Why Astronauts Wear Socks: Psychology + Gravity

My daughter is of the age where facts are paramount. She loves facts. They are important. They feel safe. They are indisputable. Before bed a few nights ago, we were reading one of those thick books of facts for kids about science. My husband and I trying not to fall asleep as she attentively absorbed each and every fact shared about space, space shuttles and the density of planets. We reached a section full of fun facts about all the strange little things astronauts have to consider in zero gravity. It's enormous enough of an idea to have gotten both tired parents' attention. My daughter was simply transfixed. Turns out, without gravity EVERYTHING matters. The tiniest crumb can become the most meddlesome adversary. A single drop of sweat can destroy delicate equipment. It's BIG. Then, there's the weird stuff. And it gets really weird. It would make sense that astronauts at the International Space Station wear just socks when getting around inside the space station. They need their toes to help them grip railings and handles while moving around. That's helpful, but not the real reason behind not going barefoot. The real reason is gravity. Gravity plays a very unexpected but essential role in why astronauts wear socks. Listen to this. Without the constant pressure of gravity pushing down on our feet, the soles of our feet very quickly begin to lose their thick skin. And thick skin, in space or on earth, peels off. Yuck. In space it peels off so quickly that astronauts must wear socks, otherwise the flakes of dead skin that come off their feet cloud the air and create possible dangers when it comes to equipment maintenance. Gross, right? Have you ever even for one second of your life considered the significance that gravity has on the skin on the soles of our feet?! Not only does this strange effect of zero gravity require astronauts to wear socks, but they have to be particularly careful when removing them, so the flaked skin does not fly out of the socks and into the air. Clogging the equipment and so forth. So much skin in the air it clogs equipment? All because of the lack of gravity? The thought of this is more than gross. But a lot of human stuff is gross. So what. Can you imagine though? Something that we don't think about having such an enormous impact, that it can cloud the air and clog equipment? Cloud the air and clog the equipment. Cloud the air and clog equipment.  Let's wide focus that for a minute. Cloud the air. Make it hard to see. Hard to know where we are. Where we are going. Hmmm cause confusion. Make it hard to think. Clog equipment. Things don't work well. Unclear. The things we depend upon to navigate our way through a situation are clogged. Slow. Stuck. Do you see where I'm going here with this metaphor?

Perhaps psychology is a lot like gravity and when we don’t consider it, our minds get clouded and our instruments stuck.

The truth is, psychology and gravity have a lot in common. In my mind they are almost identical. Gravity is paramount to life on earth. We would not be able to survive without it. Gravity affects so much that without it, astronauts have to wear socks, because - foot skin. Forget about every single other atrocity happening on earth right now. All the things we fight for. Our passion. Relationships. Communities. Art, homes, trees. Even puppies. Not even possible for a second without gravity. Talk about an existential dilemma, right? Gravity comes first. Gravity works, we get to breathe. Period. I mean it's that big. Gravity first. Gravity is our baseline. Yet, how often do we think about it? How often during the day do you acknowledge gravity? We don't. Which is totally weird. I mean, really weird. It's almost like gravity is too big to think about. If we really acknowledged that the force that keeps us alive is something that scientists know very little about, well, that would leave us all pretty vulnerable wouldn't it? And we know what we humans love to do more than most things is to protect our vulnerability at all costs. (the secret is, vulnerability is kind of the best thing ever - but that's a whole different episode). So here we are. Not paying very much attention to something that is our baseline to breathing.

One of my favorite quotes about gravity is from Clayton Christensen, the father of disruptive innovation, and it is this, "You may hate gravity, but gravity doesn't care." Love that, right? Well the same goes for psychology. You may hate it, or try to ignore it, but psychology, the study of human behavior, affects every single little thing we do. How could it not. We are human and we are social. We behave, or mostly don't. Again, the similarity here is, you might hate psychology, but like gravity, psychology doesn't care.

Psychology governs how we interact with each other, but much like gravity, it is anything but personal (more on that can of worms later).

Diving deep into why we don't pay much attention to things that rule our universe is kind of what this podcast is all about. An examination of psychology from a multitude of perspectives. Theory, conversations, and stories about psychology. Let’s talk about it. Together.

Psychology is what we all share. No exception. Animal - check. Psychology - check. that's it. Simple, right? So let's really talk about it. What separates psychology from gravity is where things get really exciting. We know a lot about psychology. Centuries of observation. Carefully crafted theories. Proven hypotheses. A multitude of treatments and approaches. And nearly nothing about gravity. In comparison to gravity we know nearly everything about psychology and we still have only scratched the surface as a science. But most importantly the groundwork of psychology is there and has been there for centuries. And like all sciences there have been triumphs and missteps, but most importantly we have a framework to pull from to better understand ourselves, our interactions, emotions, and life.

Theory, that's where I come in, and stories, that's where you come in. We will meet somewhere in the middle here each week to connect the dots for each other. To see the missteps as opportunities and the grief and hurt as expressions of love. To be curious about our motivations and fears and believe that just like anything else, this moment, right now, can be seen through the eyes of joy. All the little and big things that make up our day center around psychology. It may very well be why we are here. Waking up, full of breath, to face another day. And so that's my question for you. If psychology is as essential as gravity to the way we live, do you want to pay attention to it, or not?

Thanks for being here.


You can listen to Episode 1 of JOY Is NOW here. 

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