Show 226: Q&A on The Transformative Power of Disgust with Sarah Peyton

Disgust? Why do we need to think about disgust you may ask like I did when guest expert Sarah Peyton and I chatted recently… Her response, “Because disgust is a primary emotion that affects how we make many of our decisions and is the basis for our judgments.”

SHARON: Let’s talk about the word “disgust” because when you and I chatted about this, I had a completely different definition; and then, when you told me your definition, it resonated at a much more intense level.

First, define the word.

SARAH: The way that I define disgust is that it’s one of our primary emotions and it’s a primary emotion that tells us when our boundaries are being violated or when our sense of morality is not being accorded with or not being honored.

So disgust is hugely important to let us know, in a way, that we matter. And it’s quite extraordinary to begin to come to this place of honoring our disgust. I noticed that when we’re in day-to-day conversations with people and somebody says, “Well, I’m disgusted” or “I feel disgusted” or “I feel nausea,” everybody will try to change the course of the conversation in order to be able to support this person who is having a reaction to being able not to have that reaction because, of course, it is so visceral.

The experience of disgust raises our internal torso body temperature by one to two degrees Fahrenheit. So it’s a viscerally felt emotion, but it also goes up from the body up to the brain stem through the amygdala and has a track like the other emotions. It has a path that it travels on as if we had bus routes in our head.

With different emotions, we’re riding on our different bus routes.

So we have a bus route for disgust, and it’s a vital emotion, but it’s one that we mostly try to avoid rather than saying “What is the wisdom that my disgust is bringing me?”

SHARON: I need a little bit more clarification because, for me, disgust ─ yes, it’s visceral but when you said someone is maybe pushing your boundaries and you have to stand your ground or any of those sorts of things, I guess, my mind would have thought that I was running the anger track. But you tell me it’s more of the disgust bus stop.

SARAH: The last time we were together, we were talking about the surprising life-serving capacity of rage; and, indeed, rage does that: “Yes, my boundaries have been crashed through.”

With disgust, it’s like we’re in a different exploration. There’s an exploration that’s more about integrity rather than safety.

SHARON: Okay. I do feel violated when someone is pushing my boundaries and not seeing that they keep on pushing, and maybe I’m giving some non-verbal clues ─ maybe eyebrows going up. Something is happening that I’m hoping they’re going to see the non-verbal clues, and they’re not.

I know what you’re saying now because that does feel like a violation and an intrusion on my values.

SARAH: One of the things that we, as humans, use disgust in intense ways ─ some of the ways that we use disgust are things that we might not feel very good about.

If we’re trying to mobilize a population to go to war against another population, for example, we’ll use rhetoric that’s about how the other people are animals of some kind or that they’re insects of some kind. They’re lice, or they’re vermin. This is the kind of propaganda language that has traditionally been used by governments when they want to go to war against another country.

So if you look at the propaganda from World War II or the propaganda from World War I, you see these big posters where they’re taking pictures of whoever the enemy is and implying that they’re, somehow, not humans ─ and especially often implying that they’re rats or vermin or insects. There’s a real association that the propaganda(s) are working with to bring out our natural capacity for disgust that helps to write off other groups of people as not being human.

And, of course, one of the ways that we most often experience disgust, especially when we’re struggling with health issues is self-disgust. This is one of the things that I run into most often when I’m working with folks who want to reclaim their brain and make it a good place to live in.

One of the things they have to work with is their tendency to feel disgusted about their being, their own body, and their health.

And this also is something that we’ve most often been taught rather than it being a true expression of what we get from life itself. Each of us is exactly right. Our bodies are right.

And any struggles that we have with equilibrium and balance and health are honorable struggles. There’s no way that anybody’s body or body fluids are disgusting.

But we can carry that as an internal message from an external world that turns away often from any kind of perception of weakness. Any perception of absolute invulnerability, that’s kind of our standard of health and wellbeing ─ the total lone hero who is out to not have any relational connections and to save the world.

SHARON: Thank you, Sarah, for once again sharing your wisdom.


More About Sarah Peyton: Sarah creates change using precision and resonant language that easily create insights and transformation. Besides her Interpersonal Neurobiology research, Sarah also brings to us her long-term study of Nonviolent Communication and 3-D body-centered explorations of families over generations through Family Constellation work.

You can learn more about Sarah Peyton and her remarkable work at and and share this transformational interview link:

Everyone, join me next week for another exciting episode. Have a great week whatever your adventures.


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