Who among us hasn’t at one time or the other experienced fear, humiliation, degradation at the hand of someone toward whom we were vulnerable? I was just conned out of a great deal of money by someone my colleague Josh Buckholtz, who studies psychopaths, said sounded like a quintessential member of that class. It truly scared me. It also raised the question for me of how do you get up after being thrown for the proverbial loop. It was actually much easier than most would imagine.
Gabriel Hammond and I are doing research on bullying, so the antidote was salient for me. In that work, the main idea occurred to us when we thought about what many parents might tell their children when they thought they were doing the bullying. “It’s not nice to pick on people less strong than you are.” We think this actually may increase the tendency to bully. Based on this reasoning, each instance of bullying instantiates at least the relative strength of the bully. What if young people were more appropriately told that bullying is a sign of weakness. No one who is successful and has it all together bullies. If everyone recognized this, there would be nothing in it for the bully to bully. Each attempt would be an admission of weakness.
Whether young or old, the same is true throughout our lives. Whenever we feel that we’ve just been kicked in the stomach or when someone simply tries to make us feel small, or takes advantage of us in any way, we have an alternative to feeling like a victim. No one truly strong and successful would behave that way. Recognizing it as weakness is empowering. I feel sorry for the bully, the con man, and actually even the psychopath.
I recently published a book entitled, The Art of Noticing. It’s full of one-liners culled from forty years of research paired with one of my paintings. The result of thinking deeply about each of them lead me to define GLADO, my recipe for a successful life: be Generous, Loving, Direct and Open. I reached the same conclusion after seriously considering the myths that prevent us from fully engaging our mindful creativity that I spelled out in On Becoming An Artist.
These books were written to encourage the recognition that these myths are of our own making. Rules and standards are decisions made by others and can be rewritten, genuine success is not zero-sum, and we are all that stand between us and the lives we’d like to live.
In studies over four decades, Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer showed that mental attitude can reverse the effects of aging and improve physical health. Now she wants to test the theory on cancer. Dr. Langer joins “CBS This Morning” to discuss her research.
“One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home for five days as they participated in a radical experiment, cooked up by a young psychologist named Ellen Langer….”
Read the rest of the profile of me and my work in the New York Times.
I’ll be giving a lecture on “Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility” as part of The Wellbeing Lecture Series at the University of Minnesota on Monday, Nov 10, 2014. The schedule is as follows
2:00 – 3:30 PM, Lecture
3:30 – 4:00 PM, Q & A followed by a reception
Coffman Memorial Union
For more information and tickets, click here.
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