A black and white photo of Derren Brown's head and shoulders.

Image: Getty

Twenty years ago, Derren Brown exploded into the public consciousness by taking over the public unconsciousness. The magician and psychological manipulator held audiences in suspense as he achieved remarkable feats on television.

Now the author of five books, among them his latest release A Book of Secrets, Brown has unpicked the parts of life we’d often rather push away or forget – those of anxiety, awkwardness or adversity – to learn more about ourselves and our lives.

Speaking to comedian Isy Sutie on the Penguin Podcast, Brown spoke about the desire to write about “when things are difficult” in the midst of lockdown – and why it is necessary to allow those difficult moments their own place in our lives.

“We do tend to feel we’re most alone and we're isolated, or we failed, and it's a very normally quite lonely place,” Brown explained to Sutie. “But the point is, that's life doing its thing, which means we are at that moment experiencing the weight of life. The deep actual heft of life itself, which means we're most connected; we're just experiencing what it is to be human, so we're actually at our most connected to other people. It just doesn't feel like that.”

Listen to Derren Brown on the Penguin Podcast

“And the key to it, which I write about, is to understand that the importance of melancholy and to give that its place.”

Brown continued to say that rather than focus on an “inward-turned sadness or tragedy”, to understand that life will sometimes be sad can help us “sit more comfortably” with those uncomfortable parts of ourselves and our lives.

“There’s a lot to be said for letting these anxieties sit and just giving them a comfortable place and not always feeling like we have to run from them,” he told Sutie, speaking about how the importance of sitting with, and accepting anxiety can not only help alleviate it, but also enable us to connect more deeply with who we are. 

Elsewhere in the podcast, Brown talks about his artistic hobbies of painting and photography, as well as other books that he has been inspired by lately. Listen to the full conversation, and subscribe for future episodes, here.

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