1 Big Idea to Think About

  • We need each other to be well. Our connection and reliance on one another can feel like a weakness, but is actually an evolutionary strength. As we learn to trust ourselves and one another, we can find true peace and fulfillment.

1 Way You Can Apply This

  • Identify three people in your life who you know will be there for you. Identify three people who you will be there for.

1 Question to Ask

  • What experiences have I had in my life that have taught me that I am going to be alright, and how can I use what I have learned in difficult situations in the future?

Key Moments From the Show 

  • The tension between being first and being right (0:57)
  • Doing the deep work that allowed Matt to deal with the panic attacks (4:55)
  • The enemy of understanding ourselves sand each other is being stuck in our heads (15:13)
  • We’re designed to panic – how human evolution uses physical and social fear to protect us (17:12)
  • The fear of being misunderstood is akin to the fear of death (28:12)
  • Will you be there for me? (29:49)
  • It’s going to be okay. We’re going to be caught (32:12)

Links and Resources You’ll Love from the Episode

Greg McKeown: 

Welcome, everybody. Before we get to the podcast itself, a reminder to sign up for the 1 minute Wednesday newsletter. You’ll be joining more than 175,000 people. You can sign up for it by just going to gregmckeown.com/1mw. And every week, you will get 1 minute or something close to it of the best thinking to be able to help you design a life that really matters and to make that as effortless and easy as possible. So go to gregmckeown.com/1mw. 

There’s sort of two ways to think about this moment. One is the personal experience, and that’s what you’ve just been outlining. And of course, that’s to some extent what this book is about, is that deep dive into the panic attacks, the deep dive into, you know, what’s behind all of that. And then there’s a secondary way to look at it, which is the broader urgency addiction to be first rather than to be right. And one could target that exploration at the news media. Yeah, you’re at breakfast with your kids; this traumatic thing has happened. It’s right where you are. Immediately go be the first on air with it. Right. They want you to be first. You want to be first. Of course, you all want to be accurate. But there’s something to be said for the mixed motivations: do you want to be first, or do you want to be the most accurate in this era? I’m not sure what the answer is to that question from media outlets. I don’t mean what they say matters most to them. I mean what actually matters most to them. 

And then there’s this second side of it, which is other people’s reaction to this moment for you. Right? So you suddenly have, ironically, and you can correct me where I’m misunderstanding all of this, but I imagine that you had then the exact same error type of wanting to be the first to judge from people everywhere. “Oh my goodness, this reporter at ABC.” Oh, and this, you know, and it’s the same sense of wanting to be first rather than to be right.

So it’s a, I don’t know, there’s like a meta, a meta-story here. I think about that tendency in our modern world. Driven, I think, by this social media phenomenon that still impacts us so much. Anyway, there’s my sort of meta-analysis of it. What did I get wrong?


Matt Gutman: 

I think that in news, in general, there probably is a desire to be first. However, at ABC at this time, we had explicitly been told and instructed that we prefer being accurate over being first, that being first is actually secondary to us. And it was like all that to say, I take all of the burden of that mistake on myself. It was my error. This is not something that came in from above. I mean, there was, yes, like, we want to get on air fast with the information that we know, but, you know, it’s my job, and it’s something that I’ve been doing for 20 years by then. Now, it’s 25 years to separate what I know to be fact from something that I don’t know.


Greg McKeown: 

Right. It’s the, it’s sort of the point. It’s sort of the point of journalism, right? It’s like, what is happening? So what? Why does it matter now? What, what’s the implication for me? Right? Like, that’s the difference between journalism and just anybody else reacting. So, in one sense, I get what you’re saying. It is a necessary professional differentiation and distinction of your role in the first place. That’s what you’re expressing right now.


Matt Gutman: 

Exactly. And so again, I take full responsibility, and I have from the get-go. And it was, you know, nobody else’s fault but my own. And I had a reckoning. And so, yes, like, people came out of the woodwork to pillory me. Right. I should be fired. I should never work in journalism again because Kobe Bryant was like, I mean, you lived here. He’s the patriot saint of Los Angeles. The guy wasn’t from here. He’s originally from Philadelphia, but he became a Los Angeleno. I mean, this guy was so philanthropic and so well known and so beloved, and I made a terrible reporting error about his family, and it was not cool.

And so I had to deal with that. I had to deal with the fallout at work, and I had to deal with the personal guilt and the shame. And I questioned whether or not I should continue in TV journalism.


Greg McKeown: 

Sure. You’re going to be thinking about all of those things. I mean, you will have done. How was it for your wife and family?


Matt Gutman: 

My wife was really supportive at the time. She said, if you need to stop doing this…


Greg McKeown: 

I’m all in favor.


Matt Gutman:

It was hard, and I’d already been complaining to her. I talked to her about the fact that I wasn’t enjoying it because I had so much anticipated anxiety about going live.


Greg McKeown: 

Of course, you did. 


Matt Gutman: 

It was just it had taken a toll. And she said, whatever you need, let’s do it. If you need to quit, we’ll downsize our lives. Print reporters or working for newspapers is far less lucrative than working for television. And that would make a. 


Greg McKeown: 

Yeah, you have to make a lifestyle change to be able to make that move. But that. I see. But that’s curious, though, because what you just told me really, is that those for you at the time, those were the two options. It was like, well, I can either. It wasn’t, do I stay as a journalist, or is there a different. The two versions of journalist were, I could be a print journalist, or I can carry on doing what I’m doing.

Those seem to be the choices you were weighing up. Yeah.


Matt Gutman:

Or, yeah. And so either figure it out or leave the business, the TV journalism business. And because I wasn’t quite ready to make the lifestyle choice and because I had a breakthrough during my suspension, I decided that I would try to figure out the panic. 

And so the breakthrough I had was a buddy of mine who was on the lacrosse team in high school and a great athlete had come to California and had become a yoga instructor. And he also did something, again, this is early 2020, right? Called breath work, which was like, this is before Wim Hof, I think, was all over Instagram. And this was sort of, like, fringe thing back then. But he did holotropic breath work, and he had been inviting me to come and do sessions with him for forever.

And I’m like, “Okay, breath work, whatever that is. I ain’t got time for that.” But suspension has a way of opening up your schedule. So I.


Greg McKeown: 

And not just you open your schedule, but opening up, like, everything has to be on the table because I’m sort of fighting for my career now. I’m fighting for my life now. I’ve got to make sense of what’s just happened in a way that actually helps me, you know, really handle this, really deal with this, so that I’m not just in a situation of suddenly doing this again in another situation. Like, there was obviously you wanted to do the deeper work.

You had to do the deeper work.


Matt Gutman: 

Yes. And I wasn’t even aware of what it was at that point. I knew that I was broken, that something was off, and that it needed to be fixed, and I wasn’t sure what exactly was broken or how to go about it, but I had a buddy who said something was really cool, and I should try it out, and I did. And so breath work, all types of breath. You’re basically breathing like this, you know, big belly breaths in, one breath out, so belly chest out. And then you keep doing it at a pretty quick clip, and eventually, you’re gonna.

By breathing so much, you actually deprive your body of oxygen. Because what you’re doing is depriving it of carbon dioxide, which is why you breathe in a bag because you actually want that carbon dioxide in your system because it helps your body break down the oxygen. It’s kind of counterintuitive, 


Greg McKeown: 



Matt Gutman: 

But that’s what happens when people hyperventilate. They actually lose oxygen. And so you’re going to this state in which your body begins to bring all of the oxygen-rich blood to your core. So your hands go into lobster claws, your feet go numb, and they sort of stick out funny.

And people have experienced an altered state, and that’s what happened to me. I start feeling this sense of derealization, and then I am, like, off in this other world. And I’d begin, and I’m in this, like, hippie, hippie place in Venice, California, with these people I’d never seen before. But, like, you know, you can imagine the smell of patchouli was thick in the air in this room. And suddenly, like, I start sobbing hysterically in front of all these people. I’m, like, offside, and I don’t care.

And I’m letting something go that I’d never let go like that. And my friend comes over, and he does what, you know, in the business they call holding space. So he just pressed down on my legs just to let me know that he’s there, but not to take me out of that space I was in. He’s like, “I’m here, buddy. You know, I got you. Stay in there.” 

This is without words, but, like, you’re okay. And I just kept going. And it was the most cathartic experience and the most surprising experience I’d almost had in my lifetime.

And I ended up doing it again the next week. And I realized that the panic that I had experienced for so long was a symptom for something else. And it was this unexpressed grief and that I needed to find modalities to help me get to the bottom of whatever this was, of this grief that was killing me and eating me up inside. And so, like, years later, this whole. I wasn’t thinking about writing a book at that point. I was just trying to fix what was broken inside of me.

But now, what I realized that I ventured upon was this three-and-a-half-year journey into male self-care. I denied myself all this stuff and dealing with myself, even though I’d had a therapist and psychiatrist and a psychologist as well, but I hadn’t. Like, there was a way to get at stuff that’s so deep that you can’t do it with conventional therapy because people like me will block any therapist from getting in there. Because I am the world’s MP.

I am the gold the Olympic medalist in compartmentalization. It is literally what I do. I go to a war zone, and I’ve been in places like I was in the Kibbutzim in southern Israel right after the Hamas rampage on October 9. And I’m in these houses where they’re zipping up mutilated bodies into body bags. And I’m perfectly capable of functioning because I am so good at compartmentalizing. And so what do you do when you have the world’s champ at compartmentalization who can’t let go of stuff?

You have to take that person out of their right mind. I cannot be in my right mind and experience a lot of this stuff. So I eventually went and experienced altered states, from ayahuasca to mushrooms, to five meo DMT, the Sonoran desert toad, to giant African Amazonian tree frogs, to mescaline, to everything that would blow me out of my brains. So I could actually inhabit that space and live with that grief for a little bit.

And eventually, I realized that there are a lot of other people like me who experience panic attacks, probably around 150 million Americans, and nobody’s speaking for them. And they are this incredibly underserved, underrepresented group in America. And maybe I could help people by telling them my story and sharing with them some of my experiences.


Greg McKeown: 

I mean, you said you can’t be in your right mind, but there’s alternative language for a similar idea, which is that I think like, the enemy of understanding ourselves and each other is being stuck in our heads. That’s my position. And it’s that quite invisible enemy that is like, it’s the hardest challenge because the way we think is so familiar to us. It’s literally, and we’ve all heard this before, but it’s like the fish who discover water last, right?

That’s the last thing we see, is how our mind already works. And, of course, it does what you’ve already said for yourself, which is it keeps you from being able to enter the more vulnerable but more valuable layers of you. So that’s like, that’s one thing that it does. And then the second thing, of course, if you can then extend that on. We talked off-air a little bit about this research that I’m doing at Cambridge. And if you take that problem, the inability of seeing what’s really going on under the surface within yourself, and you multiply it into relationships, you go, okay, well, of course, you have a huge problem because if you don’t even want to see the truth about yourself underneath in your own life, of course, you can’t share that with somebody else.

And your own inability, a person’s inability to get out of their own head, or even to see their own head, makes it that much more difficult to understand somebody else. And so you just have this chasm of understanding because to use the onion metaphor came about in the early 1970s when a communications psychologist was trying to articulate the challenge of understanding what’s really going on with people.

And he used the onion metaphor, which has been used a lot since then, to say. To say, look, now, these are my words, though. On the surface, we are safe, but it’s irrelevant. At the surface, we’re not dealing with the most important things, but it’s safe way deep down, hidden, way below the surface, meaning frames that get frozen and that are shaping us and impacting us and controlling us and influencing us.

But it’s way below the valuable and exquisitely vulnerable things deep, deep inside of us. Now, you said that normal therapy can’t get there, and that’s a question to be further explored. But what you’re saying is that for you, it couldn’t get there because you have many, many tactics and mechanisms to be able to avoid getting there. Like, you know, that you. That you will deliberately find language and have protections to stop you from getting to the stuff underneath. What did I get wrong?


Matt Gutman: 

To make it very clear in writing the book is that I don’t have the answers, that my path is not what everybody’s paths will be. But I can show you this roadmap that I sort of stumbled upon. It’s not something I advise for everyone, and I don’t know what the ultimate answer is. And I would never be the kind of guy to say, this is the five-minute explanation of exactly how to get out of panic, and everybody who’s been living with panic disorder for this is what you should do. I don’t have that kind of hubris.


Greg McKeown: 

And you’re a work in progress.


Matt Gutman: 

Exactly. This is still. And that’s what there is literally a line on the book, which is wellness is work, man, said the guy who gave me ketamine. It is a constant effort to dig down and find that meaning and the more vulnerable and valuable parts. But, yeah, when I do therapy, there’s definitely value I can glean from it, but I’m also managing that relationship.


Greg McKeown: 

Well, I can feel it even in this conversation, and I’m not, of course, there’s no criticism implied in this. It’s just, it’s like what you say, okay, I’m compartmentalizing as a function of my professional life. Like I am trained to do a thing that is very unusual. You know, it’s like, it’s like I had somebody on the show that for years was, was working the back of an ambulance. It’s like developing very particular skills, skills that are not your usual set of skills.

And that’s one part of the puzzle for you, is that you’ve developed these particular skills to not deal with things beyond a certain level so that you can function. But then, in addition to that, there’s something inherent about TV journalism that means you’re always presenting. You’re always presenting well; when does that stop, and when does it start? I mean, like, I mean, you’re presenting now, and maybe all of us are all the time to some extent, but I think that that’s a secondary, a serious secondary challenge.

It’s great for your profession. Both of those skills are great for your profession but not great if the mission changes to let’s understand what’s really going on deep under the surface, with no pretense. It’s like these therapists are no match are no match for it. You know, they’re not skilled enough to handle the verbal and mental presentation skills that you’re able to navigate. What’s your reaction?


Matt Gutman: 

Well, you’re making me some sort of savant of emotional and social navigation. I mean, I don’t know if I am, but there are really, and so there is a bit of a knock here against therapy, conventional psychotherapy, and that is that you can talk about issues, and you can think about it theoretically. But to get to the heart, I think, of the true pain that I think underlies a lot of people’s suffering is really, really hard to do through conventional therapy.

And which is why, for me, the altered states were so critical. I needed a nuclear bomb to blow me out of my comfort zone. And that’s what a lot of these altered states are. Some people can achieve it. So now like, after having done it for years and sometimes topping myself off and doing a mushroom journey here or there, I am able to go to the place of pain and cry on my own without being under the influence of anything. And that, to me, is the great achievement.

And, like, I talk about crying a lot, but crying is the best kind of therapy. I mean, you’re releasing oxytocin and serotonin and all these wonderful chemicals and hormones in your system, which are true salves to a lot of the pain that we feel on a daily basis. There’s a reason that kids cry when they get hurt, and way too much in our society, we try to staunch the tears. Right here, take this tissue. Stop crying. You know, take. Take care of yourself. Cover your face when you’re crying because it’s shameful. But I learned that it shouldn’t be, and then I’m okay with it.

And so there are all these ways of navigating this space, but just to touch upon something, I think you mentioned that it is super interesting, which is how we deal with other people. Humans are among the most cooperative species on the planet. And one of the things that really helped me understand panic attacks and to learn to hate myself a little less was learning about evolutionary psychiatry and psychology, and that is that humans had two major fears as we evolved. The first was the physical fear. Right? Like we were concerned, we feared that a lion would come bursting out of the savannah, and it would eat us, and we’d be dead.

That’s something that would be scary, or a rock fall would kill us. We die of starvation. Our progeny would die. Something like that. Something that would be immediate. A plane crash in modern times, immediate, catastrophic, and quick. The other fear was social rejection. Right? Because we are so dependent on living in cooperatives with other humans, cave groups, tribes, whatever it was going back, you know, 20,000 generations. And we lived that way for many, many, many thousands of generations. If we did something that would get us kicked out or said something stupid, upset the chief, whatever it was, it would get us kicked out of the group. Humans learn to associate that with the fear of death because you’d get kicked out of the cave, you’re going to be wandering the savannah, and a lion’s going to come and eat you when you’re alone, or you’ll die, or you’ll have an infection and die.

So, we learn to associate social rejection with something so scary that we experience it the same way we experience the fear of death, which is why we have panic attacks. So your body is willing for you to have a thousand false alarms, which is a panic attack. I’m going to get kicked out of my group for saying something stupid. I can’t do that again. This is really scary. Your body’s willing to have a thousand false alarms like that, so long as it doesn’t have a single missed alarm.

And that made me feel so much better about panics. I’m like, okay, it’s normal. Even though I thought it was abnormal. Humans have had this for many, many, many thousands of generations. And it’s actually part of an advantage, an evolutionary advantage because all your body cares about is for you not to get dead. So if a panic helps you not get dead, then that’s a good thing anyway. So, that was my own evolution of the way I started to frame panic in my own brain, which helped. And it also absolved me of, like, there’s a reason I care what other people think.

If I run afoul of this group, which I basically did, right, I said something bad, it got me rejected from my group. I almost lost the main form of sustenance that I had, which is my work. That’s a big scary thing that happens. And that was my fear that I would say something wrong and get kicked out of my group. And then my biggest fear essentially happened.


Greg McKeown: 

I mean, it’s trauma in its own right, like you’ve explored in this book and in this conversation, the traumas and experiences and unresolved issues that coalesced into that moment, right? And have impacted in important ways for yourself and then for others so many others who experience similar challenges. But then what you’ve just introduced is, well, the experience itself is traumatic, right? Like, there are all the things that led to that moment, but then there are all the things that then are processed from it and experienced from it. 

You know, this idea of the fear of being misunderstood, being akin to death, has multiple tentacles to it because you’re describing the risk of becoming socially outcast and what that does to our physical state. And there’s lots of evidence to suggest that the fear of being socially outcast or being socially outcast is a threat to our sense of identity, because our. Our identity is in no way independent of people, of other people. It’s co-created constantly. And so, a serious social rejection is extremely psychologically painful and damaging. But then, in addition to that layer, so let’s call that layer one and two, there’s one more, which is that, like, the first lesson our brains learn is that if we’re not heard, we will die because we’re all born as humans prematurely. And so it’s like, you have to be heard, or you’ll die. And so that’s an additional layer.

And so if you put even just those layers together, and that’s not the totality of all the reasons that this is so fear-inducing for humans. It’s so terrifying. But even those three alone, it’s like, right, it’s our greatest fear. Therefore, a greatest need outside of survival.


Matt Gutman: 

It is survival. If we are infants, we will die. And there’s the other thing, which is connection. If we do not connect as infants with our parents very quickly, we will die.


Greg McKeown: 

This lends itself, but we don’t have to go into a whole thing about this. But the father of the theory of attachment, you know, prior to his work, so this is Bawlby in England, prior to his work, of connecting all the dots, there was evidence of children dying in cots because they hadn’t received any human connection, you know, so they’re in orphanages and so on, and nobody knew why because they’re physically fine, but they literally die. So what you’re saying is not just metaphorically true, but it’s literally true. Right?

Because they weren’t being nurtured emotionally. And in connection, there were these examples of them just dying. Okay, so Bawlby comes along at the most astonishing period of emotional neglect, being built into the psychological theories of the time. So, at the time in England, he was born into this – he’s a gentleman’s son, he’s allowed to eat with his parents when he turns twelve. But that was only for dessert.

That says it all anyway, doesn’t it? But from that, what he would think of as emotional neglect, he started to piece together the theory of attachment, one of the most important psychological theories perhaps ever produced. That suggests not just that the relationship we have with our parents matters, age one to three, which is what he was really studying from zero to three, but that it’s a lifelong cradle-to-grave need.

That’s what we’re talking about underneath this is, is, will you be there for me? Will someone be there for me when the trauma comes? Is there someone to rely on amidst this? And although we have only touched upon it lightly, it does seem to me that your wife’s role in just going, hey, I’m just going to be here through you. Yep. This trauma is going to affect me, too. It’s going to affect life. It’s going to, but I’m going to. I’ll still be here with you is a non trivial part of how you’ve been able to navigate this and survive it and then even take it to make it a growth story. 

Why don’t you give us, why don’t you give us your last thoughts on all of these subjects, what you’ve learned, what you hope it will do for you in the future or wherever you’d like to take us.


Matt Gutman: 

I think you put it perfectly before, which is also in the book, which is. And people don’t love to hear this, but it is constant work. I am still working on it. I’m really fortunate in that panic doesn’t strike the same way as it used to. I’ve not full soaking through my underpants type of panic in years, and I’m grateful for that. But I can’t say that I never will. And I don’t want to ever say that I’m in remission from something that really affected my life in a pretty terrible way.

And I found my own path to get to a place of healing and a sense of comfort and to sort of reattach myself to the young Matt or the person who, like, knows inside that it’s going to be okay. And one of the images I have from, actually, ketamine is that you know, you’re off into space, you’re traveling. And I did three, like, intramuscular sessions where, you know, you’re on this teetering edge of consciousness. So you. You’re not quite sure you’re conscious, but you’re also not quite sure you’re out. You’re not completely blacked out. And so I’m I’m flying over this jungle. It’s just thick and lush, and I’m soaring over it, and I perch upon this cliff, and for some reason, my avatar, which I’m seeing, decides to take a nose dive straight into the dirt, into the turf, whatever, thousands of feet below.

But as I do that, the earth sort of rises to meet me. And, like, I really latched onto that because, in my mind, it’s like, oh, in the trust fall of life, I’ll be caught. It’s gonna be okay. And this, my whole life, I’m like, oh, I’m gonna be let down. I’m gonna be let down. I’m gonna fall through. And then that gave me this image of, like, no, we’re gonna be caught. It’s gonna be okay. And sort of that, that okayness has colored this whole period of recovery post-panic for me, and just, it’s been, you know, a nice thing.


Greg McKeown: 

Winston Churchill said, “There’s nothing so satisfying as being shot at and not dying.” 

You know, something about the idea that I’ve been through this. I’m still here. There’s a resilience inherent in that discovery, even with how uncomfortable and painful life can be. Matt Gutman, so thankful that you have taken the time to share with us your story, to expand on some of these explorations, for writing this book, and for being for being on the journey for being in the arena instead of, you know, it’s easy. It’s so easy to be a critic, isn’t it, in this world? But to be in the arena is where the contribution gets made. Matt, thank you for being on the podcast.


Matt Gutman: 

Thank you, Greg.