Episode 46: Quick Bite, Two Years of Positive Disintegration

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson

Release date: October 25, 2023

In episode 46, Chris and Emma celebrate the second birthday of the Positive Disintegration podcast and reflect on their work together. Our first episode launched on October 25, 2021, and in this Quick Bite, we expressed our gratitude for the podcast's positive impact on our lives and the friendship that has developed between us. We shared our initial expectations and how pleasantly surprised we were by the podcast's success and our compatibility as co-hosts. We discussed some feedback we’ve received from guests and listeners, and marveled at the impact it has made…

…which is, of course, what we originally set out to do, but we had no idea whether or not it would work! We talked about some of the fears and anxieties we had in starting the podcast—fear of not being “perfect,” wondering about whether or not people would embrace the podcast format, and also the nervousness we both had about collaborating when we hardly knew each other.

This discussion really is a celebration of all we have achieved, discovered about ourselves (and each other), overcome, and learned. Importantly, it is also an acknowledgment of the contribution that our wonderful guests and listeners have made to both the podcast and our lives.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us, and joined us on this journey!

The echidna:

an echidna

Emma’s Adults with Overexcitabilities YouTube Channel and Tragic Gift blog.

Democracy Sausages for Australian Voters

**Thank you to Bee Mayhew for editing this transcript!** 


Emma: Chris, in this Quick Bite, we're celebrating our second birthday.

Chris: That's right. Happy second anniversary to us!

Emma: Yay!

Chris: Yay. It's exciting.

Emma: It doesn't feel like two years. Time flies. Is it just because we're getting old or?

Chris: I don't know, but it definitely feels like time is flying by in my life. And it has felt that way for the past few years, I would say.

Emma: But it has been a fun two years.

Chris: Yes. These past two years have been great. Oh, my gosh. For sure the podcast has exceeded my expectations. Not that I really had any.

Emma: I don't think either of us did when we started doing this.

Chris: No. Well, we had hopes, of course, but I didn't know how it was going to go. I didn't know if this would be a good format for me. In fact, I was sure it wouldn't be.

Emma: But you've taken to it like a duck to water.

Chris: Oh, well, thank you. Well, it's thanks to you.

Emma: So, I thought because I've been asked this a couple of times—how we met—I thought in this episode we could talk about how we met and why we started the podcast and what the journey’s kind of looked like. Do you want to share your recollections of how you and I met?

Chris: Yeah, it was July 2021. And Bill Tillier brought us together, along with our friend Jon. He pulled me into a Zoom call with you and Jon, or maybe it was on Messenger, who knows, but a video call. It was really cool to meet you both. It's not like I had any expectations of meeting anybody that I would work with. At the time, I was really immersed in my stuff and just trying to find my own direction. Also, in my life, things were complicated. My mother had a recurrence of breast cancer that we were dealing with, and she was just about to start chemo.

It felt like kind of a stressful time. But when we met, our priorities were so aligned in that we wanted to get the theory out, that I thought, well, you know, Emma edits a podcast, maybe we could do that. But again, I wasn't looking for collaborators. I really was just trying to do my own thing. And so it amazes me in retrospect that our work together came out of that.

Emma: I remember that I was still trying to figure my shit out. I'd started doing videos and I think I'd just set up my website and we got on that Zoom call.. I think it was a Zoom call…together.

And you know me, my thing's always like, let's make the theory accessible. Why do we have to talk about it in academic terms all the time? And then we hit on the subject of [doing a] podcast and you and I had a call afterwards and we were talking about podcasting and we didn't really know each other that well, but I was just very keen because I sort of knew the format a little bit of like, well, let's do it. I don't know much about the Theory, but I kind of know how to set up a podcast. So let's put our heads together and combine our skill sets and make something happen.

I remember talking to my other half afterwards, and he's like, don't worry about these other things. If you find a podcast easier to set up, just go on that. What are you waiting for, basically? Just get the thing done. So we kind of launched into it, not really knowing each other that well, [giggle] which was weird, like working with someone that I didn't really know. I know you had the same experience, but we kind of got to know each other through the journey.

Chris: We did. It's interesting to reflect on now because I was worried about working with you. I felt like we really needed to be on the same page. And I had had an experience with somebody else I worked with that didn't work out. That experience really soured me on trying to team up with somebody and work again.

I knew that we were going to be recording this today so I pulled out my journal entries from September and October 2021, which is like when we were planning the first episode and then recording it and putting it out.

We talked a couple of times. We had a couple of calls. The first one was two and a half hours long, and I remember thinking, OK, good. If we can sit and talk for two and a half hours, and I can walk away from it feeling so attuned with where you were—maybe attuned isn't the right word—but I was like, oh, we're on the same page! This is good. This could work. But I had concerns. I needed to know where you stood on issues that were really important to me.

I think that that's why we had to have those long conversations first. But it seemed like our values were aligned, at least in those important places where they needed to be, as far as I could tell.

Emma: It's funny because what I remember about those conversations was first of all going: Chris is going to think I'm a complete weirdo. What am I doing? I don't know anything about this.

But as you said, we talked and realized our values were aligned. I know your approach to things, you were very methodical and a bit cautious, and I'm like, yeah, let's just get on there and do it and wing it. So, we had two different approaches, which I think was kind of good because you reined me in a little bit, and I think I drove you forward a little bit. Let's just get on there and record something and see how it turns out.

There was a lot of trust there to overcome because we both had different ways of sort of attacking the theory. I was a bit fly by the seat of my pants, and you were very much like, there's things that we've got to say. But we’re kinda like, maybe we'll get 10 good episodes out and that'll be it. We didn't know how it was going to turn out, but it's like, well, let's just roll the dice and see what happens. So, it's funny to think that we've got this sort of very stable format. We've had a lot of great guests on, and it really just started with “Fuck it, let's just do it and see what happens!”

Chris: That's right. We did throw caution to the wind and go for it. I mean, to some degree. You're right that I had a lot of hang-ups around wanting to get it right. But you've been such a help in helping me. I don't think I'm really like a perfectionist. I mean, I do, of course, have some tendencies in that direction like so many people do. But you really did help me find my voice in a way that I really needed to, and helped me overcome that fear that everything always has to be right. I realize now that it's okay. I mean, our listeners are forgiving. I try to be forgiving of myself. We can always go back and cut things or try them again another time.

You really have been a big help in getting me to just get the work out there and stop worrying about it being perfect or exactly the way I think it needs to be. I think that part of my journey has been learning to trust in the process and not worry about having so much control over every detail, stuff like that. When we first recorded those first episodes, man, it was so hard though. because I wanted to say things the right way. I realized quickly that you can't give all the context for things. You have to trust that the people who are listening can provide the necessary context and get what we're talking about. I think that the feedback we get shows that we're pretty successful at that.

Emma: I remember that fear of wanting to try and get it right all the time. And I was trying so hard to not let that leach into my mindset as well, because I've very much got a growth mindset of, well, if I get it wrong today, I can learn, I can say something different tomorrow. So I was really battling against that. But what you brought to the table for me, you say I help you with your journey, but I've had that repaid tenfold to me because in doing this, in having the conversations with guests and yourself, it's just accelerated my learning journey so much.

I was also still going through my own disintegrative journey at that point and trying to figure myself out. And I don't think I would have gone as far or gotten as much out of it if I just tried to read from books or do it that way. The conversations have helped me enormously in my growth. So in one way, I'm kind of not surprised with some of the feedback that we get with people saying it's helped them because putting it in this format has, I think, achieved that goal that we both had of making the theory accessible. But at the same time, I still am surprised at some of the feedback, because when you do that, oh, well, let's just see what happens. Some [part] of you doesn't really think that you're going to get any success out of it. Like you hope for the best, but expect it to fall on its ass. So I still am surprised and always pleased when we get that sort of feedback from people saying it's made a really big difference. But I shouldn't be [surprised], because it made a really big difference for me.

Chris: That's how I feel about it too. Obviously, it's changed my life to learn about the theory and study it, so I shouldn't be surprised that it has such an impact on other people. But yeah, I hear you. I've learned so much too from doing the episodes and our guests. I was thinking about that part as well. I remember sitting down and just writing out a list of everybody we could have as a guest. And I remember we had like 40 people on the list in no time. And you were like, Whoa, are we really gonna do this?

Emma: Do you know everybody in the world? Like what's going on here? (light laughter)

Chris: Well, it was just funny to sit down and be like, OK, well, I guess I'm better at networking and getting to know people than I thought I was so that was cool to see. I mean, that's another thing about doing this is that… I had to overcome my own reluctance to reach out to people. Doing the podcast has really helped me—well, send emails to people or contact them and say, hey, do you want to be on the podcast? And then you know, get through that whole process of them being nervous about it. And, you know, you have to kind of guide people in to do the interview and then provide a comfortable, safe space. And I think it's cool that we have gotten a lot of feedback from our guests that we're successful at that. They're nervous when they first start, and then they've had a better time at the end of it than they expected, and I don't think you can ask for much more than that.

Emma: Part of the brilliant thing about it is we've learned along the way the value of sharing stories and having people to mirror you. I think it's been a lot more fruitful than we first expected. I think we both went in with this mindset of, we just want to talk about the theory in a way that makes it easier for people to understand, because that was our prime goal. I think we've done that in a way, but we've also uncovered all these other things that we've found that are valuable to us in providing mirrors to people and seeing the value in shared stories.

I know from the place that I came from, all I've got is my lived experience. I don't have that depth of knowledge that you have. All I've got is my vulnerability, and that's the only thing I can give people. And I didn't realize that that was powerful in any way. I minimized that in my own mind. And it's interesting to see this process of doing this whole thing, the growth that it's given both of us, but also the growth that it's given our friendship as well.

Chris: Yeah, I think that we can't forget the fact that we've also become friends over these past few years. That has become such a blessing in my life. I just had images in my mind of the times that I've written in my journal that sometimes I just am so overwhelmed by people reaching out or dealing with messages. I would write in my journal, I don't want to hear from anybody right now except Michael, Frank, or Emma. Those are the people that I'm willing to deal with. There's at least a few times over the past couple of years where I'm like, these are the people I can handle. I think it said a lot how quickly you joined that group of people that I want to talk to.

Emma: That was the other thing you wanted, though, particularly with the Dabrowski Center was, oh, we want to create a sense of community. And we did that just amongst ourselves, because the first time I had a meltdown and I was having difficulty, like, who can I talk to about this? I thought, is it appropriate to talk to Chris about this? And I reached out to you, and you were so supportive and helpful with it. Sometimes I don't know what I'd do if we didn't have that Messenger chat between each other, because that's been such a blessing and a lifeline for me. You know, the quality of the friendship, but also the fact that I can go, “Chris, help!” (laughter)

Chris: Yeah, well, I appreciate that I can call on you, too. I mean, I also need help sometimes, so it's nice. And yeah, you were away. I mean, people don't know, but for like a week this month and I'm like, man, I miss Emma. Like I knew that I could contact you if necessary, but it was hard to not have you around.

Emma: I know. It was hard to not look at my phone all the time and say, oh, I've got to miss messages and like to have to put that on the back burner for a week. But, you know, that was the whole point of taking a week off and going away was to get away from screens and stuff, so…

Chris: I'm about to do that. It's always nice to go on a big road trip because it just forces me to be away from technology and focus on the road. When we released our first episode, I happened to be visiting Michael at the time in Wisconsin. I remember having to release the first episode from a hotel. It was kind of a pain at first to get it working with Apple Podcasts.

And yet, it just felt like such a big step to put that out in the world and very vulnerable. And oh my God, what are people going to think of this format and this way of talking about the theory that is so different than what we've seen yet?

Although you were doing your videos, like you said. That's funny too. I'm sure people would be interested to hear… when I saw that you were making videos on YouTube about the theory, I thought, wow, that's pretty bold. I thought to myself, I'm an expert on this stuff and I don't feel… I've just been so unable to put myself out there like that and make videos.

I had tried to do it with Tina. And it just didn't work. I mean, we tried, but I was so, again, afraid of not getting it right. And to be fair, I mean, there's a reason why I had that concern. I mean, I don't know if it's okay to say this or not, but even though Bill was a supporter when we first met and got together, he's not one of our supporters now. Honestly, I knew before we ever recorded the first episode that there was going to come a time where he wasn't going to like what I was saying. And what was I going to do? Was I going to say what I think is right? Or was I going to worry about that? And, you know, I think we know how that went.

Emma: What you were saying about doing the videos, maybe my naivete and my newness to everything? I still to this day look back and go, what the hell gave me the idea that I had the right to talk about the theory? So I went through like a full circle on that insofar as I started doing videos because I wanted to help other people like me sort of get their head around it without having to go in the books. Then I got to a place of like, do I have any license to talk about this shit? Like, who the hell am I and what am I doing… it's only because we've done the podcast together that I feel okay to continue with that. It's a weird… like circular kind of it's almost like continually going through disintegration with your thought process about what you know and what you don't know plenty of times, even before the Dabrowski Congress and stuff—the last one—I was like, oh who am I to talk about this stuff? I don't have any qualifications!

And so, I don't know, maybe it was my lack of experience that sort of gave me the false courage to start doing that shit. But if I hadn't, we wouldn't have met and we wouldn't have started the podcast. Both the videos and the podcast were an exercise in learning that sometimes you just got to get in there and do the thing and not wait. And we've talked about this on episodes before, that… what are we going to do? Sit there for 20 years before we release an episode? You can't do that. We've just got to be forgiving with ourselves and go, well, I'm just going to grow and learn from this on the way and see what happens.

Chris: I'm so glad that you found the courage to make those videos. That really was a ballsy thing to do. And I'm glad you did it because, yeah, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now if you hadn't. And it amazes me to see the feedback that you get from your videos. I mean, periodically, I just look to see what people…

Emma: You stalk on my channel?

Chris: Well, I do because I'm so curious to see what feedback you get. And I love it because almost every time I do, there's some new comment from somebody. I do it too because we have the podcast on YouTube also, and so I always try to pay attention and see if people have left comments so that I can point them out to you if they have. But yeah, I'm glad you did it. And you, and you know, writing your blog, I definitely, when I saw that stuff, I was like, wow, that's pretty badass of you to just put yourself out there like that, especially feeling like it can be like shark infested waters with this theory and its community at times. And so I don't know how else to say it.

Emma: I was frightened. And like even doing the first video, I was a person before that who hated being on video, hated having my photo taken, and stupidly self-conscious about my voice and my accent. And yet here I am on YouTube sitting in front of a camera. Yeah, I was shitting myself. I'm not going to lie. I was really scared about it, but I thought it's either going to fail and no one's going to watch it and it's going to be a thing that passes or it's going to help people. And that's why you do it. And sharks or no sharks in the water, There's people out there, we've talked about the 8 billion person haystack before, and trying to find the needles like you, and every now and then we get a comment, and there's another needle. And I just went in there with the hope of if it just helps one other person, then that's cool. That's a cool thing.

Chris: Well, you know, you've met that bar. But yeah, I love to look at your videos and I love when they just like autoplay and you're like, G'day. I'm like, that's right. G'day.

Emma: I don't know why I started doing that. I'm like, oh, God, you're such a cliche.

Chris: No, it's so adorable. Are you kidding? I think it's perfect.

Emma: As we say over here, I'm such a bogan. So for any Aussies listening, you'll know what that means.

Chris: Well, that's like yesterday you mentioned this animal, the echidna, and I'm like, what? I don't know what it is, but oh my gosh, that video you sent was adorable. But I love that, how you can just bring up these Aussie things that we don't have. And I'm like, yeah, we don't have that here. You need to explain.

Emma: But we've talked about this, like different perspectives and things. If everyone was doing things exactly the same all the time, the world would be a boring place. And I guess, you know, coming back to the podcast, that was the beauty of doing it!

It's like we've had the academic stuff, we've had the books, we've had the heavy reading. Let's just try something different from a different perspective and just see how it goes. And for me, seeing an echidna walking down the road isn't that huge of a deal, even though they are super cute. But like for you, it's like, oh, my God, what is this creature? And I think that we've done that with the podcast as well. We're like, it's just a podcast. But sometimes people stumble across it and then go, oh, my God, what is this creature?

Chris: So cute. And I'll put a photo in the show notes so that other people know what it is. And yeah, it's been so cool getting to know you, learning things about Australia that I had no idea about, like that voting is mandatory or that you have like these barbecues on Election Day.

Emma: Democracy sausages. Exactly. We'll put a link to that in the notes.

Chris: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So it's been a lot of fun to get to know you and do this. And it's like the enormity of the change that I feel like I've been through since we've been doing this. It's cool. I feel like I have so much confidence now that things are going to work out with the theory and that we're finally reaching people and making a difference in real lives. That's, I think, what I was missing when I was so bogged down in the academic work and just talking with people who've already been in this community for a long time. And then, of course, I had my study group and people in the gifted community, but I wasn't reaching enough people. I felt like this huge sense of urgency that I needed to get the word out. And now I wish that I could help people understand the difference in me that it's not like a point of stress for me anymore because the episodes are out. We're still making episodes, and it's working—they're reaching people and it's helping.

Emma: So on that note, do you want to give us a bit of a recap of some of the kinds of feedback that we're getting? Because I know you sort of squirrel them away in a little folder.

Chris: I do have a folder called podcast feedback, which is within another folder called positive feedback. So I do save my positive feedback in a lot of different ways because the fact that I do so much of my work without being paid for it, it at least helps me feel like—I don't know…

Emma: You're achieving something.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. Something's happening and I'm making some kind of difference, even if it's not necessarily translating into a financial one.

Gosh, I hardly even know where to start. People say that they feel mirrored by us. They appreciate having a non-pathologizing way of understanding themselves. They tell us that the podcasts are good for their soul. And, you know, I have feedback in here from guests saying that they truly enjoy talking with us, that we make them feel comfortable. We ask insightful questions. People tell us that they listen to the podcast repeatedly, which blows my mind to think that people are listening to episodes more than once.

Emma: The multi-generational one is the one that gets me when people are like, I'm in a household, this has helped me and my kids and my parents.

Chris: Yes, hearing that we're helping generations of family is pretty mind-blowing and incredible, for sure. It's amazing to me at this point that we get feedback with donations so frequently, and that's amazing too. To be saying like, we appreciate you and here's money is a big deal.

Emma: The other one that I really like is people who find the podcast and then the next minute they're in Facebook groups or something saying, I'm new here, I've just found this thing and it's made a big difference. I remember being that super excited person who just stumbled across the theory and felt like it had turned my world upside down. And the fact that we can pass that on, because that was the whole point, pass on the magic that we'd experienced to other people. It's like, yay, you get to see it in action.

Chris: Yeah, you know, one thing that people have said sometimes is that, like, that they've learned so much, that I've taught them so much. And I'm like, I don't know, I never really thought of myself as teaching people about the theory or in that kind of role, but I guess I do. I know that people have mentioned appreciating the show notes that we're good about linking to resources and stuff. People say that we touch their hearts. It's amazing.

Know, listeners, that you also touch our hearts. I mean, like, Getting these messages and hearing about the impact is amazing. It's really changed me because before we had the podcast, I mean, for sure, I was reaching a point where I'm like, why am I doing this? Where's this going? And now my direction just feels so clear. My role feels clear. It's beyond what I'd even hoped for. But in the gratitude… I just I feel so, so much gratitude for the fact that people listen, that they're getting something from our conversations. It's, yeah, it's really the best.

Emma: To add in another Australianism, fucking oath, which if people don't know what it means. Yeah. Yeah. It's basically that's so true. I'd swear a fucking oath to it. So if you hear an Australian say that means they agree with you ardently.

Chris: Nice. I like that. It's like the ‘fucking A’ of my youth.

Emma: Yes, it's our equivalent of that.

Chris: Okay, cool. Yeah, well, you should do a whole episode with your Aussie-isms. I mean, there have been some interesting ones since we've started working together. There's one, sometimes, like there's at least a couple of times where I've had to look up words that you've said. I think one was in episode two when you asked me if I had had like an argy-bargy at NAGC and I'm like, what the hell is that?

Emma: It means a fight.

Chris: Yeah, well, and it turned out to be a really apt way of describing it. So yeah, a bit of an argy-bargy. One interesting thing I think is that when I was going to do this with you and I was telling Michael and Frank about the plan, they were both like, what? Neither of them really had, I don't think, an image of the podcast or what it was like because they weren't listening to podcasts.

It was cool that Frank really got on board and would just listen to them from the start. I think it was cool for him to see the impact of it. I would sometimes share feedback with him, too, and be like, look, we're really reaching people with this stuff. He was so blown away by this format and what it could do. I mean, I know that he was even listening to it in the hospital in the last weeks of his life, which is kind of amazing that that was even possible.

But yeah, I wanted to mention that it's been cool to open people's eyes about this as a format for disseminating the theory and reaching people. People say that they hear our passion, and I'm so glad that it comes through. That's another thing that I noticed when looking at feedback again. Because I feel like I have felt so much passion for this stuff for such a long time, and it's so cool to not just have to keep it to myself or this small group of people anymore.

Emma: Because we've got a passion about it, it's good that people feel that, and it's also good to say that it sparks other people's passion as well.

Chris: Agreed. I think the only other thing I wanted to say to wrap up this episode is that I'm really happy that the next guest that we're going to record with is Michael, and that he's finally agreed to do it. After all this time, I'm really looking forward to having that conversation with him in a couple of weeks.

Emma: Me too, after we've mentioned him like 60,000 times.

Chris: I know.

Emma: Come on the podcast. It's all right. It only took two years.

Chris: That's right. Yeah, better late than never. So, that'll be good. But yeah, thank you. I mean, it's been fun to reminisce about our beginnings and where we've come. And I'm excited to do this for a long time.

Emma: Me, too. And happy second birthday to us.

Chris: Yes, happy second birthday to us.

Emma: Thank you for all your help with this, everything that you've taught me, all your support as a friend. It's been absolutely priceless, to be honest.

Chris: I feel the same way. Thank you for everything you've taught me about multiple things and for all of your skills and editing. And I mean, it's been such a pleasure to work with you. And I'm psyched that we have a future to continue doing it.

Emma: Same. And thank you to everyone who's listening and everyone who's been listening since the beginning and has supported us and sent us feedback. And we hope you enjoy this birthday episode as much as we have. That's right.

Chris: Dziękuję. That's thank you in Polish.

Emma: Continue your path to authenticity through the links in the show notes. Subscribe to our Substack newsletter for stacks of cool things delivered straight to your inbox. Explore the Dabrowski Center, email us, or join us on social media. And don't forget to show your love by liking, subscribing, grabbing some positive disintegration merch, or leaving us a rating or review on your podcast platform.