Your Precious Life

Your Precious Life

This series of blog posts is about Your Precious Life: what an incredible opportunity it is to have a life. At all.

To fulfill that opportunity, we need a fundamental orientation inside that treats our life as if it matters. As if our happiness is important, as if being mistreated is not alright, as if we deserve the same care and goodwill as any other person. As if on the day we were born we were given a bag of pearls, one for each day we will ever have, and every day we spend one of those pearls, never to see it again, and the supply in the bag is steadily dwindling, and one day there will be just 365 left (though we never know which day that is as we cross it), then 10, and then one, and none.

Nonetheless, being fully on your own side, steadfastly pursuing your own best interests – which always involve being virtuous, caring toward others, mentally steady, and wise – is actually quite uncommon. There are lots of reasons for the inhibition of assertiveness, self-expression, ambition, drive, self-care, and aspirations:

  • Many of us were raised to feel that it was vain, sinful, or disloyal to others to value our own needs and pursue their fulfillment without apology (of course, without harming others in the process).
  • In childhood or later, sometimes expression of how one truly feels or what one truly wants provokes the kind of shaming attacks that makes people keep quiet in the future; as the Japanese proverb says, the nail that stands out gets hammered down.
  • If our efforts were routinely thwarted, or painful things happened to us that we couldn’t prevent, it’s natural to develop what’s called “learned helplessness” – which animal studies have shown is remarkably easy to learn and remarkably hard to undo.
  • Sometimes cultural or religious norms undermine healthy autonomy or self-direction. For example, girls tend to be raised in ways that value tending to the needs of others ahead of one’s own.

Deep down, in your heart of hearts, you probably know the essence, the crux of what would be great for you to be or do more of – or be or do less of – in the remainder of your life. What are those things?

Also, you probably know deep down where you have held back in pursuing your highest and sweetest aspirations – your heart’s deepest yearnings.

If you’re going to truly take advantage of this amazing opportunity, the opportunity to have a life at all, you’ll have to release the neurological circuitry inhibiting the expression into the world of the true self – your true self – and begin to strengthen your will for feeding the taproots of your precious life.

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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