#123 My awesome guest this week is Scott Carney, an investigative journalist, anthropologist and New York Times bestselling author of ‘What Doesn’t Kill Us’.
I invited Scott on to the show to talk about his new book ‘The Wedge: Evolution, Consciousness, Stress, and the Key to Human Resilience’. And with everything that is going on in the world right now, there couldn’t be a better time than now to have this conversation.
In Scott’s own words: In 2011 I wrote an article for Playboy about the dare-devil ice guru Wim Hof with the intention of showing the world that he was a charlatan. But it didn’t work out the way I had expected. I tried his training and was surprised that the method worked. So instead of debunking him, I became the first journalist to take Hof seriously. I was something of an evangelist for Hof’s method of ice baths and breathing techniques and did some pretty crazy things–like walking up Mt. Kilimanjaro without a shirt at a pace that the U.S. Army predicted would kill me. What Doesn’t Kill Us told the story of my journey.
As Hof became an international superstar, I began to wonder how much further I could push the lessons I learned with him. I wanted to do more than see how our bodies reacted to the cold, but in every environment. The sensations that we feel under stress—in heat, cold, sensory deprivation, while we’re afraid—mirror physiological changes in hormones, metabolic function, and memory formation. Those reactions usually all considered autonomic functions, meaning we don’t have conscious control over them. However, since we can decide what environments we inhabit, we actually have the power to change our underlying programming. The key is to paying attention to physical sensations and then modulating our emotional responses. The result is a concept that I call “The Wedge.” You can think of The Wedge as a way of creating a little space between stimulus from the response.
Over the course of two years I started to develop new environmental training techniques. I confronted fear at a cutting-edge neuroscience laboratory at Stanford and learned a dance that involved throwing kettlebells between partners where one false move could either break a bone. I met masters of mental misdirection in Latvia who took me through a five-hour sauna, based on their traditional medicine system. I experimented with breathing techniques that took me to the cusp of transcendence; I floated in sensory deprivation tanks, and ultimately ended up in the Amazon jungle with a shaman who promised me either madness or universal truth.
About Scott Carney: Scott Carney is an investigative journalist and anthropologist Scott Carney has worked in some of the most dangerous and unlikely corners of the world. His work blends narrative non-fiction with ethnography. What Doesn’t Kill Us was a New York Times bestseller; other works include The Red Market and A Death on Diamond Mountain.
Carney was a contributing editor at Wired for five years and his writing also appears in Mother Jones, Men’s Journal, Playboy, Foreign Policy, Discover, Outside and Fast Company. His work has been the subject of a variety of radio and television programs, including on NPR and National Geographic TV.
Learn more about Scott Carney:
Guy: Hi, my name is Guy Lawrence. And thanks for tuning into my podcast today. If you’re enjoying these conversations and you want to check out more of this transformational work, be sure to come back to guylawrence.com.au and join me as we go further down the rabbit hole. Enjoy the show.
Guy: Well we’ll get on with the show. Scott. Scott, welcome to the podcast mate.
Scott: Thanks for having me back. I think I spoke to you foof like three years ago when you were part of a different podcast.
Guy: That’s right. Yes. A lot of a lot has changed since then and a lot of exploring this work that you’re writing about, uh, may not made me allowed me to find more deeper parts of myself and you know what? I want to explore that more and I stepped into the unknown and continued on that journey. So, uh, you know, you’ll probably a contribution to that mate with your work.
Scott: Oh good. I said, so I’m expecting lots of ice baths and like stupid, possibly dangerous adventures. Wow.
Guy: Exactly. Exactly, mate. So, first of all, how is, how is isolation treating you out there? How are you doing on the day of your book launch as well? I feel honored to be a part of a live broadcast today.
Scott: I know it’s funny. Uh, you know, this has been like the most stressful book launch I’ve ever had. Um, the, uh, yeah, like everything that went wrong could go, that could go wrong, did go wrong. Um, but I believe it’s sorted out now. You can actually buy the book for a while. It was listed as out of stock and then out of print and all sorts of horrible things. But, uh, yeah, I think we’re doing really well now and, uh, I dunno, like it was, it’s pretty cool. Like it says, rocketed up the audio book charts. It’s at like 500 and audible today, which is just bananas. Um, yeah, I’m probably not going to make any sense. I had a 45 minutes of sleep last night, uh, and uh, and I’m just ready to go. I’m using the wedge in order to stay calm and uh, and power right through.
Guy: Yeah. Brilliant. Well, look, I’m so glad you reached out to me, mate, because you know, what you’re writing about in the wedge is right up my alley. I love everything you’re discussing in the, in the book. And, uh, and I really hope more people look into this work because it’s so powerful and so needed, especially in a time like this as well, where we can learn to overcome ourselves, in so many different ways. But what I’m curious with Scott is, um, which would be great, is to maybe give us a brief history of, cause you said this is your fourth book and I know there’s been a journey leading on into each one that led you to this point today. So maybe could you give us a bit of a recap of all of that?
Scott: Sure, yeah. So back in, I mean, it all started for me when I, because I’m an anthropologist by training. I dropped out of a PhD program in like 2006, I think in order to pursue journalism. And one of the first books that I wrote was a sort of a very mainstream, journalism book about organ trafficking where I was looking at people that buy and sell human body parts, uh, and it’s called the red market. Uh, it sort of established me as like, there’s sort of this serious journalism guy. Um, then my second book was called the enlightenment trap, which is really where the journey to the wedge begins, which is essentially to sum it up in one line. It’s like how meditation can kill you. Uh, it looks at several cases of people who have died on their spiritual journeys, usually trying to get superpowers, people who are like really, really into the meditative experience and something went wrong.
Scott: Uh and then really, really tragic things occurred. You know, I found like a hundred people in insane asylums up in India every year who think that they’ve become Krishna or Vishnu. Uh, and then I witnessed a friend of mine die on a meditation retreat, um, where I actually had to return her body to the United States. And then, uh, and then I, I told the story about a guy named Ian Thorson who was stabbed and then starve to death on a mountain in Arizona. And that was what the plot of the enlightenment trap is. So the reason I’m telling you this is cause it pretty much frames what happened when I met Wim Hoff. I was the guy who debunks false gurus, false spirituality. And I had this assignment from Playboy to go meet whim in Poland in 2011, like January, 2011. And, uh, Wim is this like guy who like hangs out in his underpants on glaciers.
Scott: And he told people that he could teach anyone to do it and then control their immune system and do all this stuff that sounded like it was bananas. And, uh, I thought he was basically saying, meditate your way to superpowers and he was going to get people killed. And so I took a commission from Playboy magazine to go to bug him before he got famous. And then what happened is I tried his method and it turns out it works. Uh, in one week I was doing all the same stuff that he was doing. I was meditating on the banks of icy lakes and this melting the snow around me with my body heat. I climbed a mountain in my underwear just like whim. And I was like, well, crap, I guess this works. Uh, and I wrote this big article in Playboy about it, uh, and women’s now super, super famous.
Scott: Uh, not totally because of me. It’s because he does really amazing things, but I was one of the first guys to write about him and that became the book. What doesn’t kill us, uh, uh, about my journeys with whim about, um, you know, what is it about sitting in this really stressful environment, which is ice water. He makes you sit in ice water for long periods of time. What is it about sitting in that and then controlling yourself in that an environment that allows you to generate resilience, allows you to do the crazy superhuman sounding things that Wim does. That was what doesn’t kill us was about, and at the end of that book, I climbed up Mount Kilimanjaro in my bathing suit. It was negative 30 degrees out. I did it really, really fast and I wasn’t comfortable but I made it to the top and then the question sort of occurs to me, well, well while I’m up there is, well two things.
Scott: One, I had like the, the, the most Kaka Mamie cheesy thought ever in my whole life enters my head is that I am not on the mountain. I am the mountain. Right? It’s like, it’s like, it’s like something that’s just like show up on like a gift card somewhere, like a t-shirt. I am the mountain, but I had this like feeling of oneness that I was actually part of the environment and that my sensations of the environment are really just about connecting to the outside world. Uh, and, and that I got there by connection, not by forcing my way up this mountain and um, in what doesn’t kill us. I have this, I, I have a chapter called the wedge where I say you can yourself between stimulus and response, there is this space that you can generate. And I’m talking about an ice water in that book, but I wanted to find out all of the other ways you can put yourself between stimulus and response and how that can make you do pretty cool things. And that is where the wedge comes from. And I’m going to just put this on the screen.
Guy: Beautiful cover by the way.
Scott: Thank you.
Guy: And there you go. Right up to that point, you know, it’s interesting, I spent a week with Wim back in 2015 and I’m not, I’m not sure about you and your circumstances, but I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I knew I was going to do some breathing. I knew I was going to do some cold exposure, but I just didn’t appreciate the intensity of that week, which was, which was incredible. Which is a pivoting point. Um, yeah. When you, when you go in there to debunk. And like for me, the first thing I thought, wow Scott must have a certain amount of humility to be able to go there and just go, you know what I was wrong. Cause it sounded like at the time you were kind of convinced that was, he was just another false guru.
Scott: Well I think that whenever you go into writing a story, whenever I go into writing a story, I, I carried two opposing thoughts in my head. I keep with a skeptical side of myself, but I also keep the, I’m willing to try anything part of myself and I, and I think that’s a very important thing to have. Cause you need to stay rational, right? Like if you hang out with whim, if you listen to whim, you know, he is not a rational person. You know, he is, he is like, he, his mind flies all over the place. He says things that are cockamamie and you’re like, and if you just went with him and you said, I want to be whim, you are a crazy person too. And so yeah. But I feel like there is something about about being skeptical and be like, look, I don’t know if this is going to work.
Scott: And then at the same time being like, but as long as it’s not going to kill me, I’m gonna try it. And, and so, uh, so it’s these two opposing sort of impulses in me that I think make me pretty well suited for writing these sorts of books is that I can go into an environment, I can try it out. And you know, when I was writing the wedge, there were three or four things that I did try out. And then I was like, nah, it doesn’t work. Let’s, let’s, let’s move on to the next subject. Um, the, and, and I think that that is like a very honest and, and, and, uh, useful way to start getting involved in this stuff. Got it. Okay. So why the weds? Why the terminology, the wedge, what does it mean to you and for everyone listening today?
Scott: So when, so it started in ice water and it happened, but it happens everywhere. I think that the wedge is like actually a fundamental human ability that we all develop from birth when our body is like just a jumble of flesh. And you’re a brain in that body trying to figure out how to use the flesh because you’re looking down at it and, and, and you don’t know what an arm is, but somehow through the magic of neuro connection and also whatever your mind is doing, and that’s really important. It’s not just neural connections, whatever you’re thinking and experiencing, um, you gain control of your body. And when I was in the ice water, you know, you jump into this ice bath and you know, you can just think, what’s it like to be an ice bath? And you’re going to clench up. Like your butt’s going to go like this and your back’s going to tense up.
Scott: And you know what ice water is like. Um, it’s that clenching feeling. I don’t know what whim says is sitting in that ice water and relax. Do the opposite of what your body wants to do. And I promise you won’t die. And lo and behold, it works. And what you’re doing is you’re putting something, is it your intention? Is it your mind? Is it your sensations? I don’t know what it is. So I called it a wedge. You’re pushing this thing in between that stimulus and that response that your body has. Uh, and, and you’re opening up space. And so I, I see the wedge as either, you know, creating space between stimulus and response or sometimes as removing that space so that it’s automatic. So something that you usually do, think about, you can make it so that it just happens. Uh, and that’s really how the concept of the wedges.
Scott: And sometimes I think that, uh, it’s a really apt metaphor. And sometimes I’m like, well, what is the metaphor? But it is about this, this idea of, of trying to gain control of yourself and that thing that you’re doing, um, is very important. And, and the ice water, it’s, it’s not clenching up cause the, the automatic response is to clench. Um, and, and I think that that response in some ways you can think of it as coming from the stimulus. Uh, another, you can think about the wedge is let’s say you have a sneeze coming on. Okay. You’re, you’re about to sneeze. You’re like, ah, your, your nose is doing, what is it? Pain? Is it tickle? I don’t even know how to describe whatever that pre sneeze feeling is, but you know what’s coming. And then you say, all right, I’m not going to do it. I’m already going to slow it down. And you do something right. You, what is it? You do that thing that you do to slow down or stop the sneeze is the wedge. Uh, and, and, but you can do that in everything.
Guy: Yeah, no beautiful. I mean, from me, I spot them once a week now for probably four years plus. Um, Oh, awesome. Yeah. You know, I, I, I can relate to that. And what’s, what’s been wonderful transition for me is how, like you say, comes into everyday life. Because if you can get in this moment of surrender and, and almost be in like a third party presence to what’s actually going on, you kind of rise above the noise of everything that’s there and send a very different signal to the body. And, and it’s been a beautiful practice to then bring that into even times like now where you get to observe the sensations of the body more and start to almost interrupt the patterns that can, that can grip you and hold you in any given moment. Right?
Scott: Right. I mean, and, and the idea behind this is, you know, we evolved in really harsh environments. We evolved as homo sapiens 300,000 years ago. Plains of Africa, lions everywhere, uh, temperatures that are constantly fluctuating and, uh, starvation and non starvation like booms and busts and [inaudible]. And what the thing is about that is it variation in your threats were constant. Uh, and, and, and so, so you were, your body was always adjusting and you didn’t have the technology to insulate yourself, really. I mean, there was some fire and stuff, but you know, you didn’t have laptops. Right? And we fast forward to to, you know, as the years tick forward, um, we now have like absolute control of our environment and we stay in a static place. Most of the time we keep our temperature the same. We have constant food supply, a huge variety of tastes available to us.
Scott: All of these things that just didn’t exist in our, in our paleolithic past, even though we still have those paleolithic bodies. And in terms of stress, when you saw a tiger, you dumped adrenaline, you drummed cortisol, you dumped all these like energy inducing pain, numbing hormones in your body so that you could fight the lion. I mean, you’d probably lose, but you tried and you beat up that lion and then you passed on your genes later. And nowadays we stress out of it all sorts of things. Like today I was stressing out about my book, right? I was like, ah, the book is not connecting and you know, this is going to ruin my career, blah, blah, blah. All that stuff that you think about, um, when something existential is happening. But my wife was actually really funny today. She was like, Scott, you didn’t swear at all today.
Scott: You know, I have suspecting of store. And I’m like, yeah, like it’s out of my control. And I was, I think of it as I was using the wedge there. I was like, I don’t have the ability to actually go crazy here. And I was trying to like modulate my response, um, to this stress. Um, and, and whereas normally what happens is, is you have some sort of snafu on the internet and, and then you get really angry. It all turns inside and, and the reason you’re angry is because you don’t have a physical outlet. Right? If it was a lion, you’d stab the lion and that was your physical outlets. That cortisol meant something. But instead you release the adrenaline, you release the cortisol, release all that stuff, but there’s no outlet. And that results in anxiety. It resulted depression, it results in autoimmune illnesses. And, uh, and so a lot of what the wedge is about is trying to find different environments that give me that release and then allow me to control that release. And then that generalizes to everyday life.
Guy: Yeah. Amazing summary, mate. Amazing. I was, um, when, when I took a look at your book, you know, and looked at all the different, um, uh, areas of exploration to get the feedback for that response where you putting yourself in these wedge places and all different kinds of stimuli around the world and stuff where I was really fascinated to, um, to see on the, on the open ended a book that you had. You are the universe. Yeah. Can you explain why?
Scott: So yeah, this is, um, you know, it’s like, it’s like another one of those like cheesy t-shirt lines, right? You are the universe. I love the, I love the person. I thought it’d be a good place for you to talk about. So the, the, the, I mean obviously I embrace it, but I also sort of like con co again, I’m this dualist person. I’m like, that’s weird. And then I also am embracing it and I think the, the, the thing is when I’m on top of that mountain, right? And I am feeling connected to things. Uh, I see like consciousness who we are as people is not just bound by our bodies. Like who, who are you as a person? Are you a person because you end at your skin and you are immutable and you are just this, this thing that exists or are you here because of all of the relationships, all of the interactions that you’ve had your whole life and those somehow feed into you.
Scott: And then you also reflect those things out to you. And I think that when you are really cognizant of your sensations and that, that there’s just this continuum, right? Who would, like Alan Watts once said, um, uh, who would you be without the sun? Right? And he’s talking about the same idea and he’s saying that ball of fusion, molten hydrogen or whatever it’s doing, um, is somehow you, because it has donated all the energy to this world that has, it, has allowed you to exist and for you to even conceive of yourself as not part of it is ridiculous. Uh, and, and so that’s a really big way to think of it. Another way to think of it is, so I climbed up to the Mount kilometer up Mount Kilimanjaro. It was cold, it was negative 30. I was, my nipples were out, and then they were just like out there and, and, and I’m thinking how I am on the top of this mountain.
Scott: But yet inside my body, there’s a lot of other stuff going on. And if you think about, like for instance, your gut bacteria, you know that if you like clean out your gut bacteria or put different gut bacteria, you’ll be depressed, right? Or you’ll be anxious. And we all know there’s this gut brain connection. There are inner worlds inside your body that are responding. Uh, two external stimulus, like I’m on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but my mitochondria are also on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. But they experience it as that wash of adrenaline and cortisol and the unique mix of hormones that I’m throwing in at them. So in a way, I’m a lens for those bacteria, for those mitochondria to be out in the world. And, and in a way, I see, you know, those, those things are sensing their environment. They’re sensing the, the, the, the, the hormonal cocktails that I’m putting into the bloodstreams.
Scott: So their environment is changing as my external environment changes. And, and I see all of this sort of like nested connected bits of consciousness, uh, that come, that come through us and who we think we are is not who we really are because we’re different people with in different circumstances. I’m one person in an ice bath. I’m one person, I’m talking to my wife about intimate things. I’m another person banging angry tweets on the internet about my president. Like you’re, you’re actually a different person in all of these contexts. And I think that’s really important to realize it because the, the, the Lynch pin between those different people are sensations. And if you’re aware of your sensations, then you’re aware of who you are.
Guy: Yeah. It’s, um, it’s so important. I, you know, we all coexist in this universe. Like, like I said, there’s no getting away from that. And th the, there’s definitely, um, a natural law and order that happens, a rhythm of life and, and we’re so stuck in our heads for the majority of the time that we’ve kind of, uh, having embodied so many different experiences anymore where you’re talking about those tactile experiences that can come in and, and be our teacher and start to teach us something new so we can have a different perspective on life and feel reconnected to everything around us as well. And I’m start to have a different relationship with it. You know, it’s a, it’s fascinating stuff. I was interested as well Scott with your, um, cause you talk about the ice boss, right? Where you get in and it’s this extreme sensory experience that you have to overcome yourself and surrender and breathe into those moments in that. But then you looked
Scott: up the opposite end of the spectrum or sensory deprivation where you just do nothing. What did you find? What did you find from, from doing that as well? So yeah, a lot of the book is putting into like really intense situations, right? And seeing how my body responds. But then the obvious question is, is what happens if you’re able to take the body out of its context? What is there? And when you go into a sensory deprivation tank, or the better word is a float tank for it, that is essentially very salty water that is so dense that the human body will float on top of it. Um, they, they, they make it very dark and it’s about as close as you can get to isolating your body from sensation. Um, that is possible, right? You can’t just take your brain out of your body and put it in a jar somewhere or you have to, um, uh, you know, isolate your sense that your sensations in some way.
Scott: So in this environment, um, what happens is you sort of, you turn inwards, right? You’ve extracted the environment, but your brain is still, you know, your brain can only sense the world through your sensory pathways, right? You know, if you think about your brain is actually in a float tank in your head. And the only way it knows anything about the world is by the signals, the chemical and electrical signals that rocket through your peripheral nervous system, your eyes to your ears, your nose, your skin, uh, up your spinal cord and into your, into, into, it’s like gray fleshing matter. So what you learn in the float tank is that your body is an environment and you start attuning into your heart and beaten into your blood pressure, into the creeks of my 41 year old joints. You know, like you suddenly become aware of what’s inside and it forces you into essentially an automatic meditation.
Scott: And uh, for me, I mean it’s very relaxing, it’s introspective. I feel like you can do a lot of like internal work here. But another thing that’s really good for our people who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, people who have anxiety disorder and people who have depression. So I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where there’s this world renowned float tank research place, um, where they’re, they’re looking at, at the effects of anxiety and depression on people who, uh, sorry. They’re looking at float tanks on people who have anxiety and depression. And what happens is if you’re in a moment of trauma, let’s say, let’s say you’re a soldier in Afghanistan or whatever, right? Well let’s, we’ll, we’ll do it. The apocryphal soldier, he’s walking down the street, everything’s hunky Dory. There’s like T around and there’s some, there’s a, there’s a certain quality of light children playing in the background, some traffic noise.
Scott: You know, it’s a, it’s a nice day walking down the street and then all of a sudden, boom explosion. He’s thrown to the ground, his buddy’s dead. He’s looking at his like wounds. You can hear his heart beating and his ears, his breathing is suddenly elevated. What happens in that moment is all of the previous seconds get bonded in what a what a, I’m terming a neural symbol in your brain. So, and this sort of forms, you know, neuro symbols are like the fundamental unit of, of cognition in a way. Um, and I thought it sort of skipped describing what those are, but essentially all of those, those moments get get wired into your brain. And so that, that calmness, uh, of the, of the environment is now bonded sort of forever with the trauma that you’re experiencing. Uh, and then for many people, it’s the first time they feel their heartbeat.
Scott: It’s the first time they’re really aware of their blood pressure. It’s the first time all of these things suddenly come up and then fast forward to when they’re at home, right? They’re walking through the grocery store or whatever their heartbeat’s still going, and they may not perceive it right consciously, but their body can perceive it there. There may be a quality of light out there that’s going on that somehow similar to the quality of light before the explosion. And what happens is when you’re in a float tank, you’re able to like shut off all of those external stresses. You’re able to look inside and be like, Oh, that’s actually not a traumatic event and you’re able to subtly rewire your brain so that, um, you don’t have these sort of random attacks, uh, in your, in your experience. And uh, yeah, it’s, uh, w w what’s so fascinating is the guy who was doing this as, his name’s Justin Feinstein, you can look him up on Google scholar or whatever.
Scott: Uh, he showed that I think he had 30 or 40 people with severe anxiety, put them in float tanks and did questionnaires before and after. And then like a month afterwards and he showed a hundred percent improvement across all of his cases. Is that, that actually just going into a float tank for an hour was better than being on antidepressants. Wow. Really, really powerful. That’s really crazy to think that just by modulating your environment, you can change the way your responses are. And the reason for that is cause you’re, you know, changing your environment also changes your chemical pathways. Right? Like, if I’m in a different environment and my chemical pathway, does it send things to my brain and are different, therefore your brain will change. Whereas a drug, they’re just trying to change your chemical pathways directly. The wedge allows you to do as a sort of a more, I guess, natural, um, way to sort of get similar outcomes in many cases.
Guy: Yeah, no, it’s, it’s amazing when you think about it, isn’t it? Cause we’re, we are, we’re always looking externally whether to suppress a feeling or change a feeling. And, and w we’re constantly doing that and this gives us an opportunity to look inward and actually turn that awareness from the outward inward and start to, to have a relationship with the body and give literally the homeostasis to, to attends, to recalibrate. You know, I was fascinated by the numerous symbols cause um, I think I, I think I heard you speak about it as well, but it’s, it’s literally because of the symbolization our body is living in the past. So every symbol that’s coming in is triggering a POS response, if I’m not mistaken. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Let me just describe that because you know, people are probably like, what the fuck are you talking about? No, it’s great. So here’s how you, your
Scott: body senses stuff. Remember your brains floating in a float tank in your head, right? And the only way it has ever been able to experience the world from birth is through those sensory pathways. So let’s look at how sensation gets into your brain in the first place. So again, let’s, let’s go to an ice bath. Let’s say this is the very first time you’ve experienced an ice bath. Um, you just, you, you, you, you jump in there and in a fraction of a millisecond, the signal goes from your peripheral nerves up through to your spine, up that central channel into the lowest part of your brain, your lizard brain, the limbic system. And I like to think of the limbic system as sort of a library and uh, and the, there’s a librarian in every library. So, so this, this library and gets the signal and it’s like cool.
Scott: And the sh the shelves of her library are every other sensation you’ve ever had. And she looks at all the shelves and it’s like, Nope, never had this experience before. No idea what this sensation has. All she knows is that it has allowed volume because ice pass up a very, very loud volume. So it kicks it over to what is called the Paralympic system, which is right next door. And you can think of the Paralympic system as like a book binder. And, and so she shuttles it over to this thing. It’s like, you know, it’s right there. And, and the Paralympic system looks at this and says, Oh, look, I’ve got this new sensation. Uh, it’s ice water. I am going to identify what this means because it was just data before, uh, by bonding it with your current emotional state. So in ice water for a number of reasons that, um, um, because you know, if you’re jumping into ice water, you’ve had previous experiences before the, it has already been shaped a little bit, but it’s unmitigated horror and terror, right?
Scott: It’s ice vessel are horrible, right? And so it was like, okay, unmitigated heart. And Tara kicks it back down to the limbic library and she’s like, cool. Ice bath, horror and terror, and she files it away under ice bath. It’s that sensation. Now. This is very important. Fast forward to the next time you go into an ice bath. The sensation rockets up through your body goes into the, into the limited library and she as she says, Oh look, I have this book, and she says, this is unmitigated horror and terror, and she kicks it off. Then you go live your experience. What this means is she pulled that old book off the shelf, which was your prior emotional state, which means every time you experience any sensation you’re experiencing that first bookbinding. You’re not experiencing the present moment. Now you have to think about neuro symbols.
Scott: They’re not just ice fast. They’re not just big events. There are, you’re feeling 100 million things right now. You have an emotional state that’s right now a some sort of tone in your emotion. You’re feeling air pressure, you’re seeing light, you’re, you’re sweating or you’re not sweating. You feel dry. You feel cracked. You, you have, you have tons of sensations going right now and they’re all being constantly wired or referenced to previous things. And there’s this sort of back and forth that’s going between your past and your present all of the time. But it’s only when you have a novel sensation or you’re doing something weird like forcing a new emotion, uh, that you have the chance to change things, that you have the chance to create a new symbols. So a lot of what we’re doing in the wedge is filling up shelves with experiences so that that limbic librarian doesn’t just have one book to choose unmitigated horror and terror, but 12 other books. And if you’ve done an ice bath, you know,
Scott: that you’re S you’re standing in front of an ice bath right now and you do not want to jump in. I don’t care how many ice baths you’ve done. You’re like, no, I don’t want to do it. It’s terrible. But you also, and that’s that first symbol. You’re never going to get rid of it. It’s on the shelf. But you also know that you’ve had great experiences because of it. You’ve had this huge joy that comes out of an ice bath cause you’ve sort of psyched yourself out so you now have a wider vocabulary because you’ve experienced it.
Guy: Got it. Great analogy. So what you’re saying then is that if you’re willing to put yourself in different experiences in different right explorations like you have been doing with a wedge and you’re creating this Olympic library of different artifacts that you can pull out instead of just the one that means horror and terror every single time. Right. That mean then we carry it into our everyday life and then when we have a situation that we could relate like covert 19 or different things that are coming on, automatic response is normally the one filing cabinet horror terror. But now we’ve got an array and no toolkit
Scott: that we can call upon. Yes.
Scott: Yeah. I mean it, it’s, you know, it’s bewilderingly complex because a neural assemble, you could, you should think of it sort of like a bit or a byte in a computer program, right? It’s like a one or a zero and it’s sort of meaningless on its own. It only makes sense when there’s thousands and thousands of these ones and zeros sort of operating in context. But that’s like the fundamental neural hardware. Um, but what happens is the more you do things, the better you become at doing things. Cause if your library is narrow and you, you stay in your narrow band of comfort in your homeostatic nice and like you don’t, you, you never go out and try new things, it becomes harder for you to get over the, the, the, the, you know, your limbic librarian doesn’t want to let you go do things right. She’s like, Oh no, I only have seven books on dealing with here and these are the my main emotional responses.
Scott: Uh, and so know that you, you know, going for a jog down the streets. Terrifying. Cause I’ve never been outside before. So it’s like, it’s like you become better at doing more things. The more you do them, the more you put yourself, especially in situations that are stressful and situations that are novel and difficult. And then you’re able to show yourself cause in that process of being in a difficult situation and then finding that you’re competent in it is actually interpreted as joy usually. Right? It’s like I did something really hard and then, Oh it actually, it turned out okay. Um, you have this new emotional response, joy that wire’s in the new neural symbol and then you feel expansive and you’ve actually expanded who you are as a person because we only become real when we’re under stress. Right? If you’re a blob of jello on your couch, you’re not really a person. You’re just a blob of jello on your couch. The more you go out and act in the world, the more personally you got. Right? The more human you are.
Guy: Yeah, totally. It’s like you get a Nosha, but you’ve got to get that momentum going. You know what I’m with all the things that you, you’ve tried within the book that you’ve explored, what surprised you the most?
Scott: Oh man. I’m surprised you know what it is. I am so surprised that my wife came along with me for like all of this stuff is that if there’s one real hero on the book, it’s not me. It’s my wife who like, you know, we do the, the, the, the saunas. We’ve done the ice baths, we do, you know, we do this thing where we throw kettlebells back and forth. And what’s really interesting and very important to see is that she reacts differently to these stimulus. She’s a different person. She’ll have a different reaction, she’ll have a different way to modulate her responses. And so the surprising thing and you know, something to note is that this is not a book saying here are the 10 ways to get super awesome, right? These are the 10 techniques you do to be awesome. Um, it’s more like, here’s tend to need techniques. That worked really well for me and worked pretty good for Laura. Um, but everyone’s experience is going to be different, but we’re all using the same wedge. We’re all going through the same encounter with our stresses and our sensory system.
Guy: Yeah, right. Did did, um, did you have to drag her along? Kicking? Oh, is she like, no, I want to do this. What, what did it do? If your relationship going through all these different things together,
Scott: it made it stronger. It definitely made us stronger to do. I mean, we already, we’ve always had a pretty good relationship I’ll say, but certainly doing difficult things with your partner and then finding that you’ve come out better for is better for your relationship, right. Doing things and failing at them and then yelling at each other is not useful. Um, I mean it’s always going to matter on the dynamic. One of the really cool things that I’ve done, um, we do this thing where we throw kettlebells and everyone who’s, and this is, it’s the same wedge because everyone who heard the words throw kettlebell now thought to themselves, you’re going to break your foot. Right? I mean, everyone thought that, um, where you have two people and you’re passing this lump of iron back and forth. And the first time I, I did it, I was, um, I had just, I was looking at the roots of fear with a guy named Andrew Huberman at Stanford who’s a neuroscientist.
Scott: Um, and he had this thing where you, you, you swim with virtual sharks and a virtual shark tank using a VR glasses and it’s supposed to provoke fear in some people. But for me it didn’t do it. And I wanted to be in that fearful stimulus and then control that stimulus to find the wedge. But the stimulus wasn’t strong enough. Like I could care less about the virtual shark. So I was a little bummed when I was walking out of his lab and I got this message from my friend, um, Tony and Tony said, Scott, you got to go meet my friend Michael Castro, Giovanni, who throws kettlebells at you to put you into a flow state, which is like, to me that was like just gobbledygook. Like what you’re pro kettlebells to do a flow state. Kettlebells to me sounded lame. Uh, and throwing them sounded dangerous, which is sorta similar to how I first felt about Wim Hoff.
Scott: I’ll have, you know, so, so I was like, sure, let’s go do it. And I, and I go meet Michael and he’s like, picture Michael, for all intents and purposes is he is a gorilla, right? He’s, he has, you know, shorter than me, but she huge, like his, his thighs are as big as my arms. Um, he’s hunched over but out, you know, we might as well just fist dragging on the ground. I mean, this guy’s big and, and you know, we’re, we’re faced off against each other and he’s going to throw the kettlebell at me and I have to catch it. And I know that this is what we’re supposed to do, throw and catch the kettlebell. But it’s freaky, right? Like, dude, you don’t know with a lump of iron, you’re faced off again, some, I mean, that’s like sort of a violent, you know, we’re wired to think that’s violent and there’s the real threat of hurting myself.
Scott: So he does this thing. There’s a ritual at the beginning of it where you look at each other’s eyes and you’d say, okay, um, and he does three swings. I’m the first swing. You’re supposed to look at each other’s eyes on the second swing. It’s up here. And then you’re supposed to switch your gaze from each other’s eyes to the kettlebell. And this is very important. And on this third swing he lets go and it’s flipping through the air like a mad piece of iron. And again, my buck puckers up and, but I’m laser like focused on that kettlebell and my hands grab it and I put through my legs, I swing and I pass it right back. And all of a sudden if we go from this thing where I’m thinking, Oh, there’s danger or I’m going to get hurt too, basically dancing with this guy because the actual movement is not very difficult.
Scott: You can learn it in 15 minutes how to throw a kettlebell. But because the threat is real, you can really break your foot with a kettlebell. Um, it forces you to focus. And by both of you being forced to focus on this external object, your movements coordinate automatically. So these two separate people are not coordinating. Oh. Because of the stress that they put between them. Uh, and this is an instantaneous flow state. You’re not, you’re not thinking about your actions, you’re just moving. Now, what’s really cool, this is why I want to bring Laura up again. When couples do this right, when you have a guy and a girl doing it, everyone’s relationship has little islands that you don’t want to go to, right? Like these little places that are, you know, you don’t want to talk about, it’s just not a place that we want to go.
Scott: And even healthy relationships have these islands. That’s fine. Um, but usually these islands come up as like sort of trust problems. And when you’re standing against your partner, usually partners suck at throwing kettlebells because they’re worried. They’re like, Oh no, Scott’s going to break my foot. Just like he, you know, whatever he did, he broke a, you know, just like you stepped into my garden that one time in a bad way. Like, you know, and these things sort of come out. And so then you learn to trust each other again in the context of kettlebells without words, it becomes a little bit of magic. Yeah. Wow. I’ve never heard of that. It’s cause it’s not like kicking a football back and forth on the beach or something cause there’s no danger, right. So you can’t really even fuck that you’ve got that laser focus. You, you’re not going to be anywhere else except in that moment, which is right now what I’m weight kettlebell we is throwing around, I think like 30 kilos.
Scott: Uh, I usually recommend, um, uh, for uh, uh, you know, [inaudible] much. Yeah. First. I mean I I I throw a 25 pound weight usually with people. Um, so in kg that’s 12.5 kg. That’ll usually what I Mmm. Uh, I will use, but you know, you don’t want, what you don’t want is one person to be like dying and the other person be like, this is super easy. You know, you want to, you want to have a, a weight that you also don’t want to light of a weight. Cause if it’s too light, it moves weird. But you know, I think 2025 is a great way to start out at. And, but if you look at the guy who does this, Michael caster, Giovanni, when he gets with his other gorillas, you know, and they throw it, I’ve seen him, I think I’ve seen him throw 300 pound kettlebells, which is bananas. Shit. I couldn’t even pick that up. I don’t like, I don’t know, throw it. My
Guy: God. No, no, I can’t do that
Scott: either. I mean, and I honestly, it’s probably a different exercise at that point, but then at that point it becomes about being macho. Right. I’ve got a bigger way than you. I don’t care about being macho. That’s not my game. Um, it’s really about these flow States and I, I find like a comfortable yet somewhat challenging weight is really what you should be aiming.
Guy: Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough. Um, there’s, there’s one more question I wanted to ask you, um, before I ask you some other ones, but, um, I mean I’ve got a few at the end just for you mate. You know, I’ll keep you in suspense. But, um, and it jumped out at me in the book when I was looking through it. I, I’ve, um, so I wanted to mention it because I really related to it. And you went to see Sharman lasthma is that, is that his name? Correct. And yeah. Lose money, lose money on what was that from an iowaska journey? Yes. Yes. And he gives you a mantra saying I’m w Oh, she, sorry. She, sorry. Um, she give you a mantra thing. I’m willing. Yeah. And I, I only want you to speak to that a little bit because I did a shamonic journey back in 2013 and I was terrified of the surrender of different going in. And, um, the shaman, they gave me a mantra and it’s, he said, just say I trust, I trust, I trust. And I did that and it was the most powerful experience I had because it really allowed me to 100%, not 99, not 98, just go all in and trust. But from that experience, it’s allowed me to bring that trust back into my everyday life. And I was wondering how it went for you. Yeah,
Scott: no. Well, you found the whip edge. Um, you know, that’s the thing is, so when I’m, when I’m in the book, I sort of end it with the Iowasca experience and it is a bizarre experience. I don’t want to actually go into everything because there’s some really cool twists and turns in the book that I don’t want to give away, but I do. But I do want to say is that as I, um, and experiencing all of these different stresses coming into this experience, right? I, I’ve, I’ve done sensory deprivation. I’ve done heat. I’ve done fear with kettlebells. I’ve done some chemical stuff where I did MTMA with my wife and I’ve sort of psychiatry, psychiatric setting. Um, I, I’ve really tried a lot of different ways to like have a big experience and then find a way to control myself in it. But I want, SCA is sort of like an even bigger one because the ritual is like an eight hour ritual.
Scott: Um, it involves sound involves, um, eating, eating, a very bland diet involves, uh, I went to Peru. So I’m in a very novel environment where everything is different and you’re really modulated like five or six different parts of the wedge all at once, five or six different big stimulus that have impacts on, and you’re on a chemical, which is, you know, it’s not like a kettlebell where I could be like, Michael, I don’t want to throw anymore. He’d be like, all right, cool. Like you’ve taken a drug and you are there for eight hours. There’s nothing you can do. So I think that people should only be called to do Iowasca cause this is like, you know, it’s not like everyone shouldn’t do it. Like, like this is not, this is something that that spoke to me and to you and to other people, but it’s a big event.
Scott: But what, but you’re right, that mantra I am willing is what you have to do. It’s just like with the kettlebell, right? The kettlebells coming and you can fight it, but it’s going to win, right? It’s going to land on your foot. Or you can be like, I’m in this practice, I am focused and I am. Here I am in the moment. I’m in the ice bath. It’s the same thing. You’re in the ice bath. It is stressful. And I WASC, it is not fun. It’s super stressful and horrible in many ways. Right? Um, you’re, and then you’re in that environment and you’re controlling yourself and, but it’s not like I get run over where the universe, right. It’s not like you, your ego controlling it. It’s more like being saying, I am going to control my reaction. I’m going to gonna ride this out and I’m going to be okay. And then the amazing thing about Iowasca is for most people experience at this way is that it feels like it’s an external entity to you. Right? There’s something that’s coming at you. And for me, the first time I did, I lost. It was like someone just lecturing me about how lame I was.
Scott: It’s like, it’s like Scott, you’re lame and all these different ways and, and, and, and it feel, you know, if you talk to the shamans, they’ll tell you it is the spirit of the medicine. Um, I’m fine with that interpretation. I’m also fine with it saying it’s, it shows a different way. Your psychology works. That’s cool too. Um, but it feels like there’s something outside giving you a new perspective on your life and that’s the sort of, that’s actually the stress that you’re, um, working with. I’m not saying you’re forcing against it cause you don’t force against, so you just sort of like listen to it and you let its words flow over you.
Guy: Yeah. For me. Yeah. A lot of people have very different experiences when I was going to, so yeah. No, it’s great. It’s, it’s something that that’s lasted with me for seven, eight years is those moments to be able to then when, when this pressure on this show up differently in those things, you know. Yeah. I’m going to ask you a few questions, so I’d wrap up the show and, um, let’s do it. One I wanted to ask you was, um, what, with everything you’ve learned and what you’ve written about and do and explode and everything, and now you’re in isolation and it might be handy for listeners, what practices are you continuing at the moment, each day, that are helping you through the times?
Scott: Well, it’s really important to remain physical in this environment. Like right now, especially if you’re locked in your apartment, you need a physical output. Remember, we are people fighting lions on the Savannah, but right now we’re worried about coven, which weirdly, only thing you can do is stay at home. Um, we have anxiety. Our businesses are falling apart. Like we have all sorts of things that are hard. Maybe family members are sick, but there’s nothing you can do if this is getting to you, right? When you’re feeling anxiety, that means you’re releasing these stress hormones, uh, exercise, like do pushups, like, like literally do anything you can to modulate that. And if you can involve an emotional component to that, it’s even better. Um, for me personally, I do the Wim Hof method every morning. Um, I find that as very, very beneficial for me. Uh, me and my wife wake up and we do the breathing.
Scott: We do three rounds of it. Uh, we take, do the cold showers, we relax in that. Um, I take, so I have a sauna at my house because of this journey that I’ve been on. So I mean, you probably don’t, I like the sauna, so that’s cool. Um, go outside, do exercise, like, um, you know, like by that you can do on your own right. Lift kettlebells, throw kettlebells, but you know, with your partner who you’re stuck inside with, don’t do it on your wood floors. Uh, really just do things that, um, that have that physical out because that’s really, really important.
Guy: Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, have you tried anything new since you’ve been in isolation for anything new into life? I’ve tried a couple of new ice cream flavors, which are cool. Like a peanut, but nothing, no, no. I haven’t done anything new. I’m stuck in just like everyone else, I’m stuck inside. Well, I want new things. We’re actually building a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle at the moment. I haven’t done that since I was a kid, so that’s been good. Oh nice. Nice. Yeah, I did a jigsaw puzzle too. It was great. There you go. Beautiful mate. Um, then the last thing that you kind of touched on it anyway, I’m always interested in know what people’s morning routines look like. You know, so you, you get up, you do the whim, you do the cold shower, move the body and then you’re into your day. But um, I’m assuming that’s summarizing it pretty pretty well.
Scott: Yeah. Usually. And for me, I get to throw in a sauna at the end. Um, uh, I would recommend, you know, if it’s right now it’s snowing outside, you know, for me, you’re in Australia, so, um, you can go outside, put your feet in the cold, do things that give you a sort of a strong sensation that’s really important. Uh, cold water, cold showers are great cause it’s a strong sensation to anything that’s a strong sensation is something that your body is responding to because every sensation your body has is about survival. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what it is, the reason that we evolve to feel things is because it’s about our body or passing on genes in some way or another. Um, oftentimes our environment makes us numb. We want things that make us not numb. Ah, that’s really important.
Guy: Yeah, for sure. Last question for you mate. Um, with everything we’ve today, what would you like
Scott: to leave our listeners to ponder on?
Scott: Oh, I mean, think about stress. What is stress? The thing that, that you want to protect yourself from or is stress the teacher that lets you expand. Uh, and sometimes you know, honestly your body is telling you that something is dangerous and sometimes things are dangerous. Like don’t go put your hand in a fire. Like that’s a stress and that’s a dangerous stress. But there’s other things that are out there that are either you don’t have control over. Uh, like if you have, say a politician you don’t like, um, it doesn’t matter what they’re doing. You cannot control it right now. Right? Unless you’re a Senator or like, you know, another politician, there’s nothing you can do. So, so not trying to be involved in that stuff is actually sort of important right now, especially for your sanity because you know, oftentimes I think that, you know, and I’m guilty just like everyone else. So you go on Twitter and you get really angry and you feel like your anger should make other people like change in our minds or something. No, it doesn’t look, human life does not work like that. Turn inside and I guess look at the world with and realizing that your emotional responses and your emotional connections oftentimes are ruling your actions and instead you should let your actions, your emotions.
Guy: Yeah. Beautiful. What a beautiful place to end up, mate. Um, now your book’s just been released. I’m assuming it’s available everywhere, audible as well though.
Scott: Yeah, there’s a great audio book. I read it myself. Um, uh, I will, if you like the dulcet tones of my voice, you can just download it right now. Um, the eBooks and all that stuff, I would suggest that go to my website, scottcarney.com. Uh, and you can read a sample chapter of the book for free if you subscribe to the old email list. Uh, and there’s all the links to the various places the book is out right now. There are some like weird connection issues with Amazon and some people are getting books and some people aren’t. Well, there’s a lot of links on my site for where you can get a book if one site’s not working.
Guy: Perfect, mate. Well, I’m glad this is on audible. I’ll be buying my copy today, mate, and getting stuck in.
Scott: Love it.
Guy: I can find out what happened on your ayahuasca journey.
Scott: Yeah, right, exactly. What did he do?
Guy: I know. Well, Scott, mate, thanks for coming on today and all that you do and getting this empowering message out there to the world. It’s very needed. And I’ll certainly do my bit to try and help get ya. Get the word out there for you, mate. Much appreciate it.
Scott: Thank you! Appreciate it.
Guy: You’re welcome. Scott.