Meditation + Talk: Be Loyal to You

Meditation + Talk: Be Loyal to You

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 34-minute meditation and 54-minute talk and discussion about Be Loyal to You.

I hope you find it helpful, and you are welcome to join my free Wednesday Meditations – open to everyone!

Meditation: Be Loyal to You

Talk: Be Loyal to You

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Generosity itself is a beautiful practice that opens and gladdens the heart, relaxes the contraction of “self,” and ripples out into the world to touch many people – and perhaps, eventually, even oneself.

Additionally, many expressions of generosity are not about money. People offer attention, encouragement, and patience many times a day. Sometimes we withhold when it would be so easy, actually, to listen quietly for another minute or to offer a word of appreciation or simply a look that says, “I’m with you.” Try being a little more generous for a day and see what happens.

Be Loyal to You Talk (download transcription here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:00] First, I’d like to say a word about the meditation we just did and then segue into my main topic for tonight, which is being loyal to you, to yourself. In addition to appropriate loyalties to others, what about being loyal to yourself? What would that feel like? What would that mean to you? What difference might that make in your relationships? How might being more loyal to yourself actually support to you in craving less and loving more and experiencing less suffering? So that will be my main topic tonight, but first on the meditation.

[00:00:43] The words can sometimes trip us up. The simple thing is to notice, as the Buddha continually encouraged people to notice, what’s it like to be you in this moment? You, most broadly? You, entirely, as I put it. Well, clearly there are experiences and there also seem to be perspectives on those experiences, commentaries about those experiences, even some sense of witnessing of those experiences or being a subject of those experiences. All of that’s happening. Clearly, also, there is awareness. The whole of that is the streaming of consciousness. And it’s streaming because it’s moving, it’s impermanent, it’s changing, it’s dynamic. So, in any moment, there is indeed the entirety of the streaming of consciousness that is associated with a particular bodymind. Whether it’s a human, or a cat, or, dare we say, the streaming of consciousness of a lizard, or a squirrel, that’s what’s happening.

[00:02:07] What’s usual, as I talk about in the practice of wholeness, being wholeness, in my book Neurodharma, what’s usual is that we divide ourselves, we divide the streaming. We say, Oh, that’s an experience I’m having. That’s what they said. And then we have, divided from that, that’s my reaction to what they said. And then we have divided from that, the witnesser who’s going back and forth between what they said and what we react to them. Back and forth, like watching a tennis match. Divided. In that division is a lot of suffering. As we set ourselves against certain aspects of the stream of consciousness, certain experiences that are occurring, or we chase after, or try to re-ify certain other experiences that are happening and hold on to them. That begins a lot of suffering. Instead, as we did in this practice, we can gradually widen awareness, disengaging from the parts and the divisions within the streaming of consciousness and increasingly abide moment after moment after moment as ourselves most entirely. Awareness included, experiences included, the subtle sense of I included, all of it included as a single whole process of consciousness streaming along. And in so doing, you may well notice lots and lots of suffering falls away. It’s helpful to train in this way of experiencing things, because so much of modern life and modern schooling, even well-intended things teach us to divide ourselves and stand apart, even from many parts of ourselves. This then leads us to stand apart from the world and from other people.

[00:04:24] Alternately, when you repeatedly train in the sense of abiding as yourself most fully, a wonderful sense of self-acceptance can come in and a resting without resisting, resting, without resisting. And whatever is in the moment, undivided, not separating from it, not struggling with it, at ease, at peace in the present as this streaming of consciousness unfolding. That’s available to us. And as we train in that, it becomes more and more accessible to us. We literally start stabilizing neural patterns that underlie that way of being. And as we train in it, as we did in the meditation, it can move more and more into the background so it becomes a kind of way of being, a ground of being sort of in the wallpaper of your own mind. It’s sort of the the the climate, if you will. Storms come and go. Right? But the climate persists, the kind of inner climate you have. So, anyway, it’s a good meditation. It’s a good practice. It’s important to not get tripped up in the words about it or who’s watching the watching of the watcher like, oh, don’t go there. But this being, just a body, just being aware of what is, it’s a really good meditative practice. OK.

[00:06:04] And in it, which is a segue into my topic here of being loyal to yourself, there starts to become increasingly natural sense of it’s like this to be me. It’s like this to be hearing, Oh, it’s like this to be seeing, Oh, it’s like that to be thinking, Oh, it’s like this, as Ajahn Sumedho puts it, it’s like this to like that and dislike something else. It’s like all that. Oh, this is what it’s like. And as we become increasingly just sort of rested without resisting in the suchness of this moment of consciousness, there’s a sense of inhabiting ourselves most fully coming home to ourselves, being at peace with ourselves, not even resisting ourselves, which is very foundational and supportive of an appropriate sense of loyalty to this particular streaming of consciousness, which is my topic tonight.

[00:07:09] As I’ve said this year, 2021, I’d like to explore the four noble truths, particularly its fulcrum in the movement from craving to less craving, ultimately to the cessation of all craving, and with it, all forms of suffering. Inside that very broad frame, I want to focus on relationships because relationships are such a field of practice. They are a potential support for practice and wow they are such a field of suffering, right, especially when they don’t go well. So, that’s kind of my undertaking this year, and I’m going to relate these topics that I’ll be exploring with you this year in very practical ways to what we can do inside our own minds and what we can do in what we say to other people and how we conduct ourselves around other people to support our relationships and grow good relationships of all kinds, whether at work or at home, with family, with friends, even relationships with people who are difficult, adversaries, conflicts, what can we actually do?

[00:08:23] The beginning of that, really, is to get on your own side, because if you’re not for yourself, you know, who will be, as I believe Rabbi Hillel wrote, a long, long, long, long time ago. So, I’m going to open up this exploration by talking about befriending yourself and being loyal to yourself, which actually, in my experience as a therapist, husband, father, business consultant, teacher, friend, listener, the sense of being loyal to yourself is actually in short supply for many, many people. There was a turning point in my own life that’s a really central experience for me. I wrote about it in the beginning of Buddha’s Brain, and I’ve talked about it and written about it a little ever since. I was about six years old. I couldn’t have been older than six. I was still in first grade in Champagne Urbana, Illinois. And I was standing there on the edge of a cornfield, six years old, it was the early evening. I looked back at my house where my parents and my sister lived, my younger sister. And I could see the yellow light coming out through the windows and there was a sense of distance from there. It was cool. It had rained recently. I recall seeing the water in the ruts left in the road by the heavy equipment, the tractors that were used in the cornfields that were all on the other side of the street from where our house was. And I looked out on those cornfields and at the distant hills and the lights twinkling in them in the homes of other people. And when I looked back on my own home, and I can really recall this still, I just had a kind of wistful sense of the unhappiness in it. And an unhappiness not of my own making. I didn’t feel angry about it. I didn’t like it. It felt detached from me. It wasn’t mine. I didn’t make it. It affected me, but I didn’t make it, the unhappiness there. And I grew up in a loving and decent family. It wasn’t abusive, it wasn’t traumatic. And still, there was, I think, a lot of unnecessary tension and bickering in some ways related to the pressures my parents were under. Young family, not much money. And, you know, their own backgrounds, their own childhoods, their own upbringing in the depression and all the rest of that. Many, many factors in play. Many, many factors in play. I’m very grateful to my parents and I feel love for them, much love for them, even though they’re no longer alive. And still in the midst of all that, that’s what that moment of consciousness was like for that little six year old kid. It was like that. And as we often do in our consciousness, he recognized something that was real, something that was true, that there was unhappiness in that house. And it wasn’t of his own making. It was his to deal. And in me that that early evening, as I kind of mused there, there was a knowing that it was really up to me to find my own way in relationship to the family I was in and the things that would come in the years ahead. And there was a real feeling, as I look back on it, of a loyalty to myself. A kind of recognition that I had to be on my own side because I didn’t feel like others were. They weren’t against me, but there was some way in which and I could feel I kind of needed to stand up for myself. And as I looked out there in those hills, those distant hills, lights twinkling, other homes, other families, I felt this strong sense kind of a wistful, sweet, somewhat sad, but also kind of happy and determined, clarity as a little kid. Little kids can experience all kinds of things. They can recognize all kinds of things. You may well have recognized all kinds of things when you were young and maybe had a loyalty to yourself, even like you might have had to other people, perhaps. And looking back that night, a major turning point in my own life, I knew it was up to me. I had to be for myself. I had to kind of stick with me, you know, had to kind of stick with me to ultimately find the happiness and the family and the friendship and the community with those other homes, those other lights, those other people in the years to come.

[00:13:37] That’s a sense of loyalty. There were twists and turns. There were times I lost faith with myself. Times I regret, certainly. Times I did not back my own play. But on the other hand, that feeling of loyalty to oneself is very fundamental. And as I tell my own story, and it’s not about a particularly special little kid, it’s about an experience that’s available to all of us, whether we’re six years old, you know, the causes and conditions that affected that streaming of consciousness in that particular brain, in that particular mind, that particular evening, for that particular boy. It’s really about what’s available to all of us to find that sense of camaraderie, that sense of being for, being with, yourself much as you might be loyal to someone else.

[00:14:31] So, I invite you as I talk, and I’ll open it up for some discussion pretty soon to get in touch with the feeling of loyalty. Not a loyalty that is abused, not getting too loyal so that you overlook important abuses of power sometimes and people or causes we’ve been loyal to. A wise loyalty. A loyalty to your cat, your dog, your friend, where you’re going to take care of them. You’re going to be for them. You’re on their side. Know what that loyalty feels like. And can you find that sense of loyalty to yourself?

[00:15:33] To be clear, this sense of being a faithful comrade, a faithful ally, a faithful supporter, a faithful coach, a faithful encourager, this sense can include recognizing ways you need to put in correction, or being remorseful about times you’ve taken the low road when it would have been better to have taken the high one. We can be loyal to a country, to a person, to an organization, to a company, while also recognizing things that could use some improvement about it. I recall the famous saying from Suzuki Roshi, “You are perfect as you are. And you could use a little improvement.” We can have that kind of sense, and we can have that about ourselves. Being loyal to others, being loyal to ourselves does that mean turning a blind eye. In fact, it actually means opening our eyes to all of who and what they are, all of who and what we are so that we can be a faithful guide, a faithful ally and companion, a faithful friend to ourselves, keeping faith with those that were loyal to. So, loyalty includes all that. It doesn’t mean just turning a blind eye to your own faults and just, you know, giving up on yourself. It means sticking with yourself. And in that loyalty, just as we might be loyal, when we’re loyal, say to a person, or a horse that we’re riding, perhaps, we might realize, you know, we need to take a break for a while. Loyalty includes knowing when it’s time for a break, time for a Sabbath, time for a day of rest, or maybe a sabbatical, a year of rest if we can take that. You know, it doesn’t mean driving ourselves forward just because we’re loyal to ourselves. There’s a wisdom in loyalty.

[00:17:50] So, I invite you to reflect on what would it feel like to take an existential stance, a kind of sacred, soulful stance of loyalty to yourself. What that would feel like and what some of the implications might be. Now it may already be true for you, that’s great. And then you can, you know, explore here. Oh, how has that sense of loyalty to yourself served you over the years? And what’s it feel like right now? And are there any opportunities to come increasingly from that quality of loyalty to yourself?

[00:18:33] It’s helpful on this foundation then of understanding what I’m trying to talk about here, it’s helpful to understand some of the ways psychologically that we can become disloyal to ourselves. Or if not disloyal in an active, attacking, tearing down, scorning, scolding sense, we can become indifferent. Indifferent to our own needs, and that’s not loyalty. We’re not actively betraying ourselves, but there can be a kind of dismissiveness, or indifference, shrug about ways in which our needs are being unmet. Or there may be unfulfilled longings of the heart. Or other people may be mistreating us and there’s a kind of shrug as if we would shrug when we see someone else being mistreated. We’re indifferent, maybe apathetic. Or maybe there might be just a sense of futility. It’s a little different than just indifference. There could be a sense of, oh, you know, why bother? I’ll just get on my own side and try and then fail and be disappointed and feel worse than ever, very understandably.

[00:20:02] So, it’s understandable if there is an indifference, even a dismissiveness towards your own needs rather than a loyalty to yourself. It’s understandable if there’s a kind of related but meaningfully different sense of almost despair or helplessness, you know, kind of a failure of efficacy with regard to supporting yourself because we’re very vulnerable to internalizing, first, how others treat us. And so if others treat us in a way that’s dismissive or shaming of our own needs, if others are indifferent or act as if it doesn’t even exist, like our needs don’t even rise up to their radar, if that’s how we’re treated by others, including systemically, structurally in the culture through structural histories and current events of discrimination and prejudice, you know, that’s happening, and certainly if it’s happened when we’re young, including from parents, or caregivers, or siblings, school teachers, and others, maybe the culture in which we were raised, well, we can internalize that dismissiveness, which functions as a kind of lack of loyalty to ourselves. It’s understandable. It’s understandable.

[00:21:32] It’s also understandable if we’ve acquired a sense of futility. Just like why bother? Because we’re very vulnerable as mammals to acquiring what’s called learned helplessness. If we’ve tried to be on our own side and it just didn’t seem to matter. So, it’s understandable. That doesn’t mean that’s where we stop. We begin by recognizing it. We begin by recognizing blocks or barriers to an appropriate loyalty to ourselves, which is foundational for healthy relationships because if we’re not loyal to ourselves, we’re going to either need to contract away from others because it’s overwhelming, we’re just not on our own side. Or we’re going to tend to want to merge with others, you know, so that we get what we need from them and they don’t hurt us. All right. It’s hard to have appropriate differentiation and autonomy with others, which is a foundation of healthy, long term intimacy in important relationships. It’s hard to have that if we don’t have a sense of autonomy. And if you don’t have a sense of loyalty to yourself, it’s really hard to have a sense of autonomy, especially when the chips are starting to fly and the stakes are significant in important relationships.

[00:22:54] So, it’s important to keep developing that sense of loyalty. And to do that it’s important and useful to recognize barriers to it. And there are two major barriers. One is an internalized sense of dismissiveness about our own needs or an internalized sense of helplessness. So it’s important to recognize these two barriers to being loyal to yourself. And then as best you can, bit, by bit, by bit, look for little moments in which you can experience a greater sense of being on your own side and a greater sense of distancing from these barriers inside yourself. And in those moments, let it sink in. Oh, this is what it’s like to be for me. Yes, maybe there is some dismissiveness there, but I’m deliberately emphasizing the sense of being loyal to myself, even while that dismissiveness, that indifference is still there in my mind, still there. It’s one of those eddies in the stream of consciousness. OK. But mainly I’m helping myself. I’m being loyal to myself in helping myself become more loyal to myself and less afflicted, less hindered and obstructed by that old habit of being indifferent to my own feelings, my own needs, my own rights, my own place in the world, my own unfolding of this one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver put it.

[00:24:32] Also similarly, with regard to that sense of perhaps futility and despair, helplessness about being loyal to yourself, you can do a similar kind of practice. You can recognize it and then you can look for opportunities to be for yourself, to be strong on your own behalf, to know what it feels like to be that way for others and then apply it to yourself, even if there’s a sense of what’s the point? Yeah, what’s the point? You know, that sense of futility is one more eddy in the stream of consciousness running alongside you being loyal to yourself in the moment, even if there’s a sense of why bother? All right.

[00:25:14] Also, a third major barrier to being loyal to yourself is a sense of shame, a sense of being dirty, or broken, damaged, not worth it, which can be the unfortunate and profoundly unjust result, among others, of being abused or molested as a young person in particular, and as a person altogether. So, there can be a sense of, you know, how can I be loyal to something that’s so tainted, or poisoned, corrupt, corroded? And very understandable, very understandable here, too, as social animals, profoundly social. We’re very vulnerable to feelings of shame. We’re very vulnerable to acquiring a sense that something’s wrong with us if others mistreat us, which is obviously deeply unjust, even if very understandable. So, here too with this third barrier or block to being loyal to yourself, here, too, is the practice of mindful recognition of that particular obstruction, that particular eddy in the streaming of your consciousness, it’s there, it’s there. It’s understandable, while standing apart from it, while differentiating from it, disidentifying from that sense of shame and worthlessness so that you can, here too, do the practice of bringing a kind of muscularity to bear in which you focus on what it feels like to be loyal to yourself, what it feels like to stand up for yourself, what it feels like to honor your own needs at the same level as the needs of others, not less than the needs of others, not greater, but not less. You know, you could focus on that feeling. These are different aspects of being loyal to yourself, such as honoring your own needs. And as you do that, while, you know, the voice mutters away in that other part of your consciousness, you don’t deserve it, you’re not worth it, you’re bad, you’re a bad boy, a bad girl, bad human, bad whatever, you know, even while it’s muttering away, you’re loyal to yourself in the moment, much as you would be loyal to someone you care about by saying, hey, you be quiet over there you shaming, you know, nay saying voices. You over here, I’m loyal to you. All right? You do that for yourself. OK.

[00:27:55] I’ll finish here by saying that with these fundamental practices of knowing what it feels like to be loyal to others and then applying that to yourself, with these practices of recognizing barriers or obstructions to being loyal to yourself, you can really deepen in a sense of being on your own side, being a strong and faithful companion to yourself down the long road of life. And what’s interesting, as I finish here and then I’ll open it up for some discussion and maybe I’ll be able to talk with one or two people, as you do that, really interestingly, what I experience and what I observe is a kind of sweet and healthy dare I say a kind of humility becomes more and more present. There’s less and less need to impress other people or to work them to get something from them because you’re kind of already satisfied, you’re already in a feeling of kind of a sweet tender commitment to yourself in your innermost being. There’s a valuing of your own life that comes forward, that recognizes, wow, whatever, whatever may also be true, this life is special for this particular bodymind. This particular bodymind that is you unfolding over time, and there’s a sense of the preciousness of that in this loyalty to it. So that leads you to not having such a heavy footprint on other people. Ego and narcissism and vanity and preening and arrogance and trying to dominate others, it just starts falling away because it doesn’t serve a function anymore. You just don’t need to do that anymore. So it’s, you know, paradoxically, interestingly, one of the ways you can express your loyalty to other people is being more loyal to yourself. OK.

[00:30:15] So, I’m going to take a moment here to just scan the comments. This is wonderful. So, I’m going to speak to some of the comments I’ve seen come in and then I see Carol Birch, you have your hand raised, and so I’ll come out to you in a moment here. Maybe I’ll be able to talk with another person or two. I can see other hands going up. Lillian, I saw you earlier, too. So, Rick Kruger, you can see Rick’s comment and hello, Rick. As usual, you had a very astute and penetrating and useful comment here as 7:14 p.m. Is it also important to deeply feel that sense of shame as a first step before you can achieve that loyalty to oneself?

[00:30:59] Well, so if I understand this right, first, we can be mindful of the sense of remorse or guilt or shame, just being mindful of it as an experience. We don’t need to push it away. We don’t need to identify with it. You know, we’re not hopping on board. We’re not running away from it. We’re just staying in place as we mindfully are aware of whatever we’re experiencing, good or bad, deserved or undeserved. There it is. Shame, guilt. Remorse. OK. There is a place for that.

[00:31:32] Second, I would definitely say there is a place—and I’ve written about this a lot and I’ll get to this more as the year unfolds, including related to forgiving yourself—there’s a place for sorting out whatever has happened and establishing what is an appropriate—and you decide what is an appropriate sense of healthy remorse. You know, was there actually a moral fault in play? Was there actually something that deserves a sense of remorse or even shame? OK. And then you decide, though. What’s appropriate for that very, very often no remorse or shame is appropriate. There might well be an appropriate sense of skillful correction. There might well be an understanding. Oh, wow, I didn’t understand that. I didn’t know that. Or I should have taken that more into account. It’s not that I did something immoral, but yeah, I could definitely have been more skillful and I intend to be more skillful in the future. That’s what I’m going to focus on. That’s different from shame or remorse, and that distinction is really, really useful, especially when other people are banging on you that you ought to feel remorseful for something that, you know, wasn’t really a moral fault. And you wouldn’t expect other people to feel guilty or ashamed about that. So you don’t expect yourself because you’re loyal to yourself not to feel that. So there can be a sorting out here. On the other hand, sometimes, yeah, definitely there are things I feel remorseful about, ashamed of when I think of them. There’s that wince again. And I don’t mind that because it helps me, you know, take the higher road next time. But wallowing in shame, you know, wallowing is probably the wrong word. Being deeply carrying it, if it’s not helpful to you, if you already got the lesson, it just adds needless excess suffering. That actually wears us down and makes it harder for us to be moral and skillful and engaged with life in the future. That’s an important point. Thanks, Rick, for that.

[00:33:38] I say some more messages. Yup. Question, Susan Johnson, 7:19pm. Question about loyalty in myself and standing up for myself, but also trying to deal with tough things leading to family conflict. Yup. You know, the principle that I’m encouraging here of being loyal to ourself is different from, OK, how are we going to manifest that? You know, and that’s a separate thing. And you know, I was a kid in my story. It wasn’t safe to exercise that loyalty to myself when I was surrounded by a bunch of kids who are older than me, or my parents, for example. You know, I had to choose my spots. I had to find my own way. But I think that we can retain a sense of loyalty to ourselves while dealing in conflict. And sometimes often actually that sense of loyalty to ourselves leads us to disengaging from contentiousness. It leads us to disengage from needless quarrels with others. Doesn’t mean giving up our rights. Doesn’t mean muzzling ourselves. Doesn’t mean not seeing what we’re seeing, but sometimes loyalty to yourself means letting a lot of pitches go by. You don’t have to chase the bait that other people are throwing your way.

[00:35:00] OK. So, Carol, I’m going to ask you to unmute. And you can unmute yourself, Carol Burch. Great. Thank you, Carol. And as always—if I could interrupt you, Carol, sorry. If I call on you always—oh, Carol, could you turn—I’m going to mute you, Carol, just for a moment, so we don’t get the feedback from your speaker. If I call on you, I’m going to ask you to be succinct and speak to something that’s related to what we’re talking about tonight. So, the pressure’s on, Carol. All right. Ask to unmute. You can unmute yourself. There you go.

Carol [00:35:39] My question is when you talk about loyalty and defending yourself, there is a feeling or something I get when I thought I was being loyal to myself and people look at you and say, Oh, you’re being defensive. So, how do you know what that—is that kind of on a spectum or? Because with the defensiveness when people say that to me, it’s like there’s an element of guilt. Well, yeah, I’m being defensive. And so it’s like, what’s the difference?

Rick Hanson [00:36:16] Right? This is a fantastic question. So I’m going to mute you, Carol, just so we don’t get the feedback from your speakers. OK? All right. Great question. So, first, sometimes people, let’s say, criticize us or there’s a complaint of some kind or there’s an implicit complaint because maybe they want something from us and in it is implicitly a statement that we haven’t previously lived up to some standard or done the right thing or given them what we agreed to or what would be reasonable. OK, fine. So, it comes to us. And it often doesn’t come to us in a perfectly clean package. But OK, it comes to us. Later this year I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about conflicts around wants. When what they want is different from what we want or what we want is different from what they want. That’s a lot where the rubber meets the road, right? In relationships, it’s all lovey dovey when we all want the same thing and are singing Kumbaya down the yellow brick road of life. Yeah, that’s easy. That’s the easy part. So, it comes to us.

[00:37:24] And then in it on our side now they’ve kind of hit the ball over the court. The complaint has landed. All right. And then understandably, we’re trying to sort out what’s actually true in what they said and what’s actually the relevant value/values and what they said. So, their statements of fact, their statements of values, implicitly. You just kind of tease those two parts apart. Okay, great. So, then, it’s our right to basically say, well, I’m not sure I agree with you about the facts. Or, well, I don’t agree with you that it’s that important. Or I don’t agree with you that the standard is such a big deal. Or I don’t buy the standard. I don’t agree that that’s a rule or that’s how people ought to be. You know, we have a right to stick up for ourselves. They stuck up for themselves. We have a right to stick up for ourselves. They were loyal to themselves. We give others, we encourage others to be loyal to themselves. That’s only fair, right? But similarly, hello? It’s fair to be loyal to ourselves. So, if they had the right to hit the ball over the court, we have the right to hit the ball back.

[00:38:46] And then very often, just like you’re saying, this thing happens where then the other person says, Oh, you’re being so defensive. Right? Classic. We have the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff makes the accusation. The defendant stands up for themselves. And then they say you’re defending yourself. You’re being so defensive. And then it usually devolves from there. Usually goes downhill from there. Right? And it’s only been one back and forth. Boom, boom, boom. And now we’re all in trouble. All right.

[00:39:17] So, word to the wise, when other people say what they say, if you’re the plaintiff, if you’re the person who initiated the complaint and then they come back to you by just counterattacking and saying you’re so defensive, that’s not usually very skillful, minimally.

[00:39:38] OK, so then let’s suppose, what do we do if you’re loyal to yourself and they say you’re being so defensive? I find that it helps to slow down and to pause. And to say, well, it seems to me that you, the plaintiff, the accuser, you’re saying that A, B and C happened. And honestly, I have the right to say that I think A and B happen, but not C, for example. And I have the right. You have the right to say what you think the facts are. I have the right to say what I think the facts are. That’s not being defensive. That’s two people saying what they saw or what they think is true and trying to come together about, you know, what is reality, right?

[00:40:38] Now, I’m talking about this in kind of an abstract way, and I’ve been down this road many times. We find our own natural ways to say it. But I’m trying to flag really important distinctions, right? Including the fact that just like they have the right to say what they think is reality, we also have the right to say what is reality. And it doesn’t mean we’re being defensive. And in fact, we can say to other people, you know, no, really, I do want to understand what happened here and I want to give you what you want. I want there to be peace. I really do want to be a good fill-in-the-blank, worker, mother, friend, partner or something, right? I really do. But part of that for me is I need to feel like I understand what really happened, that I’m kind of grounded in truth. So, when I’m talking here and maybe not perfectly, it’s because I’m trying to find the truth. I respect that you’re trying to find the truth. I’m also trying to find the truth. All right.

[00:41:40] And then also, I think it’s often helpful to kind of sort out what the agreements were or what the rules are or what the principles are, what the values are that are relevant and kind of tease them apart. And sometimes it’s okay to say to somebody, I just don’t care about that as much as you do. I care about you. I care about harmony. But honestly, I just don’t care that much about mess in the kitchen or I just don’t care that much about how the table is set. I just don’t care that much. Now, that said, I’m happy to make agreements with you going forward. And that’s a really important point, too. That tends to move us out of defensiveness because where people start arguing a lot is about the past. You know? Right? Instead—and sometimes two people will never see it the same way. They won’t see the facts the same way. They have different values. Round and round they go.

[00:42:36] What can really help is to cut through that and to focus on making agreements from now on. So, when someone is bringing that to you—and again, this is all about being loyal to yourself and wanting to live in peace with other people and live in harmony while standing up for your own rights and carving out, you know, what you need. So, sometimes a really fast way to cut through it all is to say, look, I got it. You said that. I said this. Really, I have a sincere—now you have to—here’s a key point too, Carol and everybody. What’s your purpose? Especially when, you know, you calm down a little and you’ve had a few breaths, a few minutes have ticked by. What’s your purpose? Is your purpose to really just defend yourself? You know, to bunker up and pull up the drawbridge and mrrr? If that’s your purpose, that’s a problem. Got to be honest about that. And sometimes it’s appropriate to acknowledge, you know, hey, I got a lot of criticism when I was a kid. I did, actually. You know, I’m sensitive to people criticizing me. I’m sensitive, especially if I feel it’s not fair. All right. I admit it. I was defensive there. But really, I truly want to just find out what happened for real and what I can do to make it better next time. You know? Acknowledge defensiveness. So, we don’t want to be truly defensive, especially after you’ve had a few back and forths and, you know, things start to settle down a little bit.

[00:44:03] So, one thing that can really help is to ask what would it look like if you got what you want going forward? What can I do going forward that would just resolve this for you? And sometimes people will say, well, I don’t believe you. And you say, well, I got it, but, you know, I’m just going to demonstrate it. And it’s OK with me that you don’t believe me. Frankly, I don’t care because it’s my job to walk the higher road. Unilateral virtue, no matter what you do. And that’s what I’m going to do because I want to do it. And I may slip. I may slip, but I’m committed to taking a different road with you in the future. You know? So, what would it look like? Or you could just say back to them, it sounds like what would have made it different in the past is if I had done X, Y or Z. OK. To the extent you authentically are willing to commit to this, I’m going to do X Y Z from now on going forward.

[00:44:58] I’ve walked through kind of a structure, but you could think of this almost as kind of like moves in an interaction. And, you know, for me these are very consistent standard moves in an interaction with other people. We’re not being patronizing. We’re not being condescending. We’re actually really sincere. We want to know what the truth is. We want to establish the relevant values. These are two separate but really important things. And we want to establish clarity about what we’re going to do unilaterally from now on. And that’s the key. OK.

[00:45:41] And to realize as part of loyalty to ourselves is to recognize that sometimes other people can think things about us, they can think we’re being all defensive. And at the end of the day, it almost doesn’t matter because we have our own path. We can wish them well. We can want to protect ourselves from them and we have our own path. We have our own path, you know, whatever they think of us. And there’s a kind of dignity and a loyalty to ourselves and a kind of uprightness and self-respect and kind of refuge that actually helps us feel better and become a better friend or partner, worker, whatnot with other people. All right.

[00:46:28] So, Lillian, we’re wrapping up here. We’re wrapping up here and I want to be a little quick. And I can see also, there are lots of comments, questions that have come in. There’s a lot here, right? I’m going to keep going with these themes of relationship in the weeks and months to come, so there’ll be more time to get into this material. Next time, I’m going to talk more about feeling strong and centered in yourself, simple ways to feel grounded, especially when the oatmeal starts to fly and people are coming at you fast and with a lot of pressure. But Lillian, let’s see if I can speak kind of quickly if it’s all right to your question or comment. So, you can unmute yourself. Forgive me, please, in advance for being kind of quick here. OK? But let’s see. Let’s see what you’ve got to say.

Lillian [00:47:16] Rick, I really appreciate this. What you spoke about earlier really struck a chord in my heart. You spoke about abuse in childhood. And that’s why when, you know, when you grow up as an adult, you feel unsafe in the body. And I feel like, you know, what you said about being loyal to yourself, I’m trying really hard to do that. I think I also done work on this, but I still find that it’s really difficult to move on at this point. I almost feel a bit bipolar, like very high highs and very low lows. And I’ve realized that there’s something, maybe, love and compassion for myself is something I need to cultivate. And I’m just wondering, like, how do I build this in my mind mindfulness practice? Because I find it very hard whenever I, you know, I meditate very regularly, but I cannot get there because there’s just so many walls and I can’t open it by myself. And it’s very frustrating and painful because it shows up in my life

Rick Hanson [00:48:32] Yeah I got it.

Lillian [00:48:34] I just want your help with this and wonder if you could help me with that.

Rick Hanson [00:48:40] Oh yeah. Well, thank you very much, Lilian, for bringing that up. And I know that you’re speaking for other people too, including for people who did not experience the intensity or trauma of what you’ve experienced. So, thank you. And thanks for being brave about that, really. Real respect. I’ll be a little quick. It’s so much to say. Obviously, when we’re dealing with abuse or trauma, you know, deep, longstanding issues, maybe the mood is dysregulated up and down. It’s really good to get skillful, professional help of one kind or another. Sometimes a combination of things, sometimes different people over time. That’s good. So, let’s just name that.

[00:49:30] Meanwhile, I would suggest if you can take a look at the practices, the guided meditations I’ve offered about feeling cared about. They’re present in my book Hardwiring Happiness. You can find them on my website. These are recurring meditations or practices that I do in my programs because it’s so fundamental to deepen the sense of being cared about by others, authentically cared about, starting with mild experiences of being cared about and then gradually moving into more intense and important ones, because sometimes we get afraid of opening to feeling cared about by other people, especially if we have a history of being betrayed or mistreated and so on. So, I have a lot of material about that, about opening to feeling included, seen, respected or appreciated, liked and even loved. There’s that. And I have a lot of practices about bringing compassion to yourself, caring to yourself.

[00:50:35] And then we can start to happen—and this is something you might think about, Lillian, because you have already a good practice. You have a lot of strengths already. Seriously, you have a lot of resources. You couldn’t be here if you didn’t have a lot of resources, you couldn’t have the awareness that you have of the walls, the closed off rooms inside you, if you didn’t already have good practice. You do. So, see if you can, maybe in your meditation, imagine an imaginary companion or a real person. You know, feel free to use me if you want or some aspect of me. Maybe someone who’s with you with some distance from you so it could feel safer. Or maybe someone who’s close to you who’s just kind of with you as you practice. Or you might imagine whatever you can experience, which might start pretty mild and distant, but can gradually become closer and more powerful, like imagining or just being aware of all the other people around the world who are meditating while you’re meditating. Right? And maybe even people like you, perhaps other women, other, you know, maybe younger people, maybe people who’ve been, you know, mistreated as children. You know, a sense of company companionship, community, sangha. Anyway, I have a hunch that if you explore the things I’ve said and you also just have a sense that others are with you, just that simple sense that they’re with you, that might actually be a real opening here.

[00:52:15] And then I also just have an intuition about you, about allowing imagination to be your ally and friend. And it may be, you know, because you have a visual imagination, you could get that, you know, imagining something might happen. You might have a sense of a wise being who’s just with you or a light, an energy, a something that’s that’s healing and softening. And when they’re with you, then you can go into some of those rooms. Or you can be aware of them, even if you don’t open the doors, you know, because you’ve got allies with you. OK. Yeah. I would start there. And what I’ve laid out here that’ll keep you busy for a while. You could go a long way with this, right, including letting it sink into you, the feeling of being seen, included, appreciated, supported even by others. Yeah. Yeah. OK. Thanks, Lilian. A lot for other people too.

[00:53:23] All right. Well, let’s finish up now. This was a lot. There are beautiful comments that have come in on the chats. You might want to look at them. The chats will continue to be available if you want to stick around. Let’s end in a formal way now, if we could. I don’t normally go this long. I’ll I’ll try to be closer to finishing on time in the future. So, let’s just let it sink in as I ring the bell three times. Loyalty to yourself.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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