I have two guests this week—psychologists Dr. Paul Napper and Dr. Anthony Rao. We discussed their recent book, The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms (affiliate link). Agency’s an important topic that we probably don’t talk about enough.
The three of us explored ways to reclaim greater control over our lives, from engaging more with the physical world to releasing fear and honoring our intuition. We also discussed the benefits of psychodynamic therapy, and how it can complement a cognitive behavioral approach. Other topics we touched on included:
- The feelings of overwhelm and loss of control that are troubling so many people
- Factors that contribute to rising levels of stress, including social isolation, technology, and less time outside
- Why we often feel like we’re not keeping up and taking care of what we need to
- The radical changes in how we live over the past 200 years
- The drive for constant productivity that often dominates our lives
- The enormous amount of information that confronts us every day
- The value in letting yourself be bored at times
- The loss of time for moments of reflection
- The advantages of analog (non-digital) activities
- How my guests manage their own use of screens and social media
- The influence that messaging and marketing from digital devices can have on us
- The pressure young people often feel to do what everyone else is doing
- The problem with being immobile for hours at a time, and the energy created by movement
- Lisa Barrett’s work on being able to pinpoint how we’re feeling
- Why it’s often healing to go outdoors
- The Japanese concept of Forest Bathing
- Why practices in stillness (e.g., progressive muscle relaxation; sitting meditation) are so helpful
- The many ways of practicing mindfulness
- Why anxiety seems to be the primary emotion (see this episode with Dr. Todd Pressman where we discussed a similar topic)
- The distinction between stress and anxiety
- How to distinguish intuition versus fear
Anthony Rao, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who completed his doctorate in psychology at Vanderbilt University. For more than 20 years, Anthony worked in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital and served as instructor at Harvard Medical School, where he trained psychologists and physicians in the use of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
Anthony has been a featured expert on documentaries and has been interviewed for articles in The New Yorker, Boston Globe, Washington Times, Chicago Tribune, and Parents Magazine, among many others. His editorial letters and opinions have appeared in a wide range of publications including Newsweek, Scientific American, The New York Times, and New York Magazine.
Anthony has also lectured extensively at universities, including Tufts University, Emerson College, and Boston University. He regularly presents at conferences and parenting groups, and conducts workshops for professionals around the country who work with children and young adults.
His first book, The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys (affiliate link), is an expose on the current crisis in American boyhood. It urges parents, educators, pediatricians, psychologists, and other developmental experts to reevaluate and radically alter how we raise boys – so boys can be their best, respecting their unique development right from the start.
Paul Napper, PsyD, helps business leaders increase their effectiveness through focusing and strengthening their agency as leaders. His professional background includes extensive experience in assessment and the application of psychological principles to improve the performance of people and organizations. His client list includes Fortune 500 companies, financial firms, non-profit organizations, universities, as well as start-ups.
Paul launched his career as a Wall Street analyst, first with J.P. Morgan Investment Management in New York and, following that, with Crowell, Weedon and Company in Los Angeles. During his tenure as a securities analyst, he was responsible for research and investment strategy for several major industries. He subsequently launched Performance Psychology, a management psychology consultancy to a wide range of organizations and industries.
Paul earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania in International Relations and pursued his master’s degree in the same field at the University of Chicago. He received his doctorate in psychology from William James College in Boston. As part of his training he was selected for an advanced fellowship in psychological testing and assessment during a three-year academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.