Meditation + Talk: How To Stay Up When Others Put You Down

Meditation + Talk: How To Stay Up When Others Put You Down

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 33-minute meditation and 50-minute talk and discussion about How To Stay Up When Others Put You Down.

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

Meditation: How To Stay Up When Others Put You Down

Talk: How To Stay Up When Others Put You Down

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These teachings are offered freely, at no charge.

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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.

How to Stay Up When Others Put You Down Talk (download transcript here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:00] Tonight, I would like to talk about this fundamental theme in our relationships, which is a major source of suffering, feeling put down, dismissed, devalued, or dominated by other people. You may know that in Tibetan Buddhism, there’s an expression of the eight worldly winds, pain and—or I’ll do it like this—pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, and fame and ill repute. These words are translated sometimes in different ways. So we have these matched pairs, different kinds of things that come like winds that blow. Some we like, some we don’t like so much. And half of them clearly directly have to do with relationships. Praise and blame and fame and ill repute. We could even say that gain and loss and pleasure and pain often happen in the field of our relationships as well. So right there in the eight worldly winds, this fundamental teaching, we have an appreciation of the centrality, the primacy for better or worse of our relationships in terms of both our suffering and our well-being and our awakening.

[00:01:23] So how can we practice with the blame and ill repute side of the equation, especially when it comes at as from other people? That’s what I hope to explore with you tonight. And I want to begin with talking about two bodies of research on our animal cousins, fellow mammalians belonging to the vertebrate mammalian tribe, rats and monkeys. So first, the studies on rats that I’d like to talk about here. Let’s acknowledge upfront that there are immense ethical issues in the relationship between the human species and many, many other species on this planet, including in the form of research on non-human animals. That said, I will in a straightforward way, talk about some of the findings of that work. So with rats, one of the interesting lines of research essentially goes like this. They’ll take rats who know each other and are litter mates as it were, or they know each other. And they’ll put them in separate cages and then they’ll give them two kinds of food. One kind, eh, it’s OK. It’s like stale granola bars. You can survive on it. Army rations, I’ve never had them, but maybe they’re pretty bad. I don’t know. Anyway, you can survive on it, but it’s not pretty great. And then there’s this second kind of food. Yum yum yum! Sort of like the equivalent of chocolate chip cookies for rats. They really like that. So they make sure that the two groups of rats, let’s say, know what both kinds of food are like. And the foods look very distinctive and they smell very different, so the rats can tell which is which.

[00:03:16] Then they go on to the second phase in their study, in which they give the rats the mediocre food. And the rats eat it because they’re hungry and it’s food. So they eat the mediocre food so they know what it’s like. And the scientists can observe how much they naturally eat. Then what they do is they take two rats side-by-side in two separate cages that are transparent so they can see each other. And then what they do is they give the yummy food to, I’ll say, the A rats and the B rats, to the B rat. So the A rat sees the B rat getting the yummy food and the A rat doesn’t get it. What? I don’t get that yummy food? What? And then the scientists start observing things. So after they do this a few times and the A rat is shorted, they’re mistreated, they’re left out, they don’t get the goody, they don’t matter, they’re not important, they’re not value, right? Then they watch how much the A group rats eat of the mediocre food. They eat less of the mediocre food. They don’t want to eat it. I’m mad. I didn’t get the yummy. This food is crap. I don’t want any. He got the good stuff. I don’t want any of this crap. Does that sound human or what?

[00:04:46] And then second, then they let the rats interact with each other. The A group rat who got shorted suddenly doesn’t like to B group rat. Maybe they used to be friends. I don’t like you. You got treated better than me. I’m envious of you. You know what’s—you took advantage of me. I’m going to blame you because the experimenter gave you the yummy food and didn’t give me any yummy food. Harumph. OK? Does that sound kind of semi familiar, maybe? OK.

[00:05:20] Another line of research involving monkeys, primates who are studied in their social settings, natural social settings in which there are groups and dominance hierarchies. So we have the alpha chimpanzees, the alpha gorillas, the alpha monkeys, and then we have the beta monkeys. I was a beta monkey in school secretly wanting to be alpha. Anyway. One of the themes of my life, probably. So there you have it. OK. So what they notice is that they’ll measure stress hormones in the monkeys, you know, just kind of in a regular way. And they notice what happens to the stress hormones like cortisol in the beta monkeys after they’ve been dominated by an alpha monkey. Well, when the beta monkey has to submit and be subordinate to be less than, you know, to roll over and show its belly if it were a dog, let’s say, to give up, that’s a very stressful experience. Stress hormones like cortisol skyrocket in monkeys and also in people when they’re dominated, especially unjustly and with the kind of mean spirit, dominated by others of their kind. That’s a very stressful and painful experience.

[00:06:51] So this is kind of a biological evolutionary backdrop for the very human experience of feeling criticized or that fault was found in you or you’re being blamed or you’re just being dismissed or ignored. You know, in just casual ways, let alone if this happens in socially structured ways and socially maintained ways that involve bias and prejudice of various kinds, discrimination of various kinds. It’s very impactful. We have a natural need to feel valued. We have a natural recognition of injustice when we are treated unjustly like the A group rats that were not given the yummy food that the B group rats were given. We’re naturally very, very sensitive to that. And so it’s very normal to have reactions to that, reaching all the way back into childhood and then moving forward into adult life. There’s a lot of suffering in all that, right? It’s natural and normal to feel the first darts of the impact of the worldly winds. You know? It’s normal to experience liking when it’s pleasure and gain and praise and fame in the positive sense. That’s natural. It’s natural to feel a moment of unpleasure, of sadness, or startlement, or worry, or hurt, you know, when it’s blame, or loss, or, you know, shame, or ill repute. That’s natural. But beyond that, we also certainly add all kinds of other reactions that make us suffer even more, the second darts that the Buddha talked about.

[00:08:47] So what can we do about this? And I think it’s really helpful to bring this into your own specific life. You know? Who in your life do you think is too critical of you? Who in your life, you know, do you have situations where you feel inappropriately, kind of, you know, directed by them or controlled by them, which implicitly is a kind of, you know, power structure of dominance in effect, even if it’s well-intended or unwitting in your life? Where do you feel that you’re not recognized appropriately for your contributions? You’re not appreciated appropriately for what you’ve done? You know, and you can get very real. A lot of suffering here, right?

[00:09:33] So I’d like to talk at this point now about three major things we can do about this. These are not the only things we can do about it. Maybe some other things will emerge in our discussion and feel free to offer your own thoughts in the chat side bar. And then we’ll open it up for a discussion. OK? So I’m—ah, very good, I see someone who put it in, Kathy at 6:56 p.m., what if the person doing it is yourself? Exactly. That’s wonderful, Kathy. Exactly. Because part of what happens is we internalize others who are dismissive or critical or shaming and blaming. Take that on to ourselves and we internalize sometimes our oppressors. And it’s not our fault. It’s a natural process of social learning, it’s actually called. So that also is a major source of criticism. So we could think about applying the three suggestions I’m going to offer in a moment to being self-critical. Although I’m mainly going to focus here on situations, you know, in our relationships with other people. OK?

[00:10:52] The first thing we can do is to recognize the suffering. In the language of early Buddhism, the Dukkha, the unsatisfactoryness, the disappointingness, the discontentedness in the painfulness in the experience, the lackingness in the experienc.e and what often happens when we feel unjustly criticized by others or just criticized at all or put down or made less than by others, we often ruminate about it. We go up into our heads and we start having inner dialogs with other people when we’re trying to sleep or we write angry letters that maybe we send or don’t send or emails. We, you know, we think about it a lot. And that, in a way, is what to avoid actually experiencing what we’re experiencing. What’s really effective to do instead of getting caught up in these thought loops is to go directly to the pain. Go directly to what feels bad. The hurt. The the suffering and anger. Not the righteous case that anger is wrapped with, but the central experience of anger and the negative emotion of that. It’s not well-being. It’s not inner peace. It’s not love. It’s not contentment. It’s not the highest happiness, is it? When we come directly into contact with the suffering that’s there in our reactions, naturally and maybe not so naturally sometimes, maybe we need a little nudge, compassion can be mobilized. Compassion can arise. Compassion for ourselves. A simple warmth. A simple recognition of, oh, this sucks. This doesn’t feel good. I don’t like this. This hurts. Simple yuck. Whatever it might be. Maybe with often no words at all. Take a little time with it, if you will. Often it’s very quick. Just a simple sense of, oh, this hurts, with implicitly and vitally, very importantly, a sense of being a friend to yourself, an ally to yourself. There’s an implicit loyalty to you in the movement of compassion to the primary pain, the suffering in reactions to other people being critical. Right?

[00:13:45] And as soon as we go to the pain, so as soon as we go to the pain and with the compassion we drop beneath all the rumination, all the yakety yak, we’re directly engaged with our own pain, which then mobilizes a warmth and we start resting more in the warmth, the caringness, the kindness for ourselves, which as research shows implicitly in the compassionate, caring response, is an activation of reward centers in ancient parts of your brain, which, in other words, there’s a sense of the goodness, even the enjoyableness, even the pleasurableness of a sorts in the warmhearted, caring response to your own suffering. And being in touch—so you’re shifting then. So what happens? Others are critical, let’s say. You have a reaction to it. You start thinking, thinking, thinking about it and fussing and fuming outwardly or inwardly or both. Then, in my suggestion here, my first suggestion, you focus more on the feeling in your body, the feeling in your heart, what it’s like, arousing compassion for it. And in the compassionate response, it enhances that response to be aware increasingly and to rest increasingly in the positive feelings of compassion rather than the negative feelings of aversion to the criticism that’s come your way. And as you rest in the positive sense, the enjoyable sense of compassion, neurologically what that does is it motivates us, motivates you to be more compassionate to yourself in the future because you’re associating a reward with a compassionate response to yourself. And second, neuroplastic change is heightened as the sense of reward, the enjoyability or the positivity of an experience increases, so you start developing more and more of a trait of self-compassion. You learn more from this experience of compassion for yourself when you’re aware of the things that feel good about it, that are meaningful about it. Very cool. OK. That’s the first suggestion, which can be very—and it can manifest really quite quickly on your way to my second suggestion, which is to have perspective.

[00:16:27] Sense of perspective might include recognizing what’s actually valid, you know, amidst all the junk in what the other person is saying to you. You know, recognizing what’s valid in your own mind, clarifying whatever kind of correction you’re going to put in going forward. Got it. Also having perspective that says, you know, it’s not valid. I don’t believe it. I don’t buy it. Or what? Come on, that’s not valid. That’s not useful here. You don’t need to add that. You, the other person, you really didn’t need to say that. You didn’t need to add it, I’m not going to go there. I’m not going to get involved with that. I’m just kind of zeroed in on what’s really valuable to me. You know? That’s a sense of perspective.

[00:17:14] Also, frankly, in a sense of perspective, it’s to realize that guess what? Relax. You’re going to be criticized. It’s like a little motto. Relax. Criticism is inevitable. You know? The bigger you dare, the, often, the more prominent you become, the more you become vulnerable to criticism. The more, you know, the more criticism you get. You just can see this in other people too. And so part of life is people have opinions. Gosh. You know, people have lots and lots of opinions. They’re going to bring their opinions to you, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it matters that much. You know? There’s no way to escape it. Some of it’s going to come your way. Shrug. It’s a drag, but it’s like bad weather. You know? If we get upset every time it rained, if we got upset every time it snowed or every time the day was hot or the air quality wasn’t that great, we’d be just adding a lot of discomfort to our lives. So with perspective, you start to go, you know, humans are critical. If you’re like me, I’m critical. I can go there. Other people are critical. It’s part of life. It’s a tiny part of your life. You know, this moment, this thing that they’re criticizing in you is a small, small matter. Actually, an hour later, a day later, that criticism is present nowhere in reality, except in the constructions of your own mind. It’s not here. It’s not here unless you make it here.

[00:18:55] There’s a teaching from, I think it’s from Wu-Men, Zen master who essentially said, you know, I’m going to paraphrase it here, you know, flowers in springtime, snow in the winter, sun in the summer, leaves fall in the autumn. If you make nothing in your mind, for you it is always a good season. If we don’t make our preoccupation with the criticism in our mind, it’s not here. It’s nowhere until we construct its presence. That other person has said their thing. They’re not saying it anymore. They’re not pounding on you right now. They’re not continuing to repeat the words. It’s not happening, except insofar as you’re making it happen inside your own mind. That’s really freeing to have that kind of perspective. OK.

[00:19:49] Third suggestion, it’s really present in the quotations that I dropped into the chat side bar starting at 6:40 p.m. and I’m going to read three quotations from the Buddhadharma and then we can talk about them. First, consort only with the good. Come together with the good. To learn the teaching of the good gives wisdom like nothing else can. So here I’m talking about, in my third suggestion, consorting with the good. And I want to unpack that in a moment here. A great way to handle devaluing coming from others is to rest in what is valuable, to dwell in what is valuable, what is good it. That dwelling in what is valuable immediately neutralizes the sense of being devalued.

[00:20:50] Second quotation, just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm. Even so, the wise are not affected by praise or blame. Now the word wise in the Dhammapada and in the Buddhadharma is kind of a euphemism for people who are very far along in practice. So, yeah, it’s natural of course, maybe to be shaken initially or to be affected initially by praise or blame. But fairly quickly we can kind of reestablish our basic sense of equanimity of the equilibrium of resilient well-being and recover from the wind that might shake us a bit of the initial praise or blame. And ultimately, over time, we enjoy the praise. We’re affected in that sense, but we’re not disturbed in our fundamental well-being. And when blame comes, we might be affected a bit by it emotionally. OK. We’re social mammals. We also might take on board, OK, what correction is appropriate to put in? And after that we re-establish our centered, embodied well-being. That’s what that’s talking about here. And the metaphor of the solid rock is pretty nice. I also think about the metaphor of a deeply rooted tree through which the worldly winds can blow. And they might shake a few leaves, but fundamentally, this deeply rooted tree is solid and still there after the winds pass on by of both praise and blame.

[00:22:23] And then last quotation, one of my absolute favorites. It’s the, whatever it’s called, the opening quotation in my book Neurodharma. Train yourself in doing good that lasts and brings happiness. Cultivate generosity, a life of peace, and a mind of boundless love. So good. Train yourself in doing good that lasts and brings happiness, including inside your own mind. Cultivate generosity, a life of peace, and a mind of boundless love. So these are different aspects of consorting with the good.

[00:23:05] So I want to unpack consorting with the good in a few aspects and then open it up for discussion. So one aspect of consorting with the good is to disengage as best we can. There are limitations there, but as best we can, disengage from the people who don’t recognize your value and worth. Or spend less time with them. Step back from that group of people that doesn’t seem to appreciate you. If you’re trying to grow flowers, in effect, on stony soil and you’re just—it’s not happening, you’re just not going to get any warm blood from that particular stone. You know, as best you can, you step away from that and you find those people who really see the good in you, who have the largeness of heart that enables them to be thankful and gracious and appreciative of you and to consort more with them, to be more with them as best you can to the degree that you can. One of my basic tests for how I regard, let’s say, another person and how I will choose to invest in a relationship or not is how it actually feels inside to be with them. Does it feel like I’m larger and my best is coming forth, my best is invited and appreciated and fed and enlarged? Or in being with them somehow, do I feel more contracted to? Do I feel a pressure to prove myself, to win their approval, to get their praise? You know? Do I feel smaller when I’m around that other person? Or do I feel a little bigger? You know? Is my body contracting or do I breathe more freely when I’m around that other person? That’s such a test, isn’t it? Right? And pay attention to that inner meter and feel that you’re entitled to act upon it. So that’s one of the fundamental aspects of consorting with the good, to find good company and to recognize at a certain point that your efforts to receive well-deserved recognition or appreciation or love or friendship from another person when that other person is just not going to do it. It’s sad. There’s grieving. It’s mourning. You practice with that. But you realize, OK, there’s a freedom when you realize no. No, no. There is no gold in them there, hills. That relationship is not going to bear fruit.

[00:26:03] Second, really important, be careful about criticism yourself. Are you consorting with blame yourself? Are you consorting with righteousness, with a pinchedness? Sometimes our own gifts, our own strengths can become weaknesses. I mean, for example, if you’re someone like me who really is interested in mastery and learning and competence and getting better at things and getting better at getting better and really likes getting things right and wants to perform and accomplish at a high level, partly out of duty to others to really do your best that you very much can, you know, virtues like that, I know this well, can go too far. And suddenly you start noticing much as you notice in yourself the shortfall between ideal and actual, you know, in ways that might be helpful in terms of, you know, closing that gap, you start to notice that gap in other people. And you can get very quick, even angrily quick about pointing it out and identifying it in other people. Careful with that. Watch out for feeling better than others, feeling superior, knowing more, being the healthy one, being the deeply practiced one, the one who knows while they don’t. Careful of that. What might be well intended from yourself might have the impact for another person of feeling, understandably given their history and maybe where they’re situated structurally in society that one’s well-meaning effort to be helpful or to share knowledge might come across as a kind of one-upness. So being thoughtful about that. If we don’t consort with, you know, criticism or unwanted advice, then, you know, we’re more able to consort with the good.

[00:28:01] And then third, know that you’re already doing a good job. And if you’re not, do a good job. There’s no replacement for sustained and skillful effort. There’s no replacement for that. That doesn’t mean stressful striving. That doesn’t mean trying to prove yourself or impress others. It just means carrying your end of the log every day. There’s no replacement for that. For knowing deep down inside that you did a day’s work, you know? You really can experience what the Buddha called the bliss of blamelessness. Not because you were perfect, but because you worked your shift, in a sense. You did your job. You fulfilled a reasonable standard for the good enough fill-in-the-blank. The good enough parent today, the good enough husband, or wife, or partner, or friend today. The good enough daughter, the good enough son, the good enough ally, the good enough human today so that you can go to bed with a clean conscience. Even if there are things to recognize and improve for tomorrow you are facing them, and that can also help you feel a good conscience. So you’re resting in the knowing day after day that you’ve taken care of your side of the street as best a person can reasonably do, particularly given, you know, what you’re dealing with, your own history, your own capabilities and, you know, where you start, you know, when you wake up in the morning. That knowing, that knowing of your own well doneness, well doneness, noble son or daughter of the Buddha in the traditional saying. Well done, it’s OK. It’s all right. You did well today. You know? Actually doing well today and feeling and knowing and blessing yourself for having done well today is just a profound refuge. It’s fantastic. So important. Not to gloat about it or to get all uppity about it, but just the quiet relief. The reassurance of knowing that in your heart is a very powerful refuge that can deal with the inner winds of internal self-criticism or the external winds that are coming at you from other people.

[00:30:26] So those are my three suggestions. Right? Compassion for yourself. Second, a sense of perspective, including relax, you’re going to be criticized. And third consort with the good in the various ways I’ve talked about here.

[00:30:42] OK, so I’m seeing various comments that have come in. Excellent. Really great comments and suggestions. And Hannah says something at 7:03, so we’re comforting ourselves through the hurt we’re feeling post criticism? That’s really—I’m really glad you added that word, comfort, to compassion, Hannah. Absolutely. Comfort. Oh, it hurt. OK. That’s—yes. Absolutely. All right. Great. I see what people are saying here. Excellent. Very, very good. OK. So let’s see if somebody, maybe one or two people, then I’ll go back to the chat, might want to speak with me. I see Virginia and Lillian. So in a moment I’ll ask you to unmute. As I always do, I’ll just say it again, it’s generic, if you have a question, please try to keep it to half a minute of clear, concise, specific, and related to what we’re talking about here. All right? OK, great. So pressure’s on, Virginia. I’m going to ask you to unmute. OK. You can—there you go. Hello. Can you speak up, Virginia, or move the microphone closer?

Virginia [00:32:01] My question is, just recently I have been through a very diminishing experience by someone that has been extremely hurtful. And I have tried to let it go. I decided maybe what I would do is to talk to this person and say, we need to talk about this. But then after listening to you and writing down all these notes, the three suggestions, I’m thinking that might not be a good idea, that I need to let it go because I might not get what I want. So that’s my question. It’s sometimes helpful to go back to that person.

Rick Hanson [00:32:44] Yeah. Wow, Virginia, tip of the hat. I’m really glad you brought this up. I’m sorry that happened to you. Right? I can just kind of feel it with you right here. Beyond that, you’re exactly right. I left out—like I said, I want to focus on three things, but there are other things as well. Obviously, one of them is dealing with the other person, depending on what we can actually do. It might be something as simple as, you know, in a skillful way, saying something like, I think you probably didn’t realize the effect on me of what you said there or did there. But actually, when you said X, I felt Y because of my childhood, because I need Z, you know, and maybe going forward, I kind of request that you be a little more careful about saying that sort of thing to me. Maybe we do that. Maybe we have a deeper conversation with someone. Maybe we just tell someone very bluntly, as I had to tell my mom after we had kids. Whom, my mom, I loved her, she loved me. I know that. But she gave us a lot of unwanted advice that was implicitly critical for how we were raising our children. And I wanted to raise our children in some ways that were different from the way I was raised. So I had to say to her, mom, really, please from now on, never give, you know, express any kind of evaluation or advice about how we’re raising our kids unless we specifically ask for it. And she said, I don’t do that, Rick. And I said, OK, there won’t be a problem then. So anyway. So sometimes we may need to do that. Right? OK.

[00:34:28] Other times I think you might know it intuitively, we just think to ourselves, man, it’s not going to go well. The things that led that other person to talk to me that way are, you know, probably not going to make a conversation go well. In fact, they might even use it against me later. So I’m just going to—lesson learned—avoid certain topics or step back from that person for a bit. Or just kind of watch and see for a little while. I’m going to be a little more careful around them and kind of see what happens here. We might do that. So, and I don’t know the particulars that kind of really depends on the person. But no matter whether we talked to another person or not, I think the three things I suggested about self-compassion, perspective, and consorting with the good, dwelling in the good, you know, those are going to be useful no matter what you do. All right. Good stuff, thumbs up. OK, thanks, Virginia.

[00:35:26] All right, Lilian, I’m going to take you, then Katherine River-Rain, and then I’m going to take a look at the chat. All right? So I’m asking you to unmute, Lillian. Hello.

Lillian [00:35:36] Hi, Rick.

Rick Hanson [00:35:37] Hello, good to see you again.

Lillian [00:35:39] Good to always be here. Love your sessions. I have a question when you spoke about one-upness. I’m going to be really vulnerable. I’m going to say that that’s perhaps like my default state, almost like feeling that I have to prove myself. It’s very, very frustrating because I don’t want to prove myself. At the same time I’m still craving for that. I’m not sure. I feel like I’m my biggest critic. Can you help me kind of gain new perspective on this?

Rick Hanson [00:36:11] Yeah. Um, well, what you’re reminding me of—so I’m going to be vulnerable here too and tell a story I’ve never told. So here we are. So I did the est training. This was a major personal growth training in 1975, long time ago, a very intense kind of thing. And afterward, there were these kind of follow up programs you could take. So I ended up taking one of them that was about relationships. And in a hotel ballroom with 250 or so other people probably, I raise my hand, they brought me a microphone, and I just acknowledged that inside myself, I kind of craved praise and recognition. That was a very scary thing for me to stand up and say in front of all these people with a microphone. And then normally, what would happen after a person shared is that others would clap very briefly, like three claps. One, two, three, four. Something like that. And then you’d sit down. Next person. This time, some people just kept clapping. And then the whole room started clapping. They were being kind to me while also teasing me, as well, about this. So I just was inspired. I actually stood on that chair and bowed in all directions to take this opportunity, both making fun of myself and also bringing a giant vacuum cleaner sucking into myself, you know, this praise that was coming my way, you know, and all that. And that’s a way of saying that maybe one way into this is to really make sure you’re internalizing the social supplies that are actually coming your way. Or you can, in effect, give yourself, because you recognize that you actually are delivering an A. You’re getting an A every day. You’re delivering an A, even maybe an A+ sometimes of performance day after day after day. You know, I can get that about you. Just seeing that. You’re going for it. And so really, really let the praise land and really take it in so it fills you up inside. Make sure that you’re building, in effect, not a walnut-sized receptacle for the praise, but something that’s as big as Fort Knox. Just really, really big, you know. Absorb that praise that acknowledgment of different kinds, including sometimes the sense of being cherished or being special to maybe one or more people, even simply as a friend. So that’s that’s a good one right there.

[00:38:51] And then the last one I’ll leave you with has to do with a saying from a fellow who drove a bunch of famous authors around Chicago for many, many years. So he saw all the famous people. This Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, all these various people, athletes, Michael Jordan, driving them around to their various book tours. And they were going to go on television or radio or a big performance of one kind or other. And this driver was asked after he’d been doing that for 20 years. Were there any big lessons he learned from doing this with all these top people? He said four words. Pursue excellence, ignore fame. We can consort with the good of pursuing excellence to a reasonable extent, in whatever realm we’re in, whatever job we have, whatever role we have in relationship to our own minds, our own inner practice of healing, growing, and awakening. We can pursue excellence there for its own sake. And, you know, for the results it produces directly. While appreciating, but on the whole, ignoring the fame that might come our way. You know, receiving it, like I was saying, taking it in, filling up your inner bank account, you know, your inner stockpile, sure. But basically not getting engaged with it much more than that. And one thing that’s really helped me is I’ve just kind of, you know, been in my own process the last 15 or so years, is to release the sense of self. Which gets very involved with pursuing approval, admiration, recognition, fame, and so forth. Focus on pursuing excellence and ignoring fame. So those would be two suggestions.

Lillian [00:40:49] Thank you, Rick. That’s very helpful. I try. I try.

Rick Hanson [00:40:56] Get good at ignoring fame. There you are. You could change the goal. Change the game. OK, very good. All right. Thank you, Lillian. Catherine. All right. Catherine River-Rain, asking you to unmute. All right, great.

Catherine [00:41:12] Hello. Thanks. The meditation’s are helping me so much. And this is very relevant because I’ve spent two visits with my mother this year. Normally we have—here for about 48 hours before I start to just feel utterly sick. And I’ve been on a healing path many years. So anyway, you’re talking about how you feel around people. I mean, I’ve done therapy right left and backwards about this. It’s my mother. But she is, and I do love her and I know in she loves me too. But what I struggle with Rick is like, what level am I sort of allowed to disengage with my own mother and still know I do her any service spiritually? That’s what I struggle with the most.

Rick Hanson [00:42:08] Yeah, that is a question that is is hard and it’s very individual to answer. And so I can’t—I’ll say definitely, I’m not giving any specific advice about that, you know, per se. It’s a real one. Maybe one consideration is, well, it’s to feel what inside you is most upset and wounded. And in the parts of you that feel most upset or wounded, you know, you can feel the suffering in them, and you can feel the longing. In our suffering is a longing, is a desire. And the desire might have a surface to it that’s very specific. You know, I want a birthday cake with three levels of frosting or something like that. But underneath all that is something much more fundamental, like the desire to be actually just seen, to exist in the mind for another person, to be taken into account to, even further, to actually not just be taken into account, but to really matter to the other person in a reasonable and caring way, whatever that might be. So in other words, this is a broad teaching in our suffering is a longing. What is that longing? What is the wish? What is the request?

Catherine [00:43:52] Well the thing that I wish, that I long for, I have communicated many, many years ago, many times, she’s not capable of it. So—

Rick Hanson [00:43:59] Can you say it?

Catherine [00:44:01] She didn’t protect me as a child, she’s not accountable for things that happened to me.

Rick Hanson [00:44:06] Do you wish to feel protected now? Do you wish to feel—under that, do you wish to feel safe?

Catherine [00:44:15] Yeah. I mean, I work on that on my own. But she’s still throw me under the bus to other family members. So there’s just this ongoing childhood wound that keeps being picked and scraped, you know? On many, many levels. And so it’s I say it’s like a hair trigger of like just let her have quite a detachment, but not a complete detachment. Yeah. I know it’s not an easy thing I’m asking. It’s a spiritual dilemma.

Rick Hanson [00:44:53] Yeah. So I hear that part of the question—I know we just have another minute or two—but basically, what I—so I hear you that she keeps bruising you. And, you know, it has an impact on you. No doubt about it. And you’ve asked her to stop doing that. She keeps doing it. You’ve asked her actually to be more aware of how she’s impacting you. And she isn’t. I get that part. And then the question is, maybe do you feel the right to really, really protect yourself? Is that what you’re grappling with in part?

Catherine [00:45:39] Yeah, I think so. Like she parentified me so young that it makes it weird, right? Because then you feel like, OK, if I protect me and heal, then am I abandoning you like a kid? You know, it’s just so twisted to work through these things.

Rick Hanson [00:45:59] It is. And you sound like someone who’s already done a ton of work and you’ve thought it through. You’re in the full detail of it. You know, I think there’s this moment, and I’ll just say it kind of generally, I don’t know if it’s really, you know, necessarily specific to your situation because there are moral dimensions here, right? What’s your duty to her? And you know, what price are you willing to pay in your own discomfort for the remaining years of her life, you know, to fulfill your your duties to her as you see them? So there’s complex questions. I think there really is a moment, sometimes with our parents, sometimes it’s with siblings where we say to ourselves more or less, I love you. Or even if I don’t love you, I truly have good wishes for you. I do wish you well. I don’t have hate in my heart for you. I don’t have ill will toward you, even if I have negative reactions occasionally. But really, I don’t. And at the same time, I’ve really tried and you’re not my problem. You are your own problem. Your karmas are your own. The fruits of your efforts for better or worse are your own fruits. I mean you are watering and sometimes poisoning your own tree. That’s your life. That’s your tree. And it’s not my responsibility anymore. It’s not my responsibility. I’m fulfilling my responsibilities on this side of the street by not bearing ill will for you, by not hating you. I’m not fantasizing negatively about you. I’m taking care of my own side of the street and, you know, bless you. And not my problem

Catherine [00:47:53] Tthose thoughts have helped me quite a bit. I relate to that that. And I remember, yeah, you know, if someone wants to grow and learn, they would have by now. All of this struggle is—at some point the soul is choosing these—right? It’s just hard to watch.

Rick Hanson [00:48:19] It’s complex whether, I mean, people differ on this view. Is there a soul that’s choosing a certain life or maybe probably a more Buddhisty view, Buddhisty, is the sense that, you know, your mom, like you, is a tapestry made of many threads or, you know, is a river with many currents in it. There are many forces manifesting as your mom right now altogether. And you just kind of step back from that and go, wow, I’ve tried. There’s so much going on there. I’ve tried and honestly, I’m giving myself a moral pass. I’m giving myself permission. Abnegation is a word that comes to me, a kind of almost, you know, just I’m released. I’m released, I’m giving myself, I’m paroling myself, I’m releasing myself from this job, this burden. I’m laying it down. It’s not mine to carry any longer. And this can feel very soulful, very soulful. And deep tears may flow, you know, when we’re dropped into it, what you’re saying. You can let this one go. In part because then you’ll have more energy for other things you can grow. Rather than, you know, trying to get the best possible fruit out of this stony ground. And, you know, with heroic effort, maybe you might get a apple once in a while. It’s kind of shifting over to other areas where your efforts are much more likely to bear much more fruit for yourself, as well as for other people.

Catherine [00:50:04] Yeah, well, I know I asked a giant thing. I appreciate the conversation. Like it still—it helps.

Rick Hanson [00:50:11] Oh yeah. Yeah, I hope so. And helps me even just to think about giving ourselves that release, that permission. It’s OK. It’s OK.



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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