Dr. Laurie Santos is Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman College at Yale University. Professor and podcast host Dr. Laurie Santos is an expert on human cognition and the…
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Once a thought is in our heads, we can’t suppress it and trying to only causes us misery. Dr. Laurie Santos explains why our brains work in this way and hears from real people who have confronted and overcome disruptive thoughts and bad memories and found happiness in the process.
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Links to references from this episode:
“The Harvard psychologist Dan Wegner was interested in these effects, which he referred to as ironic processes.”
“Wegner created a version of Dostoevsky’s polar bear challenge as an experiment with college students.”
“A topic that’s usually verboten for golfers to speak of… The Yips.”
“College students told not to think about a particular person before bed end up dreaming about that person more often.”
“And soccer players told not to shoot a penalty kick to a specific location tend to look at that exact forbidden spot, which is a problem since players tend to aim where they look.”
“Dan Wegner— who devised the white bear experiment — also studied these ironic effects on the golf course.”
“It’s April 11, 1961 and Adolf Eichmann has just entered his bullet-proof dock at a special tribunal in Jerusalem.”
“He joined a project that invited survivors to give videotaped testimony of what they had endured at the hands of the Nazis.”
“Immediately after telling these awful stories, survivors felt… better.”
“Those who wrote about traumas ended up going to the doctor at about half the rate as people in the control conditions.”
“Since his initial research back in the 1980s, many scientists have seen the same effects of setting traumatic memories down on paper.”
“The Stanford neuroscientist James Gross showed his poor test subjects graphic medical footage of a patient’s arm being amputated.”
“In one study, subjects were asked to stick their arms in very, very cold water for as long as they could take, and then rate the experience on a scale from 0 no pain at all to 10 maximum agony.”
“But as researcher Wendy Mendes and her colleagues have found out, that’s pretty much the worst thing we can do.”
“The Buddha himself realized that these are not going away. In fact, the continued existence of pain— or what Buddhists call dukkha— is so important that it is considered the first of the four noble truths.”