Volume 1, Issue 2: October 2017
Quote of the Month
Timeless insights from scientists, philosophers, novelists and other wise souls
“When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.”
Five things I'm thinking about this month
1. One of my favorite stories of the month investigated how stock photos of women have changed in recent years. Writing in the New York Times, Claire Cain Miller argues that the dominant theme in such photos have changed from sex object to gritty woman. In 2007, Getty’s top-selling photo result for the search term “woman” was a naked woman under a towel. In 2017, it is a woman hiking alone in Banff National Park. The article includes the top images from 2007 to 2017; it’s fun to consider the possibility that these images are indicators of a deeper change in how we view women.
2. As Thibaut discusses below, I published my first trade book a couple of weeks ago, and the process has been exhilarating. From an intellectual perspective, the best part was serving as the flashpoint for a high-profile debate that took place in the pages of the New York Times and Scientific American. It began when David Brooks published an op-ed piece that, although generally complimentary of the book, took me to task for building on some of Abraham Maslow’s ideas. (In my friend Logan Ury’s words: “You haven’t arrived until you’ve been dissed by David Brooks in the NYT.”). Scott Barry Kaufman, a leading expert on humanistic psychology, wrote a trenchant response to Brooks, supporting the perspective I offer in the book and offering an erudite analysis of the nature of the good life. (The second best intellectual aspect of the book launch was helping to inspire—with my NYT op-ed piece—this fascinating Rosh Hashanah sermon by Rabbi Josh Feigelson.)
3. I know many of the most astute thinkers about relationships, and Esther Perel—whose Audible podcast I discussed last month—stands alone in her ability to challenge conventional wisdom with compassion, grace, and panache. Always intellectually courageous, even transgressive, she is now offering an essential new perspective on affairs. In a major article in the Atlantic, she examines why people who are happy in their relationship might cheat on their partner. I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of her forthcoming book, The State of Affairs (publication date: Oct. 10), and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
4. We all know that imposter syndrome is real, but many of us are surprised to learn that it can afflict even the most accomplished among us. Basketball fans remember Tracy McGrady as one of the most prolific scorers of his era. And yet, as ESPN reports, he was filled with self-doubt when the Hall of Fame came calling: “I had a zillion thoughts in my mind why I didn't deserve to be here.” His wife, CleRenda, knew he belonged in the Hall, and, with some effort, she convinced him that he was deserving. This story provides yet another example of the power of love—of how our relationship partners can help us conquer our demons.
5. One reason why committing to a relationship requires bravery is that we will change over time, as will our partner. Because we can’t be certain that we’ll remain compatible afterward, our partner’s change can feel scary. This month, RAMLAB student Lydia Emery had an article accepted for publication that investigates the role of self-concept clarity in predicting the tendency to support a partner’s change (Emery, Gardner, Finkel, & Carswell, in press). Results revealed that people who lack a clear sense of who they are tend to resist their partner’s change, in part because they fear that their partner’s change will further destabilize their own sense of self.
A dispatch from the mascot of the Relationships And Motivation Lab (RAMLAB)
This was the craziest month in the history of the RAMLAB. In addition to the acceptance of Lydia’s new paper (see above), Eli published his first trade book, The All-Or-Nothing Marriage. The book enjoyed glowing reviews and became a Best Seller on Amazon, where it was also the #1 New Release in the “Love & Romance” category. In collaboration with Logan Ury and White Animation, Eli released a whiteboard-animation video that presents the history of marriage—in three minutes. Check it out!
The two-week book tour was madness. Eli celebrated publication day (Sept. 19) in New York with Amy Cuddy, Paul Coster, Esther Perel, Simon Sinek, and Leland Melvin (selfie below). A few days later, Peter Sagal helped him celebrate the book launch with 250 friends at Northwestern University. He held public events with Dan Gilbert in Boston, Dan Savage in Seattle, Heidi Stevens in Chicago, Dan Pink in D.C., and Dan Ariely in Chapel Hill (the Dans of the world really rallied here). He held corporate events with Logan Ury at Google and Airbnb. Eventually, he slept.