Sunday, March 13, 2016

Presence is More Than Looking Good

By now you have seen the TED Talk by Amy Cuddy on “power posing”--If not the link is below and the TED Talk is def worth a few minutes of your time.

But what you may not have realized is that her work is about much more than creating a good impression at work or influencing how others see you. Her deeper work is about neurobiology and the brain and how our deepest wisdom comes not from thinking but from moving.

This matters to people in recovery. 

We know a lot about the brain and addiction--all those PET scans that show an addicts brain on drugs. Not very different than the public service announcements years ago that were meant to scare us away from drugs: “This is your brain on drugs” and the visual was a fried egg scrambled in the frying pan. 

And we know that detoxing from drugs or alcohol is about the brain and the body. And we get calmer as years of recovery tick by. Part of the effect is making better choices; putting ourselves in better situations; not around people that we want to fight with; we are sleeping and eating and exercising. And our brains get better.

But what else?

Last year I was in a workshop with Bessel van der Kolk—Director of The Trauma Center in Boston. He’s considered by many to be the world’s top expert on trauma and PTSD. He talked a lot about what happens to soldiers, of course, but also what happens to people who experience sexual traumas or who are in horrific accidents. 

Bessel also talked about the relationship between trauma and addiction. We’ve known about that intuitively, of course, and some recovery literature touches on that linkage. In ACOA work we talk about trauma, and we process those memories with lots of talking and sharing. But van der Kolk explained that we must change the body to create lasting change in the brain. “Calm the body to calm the brain.”

Amy Cuddy echoes van der Kolk’s work. In her book, Presence she gives the history of these studies and confirms what another AA “ancestor”—William James—documented when he
said, “feelings are the consequence of thoughts and body expression.” Over and over we are reminded to change our body in order to change our thoughts, feelings, mood and presence.

What experts like Bessel van der Kolk and Amy Cuddy recommend are breathing, yoga, walking, stretching, dancing. “Changing the body changes the brain.”

Doesn’t that make you smile? There is one of AA’s oldest slogans:

“Move a Muscle Change a Thought."


If you haven't seen her talk, here is Amy Cuddy on TED:

No comments: