Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Book: Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer, Ph.D

This year I was at home for Thanksgiving and found an old book that I had from my college years. One that I bought with good intentions I'm sure but then never read it. I decided that I should see what it was about.

The books title: Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer, Ph.D. A Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and the author of The Power of Mindful Learning. As I started reading it, I was quickly hooked. I often find myself doing things out of habit, or mindlessly. Some days I make it to work without even really remembering the drive. This book speaks about being mindful of your actions and surrounding. It has some fantastic real world examples of what can potentially happen if you are mindless (or on autopilot). Below is a quick excerpt from the book. No lead in necessary, it will tell you the story.

“My first experience of the grave risks of mindlessness occurred while I was in graduate school. My grandmother complained to her doctors about a snake crawling around beneath her skull and giving her headaches. Her descriptions were vivid and figurative, not literal. That was just the way she talked. But the young doctors who took care of her paid little attention to what this very old lady from another culture was telling them. They diagnosed senility. Senility comes with old age, after all, and makes people talk nonsense. When she grew more confused and unhappy, they recommended electroconvulsive therapy (“shock treatment”) and convinced my mother to give her approval.

Not until an autopsy was performed did anyone detect my grandmother’s brain tumor. I shared my mother’s agony and guilt. But who were we to question the doctors? For years afterward I kept thinking about the doctors’ reactions to my grandmother’s complaints, and about our reactions to the doctors. They went through the motions of diagnosis, but were not open to what they were hearing. Mindsets about senility interfered. We did not question the doctors; mindsets about experts interfered.”

Just think about it.


No comments:

Post a Comment