.

Satya Byock: Thanks for having me. I'm delighted to be here.

Srini: It is my pleasure to have you here. I found out about you and your work through William Dershowitz, who mentioned your book Quarter Life in an interview I did with him recently. And when I finished reading it, the first thought I had was, "Where the heck was this when I graduated college?" I thought this book was just so important, and I felt that it was even more important not just to young people but to other people as well. Like I related to it so much, even though I'm in my forties. But before we get into all of that, I wanted to start by asking you: What did your parents do for work, and how did that end up shaping what you ended up doing with your life and your career?

Satya Byock: Man, great question. And relevant. My mother was a psychotherapist for most of my life growing up. She is now an astrologer, and I don't remember how much I knew of that at the time, but she was in private practice as a therapist. It turns out, which became very relevant, I mentioned in the book. And my father was an ER physician growing up who then shifted into palliative medicine, became an author, and then moved more into kind of administrative work while also being a doctor, but has been a thought leader in the end-of-life movement, palliative care, and hospice care. So I have a huge influence from both of my parents.

Srini: Yeah, it sounds like it. This is something I'm always curious about when people are raised by therapists: Were you immune to all the stuff that most of us go to therapy to fix that our parents screwed up?

Satya Byock: But I will also say I think my parents successfully avoided any kind of psychoanalytic or pathologizing stuff that I've heard other people grow up with therapists, and it's like they just feel like their parents are an automaton sometimes.

And I'm grateful to say that I didn't get that, but I do have two pretty conscious parents and a pretty conscious stepmother as well. My parents divorced when I was about 12 or 13 years old, and I'm lucky to have a great stepmother as well. I could just go on and on about my family. We have had our difficulties, but I feel grateful that my parents have joined me in coming of age and wrestling with them. We've had lots of big conversations, and they've joined me in that, so I feel grateful for the kind of shared growth.

Srini: Yeah!

Satya Byock: I dedicated the book to all three of them.

Srini: Yeah, I get what, for me, I kind of wonder if you're, a parent who happens to be a therapist, it's like, where do you draw the line between being a therapist and being a parent because you have all this knowledge. And I think it was Rini, one of our podcast guests, he said he's worked with people who are child development specialists, and they have the hardest time with their own children more than anybody else.

Satya Byock: I, yeah. And it must be so demoralizing, to struggle in that way. I do think people end up. I was just speaking with somebody who's an orthodontist, and their dog was having terrible, endless tooth pain. And it's just so interesting the way that our issues find us sometimes. I feel for child developmental psychologists who have difficult children.

Srini: Speaking of which, do you have any children?

Satya Byock: I don't.

Srini: Oh!

Satya Byock: I, or, part-time stepson. My partner and I are not married, so I don't ever really know what to call this 12-year-old who is with us part-time. Partner's son doesn't feel quite right. So he's, he's my stepson now. I have two nephews whom I adore, and I was very clear that I didn't want children myself, and I'm glad that I stuck to it.

Srini: Yeah. The reason I asked is, given your background, how do you draw that boundary between being a therapist and a stepparent?

Satya Byock: Well, that's not too difficult. I really am very focused on a different stage of life.

Srini: Damn!

Satya Byock: When he gets into his twenties, how that works out? A 12-year-old, I'm perfectly happy to bow out of most of the parenting and let his parents do that work.

Satya Byock: So that hasn't been hard.

Srini: Dang.

Srini: Speaking of parenting, you have a mother who is a therapist and a dad who is an ER physician. I come from the Indian culture where there is no more noble thing that you could do than become a doctor, which my sister, fortunately, satisfied our family quota. But what was the narrative in your household about making your way in the world?

Satya Byock: My father wanted me to either be a doctor or a lawyer. And I think I probably leaned toward a lawyer. He was thrilled when I decided to become a psychotherapist. And the pressure was never very strong from either of my parents, but I think my father felt that I was going to be wasting my talents on some level as a psychotherapist. And I say that cringing because I am sure that he would want to reach into this podcast and argue with me on some level around that. He has always been extremely supportive, but he kept saying that he wanted to make sure that I had a foot in the doors or rooms that would make sense, maybe from a policy perspective or from a social change perspective. And I think he didn't understand how that was going to happen as a psychotherapist on a broader scale. But I had a clear sense that the work I wanted to do was somehow going to make sense through this path. And I had to stick to my gut and the clarity of where I was headed, that it wasn't for me. I don't think, I mean, I don't wanna say just being a private practice psychotherapist, because I believe deeply in this work and think it has

Srini: Yeah. How old were you when you figured out that this was what you wanted to do with your life?

Satya Byock: About two months before graduate school, I didn't know what I wanted to do and that comes through in the book too. A lot of my crises in my twenties, a lot of my confusion and pain. Having a liberal arts education that I loved and really wanting to make an impact on the world in some way, but feeling very confused.

I had done a lot, not a lot, but I'd done humanitarian work, volunteered in places, gone abroad, raised a lot of money, and tried to make different inroads into working at home and abroad on some kind of social impact, social change, and activism. And I was already getting pretty burned out from that.

And also felt like there was a lot of spinning of wheels happening in those circles feeling like it was just a whack-a-mole game of one terrible thing after another. And I needed a different narrative that wasn't disaster chasing. And so I was having a lot of overlapping existential crises, and when I encountered Carl Jung's work, I started to feel a real kinship and clarity and some sense of, "This is what I wanna be doing. I wanna understand how the inner world and the outer world are in a relationship and not just feel

Srini: Yeah, so you were just about to start graduate school, and you have this existential crisis, and I feel like a lot of 20-somethings have an existential crisis, at least, for me, that they're not even aware of. It's as if they don't even know they have an existential crisis; they just go on to the next thing on the list.

Because I think that what became very clear to me in the dominant narrative, at least growing up in an Indian family and going to school at a place like Berkeley, was that you graduate, and then you go, and you get a job. But there was no question about values and purpose, meaning all the things we talk about on the show.

And I also think I would've thought it was all nonsense when I was younger. If I had heard a lot of this, why do you think that is? Like, why is it that this question of what's important to us in life outside of sort of the checkboxes of society's life plan is never part of the conversation?

Satya Byock: I don't know. And that's certain stuff I try to tackle in the book and just in my work in general, is we should be talking about the fact that the whole planet is as well as mortal and that we are mortal; that those things are every single day seeming more and more in our face, and that it is problematic to raise people in a world in which death, disaster, pain, suffering, confusion, is everywhere and not have a space for deep dialogue around it.

I think it used to be that religion - Hinduism, Buddhism, old Christianity, Judaism, Islam, whatever - there was space in religion to really face suffering and pain, the reality of those things, and mortality. But the vast majority of people coming of age today do not have a religion in which those conversations, those existential conversations, are really being hosted. And I don't think they're happening in philosophy classrooms, either. I think more and more they're trying to happen politically, but it's just a space for pain and conflict and finger-pointing and stress. And so it's tragic that we don't have a place where we can be hosting conversations around meaning and purpose and really what we want to do with this life. We don't

Srini: Yeah, there are two things that I wonder because I feel like when you go to college, you're being asked to make decisions about how you're going to spend the rest of your life when you've only lived a fraction of it, which to me is absolutely insane. People come in, and they have this idea of what they want their entire life to look like, and I'll never forget somebody once told me when I was an intern at Sun Microsystems: "He said, 'You have your whole life planned out. Let me tell you, nothing is going to go according to plan.' And, my gosh, was that guy right?

Satya Byock: I said that recently in an interview with somebody who had just finished college. And I could feel the sort of devastation of that, what I was really communicating. But it is so important to say, everyone is expressing, “Climb this ladder, do this, get this degree, join this consulting firm, work for this, whatever.” And it's a ladder that ultimately crumbles because it is not hosting a sense of purpose and meaning. That's what we classically think of as a midlife crisis. People climb ladders based on what they're supposed to do and the social expectations and the external needs and discover that there is nothing up at the top of that ladder and they have to climb down or fall down, or the ladder collapses, and then they face themselves, and they face reality and mortality and existential questions. Hopefully, they can find a way to pull those two things back together. And what I am talking about a lot in the book is how we, at the outset, bring questions of stability and questions of meaning into our relationship with each other.

Srini: Huh

Srini: So this is a bizarre question, but let's say someone said, "We're bringing you into a place like Berkeley, particularly an elite institution. I feel like there is this sort of 'check off the boxes' of society's life plan narrative when it comes to careers. But let's say someone hired you to come into Harvard, Yale, whatever, like one of these elite institutions where that is the default narrative, and asked you to create a class. What would you make that class?

Satya Byock: That's a great question. I don't know. I, I don't know because, inside a college, people are nose down trying to stay alive, especially at elite institutions like that. I would probably have to bite my tongue on some level because I think a lot of people in that situation need to reconsider if they want the degree they're getting if they want to be spending the amount of money they're spending on loans to be in those schools. I will also say that there have been some very successful programs around happiness at colleges or around, life purpose that I think is providing tremendous value to college students to really contemplate things that are not exams and economics. Those classes at various institutions have been overflowing. And so maybe I'd want to do my best to offer some self-exploration and some tools for how you identify really who you are and what you want when you're out of this place.

Srini: Yeah. Yeah. I want to bring back a clip from a conversation with William, which was what prompted me to read your book and to reach out to you. Take a listen.

There are two fundamental needs, one is the need for meaning, and one is the need for stability. We need both of those things, and I would never negate the need for stability, which means getting a job and having a career path and all that stuff. The problem is that often one gets lost at the expense of the other. Usually, it's meaning that one's lost at the expense of stability. That's what we've been talking about; it's the other way around, the sort of stereotypical searcher who doesn't know what to do with themselves and is always pursuing meaning, but never achieves stability and is miserable for that reason. Yep. And finding that balance, a way to have meaning in life that also has stability, is hard. It's psychologically hard. It's practically hard, but I think it's the work that young adults need.

Srini: So with that clip in mind, even though we were just talking about colleges, and we'll get into the book right after this, but I think particularly when you come out of that, a place like the ones you were talking about and you are riddled with debt, I don't think the meaning is very high on people's list of priorities when they're thinking, "How the heck am I going to pay this debt off?" And that's a that's just, that's depressing to think about.

Satya Byock: It's extremely depressing to think about, and I just wanna say, 'cause I'm a little distracted, just how much I respect Bill Deresiewicz's work, and just wanna name it: it's beautiful to hear you two talking about this, and I'm really honored to hear the way this is weaving into his thinking and into your conversation.

But he lived directly, and his book, Excellent Sheep, is so much about this experience of young people being trained to go towards stability goals, and then not being trained towards the humanities or a sense of the value of literature, the value of philosophy, of art—all these things that can bring the inner life forward and create a sense of meaning.

But that, increasingly—and he really points this out—increasingly, we have sent people, young people, on a path that is about getting into the best economics program so they can get into the best consulting firm or work on Wall Street, whatever. We are valorizing stability goals that bleed the life out of people, that sort of train people towards sociopathy, towards narcissism, towards bad behavior, and towards massive existential crises or addictions or mental health issues because we are not holding space for: Who

Satya Byock: They can be in dialogue right away, rather than deeply separated at the outset.

Srini: Yeah. Speaking of which, what prompted you to write this book? I know that these are the people you treat primarily, right? People you call quarter-lifers.

Satya Byock: I knew that there was a gap in understanding developmentally for this stage of life that went very deep. I knew it because when I looked for literature to help me make sense of being lost, and in my twenties, I couldn't find it. I could find that was either paternalistic or geared towards my parents or was utterly out of touch with what I was living, or all of the above. What did end up resonating with me bit by bit was stuff around the midlife crisis and the midlife crisis in the Y space, depth psychological spaces. It's really about the fact that you have not lived your true life. The book titles can have things like the midlife crisis, learning about your unlived life, or something. So I kept wondering why I am supposed not to live my life and then have a midlife crisis and then go try to live my true self and my true life. So I was motivated and opened my practice for people in the quarter-life, which by the way, I define as being the first stage of adulthood, which is between adolescence and midlife.

So it's the first stage of adulthood, 20 to 40, more or less, give or take.

Srini: Yeah. As I told you, I think that the thing that struck me most when I read this was the thought, "where the heck was this book when I graduated 20-plus years ago?" I figured a lot of this out through trial and error, and one of the things you say in the opening of the book is that the prevailing impression is that adulthood arrives when you finally reach certain markers of economic and relational security as if those achievements will magically transport you out of the lobby of your suffering and into the Grand Hall of real life. And, I think that I still feel some of this to this day because one of the reasons that I think I feel this is that I'm one of those weirdos who graduated into two recessions.

I graduated from Berkeley in December 2000, and from Pepperdine in April 2009. And Dan Pink talks about this in his book, and he says, "unlike graduates who'd begun their careers in a sluggish economy, earning less straight out of school than the lucky ones like me who'd graduated in robust times, it often took them two decades to catch up." So I'm thinking to myself, "Geez, Dan, you're telling me I got another 10 or six years

Satya Byock: For sure. Look there, I think there are a lot of things I'd respond to in what you just expressed, but a lot of what I am trying to do in this book is almost yanked down the wisdom from midlife conversations. And again, for me, most of this is happening in the space of people who are doing more soul psychology than psychiatry or something. People like James Hillman, James Hollis, and a lot of other folks who work in trying to understand how it is that people who have done what they thought they were supposed to do, did not end up feeling satisfied in their life, or their marriages fell apart, or they're still single. And what that's really then about is, again, we are trained towards economics. I call it acquisition culture. We have this notion if you just get all these things in your basket, you're gonna be fine, and you're gonna, you're gonna be happy. We train people towards goals of acquisition and not goals of intimacy and relationship and communication and comfort and empathy and sweetness, and it turns out or related to nature, it turns out those are things that actually bring us a deep sense of satisfaction in life. Having a certain amount of money in your bank account, having a

Srini:  The fundamental distinction you make in this book is between two types: meaning types and stability types. You say that where meaning types are stereotypically the artist, philosopher, and musician, stability types are the lawyers, people in finance and business, and people consciously seeking marriage. These quarter-lifers may prioritize good grades, strong performance, extracurriculars, long-term planning, saving money, maintaining a steady job, pursuing career advancement, and building a family—all of the goals of security once seen as adulthood. And you say stability types often present as more anxiously inclined and guarded than meaning types, and on the extreme end, can have narcissistic or sociopathic defenses. Stability types often function by controlling their lives and others.

And so a couple of questions come from that. What role do parents play in whether these people become meaning or stability types, and what role does culture play? Because when I'm looking at this, I'm like, you just described me and my sister. In a nutshell, my sister is...

Satya Bock: Tell me more.

Srini: Oh, my sister is. She graduated from Berkeley with a 3.97, finished med school, and was the Chief Anesthesiology Resident at Yale. Got a fellowship, and finished a fellowship at UCLA, she just had a baby, and he's really cute.

And I'm just sitting there, but there are days when I'm thinking to myself, "Wow, am I gonna get to do all of this with my parents? Are they even gonna be around by the time I get to experience any of this?"

I, it was like. Literally, I was just like, "Oh. I am the dreamy type. I'm the weird artist."

I always say God made a sorting error when He gave me to my family. And my sister is the stability type. So it just made me wonder what role parents and culture play in how these people turn into one or the other.

Satya Byock: I gosh, there's so much in here. Certainly. There are many types of families, right? There are families of artists or philosophers or hippies, or there are families with chaos. You could, this could also be extended, but there are different ways that we understand families in which people grow up thinking, "God, I need more stability than my family gave me. I am determined to find more stability than my family gave me." And they become the "black sheep" of the family. There's the lawyer in the family of artists, let's say, right? Or, the opposite is more common because our society is more adhered to.

Srini: Yeah.

Satya Byock: Society is really more geared towards stability goals, right? We have a very patriarchal structure that says climb these ladders, head towards these goals. Achievement is highly respected in modern Western culture. And this is true, as you say, in India - I'm, it's, you were raised in the United States - it sounds like in India it's the same basic thing - doctors are great, right? Achieving whatever the expectations are of your parents, the notion is still it's good to have money and stability and a stable family. So society has a tremendous amount to do with this, and I think, by and large, what I'm trying to focus on is the fact that we are not hosting conversations of meaning.

And so what happens is there are people who do everything they're supposed to do and then reach the top and say, but why did I do all that? And that's the classic midlife crisis, which has been going on for a long time. Or there are people who say, I don't know how to climb those ladders, and I feel foolish. I feel like an idiot. I feel like God made a sorting error when he put me in this family. Meaning types tend to think there

Srini: Let's talk about the opposite end of that, right? I want money, and I want stability. I want to have some of the things that my sister does. Those are important to me, despite the fact that I'm a meaning type. And it's funny because even on this ladder of achievement goals, right? I got to write two books with the publisher, and how long has that made me feel any sense of accomplishment or fulfillment? For about six months after I signed the contract. That's about it. And then it was just like, yeah, another, it was literally just another checkbox. It gets stopped. Like, I've been on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, and people interview me sometimes and introduce me as the Wall Street Journal bestselling author. I'm like, oh, yeah, I am.

Satya Byock: Sure.

Srini: It just doesn't; it's a part of it, I think, because, in the culture that I'm in, that doesn't equate to something extraordinary in the way that, say, becoming a doctor would.

Satya Byock: And yet you may feel exactly the same if you were, in fact, a doctor, and your parents praised you for that.

Srini: Yeah, that's interesting. I never thought about that.

Satya Byock: There's a reason you didn't go to medical school

Srini: Yeah. Because the only reason I wanted to become a doctor was so I could drive a Mercedes.

Satya Byock: Good choice, right? So you, so there's something here, you're supposed to be avoiding intentionally like if the only reason you wanted to become a doctor was to satisfy your parents, I imagine. And to drive a Mercedes, you're not supposed to be a doctor. That's not it. It may be that your sister is more innately inclined on some level towards that, but I would be curious for you; I don't know how deep you wanna go with this, but if the achievement isn't, if you have gotten many of these accolades, and I know you have, there's a deeper question here of what is gonna bring me satisfaction and joy and what is the self-work then or the life that I need to do to move in that direction. It, that's the work I do with clients, is if there is a persistent nagging or persistent longing that is hanging around, I really interrogate that kind of like a detective, a loving detective. But let's take this seriously. This absence you're feeling? What is this longing you're feeling? Let's be present with it and get curious. And say, what do you really want? What do you really need? Down below, down in

Srini: Yeah. One other thing that I wondered about when it comes to siblings, in particular, is the role that birth order plays in stability and mentality types. I've thought about asking you this question to start with, but I've asked a lot of people what birth order they were, and, I don't know if any of the birth order studies are validated with real, empirical studies. But I'm always curious. There are a couple of things when you look at my sister and me when it comes to birth order that was very different in the way that we experienced my parents. We're five years apart. While I was going through my formative period in life, up until ninth grade, I shared a bedroom with my sister because my dad was a postdoc, and he got his first teaching position when I was a sophomore in high school. And by the time my sister got into high school, he was tenured. They had more money. She got to do a lot of the things I didn't do. And so I always wonder, one, what's the role that age gap plays? Because the age gap that my sister and I have definitely played a role in both our narratives about money and the experience we had with our parents.

Satya Byock: That's interesting. Yeah. The truth is this is not an area of expertise of mine at all. I know there are studies around this, and I think very anecdotally, that I talk in the book about how frequent it is that, one sibling is a stability type and one sibling is a meaning type, and they split, whether developmentally or by birth they divide some of the goals and values and play off of each other over time. More commonly, I see that as the older sibling is the stability type and the younger sibling is the meaning type. But I think you've just layered in a lot of other information around the economic place that your family was in depending on when you were born versus when your sister was born, and maybe the five years versus two years. So I'm interested in everything you're expressing. It's not really an area that I know that much about.

Srini: Yeah. Fair enough. Let's talk about separation from parents because I think that this is something that you've talked about in the book, and this one struck me in particular as somebody who lived at home way longer than I ever thought I was going to. Even well after graduate school, I was home on and off for probably the better part of seven years. So you say a healthy separation often involves setting new boundaries, improving the capacity for communication, and sorting through all of the subtle and overt ways in which one's parents and siblings and countless others affect self-perception. The goal is self-knowledge, self-reliance, self-trust, and improved intimacy with others. And I think the thing that struck me most when I think about stability, the biggest thing about stability for me is self-reliance. Like I just, and I've had to ask my parents for money a few times over the course of the pandemic, and I did because, my speaking career more or less dried up, and I just hated every minute of that. It's like, how do I never do this again?

Satya Byock: And what was, can I ask, what were you feeling emotional? How did taking the money change your feelings of guilt, and shame? Like, how did you feel emotionally tied to your parents as a result of taking the money?

Srini: Okay. So the shame was definitely one thing where I'm just like, this is pathetic. I can't get it together. And my sister's just, killing it. Granted, you know the joke during Covid was Yeah, my sister said it's for the first time in history. Indian parents are glad their children didn't become doctors, 'cause she actually worked in a COVID ICU. So we were really worried about her every day. But that was one component, and it was a sense of, why can't I get my shit together? We were talking about it, but ultimately what it came down to was this sense that why do I feel like, anytime I take something, even though they say it's not true, there are always gonna be strings attached.

Satya Byock: Yeah, that, that then becomes the much trickier part of the work of separation. It's so easy to move out of, I will say this, it's often not easy to move out of your parent's house, but one would think that moving out of your parents' house, whether it's to college or finally, moving out into your own apartment or even buying a house, you'd think, okay, that's that I've separated from my parents in countless ways. And money is often a huge component of it. People remain somehow psychologically tied to their parents, in very insidious, sneaky ways. And so I explore in the book, and I do this with clients day after day is like cutting the tiny umbilical cords or little invisible strings that we have. And shame is a huge one. When people feel shame as regards their parents, whether about their parents or in front of their parents, can be very hard, to feel free and to feel self-respect and to feel self-love, and to get into intimate partnerships because it's almost like there are these fishing lines wrapped around your ankle that go towards your parents' house or your parents' lives.

So this is a huge component of

Srini: The funny thing is I think that I'm the one who feels it more than they do. They're, they're not as affected as I am. It's actually not them as much as it is me.

Satya Byock: Yeah. I believe it. This means you have to let yourself off the hook because by not doing it in whatever way dog you, you're the one with your foot on your throat.

Srini: Yeah.

Srini: One other thing that you talk about is this idea of inequality. You say one of the great difficulties of being a therapist is regularly encountering the effects of social inequality and injustice in my office without the scope or power to alter things economically, otherwise for my clients or for the clients who never make it through my door.

Yeah, I wrote this article titled 'Advice for a Freshman' based on a conversation I had with, oh, one of my cousin's friend's sons who was starting college here at UC Riverside. And one of the things I said in it was, if your college offers free therapy, take advantage of it. And don't just use it, abuse it, because it's gonna be a lot more expensive in the real world.

So that raises two questions. Like, For one, I grew up in a culture where mental health was highly stigmatized until our parents grew up and started seeing all their kids getting divorced or having problems, and we saw their own people losing kids and just horrible things happening, where finally people started to accept the fact that this is important.

But I can tell you, growing up, therapy was seen as something for the 'crazy'.

Satya Bock: And looking to them for forgiveness or for love or for appreciation doesn't get that foot off your back. And so you're not going to live as tall and as clearly and joyfully as you want to live.

Satya Byock: Yeah, yeah, it's too bad.

Srini: Yeah. Oh, I think about how much money and time I would've saved if I had gone to therapy. Like I remember when I was 36, I saw a therapist for the first time. I thought, why the heck did I wait so long to do this?

Satya Byock: Absolutely. Here I am. I very deeply wish that we had therapy available, good, non-pathologizing therapy available for Quarter Lifers so that they could really face these difficulties of psychologically freeing themselves up and living their own existence and tackling everything from intimate relationships to parenting, to difficulties at work. If we had a more psychological understanding of existence, we would be living in a healthier society. We need to be talking more about how hard human relationships are and how hard coming of age is. Unfortunately, I have to say that the other tragedy here is that college counseling centers, I'm sorry to name this, are often staffed by students in the psychology programs at the universities. They are often underserved, under-experienced clinicians and often clinicians who are more likely to prescribe than listen, and they're often understaffed. So it's not just going to therapy, it's also finding someone who you really feel safe and good working with because it is still the outset of your life, and you need to be getting the best guidance you can get.

Srini: Yeah. I, one of my friends, told me, he said you lucked out. A lot of people don't have a good experience with their first therapist. Mine was amazing. I was really lucky.

Satya Byock: So glad to hear it. It's true.

Satya Byock: What I'm hoping for is for people to, this is complicated. It's very one, it's very individual. But I would want people not to have imposter syndrome, really. If somebody was feeling plagued with imposter syndrome, who had written 17 bestselling books in my office, we would be sitting with the nugget of pain inside of them and trying to understand what, again, what is this part of them trying to say. In other words, I wouldn't just take it as a fact that they're going to live with that forever. What I'm looking for with my clients is a kind of both taking themselves seriously and taking themselves playfully, right? So we really witness the remarkably specific urges that are inside of them and try to take those things seriously. And so people create just beautiful lives, right? That work comes with grieving. It comes with grieving parents who have died. It comes with healing trauma that they've experienced. It can take years and years. This is not like new-age snap-your-fingers, magical thinking kind of stuff. It's deep self-work. But it also goes against a lot of what society says, which is, again, just check those boxes, do those things, get

Srini: I'm.

Satya Byock: Self-work all the time. And the result is that, hopefully, we can all be modeling for each other. Not feeling like imposters, but feeling joyful and satisfied on a planet that needs joy. This is always in the context of a planet that is suffering and in a society that is suffering, but trying not to block that out and just live climbing ladders and buying things; it's trying to get deep into our souls and our bodies and say, "What is this life?" These are big questions you're asking. I'm doing my best here.

Srini: I've been known to do that to people. No, as I said, I really appreciate that you said that this is hard work. It's not a new age, formula-snap-your-fingers kind of thing. Because I think that there is this sense that there's some sort of quick fix to fix these deeper issues. In fact, somebody wrote a book called The Quick Fix about this exact issue, and people often turn to self-help and psychology literature.

And I think the other thing I appreciate is the fact that this is not work that's ever done; that's what I'm beginning to see. I think there's this sort of notion in self-help and psychology literature that it's okay, I'm gonna fix all these things that are broken, and everything will be perfect, and I'll be done.

And I can tell you, I realized at a certain point I was like, okay, I've got answers to my questions for 10 years, and I'm still asking questions.

Satya Byock: And you should be again, I had life is not easy, and life in this moment in history is not easy no matter what. And so if you're not asking questions all the time, that might be a problem. If you aren't experiencing suffering even periodically, that's probably an issue, is the irony, right? You're probably blocking something out, which is gonna show up at some point. So absolutely. This work is never done. It's, we're here, we're alive, we're mortal, this is again what all world religions used to talk about and what philosophy, theology, this is what humans used to ponder. It's only recently that we've just pretended like, I feel like I'm a broken record now, but really if you just acquire the right things, you don't need to suffer, it's not true. And we can't continue to offload that onto other people or the planet and think we're gonna get away with it.

Srini: I think that makes a beautiful place to wrap up our conversation. I have one last question for you, which is how we finish all of our interviews at Unmistakable Creative. What do you think it is that makes somebody, or something, unmistakable?

Satya Bock: Living deep from their truest self without apology.

Srini: It's funny, this is something you wrote at the beginning of the book, but I thought that this would be a really good way to bring us full circle and ask you about, when this actually starts to happen or what is the thing that allows it to happen. You say the ultimate goal is an experience of wholeness. A life that no longer feels like one thing on the inside and another on the outside. People talk about imposter syndrome. I have, people hear about it all the time, even some of my most popular guests, I remember Seth Godden in one of his books, writes every day, and I feel like an imposter. And it's waiting a minute, really? You've written 17 bestselling books, and you feel like an imposter. So obviously, I think particularly for creatives, this is, like, notorious, just an occupational hazard of being a creative person that you're gonna feel imposter syndrome every day, no matter what you accomplish. But when you have the merger of stability and meaning, you know what happens? What do you see happen in people's lives as a byproduct? Because I know you write about some of this in the book as well.

Srini: Amazing. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your story, your wisdom, and your insights with our listeners. Where can people find out more about you, your work, the book, and everything else that you're up to?

Satya Byock: Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor and a joy to have this conversation. My website is satyabyock.com. Satyabyock.com. The book is Quarter Life, the Search for Self in Early Adulthood. You can buy it anywhere. There's an audiobook. There is an ebook, I think. And I do, I teach online, and I'm around, so you know, you can find me.

Srini: Amazing. And for everyone listening, we'll wrap up the show with that. Awesome!