Daniel Lieberman
“DOPAMINE. Driving Your Brain into the Future”
2nd Annual TEDxWilmingtonWomen
Thursday November 2nd 2017
The Mill Auditorium  MORE INFO

Giving a TEDxWilmington talk was harder than I thought it would be. I knew I’d be nervous. Even though I’d given hundreds of lectures to medical students and residents, this time there were going to be video cameras, and that changes things. Live audiences are forgiving. If you make a mistake or lose your place, it doesn’t matter much. The personal connection of being in the room together makes those kinds of things unimportant. But it’s different with video; you have to produce a polished performance. The problem was I couldn’t do it.

I’d practiced the short talk dozens of times, but it never seemed to come out perfectly. Even worse, the day before the event during rehearsal I got stuck about 5 minutes in, and my mind went blank. I went back to my hotel room for more practice, but I was starting to panic.

The next day I stood off stage waiting for the speaker before me to finish. I had a knot in my stomach, and my hands were sweating. I’d done all I could, and it wasn’t good enough. And suddenly that thought was liberating. I’d done all I could. I couldn’t get the talk to the level I wanted through an act of will. I was going to need luck.

Carl Jung, the pioneering Swiss psychologist, wrote about the unconscious mind. The conscious part of the mind is like the tip of the proverbial iceberg – just a tiny part of who we really are. Sometimes it feels like there’s turmoil inside of us, and everything is working at cross purposes. The conscious and unconscious parts are pursuing different goals. Other times everything clicks together, and the hardest challenge feels effortless. That’s what I needed. The speaker before me had finished. I whispered under my breath, “We’re all in this together,” and stepped out onto the stage.


In 1996 Dr. Daniel Lieberman joined the faculty at George Washington University, where he treated patients with a variety of psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia, addictions, and bipolar disorder. Oddly enough, despite being distinct illnesses, each one is characterized by overactivity of the same brain chemical: dopamine. Dan also learned that highly dopaminergic people without mental illness are often different from the general population. These special people are more likely to become artists, actors, and entrepreneurs. READ MORE FROM DANIEL