Elizabeth A. Stanley, Ph.D. is a professor of security studies with joint appointments in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government. She is also the Director of Georgetown's Center for Security Studies and Security Studies Program. She speaks, teaches, and writes about resilience, political psychology, civil-military relations, technology and security, and international security. She’s the author of Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma and Paths to Peace, which won the 2009 Furniss Award for “an exceptional contribution to the field of national and international security.” She’s also the co-editor of Creating Military Power.
After her own healing journey from chronic stress and trauma—during which she lost her eyesight temporarily—Liz developed an evidence-based approach to resilience called Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT)®. She collaborated with neuroscientists to test MMFT’s efficacy among troops preparing for combat deployment. MMFT research has been featured on 60 Minutes, ABC Evening News, NPR, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, and many other media outlets. Liz has taught these tools to thousands in high-stress environments, including corporate leaders, first-responders, healthcare workers, diplomats, military service-members, and members of Congress. She has also partnered with Sounds True to create an online version of the MMFT course.
Earlier in her career, she served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer in South Korea, Germany, and on two peacekeeping deployments to the Balkans. Her research has been supported by many funders, including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and Woodrow Wilson Center.
A long-standing practitioner of mindfulness practices—including months-long silent practice in the United States and Burma—she’s also a certified practitioner of Somatic Experiencing®, a body-based trauma therapy. She holds degrees from Yale, Harvard, and MIT.
Building Resilience during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Our thinking brain and survival brain are at odds during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, many choices to calm ourselves are actually exacerbating our stress and anxiety. This talk explains this paradox—and offers alternatives to build our resilience. Building on the core principles of my resilience training program, this talk explores how where we direct our attention—consciously or unconsciously—has tremendous ripple effects throughout our brain, nervous system, and body. Thus, by training our attention and adopting simple habits that help our survival brain feel safe, we can teach our thinking brain and survival brain to work together cooperatively. The more they do, the easier it is for us to function effectively during challenges and recover afterward. We can train ourselves to make wise decisions and access choice—even during times of incredible stress, uncertainty, and change.
Because leaders send strong ripples into the social environment, they have an extraordinarily powerful effect on other people’s resilience (or lack thereof). This talk explores how stress and emotion contagion work—and this contagion’s implications for leaders. Because of this social wiring, one critical component of effective leadership is the leader’s own self-regulation and resilience. This talk offers leader self-care strategies and powerful tools that help with decision-making under pressure. When leaders make choices to boost their own resilience, they can also enhance the collective resilience of their groups. Through simple shifts, leaders can shape for the better how their subordinates respond during stress, uncertainty, and change.
Anticipation versus Resilience during Times of Uncertainty
Humans produce the greatest stress arousal when situations are perceived to be novel, unpredictable, uncontrollable, and threatening to our survival. Uncertainty checks most of these boxes—and thus, we constantly seek tools (especially technological tools) for controlling it. This talk explores the two main approaches for coping with uncertainty: anticipation and resilience. Anticipation tries to predict and prevent unwanted events from occurring—and our reliance on technology leans towards anticipatory strategies. In contrast, resilience involves functioning effectively before and during unwanted events and then recovering completely, learning, and adapting afterward. We actually need both approaches to be our most effective—but many of us lean too heavily on anticipation, to our disadvantage. This talk explores how to create a balance between them—and especially how to build the adaptive capacity that allows us to respond effectively to whatever happens.
Why We Disown Trauma—and How to Acknowledge and Heal It to Create Safer and Healthier Schools, Workplaces, and Communities
Trauma is surprisingly common: it occurs whenever our survival brain perceives us as helpless, powerless, or lacking control during a challenging event. Because of its pervasiveness—and the dramatic increases in anxiety, depression, substance abuse, chronic pain, and suicidality that have co-arisen with trauma in the last 30 years—there’s now a growing desire for “trauma-informed” policies in education, healthcare, and law enforcement. Nonetheless, our society still tends to collectively disown trauma, with many negative repercussions. This talk explores why we tend to disown trauma—and it surveys the surprising range of negative effects that result. What can we do to change this? This talk offers some simple yet effective recommendations for working skillfully with trauma in schools, workplaces, and communities.
Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma
A pioneering researcher gives us a new understanding of stress and trauma, as well as the tools to heal and thrive. With stories from the men and women she’s trained, as well as her own striking experiences with stress and trauma, Liz gives readers hands-on strategies they can use themselves.
Paths to Peace: Domestic Coalition Shifts, War Termination and the Korean War
Why are wars are so difficult to end? This book develops a theory about the domestic obstacles to making peace—and tests it in an in-depth analysis of the ending of the Korean War.