“The point of journalism is to tell the truth. It is not to improve society. There are facts and truths that feel regressive, but that doesn’t matter. The point of journalism isn’t to make everything better; it’s to give people accurate information about how things are.” – Sebastian Junger
“Who would you die for? What ideas would you die for?” – Sebastian Junger
If you want a better understanding of warriors, tribal societies, human nature, and what we can learn from it all, this is for you.
My podcast guest is Sebastian Junger (@sebastianjunger), the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Perfect Storm, Fire, A Death in Belmont, War, and Tribe. As an award-winning journalist, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and a special correspondent at ABC News, he has covered major international news stories around the world and has received both a National Magazine Award and a Peabody Award. Junger is also a documentary filmmaker whose debut film “Restrepo,” a feature-length documentary (co-directed with Tim Hetherington), was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
“Restrepo,” which chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, is widely considered to have broken new ground in war reporting. Junger has since produced and directed three additional documentaries about war and its aftermath.
In this episode, we cover rites of passage (and their importance), warfare, the art of great non-fiction writing, PTSD, evolutionary biology, and much more.
Some of the topics will no doubt offend many of you, and this is a good thing. I urge you to bite your lip, if need be, and listen to the entire episode. There are gems within, including hilarious stories, surprising statistics, and tear-jerking epiphanies.
If you only have 5 minutes and are rushed for time, check out this short segment about the surprising psychological effects of war.
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another podcast providing insights from lessons learned at war? — Listen to my conversation with Jocko Willink. He might be the scariest Navy SEAL alive. Learn what he taught me (stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What documentaries have you enjoyed the most? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Learn more and connect with Sebastian Junger:
- Selected interviews with Sebastian Junger:
Outside – Sebastian Junger is Done Talking About War | Outside – The Path of Most Resistance
- Watch Sebastian Junger’s TED talks:
Our Lonely Society Makes it Hard to Come Home from War
- Check out this biography of Thomas Paine by Craig Nelson
- Letters from a Stoic by Seneca (on Audible)
- Sebastian Junger’s first published piece, Towing the Line
- Learn more about the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency
- Read the Paris Review’s interview with John McPhee, The Art of Nonfiction No. 3
- Writing something? Try out Scrivener
- Learn more about Pontiac’s Rebellion
- At Play in the Fields of the Lord and The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- On Thomas Paine and stoic philosophy [6:11]
- The “chainsaw story” and how it supported his writing career [8:09]
- On athleticism and long distance running [12:31]
- How to develop a writing style [13:31]
- Why Sebastian Junger was drawn to journalism [15:09]
- Sebastian Junger’s writing style and the importance of structure [19:08]
- Commencement speech advice to those leaving high school [32:07]
- What inspired Sebastian Junger to go into a war-torn country [36:07]
- What are “skin walkers” [39:15]
- On striving for political correctness in gender [43:59]
- The Iroquois’s process for peace and how it relates to modern politics [50:29]
- Thoughts on the psychiatric effects of war [59:04]
- Thoughts on bringing primitive, war-time cohesion into our modern society [1:04:09]
- PTSD, the C-Train, and returning to New York City after being at war [1:08:14]
- On the lonely nature of society [1:12:01]
- On the prevalence of PTSD in elite special forces units vs. support units [1:19:25]
- How to “support the troops” [1:26:19]
- The story of Spain and the viking helmet [1:31:13]
- Thoughts on developing male closeness while decreasing violence [1:39:19]
- Thoughts on veterans becoming victims in society after they return from war [1:43:49]
- Photography/videography habits and the moment Sebastian became a war reporter [1:48:55]
- The story of Tim Hetherington and why Sebastian Junger stopped war reporting [1:54:07]
- The future of writing for Sebastian Junger [1:57:47]
- One thing anyone can do for a military veteran [1:59:01]
- When you think of the word successful, who is the first person who comes to mind and why? [2:04:02]
- How do you define courage? [2:04:12]
- Most gifted books [2:04:20]
- What do your close friends say you’re exceptionally good at? [2:05:22]
- If you could combine 3 different writers into one writer to create your ultimate writer, who would they be and why? [2:06:04]
- Advice to your younger self [2:06:33]
- What recent purchase has most positively impacted your life? [2:08:11]
- Something you believe, even though you can’t prove it [2:10:44]
- Habits and common practices of journalists you dislike [2:10:56]
- What do you think your 70-year-old-self would advise your current self? [2:12:27]
- How to know when you should write a book [2:14:58]
- If you could put one billboard anywhere, where would you put it and what would it say? [2:16:22]
- Final requests for the audience [2:18:27]
- Josh Waitzkin
- John McPhee
- Joan Didion
- Peter Matthiessen
- Ernest Hemingway
- William Faulkner
- Émile Durkheim
- David M. Maddox
- Tim Hetherington
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
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99 Replies to “Lessons from War, Tribal Societies, and a Non-Fiction Life (Sebastian Junger) (#161)”
Any connection to Ernst Junger?
Just starting to listen to this latest podcast of yours Tim and already I have to leave a message. This man, Sebastian is very, very interesting, and I love that he topped trees and that he did get injured but not killed. My father topped trees and eventually became a ‘gypo’ logger in Oregon. He eventually owned a small logging company, which gave me a college education and a summer job fire watching and knowledge that money is earned. My father was a God amoung men, a bull of the woods, yet, the one thing that got him, and he acknowledged that it was his own fault, was a chainsaw. Like your guest, it wasn’t life threatening or maining, but to my father it was a ‘slip’, a stupid mistake. These men should be honored, they are brave men doing dangerous jobs and they are so smart in so many ways, just to understand this one thing though…if I die, it will be my own fault.
Tim comprándose un hacha en 3…2…1
I’m listening to the podcast now, great start…
However, this podcast photograph doesn’t do him justice.
Tim, I hope you consider updating.
I have to disagree. That photo Tim, does the most justice, it shows Sebastian in his element, as a journalistic warrior, a man with a mission. In other words, it takes more than pen and paper to do journaism of this sort, it takes guts and environmental reality. The ‘justice’ in that photo is very deep…
Fabulous interview on so many levels. Thanks to both of you. I think the TimTribe who haven’t heard it yet will once again amazed. Thanks to Sebastian for just being in the world at the same time that we are all in the world…and somehow tribally connected into our own ‘group’ here just through this podcast.
Thank you Tim for this one! Very educational, made me think a lot, ask questions.
Such a deep conversation about human nature. Explains a lot about why society is so messed up right now.
My favorites from the show:
“That feeling of “us”, it buffers many people from their psychological demons”
“The earthquake gave us what the law promises but does not in fact deliver, which the equality of all men”
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What documentaries have you enjoyed the most?
I watched so many, hard to pick, will limit myself to 5.
Man on wire
Jiro dreams of sushi
At 1:24 the description of the Special Forces being calm and prepping before the attack reminded me of ancient accounts of the Spartans combing and dressing their hair before battle in a calm manner. I guess it is primate behavior.
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What documentaries have you enjoyed the most?
To Be and to Have (2002, Nicolas Philibert)
Apocalypse: The Second World War (2009)
Winged Migration (2001, Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud)
The Beaches of Agnès (2008, Agnès Varda)
Bowling for Columbine (2002, Michael Moore)
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997, Werner Herzog)
Our Daily Bread (2005, Nikolaus Geyrhalter)
March of the Penguins (2005, Luc Jacquet)
Daguerréotypes (1976, Agnès Varda)
The Sorrow and the Pity (1969, Marcel Ophüls)
Farrebique (1946, Georges Rouquier)
Hi Tim, here a recommendation for an interview guest: Dr. Charles Eugster.
First I would like to here you talking German, but more important Mr. Eugster is a fascinating person. Started rowing at the age of 63, started Bodybuilding at the age of 87 and started sprinting at the age of 95. Can I say more?
I really did love this one, but the idea of ‘truth’ in journalism is a tough one. We’re all coloured glass, when light shines through us we change its tint. I don’t think anybody, with the best will, is completely clear. Still, great talk. Love it.
Brilliance! I loved the discussion surrounding being opposed to a war yet still able to “support the troops,” who are willing to do whatever they are asked, regardless of what it is; tribal rites of passage that are missing from our modern society and all the ways we are separated; men v. women in terms of ways in which we support each other and how even if there are no men or women in a group, someone will step in to take that role. Engaging, informative and just plain genuine!
Been following Sebastian’s work since his reporting for Vanity Fair in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He ( and his partnership with the late Tim Heatherington – chk out Sebastian’s emotional and powerful eulogy for Tim here http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/2011/04/sebastian-junger-remembers-tim-hetherington-201104 ) are one of the main reasons why i am moving from a comfortable life as middle aged Executive Recruiter into austere environment broadcasting ( i.e documentary from the world’s conflict zones interrupted by the odd Hollywood TV and Film script)
I am very impressed Tim you got Sebastian on a podcast – to me he is a mixture of Robert Capa and Hemingway… a true original in a world that would rather “fake it then make it”.
And Tim my thanks to you also – the 4hr series, the podcasts have continually supported me in what most of my family & friends say is a crazy idea
“You are going to jack in a comfortable life in London to be a conflict documentary maker???”
Yeah, but as Seneca says…
“So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.”
Time to “drink up” me thinks.
Thank you for the comment and good on you, Bharat, for drinking from the rapid stream! Best of luck with your new missions and adventures. May they be challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
Just reading the Paris Review interview with John McPhee – what an exceptional individual – and his description of writing non-fiction has brought into focus what i have been doing for the last few years when i write my screenplays & tv series.
I wrote a TV series about an Airplane crash and the subsequent investigation and it took me three years to assemble the material before deciding where to begin.
Currently I am preparing a documentary “Blood and Lipstick” about 4 female conflict journalists who reported from Syria – again lots of material, footage to review, interviews to conduct and then to find the structure.
Thanks to you both Tim, Sebastian for introducing me to work and philosophy of John McPhee.
Pura vida, indeed.
As a lifelong journalist, I have to disagree with Sebastian’s concept that journalism isn’t about making things better. The entire point of journalsim is to champion the underdog, bring to light injustices, educate readers to circumstances, situations, events and the nuances they’re unaware of so that they are armed with the information they need to make the changes they need to, to ultimately make the world a better place. Certainly truth and facts are the cornerstone of reporting. But really, what’s the point if it doesn’t evoke change???
Recently saw Sembene. It was entirely African representations of Africans! Refreshing.
“I am not your guru” is a Tony Ribbins documentary going live on Netflix July 15. I attended its premiere in Toronto a few weeks ago. I promise that in some parts, you will catch yourself with your jaw dropped. What a gift Tony is, that he has learned to interpret our human nature and uses it to help people literally survive and thrive. It’s a rare ‘feel good’ documentary directed by Joe Berlinger.
Sorry. That’s supposed to say Tony Robbins
I have seen an early copy and have to agree. Tony is one impressive fellow.
I love what you’re doing! This podcast really hit home with me. Thank you for your work and exposing your listeners to all the invaluable insights imparted by your ridiculously awesome cast of interviewees. Keep up the great work!
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What documentaries have you enjoyed the most?
“Searching for Sugar Man”
“Camino de Santiago Documentary: Santiago’s Gift”
Thank you for the work you’re doing! I have gained invaluable insights from listening and found a place where my thirst for new ideas and ways of looking at the world can be quenched!
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What documentaries have you enjoyed the most?
“Searching for Sugar Man”
“Camino de Santiago Documentary: Santiago’s Gift”
Junger podcast made me late for work.. Best one yet, from a Tim Ferris junkie. Intellectually rich and no one else could do such an interview mixing up with wine and stoicism. His mind remids me of Feinstein ‘surely you are not joking.
Don’t fully agree with the journalism comment because truth is often not clear, “is the glass half empty” Also, journalist carry an magnifying glass and they may get the bullet right, but the gun wrong.
Another great podcast Tim! Sebastian has certainly endeared himself to the combat veteran community and we appreciate his work.
To help you out a bit with the terminology you were searching for at 1:19:45, it would be conventional forces (as opposed to special operations).
Thank you for the vocab help 🙂
I really love the documentary The Parking Lot Movie. It focuses on an interesting societal intersection– those who work at a busy parking lot, and those who use it.
Another great interview Tim. You mention your interest in PTSD. You should really talk to Tom & Scot Spooner. Google their NRA Life of Duty videos or their foundation Elder Heart / Mission22. These are brothers who served as Special Operations soldiers (at the very tip of the spear) and now help veterans with PTSD & TBI.
This is a really great podcast, I enjoyed the topics you both covered and the way the conversation flowed. Thank you for the entertainment and the book recommendations.
My favorite documentaries from late are the following:
The climate hustle
The Big Short
An atheists worst nightmare
Fluoride poison on tap
State of mind: The psychology of mind control
On striving for political correctness in gender, check out Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine; I think you’ll find it interesting, Tim.
Wow. That was great. But for the life of me I can’t figure out what parts would offend somebody? That Men and Woman may actually be different? Mandatory Civil service may unite the country? Bro, you’ve been in SF for too long. 🙂
Hahaha… maybe so!
Arghh Tim I’m searching the internet for the “offence” quote that you mentioned in the podcast but I’m getting nowhere. Help a sister out, por favor!
I totally agree. I’m at a loss to see anything offensive in this great podcast.
Heavy, deep, great!
Plus I like the way you don’t go on after the answer to your question. You just go to the next question. Cool style..
Mr Junger I read your book about fire around when I was a bushfire professional in Australia during fire seasons equal to the most volatile the country has ever experienced in modern time. i was moved and impressed by how your brought a journalistic approach to the subject. Your language and presence as an observer and how you communicated this presence, spoke to me far and beyond the actual subject matter of fire.
LAURA POITRAS you all as a film maker in general but also here in the context of war reporting. I am guessing you hold her in high esteem, Mr Junger. All her works are important but to consider a different angle of war is the war the US government is committing against its own people and against the rest of the world, as detailed in the gripping CITIZEN FOUR, and RISK just premiered at Cannes Film Festival
MAGNUM PHOTOGRAPHY INC is not an obvious answer to the question what is your favourite documentary. However it is documentary film : of the still frame variety. Before TV, people received their news of the world via print media. Those images around the world were taken by magnum photographers. All the images we have in our minds of historical events – Kennedy, Ghandi, Cambodia, Cuba – they were all taken by Magnum Photographers. to this day, having Magnum after your name is the highest accolade a photographer can have.
Browsing the works of Magnum photographers have literally changed my life. Not because of the content per se. But because of the taut, sheer, stark aesthethic. Because of the style. Because of the energy – the sheer artistry. The ART they bring to photo journalism in the trenches of history has thrilled and excited me.
there is a biography ”MAGNUM, 50 YEARS ON THE FRONT LINE OF HISTORY” on their 50th birthday which is an amazing read. The new recruits were tested on probation by being thrown into the most extreme environments, with only one piece of parting advice “whatever happens, no matter what, never give up your film”
everyone says ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN is their favourite film about journalism. Including Laura Poitras for that matter. It is not a documentary but is a virtual exact retelling of real events which is the expose of what happened with Nixon before it became public. It is also unusual in that it features an approach to journalism that doesn’t exist so much anymore. Which is leather on the pavement, interviewing people and piecing facts together through hard work. that happens far less than one might imagine, these days. I’m interested in what Mr Junger has to say about that, in fact
(my suggestions in capitals for accessibility)
Thank you for the very thorough comment!
sorry I meant I am recommending the documentaries of Laura Poitras in general to you all, as she is exclusively concerned with war reporting. Citizen Four received an Oscar, and Risk has just premiered…
Great interview, which offered me many insights into the male rite of passage and bonding experiences. As an American-born (yes, a fellow Long Islander…Farmingdale) mother of three sons who all saw serious combat serving in the Israeli army (husband, too), I found many of Sebastian’s comments regarding that “brotherhood” of dependence and tight relations to ring oh so true – and also the need for them to “find themselves” upon discharge (long trips to South America or the Far East…they come back better than were when they left, that’s for sure). I myself participate in a male dominated sport and while training with the guys, often find myself feeling “out of the loop” when it comes to their inside jokes and nicknames. Now that I know it’s an evolutionary thing, I feel so much better! Thanks for this one and for all your amazing work, Tim. I just feel so lucky to be exposed to the people whose world you let me enter – the podcast has made a big difference in the quality of my own life.
Thank you so much for listening (and commenting), Jill! It means a lot.
Great podcast! I recently started listening and Sebastian was a guest that blew me away. So much eye opening information in this two hours. Thank you for the work you’re doing Tim!
In response to documentaries I have enjoyed:
Searching for Sugar Man
Camino de Santiago Documentary: Santiago’s Gift
As a veteran, Sebastien’s perspective on on the impact of war on soldiers and society is as good as I’ve heard or read anywhere. Nice work.
Awesome discussion! I love the subject of human nature and sociology, and had a great time learning about this guest. I must now go check out his work! Thanks Tim!
Thanks so much for expanding my liberal pacifist horizon, and for the insights and clues regarding the toxic political climate in the US (same trend here in Europe).
This was as eye-opening for me as reading Elias Canetti’s “Crowds and Power” years ago. Mr. Junger probably knows it.
Tim – I don’t know how I never thought of it until now, but when you asked Sebastian “How can we simulate crises like war that bring people together?” I had a thought that gave me goosebumps. Two simulations/events for you to explore, both of which I’ve participated in and had similar mental and emotional effects on me to what Sebastian outlined:
1. GORUCK Challenge
2. Rugby Union (15-a-side)
Two future interview opportunities for you that would be fascinating:
1. Jason McCarthy – former Green Beret, founder of GORUCK.
2. (The Legendary) Coach Jack Clark, head coach of Cal Berkeley Men’s Rugby and widely considered one of the top coaches in the world of any sport, and one of the best coaches to ever grace the sport of rugby, AND he’s in your backyard of San Francisco. Coach Clark is only the sixth head coach at Cal in 134 years of history, and under his leadership the Cal Bears have won 27 of the past 37 US National Championships.
I can’t recommend enough that you get in touch with Coach Clark and explore more of the rich history of rugby as a team sport/”simulation”.
Great idea on Coach Clark! I’ll check him out. Thank you.
I just want to have this noted. I liked the podcast episode very much and Sebastien is a cool dude! The bottom line about his thoughts on war is that it makes men mature, it brings cohesion to the community, sense of direction and all that is paradoxically linked to some kind of health benefits. This is undeniable as understood. There was a lot of talk about the fundamental role of war for mankind throughout history. The “good” sides of war were being inspected. Before the show you said “bite your lip and listen” for a reason and I have listened and now I am eligible to comment and say that I can’t help but notice that Sebastien perspective on war is a view on war for sports. He wanted to get mature and make a living of it. But that is not the war. As soon as he felt war on his skin when a friend of his, the photographer was killed and bled out, he quits his job completely. Well, that is war! People you love die, get hurt, you get hurt, you see mutilated bodies and so on. So, that moment spoke more correctly of the essence of war then the previous stuff. He got to choose if he wants to involve in war and how and as soon as he felt what the war is really about he naturally backed out. People and countries affected by war can not back out and say I quit and their perspective is the genuine perspective.
amazing conversation, also recommend his google talk (on youtube) that I watched after listening to this. Junger’s ideas on tribalism is a necessary idea to bring into the modern PC discourse as it is still very much in play. (Example: the failed integration of many immigrants in Europe)
That was an intriguing and fascinating podcast. Appreciate what you are doing!
Can you try hire someone else to interview people ?
He sometimes says interesting things, other times he says dumb things.
His case study info is good.
Pay a man in india to fight your wars
PTSD. Sadly there is very little public understanding of what’s actually going on with vets and others that experience it. Put quite simply, PTSD is a combination of guilt and shame. We are somehow convinced that going to another country and killing people is a virtuous thing to do. How could that possibly be true? Here’s an example. What made Saddam evil? He killed a bunch of Iraqis. What was our response? To kill a bunch of Iraqis. Nothing virtuous going on there. While the conscious mind has been convinced that they’re doing something honorable the subconscious realizes the conflict. It sees through the propaganda. That is why soldiers have PTSD. The ones who do experience combat feel guilt and shame for killing and seeing their friends injured and killed while they survived.
The reason soldiers who don’t experience combat have PTSD is the same. Guilt and shame. They had friends who fought while they didn’t. Fellow soldiers who were injured or killed while they did nothing. Same with journalists, peacekeepers, Peace Corps, these people have guilt and shame because they’ve witnessed these atrocities, or at least the effects of them, and they couldn’t do anything to stop it from happening to those people. Guilt and shame.
Look up a guy named Pete Gerlach on YouTube. He’s a Family Systems Therapist. He gives the best explanation of PTSD I’ve heard. He also gives the only plausible explanation of bi-polar I’ve ever heard. (And I’ve asked several mental health professionals with no good explanation)
P.S. You should interview Stefan Molyneux.
I’m very grateful for this interview. Your questions created the conditions for a diologue to surface that needs to be heard by the American public. Not since J. Needleman’s, The American Soul: Rediscovering The Wisdom of the Founders, have I heard such intelligent and prophetic discourse on this country’s state. I intend to set up a Vet Town Hall in my town of Oakland CA, if there isn’t already one in the works. Thanks Tim for walking your talk, making a difference and creating a platform for a great thinker.
Thank you, Robin. When you set up the Vet Town Hall in Oakland, please let me know. I’m right over the bridge 🙂
wow. amazing guest. intense and much needed topics for society to re-weave back into the culture.
It was good and necessary. Vital even. But after, as my subconscious was processing all that I’d heard, I found myself with a horrible horrible feeling.
Usually I’m left hopping mad or in mournful tears when I hear the tales of war, of PTSD, of scrambled vet brains we fail to properly address, of our failure to integrate them back into society in meaningful ways (to them for us). This wasn’t that feeling.
This was very different.
We are so far from becoming integrated humans, from effectively wielding our feminine and masculine traits.
In our explorations of both we have created a society that fails both.
This is too big for me to solve.
Realizing just how far we’ve got to go to create the kind of society I envision is necessary, but insanely disheartening.
Thanks Tim, for lettin me work through that feeling a bit on your forum … excellent guest, excellent topics, much much work yet to be done to see integrated humans overtaking my planet …
step1 – true awareness of the problem …
Absolutely loved this podcast. Sebastian Junger was great!
I’m a long time listener and a possible early adopter of your content. I think I listened to 4 Hour Work Week in 2008 or 09. Great stuff, I think you’ve truly found a groove with this podcast.
I had to comment after listening to Sebastian’s interview. Loved it. I retired from the military last August, and I was nodding my head (giving you the drinking duck) for the entire podcast. I could have listened for another 10 hours, seriously. When Sebastian mentioned letting Veterans tell their stories, my eyes immediately welled. My own reaction caught me totally by surprise.
It is weird. Combat was very likely my greatest professional hour, and my family, friends (with whom I didn’t deploy), and others have absolutely no idea about it. There are numerous things/achievements/efforts that I take pride in, but the idea of a ‘town hall’ scenario hit me in the gut.
Adversity does bring us together. Team building is a very simple equation: collective suffering + breaking bread = cohesive unit. Problem is most of us don’t want to suffer, obviously, because it sucks.
Kelly and I produce a race up and down stairs at this amazing stadium in Tacoma, Washington. We have an animal rescue, and both of us hate dinner auctions, so it is our way to raise money. Anyway, the stairs are an equalizer. They exact the same toll from everyone. The stairs make you a mouth-breather.
The organic sense of community that arises each year is amazing. We added a formula to this year’s race: Grit City Effort + Shared Struggle = Kindred Connection.
We decided that the race is more than a fundraiser, it is an opportunity to build community through shared, demanding experience.
This race is enough to shatter the ego momentarily for everyone to see each other authentically–but both you and Sebastian also mentioned purpose, belonging, a sense of being needed. That is beyond the scope of our small event.
Oh–I’ve been thinking about this as well. You have a great sense of humor, and it comes through the podcast all the time.
My own suggestion: Steven Pressfield. He’s fantastic. His blog is terrific, and I think a discussion between the two of you would be riveting.
Have a great holiday weekend.
Brian, thank you so much for your comment. This all (and Pressfield) are things I’m going to be thinking about at length. Really appreciate you sharing your thoughts!
Rites Of Passage for Boys/Men!
I was speaking with a dad about his 13 year old son about this, sharing some of what the podcast had mentioned.
I looked through, but didn’t see any of Sebastian’s books directly addressing ideas on how to fix that problem.
Is there one in the works?
Maybe it’s in a chapter?
Anyone have any good resources they’ve used & been pleased with the results?
thanks a mil!
I have listened to sooooo many of your podcasts and this was by far my most favourite. It was really deep, full of interesting content… Ah fuck it, i loved it and thats what matters! Peace and love x
Great podcast as usual! Thank you! You asked Mr. Junger what some types of “practice emergencies” were that people could do to get the positive effects that bond us together as a tribe in emergencies. He mentioned things like his boxing gym. I think another, which was not mentioned is the whole CrossFit movement. Like Mr. Junger’ boxing gym at my CrossFit box we have many people from all walks of life who would never consider hanging out together under normal circumstances. They come in and “suffer” together during their one hour workout doing very difficult things, which brings them together as a “tribe” most of whom would be willing to do anything for each other! It is really quite amazing! Other similar types of controlled stress that I have personally witnessed that do great jobs of the same things are GORUCK and SEALFIT. Some great podcast guest ideas for the future I believe would be Greg Glassman (founder of CrossFit), Mark Divine (founder of SEALFIT), Mike Barwis (founder of Barwis Methods) and the founder of GORUCK. Thank you for all that you do and for changing my life for the better with the “4 Hour Work Week”!
“Who would you die for? What ideas would you die for?”
Instant and immediate perspective on what should be the most important things in your life.
Many thanks (again) Tim for the amazing podcasts.
– Carl Kruse
Tim, have you read “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts? It’s written, I think, from a very similar perspective in terms of tribal/community dynamics and what masculinity and femininity mean within a tribal context, as well as duty and justice to oneself, one’s community and whatever one considers one’s God. It’s a fictionalized memoire of the author’s transition from escaped convict/heroine-addicted armed robber in Australia to slum doctor in Bombay, India to black market hustler, to moujahidin soldier in Afghanistan. It’s phenomenal.
Great podcast! Just stumbled upon this greatness.
In a recent podcast you called “fat shaming” bullshit, then said that you wanted to help people lose weight.
While you don’t appear to shame people for being fat, you condone it or maybe just don’t reject it outright.
Either way, when someone has an issue with over eating or eating compulsively, they often do it specifically because they are constantly being criticized. The criticism itself doesn’t matter, it is simply the act of being harassed that causes them to find more comfort inn compulsive eating.
I am sure you know this and are not trying to be mean. I really like your work, and have benefited from it, but I hope your opinion evolves and on this.
An absolutely excellent podcast. A deep discussion of what manhood is and can be in today’s world is sorely lacking. This podcast went a long way to entering that conversation in a thoughtful, meaningful way. I am impressed by Sebastian Junger’s work, his experiences and his observations. Most importantly, I am impressed with his thoughtful insights into what it means to be male today. The stories about male companionship really hit a cord. I wish there were more discussion about these topics without devolving into stereotypes, cliches and tropes. Tim, your podcast continues to impress me as the one place for intelligent conversation about loaded, touchy subjects that many, frankly, on the left or the right of the political spectrum are too timid to take on. I thank you for having the guts to lead that conversation and for highlighting the work of some like Junger. When too much of the media landscape is littered with fake punditry, this podcast continues to be an oasis.
At about 1hr 10 minutes, Sebastian describes a condition similar to PTSD that isn’t quite PTSD, Dr Kevin Gilmartin has a book and conducts seminars on a similar thing, he describes a physiological response to stress and the “rollercoaster” effect of being in and out of stressful situations. Definitely worth a look and maybe an interview.
Tim & Sebastian,
Thanks for a great and thought-provoking episode. I’m not a soldier, but I am a former EMT/Firefighter, and the discussion of returning vets totally resonated with me. I have a high-paying office job now as a lawyer (my time in the fire service was just for a few years in my early twenties), but I often get overcome with anxiety and long for a time in the firehouse waiting for the tones to drop to send me out on a call.
Listening to this podcast episode has really helped me understand why it is that I feel the way I do. I used to be ashamed when I would long for a time when I was responding to horrendous car accidents. I guess I felt that it was perverse for me to want to do those things just for the adrenaline, or for the power/authority that came along with the job. I’m now starting to realize that it has more to do with the mission-focused atmosphere of the fire department, and the tribal appeal of working with a small group of men on a dangerous and important mission.
I don’t feel as ashamed about having these longings now, but I have to figure out a way to replace the psychological benefits I got from the fire service without quitting my job. Sometimes I wish that I had never got a taste of that life, because my friends and co-workers seem perfectly content.
Tim, you have a huge positive impact on the lives of so many people.
I was eager to read Sebastian’s book “Tribe”, and found myself annoyed it launches the kindle edition only next month.
To share some books I’ve read only because of you (and probably would not have heard of otherwise): “The Art of Learning”, “Spartan-Up!”, “Lying”, “The Moral Landscape”, “Anything You Want”. Plus the 4 hour triad.
I listen to every podcast of ”Waking Up” by Sam Harris and Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.
And I think this quality of your, of sharing openly your “secrets” it’s one the best one could hope for. Thanks, again.
Amazing interview! my favorite part: balancing between the courage to explore and commitment to stay is hard. have the courage to enter the unfamiliar things in this world of unfolding set of opportunities and possibilities , but have the wisdom top stop exploring when you find something that worth sticking around! -Sebastian Junger
Tim, this was the best episode for a while – Seb has a great voice and an even better life story – quick question, why are the books he recommended not here ? Books he would give away – he mentioned one that he was going to start giving away – I never heard properly -thought I would retrieve from The show notes ?? Thanks for all your work . Best from Scotland
Each time I wonder “can this interview be bettered”, you get another guest who just does that. But, this one will really, really take some effort to better. Keep going!!!
Great great episode! Thank you, gents!
What was the website/organization that Sebastian was talking about, that is going to host Veterans speaking in Town&City halls on Veteran’s Day?
I want to get extra backlinks to my weblog, however don’t know the place to purchase high quality backlinks.
The costs of isolated modern living were contrasted at length with the benefits of living in a small community. One way to obtain these benefits is to emulate the Dutch: build infrastructure that supports communal living. Dutch communal apartments have common areas for socializing, leisure, and cooking in addition to the usual separated apartments. Search ‘Dutch communal living’ and ‘happiness documentary Dutch communal living’ for more details.
Great respect for Junger, and his cultural analysis. Also, I appreciate the delicacy with which he addresses women’s and men’s roles. Adding to discussion of women’s roles: It would be a lot easier for women to jump down onto the tracks and save the child were we not wearing heels. In this way, and in many more significant ways, women’s agency is diminished, actively supressed, and passively repressed by powerful cultural forces, shaping societies, and individuals, since the agricultural revolution reorganized human grouping. Our laws enshrine our lack of gender equality, and forcibly diminish women’s agency. The prohibition on women voting seemed reasonable, at the time, because women were a dependent of their husband or father; so, their views would be dependent, as their agency was less their own. While we, as a society, no longer support this prohibition we still have a tendency towards interpreting women as possessing less agency. An example of prohibition relating to diminished agency in women is seen in the prohibition of prostitution. When considering a man performing a consensual transactional sex act with another man it is likely that this individual will be taken as, more squarely, making the choice to do so; whereas, his female counterpart’s consent is often portrayed as somehow not quite consent (Were it a woman he was undertaking to sell sex to, he would simply be seen as one lucky f**ker.). This gender disparity becomes more glaring when the Swedish Model of sex law is considered, where the discussion is around female sex workers and male sex buyers. In this model, female sex workers are not breaking the law, and thus not responsible for their choice to sell sexual services; whereas, male sex buyer are breaking the law, and so, responsible for their choice to buy sexual services. As responsibility is representative of agency, it is clear that the female sex worker is legally possessing of less agency. The fact that a single consensual act undertaken by–indeed requiring–two adults could be interpreted as legal for the female participant and illegal for the male participant reflects a bias against women’s agency’s so deeply entrenched that we are willing to overlook the logical and legal flaw of a single consensual action being both a crime and not a crime. Consensual sex with a person of diminished capacity, such as a mentally or developmentally challenged individual, or a child, would reasonably be considered to be a crime for the perpetrator but not the victim because the victim is, reasonably, interpreted as incapable of making the choice to consent. In the context of Swedish Model law, the female prostitue is considered incapable of making the choice to consent. Moreover, this strategy is described as reducing demand, in so far as it punishes the buyer, which is purported to decrease demand for sexual service, allegedly resulting in fewer sexual service sellers. Such that, the route to changing women’s behavior is to change men’s outcomes, rather than appealing, directly, to the women themselves. Economic necessity is often the driver of a decision to sell sexual services. This pressure is reflexively interpreted as invalidating the decision of the female sexual service seller but not the male sexual service seller, as a result of differences in perceived agency: Jack needs rent; Jack decides to sell sexual services; Jack pays his rent. Jill needs rent; Jill decides to sell sexual services; Jill pays her rent. In Jack’s case we may question his decision; but we don’t question he made a decision. In Jill’s case, we do. From the standpoint of legislating agency it is as important to believe a woman when she says, I consented to that sex act, as its to believe her when she says, I did not consent to that sex act. All of this is, simply, to illustrate that we have deep cultural biases against women’s agency which result in functional limitation of our freedoms and our choices. I, myself, am a jump down on the track to save the child kinda gal. That’s just how I am. I would jump down before I even thought about whether or not I would jump down. I would not be able to not jump. Am I more male? Or am I just me? Either way, the tendency for men to jump down more than women is about more than the neural hardware on which our cultural software runs.
Tim & Sebastian: This is one of the deepest, most wide-ranging, and important interviews I’ve heard on the show. It’s been on my mind for the last week. Thanks.
Regarding society / social structure and stress, see Robert Sapolsky’s work. He talks about the influence of hierarchy on stress, genetic propensity or lack thereof to stress, and the myth that primate societies must be hierarchical or cannot be changed. I kept thinking back to this as I listened to Sebastian talk about the Iroquois.
Regarding touch deprivation, check out Tiffany Field’s book “Touch” [MIT Press]. Also, I would suggest that (single) veterans take up tango. Tango, as Tim knows, prizes physical and emotional connection, as well as expression.
Finally, one for Tim, as regards spending a lot of time alone in the apartment: “Solitude is dangerous to reason, without being favorable to virtue.” — Dr Johnson
Great interview, thanks.
A formative book for me was one called “Iron John – A Book About Men” by Robert Bly – it’s a bit self indulgent in its style, but it introduces the idea of male-specific rites of passage through a deconstructed fairy tale. It’s something we’ve struggled with in recent years I think, trying to recognize what male values are, promote and maintain them without that being to the detriment of women or society at large. Sebastian gives a couple of great examples and treads that line carefully.
I loved this, but one question you asked that wasn’t answered was along the lines of – and what can we do now in society to create something for young men to feel that sense of belonging.
I have my own ideas re sports and learning but would like to have heard more. This is another guest that I would be great for you to have back on again.
Pay Attention! Here are some extraordinary resources for healing PTSD, and are relevant for everyone even if you don’t think you need them. Unless, that is, you never have suffered trauma, never will, and never will encounter anyone whom has.
1. Human Givens : A New Approach to Emotional Health and Clear Thinking . Joseph Griffin & Ivan Tyrrell
this is number one on this list for a reason. It has turned upside down concepts and practices about social/health/psychiatric care. It is the foundation for a new approach to counselling, which is already being implemented. the Human Givens approach has been tremendous in treating PTSD, addiction, domestic violence – all manner of issues, extremely succesfully. (the ‘Givens’ in the title refers to needs – the number of needs we have that must be met, or else addiction or trauma or dysfunction of some kind results) . I know a physican who went out and bought about 15 copies of this book at their own expense, to hand out to people, they were that impressed.
PS. There’s an exercise in the appendix for addressing trauma, i know people whom have said one single practice of it turned the volume way down on a traumatic episode. It’s a ‘double disassociation’ whereby one reimagines the trauma twice removed.
2. Babette Rothschild 8 Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery
She is a highly respected pioneer in this field
Also her ‘Flashback Protocol’ (not in the book) which is a spoken exercise that takes about a minute that rapidly cuts through a flashback by bringing one back into the present. It reconciles the observing self with the experiencing self. Deceptively simple but extremely powerful. And every time you practice it, it continues to build new neural pathways and continues to wear out the old pathways of trauma. So, it is literally rewiring you physiologically.
Her perspective is on the body and neural pathways, circumventing the trauma response in the amygdala as quickly as possible (the part of the brain where fight or flight response happens ) to get ones awareness back into the ‘higher brain’ and create new neural pathways into the body, into a
better place, rather than just rehashing trauma over and over like a stuck record, which is what ‘talking therapy’ and other cathartic style methods use.
Dont get caught up on my descriptions though, for better or worse – read this book!
3. Complex PTSD – From Surviving to Thriving Pete Walker
This book and the author come with extremely glowing recommendations from very wise and experienced
practitioners and therapists – and all the people whom have read it at their suggestion, also.
4. Waking The Tiger : Healing Trauma Peter A Levine
another seminal classic in this field, a bit older than the above. Highly regarded and referred to
I think you’d like the book The Body Keeps Score. It wraps up a lot of thinking about PTSD & trauma into one book. Changed the way I view it all and has a tremendous impact on my life.
I took my Dad (a Vietnam vet) to a book signing and talk with Mr. Junger yesterday. It opened up a whole new conversation with my father, who confirmed everything that Tribe discusses. Even so, this book has an application much broader than military. The concept and challenges of having a unified country (or “tribe”) of millions of people was discussed. Thank you for introducing me to Mr. Junger, his work is important and something I will continue to follow. -Amanda
My fave interviews on the show: Love the interview with the young rock climber and also The Navy Seal was just amazing interview. Superlative interviews.
Some favourite docs:
– Mugabe and the White African
– Man on Wire
– Searching for Sugar Man
– The Salt of the Earth
– Inequality for all
– Which way is the front line from here
– Five Broken Cameras
– Beneath the Veil
– Death in Gaza
– The Invisible War
Hi Sebastian and Tim,
My father, Jonathan Shay, MD, PhD wrote two books on PTSD and got a MacArthur Fellowship for his efforts to stop PTSD before it even starts through re-education of the military to stop PTSD-inducing practices inherent within the modern military.
The two books are “Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character” and “Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming”. He’s combined Homer’s classics with psychiatry and military history, showing that Homer’s Iliad clearly outlines how a soldier acquires PTSD and how Homer’s Odyssey showcases the worst example of leadership in the world and what not to do as a leader, as evidenced by Odysseus’ actions and behavior.
My father disagrees with the biological psychologists and branches of psychology because they do not account for the cultural context for PTSD, namely the betrayal of cultural definition of “what’s right”. That fundamentally, PTSD is a violation of trust by the commanding authority, whether the commanding authority is the commanding officer or the superstructure above the individual soldier (the “military” in general, the “government” or otherwise). In short, a huge portion of PTSD is caused by, as my father puts it, “Leadership Malpractice”.
My father also says that moral danger is interpreted in the body as physical danger and betrayal is interpreted as outright physical attack: that PTSD is the perpetuation of legitimate combat survival mechanisms into civilian life, where the betrayal of trust was so bad, that one is in a near-constant survival state.
Taken in this context, we can now understand how PTSD is not just for combat veterans, but for anyone who has experienced harsh betrayal by someone in authority, be it a parent, a teacher, a government organization, a clergy member, or employer.
Sebastian (or Tim) If you would like a personal introduction to my father, I’d be happy to make the connection.
Tim: I have read your books since 2010 and have followed him on the blog for about 5 years and have listened to almost all the podcasts. I’m a big fan of the podcast and PTSD is a definitely an issue that people need more education about.
Thank you all your work as a modern teacher, broadcasting to millions instead of 15-20 students at a time in a small classroom. I think you will get your wish of educating 9th-10th graders. I’ve already noticed you’ve started asking this question to your podcast guests. Perhaps your next book is a collection of wisdom and resources for the 9th-10th grade demographic, perhaps used in more forward-thinking schools as a template for a year’s study in a specialized ‘social studies’ class or something.
All the best,
Sam Shay, Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Functional Neurologist.
As a substitute for tribe-military life that Tim asked Sebastian, I would propose making the St. James way in Spain(or any other equivalent long distance trek). It’s simple and social, just wake up, walk, eat, sleep. Always in a route and in hostels that are shared with dozens of other pilgrims during weeks. There is a special feeling when you get to Santiago that it’s hard to describe, experiences, moments and new friends, it lets you with an emptiness feeling once you return to your normal life.
I highly recommend it. Since I did it 12 years ago I’ve been thinking in how it could be therapeutic for people with depression, how it makes work our inner nomad. With the explanations of Sebastian it makes even more sense in an anthropological way.
Fascinating! Thank you so much. Early human societies had both news carriers, which were the first journalists, and storytellers. News carriers told the truth, providing factual information so that decisions — often life and death decisions — could be made. They used important facts to attract and hold attention. Storytellers used many devises — e.g., metaphor, alliteration, fantastic characters and events — to attract and hold attention. Both forms of information sharing influence behavior — one could argue that that is their function.
An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I believe that you
should publish more about this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but usually people do not discuss such topics.
To the next! Many thanks!!
Thank you for this interview it was very insightful, as well as most of your interviews.
I got the book Tribe after listening and really enjoyed it.
I found it interesting when he was talking about the Israeli army, as I am from Israel, to add an interesting fact, talking about PTSD in veterans, in Israel, Memorial day is a day where everyone gets together to support anyone who has lost a loved one in battle, the radio is playing only touching sad music, every school has a ceremony commemorating the soldiers, veterans and those who have lost their lives and honoring them and their families. A siren goes off where everyone in the country stops everything they are doing to stand up for a minute paying respects to those who have lost their lives. It is a very emotional day.
The evening of memorial day is the beginning of independence day, our 4th of july. A celebration follows the day of honoring the price we had to pay and still have to pay to enjoy our independence, remembering that it is not without a price and not to be taken for granted. We have similar ceremonies once a year commemorating the Holocaust and honoring survivors.
Those practices are important for an integration of people in society and are some of the reasons PTSD rates are so low despite the high percentage of people going to war.
Another thought I’m having is how the book and interview were predominantly talking about males, it would be an interesting conversation to understand the female causes of PTSD which I suspect have a lot to do with portrail of women in the media and the trickling effect that is causing most feminine issues from eating disorders to working in the Sex industry to depression and so forth
Tim, any activities you’d recommend to someone wanting to “initiate” themselves? Would wrestling and/or BJJ be a good vessel? I’d say boxing, but I don’t want to risk head injuries as a 20-something knowledge-worker.
I just listened to this podcast (I took a break from podcasts but am catching up on your show) and really enjoyed the conversation but disagreed with one of the points made.
I am a Veteran of the U.S. Army and deployed to Afghanistan as a Combat Medic. I do not think it is as simple to claim PTSD for VA disability benefits as it is made out to on the podcast. I know plenty of people who saw extensive combat, that even with claiming it, are not actually being compensated for it. I know many people who tried to get help for PTSD and are told they don’t have it.
Yes, there certainly are people claiming it and taking advantage of the situation but it is not anything automatic just because someone says they have it.
So, what’s the best axe?
I’m part way through the podcast and got to the PC part. While I’ve seen you talk about and post some ways that the PC culture has gone too far and I can definitely agree with the examples of yours that I have come across. That story that was mentioned about the sharks on the Foxx interview as a great example. I thought I’d do a google check in on the example given in this interview about males doing most of the jumping in during an emergency as I thought it could go either way. So what did I find? The few studies I found (and I didn’t dig into them), pointed out that either females intervene more or that at best it’s mixed. Citations: “Masculinity inhibits helping in emergencies: Personality does predict the bystander effect.”, “Gender and helping behavior: A meta-analytic review of the social psychological literature.”, “Sex differences in bystander intervention in a theft.”. Not definitive, but it points to a common preconceived notion as wrong and why the non-extreme version of PC needs to be around. Back to the rest of the podcast now.
Beautiful conversation, many thanks.
As a currently serving Peace Corps Volunteer I can only assume minuscule pinpoints of connection to serving as a member of the armed forces. In no possible way do I wish to compare Peace Corps Service to military service, and am grateful for the men and women who risk so much.
I would only like to share the following link ;
It memorializes and tells the stories of the Peace Corps Volunteers who died serving America.
Tim, you should speak with Dr. Demartini on your show if you want to explore neutralising the perceived or actual brutality / violence that currently haunts you. He has a very interesting framework for dealing with these realities by maintaining a mental and emotional balance. He is able to show you the positive side of unimaginable tragedies (genocide, war etc).
Also he is probably one of the smartest people on the planet – it’s really mind blowing.
Best regards from Berlin. Akos
Hello, first I’d like to express how difficult it is to just reply. I was part of 2nd Plt Bco 2-12 INF, one of the “warriors” that spent 09-10 at the KOP. In my retirement from the Army, I have had more time to reminisce on just how much “fun” the Valley was. I have journaled some of the toe dips into the kiddie pool of insanity, and reading my dearest Timothy’s 4hr Work Week I had a brain fart! What if I wrote a book?! After doing the 4hrs of work I realized I have more tbi’s than degrees, and can barely remember my ABD’s. I would like to offer a thought bubble that might produce a trifecta of horizonal expeditions, one of hurricane style roundhouses and Tyson surprise hooks but in a fun way instead of the pyromaniac phoenix of mental illness.
Tim, you have been an inspiration for me for many years and Now I am living in Flores Indonesia. If you can ever come here, please look us up and come see Komodo National Park again. I’m sure you will love it!