Category Archives: Author Essays

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence

9780385347334By Rick Hanson Ph.D., author of Hardwiring Happiness (Harmony, December 2016).

My book, Hardwiring Happiness, addresses a fundamental weakness in other positive psychology books: simply having beneficial experiences is not enough; we also need to convert these passing experiences into lasting changes in neural structure or function. If we don’t, there is no learning, no durable healing or growth—which means limited gains from both formal interventions and informal efforts at self-help.

Drawing on research on the neuropsychology of emotional, somatic, and motivational learning, I show you how to use every day experiences to develop important psychological resources such as resilience, compassion, and confidence. I also share how to apply these inner strengths to meet specific personal needs, taking the triune theory of brain evolution as an organizing framework and roadmap.

In Hardwiring Happiness, you will learn:

  • the central importance of psychological resources for effectiveness and well-being, coping with challenges, and managing vulnerabilities;
  • how inner resources are acquired through processes of learning;
  • major mechanisms of experience-dependent neuroplasticity;
  • the two-stage process of learning: from experience to memory, state to trait;
  • about the brain’s evolved negativity bias and how it’s a bottleneck to psychological resource acquisition;
  • mental “learning factors” that increase the encoding and consolidation of experiences into lasting changes in the nervous system—and compensate for the negativity bias;
  • the HEAL framework that organizes learning factors into a step-by-step process that can be used to acquire desired psychological resources and to steepen the learning curve in psychotherapy, mindfulness programs, and human resources training;
  • to use the fourth HEAL step, linking positive and negative material, to reduce and potentially replace painful or harmful thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns;
  • how the brain evolved to meet our needs for safety, satisfaction, and connection through avoiding harms, approaching rewards, and attaching to others;
  • to use this needs fulfillment framework to develop specific psychological resources for personal issues (e.g., insecure attachment, anxiety, low self-worth).

I hope you will consider Hardwiring Happiness in your coursework.  The book is well-referenced, full of practical applications, and contains many brief experiential practices to deepen embodied learning. It offers an accessible entry into topics of emotional intelligence, resilience, learning, and personal development.

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Karen Greenberg on the Slow Erosion of Justice after 9/11

9780804138215By Karen J. Greenberg, author of Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State (Crown, May 2016)

In the spring of 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder faced the American public to announce that the five men in US custody who had been charged with the 9/11 conspiracy would not be prosecuted in federal court. Instead, they would be tried by military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. Holder explained that it was a matter of politics: Congress had taken the decision out of his hands. This book is meant to illuminate the larger forces at work during the years leading up to that disappointing decision. Continue reading

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Why Healthy Sleep is Key for Academic Achievement

9781101904008By Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time (Harmony, April 2016)

There is more and more evidence of how sleep deprivation is affecting students, both their physical and mental health and their ability to learn. At the same time, we are living in a golden age of sleep science, revealing all the ways in which sleep plays a vital role in our decision making, emotional intelligence, cognitive function, and creativity – in other words, the building blocks of a great education. This science is already being applied, as many schools have seen positive results from pushing back start times. Continue reading

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“Genius” Grant Winner Matthew Desmond on Eviction, Poverty and Profit in the American City

9780553447439By Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown, March 2016)

Request an advanced reader’s copy: email rhacademic@penguinrandomhouse.com with your name, college and course information.

I began this project because I wanted to write a different kind of book about poverty in America. Instead of focusing exclusively on poor people or poor places, I began searching for a process that involved poor and well-off people alike. Eviction—the forced removal of families from their homes—was such a process. Little did I know, at the outset, how immense this problem was, or how devastating its consequences. Continue reading

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Hiding the Truth for Community’s Sake: The Danger of Small Town Dynamics

Amy_Jo_Burns-by-Jen Zilaby Amy Jo Burns, author of Cinderland: A Memoir (Beacon Press, September 2015)

From Steubenville to State College to Missoula, small towns often step into the spotlight where sex crimes are concerned. After the stark details get spun through the news cycle, the towns are left to themselves again, usually divided, impenitent, and often unable to determine what role the community itself played in perpetuating the violence or the criminalization of the victims. As a young woman involved in a small town scandal myself, I can testify to the communal damage that lasts long after journalists and reporters have moved on to the next big story. Continue reading

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To Be Young, Latina, and Bisexual

daisyhernandez-Jorge RivasBy Daisy Hernández, author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir (Beacon Press)

People often ask if it was hard for me, as a journalist, to write a memoir. It wasn’t. In many ways, the people I interviewed over the years for news stories—many of them immigrants, many of them poor—taught me to trust the power of personal stories. One of them was Alaaedien. He drove cabs in New York City, and one day, he picked up a man outside of Grand Central Station. The man was young, and he wanted Alaaedien to take him to upstate New York. The cab ride would cost almost a thousand dollars, Alaaedien explained. That was fine. The young man’s new girlfriend lived upstate. He would pay Alaaedien when they got there. Continue reading

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Violence, Justice & Imagination: A Visionary Paradigm

9780807091913By Michael Bronski and Kay Whitlock, authors of Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics (Beacon Press, January 2015).

Terrible things happen all the time. Everybody knows that. They happen to all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, as in the deaths of Trayvon Martin or Matthew Shepard, or the murder of nine parishioners in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, society has come up with a special classification to explain—and punish—some acts. We call them “hate crimes” because they are seen as being caused by the “hate” of the people who commit them. But are they caused only by “hate?” Or are they symptoms of deeper, widespread, or even commonplace forms of violence? Continue reading

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