Meditation + Talk: Hug the Monkey

Meditation + Talk: Hug the Monkey

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 34-minute meditation and 44-minute talk and discussion about Hug the Monkey.

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

Meditation: Hug the Monkey

Talk: Hug the Monkey

Dāna offering:

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.

Hug The Monkey Talk (download transcript here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:00] I want to focus on generosity and the broader related theme of our deeply, deeply, deeply social nature as embodied beings, as big primates. And first about generosity, I just kind of want to remind us all, including myself, and this relates to something of what I just said a moment ago of the fundamental teaching of generosity that we may not be able to change things around us in all kinds of ways, but we can look to see appropriate generosity without draining ourselves, without making ourselves a, you know, a sucker for exploitation by others, not engaging what’s called pathological altruism, but just ordinary human generosity. So, I want to call out your generosity, for example, the generosity of attention, the generosity of practice, the generosity of restraint. It might be so tempting to type something in on the chat and you go, you know, nah, not that good an idea. The generosity of your own commitment to practice and to healing and developing and growing and even awakening. That’s a beautiful thing. Your comments in the chat are forms of generosity. I really appreciate that. If you’re moved in a larger political economic system that draws on money, if you’re moved to make a tangible expression of generosity, you’re very welcome to do that. No need at all. And you’re very welcome to do that if you want to. And it’s simply on every email we send, somewhere buried in it is an opportunity to donate if you want. So be it. And sometimes people ask, oh, what should I give? Whatever’s in your heart. Whatever makes you feel happy, whatever is a form of practice for you, including very importantly, appreciating all the non-monetary and often intangible forms of generosity that most likely flow through you many, many times each day that you can, as the Buddha recommended, gladden your own heart about. You know, find gladness in your goodness, including expressions of your generosity.

[00:02:24] So, this then takes me to my official title, which is Hug the Monkey. And I want to kind of explain what I mean with that seriously goofy title. So, to simplify a process that spanned 600 million years so far, and it’s continuing, of evolution of the nervous system. It basically developed in us in its headquarters, the brain, like a house made of three floors. The first floor having to do with the brainstem loosely relates to the reptilian stage of evolution and all the creatures before that, including the ancient jellyfish-like creatures swimming around, floating around in the primordial seas in which the beginnings of the nervous system began to emerge. Then, layered on top of that first floor of the house of the brain is the second floor, the subcortical regions which began developing, eh, ish, 200 or so million years ago with the first mammals, overlapping with some advanced primates. And this part of the brain includes the basal ganglia, the amygdala, the hippocampus, thalamus and so forth. Technically, there are two of all of them. There’s only one hypothalamus, though, because it’s really ancient and really central and important. OK, so that’s the sort of mammalian stage of evolution.

[00:04:00] And then we have layered on top of that the very advanced neocortex, especially associated with primate and human evolution. There are what are called homologs to the neocortex, even in birds. Our last common ancestor with them was a long time ago. But primarily the neocortex is present in primates and especially humans. Loosely, these three stages, these three floors of the house of the brain are associated with our fundamental needs for safety, satisfaction, and connection. And the whole brain works together to meet those needs because it’s integrated. But the ways we go about meeting those needs are very shaped by the ancient roots of the circuitry in these three layers, if you will, or three floors of the house of the brain. So, something that’s really important to appreciate is that in terms of the evolution of the so-called social brain, particularly over the last couple, 3 million years, during which time the brain essentially tripled in volume, it was incredibly useful for our ancestors living and dying in small hunter gatherer bands of roughly 50 or so people, it was incredibly important to get better and better at cooperative living. It’s said that the primary adaptation of human beings is to group living. And that in many ways is our greatest strength. And that is altogether what has enabled us to claw our way for better or worse to the top of the food chain.

[00:05:46] In that context then, in ancient times, you know, exile was a death sentence. Over the last 300 thousand years or so of just our anatomically modern human species. 300 thousand years. Think about how long that’s been. Being separated from others and not being cared about by others was effectively a death sentence. So, it’s completely normal to be needy. I want to say that again for those of you who, like me, are embarrassed about that. It’s normal to be needy. If you weren’t needy, you wouldn’t be normal. It’s normal to be needy. Much as we need oxygen to, you know, have our biological being continue, we need to feel valued and cared about and included and seen and liked and even loved, you know, to tend to our psychological being.

[00:06:45] So, on the other hand, many of us, including in childhood, have experienced significant shortfalls in that stream of incoming social supplies. And if you, like me, grew up in a normal, loving, decent, not abusive environment in which still the social supplies coming in for various reasons we’re kind of a thin soup. The reception, certainly of them, felt like breathing through a straw in my own case. Well, you land in adulthood with what can feel like a really big hole in your heart that’s important to look for ways to fill. And if there have been significant shortfalls in the past or if there are in the present, you know, significant shortfalls of empathy, recognition, inclusion, respect, nurturance coming your way, you know, that’s going to have effects. Also, if there are wounds, in other words, not just the absence of the good, but the presence of the bad, if there are wounds of abandonment, betrayal, prejudice, discrimination, if there are structural social forces that come at you, that also is going to have consequences. So, what do we do about it?

[00:08:13] Different kinds of what to do, certainly at a moral level it’s important, I think, to take this into account in our treatment of others. And as a teacher of mine, Gil Fronsdal, once put it to me, you know, we may need to put people out of our business, out of our bedroom, but we never need to put them out of our heart. And we can disagree vigorously and fire-aly with with those we oppose, while not necessarily putting them out of our heart. It’s also really important to do what we can structurally to reduce injustice, to reduce us against them rivalries of different kinds, to reduce the vulnerability of groups and societies to authoritarian demagogs in that very well-known and ancient story. I mean, that’s important to do. Meanwhile, internally, there are things we can do ourselves. We can, to put it in a really goofy way, hug the monkey. You know? Much as we need to pet the lizard to meet our safety needs and feed the mouse to meet our needs for satisfaction, we can hug the monkey as well to feel both the receiving and the expressing of caring and kindness and compassion and even love for other beings. So, I want to talk about some ways to do that, especially in terms of repairing or beginning to address or heal shortfalls of healthy social supplies in your own life. What’s been missing for you in your own life? It doesn’t mean that in this one talk, we’re going to repair a lifetime of trauma. Not at all. No. But step by step, bit by bit, synapse by synapse, we can repeatedly internalize beneficial experiences of authentic, straightforward friendliness, kindness, respect, compassion, love flowing out or flowing in. They feed us whether they flow out or flow in. They protect us, whether it flows out or flow in. We can focus on these kind of experiences, look for opportunities to have them, and then when we have them, really, really take them in. Really, really stay with them for a breath or longer, feel them in your body, focus on what feels rewarding about them so you heighten the conversion of passing experiences into lasting changes of neural structure or function, so that a growing, a greater compassion and kindness and love is increasingly woven into the fabric of your own nervous system. So, I want to talk about some ways to do that and then open it up for discussion. OK?

[00:11:02] So, part one about this is to look for opportunities to feel cared about genuinely. And this means recognizing the facts of you being cared about by others, and I’ll get into the details in a minute. Second, allowing those facts to become feelings. And then third, helping those feelings of being cared about sink in. I think it’s helpful to appreciate that being cared about in a broad sense has five aspects from fairly superficial to very deep and profound. We can feel included. We can feel seen. We can feel appreciated, valued. We can feel liked, befriended, and we can even feel loved. All right? And any time the facts of that are present, especially if you, like me, have had that hole in your heart. Bring a big spoon and really, really take it in and think about doing this systematically. Everyone, you know, has opportunities. Just about everyone has real opportunities in which it’s factually true that they belong. They’re included in some way. Most people daily have experiences of being seen, listened to, received, even empathized with. Lots and lots of people, probably you, have moments throughout your day in which it’s factually true that someone is valuing you, someone is appreciating you, someone is grateful to you, someone is respecting you, someone is acknowledging you and seeing good things in you. It’s happening, hopefully at least a bit, you’re liked and even loved. And when those facts are present, those are your opportunities. All right? It may be on the world to care about you, although the things we can do to foster greater caring from others, etc. but whatever is on the world to do OK. But when the world in one form or another in the present, and you can even bring it up from the past, when the world is or has been caring in one way or another for you, then it’s on you. Then it’s on you to recognize the fact of it, help yourself feel it, and take it in. All right?

[00:13:30] Also, even if there are limitations, and sometimes there are real limitations in the caring of the world—and I’m not trying to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. In a funny kind of way, when we can recognize where the world is carrying it kind of sharpens our clarity about the people in our lives who we can’t count on or, you know, they are fairweather friends or, you know, their feelings for us or a mile wide, but an inch deep. And as we internalize authentic, caring for us, that makes us stronger to recognize problems and to deal with them. So, I’m not saying look at the world with rose-colored glasses, I’m just saying for your own sake and through growing resources inside yourself for the sake of others, it’s on you. It’s on me to recognize this in my own life, the caring that’s actually there. OK.

[00:14:28] Having done that and also while doing that, it’s really helpful to focus on your own caring nature. Because even if there are limitations objectively in the caring, broadly defined, that’s flowing your way, there are no limitations on your own caring that can flow out into the world. The only limitation is within you. So, mobilizing a sense of letting the being behind the eyes and the other people you walk past in the street land on you, that’s something you can do. Mobilizing an intuition of their suffering, just in simple ways, their burdens, their weariness, their losses, the fact that they, too, like you, will one day be separated from everything they love one way or another. We can have compassion for others in this way. We can mobilize a certain goodwill, a certain giving them the benefit of the doubt until no longer appropriate. And we can find those we love and do the best we can to love them, even if they are not perfect. So finding that sense of caring inside yourself is really, really, really helpful.

[00:15:41] I want to finish and then open it up for some kind of discussion here with the notion that I’ve kind of developed of an inner caring committee. And as we internalize, whether in childhood or now deliberately doing it as an active practice in adulthood, as we internalize the feeling of caring, whether it’s kind of flowing in or flowing out as we did, you know, to whatever extent was there for you in the meditation, as we do that in effect, we’re internalizing. We can internalize these experiences. And one way to embody them, it’s a little goofy but it’s effective, is to imagine within you a kind of committee or a collection, an entourage of beings, forces, characters who are supportive of you. They may be supportive in different ways. Some might be sweet. Some might be more like a firm but fair coach who’s prodding you to keep on going. Some of them might kind of bring a clarity of wisdom. Some of them might just be kind of gushy and sweet. Whatever they might be, my goofy, caring committee has everyone from, I think, the Plump Fairy Godmother in Sleeping Beauty to Mike Singletary, former coach of the San Francisco 49ers, tough and fair, Gandalf, my wife, my family, companions I’ve had over the years. Who’s on your caring committee? Who’s in there for you, supporting you, encouraging you, guiding you, not giving you a pass all the time, recognizing where there’s some correction to put in, maybe some healthy remorse as well, but doing it in a fair and fundamentally kind sort of way? Right? Who’s on your caring committee? You might want to draw a little pictures of them. You might want to name them. You might want to just imagine them. And when things are tough, turned to that internalized caring committee that’s with you wherever you go and see what they might have to offer. What counsel might they have, especially when things are really hard for you?

[00:18:05] You know, to kind of think of a structure of the psyche that’s quite common, there’s a sense of a kind of vulnerable self, a vulnerable core with an inner attacker and an inner nurturer. A different version of this is the notion of the inner child, the critical parent and the nurturing parent. Another version version of this and trauma work is the victim, the perpetrator, the protector/rescuer. And I use the word victim in a very respectful and honorable way. You know, if you’re walking through a crosswalk and the light’s green and some drunk driver takes you out, you’re the victim of that drunk driver and there’s no dishonor in it. OK.

[00:18:48] So, a lot of us have an overactive attacking committee and we have too weak a nurturing committee. And I say committee because there might be different elements of it, different voices, different parts. It’s tough sometimes to directly resist or reduce the power of the inner attackers. But what we can do is disengage from them and not ally with them. Ah hah. Disengage from them, not join with them, not believe them, not betray ourselves by jumping over to their side. No, no, no, no, no, no. We’re not actively resisting them, necessarily. That might come later where we disagree with them, we argue with them, we tell them to cut it out, we bring a firmness to them. But in the beginning, it’s often quite helpful, disengage from active struggle with the inner critic, the inner pusher, the inner shamer. And instead focus on building up the inner nurturers. Focus on repeatedly internalized, whether it’s flowing out or flowing in, experiences of caring, broadly, compassion, kindness, good wishes, friendliness, love, and so forth. And in so doing, gradually build up the inner nurturer so that over time, it’s less and less like Bambi trying to deal with Godzilla. That’s tough, right? But meanwhile, let’s see if we can get Bambi to be really, really big. You know? And, you know, maybe with a whole, I don’t know whatever they’re called, herd of fellow deer who are on your side. OK? So, I’m going to leave it there. Except if I could, maybe just finish a little bit with, you know, a teaching from the Buddha.

[00:20:38] And you may know the story that one time he was sort of hanging out, really, with his cousin and attendant, Ananda. And Ananda is a primary source of the Buddha’s teachings that have come down to us from 2500 years ago, initially handed down orally. And the Buddha and Ananda were gathered with their companions on the path, the fellow monastics hanging out there. And Ananda looked to the Buddha and said, Noble sir, this is the whole of the Holy Life, or sorry, this is half of the Holy Life. Noble, sir, this is half of the Holy Life, you know, being with others. You know, implying, I suppose, that the other half of the Holy Life was being inside your own mind with yourself. And the Buddha said, Not so, Ananda. Not so, not so. This is the whole of the Holy Life resting in community, community inside and community outside, one tissue, one fabric of relatedness and resting in that sense of, you know, hugging your inner monkey, hugging all the other monkeys around you, being hugged intangibly and tangibly appropriately by them and all the rest of it. You know, that’s a fundamental basis for practice. And in my view, and I believe, supported by deep Buddhist teachings, the giving over to love in the farthest reaching sense and letting it lift and carry you along can be a wholly complete path of awakening. OK.

[00:22:32] So, questions/comments, anything? So, we have a lot of comments. Gee, what a trivial topic we decided to engage tonight. Wow. So, I’m going to kind of quickly scan the comments. If you want to talk with me live, feel free to push the raise hand feature. It’s in your reactions button at the bottom of your Zoom window, which has a smiley face with a plus sign. And I probably won’t be able to get everybody. Last time I said I was going to get to some people first. I think Chris from memory was one of those names, so let’s just see if that’s still the case this time. And if I promised to get to you first last time, feel really free to remind me of that fact. OK, so I’m going to take a quick look at some of the questions or comments that have come in. Great question, first of all, from Carolyn Bakerman at 7:04 p.m.. It’s a good general question. Essentially, you can take a look at it, the short answer is we do both. We can both pull weeds and plant flowers as I commented earlier, the teaching from Thich Nhat Hanh. And as we plant flowers, that doesn’t necessarily make the weeds inside our minds, you know, the irritability or the wounds, or the hurt feelings or the unfulfilled longings from childhood, you know, go away necessarily. And over time, we can engage what I call in my HEAL framework, H-E-A-L, linking, which is the general technique—I didn’t invent it, and it takes many forms—in which we’re aware of positive and negative—I’ll use that language—at the same time, keeping the positive bigger so it gradually goes in and touches and soothes, eases, and eventually potentially replaces the negative or minimally starts crowding it out increasingly in the garden of your own mind. So, the two work together. There’s a natural rhythm, sometimes where we pull some weeds for a while, then we plant some flowers for a while. Then having planted more flowers, we can now pull the deeper roots of the weeds and so on in a nice, positive upward spiral. Both are really important. And you can see lasting changes, you know, in the rudimentary neuroimaging technology that we have currently, not so bad, fMRIs, but they’re still pretty rudimentary. You know, I’m sure in 2000 years from now they’ll be a lot more precise. We can begin to see actual changes in the brain due to practice. And I summarized some of those changes in my book Neurodharma.

[00:25:08] OK, let’s see here. Carolyn Bakerman. I see Kathy Manwaring. Monica. OK, good. So, Carolyn, I’m going to ask you to unmute. And I say this generically, please keep your questions succinct and focused on what I’m talking about today. All right, Carolyn.

Carolyn [00:25:27] All right. Well, you partially replied to the question already. So, the second fold of that question is like what happens when you actually do get hijacked by this negativity that—you’ve been burying it and, you know, trying to avoid it, but—and I mean, I have been working on this for a while and using your HEAL method. But recently I got seriously hijacked and I was like, there was no taking in that I could be doing into. It just was not happening. So, what do you do then?

Rick Hanson [00:26:06] Yeah. Well, lots of suggestions. I appreciate your honesty. And I want you to know that earlier today I was hijacked, you know, in an interaction with my wife. And so, first, I think it’s really helpful to pause and just recognize, Oh, I’ve gotten plugged in. I’ve gotten hijacked. That itself is fantastic. And this is where I think the acronym RAIN, you may be familiar with it, R-A-I-N, yeah, it’s a wonderful summary of certainly the front end of practice. And over time, it can become the entirety of practice in which we recognize, we allow, we investigate, and then originally the meaning was N means not self, we kind of recognize the impersonality, the broadness, the vastness, the emptiness of our reactions and, you know, in a deeply insightful way, we realize we don’t need to take it so personally. Tara Brach, who has really developed the RAIN acronym after Michelle McDonald created it, now talks about nurturing. We can shift more into nurturing, which would then take us into other forms of practice that I tend to emphasize because they don’t get talked about that much in which we can bring in resource experiences like self-calming self-soothing, compassion for ourselves, compassion for others that can start helping us not be so hijacked. And we can also start looking for ways over time to build up greater resilience and equanimity and inner calm so we’re less highjackable the next time the same thing happens. Yeah.

[00:27:52] But a lot of it, I think, really boils down to ride out the storm. Don’t pour gasoline on the fire. Don’t make anything worse. My friend has a different acronym, WAIT W-A-I-T, why am I talking? That’s a good one, too. It’s not to muzzle ourselves. That’s very important, but just to be thoughtful and not making something worse. I think that’s a lot a good front end. And give yourself a break. If, you know, in a funny way, you know, we evolved to be cranky, nervous and possessive because, you know, animals, humans and hominids and primates that we’re not very prone to getting anxious, cranky and possessive did not live to see the sunrise. And we are their great grandchildren. So, it’s normal. It’s really normal. And at the end of the day, still it’s up to us to practice. There’s no replacement for practice. All right? Thanks, Carolyn. Thank you. Great. So, I’m going to mute you. All right. So, Monica, can you turn on your camera, Monica? Do you have a question there? Monica, great. So, I’m going to ask you to un—so, that’s Kathy Manwaring. OK. So, hang on. So, Kathy. OK, good. Ask you to unmute, Monica. OK, good. Great. Yeah. Dive in.

Monica [00:29:19] Your conversation today—and really, it’s so interesting that it’s all based on neurological knowledge. My question is more like you explained the system, or the method rather, of the nurturing, like savoring the nurturing coming in and nurturing going out. My question is earlier in the morning, right, because that’s when our brain is sort of like set, right? Is there any like practice or suggestions on how to set ourselves open to that so that when it comes or we interact and we have that community experience to give the love we’re ready, and perceive it, and so forth. So, any suggestions?

Rick Hanson [00:30:06] Oh yeah, I love that question. It’s so practical. I’m going to mute you so we don’t get the feedback coming through your speakers. OK, great. Super. No problem. Not your fault, Monica. So, I’ve done a practice for a long time and in which I do two things, often in the morning—three things. I’ll just name three things. Well, really just two. So, first is to take refuge. What I mean by that kind of deep term, take refuge, is to find your own home base, your own sanctuary in your own mind. Now, classically in Buddhism, we can take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, which can be interpreted different ways. But essentially we can take refuge in those that we trust as teachers and in our own innate capacity for awakening, Buddha. We can take refuge in Dharma. We can take refuge in reality as it is, seeing clearly as it is and in different forms of wisdom about reality whether it’s in science, the contemplative traditions, the advice of our grandmother, we can take refuge in Dharma. And we can take refuge in Sangha, which is community, both its vertical dimension of teachers that we respect, as well as its horizontal dimension of other people that were practicing with, we have camaraderie with, broadly. We can also take refuge in the feeling of a fundamental simple sense of calming in ourselves in our core. Peacefulness. We could take refuge in a sense of contentment, an enoughness in the moment, the feeling of that. This is even before we get out of bed. And take refuge in love, a feeling of love flowing in and love flowing out, the, what I call, the green zone. Peacefulness, contentment, and love. That’s authentic and real, even while recognizing the challenges in the world, even while being aware of pain in the body, you know, cranky, anxious, possessive reactions in the mind, whatever. But in the core of our being, we can be rested in the green zone. And so, that’s first. And you can go through refuges. You can even do it a little bit formally, such as, and I’ve written about this in Buddha’s Brain, for example, and elsewhere, you might say to yourself, you know, I take refuge in, you know, I take refuge in my teachers that I trust of all kinds. I had a wonderful fourth grade teacher. I take refuge in what I know to be true. I take refuge in wisdom teachings. I take refuge in expertize and the expertize of others, the expertize of people who are flying the airplane, or figuring out how to defeat this plague that’s, you know, moving through us all right now. I take refuge in expertize, a kind of Dharma. And I take refuge in my friends. I take refuge in those I care about who care about me, and I know they’re not perfect and still, I can take refuge in all that. I can take refuge in my own good heart and the knowing of my own good heart that I’m going to make mistakes today, but I’m going to recognize them if I can and correct them if I can and definitely learn from them. I can take refuge in those things. Whatever it might be for you. You know? Maybe it’s religious. I take refuge in God. I take refuge in Mother Mary. You know? I take refuge in whatever really does work for you and have a feeling of. That’s incredibly helpful. And it just takes a few breaths or a few minutes at most. Yeah. And you’re kind of resetting yourself. You’re centering yourself. You’re grounding yourself in how you want to be. You know? Where do you want to dwell in your mind? Which then becomes, as you dwell there it becomes that dwells in you. Refuge. And then also, what are your fundamental purposes in this life? Your fundamental commitments, you know? What’s your purpose in life? Maybe as an image, maybe as a feeling, maybe as a short word or phrase or sentence establishing yourself in your highest calling, your truest, deepest purpose. And then, time for coffee or whatever. OK. Well, thank you very much, Monica. That OK? OK, good. All right. Good for you. All right, Cathy, I think we have time here. So, I’m going to ask you to unmute. Great. OK, good, thank you. Yep. Good.

Cathy [00:35:04] My question is around—you really touched me today with the discussion of the hole in your heart. And I’ve spent decades filling that hole, being the daughter of not one, but two deeply narcissistic parents who are now dead. And so my mother died alone. And I have—I’m an introvert. I have friends, retired teacher, artist, I have a life. But my deep secret is this fear, and it’s this neurological fear around loneliness. It’s not necessarily logical. Right? I mean, and so I want to ask you about that. Is it like tinnitus? You just have to get used to it and work around it? Or does it eventually go away?

Rick Hanson [00:35:58] So, first, thank you for being so honest and clear here, Cathy. And also a kindred spirit, fellow introvert, a kind of teacher myself and my parents weren’t narcissistic, but they were preoccupied in different ways and for different reasons, not very empathic. So, let’s see here. Do you experience loneliness or are you afraid of experiencing loneliness?

Cathy [00:36:27] It’s definitely experienced loneliness. Yeah.

Rick Hanson [00:36:30] You’re experiencing loneliness. OK, great. So—I don’t mean good, but I mean, I got it. Yeah.

Cathy [00:36:34] And having had a huge—you know you have a narcissistic mother when every time she’s in the hospital, the nurses come up and give you a hug one day in. Honey, prepare yourself. And so watching her die alone, there is this underlying, you know, thinking that no matter what you do, that’s your fate. So, it’s fear.

Rick Hanson [00:37:05] Let me jump into that then, because I’m hearing several things that could be opportunities for you. And maybe my theme tonight, in part, is practice. So, this is on you to do something with. First, is to take action out in the world as you judge best to have good, strong, deep relationships with one or more beings. It could be—particularly human beings. I mean, pets are fantastic, but there’s no replacement for others of our species, particularly during the last year of hour or day of our life. So, you know, friends. It’s kind of like sometimes said, you know, who are your five? Or really who, who are your two or three? The people that are close to you, who you will trust, you will know, you can take refuge in trusting that they will indeed be there for you during the last, you know, months and weeks and minutes even of your own life. Like that’s important, to try to develop those as best one can. And if you’ve developed them to do the work of helping it really land that they are there for you and to let it sink in.

[00:38:22] This goes to my second suggestion, which is that it’s natural to have the fear, particularly when one is insecurely attached, you know, as you were in your childhood. It’s natural to have the fear that if I actually count on anyone, I’ll be utterly disappointed and wounded and betrayed. Y know, and that fear which is understandable in your history, blocks, unfortunately, the internalization and the deep, bone-deep emotional conviction of basic trust, that first stage of development that Erik Erikson talks about. Basic trust that others will be there with you on the, you know, on the worst day of your life. And so what you can do about that?

Cathy [00:39:16] I should add it’s not really this fear of dying alone. I don’t focus on that.

Rick Hanson [00:39:21] OK, then I’ll keep going.

Cathy [00:39:22] But it’s that example, it’s the neurological fear that isn’t logical when you—

Rick Hanson [00:39:30] I hear you, but there’s something that’s getting in the way of internalizing what you long for. OK? And you call it neurological, you’re talking about something that’s been learned or acquired, and it can therefore be unlearned and released. And the key to that is to really, really help yourself. This is where I think linking, that linking practice can come in and things I’ve written about that, formerly with a therapist or informally on your own. It’s to really help the conviction of relatedness and the feeling of connection to sink down and dislodge the fear of really, really receiving it into yourself. And you start to realize, you know, I really can trust that they do care about me and I can really, really let it in deeply. And so then you start to have a sense of—and you can do this, Cathy, of the connection, the inclusion, you know, sinking down into really, really young places inside, including places you almost just imagine that are like a toddler or an infant. And it really, really sinks way down deep there. And then more and more, you don’t feel lonely. You know? Maybe loneliness arises, like you said, like tinnitus that just kind of floats around. But deep inside, more and more you feel loved. You really do. I think of—someone could find it and put it in the chat, I better finish in a minute here—this beautiful bit of poetry from Raymond Chandler. So, Lynn, by the way, you’re going to go to the head of the line next week. OK? I’m sorry. I just can’t get you tonight. All right, so, nor Monica. Something like at the funeral of his friend—I don’t think it was Raymond Chandler, but he basically said, Did you get what you wanted in this life even so? Did you get what you wanted in this life even so? The poem continues, it’s very short. I did. And what was that? To call myself beloved on this earth. That’s pretty close to the poem. And that’s what we want. And you can actually feel that you can you can deepen that and increasingly those old feelings of loneliness or separation will feel increasingly like, almost like a memory. An old dream.

Cathy [00:42:10] Yeah, I’ve come a long way down the path.

Rick Hanson [00:42:12] Yeah. I hope that was helpful. I’ve got to skedaddle, but I—

Cathy [00:42:16] Thank you so very much.

Rick Hanson [00:42:17] Oh, thank you. Cathy, really. Yeah. OK

Cathy [00:42:20] I’ll be vulnerable for all the other people that—

Rick Hanson [00:42:24] Yeah, you did great. And I just think a lot, we don’t notice a lot of the good news around us. And also, it could be, by the way, that your self-concept is lagging 6 or 12 months behind who you really are these days and what’s really true deep down inside you as the fruits of real practice. That’s true for many, many people. OK, you take care. All right, bye bye.

[00:42:50] OK, so we’ve come to our official end. In a minute or two, I’ll exit. I want to tell you I really appreciate you being here. We’ll have a bit of a formal ending, wave goodbye, and then after a couple of minutes go by my co-host Tom Brown—why don’t you raise your hand, Tom, so you pop to the top of the queue. And then I’ll make you a full host not just a co-host. We’ll start sorting people into Zoom breakout rooms. So, you know, I hope this has been helpful to you. And I really encourage you to try to help it land inside, the feeling, large and small, of lovingness, you know, both flowing out and flowing in. It’s a wonderful refuge and a wonderful way to nurture and heal yourself, grounded in the long, long evolution of our own nervous system. So, take care. Until next week.



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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