No, but, the book really changed my understanding of not just my actions but those of the people around me. Then I read, shortly thereafter, The Power of Habit. And that booked discussed, guess what!, willpower and its ability to help people gain emotional control. Specifically, the book discusses a guy who wasn't doing well in life. He couldn't keep a job. He had a short, short, short temper. And he was unhappy. Then he got hired by Starbucks. And the Starbucks training program reforged this guy. He did so well, he became the manager of the store. Then the manager of another store. Not only that, he no longer had anger problems. (for a recap of this click here and go to section 8).
You can guess where this is going?
Director: David O. Russell
I think I would vote for him over DDL for Best Actor, but Joaquin over him: Bradley Cooper
I would marry her over DDL, and definitely over Joaquin: Jennifer Lawrence
His best performance in a long time: Robert De Niro
Makes me want to watch Animal Kingdom: Jacki Weaver
WHERE HAS HE BEEN: Chris Tucker
Punching inanimate objects is fun: John Ortiz
Oh you: Julia Stiles
Vulgar mouth: Anupam Kher
Made me laugh: Shea Whigham
Are there any other cops in Philly?: Dash Mihok
What It's Good For:
-making me want to take dance lessons
-legitimizing Bradley Cooper
-solidifying Jennifer Lawrence
-laughter and tears
-David O. Russell's case for A-list
-could it become a classic?
-reminded me of the old-school classics, except with a new-age mental twist
-I'm sure the viewing experience will be very emotional for people who know people who are bipolar
-maybe a little slow?
-some people could not connect to the subject matter
So what do I mean by a connection between the emotional cortex and willpower?
First, we have to define both.
Willpower is, basically, our ability to maintain attention and demonstrate restraint. In other words: it is exerting self-control. A classic example is the marshmallow experiment. Researchers put a marshmallow in front of a kid and waited to see how long it took each kid to eat the marshmallow. Because most kids love marshmallows, it spoke a lot about their willpower if they could resist (there were also different scenarios going on, but I'm being general). The experimenters thought those who could wait, who could delay gratification, would be more successful in the future. Resisting this marshmallow took willpower. If you really want to play a videogame but you have homework to do: it takes willpower to not play the video game. If a professor is talking and you keep daydreaming, it takes willpower to listen. Hell, it sometimes takes willpower to go to class. Diets take willpower. Any conscious decision we have to make, where it's not automatic, in other words "is not habit", takes willpower.
The emotional cortex is pretty straightforward. It's the area of the brain where emotions take place. When it's active, we feel emotional.
Now, here's where things get interesting. What FUELS willpower is: glucose.
When we run out of fuel, we run out of willpower. When we run out of willpower, the emotional cortex gets cooking.
What are you like when you've gone hours without food? 1 hour? 4 hours? 8 hours? Most of us become monsters, right? Willpower actually tells us there have been studies that have found judges grant parole over 60% of the time right AFTER they've had breakfast, a snack, or lunch (when their glucose resources are at their highest). What about parole cases PRIOR to those meals, when glucose has been consumed by listening to other cases? Less than 20% get a "yes". Crazy, right?
You know what takes willpower? Working 9-5. You know what else takes willpower? Being married. You know what else takes willpower? Being a parent. Do you know what a lot of therapists are recommending for people who are struggling with their marriages or failing to have patience with their kids? Leaving work an hour early. Why? Because you save a little more glucose, which means you have a little more willpower, which means you're a little less emotionally volatile.
"Not everyone can leave work an hour early!"
Eating also helps. So eat a snack before you get home.
Food is the source of glucose. There are foods that give us immediate spikes of glucose: candy bars and junk food. And there are foods that are slow release: vegetables, fruits, chicken breasts. All those healthy foods. Studies have found that women who eat healthier have exceedingly better emotional control during their periods and pregnancy.
Willpower is described as a muscle. Something that can tire with use but, with use overtime, grows in strength and endurance. Which means we can also lessen our emotional volatility.
What is bipolar disorder? People with the disorder have manic and depressive mood swings. As we see in Silver Linings Playbook, there's a randomness to these swings, a lack of stability.
Pat is able to spend eight months incident-free in a mental hospital. Why is being in a mental hospital different than being out in the world? Stressors. What's the difference between being at the beach and being at work? Or when your kid is at school and when the kid has 8 friends over for a slumber party? I mean, I know a mental hospital isn't a beach, nor is it like being at home when your kid is at school...A mental hospital can be very stressful, I'm sure. But, generally, the idea of a mental hospital is to relax patients and reduce stress.
Pat gets home and what happens? He's emotionally wild. We see him freaking out over A Farewell to Arms. He freaks out when he hears that song. He freaks out about his wedding video. These are stressors he didn't have while at the hospital.
The turning point in Pat's emotional stability is? DANCING. Why?
As Tiffany points out: learning a dance routine takes dedication (and a bunch of other things I can't find the quote to include).
Pat tells his dad, Pat Sr., that the dance thing is good for him, Pat Jr.. The only time we see Pat "lose control" after he starts the dance training: at the Eagles game when his brother is being hit.
Someone might think Pat has stabilized because it's a movie and of course he goes from volatile to controlled! That's how movies work! But this movie has a legitimate reason for it.
Training for the dance competition has strengthened Pat's willpower. A strong willpower, as we know, gives him more emotional stability. Thus Pat has better control over his bipolar disorder.
I'm no doctor, but I read things doctors write. And there are signs regular exercise helps mediate bipolar disorder. Dancing is a form of exercise. I don't even think it's the exercise that's important. I'm convinced it's the dedication.
But this information is applicable to people who don't have bipolar disorder. If you are someone who starts to get really angry when you haven't had food for 6 or more hours, fast for a day. Go 24 hours without food. Do it on a weekend, not on a work day. But do it and your willpower improves.
Sports improve willpower. Martial arts improve willpower. Going to the gym consistently improves willpower. Yoga improves willpower. Turning off the TV for an hour improves willpower. Limiting yourself to only an hour a day of video games or TV shows or internet videos improves willpower. Practicing good posture improves willpower. Keeping a daily journal improves willpower. Dancing improves willpower. Photography improves willpower. Painting, drawing, stitching, knitting: improved willpower. Church: improves willpower.
Anything we can "dedicate" ourselves to or take on as a hobby improves our willpower. There is a caveat though, more on that later
The stronger your willpower the better your emotional control. Not only that though: the better your concentration. Frontal lobe concentration takes willpower. So improved willpower means you can be more controlled and more productive at work. You can be more controlled and more productive with your significant other and children. You can put in more time and effort to any and all projects.
"WHAT ABOUT MIKE TYSON! THAT DUDE WAS A PROFESSIONAL BOXER AND HAD NO EMOTIONAL CONTROL!" To that, I'll argue: could you imagine Mike Tyson if he hadn't been a boxer? What it must have been like for him when he was a teenager? And what about Mike Tyson now? Isn't he better? I mean, he still says some weird things. He'll never be perfect. Just like we see Pat, in Silver Linings, still says...blunt things. Pat won't be perfect either. None of us ever will be. We're all flawed in our own ways. But increasing our willpower will help each of us control those things we sometimes call "our demons" all the better.
Keep in mind, exerting willpower can be difficult. You have to constantly be reminding yourself: "stay focused", "sit up straight", "concentrate on what's being said". You have to overcome your natural instincts. You want to get angry and scream: instead, count to ten. That's exerting willpower. If you drink Sprite all the time and you want to not destroy yourself, you need to stop drinking Sprite. But drinking Sprite is a habit, at this point. It takes willpower to not drink Sprite. But, eventually, not drinking Sprite becomes the habit. And what's that mean? You don't need to use glucose anymore worrying about Sprite. You can save it for other things.
That's the caveat. You don't gain willpower doing something that's easy for you. The same way you don't gain muscle strength by bench pressing air. If you bite your nails, not biting your nails gains you willpower. If you have played basketball for 6 years and don't even think about how to play anymore, you just play, that's not gaining you willpower. What gains you willpower is identifying you suck at free throws and practicing free throws every day.
Think about it this way. You have never lifted weights before. You try to bench press 50 pounds and can't. So you practice. You finally can do 10 reps of 50 pounds! Good job! You've gained muscle! But if you keep doing 50 pounds at only 10 reps you will never increase your strength. Likewise, you gain willpower by stopping drinking Sprite. But that "exercise" becomes so simple and natural you no longer gain anything from it. Maybe you moved to drinking fruit juice and water. The next thing you can do to gain willpower? Drink 8 glasses of water a day. Once that becomes habit, move on to something else.
We'll have set-backs. It's constantly a 2-steps-forward-1-step-back kind of tug-and-war where you have the rope tied around your waste and are trying to run forward and your old habits are pulling you back. We reach a point, though, when we're running, unencumbered, and not even realizing it. We can enjoy these moments. But it's precisely when we're sprinting, without resistance, that we need to find a new anchor to overcome.
No matter who you are: you should read Willpower and Power of Habit. Maybe they won't help you land a sex-crazed Jennifer Lawrence. They will definitely help you in other ways. Like write a movie with solutions based on neuroscience so they're not only entertaining but resonant to actual human nature.
In almost every moment of our lives there's a chance to increase willpower and thus improve ourselves. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to stop writing this and go do something else. I've been working on it for four hours. I want to eat. I want to watch a movie. I want to check Facebook (okay, I do do that, but not as often as I want). I want to talk to friends. But I keep writing because I know I have to get this done. But also because I know that each time I want to stop writing and continue writing anyway: I'm strengthening my willpower. I'm hungry because I've drained glucose, and food replenishes glucose. When I'm finally done with this, I'll need to spend 30 min vegged out, doing unconscious things that don't take glucose while my body goes through gluconeogenesis and produces some backup glucose (when you sleep, you produce glucose, which is why if you don't get enough sleep you have less patience. Keep in mind, it's very important people with bipolar disorder get enough sleep.). Anyway. If you're sitting, watching TV, you can improve your posture: willpower. Or you can see how long you can hold one leg in the air. Or tap your nose with a finger. If you're driving, you can roll the window down on a cold day and see how long you can stand it; if it's a hot day, you can turn the air conditioning off and roll the windows up. You can put a stick of gum in your mouth and not chew it even though it's habit to start gnashing away.
Reading this entire thing probably increased your willpower. You can read a NYT article about the author of Willpower and his findings by clicking here. That's your reward!
If you want to discuss more willpower situations, like how willpower affects shopping, hit up the comments section.
Did I Like It:
Yeah. A lot. It charmed me even though the characters aren't, on the surface, all that charming. They all mean well.
Nothing special about the shot selection.
Really thought Bradley Cooper killed it.
I can't tell you how nervous I was that the whole eruption over the unhappy ending in A Farewell to Arms was a foreshadow to some unpleasant ending to the movie. I feel like this is something people will still watch in 15, 20, 30 years.
O. Russell loves family stuff.
What can't Jennifer Lawrence do? All of her roles so far have been pretty dramatic. I'd like to see her in a more comedic role. I know this movie is supposed to be "funny" but it's no way a comedy. Though it does have Chris Tucker. Speaking of which! WHOA! Chris Tucker...like...acted? Was it just me or did he bring a lot of joy to the screen?
I liked the use of whisper in the encounter with Nikki. After all of Pat's volcanism...it was nice to see this quiet moment from him. Especially when we're so unsure of what he'll do.
I hated myself for feeling so happy about the cheese-ball final scene where everyone is so happy.
The subplot of Ronnie and his wife is never really resolved. I guess it doesn't have to be?
Poor Tony Romo. Can't even catch a break in the movies.
Seriously though, couldn't they have had one other cop show up at some point? That same guy every time?
remember our 2011 book is out!
2012 book in Feb 2012