Introduction (00:02): Welcome to the conversations on healing podcast, where host Shay speaks with renowned healthcare leaders and practitioners to explore the world of wellness, the incredible powers of self-care and what it truly means to heal today. Join us on this journey to become more whole healed and connected.
Shay (00:34): This is Shay Beider, and I have the incredible honor of introducing you all to the world renowned and internationally recognized psychologist, Daniel Goleman. It is currently the 25-year anniversary of Daniel’s New York times bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence. With more than 5 million copies sold worldwide Daniel’s book is so impactful that emotional intelligence was described as a revolutionary paradigm shattering idea by the Harvard Business Review. He is somebody who has written not just one impactful book, but several we discuss emotional intelligence and several of his other works, including his most recent introduction to Victor Frankel’s book, Yes to Life, which was just newly translated into English for the first time. We also discussed Daniel’s relationship with the Dalai Lama and some fascinating research that he has written about on meditation. I’m excited for you all to hear his wise and gentle words. So welcome Daniel Goleman.
Shay (01:50): As I was contemplating conducting this interview with you, and I was trying to really take in the magnitude of the impact of the book, Emotional Intelligence. It was stunning to think about the effect that singular work has had on the entire world. I mean, international impact across fields, across school systems, across certainly the field of psychology in corporations, the way we think of leadership. As I sort of analyze the different domains, and dimensions, and impact of this work of your book, Emotional Intelligence, and now with its 25-year anniversary coming up, I felt I had to start the interview by asking you, how does it feel to have created a work had such enormous impact? (I’m laughing because the question you ask reminds me of the question was asked the Dalai Lama)
Daniel (03:00): When he had a press conference right after he won the Nobel peace prize. The first question was, how does it feel to win the Nobel peace prize? I’ll always remember his answer was I feel happy for the people who wanted me to win this prize which is such a selfless way of responding. But I would say, I feel happy about the people who have benefited in various ways from the unleashing of this
concept, emotional intelligence, which basically said there’s a different way of being smart. You can be intelligent about your emotions too. It’s not just cognitive abilities and this opened a door for so many people. And as you say, it’s global, to my shock and surprise, the book became a bestseller around the world. Right. It’s in more than 40 different languages now. The meaning in the old sense of the word mean of emotional intelligence or EEQ for the shorthand is pretty universal.
Daniel (04:11): Now there is a word in Chinese for EEQ, there’s a word, the EEQ in German, it’s in so many languages and people know what it is. I remember before the book came out, I thought if I ever hear two strangers talking and one uses the phrase emotional intelligence and the other understands it, I’ll have succeeded, I actually succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I think you succeeded. Yeah. So yeah. And the book itself was pretty much an argument for teaching this, these abilities to kids in school as part of the standard curriculum. Although there was a chapter on management that really struck a chord with the business committee and I’ve continued to do work and give talks in that sector while social emotional learning as it’s called it’s really taken off in schools globally, too. So from that point of view, it’s had a surprising impact. I would see it.
Shay (05:16): Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I have a 12-year-old daughter and I was thinking about the impact of your work on my daughter. (Oh really?) The way her school system is organized. That SEL is a concept that’s readily understood that there is a clear understanding that IQ is one form of intelligence. I think this is another piece when I was determining what questions I wanted to ask you, Daniel. I recognize this theme in your work because you’ve written about social intelligence, emotional intelligence, obviously you’ve also looked at ecological intelligence, and the way that we look at the environment and you’ve really opened up this whole framework of multiple intelligences. I thought, Oh, I have to ask you about that. What led you to want to think about these many varied forms of intelligence?
Daniel (06:16): Well, I have to give credit to someone I’ve known since graduate school at Harvard. His name is Howard. Gardner wrote a book called the multiple intelligence, and he talked about seven different varieties of intelligence even kinesthetic intelligence, movement intelligence and great athletes and great dancers. He really made the argument that there’s more than one kind of intelligence I followed through on that. When I wrote about social intelligence or emotional intelligence, I was just following a door he had opened when I wrote about ecological intelligence. I was thinking about how people through history have always, particularly prehistory, have had to understand their local ecology in order to survive and how that is a knowledge that we’ve lost pretty much. Because of that, we act in ways that are very damaging to the environment, including our local environment and we’re oblivious to it. So, I thought, you know, we need to think about that sensibility to what it would mean to be intelligent in terms of ecology. You could go on; you could say there is a social intelligence at the systems level. I think that understanding that there’s been an injustice to particular groups is part of that understanding. So that’s yet another kind of intelligence. I think the more such intelligence that we have the better off we are
Shay (08:04): That’s right, more broad composite there. I also want to touch on some of the work that you did after writing emotional intelligence. So, you explored competence modeling, which I think is so fascinating. I love that a body of work and the way that it’s been used to find kind of the best person for the job in corporations. I was looking at some of the data you reviewed that revealed that for jobs of all kinds, emotional intelligence competencies were more important than sort of intellectual competencies by a factor of about two to one. And that you saw a trend in corporations that the higher someone went up in the leadership ladder, the more significant their emotional intelligence became. So given that I would love to understand why you think it has taken us so long to recognize the value of emotional intelligence. Why your work was so groundbreaking and why people were shaken up by this idea.
Daniel (09:13): Sure. Well, I have to give you some caveats about the data you just mentioned. (Ok great.) That’s rather soft data. I was doing a kind of, what’s called a thematic analysis of competence models. Competence models are done by organizations to find out what kind of talents should we look for? The people we hire, we promote and what should we help people develop, particularly leaders. And there are two kinds of competencies. One is a threshold competence. Everybody needs it to get into the game and the other, and this is what the numbers you name for two. The other is a distinguishing competence, this is what you see in the star performers that you don’t see in an average, the outstanding leaders by whatever metric you can use for that particular position. If you look at distinguishing competencies, it’s true, the competence models which remember are done by companies themselves, the proprietary, they don’t share that data. Cause they see it as competitive data what is going to help our people be outstanding. So I got access to various ways about a hundred or more models. I found that the distinguishing competencies, particularly the higher you go tended to be in the emotional intelligence domain. I think it’s easy to understand, even if you’re at an engineering company, if you become a vice president, if you’re in the, C-suite basically managing people, you’re not using your technical skills anymore, you’re using your managing people who have those skills. You don’t need them. You just need enough to know how to talk about it and whether they’re doing a good job. So, the higher you go, the less your cognitive abilities or at least technical skills and cognitive ability matter for how well you perform. I think that companies and people hadn’t done this intuitively and what I did was give it language. I explained in terms people could understand what they actually knew all along. Like, what are the signs of a good leader? Well, you feel safe that person, you feel you can trust that person. You feel that person will be honest with you, transparent. I’ve asked people around the world, what’s the one characteristic of the boss you love the most? It basically comes to different aspects of emotions, they’re empathic, you can trust them, whatever. I ask, well, what about the boss you hated the most? It’s always the antithesis of emotional intelligence. So, I think a good gauge of someone’s emotional intelligence in the workplace is particularly somebody in a boss position, supervising position or executive. Is would you want to be a direct report for that person? If the answer is no, you probably are sensing there’s something off about their emotional intelligence skillset. I should tell you what that set is, it’s self-awareness, it’s using that awareness to manage yourself well, to achieve your goals despite setbacks, to stay optimistic, to be adaptable, to get over and be covered from disruptive distressing emotions, that’s all within self-management. Then there’s empathy, knowing what other people are feeling and using that to have effective relationships, to influence others, to persuade them, to inspire them. To inspire them I think you have to first look at what gives you a sense of meaning or purpose, and then articulate that to the other person in a way that resonates with their sense of meaning and purpose. So it’s kind of a heart to heart communication, but it also includes things like being a good team member being able to resolve conflicts before they explode, simmering tensions and get them out on the table. So, basically, it’s a cohesive set of skills that have been recognized for a long time in companies and organizations of every kind as sitting apart, the most effective people from the least effective people but now we have language.
Shay (13:52): Yeah. I think it might take me a while just to wrap my mind around why giving language to something that is you described individuals maybe intuitively knew prior creates such a shift in humanity because it did. So, moving from intuitive knowledge to something that allies, why is that shift so important? I there’s something I want to understand about that because I see what happened. It’s like it was able to affect dramatic cultural change by making that move. So I’m so curious about why that move to language kind of a process of maybe concretization making it more concrete, why that’s so critically valuable.
Daniel (14:43): So I think it has to do with ways of knowing, there’s intuitive way of knowing, people knew intuitively about emotional intelligence before they ever heard the phrase. Then there is a cognitive way of knowing and I’ve always been very caring, my training is as a science journalist. (Right, yes.) I’m an ecologist, but I worked at the New York times for a long time reporting on science. I’ve been very careful in my book to cite the science because it speaks to the part of the brain or the part of the mind that wants to know the data, but it wants to be shown that, scientifically rationally, this makes sense. I try to tell a lot of stories. That’s the intuitive knowing. And I also try to back it up with, uh, science. That explains what happened in that story. That’s really the method of writing that I’ve used. I think it speaks to the whole brain, all the key ways of knowing. I think that has been one reason, that this idea has spread for example, in schools. I think everybody intuitively knows that you want kids to be kind. You want them to be calm. You want them to be clear and want them to know how to do that for themselves. You don’t want to have to be shouting at them, calm down. You want them to calm themselves down. I helped form a group called the collaborative for academic social and emotional learning, which is the main organization that promotes SEL social, emotional learning around the world. By partners there included two top notch research, psychologists who have been getting the data that shows that teaching kids to be calm, clear, and kind helps them be less anti-social there’s 10% less bullying, violence, aggression in schools, where they have social, emotional learning, kids by a margin, 10% are more likely to like school, want to go to school and think someone at school likes me. Academic achievement goes up 11%. This was stated from a study of 270,000 students in matching demographically, kids who had SEL and kids who didn’t have SEL. So, from a scientific point of view, it’s pretty definitive. And that’s the kind of data that we’ve been collecting in order to support the intuitive sense that I want my child to be like this. I want other kids that my child’s going to grow up with to be like this too.
Shay (17:45): Yeah. I heard you speak about, I think it was the Stanford study with the marshmallows, four year olds. I don’t know if you want to describe it.
Daniel (17:58): This is important because it’s a measure. This measures an aspect of emotional intelligence, which is how will you manage your emotional impulse. The study was done by Walter Michelle years ago at Stanford. Four-year-olds at the preschool at Stanford. These are mainly kids of professors and graduate students that brought to room one by one and a big juicy marshmallows put in front of them. And they’re told you can have this marshmallow now if you want. But if you wait until I run an errand, then when I get back, you can have two. Then the experimenter leaves the room, and the poor kid is staring at this marshmallow and some of them can’t stand it. They just grab it, gobble it on the spot, about a third, another third, wait, the endless seven or eight minutes, whatever it is until the experimenter, comes back and they get to the kids are tracked down 14 years later when they’ve graduating high school. And it turns out the kids who waited compared to the kids who grabbed have remarkable differences. They get along better with other kids or the students b) they still can delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. They also had a remarkably higher score on the college entrance exam. So high that when I went to Princeton and told the people who make up that test about the study, they were shocked. I said, that’s a bigger difference that we see, uh, between kids where one parent has an advanced degree, like a master’s or PhD and kids where the parents haven’t even finished elementary school. So, it’s a huge difference. It seems to be because kids, if a kid is calm and clear, they learn better and that’s a powerful study. It’s called cognitive control this ability to delay impulse or not to act on impulse. Michelle has written about it a lot, but there was a study in New Zealand where they track more than a thousand kids measuring cognitive control ages four to eight, tracking them down in their thirties. They found cognitive control in childhood predicted financial success and health and it did better than IQ or the wealth of the family you grew up in. So, it’s a big leveler, it’s an independent ability and it’s key to emotional intelligence. I would classify it as self-management
Shay (20:33): Right. It sounded like from what I heard you sharing previously is that part of it is a amygdala inhibition that if we have that one of the defining aspects of this cognitive control is that you have the ability to inhibit the amygdala when that response is occurring and prevent it. Is that right?
Daniel (20:57): But let me explain the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. (Great, that’d be wonderful.) And let me explain it by a story that happened to it’s about a five-year-old on a snowy day. You’re in Arizona, you have to imagine snow. Just have to imagine. And this five-year-old wants to go out in the play and his mom says fine, but you have to put on your snow suit that which he throws a huge tantrum. No, I won’t put on my snow suit pounding the floor crying then all of a sudden, he stops, goes to his room and comes out a little later with his snow suit on and is about to go out and play. His mom says, Hey, what just happened? He says, well, my guard dog got upset and so I had my wise owl talk to it, and that is neuroscience for a five-year-old. But guard dog is the amygdala. The amygdala was the brain’s radar for threat. If it feels there’s an emergency, there’s a threat, even a symbolics threat, like put your snowsuit on, the amygdala is the brain is designed and the amygdala can take over the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is like the CEO of the brain. It’s where we make good decisions, we take in for patience. We learn, we comprehend, and the amygdala can paralyze the prefrontal cortex and drive it to its own whim or habit. So, the ability to just say no to the amygdala is crucial for cognitive control or impulse control or learning, or being a good citizen or a civilized person. It turns out there’s a strip of us, neurocircuitry, in the left prefrontal cortex, which can inhibit a amygdala impulse. It turns out also that exercises, like for example, mindfulness or meditation strengthened the connectivity in this circuit and then seemed to make people better able to exert this cognitive control. There’s a saying in psychology, maturity is widening the gap between an event and your reaction. If it’s an event that’s upsetting, that means managing your amygdala impulse.
Shay (23:17): That’s wonderful. And you said that in such a clear way, I know that everyone listening will really be able to take that in and understand that. And I’m going to hang on to that guard dog wise owl in my own self. Pay attention. We all need it. Right. You mentioned early in our conversation, Daniel, his holiness, the Dalai Lama, and you have a very relationship there and were invited to write a book, kind of addressing his position on some of the world’s most interesting problems. The book is titled Force for Good. He too shares with you, such a love of science. I mean, this is a man who has deep appreciation and value or recognition of the value of science. So, I want to know why it was important to you to write that.
Daniel (24:18): Well, I always since I met the Dalai Lama and I did it actually around science, I heard early on in the eighties, when he first started coming to America, that he was very eager to meet with scientists. So I joined a group called the Mind and Life Institute that put together meetings between the Dalai Lama and various groups of scientists, five day meeting, very intensive on various topics. I moderated some of those meetings and that’s how I basically got to know him a bit. So, I was very honored when for his 80th birthday, I was asked to write this book Force for Good, which basically describes his vision for the world, what we need. He says, we need compassion. We need to teach kids compassion. We need to have that as a kind of our North Star caring about others. It needs to be a muscular compassion, not as squishy, passive thing, but rather you need to confront people. If they’re creating, unfairness corruption they’re not transparent. He says, of course help the needy, but it’s better to help them help themselves. He’s a big advocate of getting over us and them divides, which right now are more troubling than ever I think in the world. He’s a big champion of ecological intelligence. He says earth is our home. Our home is on fire. We need to do something urgently. He sees all of this as being part of an ideal education for kids. He puts a lot of stock in what he calls the people of the 21st century, people who are young now, even kids now and he says that we need to educate the heart.
This is social emotional learning in a different language. By helping kids have an ethic of compassion and the tools to be effective interpersonally and in managing themselves, we can make them better able to turn things around. It’s very interesting. He doesn’t say how to do it. He says, each of us has our own sphere of influence or leaders within that sphere. Maybe family, friends, whatever other positions we have. We should use that sphere of influence with whatever tools we have, whatever abilities, to change things for the better in whatever way we can. He says, even if you won’t see the fruits in your own lifetime, you should start now anyway. I think that’s a very profound message.
Shay (27:02): It is indeed. Yeah. That sphere of influence. I read it as part of the preparation for this interview. I read your introduction that I think have just recently written to Victor Frankel’s book, Yes to Life in Spite of Everything. And it’s such a moving piece that you have written. So I want to give you a bit of an opportunity to describe why that book was so important to you, that you wanted to write the introduction and how you feel that the incredible knowledge of Victor Frankl in the most dire of human circumstances, what that has to teach us today.
Daniel (27:59): Victor Frankl, survived four years and Nazi concentration camps. He almost died several times. And he said that what helped him keep going was a sense of purpose that he had things he wanted to do that were meaningful to him in life. In fact, he developed a psychotherapy method called logotherapy, which is about identifying your own sense of purpose. The title of the book is kind of chilling, Yes to Life In Spite of Everything, it’s based on three lectures, he gave within six months of getting out of the concentration camp. So when he says spite of everything that has a really deep resonance cause he almost died in there and his pregnant wife died, his parents, a sibling. So, it was a really devastating circumstance that he just survived. I was born post-World War II. I was like the peak of the first tip of the baby boom. And I was, in fact, a replacement for someone who died in the concentration camp, my parents told me. So that the book and Victor Frankel’s work had particular personal resonance for me. I also think it’s really timely that a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning is more important than ever for people. You know, in the emotional intelligence model, it would be, you would use your self-awareness, but in an intuitive way to know really resonates for you about your life, about what you can do to improve things. So I jumped at the chance when I was asked to write the introduction, I really felt it was an honor.
Shay (29:58): It is indeed. I loved how you summarized in the introduction towards the end that one of his students had said that he felt that Victor Frankel’s life purpose was to help other people find their life purpose. Oh, what a gift that is.
Daniel (30:17): Well, so many people have read his other book, Man’s Search for Meaning. (Yes, yes of course.) Which is a famous book, which is exactly about finding purpose and this book is to and that was his mission. You’re right. The phrase yes, to life in spite of everything is chilling. For another reason, it was from a song written as a theme song for concentration camp. It was one of the lines in that song when the prisoners had to sing it, they were forced to sing it. Many of them sang it with anger, but afterward I was talking to a woman whose parents actually were survivors of concentration camps. She said that for them life had incredible brilliance and resonance and they would get together with other survivors every Saturday and have a party. They really lived yes to life in spite of everything. It has lots of different angles, lots of different meaning.
Shay (31:28): In that introduction, you also included a quote that I know is one that is important and meaningful to you. It’s from Rabbi Hillel and it reads “if I am not for myself, who will be, if I am not for others, what am I, and if not now when”.
Daniel (31:54): Right. I think that’s like from 10 centuries ago or so, but I think it’s really about if I’m not for myself and in the emotional intelligence model, that’s the self-awareness and self-mastery abilities. If I’m not for others, that’s empathy and relationship skills, and compassion, having that as your North stars, guiding principle. And if not now when, that’s a that’s a pretty important question. I mean, when are you going to act on it? It resonates completely with what the Dalai Lama was saying. I remember he gave a talk at MIT to a conference on systems, and he said whenever you face a decision of consequence, ask yourself three questions. Who benefits? Is it just you or a group? Just your group or everyone? And is it only for now or for the future too? I think that’s a very profound way of saying basically the same thing.
Shay (33:06): Very good foresight in the understanding to even know, to ask those questions, right. It allows you to think forward essentially. I’m curious about if reading, Frankel’s lectures and reflecting, as you must have in the writing of the introduction if it helped you to refine your own life purpose and if you feel that in any way that has changed or clarified for you.
Daniel (33:37): I don’t know if I can put my life purpose into words. I would say that my books express a lot of it. I always thought of, for example, when I went to the New York Times and started giving talks at businesses because of emotion intelligence, I thought, Oh, I’m a teacher this is adult education. I feel that the books I write are the same. I feel that, you know, my mother, God bless her used to say, make the world a better place, which now is kind of a cliche, but it has real meaning too. I feel that in various ways, different books I’ve write all try to make the world a better place. Emotional intelligence was a core idea, but I keep doing it in many ways.
Shay (34:28): Absolutely. I want to talk a little bit about, another idea that you have spoken and written about the idea of a flow state. This is this state that’s characterized by kind of unperturbable attention. So full focused attention, being completely flexible and adaptable, having your skills challenge to their highest level, but also feeling great, in your life and in your work, where have you found that you are in a flow state?
Daniel (35:04): Oh, that’s interesting. Well, you know, being in love is a flow state, so that’s one way with my wife and my grandkids and kids, family. When I write, I find myself in a state like that. And I’m a kind of industrial strength meditator. So, when I meditate, I find that it also seems to bring me into that state when I can drop my thoughts. The things I keep thinking drag me down, but when I can let go of them then I can get more into flow. Flow is characterized by something you glossed over a bit, which is feeling good that’s really a hallmark. But I think the things that we love to do in life, the things we do because they make us feel good are ways, we get into what they call the mini flow. The people we love being with our pets, the things we love doing all of that.
Shay (36:11): Yeah, absolutely. And, looking at that feeling good state as almost a bridge or an entry point into a flow state, right. I think it’s in the designing your life work, which I think came out of a couple of people at Stanford, too. They talk about that, like how you start to track and identify the experiences in your life where you feel like you’re feeling good and that you’re kind of in more of a state of flow. Then you use that as sort of a chart map or a guide to begin to reset the amount of time you’re there.
Daniel (36:46): So, what you’re doing is making more explicit and conscious what it is that gets you in flow. I actually feel we have a natural navigation system to flow, which is we like doing things that make us feel good. (Right.)
Shay (37:09): Thank goodness we have that natural tendency. Well you mentioned, meditation and how central that is personally, and you’ve written a book altered traits where you talk about, what science is revealing to us about the effects of meditation and you co-wrote this with Richard Davidson. I love that work on the sort of Olympic level meditators. You know, we’re in like 60,000 plus hours of meditation, which is incredible and how that changes brain States and how they hang out more in a gamma state. You know, it really shifts the way they’re experiencing life. I guess I want to understand what you have come to learn and understand about that.
Daniel (37:57): Well, I went to India first time as a graduate student in clinical psychology at Harvard. And what I realized was when I met yogis and llamas and sadhus and swamis, many of them seem to be in a better place than anybody I’d ever met in my life. And I thought something’s going on here that we really need to bring into our psychological awareness. One of the commonalities was they had meditation practices. There were others too, of course. So, I got really interested in meditation. In fact, I had been a meditator before went to India because I was anxious. I found it calm me down as an undergraduate. That’s when I started meditating. The more I looked into it, the better the results seem to be. So, I did my dissertation at Harvard on meditation as a way to handle stress.
Daniel (38:55): And, turns out that a fellow graduate student of mine, Richard Davidson, who’s now world famous neuroscientists, and when you’re visiting Wisconsin, Richie. We all call him. Uh, Richie also did his dissertation on meditation. But he did it a more clever way than I did. He did it so that it looked like he was actually studying how to use EEG to monitor mind States, which should then was a very novel approach. And so, we got together again decades later when we did our dissertations with like three articles in all of the scientific literature that were about meditation there’s like nothing. Now there are more than 6,000. So, we looked at the 1% of the very, very, very best studies. We found that, yes, it makes you more calm, better able to recover from stress, but more resilient, which was my hunch. It makes you better able to focus. It’s direct training and paying attention and dropping distraction. If you do a meditation on kindness and compassion, it actually makes you more kind and compassionate. And then when you look at the industrial strength meditators, the professionals, the yogis that you mentioned, if there is an end point, I’m not sure there is. But anyway, at the very advanced qualities are quite remarkable. That’s why we call it the book altered traits, altered states are temporary, but altered traits or ongoing aspects of being. One of the things we found was that the meditator, the Yogi who had done the most meditation, when he was asked to meditate on compassion, circuits in his brain for that underlying compassion activated about seven to 800% more than they hadn’t been. That was mind boggling for science because they never seen anyone willfully in the hand sprain activity to that extent that instantly for any reason.
Daniel (41:14): So that was one thing. Another has to do with what’s called the gammas aspect of the EEG spectrum, gamma wave. Uh, the high intensity gamma occurs naturally when we have a high experience like, oh, I solved a problem. Or when we have a vivid memory like crunching into a peach the sound, the smell, the taste, all of that all. Once you get the gamma for about a quarter second, the yogis had gamma all the time in the rest of the brainwaves. Nobody knows what that means, but it’s pretty unusual and probably pretty good. Another remarkable difference had to do with pain. At Richie’s lab, they used an instrument that establishes a person’s upper threshold for pain just before they blister. It’s very painful to establish that threshold. And then people are told, oh, you’re going to have that for 10 seconds in about 30 seconds. The moment they hear it, the brain system for the sensation of pain and the brain system for your emotional reaction to pain, two separate systems, go sky high, just like their feeling the pain and stay that high through the pain. And then for the 30 seconds after they remain that high people don’t recover that instantly from pain, except the yogis. The yogis they’re told they’re going to have that pain in 30 seconds, nothing happens in the circuits for 30 seconds. Then the pain comes in for 10 seconds the circuits that registered the sensory aspect of the pain, get high, get active, the circuits for emotional reaction, nothing. And then the moment the pain stops again, both circuits, nothing. So that tells us that very people who have meditated for a long time who have a high level of whatever altered trait this brings, experienced life differently than most of us. That’s what every major spiritual tradition says, right? If you follow this path and you really work at it, you practice you reach places where things are different, and we do find a dose response relationship looking at the facts. I see that you have a taka of behind you, are you a meditator?
Shay (43:52): I do. I am a avid meditator.
Daniel (43:55): Oh you are? Okay. Yeah, me too. And I found this very encouraging, so I got more serious about it after writing the book.
Shay (44:04): Yeah, I noticed in particular, when I was in the process of childbirth, how much meditation helped me. Similar to the data you just described that in being very present with the physical sensation. If just simply was present with the sensation and I didn’t add anything to the story about was coming next. In other words, bridge of to the future. No fear of what was coming, but just a present feeling in to this pure sensation of what was that because it’s such a wave like process because earth and contractions are really very much like the ocean, it comes, it’s been precedes and then it comes again and then recedes that present mindedness which I think I had developed to some degree through meditation made that process so much more easeful because there were always those breaks in the tide. It was just incredibly valuable to me to have that skill that I had begun to cultivate for many years prior to going through that experience. And it was a great value.
Daniel (45:24): Thank you for telling me about that. Shay. I may use your story if you don’t mind.
Shay (45:28): I don’t mind at all. Well I think we’re in such a beautiful time where meditation is being studied so extensively and I am so excited that there is such wonderful work that’s both being conducted and then being discussed and described by yourself and Richard Davidson and others, or making sure that some of what we’re learning is getting out to a general public. I’ve looked at some of the indices that show meditation rates are extremely on the rise among Americans that more people are meditating than ever before, so I think that’s interesting as well.
Daniel (46:13): Yeah. And we did a book about the science of meditation, and in the same way, I used a lot of science and emotional intelligence and other books, to help people who are kind of on the cusp, be more certain that maybe I’ll give this a try or to motivate people like yourself. Who’ve been meditators and show that the more you do the better it gets, but to do it from a scientific point of view, because I think the sense that meditation can help you is intuitive. It’s those two ways of knowing again, that, you know, you talk to someone who’s been a meditator and they say when it helped me in childbirth or it helped me in this way or that way, and that’s very persuasive, but then when you see, you know, there’s a scientific study that shows this too that helps that other part of your mind think, Oh, okay. Maybe I’ll give it a try.
Shay (47:10): Right. Absolutely. The title of our podcast is conversations on healing. And that originated because as you’re aware, my field of work is to work with children, primarily who have very significant health issues. Some are in the hospital, some are in the process of dying, some are out of the hospital and more in hospice or kind of end-of-life circumstances, and the component that has never ceased to amaze me is that a child can be dying and healing. A family can be seeing, their child suffer tremendously and still something can be growing and remain intact through the most dire of circumstances. Very much in the same way that Victor Frankel is saying he was able to himself and wants to encourage others to say yes to life in truly unimaginable circumstances. I like to ask all of our guests, how they understand in their own lives or in the lives of their loved ones, what it is to heal, what healing means to you. So, I would put that question to you.
Daniel (48:36): Well, from what you’ve just said, it’s obvious there’s not just physical health that heals. It’s kind of a deeper being, our emotional self, our spiritual self. I find it fascinating that touch is such a powerful medium for this deeper healing. In fact, I don’t know if you saw it, there’s a study. I mentioned that was done in Richie’s lab of women who were going to get a shock and their brain is being scanned. And if someone holds their hand, they’re amygdala which fires up gets quieter. But if someone they love, like their husband holds their hand, it goes completely quiet. I think that it just testifies to the fact that real contact real sense, immediate felt sense can be so healing for us and touch us deeply. So for me, that’s what healing is.
Shay (49:46): I love that, and that actually ties very beautifully into another piece of your work that I wanted to discuss briefly, which is this idea of the way that our mirror neurons and maybe I’ll step back actually from that and say about the social brain. So you’ve written a book on the social brain and how important it is for us to use that social brain skillfully. And essentially the social brain is reflecting that we have cells in our brain matching to another person’s brain when we’re communicating with them and when we’re in each other’s company, and that you talk about it as like a brain to brain bridge that is formed, and the mirror neurons are one example of this. So I’m super curious about how you would perceive the social brain as being optimized for creating healing relationships.
Daniel (50:53): Science is telling us now is that there are multiple circuits in the forebrain, the front part of the brain that are designed to form a kind of automatic brain to brain linkage, kind of a super highway that instantly, automatically, and unconsciously connects what’s going on in us to what’s going on in the other person. This is how we keep interactions smooth, for example. But I think in a more profound sense, it may be pathways for the kind of person-to-person healing that you’re talking about. Nobody can show the science of this yet, but I have an intuitive sense of that.
Shay (51:37): Yeah, I would love to see as we come to a point where we can show more of the science of that, I think that would be so interesting to study and to understand more. So Daniel in closing our conversation today, I feel like it’s very appropriate to take a moment to step back and look at this milestone marker in your life. You’re just on the precipice. Although that seems like a funny word, but on the tip, maybe of this monumental release of emotional intelligence, the 25 year anniversary, this book is coming out and I must ask you what you would most want to share with our listeners about what you have learned by releasing this body of work more fully into the world and what it has taught you, that you would want them to hear it.
Daniel (52:41): Well, I think that they’re kind of two take homes for me that I’d love to share. One is that we can all get better at knowing ourselves and using that information to take care of ourselves better in every sense of the word. And that includes getting over disruptive emotions, recovering quickly, which allows the second point, which I think is very important, which is how we can be kind and be present to other people. Those are for me, the take homes from emotional intelligence.
Shay (53:21): Yeah. And I think that your work, so similarly to what you’ve discussed and described about the Dalai Lama’s work has at its very core, this essence of kindness and compassion that is very foundational in the premise. So, I want to thank you for that contribution. I’m extremely grateful that I have an opportunity to be with you at this monumental time in your life and in this incredible resource and gift that you’ve given to the world. So, thank you for that. Thank you very much. (That’s very kind of you Shay and it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I hope that your listeners will benefit.) I’m certain that they will.
Introducer (54:11): We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Conversations on Healing Podcast. If you haven’t yet, please go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It helps, so you won’t miss an episode. See you next time.