Emma Ferris, Resilience Coach & Podcaster, Is On A Crusade For Courage

By Rebecca Barry Hill
Emma Ferris has launched a new podcast, following the success of her first true-crime show. The new venture focuses on methods of cultivating courage.

Stress and breathwork coach Emma Ferris tells Rebecca Barry Hill why she’s tackling bravery in her new podcast.

It took a conman to show Emma Ferris the depths of her bravery. As the physiotherapist and resilience coach divulges in her hit true-crime podcast Conning the Con, a relationship with a

But as Emma reveals on the sisters’ new podcast, The Bravery Academy, recovering from the trauma of the betrayal is an ongoing process.

“Sometimes people think I’ve got it all together,” says Emma, on a Zoom from her home in Wānaka. “I’m like, oh no, my goodness. I’m a single mother of two, running a household. I am constantly trying to recheck in and do this work myself. Part of me is checking in by sharing this information.”

In The Bravery Academy, Emma is not the storyteller this time but a sympathetic interviewer, bringing her knowledge of the nervous system and mind-body connection to wide-ranging conversations with guests, many of whom have endured their own brushes with adversity. Whereas Emma says the intention behind Conning the Con was to shed light on fraudsters’ deceitful tricks, The Bravery Academy is about inspiring people “to see that we can take control over so many aspects of our lives”.

Emma Ferris comes back to the body for her own healing.
Emma Ferris comes back to the body for her own healing.

This isn’t the sort of bravery required to leap out of a plane or wear white to a red wine tasting but a deliberate mindset that can allow us to move on from difficult circumstances, she explains, whether it’s dealing with illness, relationship problems, loss or trauma.

“You can choose bravery. It’s something that we all have within us. The more we have courage in our lives, the more it changes the way we show up for others. Then when things happen in the future, we can choose how to move forward.”

Yet countless people are scared to do just that, leaving them “stuck” for years, explains podcast guest, US psychologist and researcher Dr Debi Silber, one of the many featured experts, and someone who has been through a life-shattering betrayal herself.

So where to start? For Emma, who says bravery is a commonly used word at the women’s retreats she runs, finding courage often starts by listening to the body. Incidents we view as threatening can tip us into a stress response of ‘flight, fight, freeze’ to mobilise us to get out of danger. But it’s in these moments, and those that follow, that we can change our perception of the situation to our benefit.

“What I really want to uncover is the impact that these experiences have on the mind, body and emotions,” says Emma.

“I’ve learned that bravery comes in all shapes and sizes, and heroes come in all shapes and sizes. And that it’s constant work. So if you’re going through a process of healing and recovery, it doesn’t finish. Once you’ve had your day of court or you’ve been able to finish a cancer treatment, the mind and the body still keep the score.”

Focusing on the physical has been a powerful tool for her own healing. After the brush with the conman, Emma leant on the breathing techniques she uses with clients, and took up jiujitsu to empower herself. Likewise, guest Christopher Romulo channelled his troubled background into a career as a champion Muay Thai boxer; in another episode, prominent nutritionist and physiology coach Dr Stacy Sims talks about the importance of strength training for women.

Bravery can also be interpreted as the way we show up, or speak up, something Kiwis who routinely deal with New Zealand’s notorious tall poppy syndrome are used to, says Emma. Or it can mean reaching out to others who’ve been through something similar.

“Your wellbeing is beyond just your mental health and your physical health. It’s also the emotional, the spiritual, all the aspects of it. And that it really comes down to understanding the science of stress and evolutionary biology, and our connection to other humans that I feel is the glue that’s missing, and what makes this podcast special.”

The Wānaka-based coach is considering the many facets of bravery, from many different perspectives.
The Wānaka-based coach is considering the many facets of bravery, from many different perspectives.

It’s no coincidence that many of the guests are from outside of New Zealand as Emma and Sarah look to repeat the global success they had with Conning the Con. Among them are Terra Newell, who fought off “Dirty” John Meehan (the real-life conman behind the TV series Dirty John) and New York double amputee John Vrana who survived a near-fatal workplace accident and sought out joy in the aftermath.

Ultimately though, Emma says The Bravery Academy is a success if it can help just one person.

“There are so many of us struggling with mental health crises, our health system’s completely overwhelmed. And I think we need to reframe the way that we’re all taking responsibility. And that’s bravery.”

The Bravery Academy is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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