Meditation + Talk: Feeling Calm and Strong in Your Relationships

Meditation + Talk: Feeling Calm and Strong in Your Relationships

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 33-minute meditation and 44-minute talk and discussion about Feeling Calm and Strong in Your Relationships.

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

Meditation: Feeling Calm and Strong in Your Relationships

Talk: Feeling Calm and Strong in Your Relationships

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Feeling Calm and Strong in Your Relationships Talk (download transcript here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:00] In this year, I’ve wanted to explore the four noble truths. And on the foundation of the first four talks I gave about it—which you can go back to and take a look at, it’s very fundamental material—I now want to apply those teachings in the field of relationships. And last week I began the major theme of befriending yourself with an emphasis on: be loyal to you. Be loyal to you as a foundational stance. One certainly going all the way back to the example of the Buddha’s own life and one that we can appreciate in everyday life. The importance of being loyal to you. Not disloyal to others. Not placing a loyalty to yourself necessarily above a loyalty to others if you have a duty to those others. But definitely getting in touch with be loyal to you. So, that’s what I focused on last week and tonight I’d like to focus on the feeling of being calm and strong as a factor, as a causing condition that both enables us to enter the depths of intimacy and close connection with other people without feeling overwhelmed or frightened by it because we’re calm and strong in ourselves. And also, if we’re dealing with issues with other people, it’s really helpful to have that internal sense of feeling calm and strong.

[00:01:33] Now, of course, it’s useful and skillful to look for factors out in the world or in the physical body that help you find that sense of centeredness and groundedness, a kind of inner stability. You know, trying to reduce things that rattle you and wear on you when you can and try to increase things that, you know, help to stabilize you.

[00:01:57] Now, one of the simple things that I’ve found is, you know, having some protein one way or another. I typically get it through almond cookies, almond flour, cookies that I make that are pretty high protein, not harming any animals. And, you know, whatever it might be for you.

[00:02:13] OK, so there’s a place for doing things out in the world or in your physical body that support you in being centered, not aggressive or dominating, just centered right here. But I’m going to focus on psychological factors, mental factors, things that are available to us inside our own minds, inside our own being that are independent of our environment or, you know, some particular detail about the health of our own body. So, that’s what I’m going to focus on here.

[00:02:48] And as a context, I’m drawing now on what’s called attachment theory, which has to do with a lot of science and a lot of acute observation of the relationship between us as young children. Please raise your hand if you were not at one point a young child the first day of your life, the first year of your life, the first decade of your life, even the first two decades of your life. You know, we were all young children at one time or another. And so there’s a lot of research that shows that the relationship between us as very dependent and profoundly social mammals, our relationship with our caregivers and then kind of as we get a little older with peers, and siblings, and, you know, the wider world, those relationships have a lot of effect on us. And one of the key notions is that children and young children especially need to form secure bonds with important people in their life. And then on the basis of that secure bond, they can venture out. We can venture out and explore the world and learn about the world and develop skills, develop mastery and become increasingly functional and autonomous and independent and differentiated as individual persons. So, that’s how it’s supposed to go, how we hope it goes.

[00:04:22] And in that process, the infant and toddler and preschooler starts out really relying upon the caregiver as a physical being, as an actual being. But with repeated experiences, including going back to when we were all very, very young, through repeated experiences, there is an internalization, in effect, of the sense of the caregivers, the sense of ourselves with the caregivers, and over time, there’s an internalization, hopefully of a secure base inside ourselves. So, then we carry it with us increasingly as we go.

[00:05:05] So, to give an example of that from kind of a famous set of studies with toddlers and their parents, typically a mother, not always, but typically, there’s a set up in which it’s called the visual cliff. And essentially a kind of table is constructed that has a clear plexiglass surface that’s very thick and sturdy. And at one end of that table, there’s a physical surface directly beneath that plexiglass surface that’s very close to it, and it looks right there. But then in a series of stair steps that are painted in such a way that it’s very clear that the stairs are falling away, it looks increasingly like to the toddler that they’re crawling out on some kind of void. It’s kind of scary. So, then they, the scientists, took a look at how different toddlers and children reacted when their parent, let’s say, would encourage them to venture forth across the cliff with maybe, I forget, some kind of cool reward at the other side, you know, like some neat object that the toddler could get if the toddler would just crawl across the 10 feet, whatever, of this, you know, cliff, as it were. You kind of get it is? It seems transparent. It’s transparent, so it’s like, well, I might fall through this. And, you know, they’re a kid. What do they know about plexiglass?

[00:06:41] So, among the interesting things is to watch how we tend to do something like that. And depending on the temperament of the child and a lot of details, they would tend to venture out a little bit and then they would look back. And you see similar behavior in playgrounds with young children. They’ll look back. Are you watching me? Are you watching Daddy? Are you watching Mommy? Are you watching grandma? You know, am I OK? And then, you know, should I keep going? And then they might go a little further and they’ll look back. Am I still OK? Am I still OK? And they’ll read the expression of the caregiver as encouraging and yeah, you’re still OK and I’m still paying attention to you. And then they will tend to keep on going to the other side. So there’s that sense of a secure base, as it were, that’s physically close.

[00:07:27] And then the experimenters will vary that a bit. They’ll ask the caregiver to look away. And the kid scuttles right back. Oh, no way. Or they’ll do a little things, maybe, where the caregiver will look a little nervous, like, oh, I don’t know. Kid comes right back. Forget about it. And then, you know, you can play around with that paradigm over time. But the gist of it, and I invite you to look inside yourself in your own history of internalization across hundreds, thousands of little episodes with key caregivers and later on with peers and with teachers and other adults as you got older, to what extent was there an internalization of a kind of secure base inside you? Or as was the case of myself and many people, were you insecurely attached, so that internalized secure base was kind of shaky and kind of wobbly? Which therefore undermines full self-expression and the full entry into the depths of intimate relationship. I mean, intimacy in the very broadest kind of sense. You know, so, if you’re aware of any wobbles in that sense of an internalized secure base, then you have opportunities, as I’ve had opportunities, in adulthood to look for ways to take in experiences, to take in the good of genuine experiences, both with other people that can be internalized as a secure base and with yourself. Because unlike a toddler or definitely an infant, generally speaking, we have much more capabilities as adults to have experiences on our own that can strengthen a sense of a centeredness and a groundedness and all rightness and an effectiveness, an autonomy, an ability to move and do things and say this and not say that that’s internal to us and increasingly independent of any kind of social influences around us. That’s a wonderful and important opportunity.

[00:09:56] So, how to do it? And I’m tracking comments so far. OK, good. So, I want to focus now on three things you can do. Three things I do and still kind of routinely sometimes do that can help you feel calmer and stronger in and of yourself, even with, you know, challenges flying around you, even when the oatmeal hits the fan. The first of these and is to slow down a bit and engage what’s called the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which is sometimes called the rest and digest branch, distinct from the fight or flight sympathetic branch. The key for both of these is not that they’re good or bad in and of themselves, but do they serve an appropriate function and are they accompanied by emotionally positive experiences? So, the sympathetic branch of the nervous system is really useful when we’re passionate, delighted, playful, enthusiastic, right? It’s not just when we’re fighting and fleeing. The key distinction there is whether there’s positive emotion present. Same with the parasympathetic branch. If we feel terrified, the parasympathetic branch overreacts and immobilizes us in a freeze response with a lot of negative emotion. So, here too, with the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system that I’m talking about now, I’m focusing on a sense of slowing and calming that feels good to you. All right?

[00:11:36] So, take a few deep breaths. You know, over time, help yourself to develop greater resting state relaxation so the kind of thermostat setting inside yourself is fairly relaxed, even while you’re being active. You can train in that over time. Herbert Benson and others have had marvelous research on the so-called relaxation response and being able to develop it increasingly as a trait by repeatedly internalizing states, experiences of relaxation. And in the moment you can draw upon whatever training you’ve done in relaxation and calming to, for example, exhale at length because the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system gets engaged as we exhale and the heart rate slows. So, exhaling over a count of three, four, five, six. Inhaling, two, three. Exhaling, two, three, four, five, six. Something like that that you can do on your own. Find your own pace. There are many relaxation techniques, many wonderful methods we can draw upon from the yogic traditions or other kinds of traditions. But being able to really mobilize calming in the body to, that is really fundamental to developing calm and strong.

[00:13:16] Maybe there you are in the middle of a kind of an irritable or, you know, frustrating back and forth with somebody. Doesn’t it go better if you help yourself be calmer? Not uptight, not stiff, not suppressing yourself, but genuinely, you know, on a 0 to 10 aggravation needle, you know, at least coming back from an 8 to a 4 or maybe all the way down to a 1 or a 2 through calming yourself. That’s a useful thing to do.

[00:13:56] Second, my point here about recognizing you’re basically all right. That is such a powerful method. Many people have commented, you know, about the value of recognizing basic all rightness. And keeping it, I think, really simple, not conceptual. Is there enough air to breathe now? Can I keep paying attention to the bodily signaling coming into my brain, including deep in my brain, you know, subcortical regions signaling the hypothalamus, really fundamental part of our brain? Basic all rightness. Can I train in the sense of basic or rightness, especially if I’m prone to anxiety, or especially if I’m prone to being preoccupied with the past or the future or both, you know, toggling back and forth between them? Coming into the present of basic all rightness is a great training. And in this present, you might find, as I did when I first began this practice, it was hard to sustain. There was something in Mother Nature’s prescription for survival back in Jurassic Park or the Serengeti Plains that made it kind of hard to really focus on and trust that in the present, I was basically all right. You know, there was like this basic trickle of anxiety going. This ongoing trickle, not basic, an ongoing trickle to try to keep me on my toes. But instead I could help myself. And you can help yourself recognize that you’re, if it’s true, there’s basic rightness.

[00:15:32] Now that basic or rightness is sort of like the underlying field that can include, as Tara Brach puts it so beautifully, it all belongs. It all belongs. We can include pain in the body, a background of worry about a health concern, a feeling of outrage at how other people are being treated. That can be present. That can be present while still, we’re kind of turning up the volume on or we’re shining a brighter and brighter light upon the fact of basic all rightness, when it’s true. All right? That is a very, very powerful thing to train in. And it can become almost just oh so reassuring, like, wow, in the present, I’m OK. Reassurance is really important. Relief. Wow.

[00:16:31] And beyond feeling calm and strong, in terms of the Buddhist teachings about how craving, a sense of something missing, a sense of something wrong, at its base those are the causes of craving, fundamentally. Key causes, the sense of something missing or wrong for us as animals. When we’re really rested in the sense of basic all rightness, that pushes to the side, that undermines, you know, the the longstanding sense of something’s missing. It’s not there’s a deficit, something’s wrong, there’s a disturbance. No, we’re basically OK right now. That really tends to undermine and reduce the second noble truth of craving and then the suffering that follows. OK?

[00:17:21] One last thing I want to say about this is that in the, you know, when the oatmeal starts to fly, in the heat of the moment, particularly if you’ve helped yourself kind of slow it down a little bit, sacred pause, as Tara Brach also puts it, sacred pause. Slow it down. If you can observe, look, this might be happening that’s really irritating or worrisome or hurtful or just befuddling with another person. That could be happening and are your most fundamental needs and values at risk? Now maybe they are. If they are, they are. If they are, they are. But very often, you know, there’s this aggravating, maybe, or frustrating or perplexing thing that’s happening with somebody else. All right. And still, the fundamentals of your life, the things that matter to you most, the things that are most central to your being. They’re OK still. They’re not touched. They’re not jeopardized by whatever wrangle, you know, you’re in the middle of. And focusing on what is enduring, what is unstained, unbroken, right, undivided by whatever’s happening right now, it’s still OK. It’s still basically OK. And in effect, dwelling increasingly there, taking your stand and kind of forcing, in effect, a little bit willfully bringing your attention to staying aware of what’s still going on OK, even while you’re aware of what’s troublesome. It’s not a spiritual bypass. You’re not trying to ignore it. You’re not downplaying it. You’re not trying to skip over it. But staying aware of the many tiles in the mosaic of your consciousness all together and the mosaic of reality, the many tiles that are still green, that are still just fine, still OK, even if some of them are also blinking red. That’s a really useful thing.

[00:19:37] And then the third suggestion I have here is to tap into, and over time develop, but in the heat of the moment, draw upon the body memory, what Antonio Damasio coined the phrase for, somatic markers, of some sense of strength grit, determination, vitality, moxie. Not in some dominator style way, not to try to, you know, withdraw from the other person, but just like, you know, a really centered peaceful warrior or yourself when you felt really strong and determined, maybe on behalf of somebody else. This sense I’ve had a lot in wilderness, in rock climbing. Also particularly starting out as a kind of anxious person who didn’t feel very confident in his body, many, many experiences of being vital in getting through it and being strong and pulling over that overhang or simply enduring standing minute after minute, hour after hour at the bedside of someone you love.

[00:21:00] So, helping yourself to have experiences that you flag or highlight of strength, often rooted in your own body. Not always, though. Maybe sometimes it’s a kind of determination or willfulness or loyalty to somebody else and a strength in that. So, having experiences of strength, fortitude, grit, a certain potency, a certain efficacy. Having these experiences and taking them in. Taking in the good of those experiences to build up the trait sense of a kind of, you know, unconquerable inner strength inside you, no matter what’s happening around you. Your body may be defeated, but never in the core of your innermost being.

[00:22:03] And then in the heat of the moment when the oatmeal starts to fly, you can draw upon that sense of strength. What’s it feel like to pull over your overhang? What’s it feel like to keep going that last mile or 100 yards of your run? What’s it feel like to hold that yoga pose when that annoying but lovable instructor tells you to keep your legs up for 10 more seconds? Been there. Done that, myself. You know, what’s that feel like inside you? What’s it feel like inside you when you’re just determined? You know, this one’s not going to sail on by. I’m going to do something about this for my friend or for myself. What’s that feel like? You know, you can tap into that sense, even in the midst of struggles with other people. OK. So I think that’s good.

[00:23:03] And I just want to emphasize with regard to being strong, many people have different ways to experience that, and I think it’s very important to emphasize aspects of strength that simply are a matter of enduring. They don’t look dramatic. They don’t look glamorous. There would never be an action hero movie about them. And yet that form of strength of endurance is a really, really important one.

[00:23:29] OK. So, to summarize, we can develop a sense of calm strength. Three good ways to do it are through relaxation. Second, through recognizing that you’re basically all right right now. And third, tapping into an inner sense of being strong and determined. And you can develop these qualities as traits over time, which then become more accessible in the heat of the moment as states, as experiences, as ways of being that you can draw upon. OK.

[00:24:05] So, any questions or comments? Any tough situations you’re interested in help for? I see a couple of hands going up already. And in the sidebar, do you have any comments or questions that I can speak to about this? There were no notes from last week. I just went for it off script, and that was that for better or worse, I’m sorry about that. I have written quite a lot about getting on your own side, but the territory of be loyal to you and some of the things I got into, including from my personal history, I didn’t have any notes for it. Yeah. And we don’t have a transcription either. All right. I like—

[00:24:58] So, Olie asked how to tap into the sense of inner strength. I’ll give you a few tips for myself. So, you can ask yourself, what’s it feel like to feel strong? What’s that feel like? Right? That’s, right there, you could do a little thing in the moment where you move your body into a posture that has a sense of being dignified and determined, maybe with a sense of gravity about you. You’re not, you know, getting, you know, like, being threatening in your posture. You’re not being threatening in your posture, but there’s a gravity about you. That can help you be strong. You might imagine what if you were needing to be strong for somebody else? That’s often more accessible to us initially than being strong for ourselves. What would that feel like? And you might bring up a time, you know, when you were strong for someone else and then imagine giving yourself over right now to that way of being so it carries you along.

[00:26:09] These kind of skills that I’m talking about right now are generally useful. You could apply them to what’s it like to feel compassionate? What’s it like to be forgiving? What’s it like to acknowledge fault or your own error or responsibility, even if parts of you want to be defensive? You know, you can tap into previous experiences of something beneficial and wholesome. And then as you get in touch with it, you can increasingly live from it. It kind of has to do with my jukebox/iPod theory of psychology in that so much of kind of what matters is what are the songs we’ve recorded? What are the songs that are routinely playing? And how good is our control over the volume and the song selection? And over time, what we want to do—I’m going to mute all again. Good.

[00:27:14] So, anyway, a lot of what skillfulness has to, you know, to do with, psychological skillfulness, a lot of practice has to do with those three things really simple. What are you taking into yourself and what are you releasing? That has to do with the kind of songs that are on that playlist over time, shifting from songs that are, you know, mopey, miserable and self-hating, and increasing the playlist of songs that are true and accurate and realistic and grateful and compassionate and wise. Also being more and more able to turn down the volume from or even turn off the negative songs playing and focus in on and get playing and turn the volume up of those factors, those songs inside your mind that are really helpful. That’s a very, very fundamental and useful way of looking at your own mind. All right.

[00:28:10] Any other questions or comments? Yeah, that’s right. Dorothy Owens at 7:16 p.m, totally. Neuroplasticity occurs throughout the lifespan. We can continue to learn and grow. I’m, you know, a young old dog and I’m still learning some tricks. We can keep learning. We can keep going. And we can definitely, even as our circumstances become more and more constrained and you know, our own bodies become more and more constrained, we can continue to grow in our relationship to these difficult conditions. All right.

[00:28:48] George asks, what about embracing and feeling it before these three techniques? Great. Sure. Yes, I’ve talked about these three great ways to practice are let be, let go, and let in. Here, I’m kind of moving fairly rapidly through letting be and letting go and focusing on letting in relaxation, the sense of being basically all right, and feeling calm and strong. Which, by the way, all foster the capacity to truly be with whatever you’re feeling in the moment and whatever’s happening in the moment. Sure. I think for me it’s kind of a given, and I appreciate you, George, saying that, which is that, yeah, we start with whatever we’re feeling. OK. And if it’s working for you to just utterly feel it and utterly allow it and utterly accept it, maybe with some investigation. If that’s totally working for you, great. And also, at least myself, I have found that it’s really helpful to cultivate certain qualities over time, including the sense of being calm and strong. So, they can go together. They’re not at odds with each other. Definitely true.

[00:30:13] OK, I want to call on Jim. Jim, I don’t know how to pronounce your last name. Konecki? I’ll just say that. And as I say this always, try to ask questions that are, you know, succinct and related to what I’ve been talking about. I always say that. OK, Jim.

Jim [00:30:30] Hi. Yes. Thanks, Rick. Kanicky is the way.

Rick Hanson [00:30:34] Kanicky?

Jim [00:30:34] Kanicky.

Rick Hanson [00:30:35] Yeah, just like Kanicky? Kanicky, great.

Jim [00:30:39] No problem. No problem. At 76 now ,I’m learning to slow down and relax, interestingly, you know, with meditation. But it’s gaining new insight. I’ve had a problem with basic all rightness. I really believe in it. My non attachment issues kind of have me want to play the victim role to get attention, I think. So, having to stand up for myself has been a little harder. But the number three thing with the moxie thing, for some reason years ago, I read in a book the jukebox kind of message: I can handle this, no matter what. And that sort of empowers me to get through.

Rick Hanson [00:31:30] Thanks for saying that.

Jim [00:31:31] Yeah, difficult things, I can handle this. I can handle it. So, I just want to share that.

Rick Hanson [00:31:36] Oh, thank you. Oh, good. Appreciate that. All right. Great. So, now I’m going to call on that strange pink character, Rick, with a weird hair and the hand-raised. You there, Rick? Maybe, OK, do you want to turn your camera on or no?

Rick [00:32:03] Sure, give me a minute.

Rick Hanson [00:32:08] OK, good. Great. Good. All right, Rick, what’s your question?

Rick [00:32:14] Rick, I didn’t have a question.

Rick Hanson [00:32:16] Oh, you just somehow to raise your hand? No worries.

Rick [00:32:19] Oh OK, sorry.

Rick Hanson [00:32:20] Hey, that’s easy. Easy peasy. And we’re still basically all right. You know, one thing that the all rightness practice really highlights is how often we go into needless alarm. Right? And it also tends to highlight this basic right rightness practice, how often there’s this just generic background sense of anxiety that has no evidence for it. There’s no reason for it in the present. Right? There might be a reason for it in the future. And we can get anxious then. There might have been a reason for it in the past. OK. Anxiety was there. Hopefully, it was helpful. Right? But in the present, there’s no basis for it. So, that all rightness practice tends to flag those two things, you know, really, really well: needless alarm and generic delusional anxiety, or at least baseless anxiety. OK. So, thanks, Rick. Nadjielli. Nadjielli, ask to unmute, great.

Nadjielli [00:33:20] OK, thank you. Thank you, Rick, for this. I want to ask you something regarding the motivation part. You’ve talked before about motivation and two ways of motivating yourself: one from top down and another one from down up. And on the third way of feeling safe and strong, you talk about this moxie, this I’m going to be stronger or good. And that seems to me like it’s a little bit of top down. Is there a way bottom up on that?

Rick Hanson [00:34:02] I’m so glad you said that. I would say both top down and bottom up ways of feeling strong can be helpful. Like Jim talked about a moment ago, you know, telling yourself, Hey, I can handle this. Maybe also saying, as I might to myself, you know, I’ve dealt with hard things in the past. I figured them out. I can figure this out, too. I’ll just I’ll do the best I can and I’ll keep going. All right? You know, so that’s kind of top down. That would maybe support the sense of strength. Or even maybe top down, we might deliberately recall some particular episodes, just boom, boom, boom, maybe snapshots or quick little mini movies of difficult things we dealt with. Which for me might be in wilderness might be in other kinds of situations.

[00:34:53] And also from the bottom up, which for me is actually where the real action is, and I’m glad you’re giving me a chance to really underline that, we tune in to the somatic markers, you know, the feeling in the body of being strong. Like right now, those of you, including Nadjielli, you might have a sense of, OK, what would it be like to feel in my body right now I’m strong? Yeah. Not Superman, not some pose, but there’s endurance, there’s determination, there’s willfulness, strength here. There are capacities to tap into. There’s a feeling of basic capacity, right? You can feel it. That’s what I’m really, really talking about.

Rick Hanson [00:35:49] And maybe you particularly feel it in your back. You know, maybe there are particular somatic markers that give you the sense of it. Maybe you feel your feet on the floor, you feel the, you know, different trainings, qi gong, others, tai chi, where you know, martial arts, whatever, yoga, where you feel it in your legs. You feel the strength in your thighs. You know, you feel, boom, you’re here. You’re a force to be reckoned with, you know, in your body, right? Not hostile, not hateful. And boom, like a tree.

Nadjielli [00:36:27] And I guess that would also help when you’re feeling supported by others. You were talking about the needs of being supported by others. So, when when someone has your back, that has an inner marker?

Rick Hanson [00:36:43] Yes. I deliberately did not talk about that just to keep it simple a little bit and also to emphasize three things that we can do even if the people around us are not helpful. Right? Or even if there are no people in our lives these days, still, we’re not dead in the water. There are things we can do. So, I emphasize those three that are independent of other people. That said, you’re exactly right. Much as the child, you know, the young child, all of us hopefully can in part develop that sense of, you know, strength and inner calm through experiences of others even today now, when we just have the feeling that other people do care about us, that we are included. They care about us, even if they’re irritated at us a little bit right now, maybe. But deep down, you know, we’re good. Deep down, we have friends. To the extent that’s real. You’re not making it up, but focusing on the extent that it’s real, especially if you have a history of being insecurely attached, you know, like I have. And especially if there’s that sense of, ah, I don’t know if other people are really going to come through for me. You know? So, when you do have that sense of people who are loyal to you or with you, they care about you, internalizing that, too, can help you feel calmer and stronger, you know, when you’re being challenged. All right, that’s great. Thank you, Nadjielli.

[00:38:10] Let’s see any other comments coming in the chat or perspectives? You know, common strong is helpful for all kinds of things. I’m relating it a lot to relationships. That’s really foundational. But you can certainly relate it to other things as well. So, I’m scanning that chats. I’m reading what you’ve written. Seeing if there’s any question. This is very interesting if you take a look at Emily Day’s comment at 7:45 p.m., it supports kind of this general point, which is, as Emily writes, I’m going through a breakup and doing strength training in gym class gives me both a feeling of togetherness and strength in my body. It’s kind of a two for one. Then I feel calm and tired afterward. That’s good. OK.

[00:39:07] How can you come down from the red zone when you’ve lost it? Right? And don’t we all want to know? Three quick tips that bomb bomb bomb, I think, are useful. One is to feel it when you’re in the red zone, like George Klein, or Klaine rather, pointed out, you know, feel it. Like, OK, I’m upset. Name it yourself. I’m rattled. I’m scared. Wow am I irritated, frustrated, hurt. Just, whatever, you know, name it to yourself. Try to feel it. Allow it. It’s OK. And start disengaging from it, disidentifying from it. It’s there. You have it, but you don’t have to be it. All right? You’re disidentifying from it. And definitely stop fueling it. Stop, you know, in your own mind. Stop getting into it with that other person if it’s not being skillful, if you can possibly, you know, help yourself and not get into it. You know, that’s one. OK? So, be mindful of it without feeding and fueling it.

[00:40:22] Two, in the moment, it’s really helpful to draw upon resources of different kinds that gradually begin to draw the center of gravity of you over to the Green Zone, as it were. Not that the red zone is bad, and sometimes it’s useful to really get cranked up very briefly if you need to. But generally, you want to help yourself come back to the Green Zone, which is why zebras don’t get ulcers, as Robert Sapolsky famously put it, because they clock most of their days in the Green Zone, even if they’re recovering from a burst of red zone stress while running for their life from a lion. Come back as best you can. And good ways to do it are to recognize the extent to which are basically all right right now and to focus on simple pleasures like, you know, looking out the window or looking around or drinking a little water and hopefully being able to tap into a sense of connection with other people. You know, these three: feeling safe enough, satisfied enough, and connected enough in the present. That can help you come out of the red zone.

Rick Hanson [00:41:32] And then more generally, build up your sense of being in the green zone so it’s harder and harder to knock you into the red zone. And then you recover more quickly. To sum this up, and it’s a fundamental orientation to practice, deal with the bad, as it were. You know, deal with whatever is the challenge or situation in the red zone as well as your own reactions. And then second, turn to the good that’s also true. Not to deny what’s problematic or difficult or any feelings you’re having, but what’s also true? Can you shift the center of gravity of your being? Can you shift the weight of your attention in that direction? Second. And then third, take in the good. Take in the good to internalize it, to build it up as a trait, so that you have it with you wherever you go. And therefore, you’re less moveable into the red zone and you can recover more quickly from it. OK, good.

[00:42:35] So, lots of opportunities for practice, I’m sure, in the week to come. And I’m going to continue my focus on relationship skills, relationship territory. How about we take now at the, you know, 30 minutes past the hour, 31 minutes past the hour, take a minute to just be with each other kind of quietly, maybe scanning the screens of the different people, maybe offering a final comment in the chat or just, what’s useful for you? Can you let it land? And can you take in the good?

[00:43:33] I really appreciated being here with you. And this concludes the formal part of our time together. Thank you.



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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