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Home » How to Be Your Best Self in Times of Crisis: Susan David (Transcript)

How to Be Your Best Self in Times of Crisis: Susan David (Transcript)

Susan David (Courtesy:

In this TED Connects special virtual conversation, psychologist Susan David shares wisdom on how to build resilience, courage and joy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. This event occurred on March 23, 2020.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:



My name’s Chris Anderson. I’m the guy lucky enough to run the TED organization. It’s a treat to be here with you. Thank you so much for taking time to come and be part of this. This is new for TED. This is… you know we’re known for TED Talks.

Here we’re going to spend an hour in conversation with some of the world’s wisest people. Because this is a moment when we need that wisdom more than ever.

Though we’re facing the pandemic that we’ve warned about, you know these are extraordinary times… times we’ll remember for the rest of our lives, I suspect. And it’s not like… the battle is just the external battle… the battle against the virus, the decisions that our leaders make.

There’s this other battle as well, that is probably equally as consequential. It’s the battle that’s going on right inside our minds. I mean, if you’re anything like me, you’ve had this real rollercoaster of emotions the last few days, weeks. This is scary, this is different, this is alarming. You know we don’t know what to make of it a lot of us.

And the decisions we make collectively I think are going to be hugely consequential. On one scenario, there’s a chance that we can use this moment to build community, to build bonds with each other, to get to know each other in different ways, to spend time with people we haven’t spent time with, to look for the best in each other.

And on another scenario, our fear and anger will drive us apart. I’d like to introduce the questioner in chief, my wonderful colleague, the TED’s current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers.

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WHITNEY PENNINGTON RODGERS – TED current affairs curator

Thanks so much Chris and hello to everyone joining us all around the world. Chris will be back later to take part in this conversation. He will come with some of your questions.

And so on to our guest, as Chris mentioned there’s so happening in the media, so much conversation around the coronavirus. And oftentimes it’s focused on the things that our government officials are doing, the decisions that they’re making. So what’s happening to our lives physically, what are some of the changes that we’re experiencing as far as working remotely, social distancing.

But what often is overlooked is the social and the emotional toll that this is all taking on all of us, which is a really critically important and a very real part of how we’re all experiencing this pandemic. And so we’re really thrilled to be joined today by renowned author and Harvard Medical School psychologist Susan David. She gave a hugely popular TED talk about emotional courage and the impact that understanding your emotions can have on your lives, on our lives.

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And so we’re excited to chat with her about how we can approach this as we’re experiencing this pandemic in this moment.

SUSAN DAVID – Psychologist

Thank you for inviting me to the conversation. I’m delighted to be part of it. I really appreciate it.

WHITNEY PENNINGTON RODGERS: Thank you so much for being here with us today. So we’re again excited to have you.

And I guess first and foremost how are you doing? How are you holding up?

SUSAN DAVID: Well, I think like everyone, we’re doing the best we can given the circumstances. My husband is a physician at MGH and it’s really a stark reality when one week you’re saying, you know, can you pick up groceries and the next week you’re exchanging emergency contact information if something were to go wrong.

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So we’re all living this reality, and I think trying to find the inner resources to do that in the best way we can is just a profound importance right now. But thank you.

WHITNEY PENNINGTON RODGERS: Yeah, no definitely, I’m glad to hear that you’re managing and hanging in there. Your work is so focused around how we can best prepare ourselves emotionally and psychologically for these moments of change and complexity. And you have this really beautiful saying about: “Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.” What does that mean and how does that apply to the current moment we’re all experienced?

SUSAN DAVID: Well I think we all know this internally at some level that there is this complex and intimate beautiful relationship between the beauty of life and the fragility of life. We love and then we lose. We are healthy until we are ill. We’re in jobs in which we need it until those jobs are no longer.

We might roll our eyes and yell at our kids and ask them to tidy their rooms. And then one day there’s silence where their child once was. They’re now making their way in the world. And so there’s this complex interplay between the beauty and the fragility of life that just is what makes the wholeness of life.

And yet so often in our narratives in society, we talk about focusing on success and being positive all the time and goal-setting, and you know there’s this whole… even our avoidance that we have really, I think, at a very broad level in society, our voidance of talking about what is the most common feature that all of us or common experience that all of us will go through, which is to die.

And yet so much of our society is constructed around preventing, avoidance, denial of this reality. And the circumstance that we’re in now is not something that we asked for, but life is calling on every single one of us to move into the place of wisdom in ourselves, beyond the thinking judgey county mind into the space of wisdom and fortitude and solidarity, community, courage.

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