With an ear for a good story, psychologist Sabina Read (TC 1989) delves into humanity's big questions – about belonging, success and happiness – in her new podcast, Human Cogs.
Sabina Read’s number is on speed-dial for TV, print and online media organisations and she’s the resident psychologist for employment website SEEK and Melbourne’s 3AW radio, all on top of her busy private practice.
Sabina likes to talk, and she also likes us to talk to her.
‘I’ve always had a knack for communicating in the written and spoken word,’ says Sabina, whose first degree was in communications. That skill saw her working in public relations for nearly nine years in London, San Francisco and her hometown of Melbourne, before she began retraining as a psychologist at London Guildhall University in 2000.
‘I am fascinated by the dynamic between humans – that whole idea that no man is an island,’ she says of her private consultations and public commentary. ‘It’s the emotional space between us in the workplace or at home, between new lovers or boss and employee. I want to know that.’
Sabina’s latest venture – her side-hustle and passion project – is the Human Cogs podcast, which she launched in July with tech entrepreneur, mentor and journalist Madeleine Grummet.
‘Madeleine and I met at a human rights film festival and we’ve been in each other’s orbits for years,’ says Sabina, who knew Madeleine’s husband Jeremy Grummet from their days at Trinity College. ‘And we just kept talking about this idea of a podcast.’
‘We are a storytelling species: every generation has told stories in every culture, in different ways,’ she says. ‘That’s what drew me to Human Cogs.’
‘I’ve worked in the media for years, but it’s limited how deep a conversation can go, or it has an agenda – there’s always some constraint. There are not many long-form forums in the media now,’ explains Sabina, who works with organisations and individuals, dealing with the big questions of stress, leadership, life transitions and parenting. ‘A podcast is not beholden to anyone except the respect of the person whose story we’re telling. We take it wherever we want it to go.’
Over the years, she’s had so many conversations: with rock stars and first time offenders, PhD candidates and newly separated parents.
‘I hear the same story again and again. It always starts the same: "I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this." "You’ve probably never heard this before." And, inevitably, I’ve heard it thousands of times before. And I think: if we are able to share each other’s stories at a more raw, less sugar-coated level, we would gain insight into each other’s lives.’
Although launched in the midst of Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown, Sabina insists the podcast’s birth is coincidental. ‘It’s not a COVID baby. We’ve all reached saturation about the pandemic. With Human Cogs, we’re having some COVID respite.’
However, the podcast’s kick-off – a discussion on taming the inner critic with writer and mental health advocate Jill Stark – is a timely reminder of one of life’s great fallacies: that maybe others are doing better than you.
‘It really is our belief in the power of storytelling to normalise the human experience,’ Sabina says. ‘If you listen to every episode with the lens of, ‘what do I have in common with this person?’ I’d be fascinated by the response.’
The first clutch of discussions, which range from 30 minutes to nearly an hour, see a footballer talking about coming out and his pathway to politics, a transgender teen discussing self-acceptance, 20-something entrepreneurs delving into pop culture, and a powerhouse businesswoman exploring the art of raising boys.
‘My deepest belief is that we all bleed the same, we are all wanting to belong. It’s a powerful need – wanting to be accepted for who we are,’ she says.
‘My hope is that if we tell stories that are more vulnerable, more real, and people see part of themselves in every one of the Human Cog stories, there would be so much more compassion, empathy, support and love between humans.’
To listen to the Human Cogs podcast, visit humancogs.com/listen
By Belinda Jackson