Elizabeth Stanley

• Professor of security studies at Georgetown University

• Author of 'Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive during Stress and Recover from Trauma'

“A remarkable, thorough, and important work, tackling the traumas and difficulties of modern times, and offering truly wise and empirically proven remedies for the individual and for our society.” —Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., author of A Path With Heart


Elizabeth A. Stanley, Ph.D., is an associate professor of security studies at Georgetown University, jointly appointed in the School of Foreign Service and Government Department. She speaks, teaches, and publishes widely about resilience, decision-making under stress, civil-military relations, military effectiveness and innovation, and international security.

Liz is the creator of Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT)®, a resilience training program tested through Department of Defense-funded studies with the U.S. military. She’s taught MMFT concepts and skills to thousands in high-stress environments, from troops preparing for combat, to inmates at a maximum-security prison, corporative executives, and members of Congress. Her second book about the neurobiology of resilience, Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive during Stress and Recover from Trauma, is based on her teaching in these high-stress environments. MMFT research has been featured on 60 Minutes, ABC Evening News, NPR, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, and many other media outlets. She has given several MMFT-related plenary keynotes at major conferences, including the Departments of Defense/Veterans’ Affairs National Suicide Prevention Conference and the International Trauma Conference. She has also presented MMFT research during Congressional testimony and at the White House.

Her first book, Paths to Peace: Domestic Coalition Shifts, War Termination, and the Korean War, won the 2009 Edgar S. Furniss Award for an exceptional contribution to the fields of national and international security. She’s also the co-editor of Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness.

Earlier in her career, she served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer in South Korea, Germany, and on two deployments to the Balkans. She has served on several boards, including the U.S. Army Science Board, the National Security Advisory Board of the Sandia National Laboratories, and the executive board of Women in International Security. Her research has been supported by grants from numerous funders, including the National Science Foundation, many agencies within the U.S. Department of Defense, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the John Kluge Foundation, and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Owing to her own striking history with chronic stress and trauma, Liz is a long-standing practitioner of mindfulness and mind fitness practices, including several long, intensive periods of silent practice in the United States and Burma. She’s also a certified practitioner of Somatic Experiencing, a body-based trauma therapy. She holds a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard, an M.B.A. focused on technology strategy and organizational behavior from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and a B.A. in Soviet and East European Studies from Yale. [📁 Elizabeth's Press Kit]

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Speech topics

Using Mind Fitness to Build Resilience and Enhance Performance

When you find yourself in a stressful, complex, or uncertain situation, you likely look to your mind for solutions, trying to figure out how to “deal with” or “fix” it. When we do this, however, we can override important information from our survival brain and body, and undermine our resilience. Drawing on Dr. Stanley’s Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT) program—which has been empirically tested in high-stress environments such as with troops before combat—this talk explores how to use mind fitness training to build resilience and enhance performance. By training our attention, we can better enable the thinking brain and survival brain to work together cooperatively. The more this happens, the easier it is to function effectively during stress and recover afterward. We can train ourselves to make wise decisions and access choice—even during times of incredible stress, uncertainty, and change.

Resilience during Uncertainty, Chaos, Crisis, and Change

In our techno-centric modern world, we want science and technology to explain every kind of uncertainty and unpredictability—and give us tools for controlling it. Technology facilitates anticipation, trying to predict and prevent unwanted events from occurring. At its core, our overreliance on technology is driven by our collective intolerance of uncertainty—and technology is a future-oriented anxiety-management system. Resilience, in contrast, is functioning effectively before and during unwanted events, and recovering completely, learning, and adapting afterward. Resilience is a present-oriented anxiety-management system. This talk is about how to create a balance between anticipation and resilience, and especially how to build the adaptive capacity that allows us to respond effectively, regardless of what happens.

Why Leaders Need “Wide Windows” and How to Create One

Leaders send especially strong ripples into their social environment, setting the social and emotional tone for their entire group. They can have an extraordinarily powerful effect on other people’s levels of resilience or lack thereof. This talk reveals the ways that leaders influence how their subordinates respond during stress, uncertainty, and change. Yet, certain characteristics of stressful and uncertain environments work against leaders being able to promote resilience in their groups. When leaders make choices to “widen their window”—their window of tolerance to stress arousal—they can help to widen the collective window of their organization. This talk explores how.

Why We Disown Trauma—and How Understanding It Can Lead to Stronger, Safer, and Healthier Schools, Workplaces, and Communities

Trauma occurs during stressful or challenging events, whenever our survival brain perceives us as helpless, powerless, or lacking control. It is surprisingly common. Nonetheless, our society has some deeply held assumptions about the causes and consequences of abuse, violence, obesity, addictions, and mental illness, which drive our culture’s disowning of trauma. At the same time, there’s a growing desire for “trauma-informed” policies in education, healthcare and law enforcement. This talk asks how and why we tend to disown trauma, disconnect “being stressed” from its consequences, and override our need for recovery—with many negative repercussions. Next, it explores the neurobiological consequences of trauma, especially after traumatic events in childhood. Finally, it 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.

Paths to Peace: Domestic Coalition Shifts, War Termination and the Korean War

Paths to Peace begins by developing a theory about the domestic obstacles to making peace and the role played by shifts in states' governing coalitions in overcoming these obstacle.

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