Monday, February 04, 2013

Mindfulness, Acceptance and Multiculturalism

"Exploring Elephant Mind" Collage by Lani and textures from FlyPaper
What I learned today from  The Neuroscience of Change is fun and a little counter-intuitive.  In the last segment of this program McGonigal describes some amazing research.   She said that there were two groups of students who were shown a photograph of a "skinhead" and asked to write an imaginative story about a day in his life.  One group was asked to suppress their stereotypes while they wrote their stories, while the other group was given more accepting type directives.  "You may notice that this photo will call up various feeling states because of past experience or because of values inherited from the dominant culture.  Don't worry, this is normal, just observe these feeling states as they arise."  The students who were given the "suppress prejudice and stereotypes" actually included more stereotypes in their writing that the students who were taught to be mindful and accepting of their feelings.  When both sets of students were given the opportunity to meet the individual that was in the photograph, the "suppressing" students wouldn't sit as close to the "skinhead" as the "mindfulness and acceptance" students. The "mindfulness and acceptance" students were also more willing to put themselves into situations where they were visible minorities.  Pretty interesting findings, right? 

Because this was on MP3's there were no references and because this research seemed pretty important for working in multicultural settings I persevered and found McGonigal's blog on Psychology Today in which she described the same research.  Her reference list is here:

Legault, L., Gutsell, J. N., and Inzlicht, M. (in press). Ironic effects of anti-prejudice messages: How motivational intervention reduces (but also increases) prejudice. Psychological Science.

Lillis, J., and Hayes, S. C. (2007). Applying acceptance, mindfulness, and values to the reduction of prejudice: A pilot study. Behavior Modification, 31(4), 389-411.

Macrae, C. N., Bodenhausen, G. V., Milne, A. B., and Jetten, J. (1994). Out of mind but back in sight: Stereotype on the rebound. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 808-817.

So in a way, this whole "learning to ride the elephant" metaphor has been a practice and study of mindfulness and acceptance.  Learning about the challenges of our genetics and evolution (our hard wiring to go for sugar, salt, and fats, for example) is all about accepting the urges of the elephant.  I know I have wasted a lot of energy in the past, arguing and trying to "suppress" the elephant's love of donuts or chocolate, and I can tell you first hand that suppression really doesn't work.

Try this: Get your elephant (or the craving brain) to not think about his or her favorite not-so-great habit.  It's pretty hard, maybe impossible.   Now try talking with the elephant or craving brain.  Tell it you want to learn as much as you can about these normal, hard-wired urges and you want to learn all about surfing them.  The elephant will feel much better, more understood, and we will have more success in training it rather than suppressing it.  Once again thank you Kelly McGonigal!  This feels so possible and hopeful!


Anonymous said...

When I was a little girl I had a very big storybook ... I think it had one for every night. My favourite story in that book was about the Wind and the Sun in a competition to get someone to take off his coat. Guess who won?

I wish I had remembered this lesson from so long ago. So glad to have been reminded in such a delightful way.

I am enjoying Christine Carter's course in crafting the perfect resolution. I'm working the plan and it's working! Yahoo!

I love it so much I'm going to share what I learned with college students and the women in my circles.

Don't we live in a wonderful world? Seeing the Internet being used in such a positive fashion...why it's positively miraculous!

Lani Gerity said...

Love this, susanna! How silly of the moon to compete with the sun in that way. I am very sure that story was made up by a man, lol! MY moon would never be tricked that way!

Erika C. said...

I am so grateful for your posts on McGonigal's meditations and exercises. I also downloaded her recordings and am finding that it is a little hard to keep track of what is where when I go back to try to listen to it again. Now I can use your posts as reminders. Also I think it is so great to integrate the art with it.

Thanks again!