Meditation + Talk: Forgiving Yourself

Meditation + Talk: Forgiving Yourself

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 33-minute meditation and 45-minute talk and discussion about Forgiving Yourself.

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

Meditation: Forgiving Yourself

Talk: Forgiving Yourself

Dāna offering:

These teachings are offered freely, at no charge.

To practice generosity through making an offering – called “dāna” in the language of early Buddhism – please enter your email and donation amount below. Once you click “Donate” you will be directed to PayPal, where you can pay via credit card (no PayPal account required) or your PayPal account.

Would you like to make this an automatic, recurring weekly donation?*
Would you like to make this an automatic, recurring weekly donation?
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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.

Forgiving Yourself Talk (download transcript here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:00] Everybody messes up. I’ve messed up. King David messed up. Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, the Buddha—the Buddha messed up kind of big time, I think, early in his life when he just abandoned his family. But that’s a whole other topic of conversation. We all mess up. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, failures, errors. It’s important to be able to feel appropriate remorse. Identify what you can do to make amends, what you can do, maybe to be more skillful in the future. Feel it appropriately and then move on and stop beating yourself up about it. So that’s what I mean by forgiving yourself.

[00:00:48] Many of us—and I’ve been definitely that way myself—are unfairly self-critical. Much as we might hold on to grievances against others past the point that’s useful so we’re still  carrying it around, we can do that with ourselves. Seeing faults clearly, taking responsibility for them with appropriate remorse and making amends, and then coming to peace with them, this is what I mean by forgiving yourself. I don’t mean turning a blind eye to issues or being oblivious to or privileged about your impact on other people.

[00:01:26] So you might want to think of something really concrete. I personally have something in my own mind here that had to do with being a parent many, many years ago. And it’s helpful you can have a real topic. Be careful. This is not psychotherapy. Be careful with what you might stir up here. I’ll be scanning the chat from time to time to see, you know, what’s coming in here. You know, take care of yourself. Maybe pick something that’s not the worst thing you’ve ever done in your life, but something more in the middle range. And then let’s see if we can get some headway to it, with it. And this is something you really haven’t forgiven yourself about. Or deep down inside you know that there would be some kind of easing, there would be some kind of releasing of the craving of attacking yourself and an opening into, you know, the highest happiness of peace. OK.

[00:02:20] So if you’re going to forgive yourself, it helps by starting with kind of resourcing yourself and both getting a sense of others who care about you, all right, as well as some of your good qualities. Not to paper over your faults, I’ll call them that, but to kind of establish yourself in like, OK, there’s more to me than this thing that I did or other people said I did, and I’m still trying to figure it out. There’s more to me than that. Just that alone can be really healing and softening to get some distance between the bulk of you, the vast majority of you in time and space, and whatever it was that you were involved with. OK? That’s a very good foundation. And if you’re having a hard time forgiving yourself, it can often help to go back to that foundation of the felt sense of others who care about you and a recognition of some of your many objectively true good qualities, like having good intentions most of the time or going out of your way for other people, being generous in certain ways, having certain talents, certain skills, certain commitments. You know, being aware of those things. OK?

[00:03:40] So that said, then pick something. And be honest with yourself about whatever the facts were. The facts. What they did, what you did, what you said, what you thought, what your, you know, deep down, sneaky kind of messed up desires were maybe, the history, the consequences for them, for you, for other people. Just factual. Kind of a factual account, almost as if somebody else who is completely detached from it all is describing whatever happened. All right? Just what happened. What was it? You know? If you ran a red light, that’s what happened. If you yelled at a child and shouldn’t have, that’s what happened. If you’ve had nasty, sneaky horrible thoughts about some people that you really relish, that’s what happened. OK? If you cheated on something or someone, if you broke an agreement, if you dropped the ball, if you were negligent, if you drank too much, if you partied too hard—I’ve done just about all of these—you know, tell the truth about it. I mean, the central foundation of Buddhist practice, and I think wisdom practice altogether is truth, really telling the truth. Usually when we really, really tell the truth, it’s liberating and brings us to a greater happiness and greater capacity to help ourselves and other people. And that’s what we’re doing here, telling the truth. That’s what this part is.

[00:05:40] Notice any parts of the truth that are hard to face, any facts that are hard to face, like, I don’t really want to admit that. But actually, if it’s true, it’s true. And admitting it, to yourself especially, maybe to others, but especially to yourself, is really freeing when you just name it. Yeah, I did that. OK?

[00:06:05] And then I find it incredibly helpful to sort out the facts, the truth of whatever happened, as you judge best, into three piles. The three piles are: moral faults, what you consider, yeah, that’s a moral fault, I should, people should feel some remorse about that, some guilt, maybe some shame about that. Yeah, that’s a moral fault. Second pile is usually the biggest pile of all: skillful correction. Something that it wasn’t really that, you know, it’s not a moral issue, really. But, you know, taking everything into account, I sure could be more skillful next time. Or now that I understand what the impact on those other people was of what I did or said, the word I used. I didn’t realize it. Maybe I should have realized it before, but I just didn’t. OK, from now on, I’m going to put in some correction. I’m just not going to do that again, and I trust myself. Remember last week’s topic about trusting yourself? I can trust myself to actually keep my word with myself that I sincerely want never, ever, ever to do that again. And if I ever slip, bingo, I’m going to put a correction in right then and there too. All right? That’s the skillful correction pile. Then sometimes there’s a third pile, I call it gracious gift, where you didn’t really do anything bad. And second, it’s not really a matter of skillfulness, but you know, why not? It would make them happier. It would get them off your back. It would kind of grease the skids in the future. Whatever it might do for the greater good, keeping the peace, you just realize, OK, I’m going to be different in the future about that particular thing just as a kind of gift to the other people. You see that? It’s really helpful to sort things in this way because very often other people come at us with a lot of accusation that moral fault, moral fault, moral fault, they’re righteous, they’re indignant. And before you get too indignant about them, remember that sometimes, if you’re like me, you could be that indignant yourself. All right.

[00:08:19] So they’re coming at us with that high powered fastball top spin critique, and we can create a space, getting some distance. Maybe we need them to back off a bit. Maybe we need to say, Look, I’ll get back to you tomorrow about all this, whatever. Or just inside your own mind you can think to yourself, Well, if somebody else did what they’re saying I did, I would think it wasn’t really moral or unethical or degraded or sinful, whatever that the person did. But yeah, it wasn’t very skillful. And in the future, it would be good if they did something different. You know, you get to decide that. Or you even get to decide that, hey, nothing to see here as far as I’m concerned. I understand that you’re upset about this, but I’m not responsible for what you construct inside your own mind. As a friend of mine puts it in this kind of saying, I am responsible for pushing your buttons, but I’m not responsible for installing them. I am responsible for bumping into your buttons, maybe accidentally even, but I didn’t put them there in you. And so, you know, sometimes they’re just—not to enable dismissing their grievances of other people, I’m just trying to talk about things in a complex way, but to conclude. To give yourself the right to conclude deep in your heart that, Hey, I got it, you’re upset here and I’m going to take that into account in the future and I can have compassion for you. I can regret what happened here in terms of its impact on you. But no, I don’t think I did anything wrong. By claiming that right and that power for yourself, by claiming it for yourself because you have the power inside your own mind, you can always claim it to decide how you think about something, by doing that, in a really interesting way it actually opens you up more to real compassion for other people and a real reckoning with your impact on them, even if that wasn’t your intent, a real reckoning with that and a real willingness to identify, OK, you know, faults inside, you know, hindrances, taints to use the Buddhist language, things of that sort, afflictions inside yourself, it helps you identify them if you know that you have the right to decide for yourself without being pushed around by anybody else outside you what really matters to you to attend to and maybe have remorse about and certainly, you know, learn from for the future. OK? All right.

[00:11:09] So now let’s suppose you’ve sorted these out into these three piles. And in an honest way, take responsibility for whatever is in the moral fallout pile or the skillful correction pile. Taking responsibility doesn’t mean boom, boom, boom, you know, beating yourself up. It just means actually, yeah, I can see how I was at cause there. Now I’m using the word I super loosely as a kind of swirling blobby eddies in the stream of your own personal flotsam and jetsam of the person process swirling down through the currents of time. You know, that’s what you mean by, you know, the causes of what happened. A lot of them, or at least some of them, you know, were within this particular person. OK, take responsibility for that, including whatever is appropriate to take responsibility for truly doing deliberately, doing on purpose. Maybe that decision to do it on purpose happened really, really quickly. And maybe it happened due to all kinds of other causes and conditions. But deep down inside, you know the you you were then, that night outside that bar or early in the morning or wherever it was pushing send on that email, the you who pushed that button, got to take responsibility for that.

[00:12:31] So here too, we might think, Oh, I don’t want to take responsibility, especially if you’re having all kinds of other people blame you for things. Remember, again, it’s really empowering to decide for yourself what is appropriate to take responsibility for. So then you’re free to not take responsibility for things that you just are not responsible for as far as you see it.

[00:12:55] Obviously, there’s a learning process here. And it’s important to be open to other people and to not use what I’m saying is a spiritual bypass to avoid accepting appropriate genuine responsibility. I actually find that really going to the maximum upper bound, you know, the maximum reasonable personal responsibility for things is actually really freeing. And also, it puts you in the driver’s seat of agency because if you can be responsible for whatever you’ve done that was problematic, you can then be responsible for going in a different direction. In other words, by owning, by claiming our various neurotic patterns and taking responsibility for them and owning them, then we have the power to guide them to a better place.

[00:13:46] So you might want to write out, you know, I am responsible for this and that and this regarding this argument with that other person, or in that traffic accident, or that really rocky relationship maybe with somebody. I’m responsible for this part in that part. And also, it can be really helpful to write out, and I am not responsible for this and this and that. Ironically, claiming the freedom inside yourself, the autonomy inside yourself to identify where I am not responsible has the effect, honorably, nobly even, of carving out what you can take responsibility for. And I have found in any of my, you know, wrangles with other people, I never get free in that conflict. I never get free by mobilizing a really powerful case against that person, as momentarily gratifying as it may be. Never frees me. I get free when I find compassion for myself and them, and when I take maximum reasonable responsibility for what happened and the impact on them and maybe other people. That’s when I actually get free of it. OK.

[00:15:24] So taking responsibility, then in this kind of step by step procedure I’m laying out here, and you can adapt it to your own purposes and move through it at whatever pace you want, I think it’s really helpful to acknowledge what you’ve done already to clean up the mess, whatever the mess may be. What have you done already? Have you tried to apologize? Have you reached out to this person? Have you tried to do better in other relationships, even if you can’t or it’s not appropriate to clean it up or do anything with regard to the particular relationship in which this thing happened that you’re forgiving yourself for? You know, what have you done to learn from whatever happened? You know, what have you done to be clear that from now on, you’re acquiring other habits, you’re developing other habits, other ways of being? You might be a work in progress, but you’re working at it. You’re at it. You know? Acknowledge that part. That’s really, really helpful.

[00:16:27] Then see if anything else remains to be done really in the real world about the situation. By done, I mean out there in the world or with your words or with your own inner experience, with your own mind. You know? Acts of deed word and thought. Is there anything else? And here sometimes it’s really helpful to kind of get quiet and open to an inner wisdom. Sometimes the form this takes might be an outer wisdom that involves talking with a wise friend or teacher or imagining a conversation with a wise being just in your own imagination. Is anything there for you? Should you make one last attempt to apologize to the person? Should you write a letter that you’ll never send, but it’s a way to put in words your your heartfelt sorrow at what happened and what you’ve learned from it and your grief about the injustice maybe that you did to that of the person? Is there maybe an insight in yourself that you want to make a contribution, a donation perhaps to a charity or to another organization, you know, an act of penance of some kind, an act of making amends of some kind? Maybe there’s some insight there. Like one last thing, maybe there’s something else to do, especially if you listen deep down yourself. This is not about listening to the inner Simon Legree, inner critic who’s always got one more reason why you’re a mess. No. This is about listening to you, like, an inner wisdom in yourself. OK? See if there’s anything else to do. Maybe to open just deeply to a genuine and appropriate remorse. Maybe that’s what’s left to do and to just let yourself feel it for a few breaths or a few minutes, a few days. Maybe that’s what’s left. OK? What will help you feel complete, in other words, that you’ve done all that you can as a good person to do the best here so then you can know that you’ve done the best you can? You can know it. You can let it land. And this is a really important moment for people. You know? The Buddha uses language like cessation or without remainder. In other words, where there’s a complete release of something. Psychotherapy, we explore this as well, where there can be a complete release of something. So let it land in you without remainder that you’ve really, really, really done all that you could, all that a reasonable person could, all that you would ask for, even, of another person. You’ve done it so let it land so there’s a release of this nagging sense that you haven’t done enough. And if there is still that nagging sense, ask yourself what would genuinely satisfy that nagging sense or is that nagging sense just some kind of automatic, somewhat diluted, you know, in a loose sense of the word, you know, generic sense that there’s always something missing in who you are? Letting go of that. Letting go of that. OK.

[00:20:05] So then you can actively forgive yourself. Actively. And there are different ways to do this. You could play around with it in different ways. You could say it in your mind. You could say it out loud. You can put it in writing. You can imagine others saying it to you. I forgive myself for such and such. I really do. You might be moved in that moment to add a few things. And boy, have I learned a big lesson. And wow I feel really bad about it. And I forgive myself. I forgive myself. In other words, we can recognize falling short, swerving away from the higher road. We can recognize that while at the same time releasing anger at ourselves about it. Releasing punishing, much as when we forgive others, we might still recognize things they’ve done that’s problematic, we might still want them to act differently in the future, we might want all that while at the same time we can stop with the angry, punishing scorn. Similarly, we can stop with the angry, punishing scorn at ourselves while still recognizing ways that we want to be in this life, what our values are, what our intentions are, how we want to live. All right?

[00:21:35] So you can say to yourself, I forgive you, Rick. Saying to myself, I forgive you, Rick, for that thing you did. It can really help to understand in yourself some of the many forces that were in play. Not to let yourself off the hook, but more just to understand it. So much in play. Maybe you are a stressed out parent. Maybe, you know, it would have been great if your partner had carried more of the load. Maybe if you had been dealing with a different kind of set of situations, maybe if there hadn’t been so many other pressures on you, maybe if you weren’t part of a larger societal system that was grinding on you or prejudiced against you, yeah, those were all in the mix. And if they hadn’t been in the mix, you probably wouldn’t have done that thing. So they too played a role. You know, you can take that really into account as you forgive yourself.

[00:22:32] It’s very powerful to imagine beings who are forgiving you, you know, who are inside you. If it’s appropriate, you can imagine the other person forgiving you. If it’s appropriate, you can actually ask them to actively forgive you. Often that’s not possible or appropriate, but internally you can certainly forgive yourself. And internally you can imagine loving, wise, caring, even angelic figures who are, you know, forgiving you.

[00:23:08] And then let the sense of forgiveness sink in. You know, and you may need to go through multiple cycles of this. Questions have come in in the chats earlier about, you know, sometimes we think it, but we don’t feel it. Yes, it may take repetition for you to feel a release. And sometimes you what is useful is to ask yourself what’s between me and a full release here? That surfaces something else to acknowledge or take responsibility for or to realize, you know, I actually don’t have responsibility for that part. As much as they’re trying to convince me of that, I really don’t. OK. And then you can be more open to a full release. And when you get that sense of full release—and I’m kind of finishing here—let the sense of being forgiven land inside you. You know? That you’ve been washed clean. You’re allowed to start again to make a fresh start. You can feel it. You know, like the dust, the sand, the grit, the weight washed through you. You are forgiven. For some people, it can, you know, it really helps to do this in a spiritual context, a higher power, a larger force, the universe. You know, it actually helps me to just imagine the vastness of the physical universe, the Big Bang universe. And in that larger context, you know, my foibles and faults and failures, I recognize them, but wow do they seem so small. Grains of sand, on grains of sand, on grains of sand in the larger universe. So however you do it, you might have a sense of something vaster than you, something transpersonal, potentially divine that’s in the mix, you know, forgiving you. All right.

[00:25:08] Covered a lot of ground here. I’ve been scanning and seeing a lot of very wise comments coming in on that chat. I won’t be able to speak to all of them. Certainly, I do read the whole chat transcript all the way through, often at the end of the evening to make sure I’ve read everything. So I’ve received everything, I will have received. What’s the future past tense? I don’t know. Anyway, I will have received all of your communications, definitely. You can trust me on that. OK. I’m curious what questions or comments have come in. There are a lot of them. I’m going to see if there’s someone who might like to talk with me with an individual situation. If you want, you can push the raise hand button, which lives in reactions. So if you go to the reactions button, you can raise your hand. I see already two people. OK, great. Harry, I’m definitely going to take you for sure. And you too, Rick. OK, great, for sure. And I’ll try to get to you as well, Madison for sure. And Happy Campers, too. OK. But let me just see if there’s any—I think I’ll do this, if it’s OK. So as usual, I’m about to go with particular individuals, as I always say, please try to have your question be brief and related to what I’ve covered so far. OK. Or a comment. All right. First person, Harry, I’m going to ask you to unmute. Here you go. Good to see you. And I always forget, is it Harry or Harry? You have to unmute yourself. I’ve asked you to unmute. There you go.

Harry [00:26:41] Harry, like Harry Potter.

Rick Hanson [00:26:43] Yeah, great. OK, good to see you again. Harry is a long time member of our in-person gathering. And I miss seeing you in person, just like I miss seeing the other people in person, too.

Harry [00:26:55] Oh, so much. I just picture being in Dominican and everybody meditating whenever we meditate.

Rick Hanson [00:27:02] Yeah.

Harry [00:27:05] I picture that. Yeah, I have a really tough one. I had several of my adult relatives passed away in a short period of time. And the last one was an aunt of mine who was not really popular in my family. And she was getting old and she would not tell me to come and be with her. But at the very last minute, right before she was dying, she said, Please come 3000 miles to New York from California. And I did that right away. And one of her best friends called me before I even got there and said, You’re terrible. You haven’t been there for your aunt. She’s dying. And this was right after I got off the plane. And I tried to get there and then I could not face it at the last minute. And I have a friend now who is dying, and I think I made a mistake by saying I will be there for you. And she lives far away also. I haven’t seen her in a while.

Rick Hanson [00:28:15] Yeah, I got it.

Harry [00:28:17] So I feel—I had dreams about this over and over. I don’t know how to forgive myself. I guess I could write to her friend after all these years, you know, and say that I was not—after the other deaths, I just wasn’t ready.

Rick Hanson [00:28:38] You know, so I’ll jump in right here, Harry. First, I think it’s really helpful, especially something like this, which, you know, yes, you made an agreement, you made a promise, you didn’t keep your promise. So me, you know, I would put it in the moral fault category. It’s in that pile. Got it. And you know, you can feel it, the weight of it. And particularly when we’re dealing with something this deep right, it’s very helpful to be aware of what’s not that. Like I said in the very beginning. And to add to that and to draw your attention to that enormous pile next to this, I know you and I know what a good and caring and generous and moral person you are and how vastly tilted you are toward benevolence. You know, in terms of the balance sheet, I have kind of a business background, so we have liabilities and assets, you know, your balance sheet is way in the green, way in the green. OK? So that’s a context.

[00:29:42] And then second here, if I get it right, I think sometimes, if I’m understanding you, we do something bad, I’ll use that word, simple, we do something that we feel bad about because in that moment we were weak or we were hijacked by something in us, by a fear, by a rage. In your case, it wasn’t anger, it was more fear or just overwhelm. And one thing that we can kind of do is to, in effect, forgive that part of ourself for being part of our self, while also recognizing that, as Tara Brach would put it, this belongs. This is part of me. I don’t know if I’m fully communicating it. It’s like it’s a feeling of accepting a part of yourself in that moment, at least, where that came from, there’s an acceptance of it. Doesn’t mean we approve of it but there’s an honest about there’s an acceptance of it. There’s also a sense of common humanity. Many, many, many other people have this part as well, or in that moment were hijacked by some kind of that similar kind of reaction. And we just go, you know, I blew it. I totally blew it. I won’t blow it again like that. And I can accept that there are parts of me that blow it, particularly under really high pressure, high stakes situations. I’ll just offer that, because I know I want to reach out to other people here tonight, Harry.

Harry [00:31:34] Thank you. Ironically, I stopped by a church on the way and I got a rock that said courage. And I held the rock, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t make it to the very end, so.

Rick Hanson [00:31:48] Yeah, well, I have a hunch that we don’t get a release until we tell the truth completely and fully. So my hunch is there’s still some truth telling for you here, including the truth of just what led you to do what you did. And just honestly, I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I was scared. I just didn’t want to walk into that situation where, you know, basically I’m extending myself incredibly, and then I’m walking into a lot of fault finding for not having extended myself enough. And I’m very vulnerable to feeling guilty about not doing enough—I, Harry, let’s say—and I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t handle it. You know? I just broke down. I couldn’t do it. You know, there’s some kind of honesty about that that can feel very releasing and bare. You know, your kind of bare naked, as it were, before, you know, the world. It’s just here it is. It’s the truth of it. Something very freeing about that blessing.

[00:32:47] Last thing I’ll just say, is that in my infinite wisdom as a 21 year old, I came to my major mentor in college at UCLA, a wonderful fellow, no longer alive, jules Zentner, a legendary kind of dean at UCLA, a humanist, a wonderful man. And I said, I think that stress reveals character. And he said, Rick, I think stress reveals what people are like when they’re under stress. Ah hah. And so here you don’t need to draw a sweeping conclusion about yourself. You know, I think about the incredible line from the movie Dead Man Walking about Sister Prejean’s work on Death Row, and she says, I’m never going to judge a man—these are men on death row—I’m never going to judge a man based on what he did in the worst moment of his life. You know? So, OK. All right. Blessings to you. Good wishes. Thank you for sticking your neck out here and being so honest. You know, Harry, and also I don’t know if this will land for you, but I can tell you true, I forgive you. I know what a good person you are. I forgive you.

Harry [00:33:59] Thank you.

Rick Hanson [00:34:00] I forgive that part of you because I know that that part is such a tiny fraction of who you are.

Harry [00:34:07] Thank you, Rick.

Rick Hanson [00:34:09] All right. Happy heart to you. OK. OK, I’ll get you Happy Campers, I swear. All right. Where am I here? So Rick Kruger and then Madison. So Rick, I’m asking you to unmute. Here you go.

Rick [00:34:27] Gosh. I’m so deeply moved by Harry and your interchange there. I’ll try to be brief. And I guess I have to say at the onset I’m a little bit hesitant to talk about this because it does involve a psychotropic. Is it okay if I—because I’m not like a big—I’ve never taken LSD. I’ve never taken psilocybin, mescaline. But some years ago, I took the plant-based psychotropic salvia. And I found out later, much later after this experience that that particular herb or psychotropic plant-based thing is associated with the Virgin Mary. And I actually had a vision. It’s a very short experience. It’s like twenty or twenty five minutes, but you’re kind of elsewhere. And so I had this vision. This just going back to my childhood, my next door—lived in a fairly upscale neighborhood—and very nice house. And we had kind of a Gucci fireplace.

Rick Hanson [00:35:37] So what are you trying to forgive yourself for?

Rick [00:35:39] Yeah, so well, I guess that’s the question, right? So I don’t really know, but I mean, I just felt like—I felt forgiven. So because you were—

Rick Hanson [00:35:51] OK. That’s beautiful.

Rick [00:35:54] So I guess maybe that’s it then.

Rick Hanson [00:35:56] Wow, no, that’s awesome. And, you know, I think there’s a handful of people who really ought to feel more ashamed of themselves. Right? Definitely. Maybe more than a handful. They really ought to. And one of the issues with sociopaths is that they don’t feel enough anxiety about their behavior. OK, so there’s there’s a place for that on the one hand. But wow, I just think so many of us, me included, are walking around with what feels like a backpack full of heavy, unforgiven faults. And we don’t deserve to carry that around. So to feel forgiven and to feel, however that is for you, washed clean, the light shining through you, whatever that is, that’s a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful kind of thing. All right. Thank you for naming it for us. Yeah. With or without psychedelic aid, that’s great. Thank you. OK, Madison, I’m asking you to unmute. You have to turn your camera on.

Madison [00:37:05] Yeah, I’m going to see how succinct I can be after working all day. I’m a little dead. What I did in grief was I started having some pains. I spent eight months researching that it might be good to have a particular surgery that not only would cut the pain, but would improve my appearance. And I researched surgeons and it came to the last minute and one guy was maybe $8000 more than the lady and I picked the lady. And I’m still in this because she botched the surgery and she basically didn’t do it right. And so—

Rick Hanson [00:37:51] What are you trying to forgive in yourself?

Madison [00:37:55] Being a cheapskate.

Rick Hanson [00:37:57] OK. And making a bad decision?

Madison [00:37:59] And making a bad decision.

Rick Hanson [00:38:00] Yeah, this is a good one. This is a good one. This is a good one.

Madison [00:38:04] OK.

Rick Hanson [00:38:04] Yeah. OK. Well, you know, did you kind of work through—if you imagine the process there—like, you know, is this a moral fault, first of all?

Madison [00:38:23] Being cheap in general is a moral fault.

Rick Hanson [00:38:27] You consider it, yeah. And we all get to decide, you know, in the boundary between moral fault skilllful correction, it’s a little fuzzy, but we get to decide. OK.

Madison [00:38:34] I have it even with from Dana to surgery. OK? Tipping to anything.

Rick Hanson [00:38:40] Yeah. OK.

Madison [00:38:42] When in doubt, don’t open your wallet. It comes from a lifetime of not having a lot of money. It’s not just I’m born cheap.

Rick Hanson [00:38:49] Yeah. OK, so then you have—how about skillful correction?

Madison [00:38:54] Her responsibility was to produce the result that she said that she would produce. And she didn’t do it. And my responsibility was to pick the doctor who would produce the best result with no guarantee.

Rick Hanson [00:39:08] Right, so if you step back, here, too, is a really interesting thing. Have you suffered enough already? And what I mean by that is sometimes there’s a natural sense of justice. Right? And the truth, sometimes occasionally we properly ought to suffer a little more for a little while because we really haven’t paid a price yet in proportion to what happened. And deep down inside, you know, the deep integrity way down deep sometimes in some people, but the integrity that is deep within us all, almost everyone certainly, recognizes that no, we really haven’t copped to it fully. We haven’t fully paid the price. We haven’t served our sentence, we haven’t paid the fine, we haven’t made amends. You know, we haven’t. We just haven’t done that. And there’s some honesty there on the one hand. Right? And that has to do often with dropping below the thoughts about what happened down to the feelings about it, where, you know, and our thoughts can sometimes be used to keep us from our feelings. So as to drop below the thoughts to the feelings and to really feel it. Maybe there’s some real sorrow there or sadness or a longing to have had other people in your life help you be not such a cheapskate, let’s say. Right? Whatever it might be. OK, so we do that part. On the other hand, in this may be true for you already, Madison, you know that you’ve suffered enough already. You’ve paid your dues, you’ve paid the fines times five. Right? Actually, I’ll tell you one thing I don’t think you’re a cheapskate when it comes to paying fines of self-criticism.

Madison [00:40:55] No, I do a lot of self-criticism. There are some big decisions ahead, including that somebody said to me, Well, you could sue her because she did not produce the result. And what I’ve done is I’ve kicked this can all the way down the road. I don’t even want to look at it. I barely want it.

Rick Hanson [00:41:13] Yeah. So what do you need to do to be complete here? I mean, that’s the question. That’s was self-forgiveness helps us do. And I got to wrap up, so I just almost leave it there with you. You might ask yourself, All right, what feels incomplete here? What’s hard for me about moving on? Why am I still ruminating about it? Why am I still thinking about it? The Buddha had a metaphor of a dog chained to a stake, a wooden stake in the ground. The dog had some freedom of movement, but basically was orbiting the stake. So if you find yourself ruminating, what’s the stake, you know, that you’re stuck with? And can you just pull up the stake or cut the chain? Or realize there’s actually no steak in no chain at all? All right? What would help you become freer here? And, you know, it may well be that you blundered. You recognize a tendency in yourself, a disposition that led to that blunder. It was a probabilistic blunder. It might have turned out OK. Right? And you’re just trying to learn how to make better bets in the future and maybe tilt your betting a little further away from cheapskatery. Maybe that’s the takeaway. And meanwhile, you’re dealing with a pretty big price already for your blunder. Maybe you’ve paid enough for this blunder and can move on with your head high in the days to come.

Madison [00:42:33] Thank you, sir.

Rick Hanson [00:42:37] All right. Maybe I’m speaking for more than you, too. I’m Speaking for me or to me. Rick, listen to what Rick is saying. Wait, who’s talking here? OK. Well, I really wish—let me see here—I know I’ve got three people, four people left. We’re at the end of our time. I don’t want to overdo it. I’m going to remember your names, Happy Campers, Lisa, Rachel, and Agnes. And so next week, if you’d like, I’m going to kind of put you to the head of the list in terms of questions. I hope this was useful for you tonight, and you might want to take a look at the really wise comments in the chat if you haven’t seen them already. In a minute, we’ll come to a formal close for this evening. And I hope you’ll forgive me for ending in the middle of so much rich material. If you want to stick around in a few minutes, George, my copilot will sort you into small Zoom breakout rooms of around just 4 people each. Please leave, please end the meeting for yourself on Zoom unless you want to be in one of those breakout rooms.

[00:43:48] So let’s take just kind of a few breaths to let whatever is helpful here sink in and to see if you can find your own way to releasing the attachment, the clinging, in effect, a kind of craving for inappropriate scorning and scolding and punishing of yourself. Seeing if you can release that perhaps going through the steps that I’ve described tonight. But fundamentally seeing if you can find, you know, the peace of feeling forgiven. Forgiving is a kind of giving. It’s a kind of generosity. We offer that generosity to others as we deem appropriate. Similarly, we can offer that generosity to ourselves as we deem appropriate, giving ourselves the gift of forgiving yourself. Thank you for your kind attention. Take care.



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.

Get the Just One Thing
Weekly Newsletter

A simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

You can unsubscribe at any time and your email address will never be shared.