What follows is a transcript for the podcast: Overcoming Fear: The Research Behind Bravery
Topics in the interview include the following:
- What are the Hormonal Effects Of Power Posing?
- The Benefits of Embodied Expression
- Expanding From Your Core
- The Double-Blinded Placebo Controlled Form Of Study
- Embodied Cognition For Peak States, Trauma, Relational Connectedness
- Why Jamie Wheal Left Academia
- How the World is Changing
- How Is The Academia Set In A Scarcity Framework?
- Fear, Risk Taking And Speaking With Our Truest Voice
- What are the Issues with the Double-Blind Placebo Approach?
- Being a Deadhead
- The Power of Music and the Collective Experience
- Tools Against Sexism
- What Is “Machiavellianism” Or The Dark Triad Tendency?
- How Can We Stop Bullies?
- How Do We Break The Norm From Corruption of Academic Bureaucrats?
- The Power of Dance
What are the Hormonal Effects of Power Posing?
Jamie Wheal: Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard Business School, author of the global sensation presence and the speaker for one of the most widely shared viral TED Talks of all time on the power of embodiment to change our minds and our lives. Welcome to Home Grown Humans. Great to have you.
Amy Cuddy: Thank you so much for having me. Really looking forward to this conversation.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I mean, I've been following your work for ages because some of the central thesis that you've been articulating that specifically how we hold our bodies and how we treat and integrate, and vitalize our bodies plays a profound effect further up the stack in our emotions, in our presentation and even how we interact as social creatures. And so just curious as to, since you gave that talk, since you wrote Presence, where's your thesis now? What is your kind of current state of that relationship between the physical and the psychological?
Amy Cuddy: I guess it's funny, I guess I would say, the idea that being expansive changes the way we feel is more expensive than I had originally thought. Right? So, it's so much more than standing with your hands on your hips or standing in the victory pose. It really, the idea that carrying ourselves in a way that is more expansive and it's a continuum, right? It's not categorical. You're not either contracted or expansive. It's some continuum, but there are so many dimensions on which we can expand that go beyond our arms and legs. Even our voices can be more or less expansive. Our breathing can be more or less expansive. Really, it's also self-reinforcing. So to the extent that our thinking is more expansive, I think that we become even more expansive and the world expands to us. So it's just so much broader and deeper than I had originally thought.
Jamie Wheal: And then, so just clarify, because I know that, your research was both massively intriguing to the general public. It was something that felt very human, very empowering. And then there was also the back and forth within the surrounding academic disciplines. It's like, is it true? How true is it? Can we repeat and replicate these experiments? The questions of do certain postures shift our endocrine or hormonal balances, specifically things like testosterone, like dopamine, all of that kind of stuff. So, where's the state of the field now? What are the things that you are kind of comfortable saying that we're sort of getting to some, at least provisional consensus on what's actually going on in that expansion under the hood?
Amy Cuddy: I don't know. So the neurophysiology, the truth is, that has been the hardest to replicate. And also I think the most complicated for other reasons. So if I can back up a minute just to say that the effect that replicates again and again and again, is that expanding versus contracting causes people to feel more powerful, more assertive, more confident, and that's been replicated in preregistered studies by the greatest skeptics. So we can feel very confident about that effect, that it is changing the way we feel. And I would say our psychological orientation toward others, toward ourselves, toward the world more broadly. What are the underlying physiological or socio-cultural mechanisms? We don't know for sure.
The hormone's effects that you're referring to, that we found in the first day that we published, were adopting an expansive, kind of everyday what we call the power pose. Like standing with your hands on your hips and your feet apart, or in the victory pose, or sitting with your feet up in your desk and your arms behind your head, like this. Adopting that pose versus a more contractive pose like this, caused increases in circulating levels of testosterone and decreases in circulating levels of cortisol.
So you're seeing an increase in what people casually kind of refer to as the dominance hormone, and a decrease in what people refer to as one of the stress hormones. That effect was not replicated in follow-up studies, was replicated in some unpublished follow-up studies. So all, I guess what I can say is theoretically, where we were coming from making that prediction. I think they sound, I still, it makes sense to me given what we know about the relationship between power and those two hormones in particular.
I doubt, I'm skeptical that it was just a fluke. Especially given that it was a theoretically grounded scientific hypothesis, but another thing that's changed dramatically since then. And that was like 10 years ago that we did that study, is that hormone measurement has become much more advanced than it was then. Hormone measurement is not squarely in the area of social psychology. So social psychologists studying hormones, are sort of borrowing from another field. Although you get into blurred lines between fields and we need these like sort of narrowly defined fields at all, but we're borrowing from another field.
And I think we're waiting for them to really kind of pound out the best way to measure these hormones before people sort of dive back into it. So I think there was like an early dive into that area just as there was with fMRI research in virtual psychology, and then people kind of pulled back. I think researchers said, wait, we've got a lot to learn about how to do this well, and let's wait for the peace or more centrally doing that research to get those methods down before we go back into it. So I don't know. And honestly, I'm not doing, I'm not a primary researcher anymore in that area. So I'll be curious to see what other people find. What I do know is that there are a lot of people looking at clinical interventions to using this idea that changing the way we carry ourselves physically, and more specifically being expensive versus contractive. When does it work? What are the moderating variables? You know, when is a big expansive pose too much?
Jamie Wheal: AKA man spreading?
Amy Cuddy: Yeah.
Jamie Wheal: That's too much. Just walk that back.
Amy Cuddy: I mean certainly. I've always said you don't want to go into a job interview standing like a superhero. That's not the time to do it. Right? That's because then you're not just affecting the way you feel. You're also affecting the way the person who perceives you, who's looking at you feels about you. But I think that figuring out when, where, for whom, under what circumstances, that those questions are all the things that people are digging into now, so that they can adapt that general idea for interventions, for treatments, for people struggling with things like post-traumatic stress disorder, for example.
The Benefits of Embodied Expression
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. That reminds me of something like Bessel van der Kolk's body keeps the score and his theories of trauma research and just, I'm always interested in cutting edge stuff. And then it's also sort of both affirming and always a little disappointing when people are like, right, breathing, yoga. These things are amazing. And it's a little bit like those, like the Japanese studies on forest bathing and all these things like, do we really need to bend over backwards to say that getting outside and beautiful nature is a good thing. Like there's some sort of validation of the obvious. And even if the validations maybe stumble or get erratic results due to procedural issues or measurement issues, it doesn't undermine the core common sense that every military, every yoga tradition, every martial law, every dance tradition, like all know. Which is that we emote and express throughout physical forms and there's a feedback loop.
Amy Cuddy: Of course. Right. And it's funny you say it's so obvious, but, that's how I feel. I was a professional ballet dancer. Dance is all about communicating through your body. And certainly as somebody who danced for many, many hours a day, I was fully aware of how holding myself in a different way affected the way I felt, but it's weirdly not intuitive to some people. And I would say one of my most vociferous critics really felt like it made no sense and that we could have hypothesized the exact opposite that coiling up like a snake in a tiny pose could've made us feel more powerful. And that made no sense to me. I couldn't even imagine how you would get there. And it started to make me wonder if people who are critical of this research are a little bit out of touch with their own physical experience. And they really, even if it is affecting them, they are just not aware of it. And so they can't even imagine it. And it kind of like, I imagine somebody sitting behind a computer all the time, looking at the words they're writing on the screen and thinking that is a reflection of my thoughts and also a cause of my... words or a cause of my thoughts, but it's all sort of externalized, as opposed to thinking this is a system that's integrated and of course your body's affecting the way you feel, right?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And in fact that brings to mind. Do you know Andrew Huberman at Stanford? He's a neuroscientist there.
Amy Cuddy: I don't.
Jamie Wheal: Okay. So he's a good friend and he just published in nature this spring actually. A fascinating study they did with mice and what they call the, let's think, the Stata response? Basically they do the shadow of the bird of prey. And then the mouse goes into basically a power posture or not. And of course, 92% of the time they flee and then they might freeze and that, and they actually did like optogenetic testing to actually understand that from the amygdala, it's not fight or flight like that, it rhymes, right? But it's actually two different pathways. And there's the freeze or flee pathway, which goes through this little zone called the xiphoid nucleus. And then there's the stand and deliver courage pathway, which goes through the nucleus reunions and actually teasing these apart. And then the fascinating thing I found was just that when the mice were given the option between food and stimulating the nucleus reunions, i.e. courage, they chose it. It was actually, it was objectively pleasurable for them to feel empowered.
Expanding from Your Core
Amy Cuddy: That's amazing. I did not know that. There was another study looking at the relationship between engagement at the core muscles and neural pathways that cause people to feel more confident and more calm. And I thought that was really interesting because you certainly, you think about things like yoga and Pilates again, and the importance of that core engagement in expansiveness, right. So you're not expanding from your fingertips inward, you're expanding from your core outward. And so I thought that was really another whole other pathway that we had not been thinking about. Right. So, thinking about the hormonal responses, they may or may not be linked to that, but this was a different mechanism. And I think there's, again, back to, there's just so much more to look at when we're going inward to really figure out what's happening. To what extent is this a learned association that gets primed when we do it ourselves. To what extent is this just completely hardwired? And if so, why and when, and who does it and who doesn't do it.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And that whole notion of us just being disembodied heads on sticks these days, and our motor patterns are interrupted. Our postural, habitual postures are junk for bad air exchange, poor alignment, all these kinds of things. And I mean, basically everything you're describing, I'm sure you learned as a dancer. It absolutely shows up in martial arts, which has moved from an engaged pelvic floor, a firing [inaudible 00:26:00] and a core that is fully integrated, AKA, in Japanese martial arts, your hira, in Chinese martial arts, your dantian, but basically two fingers back in two fingers down from your belly button. Like if you center from there and what your appropriate susceptive and vestibular awareness are coming from there, you move very differently than if you're just a bowling ball teetering along on a delivery vehicle for your brain.
Amy Cuddy: Absolutely. And right. So, but isn't it interesting to think about that? So I think about this expansiveness in a very visible sort of, when I talk about expanding the body, I think the image that is conjured is of the appendages being out away from the body, but wouldn't it be fascinating actually. It's really all about that very tiny, little center core in our core, right. That it's actually coming from that as opposed to our appendages being extended.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I mean, I'm fascinated right now. I'm actually, I've just written a chapter in my next book about this very thing, which was, it started with, you must know, Paul [inaudible 00:27:16] at Madison, right. And so some colleagues of ours, it was basically all about translingual electrical stimulation straight into the tongue to the cranial nerves. And then that's now gone to market. It's in phase three clinical trials. And one of our buddies is a neuroscientist in Vancouver, who's been leading that research. And what they found was it was profound just that stimulation of the trigeminal nerve via direct electric current A, it goes in through the tongue and straight to the brainstem, straight to the medulla oblongata, straight to the pons. And even though they were only stimulating one or two nerves at a time, it was working for MS, it was working for traumatic brain injury, but then they also found that there was a global system reset that was happening.
So even though they're only specifically targeting like the trigeminal or something like that, it was actually cascading. And they described it as, similar to a computer that's getting all glitchy, that's been on for a week and you just do the cold reboot. Powers back up. And so that idea, that sort of tip to tail, from our core brainstem down to the end of our vagus nerve, right, is this sort of metronomic centering of our physiology and our psychology? I'm just been fascinated by that. And I've also been fascinated by the latest research on the endocannabinoid system, which seems to, is it inflammation, it's organ regulation, it's a bilateral signaling and communication device. It's a thousand things. And so do you have any working model of the integration between central nervous system, brainstem, vagus nerve and endocannabinoid system? Because it really feels like somewhere in there is the root code to trauma integration.
Amy Cuddy: I don't. I feel like that goes beyond my expertise and it's, you've referred to a lot of the people who I would probably have referred you to and including Bessel van der Kolk of course. I don't think that even what we knew two years ago is so different from what we know now. It seems like it's happening at lightning speed, the accumulation of knowledge around these kinds of feedback systems. But sorry, I can't speak to that.I'm really not doing social neuroscience now, so I'm happy for you to be explaining what's happening in it, but I can't really speak to it, it makes me sad. And I think it's kind of an interesting little area to talk about. To say, if we have no tolerance for nuance, that's really going to [inaudible 00:35:23] science.
The Double-Blinded Placebo Controlled Form Of Study
Jamie Wheal: Oh, for sure. And it almost sounds like what you just described as the Moderator Epithet, is basically the academic equivalent of tone policing. "Don't you tone police me," and it's like, for fuck sake if we're completely immersed in a conversation that we're not actually object aware of, the structure of it and why it's going this way and someone points that out, and then that's considered a microaggression and you're not even allowed to do that because I think I'm going to win down here in the basement so, I'm going to drag you back down here where I can beat on you some more. Yeah. It's thankless.
Amy Cuddy: Yeah. It is sort of categorical, another version of categorical thinking too. I mean, I think that everything is about camps now and you can't, and I would say almost like fundamentalism, right? So, if you don't subscribe to all of the fundamentals that go along with this camp or this category, you're out and you can't be in the other one either. So, if you even challenge the camp that you're perceived to be in, you are kicked out.
Okay. The only right response at that time in my field, when someone said, "Well, this didn't replicate." And so, obviously this follow-up study is right, and your original study is wrong. The only acceptable response was, "I am so sorry, please forgive me. I must be a terrible researcher. I will distance myself from that research. I'm so sorry anyone ever read it." And I didn't believe that about our research. And so, I wasn't going to say that, and I also didn't want to respond quickly. I wanted things to be thoughtful. I wanted to respond through the peer review process because when the mob comes for you the best way to respond is thoughtfully. But if I took too long to respond, then I was obviously guilty of being a bad researcher because I wasn't responding quickly enough.
So, it really became impossible to have the very discussions that have originally attracted me to science and academia. You know, my advisor, Susan Fiske, who is one of the best social psychologists in history and brought so many people into the field. When I started working with her, it felt like a different world. And that was in 1999.
She would have debates with colleagues in her office about ideas. Nobody was going, "Well, you're obviously a terrible researcher," or "you're a liar," right? Because you-
Amy Cuddy: Totally. And I loved the model that Susan supported and sort of put forth for her lab. And anyone who worked with her as a collaborator was always... look, if someone writes and says, "Hey, we tried to replicate that. Or we did a similar study and found something different." The right response was, "Fascinating. Let's work together. Or let's be closely in touch to figure out what's actually going on. What is this phenomenon that we're studying? Where are the walls? What strings are being pulled?" So, it was never, it wasn't even adversarial. It was…
Jamie Wheal: Dare we say collegial?
Amy Cuddy: about these things. We love studying, and let's think together about how to study them better, rather than you obviously are, either a bad person or you're incompetent.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I had that very experience, even reading Yuval Harari's Sapiens and Homo Deus, and then I had very smart friends who just dismissed it out of hand, "Oh, he's a futurist cyborg, somebody or other." And I was like, "I don't know. But all I know is that he's a good writer. He tells a good story. And I appreciate hearing the garden path he took me down." And it doesn't need to mean that chapter and verse, I agree with it. In fact, many of the things that overlap with my grad work, I flat out disagreed with, and it didn't change my appreciation from one wit. Like nice you're out there in the constellation of ideas.
Amy Cuddy: Exactly. But isn't that... There are so many things you just said that I want to grab onto, that are what I'm thinking about now, in this context of this new book, Bullies, Bystanders and Brave hearts. But the one is, the first thing you said was that they said, "Well, he's a this and you're that." Immediately, again, you get assigned to a category or a cat. They're like, "Wait a minute. Can I not take this as a collection of interesting ideas and decide which ones I find more compelling than others? Why on earth would I have to subscribe to an entire set of beliefs that allow me no room for exploration, for intellectual exploration?"
Yeah, I've heard the same kinds of responses to any book in social science sort of non-fiction that does really well. People are either allowed to embrace it fully, or it has to be fully dismissed. You cannot be anywhere in between. You can't say, "I really like," let's go back to sort of where I think it started to turn in that direction, in this domain of social science. And I would say it was Malcolm Gladwell success. And either you were Gladwellian or you were anti-Gladwellian. So, you couldn't say, "Look, he's got-"
Jamie Wheal: Meaning as the genre, or specifically him as the author and thinker?
Amy Cuddy: Well…
Jamie Wheal: He's become a trope. The same way, Ted talks have become an entire calcified style, Gladwellization...like, along the way we're going to meet a fireman and a school teacher and a neuroscientist and I was wondering like that whole discussive, like rambling narrative through a bunch of little [inaudible 00:43:31]
Amy Cuddy: That's idealistic stuff. And let's set that aside and just more of the sort of he's taking real science and he's interpreting it and he's putting forth some provocative ideas. And style aside, if it makes you think about something in a new way, is that not a good thing?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I always think it's not, "Is something categorically forever true?" It's, "is it helpfully wrong?" Like, in grad school in Boulder, right? I mean, like studying Environmental History: History of the American West. Like Frederick Jackson Turner, and the frontier thesis. It shows up in School House Rock. It was disproven within the field decades ago. It still hasn't gone away. Neither has the triune brain or the bicameral mind. These are compelling ideas that crumble. Neither is Joseph Campbell's monomyth for fuck's sake. I mean, none of them within their disciplines, actually continue to hold water, but they become the springboard against which people refine and iterate and pursue the lineage of the dialogue. And you look at those depth charges into the conversation and they have had asymmetrical impact. And so, it's sort of maybe we want to be able to celebrate, what's the impact on the collective thought pro, con in sideways? Not just, "Are they indefinitely defensible?"
Amy Cuddy: Absolutely. I absolutely agree. And I think, can we not sort of celebrate thinkers who put those kinds of things into the world? So, even if they end up like their sort of core thesis is wrong, they made many people think about this topic in many new ways. It's exponential. And rather than say, "Oh, well that guy was," again, "it's either they were incompetent or they were dishonest."
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Are they directionally accurate and helpfully wrong?
Amy Cuddy: Exactly.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And that actually, I wonder because I had to lay this out in my new book, which was, we were trying to do a combinatory study on embodied cognition for peak states, trauma and relational connectedness. And we were using and had to, I was like, "Well, this does not work in a double-blind placebo situation." Because if you're doing a multi-variable intervention, which would make sense as humans because we're complex and there's lots of tools to play with, then no singular element is likely to push itself definitively above the placebo waterline. You really couldn't back that out from statistical noise.
And so, what instead, if you say, "Double-blind placebo control, awesome methodology, especially for singular interventions in tech with technology or pharmacology. Great, it has its place. However, when we're trying to do the human thing, and that's true with power poses, it's true with a million things, can we just maybe go the other direction and have like the kitchen sink method." Where you basically throw everything in that has an evidentiary basis for it to be a reasonable protocol to test, get the desired results. So now, you have both the interior and exterior observable, they're there measure that. And then, back off on your interventions, one at a time until you just get an undesired drop in efficacy, and now you're in this, because now you actually, you found the thing that you were interested in, in the first place versus trying to incrementalize your way there. And of course, you never do because we're not atomized and fragmented critters.
Amy Cuddy: And so, what did you decide? What was the response?
Embodied Cognition For Peak States, Trauma, Relational Connectedness
Jamie Wheal: Well, I mean, we basically, because we did an informal pilot study with 12 couples being able to do what we, we basically laid out the hedonics engineering matrix, and we're like, here's all the different ways that you can affect cortisol. Here's the ways you can improve vagal nerve tone, oxygenation, decreased prefrontal cortical activity, increased delta wave states, resetting of the body brain. And here's this menu, here's a baseline protocol mix and match. And then do like the Hopkins MEQ that mystical experience questionnaire, do a Susan Jackson's flow scale inventory. So, that's your peak state measures both episodic like flow states or monumental like the true mystical experience, have your trauma measures with, I think it's the PCl5, it's the equivalent of the caps one, but it's the self administered one, as well as the positive negative PANSS scale, that positive effective one, and also the intimacy of self with other. So, like how connected are we, and HRV like resting HRV overnight.
So, we could basically say, look, here's six metrics in three categories, peak states, healing and connection. And can we just see, in conjunction with journals and subjective self-reporting, what appears to emerge. So, that was our initial wonky pilot, like never would make it through a peer review gated process, but it was a proof of a concept and the establishment of a rubric that others could then go to. You'd obviously want control groups, you'd want a kajillion other things, but we just wanted to see if there was a [inaudible 00:48:52] there. And the results were fascinating. There were higher peak states, higher instances of mystical occasions than in the Psilocybin Studies at Hopkins.
Amy Cuddy: That's amazing. Wow. Yeah. And so, how do you... You're coming from these sort of... You're integrating different approaches. Some are more exploratory, the kinds of approaches to... Can you see me? I mean, did you just get cut off?
Jamie Wheal: No, I got you.
Amy Cuddy: Okay. So, we [inaudible 00:49:28] here. Okay, so let me back up, you're integrating approaches that come from more of a sort of a startup perspective and, and with approaches that come from academic labs, is that right? I mean…
Jamie Wheal: Well, again, I actually ended up having to like coin a couple of terms, I guess. I mean, maybe they are out there, but the things that it occurs to me is what are we doing is sort of Neuroanthropology and culture architecture. And because basically the Neuroanthropology is, can you combine the fields of history, optimal psych and neuroscience, and find customs and incidences in the ethnographic literature, of people doing interesting things that you're curious about. Understand underneath what the mechanism of actions always were. And then, once you understand the mechanism of actions, now you've got the building blocks to seed and create, or instantiate new social-cultural interactive experiences going forward.
So, you take for instance, like saying the Hail Mary, right? You're like, "Oh, that's fascinating." Like Hail Mary. It's an experience of reverence. We did it in grade school, blah, blah, blah. And you're like, "Oh, so, for thousands of, a couple of thousand years people, particularly women, but all sorts of folks, would come into a dark church. They would kneel, changing your posture, changing your respiratory access, all these kinds of things. They would light votive candles. There would be incense, there would be a Saint that they would be praying to, often iconography of the Virgin Mary. And they would do "Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary." You write that whole bit, nine seconds long, nine hertz. And you basically had the nine hertz respiratory cycle and training you into alpha waves, with iconic imagery, with all of these things, with a rosary where you're offloading conscious awareness and counting.
And you've got the rosary where you're just offloading it and moving it through your fingers. So, you've done a workaround of your default mode network and you're in trading into alpha and you're doing that. And you're like, "Fucking fascinating." And even didgeridoo playing. The whole idea of didgeridoo playing, sending you into ancestors or dream time access. And you're like, "Oh, okay. So, you're blowing on this thing. You've got secular breathing going on and you've got massive vibration of the didgeridoo itself, which then translates back up into the bones of the sinus cavity. And they're like the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden did all that fascinating research on nitric oxide production going up 15 times when you breathe through your nose and vibrate your nasal cavity. And so, you're literally you're out there under the stars. And then, Herbert Benson's work at Harvard, on nitric oxide, the bliss molecule, all of that. And you're like, "Oh shit. So, that's how you get into... That's how we get into dream time." So, it's a state induction tool.
Amy Cuddy: So, who was the "we", when you say "we're doing this," who is the "we"?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. The organization that I founded called The Flow Genome Project. And so, basically it's just being curious about really the intersection of those things. The sort of the Neuroanthropology culture architecture. And then effectively, what are the tools for radical neurophysiological psychosocial reformatting of the human self system.
Amy Cuddy: And how do you get this out? I mean, to what extent are you getting work out through peer review versus, you know?
Why Jamie Wheal Left Academia
Jamie Wheal: None. We're not playing that game. Yeah. I left academia. I'm far more interested.
Amy Cuddy: Okay. Can we just talk about that?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah.
Amy Cuddy: So, anyone listening to this, I mean, this is pretty high level in terms of the amount of foundational knowledge that you might need to have to follow what you're talking about. So, I'm assuming that your audience- [crosstalk 00:53:30]
Jamie Wheal: I get that all the time. People are like, "What the fuck did you just say?" Yeah.
Amy Cuddy: Because you understand what you're talking about. This is obviously really interesting and important and yeah. Pulling from so many different areas, but you don't feel thwarted by the fact that you're not going through the peer review process?
Jamie Wheal: No, because I mean, A, it is as close to like Elon Musk kind of territory of like, you don't go to GM to build the electric car and you don't go to NASA anymore to get to Mars.
Amy Cuddy: Okay.
Jamie Wheal: So, I just think that there's A, I stepped out of academia. I was all but done on a dissertation at 22. And I was like, "Huh, I think I only really wanted that." I was like, "I definitely don't want to be in basements, looking at tax records for the rest of my career. I love history, but I'd just read amazing historians, then be one myself." So, and then I was like, "Well, I'd way rather go put points on the board." And let's go see what's possible with the gloves off versus marching through the politicized gatekeepers. Because you spend 90% of your time citing all the references, the historiography, the lineage, who said what before you, and then maybe in your closing paragraph, you get to tentatively point the direction that you were actually fascinated in all along, and you never get to stick the landing. So, we just went and started trying to stick the landing and just see.
Amy Cuddy: Do you have to go through gates? I mean, you talked about gatekeepers. Are there gates that you have to go through or- [crosstalk 00:55:10]
Jamie Wheal: I mean, my editors reading the manuscript right now and who knows, they'll probably run it through legal, but I mean, basically we took the route of like James Fadiman, when he did the stuff at Stanford with microdosing where he's like, "Okay, look, this is, we're saying, here's a potential protocol. It is elective and opt in. You need to be on your own recognizance. So, if there's any moral, legal, ethical, spiritual, cultural, or professional questions, you are sovereign in those choices. And don't wait into the deeper end," because we literally broke out columns like mild, medium, spicy, where depending on how you want to play and how robust interventions you want to enact, you will probably need like Dan Savage, the relationship advice guide, he talks about good, giving and game, you know, the three Gs for good relationship.
And we talked about the three Cs as you want a physician. Do you want a functional medical doctor who is curious, courageous and connected, and is willing and able to write you off-label prescriptions for a host of schedule three-four compounds. Once you can do that, you have access to oxygen, you have access to carbon dioxide and oxygen, you have oxide access to nitrous oxide, you have access to oxytocin. You have oxytocin ketamine nasal sprays. You can do all of these things street legal and with your medical oversight, and then combine those with our interventions. And it's more than enough to provide epiphanic breakdown, cathartic release and integration, and measurable and quite profoundly informative peak states.
How the World is Changing
Amy Cuddy: So, you're not going through the sort of traditional system to shape medical interventions. Do you see the world changing in how medical interventions can be developed and actually implemented that are not coming through the traditional system? How do we get to them? How do we get them to the masses?
Jamie Wheal: Well, I mean, that is the whole point of this book I'm writing, which is like, "we're almost out of time folks. We are being fractured by grief and trauma. We have to level up our ability to have global centric perspective to solve complex [inaudible 00:57:32] problems. And we are choking on our undigested grief." What is a groove and reconciliation committee, right? How do we have batch forgiveness that we can actually defragment our nervous systems and recommit, and how do we take stands for fundamentally what MLK called soul force and what is that experience in a human that provides you with connection, clarity, courage, and let's you step up and your book is beautifully themed. Bullies, Bystanders, and Brave hearts, or how do we get the people off the bystanding and into their brave hearts? That's it.
Amy Cuddy: That's right. But my mind is kind of blown because you're sort of doing, you're doing the research in my sort of fantasy way of doing the research. And I know this is going to sound strange, but you're talking about it in a way that's so comfortable and I am having all of these sort of experiences of self-awareness listening to you because I'm noticing that, "Oh my gosh, he's not afraid to say these things." [crosstalk 00:23:41].
Jamie Wheal: I'm saying all the quiet parts out loud. I mean, yes, it's- [crosstalk 00:58:49]
Amy Cuddy: We did this and this is what we found. And it may or may not be right, but there's obviously all of these moving parts and, and they matter, and guess what? We need this stuff now. But you're saying it without fear. And the thing about coming from academia and spending most of my adult life in academia until a couple of years ago, and I'm still not out, is that- [inaudible 00:59:11]
Jamie Wheal: You sound like Michael Corleone in the Godfather 3.
How Is The Academia Set In A Scarcity Framework?
Amy Cuddy: Academia is a place that's set in a scarcity framework. So, people are competing for limited resources. They're very aware of that. It's very hierarchical, all of these things. But all of those things are not just affecting how many hours people work. They are affecting the questions that they ask.
Jamie Wheal: Hundred percent, including grant writing the conventions and norms what's in your department. Yes.
Amy Cuddy: Exactly. And how willing they are to get those ideas out there, even if they're not fully baked. And I don't mean half-baked in the sort of like a, "That's a silly idea that you came up with at two in the morning in your dorm room after smoking pot with your friends." When I say not fully baked, I mean, almost nothing and social science is ever going to be precisely right. So, nothing is ever fully baked. People change, the world changes. So, you're getting these ideas out there without fear. And it just makes me recognize the extent to which people in academia are just sort of limited by fear all the time and the excitement that is limiting us as humans from, you've used some different sort of terms to describe this, but from getting to this point where we're moving beyond trauma and grief to a point of clarity and connectedness and courage, is that right? Clarity, connectedness, courage.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah.
Amy Cuddy: We're not getting there. I feel like I'm going to...Sorry. This is terrible for your podcasts, but I'm- [crosstalk 01:00:59]
Jamie Wheal: Are you kidding? This is beautiful. Fucking hey. Look, all I get to do on in this program is have the conversations with the people who light me up and inspire my thinking
Amy Cuddy: [inaudible 01:01:09] and I'm not a fearful person. I don't believe that I am. Now we get into sort of disposition personality versus, yeah, there's situations in my life that have caused me to be more fearful. I do not think I'm dispositionally very fearful. I think I'm a pretty big risk taker and I can be pretty outspoken, but you're talking in a way that's so free and that makes me almost want to cry and partly I have a sense of loss, and partly a sense of hope because yeah.
I'm the deadhead. Nothing about me fits with the other things about me and that makes people uncomfortable. I'm a deadhead, who also was a professional ballet dancer. So, deadhead, that seems like it's, people equate that with no discipline or rules and ballet is all about discipline and rules. I'm an academic who learned how to do research in this very rigorous particular way, but who also wants to be able to have conversations like this and do research in a way that you're doing research, which I'm not saying is not rigorous, but it's a different model and we're just [inaudible 01:02:30] by not allowing these voices to be heard. And I'm not saying, just me. There's so many people. Everyone has this voice. Yeah. I think- [crosstalk 01:02:40]
Jamie Wheal: And who gets pilloried. You referenced Lisa Feldman Barrett, her book on how emotions are made. I actually wasn't even tracking that there was a lot of blow back on that book, but it makes sense. I mean, she was upending a whole lot of the theories of constructed emotion and everything else. So, like makes sense. Nicole Prause, who is also going to be on this show, she's a Kinsey Institute researcher, has caught so much flack for her, just open-ended and quite rigorous inquiry into human sexuality. Your work, which was Wonder Woman for fuck sake, about as benign and empowering as you could possibly hope.
Amy Cuddy: Exactly.
Jamie Wheal: Boom. And so, these questions of how do we... The title of your book is perfect. It's the Bullies, the Bystanders and the Brave hearts. How do we, basically, allow ourselves to speak with our truest and clearest voices? And I really appreciate your feedback, that it seemed like I was just laying these things out. And basically, the book that I've written is basically if Malcolm Gladwell was Aleister Crowley's ghost writer, that's what the book is. And in the last two years where I've been in the weeds, even in selling it, making the proposal, my agent at UTA was like, "Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God's, Sex and Death for a World That's Lost its Mind, like, dude, this is kind of edgy." The editor [inaudible 01:04:09] was like, "Yeah, well, title's interesting. Not sure if we're going to stick with that."
And then, part three of the whole book is ethical cult building. Because you're like the moment you play with peak experiences and eroded boundaries and profound healing, you end up with cultic tendencies. Don't say you won't, we do. And how do we do it well? And of course, since then, we've got QAnon, we've got Nexium, we got all of these things bubbling up. So, I think everybody is much more aware of it. But I'll tell you, my wife would look at me sometimes and I would be staring at the ceiling in bed going, "I'm about to write a book about what? Are you fucking insane?" And now that I have, it all seems quite reasonable.
Amy Cuddy: Wow, again, you're pulling all of these different things that I think about probably every day together into one conversation. So, it's a little bit overwhelming, and it does make me want to talk to you for 12 hours. And I just want to clarify one thing about Lisa Feldman Barrett. I don't know that the book got much blow back. I just think she as a thinker has always gotten criticized for saying things are more complicated than you're trying to make them out to be. And that is a voice that we need. It is a voice of reason and wisdom. And when this whole sort of methods revolution in social psychology happened and people were like, "It has to be done this way. It has to be done exactly this way, not exactly this way." [inaudible 01:05:43]
And she would say, "Wait a minute.' If she criticized the Methods Revolutionaries, they named themselves Methods Revolutionaries, then she was labeled a status quo er because if you weren't for this way of changing methods, then you were against changing methods. It worked for that kind of updating, you were against updating. And she was not, as you know from talking to her, there's no one who's going to limit her thinking or tell her it's only one way or another. So, it was amazing to me to see somebody who's such a great thinker, like Lisa Feldman Barrett getting that kind of backlash. Do you understand this person's mind at all? You should be so thankful that she's here. You don't have to agree with 80% of what she says, but she's challenging you to think better, to think harder and more deeply. [inaudible 01:06:32] And I'm not saying that I'm just...but she is a gift.
What are the Issues with the Double-Blind Placebo Approach?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, absolutely. And let's continue boosting the signal and standing up for and beside. Colleagues doing that hard work. And I think there's a couple of other things. I feel like from the science realm, there is the incrementalism, the absolute cautious incrementalism of the double-blind placebo control. And of course, if we're only testing an element of what is ultimately in irreducibly a combinatory process, you're never going to get very far. You're always going to get weak signal. And then, alternately, you have, let's just say, the kind of traditionalist religious approach, which is often working backwards from the epiphanic insight of a founder or original elect. And we haven't given you the opportunity to recreate that experiment.
So, we have weak [inaudible 00:32:27], what Michael Pollan called placebo sacraments that don't get the fucking job done, they do not set that burning Bush on fire. And yet you've got to take our word for it, of what it all means, but you can't go back and replicate or validate the experience yourself. So, both disciplines are broken. This is just such an awesome layup transition here, which is the part of our, well part of my just balls out willingness to do these things, this is all reverse engineered. We've already been getting to the places where mapping. So, we're not wondering what it might be if we happen to get the combination locks rate. And because you have a deep somatic embodied sense of your ultimate destination, the reverse engineering is dead simple. And you can shuttle back and forth between the experience and the incremental building blocks. And all you're doing is you're just behind your shoulder, building the bridges to get more people to the promise land. And of course, ta-da! No surprise. For me, at least.
And I think we shared some time, we might've even overlapped in Boulder. We definitely overlapped some dear friends and stomping grounds, like the Mountain Sun Club. We found ourself initiated into coming out to grad school. I'd seen Jeremiah Johnson, that Robert Redford film. And I was like, "Where are those mountains?" I was like, "I'm not going to New Haven. I'm going to Boulder. Or the University of Washington to stay with Richard White, who was my other hero in American history." And he's now an Emeritus at Stanford.
And suddenly, we got just inducted into and action sports, psychedelic, new grass, grateful dead, mountain tribe. And there was no middleman. There was no gurus. I mean like the West Coast where everybody's following some cheesy fuck on Instagram. There was none of that because you Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Full Moon Mushroom Gatherings, go out and back country ski, kayak, rock climb, risk your life. Sometimes people die. So, Kali was present, like absolutely. There was the ruthless feminine of a mother nature that kept you honest. There was ecstatic, communal celebration late night and there was epiphanic relationship to psychedelics and entheogens in connection with the natural sublime and in connection with this beautiful evolving art form of improvisational Americana music. And looking back, I'm so grateful because it skipped so many cul-de-sacs and dead ends like cults and gurus, like magic.
Jamie Wheal: ...Cul-de-sacs and dead ends. Cults and gurus, magical thinking. Nature kept you sharp. If you fucked up, you couldn't fake it. You couldn't say, "I'm a woke boner because I've got a Bindi and a head dress." It's like, did you, or didn't you get up that 14-er and back?
Amy Cuddy: Right, right.
Being a Deadhead
Jamie Wheal: So, that. It feels like a Whitman-esque, Ken Kesey to Gary Snyder... There's a beautiful lineage of the natural sublime and wild embodiment that goes back to the great awakenings, the tribal stomps in Appalachia. It just feels so good. So, it talked to me. So, you have gone on the record as a Deadhead. Share with me your experience in that community and how it has informed or inspired what you've been looking... I mean, essentially, I think you've been working backwards too. Right? You've been working backwards from those moments.
Amy Cuddy: I really have. I ended up... Oh, sorry. Hold on. Birdie, it's a window. Sorry. There was a bird. Aw.
Jamie Wheal: Oh, beautiful.
Amy Cuddy: It almost flew into the window. No, it's a window. You can't come in through here. So, okay. So yeah, I've always had just so many different interests, and I've always felt that made people uncomfortable. They were like, "Well, what are you? Are you this or this? And I keep coming back to this categorical thinking, but I think it's this massive trap that we're in. And I'm like, "I'm both. I'm both." And also, I'm something in between those things, or among all of those things. So, I started at Syracuse. I wanted to be a broadcast journalist and I was a freshman at Syracuse and I hated it. 65% of students were in the Greek system. Awful things happened there. I mean, awful things happened to me and to my friends there. I was at deadhead who wanted to be a broadcast journalist. Already, that wasn't really lining up because I was never going to be a news reader. I was not going to be the one reading the news that somebody else wrote for me.
Jamie Wheal: I might have some editorialist sides that are going to get me in trouble.
Amy Cuddy: Exactly, exactly. So, yeah. I started there. And my first month, I went off to see a bunch of Dead shows at Madison Square Garden. I missed classes and I think that I felt so much like an outsider that I defined myself in opposition to what I thought that place was about. And they had some really fascinating people, too, there. Other people who saw themselves as outsiders in lots of different ways. So, we were definitely at an island of misfit toys, but I decided that I needed to get out. And really, I chose CU Boulder because I really didn't have money and I had to pay for college and it was less expensive. And I'd never been there. I mean, I hadn't been there since I was a little kid, and I just wanted to be somewhere beautiful where the Greek system didn't overwhelm the social life of the students.
And I didn't even know what I'd do when I got out there. So, I remember driving over that crest, I guess it's on 30. And the weirdest thing was that also, my high school boyfriend's identical twin brother was starting at CU Boulder at the same time. And we ended up in the same airport transfer van. So, he's with me, and we're coming over the crest and I see the flat irons, and tears just started streaming down my face. This is so right for me.
Jamie Wheal: That's beautiful.
Amy Cuddy: Well, yeah. And that first week I was there, I ended up going to see a Jerry Garcia Band show at Squaw Valley. So, I missed the first week of classes again, repeated that mistake.
Jamie Wheal: Squaw Valley, that must've been a righteous show. Beautiful spot.
Amy Cuddy: Gosh, it was Epic. It was amazing. We took the gondola to the top and ended up in this... We were in a bowl. I recently found a video of that show, the only video that I think exists. And I was showing it to my husband because we ski. We love skiing, and I turned him into a deadhead, or introduced him to that world. Australia really didn't have much of that influence. And he was looking at this show. He's like, "this is like everything we love in one place." They're sitting in this bowl in this tiny stage watching Jerry Garcia. And it was amazing.
Yeah. So, the dead had world, I've had two phases with it. And I only realized how meaningful it was to me and how much it connected these different parts of my life recently. I went to lots of shows. I got on the bus in 1988 and had lots of friends who were Deadheads and hitchhiked and had no money. And I really did it full-on. The whole Deadhead experience. It was always about the community as much as it was about the music, but I then felt that I had to abandon it because it wasn't consistent with my sort of desire to be a scholar. So, I let go of that. And when I came back to it, and I came back to it because a friend said let's go see Dead and Company.
I'm like, "I don't know. John Mayer. I don't know." I should just tell you that I do now have a dog named Mayer, M-A-Y-E-R. So, my opinion about John Mayer could not have changed more than it has. But we went to see it. My son is now 18, but he was then 14 or something? And he is a guitar player, musician. He's starting at Berkeley college of music in the spring. He watched John Mayer. And he had never seen any kind of jam band show. He'd seen tons of live music, but his mind was absolutely blown. And watching him watch John Mayer be fully in the present, almost out of his mind in presence, if that makes any sense, like intoxicated by presence.
That's that ecstatic, collective experience that you're talking about. And something was coming out of his body and his guitar that sounded different from anything I'd ever heard him do before. And the joy on the faces of the older Dead members that are still playing with them was not in any way confusion or jealousy or, "who do you think you are?" They were vicariously ecstatic, watching him be ecstatic. And I was just fully back in, immediately. I am not... We had to do this. This whole bullying stuff was happening to me at the same time.
Jamie Wheal: So, you got to sweat your praise. You got to actually come back.
Amy Cuddy: And I love music so much. So, to rediscover this at that moment was exactly the right time. It was like, this is who I am. And that is just fine. I would much rather be this person that a person who's going to respond to the bullies as a bully. I'd much rather just indulge this part of who I am. And then, eventually I realized all of these things are actually connected. All these parts of myself are not separate. They are very much connected. And-
Jamie Wheal: Let's take a look at this, because trying to apply that neuro anthropology lens to something like the phenomenon of a Grateful Dead show. Because most people will have [inaudible 01:18:32] It's like Burning Man. No one's neutral on it. And those who know, do not say, and those who say, do not know. With that said right there, and Joe Campbell actually famously, I think he was on a panel with the band at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. And he likened it to modern day Dionysian ritual. And he's like, "I didn't know. And I don't like rock and roll, but I went to one of your shows. And Holy shit. You guys are doing the thing." And the thing was a death rebirth ritual.
And so many people these days are like, "We need collective intelligence and sense-making," and all these kinds of fancy jargon-filled terms for how the fuck do we get our shit together and be better humans at scale. In a nutshell. And they're all acting as if, just because they coined those terms, no one's done it before. And I think again, from the historical record, like Garcia and those boys put together a very intentional experiment starting in the mid sixties that coincided with the introduction of the molecule, LSD 25 as [inaudible 01:19:34] and systemic enhancer, and the advent of increasingly high fidelity, amplified electric music.
And they were aware. And starting with Kesey's acid test, they were like, "What is this weird amorphous thing, the third, the presence, the collective that sometimes seems to be showing up?" And it sure seems way more interesting than the Rolling Stones or U2 creating set lists and going out on stadium tours and singing, making every gesture in the same way every night, because that's where the pyrotechnics and the video screens go. It was a high risk, high reward thing. They're like, let's go down into the mud and see if we can pull up the Lotus flower. And sometimes we're ending up just face down in the mud. But those nights, those nights where we find the unstruck sound, there is something quintessential about that moment.
And it killed Jerry. He refused to complete the messianic loop. He's like, "I'm not the guy you're looking for." And there was this recursive experience of a bunch of highly susceptible, highly in-tune, mirror neuronally-synchronized folks with a modal, six string bass, two drummers on a rhythm section and a guitarist. I think Jerry was once playing on a MIDI and he was playing some Miles Davis stuff. And someone was like, "Jerry, you could have been a really good horn player." And he looked at him, he goes, "I am a really good horn player."
And those crystal, Quicksilver sustained tones that he pioneered and everybody from Tray With Fish, or String... I mean, everybody in the space has tried to track down that tone because it felt like it was the carrier wave that you could then, especially in a psychedelically suggestible state... "Dark Star" or any of these songs that people put so much passion around. You're like, wait, the lyrics are weird. It's fucking atonal half the time. Why is everybody so amped on that? It's not the song. It's that it was a carrier vehicle for a 15-minute kinetic improvisational meditation to God consciousness and back. You're like, "Terrapin Station, is that a place where turtles could ride trains? What are we talking about here?" But it was the interiority. It was basically like VR before headsets.
Amy Cuddy: Wow. Yeah. I like that. VR before head sets. You know, one of the things you sort of... Wow. You say so much. There's so many things. Every sentence I want to jump in and dig into that. So, I never know where to go, actually.
Jamie Wheal: Anywhere. And we can backtrack. We can do anything we want.
Amy Cuddy: It's funny. I think about... Because I think Jerry was ambivalent in the sixties a bit about where he wanted things to go. And he also had a bit of a perfectionist streak. And I remember hearing an interview where he's talking about how Phil played something badly one night, or he thought he had played something badly. This is '67. Early. And he was really mad at him afterwards. And he realized that Phil had had this amazing experience and the people there had had this amazing experience.
And he was like, "That was the very last time I ever got mad about somebody playing something in a way that I didn't like after a show." That was it. It was not about that. It absolutely was... It doesn't matter. 70% of the time is in the mud, if 30% of the time is this... I wrote about this in my salon article. It's not just them being present with each other. It's about the audience being present with each other, then being present with the audience. This gets elevated to a level of joy, pleasure, ecstasy, I don't know, transcendence, that is unlike at least anything else I have experienced. I think most people who are at shows don't experience that anywhere else. But there's a lot of room. It's left open for interpretation.
And I love... If you said to me, "Who's your favorite member of the Dead?" I couldn't answer it. But for me, I would certainly like, I consider Robert Hunter a member of The Dead. And I love hearing Robert Hunter who, for those of you who are not Deadheads or you may not be listening to anymore, but if you are still listening, Robert Hunter is one of the lyricists. And they did consider their lyricists members of the band. Robert Hunter, one of the things that... People are desperate again, to know what exactly did that song mean. You hear him talking about a song. It's like, what's the dark star crashing? It means what it means.
And if you push him on it, unfortunately we lost him last year, but when people tried to push him on what a song meant, he was like, "I will never, ever get pulled into explaining to you what each of these songs meant to me at that time. Because what it means to me is now different. It would be taking away from the experience of the listeners to tell them what it means. It means to them what it means to them."
Jamie Wheal: Yes.
The Power of Music and the Collective Experience
Amy Cuddy: One of the things that happened to me after giving the Ted talk was that, and it did go super viral It still gets viewed 10, 15, 20,000 times a day. And people will come up to me in an airport and say, "This really touched the Deadhead music part of me so deeply." Because people would come up they'd be crying. They wanted to hug. And this was pre-COVID and I was happy to hug them and say, "I felt you were speaking to me. You were giving that talk. You were in my head. You were giving that talk to me."
And I realized that it was a song. Just like my favorite songs from high school or middle school. And you listened to them thinking, "Oh, this person is in my head. They understand me." Of course, they don't know you, but that's okay. It can mean to you what it means to you. So, what it means to me, the specifics of the story that informed my talk, are not relevant to that person. And that's okay. It's your song. It means to you... Everybody has their own interpretation and they all own it. And I am so okay with them owning it. And when they give me their interpretation, that is an incredible gift to receive, to hear it. This is what I hear when I hear your talk. That is when I listened to Franklins Tower when I was 18 versus listening to it now I'm like, "Oh my God. Oh, wow. How did I miss this or that?" Well, it meant something different to me at 18.
Jamie Wheal: If you get confused, just listen to the music play. And that's the beautiful thing, right? Because it felt to me like what they were doing was some version of quantum cones. They were these enigmatic Zen riddles that could only be unlocked in the now, in the dance, in the groove when it fucking opened up. And Hunter was so beautiful at that because for those of you don't... I mean, this is deep cuts, but basically he was the Saigon of a very literary San Francisco family. He grew up around all sorts of education. And Jerry famously would be like, "dude, don't write me a lyric that I'm not going to choke on after the thousandth times singing this." So they had to remain inscrutable. That was their pact. And then, they would come into music and into that moment and unlock.
And you could absolutely go back into the parking lot and see which verses got put on t-shirts and bumper stickers. And it became this living scripture of a gnostic, initiatory ceremony. And the archetypes that Hunter drew from, which were, I mean, to me, it feels like the Arcana Americana. It is like a hidden secret Gnostic scripture. And it's not just The Dead. It's Dolly Parton, it's Beyonce. It's Lady Gaga. Any of these, I'm downtrodden, the world doesn't fucking make sense. This is my litany of woes, but here I am testifying. Here I am making art. Here I am rising up singing. And Howard Bloom actually at Yale, he wrote an amazing book called The American Religion. And then he wrote another one called Omens of Millennium.
He was just... he had a fascinating [inaudible 01:28:13] But he was like, "America is a Gnostic nation that has forgotten that it is a Gnostic nation." It literally has this initiatory, ecstatic lineage that goes back to the 17th century. It goes back to the Puritans, to the shakers, to the Mormons. We are a bunch of whack-nut mystics and heretics. The Catholic church, the Protestant church never would have let this shit go down. Everybody had to flee and try it again. And seeing The Dead as a part of that tradition, and it's always enigmatic. It's, one man gathers what another man spills. If the thunder don't get you, then the lightning will. You're just like, shrug my shoulders. What me worry? It's antinomian as fuck. No one is going to tell you what it means. No one is holding forth, and yet. And yet.
Amy Cuddy: But it's not, not meaningful. Yes, no one's going to tell you what it means, but whatever it means to you in that moment is what it's meant to mean to you at that moment.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah.
Amy Cuddy: And I don't mean that it's written in the religious sense. I just mean that it is what you need it to be at that moment. It's funny. I grew up in Amish country. I'm not Amish in Pennsylvania Dutch, but I grew up where I saw horses and carriages every day. It was not at all unusual for me to see that, to hear that sound outside of my house. And barn raisings, where a group Amish men get together and put together a barn in a day, that is an ecstatic collective experience. It is the same. Like there are similarities across these things that I find beautiful and fascinating, and they might look very, very different to most people.
But again, this is why I just want to get rid of all of these categorical boundaries that stop us from making connections freely and without fear. Why should we be afraid to make connections, to find the similarities across these things in order to get to the really deep kernel underneath all of it? Yeah. Wow. But can I just tell one story about my husband's first experience at a Dead show?
Jamie Wheal: Absolutely.
Amy Cuddy: Because it was really so... I saw it through his eyes. And it's so wonderful to take people to their first Dead show. To see. And sometimes it takes, and sometimes it doesn't take, but when it does take, it's amazing. And so again, he's from Australia, he didn't really grow up going to a lot of live music. He's eight years younger than I am. So, he wouldn't have seen Jerry live probably anyway.
His first show is the last show of Fairly Well. So, it's Chicago, we are in the second row. And in fact, in all of Jade Blakesberg's pictures of the audience, the one person you can see is my husband, because he's wearing a fluorescent running top and he's six foot three. And this was my hundredth show, and his first. And you can see him in almost every single one of those images.
Jamie Wheal: Move over, Walton.
Amy Cuddy: Waldo. I know we always say, I've said to Jay, I'm like, these pictures are like, find Paul Coster. So, it's sort of a joke. But I take him to the show, and he's a super outdoorsy guy. He is not in any way going to buy into one way or another of seeing the world. And I think he was afraid it was going to be too cult-y, that he was going to be pushed to subscribe to a whole set of beliefs without letting without the allowance for freedom of thinking.
And so, we get there and we're sitting. And a gotten a friend of ours had saved a spot for us right up front. And so we got there very early and we're sitting there. And there's another Australian guy sitting behind us, and he starts getting really angry at somebody else. He's drunk, he's angry. I don't know. Paul starts talking to him, and the guy's saying to him, "Well, you don't know where I'm from, St. Kilda," which is a part of Melbourne that he apparently perceived to be more scary or something. And the part of Melbourne that my husband is from. And he's like, "Okay, so you're from St. Kilda." And he's really angry. And normally, I think my husband would have gotten really annoyed about this, that he was a buzzkill and maybe hollered at him or something. But instead, because the vibe around us was like, "Hey, dude, this is just not how we do things."
Paul was able to talk this guy down. And it turned out he was a veteran who felt very much abandoned by the system. And that's what came out. Somehow Paul, within a few minutes, got this guy talking about... I mean, he was crying, talking about how lonely he felt, how cut-off he felt. And it was just an amazing moment where the support of the people in the community just sitting around us to, rather than be angry at this guy, "what's actually going on here?" Just changed the entire experience for him.
And the way he saw the music then, and every show after that was so shaped by that first experience. He said it brought out the very, very best kindest, most generous part of him to be surrounded by that. And he was the one who in the end, ended up talking this guy down and back. Down doesn't seem quite right because it was more like talking him up and into the experience. He was feeling angry not because of anything happening there, but because of his life. And so, that really shaped the way he saw the experience after that. It wasn't that he had to behave that way. It was that he felt supported in being generous, and this guy felt that.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I mean, that speaks to so much about, again. I think if you juxtapose, if you did a case study between Joel Osteen's megachurch and Grateful Dead shows, and you're like, "Okay, we've got jumbo trons, we've got light. We've got..." Or a Tony Robbins workshop. Same drill. You're like, "These are all the techniques of ecstasy and catharsis." And when they work, they create these profound, group bonded, community kinds of stuff like Victor Turner writes about. And what are the mechanisms of action? What are the explicit and implicit modes of value exchange? Are you paying for a ticket and then you're welcome? Are there VIP's? Are there velvet ropes? Or their upsells? Are there cross sells? Is there a donation plate? How do we do the energy exchange here? And then, what is effectively the scripture, the ethics and the metaphysics?
So, if we are having these peak experiences, what's the metaphysics of our explanatory mechanisms? Are these guardian angels? Is this demonic possession? Is this our own interior subconscious? Was I just on drugs? Whatever. Am I empowered and I'm using NLP to shift my state and do these things? What is the ethics of how ought we live based on this experience we've just had together? And that's what I mean about the lyrics showing up on bumper stickers and t-shirts. And they became guideposts. There was a verse for every occasion to explain the vicissitudes of life. And how do we do this thing? And how do we bring folks on board?
You must know Robin Dunbar's work at Oxford, right? The one who famously came up with the 150 people Dunbar number. But I read something on, he did a great paper on the San Bushmen in Africa and trance dance. And the idea that the incidences of trance dance within the bushmen communities were higher during times of social crisis. So, they intuitively figured... That's what I meant about the groove in "Reconciliation Committee." They're like, "Ah, we're getting a little salty. We're We're getting under each other's skins. We need to wipe the Etch-a-Sketch."
Amy Cuddy: Yeah. But these threads that you're finding through all these things, don't you feel a bit that we are experiencing a lot of pressure to not make those connections right now? This kind of conversation would not have felt dangerous to me 20 years ago, but it does feel dangerous to me now.
Jamie Wheal: Well, yeah. And I mean, this actually brings us up to your friend and colleague, Molly Crockett who has done a bunch of work at Oxford, and now she's at Yale. I referenced both of you Stealing Fire, the last book I wrote because Molly had done work understanding the bonding mechanisms, both at Burning Man. So, a descendant of the Grateful Dead lineage and community, but then also talking about political rallies and all these other kinds of things where you end up with antisocial, not pro-social communitas. You end up with mobs, you end up with cults, you end up with the political rallies. And at the time, which was probably 2016 ish, when I was writing it, we just put in a line or two, never understanding how metastasized the social technologies would become and how weaponized they would become. So, yeah. What's your stance? Because I'm always humbled. Effectively, it feels like the only difference between brainwashing and alchemy is that one erodes sovereignty and the other enhances it. And really, the technologies under the hood are damn near indistinguishable.
Amy Cuddy: Have you ever listened to Dean Delray?
Jamie Wheal: No.
Tools Against Sexism
Amy Cuddy: He's a comedian musician who has a podcast and does these really fascinating... I mean, they're mostly with musicians and they end up talking a lot about gear, but he's super smart and they have these fascinating conversations that go all over the place. And I could listen to those for hours. Let's see. Let me clear my head for a second and say... The book that I'm working on, this Bullies, Bystanders and Brave Hearts, which certainly was inspired by my experience with the academic mob and seeing that the anatomy of mobbing is the anatomy of mobbing. It doesn't matter if it's a church or if it's academia or if it's fans or... stans? Is that what-
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It's weird grammatically, but I know exactly what it means. My kids tell me.
Amy Cuddy: Okay. It's the same process. And one of the costs that I don't think people are recognizing, because what you'll hear people say now is we actually right now need mob justice because things are so bad that the only way to write some of the wrongs is through mob justice. And I can argue against that from a number of angles. But one of the angles that I think people forget about is that it does shut down progress, scientific progress, just evolution of thinking. It stops us from advancing. So, aside from the fact that it's just harmful, it hurts people. And our kids see us do that and they do it and it's self-reinforcing, and so on and so forth, it also just... We can't actually fix the things that we want to fix or that we say we want to fix, because we're not allowed to have those conversations about how to get there.
We're not allowed to make mistakes. Again, even just in conversation, we're not allowed to make mistakes. We're not allowed to say, "Well, now, I wonder if this would work." Because if it's something that there are sanctions against, or the mob has decided it's decided is bad, you can't even say it. You barely even think it. You really can barely think it.
I find myself as somebody who studied racism and sexism for 20 years. And by the way, racism and sexism stereotyping is my main area of research. I came to study power because of looking at all of these effects on people who lacked power. Is there a some tool that I can give people now to help them? I'd be talking to a bunch of female MBA students about sexism and they'd be like, "Okay, you're showing me a lot of data, demonstrating that it exists today. What do I do at my job interview next week?" I'd be like, "Well, see you later. Goodbye. Good luck with that job interview."
So what do I do? I want to give them some personal tools, but I'm not ever saying just because I'm offering you this personal tool that might work for you, that might help, I am not saying it's your fault or your responsibility to fix sexism. I'm just saying, it's not going to change tomorrow. And I'd like you to have something that will help you when you come up against it, if you come up against it. So, I came at that from the study of racism and sexism and other kinds of prejudices, but I find it really hard to talk about those things now. I feel like there are such clear restricts about how and who talks about those things that again, to me, limiting progress.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I don't know if you saw that study. I think it was the university of North Queensland, maybe, but it just came out in the last month about dark triad personality types.
Amy Cuddy: No, I didn't see that.
What Is “Machiavellianism” Or The Dark Triad Tendency?
Jamie Wheal: It's really interesting. And I'm waiting for the backlash and the ongoing part of the conversation, but it was basically saying they took 500 US citizens who held non-normative views, which at this point, is almost a null set itself. But it was basically saying it was outright identitarians, and it was far left social justice warriors, and then progressive center moderates in the middle. Then they did the authoritarianism and dark triad of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy or sociopathy, right? And what they found was that both extremes left and right, strongly coded for authoritarian dark triad tendencies. Where the folks in the middle who were like, "I have my values, the prosocial, the human and I believe everybody else should also have the right to this," tested out for none of them. And to me, that was just Yeats second coming in a nutshell. Like the best black all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity. The first thing that shows up is like the poster boy for exactly that. The dark triad hijacking potentially prosocial movements would be like Maximilien Robespierre in the French revolution. Liberty, equality, brotherhood where humanity was as bad as prosocial as you can get and he outflanked Danton and these other leaders and created the reign of terror. And it had nothing to do with liberty, equality and humanity and it had everything to do with man power grab by a dirk triad, toxic human.
Amy Cuddy: Well, this is where you're going to get into sort of the Molly's work on virtue signaling and the use of that to actually grab power. One of the things I say at the beginning of the book that I'm working on now is, first of all, our focus on the bullies is a little bit misplaced because I don't think very many people are what I would call, principal bullies. And those are maybe the dark triad folks that you're talking about. Calling them folks seems not quite right, but the dark triad people are what I would call the primary bullies. And they will use virtues to attract mobs, to attract members and to ultimately acquire the power that they want or the affirmation that they need.
Many of the bystanders become, I say, accessorized by these primary bullies. So you become their accessory because they're using virtues that you actually do care about and tell them, "Well, if you really care about these things, you need to do it this way. And you need to get on this wagon right now. And if you're not with us, you're against us." But those people who are driving these wagons, they don't even often care about these things. They're attracting people who do and misleading them to believe that if they don't get on the wagon, then they don't care deeply enough. So those people become what I call accessory bullies, because the primary bullies create a sort of false threat.
They identify the other. They have to choose specific people as targets, because just like naming a specific victim is more compelling in terms of getting people to give money. Naming a specific trader or cause of the source of the threat is much more compelling than saying there is a looming, ambiguous threat out there and it's [inaudible 01:48:35]. So you name the people who are responsible and you stigmatize them. You shame them, you dehumanize them, you make it okay to dehumanize them. And then you also throw at them all kinds of roadblocks that are like denial of services attacks. So you accuse them of things they didn't do.
Jamie Wheal: But you're about to do, right? That's the classic sociopath move is, "I'm going to stir you what the brush fake news. Whatever, you're trying to steal an election. Like I'm not, you are no. And if they strike the first blow, then your response to defend yourself in a reality-based format is now just lost in the fog of war. And all the innocent bystanders are like, "It's confusing. I don't know. I don't want to take sides. I'm on the stay out."
Amy Cuddy: No, [inaudible 01:49:19] and this other person that the primary bully seems to be more powerful. So it's much safer for me to go with that person but these DoS attacks. Like in my case, the DoS attacks were, "Oh, well, there was an error in this paper and that paper and she didn't say this the right way or that the right way. So it made it almost impossible for me to get other work done because I was constantly responding to these sham accusations that weren't right or sham investigations. I didn't actually ended up being experiencing that but a lot of people who are bullied do experience these sham investigations.
So they're having to put together a whole response to something they never did. So first you just do you disabled them so that they can not demonstrate their competence, but then you also use gaslighting and similar techniques to deny them sanity. So you have denial services and denial of sanity. And so now you make them look crazy, right? You make them look crazy or paranoid or over vigilant or too defensive. And so now you've disabled their credibility as in their area of expertise or the perception of their confidence. And you've also disabled the perception of their kind of trustworthiness and likeability.
So now they're done in, but that is not happening through one person. A lone bully is infinite. Bullies require bystanders to become accessories. And that is the only way they get the stuff done. Those accessory bullies have to boost their signal. If they're not boosting their signal it's never going to go anywhere. Right? So then you've infrared or dehumanize them. You have made it totally okay to attack them. And now you've got people who are fearful of not joining. So, I can't tell you how many emails I got or messages from people going, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. This is happening to you. I know it's wrong and look like horrible but if I stand up for you, I will have a target on my back."
Jamie Wheal: When does that little red carpet at TED become a giant bullseye on your back? Do you know?
Amy Cuddy: I never thought of it that way. But as the red circle is the target, right?
Jamie Wheal: If you get enough views, if you're humble and you stay in your lane, you might just get an attaboy but if you blow up and you boundaries and genres, then you get all the petty jealousies of your guilt. Because you're not waiting your turn and then you get anything else from the randos on the street.
Amy Cuddy: And, I have to say, I feel mostly work from people outside of academia. I felt very much embraced. I think that people know that I am myself, that I am deeply sensitive and compassionate person. That I'm giving you exactly who I am and that's what they see. So those interactions for me are mostly wonderful. It came from inside my tribe. That's where the punishment came from. And I would say a lot of... I've talked to other academics who were also untenured when they gave very successful TED talks who had the same experience, maybe not to the same extent, but I think it's not uncommon, but there's a whole focus on the bullies and well, what's wrong with them and also what's wrong with the targets. So basically when we look at bullying, we're focusing on the lead characters. And we should actually be focusing on the extras milling around in the background. Those are the ones who matter. Why are they doing [crosstalk 01:53:13].
Jamie Wheal: Have you seen that essay that was making the rounds last year called the Internet of Beefs?
Amy Cuddy: No.
How Can We Stop Bullies?
Jamie Wheal: It's hilarious and brilliantly written, but it talks about these nights. It's called the Internet of Beefs. Like everybody having a beef and he basically breaks it all down to there's the Knights, and this is the Sam Harris' and the Jordan Peterson's.
And then there's the Mooks. and the Mooks all orient around a given Knight. So that's their fan boy standing thing. And then the Mooks do battle with each other to try and outdo and pirate what the Knights have and the whole thing is this self perpetuating shit-show that actually has perverse incentives and rewards. And just is a runner is a runaway train. So, I want to go back one thing about the shows and the music, but enclosing from your work that you're doing here with bullies, and really focusing on the bystanders too. What is your hope out? So we've diagnosed the problem it's pernicious, and it appears to be intensifying. What do you suggest is our solution so that people can find the decency, find the humanity in each other social and the courage they need for you to call it a spade. How do we stop the bully from catalyzing into social harm?
Amy Cuddy: So I'm already finding that, just explaining to people that this is really a predictable pattern. And first of all, you can identify it early on when it's going to go in that direction. Like what is a criticism and what is bullying? So to be able to identify the bullying to prevent yourself from becoming an accessory. And part of that is funny because I'm going to say that part of what bystanders need to do is less, but bystanders don't signal boost. If you read some nasty tweet, there's an ad hominem attack by someone who should know better, that really has no substance. You really should not be sharing that. Or even if you see an attack on somebody's work, if you don't really understand it, you shouldn't be signal boosting.
So first of all, inoculate yourself against becoming their accessory. Who wants to be used by bullies? Who wants to be able to say like, "Yeah, I was a fool and they used me." So inoculate yourself against the things that they're doing to pull you in. And then you start to move toward what I call social bravery which is not as glorious as physical bravery. So it's not a clear cut. You may not ever in your lifetime be thanked for doing it because you are risking your membership in the group. You might be kicked out for doing the right thing and standing up for someone. But looking at these small acts of social bravery. Like just simply, back to social media, say somebody is being attacked. One thing to do is to rather than do nothing or rather than attack the attacker, just affirm the person being attacked. Redirect the thread toward thanking them for something they did that you admire, that you are that you're grateful for.
That changes the norm or the perceived norm. So if negativity seems to be the normative response, switch it to positivity. Don't switch it to negativity toward the attacker, switch it to positivity toward target. And so now you're making that become more normative and you will see people begin to say, "Oh, well, that person said something nice. I'm going to say something nice too." That's a small act of social bravery. A big act of social bravery is saying, say, when you see in your department that somebody is being mobbed out of a job, and that they're becoming the targets of DoS attacks just say, "I see what's happening here and just cannot get on board with this."
Jamie Wheal: Now, this is a third rail. And so you do not have to comment on this, but I will just opine for a second, which is in seeing what happened with Princeton over the summer with that massive kind of semi fore signatory on Princeton to being a racist institution and blobby blot, and a number of professors back channeling to the Atlantic and other places like "Whoa, what exactly is your point?" I don't dare stand out. I don't dare set step aside. My sense, what I'm wondering is, there's been ample documentation of the rise in college and university tuition's in the last 20 to 30 years. They keep creating the country club environment, trying to lure consumers with cheap loans and blah, blah, blah, but also this massive bloating of administrative stuff.
What I wondered if there has been a breaking in the norm that the provost, the deans, the presidents used to have been academics themselves and are now professional fucking bureaucrats and their willingness to sell their stuff down the river at the drop of a hat? Right and capitulate to completely unjust demands from the mobs feels like it's happening. You can nod, you can wink. I don't know whether if you've noticed that or perceive that, but that is definitely one I was wondering about, because it feels like it is the spineless bureaucrats that they're not... Like the same with that was at UCLA or USC, the Chinese language professor who just got pipped for a homophone and you're like, "This is silly. This is beyond ludicrous and insulting to the people you think you're protecting." And yet administrations are not taking principle stands for free speech inquiry the Academy. They're folding to Twitter.
Amy Cuddy: I find some of the responses. I guess I'll leave it too shocking by the people who have opportunities to not only be thoughtful, but to establish a different norm or to... I find some of these responses shocking at the same time, I have to say, in my case, I found administrators at Harvard to be braver then. And by the way the bullying that I endured did not come from inside Harvard. I still found some of the administrators to be... They were more willing to believe that it was happening because some of them had either been targets of it. And that's part of how they had been very successful and had been targets of something like that. But yeah, they were a little bit more distanced from that. Just sort of like being in an academic department and your main job being, getting grant money and publishing papers. So I did feel a bit more compassion from administrators I would say. But I also see exactly what you're talking about and I'm very concerned.
The Power of Dance
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Well, then we can tuck this one back in to the conversation on the dead, but something that I was instantly curious about when you shared your background as a formal ballet dancer, and you also shared your experience going to a lot of Grateful Dead shows and which is infamous for noodley, unstructured, improvisational dancing. So talk to me what was your experience like going from the hyper structured Black Swan world to the rainbow spinners of a show? What was that like for you in your own body? I mean, let's bring this back to wonder woman. All right.
Amy Cuddy: I just love to move to music. I left ballet when I realized that again, it was a world where people were Fearful. They loved their art and they wanted to do their art, but they were willing to kind of die for it and not stand up for themselves. I realized I could not stay on that path, but still in the end, I love moving to music. If I followed the Dead for a month, I lose 10 pounds. I can't stop. I could dance for 10 hours. That to me is the ecstatic experience and my movement, I think I look probably like somebody who was a ballet dancer, but it's still all over the place. It's like, I take up a lot of space.
I use my arms a lot. I am so fully synchronized with the music when I'm dancing. I just love dancing. And now I'm roller skating. I was a roller skating waitress for two years in college. And I think [inaudible 02:02:25], and that's how I met my friend who worked at [inaudible 02:02:30] because she also was a waitress. Anyway, so now I've been rollerskating every day four hours over the last few months. I do some roller skating to like RNB and soul and I do some roller skating to the Dead and if you can follow on Instagram and see what these different types of rollerskating look like, but it's funny roller skating to the Dead is pretty much like dancing to the Dead.
Everybody doing it looks completely different, right? Like there's just no one way to do it. Anyway, this is a time when I need dead shows more than ever before. It is so hard to not have that. It is so hard to not be able to connect with people, move with them and get that sort of little sense of hope that I get every time I go to a show. It's really tough. And I hope that we can find a way.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Those are some of our redemption songs.
Amy Cuddy: Absolutely.
Jamie Wheal: Somehow we sort of danced each other home.
Amy Cuddy: We do, yeah.
Jamie Wheal: It's the medicine we need. Well, Amy, thank you so much. It's been a far-ranging super fun checking. And I feel like we barely touched the surface. I wanted to talk to you about your conversations with Molly and the juxtaposition between Burning Man and Dead Shows a thousand different lanes to go down, but look forward to resuming this conversation in the months and years to come.
Amy Cuddy: Likewise, this was great.