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John Teske

Adulting Career Narratives

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We only know ourselves by telling stories to ourselves. “Neuromythology” is the science of brains and stories, how we construct narratives of personal and professional identity, and how we can regenerate better stories. By looking at the predictable crises of adult development, professionals will construct crucial plot sequences, negotiate different truths using the cognitive science of memory, and make for more engaged storytelling in the violations of expectations central to drama, and behind all learning.

About
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About John

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. My last ten years as a scholar was about “Narrative and Meaning in Science and Religion” and on “Knowing Ourselves by Telling Stories to Ourselves,” keynote at a conference for the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science in 2016. I wrote a highly cited paper on “Neuromythology: Brains and Stories,” still cited as recently as March 2023 in Public Relations Review, about making organizatipnal narratives more engaging. I have been paid to speak in Hanover, Copenhagen, Madrid, and for a consular-level event in New Delhi, as well as Anglo-American venues at Oxford University, the University of Toronto, and in Princeton.

I was a “rock and roll” psychology professor for over 30 years, outgrew a liberal arts college in Amish country, and left the groves of academe. I was known for “pushing us outside of our comfort zones and teaching really interesting classes,” including upper-division multi-disciplinary seminars like “Psyche and Film,” “Psychology through Shakespeare,” and “Narrative and Identity.” My métier in front of the classroom finally succumbed to the “Coddling of the American Mind” in higher education, and I was offered a financial incentive just before the college was forced to retrench. I left at the right time. Since then, I have written blogs for www.neuromyth.com, told Story Slams, and given talks to creative non-fiction writers on “Memory and Memoir.”

-John Teske
Talks

John's Talks

Adulting Career Narratives

With exponential changes in population and information technology, emerging generations are struggling with issues of “adulting” well into their fourth decade of life. Meantime, the careers of more established generations stagnate, and run aground in a world known best by digital natives in desperate need of career progress. The isolation and restrictions of a world-wide pandemic have also accelerated the movement into a hybrid virtual work environment, less familiar and difficult to those not native to it, familiar and even preferred to those who are, but at a cost of genuine and embodied human connection. Regenerating malleable career narratives in partnerships across generations produces mutual and reciprocal advantages.

 

The vulnerabilities of disembodied virtual familiarity can be balanced with vulnerabilities of embodied knowledge transmission to produce a powerful synthesis in the stories we teach each other to tell.

Memory and Memoir

A tour of the cognitive science of memory in writing memoir. Participants learn about how episodic memory works, how we use stories in constructing memories, and how uncovering these processes improves the depth and honesty of memoir. Published work and the speaker’s memoir-in-progress, Campus Pastor’s Kid, shows the use of emotion, embodiment, and temporal shifts to illustrate the value in acknowledging constructive memory.

 

Participants will practice using the emotional processes of memory to engage readers, to improve memory via the specificity of setting, context, and bodily feelings, and to revise and reconstruct using flashback and flash-forward in compelling memoir

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Disembodied Connection

We live in a social world in which we are mimetically engulfed, constantly sharing and imitating the behavior and facial expressions of those around us. From the nonverbal synchronies we share with our caregivers, through the behavioral contagion of adolescence, to the empathy of shared emotion as adults, we feel comfortable and connected, or rejected and alien. The emotional pain of social rejection depends upon the same neurophysiology as physical pain, and our contemporary culture of indirect, distant, bodily isolating technological mediation reduces the risk of rejection by attenuating our mimetic, face-to-face, and embodied empathies.

 

Electronic communication, in hiding our vulnerability behind screens of defensiveness, distance, and projection, may undercut the development of the very emotional and cognitive capacities necessary for social intercourse.

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Testimonials
“John was an amazing presenter and did a great job keeping the audience engaged/participating.”

Memory and Memoir, Hippocamp Conference for Creative Non-Fiction Writers, 8/14/2021

“The arts can come off as fluffy, so I love when science can firm it up. This speaker was enthusiastic, entertaining, informative, and engaging.”

Memory and Memoir, Hippocamp Conference for Creative Non-Fiction Writers, 8/14/2021

“I LOVED this session. It’s clear that the speaker KNOWS his stuff and is really passionate about the material.”

 Brains on Stories, Hippocamp Conference for Creative Non-Fiction Writers, 8/2017

Convention

“I sat in on one of his lectures about stories, memory and the brain during a writing conference in Lancaster. He was passionate and hip, peppering his lecture with pop culture references as well as arcane religious and scientific facts. At one point I looked over and Tobias Wolfe (author of the memoirs "This Boy's Life" and "In Pharaoh's Army") was sitting next to me and listening to him, too. He later told the [kenote] crowd how much he enjoyed the lecture.” Memory, Myth, and More. 

Interview with Mike Andrelczyk
LNP Sunday Magazine, Lancaster, PA, 10/3/2018

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