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Excerpt from the NeuroLeadership Institute's "Stay Cool Under Pressure"

Think your emotions run you?  This transcribed excerpt from "Staying Cool Under Pressure" with David Rock and Matthew Lieberman from the NeuroLeadership Institute talk about how simply by naming an emotion allows our brains to control them a bit.  Interesting...

My little interlude in this talk is called D3 theory: disruption, disambiguation and detachment, or “why labeling makes you feel better”.  That’s probably the simple way to remember it.

So, does anyone know what these are?

{Inaudible responses from audience.}

I heard a couple of people say it.  The worry dolls.  OK.  Guatemalan worry dolls.  The legend of the Highland Indian villages of Guatemala is that if you have a problem and share it with a worry doll… They give them to their young children -- they say before going to bed tell one worry to each doll, and then place them beneath your pillow.  Whilst you sleep, the dolls will take your worries away.  OK.  So this is just one more example of the sort of common and received wisdom that we all know that putting your feelings into words can have some really nice salutary effects for us.  There is actually a very old idea both in Western and Eastern cultures. In Western culture -- you can go back more than three centuries to the philosopher Benedict de Spinoza who said that an emotion which is a passion ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof. And then the founder of my field of psychology, William James, two centuries later -- this is one of the quotes that probably got me most into all the work that I do and his principles of psychology. He said that the present conscious state when I say “I feel angry” is not the direct state of anger; it is the state of saying “I feel angry”.  The act of naming them, these emotional states, has momentarily detracted from their force. And then if we go half way around the world to the East, in the context of Buddhist texts, it has been written that the skillful use of labeling introduces a healthy degree of inner detachment, since the act of apostrophizing or speaking to one’s moods and emotions diminishes one’s identification with them.   So, this is the region of the brain that I tend to focus about 60% of my waking hours on. 

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The NeuroLeadership Collection


Excerpt from "Mindful Leadership" with Ellen Langer

The NeuroLeadership Institute is doing such important work around how we can use our brains better to create a more mindful society and workplace.  Check out this transcribed excerpt from "Mindful Leadership" with Ellen Langer.  Langer talks about how easily we engage in mindlessness rather than mindfulness.

We get lulled into thinking we know.  But perhaps the most important bottom line to all that I’m going to say is that we don’t know.  And we need to be excited about not knowing because that gives us reason to pay attention and tune in.  There is an easier one.  How much is “1 + 1?”.  I’ve got some of you scared already, right?  OK.  Well, it turns out that 1 + 1 = 2 if you are using the base 10 number system.   If you are using the base 2 number system, 1 + 1 = 10.  And if you’re adding one wad of chewing gum to one wad of chewing gum, 1 + 1 = 1. 

Now, what happens is, we learn information in some absolute way, oblivious to the way it may be different depending on different contexts.  What happens is that it never occurs to us to question all of these things we think we know.  So when we are uncertain, instead, we stay open to the subtleties.  We stay in the present.  So, if you ask people over 50, “You are driving along on ice, the car starts to skid -- what do you do?”  And what they’ll tell you is, “You turn into the skid and you gently press the brakes.”  Well, this made sense before we had antilock brakes.   Now what you’re supposed to do, is firmly press on the brakes.   Mindlessness is not stupidity.  It made sense at one time, people keep behaving in the same way, circumstances change, and accidents then occur.

I went into a store and I made a purchase.  The cashier asked for the credit card.  I gave it to her.  She saw that it was not signed so she asked me to sign it.  I signed it.  She then ran it through the credit card machine, gave me the credit card slip, asked me to sign it.  I signed it.  And she then compared the two signatures…


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The NeuroLeadership Summit Collection


Excerpt from "Perfect Just as You Are" with Pema Chodron

Excerpt from Pema Chodron's "Don't Bite the Hook"

We are delighted to share with you this transcribed excerpt from Pema Chodron's fantastic book Don't Bite the Hook.  In it, she talks about the importance of working with anger -- something so many of us would rather avoid!  

So -- what is the significance of the teaching on how to work with anger?

Well, it has tremendous significance because again and again, whenever we’re challenged, there is opportunity to open to the difficulty and let the difficulty make us more compassionate, more wise. Or the opposite, which is that when things are difficult, the chances instead of it making us more afraid and therefore more vulnerable or more subject to being able to catch the anxiety in the atmosphere and spin off into wanting to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and the tendency for aggression to escalate and violence to escalate under challenge is much greater.

I wanted to begin by giving the Dharma talks on the sixth chapter of Shanti Deva -- chapter on working with anger.

So, for Shanti Deva teaching as he did in the eighth century in India a long, long time ago, to Yolanda University in India to a entire packed audience of celibate monks, you might wonder what the relevance of such a teaching would be today, and all I can say is at the level of human neurosis, nothing has changed much. And so what he has to say and the way he… you’ll see, it actually has humor in it where he keeps pointing out example after example of our foibles of how we justify our anger and all the many, many situations that make us angry. But it’s more than just like losing our temper or something. We’re talking now about finding ourselves in a situation where many, many people are feeling more vulnerable and the situation is more volatile. And so, it might be that in the years to come, you might look back and think of it as something like, that was teaching. That was really -- because I have started to use it every day of my life in difficult situations -- has made it possible for me to be become more compassionate, to become more tenderhearted and loving rather than more afraid and full of aggression and wanting to strike out and protect me and mine. You might just look back and say, “This was really important” because right now the key thing is whether it was a difficult situation in the world or not; it’s to use the difficult situations of everyday life to wake us up, to awaken our compassion. To make us feel our kinship with each other rather than to buy into polarization. So Shanti Deva says a lot about our mindset. The mindset of friend and foe. Like and dislike. For me and against me. And how that very mechanism of buying so tightly into this notion of the good people and the bad people -- the ones that I like and the ones I don’t like and how we get so invested in this and how this is  “the kindling” or “the fuel” for anger and aggression to escalate. So from this point of view, the teachings are on non-violence and on non-aggression. And you could think of that as a synonym for the word patience. 

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