DISCUSSION & SUPPORT GROUP
SUMMARY OF MAR 20, 2018
Resilience comes from having inner strengths such as grit, motivation and love.
Well folks I have decided to not write articles here anymore. I will keep mailing out our readings and any announcements for the group but there won’t be my wonderful words of wisdom (😊) here. It takes a lot of time and thought to do these, and I have so enjoyed doing them. It’s all been completely voluntary. Now I want to take more time for myself between groups and pursue some different avenues. Possibly more on Non-Violent Communication which interests me a lot. Also, I want to learn more about photography. So on to other things and thanks for listening/reading what I have written. (Though, I must warn you, if something really gets to me during one of our groups and I feel suddenly and terribly inspired, I may just write about it here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
At least one of our members is reporting his success with the concepts of self-compassion, mindfulness and all that. Yea!!! I can hear that he practices diligently and seems able to accept when he’s not on track. Yea again. That is exactly how I suggest we practice these concepts. Gentle consistency (as another of our members coined). It doesn’t serve us well to crack a whip behind us to make us do anything. Shaming or shoulding ourselves is not that effective and both seem to cause us enormous pain. Accepting ourselves and where we’re at, whether we’re on track or off, is the key. Some people say that knowing where we are helps us determine where we need or want to go.
IT’S POSSIBLE TO HAVE SELF-COMPASSION ALL THE TIME
It really is possible to have a strong sense of self-compassion and for it to be there 99.9% of the time. Maybe even 100%. When I was most ill and went to see a therapist, she wanted me to hold a doll and care for it. I couldn’t. I felt cold anger towards this doll and I certainly took it to symbolize how much I hated myself. I wrote copious notes in my journal of how unhappy I was with my life and myself. Then, after a year of chaos trying to find the right therapist, I did, and I worked with her for 17 years, very intensely at times.
I am extremely grateful to this woman and I owe a lot to her for my level of self-compassion I am now able to have for myself. She worked with unconditional positive regard which means she always found compassion for me no matter what I said or did. And she seemed to always find a way to put a positive spin on things. When I felt my behaviour was terrible, that I had done something stupid, she would say that it was probably what I needed to do at the time. She spoke forgiveness, compassion and complete acceptance. She was always reminding me (to my annoyance sometimes) that I was exactly where I needed to be.
Then when I watched Dr. Kristin Neff, on the Self-Acceptance project site (see below), I felt more deeply awakened to the concept of self-compassion. I chose to consciously practice it everyday and it has paid off immensely. Even when I make mistakes now, big or little ones, I don’t get mad at me anymore. I look at the situation and try to understand why I did what I did and how it affected me (and sometimes others) in a way that I didn’t want. I always ended with how can I change this, how can I make it have a better outcome the next time.
THE TOPIC OF RESILIENCE
Which leads me to our reading this week – on resilience. When I look at my setbacks, mistakes, and failures, and some are very upsetting, I have a good cry or rant first. Then I start to look back at what happened and why it made me upset. What were my needs at the moment that I was responding to? And if someone else was involved – what were their needs. I try to understand why things went sideways. Then I focus on now. How does it make me feel now? And finally, on the future. How would I like to respond to this situation? Does it need repair of some kind? How might I respond differently the next time?
It’s not easy to do when we’re really upset about something. And if we’re really afraid of being rejected by someone because of what we did, well, that really makes things difficult. It’s hard to step back from the really emotional stuff, breathe, and observe without judgment. However, I think that the more we can remove our moralistic judgments (good, bad, stupid, smart, rich, poor…) from the picture, the better chance we have of really seeing ourselves and the situations we’re in. This is what contributes to resilience. The ability to objectively see our setbacks and failures and figure out what to change from there. This gives us hope for the future which keeps us moving forward rather than being stuck in the mud (although – no mud, no lotus) for too long. (Gawd I hate mud)
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (THE BIG SLEEP…)
I’m thinking of a famous Monty Python skit where a man returns a parrot which he had just bought. It turned out that it was dead. The customer does his very best to convince the shop owner that the parrot is actually dead and not just ‘pining for the fjords’.
‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!
The point I’m trying to make, well you might have guessed. Not once does he say the parrot has ‘died’ and that’s kind of the way we are when it comes to death. We’d rather call it anything else than what it is, much less face the fact that one day we are going to die. As far as I know, we’re the only species that has the consciousness and understanding that we will die one day. And that’s got to make a difference to us.
My mom died, at the ripe old age of 102, in late 2016. Since then I have felt a kind of fear that I have never experienced before – I’m going to die some day. I really am going to die. This person will no longer exist. Wow! What a concept to get my head around! And I realize how scared I am of it. Will I get sick and die a painful death or will it be sudden, just out of the blue? The really big question though is – how do I deal with it now? Is there a way for me to prepare myself? Well, I think there is and there seem to be plenty of books out there. A few were suggested to me in group. Thank you. We all are faced with this inevitable future and each of us seems to deal with it in our own way. This will definitely be a path of learning for me.
READING: Rick Hanson: grow your core of calm, strength & happiness
An interview by Fiona Douglas-Crampton 09/12/2017
A growing sense of helplessness in the face of climate change and negative world news can make it seem an impossible task to maintain a sense of personal happiness, well-being and calmness. Negativity and stress take over.
Psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Rick Hanson became aware of unhappiness in his family and in the world at a young age. Now a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC, Hanson turned to psychology and brain science for answers and realized that if you can change your brain, you can change your life. In his new book, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness (co-authored with Forrest Hanson, release March 2018), the author of Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain draws on 40 years of experience of working with people to offer practical ways to grow the 12 essential strengths of resilient well-being.
Hanson shares insights into what people can do now to build lasting well-being in their daily lives and replace a sense of deficit and disturbance with fullness and balance.
Fiona Douglas-Crampton: What inspired you to focus your work on happiness and neuroplasticity?
Rick Stanton Hanson: I had a sense as a young child that there was a lot of unnecessary unhappiness in my school, my family and out in the world. But I didn’t know what to do about it. Then as I got older and learned about psychology, brain science and contemplative wisdom, I became excited about the practical tools they offered for using the mind alone to change the brain for the better.
The brain is the final common pathway of all the causes streaming through us to make us happy or sad, loving or hateful, effective or helpless, so if you can change your brain, you can change your life. I have personally gained from these methods – my wife of 35 years says I have become nicer, which could be the toughest test! – and have seen many others get many benefits as well.
FD-C: What are the specific challenges we face today in a world that requires us to build a core of inner strength?
RH: There are big problems in the world, plus ordinary life is full of stressors, losses, conflicts and illnesses. To deal with adversity and pursue opportunities in the face of challenges, we need to be resilient, able to endure, bounce back and keep on going.
Methods in self-help, positive psychology, transformation, new age, human potential and spiritual practice are often framed as a kind of magic carpet ride: just do X (e.g., be grateful, compassionate, meditative) and you’ll be whisked to happiness. But it’s just not true.
Any kind of lasting well-being requires coping with the hard things in life. Want to be happy? Be resilient.
Resilience is usually presented as something we need for trauma, combat, etc. True enough, but that is an inaccurate and overly narrow view. Resilience is for every day of your life, not just for surviving the worst day of your life.
FD-C: How do we get started?
RH: Resilience comes from having inner strengths such as grit, motivation and love. These are the resources we draw on to deal with hassles and setbacks, manage frustration and disappointment, ride waves of pain and face inevitable aging and death.
Resilience is not static. Actually, it is something you can develop over time. Most research and interventions related to resilience focus on just identifying and using inner strengths. This is good, but it misses the key question: where do these inner resources come from and how can we get more of them?
This is where the neuropsychology of learning comes in. To grow more empathy, mindfulness, self-worth or any other psychological resource, first you must have an experience of it or a related factor. Second, that passing experience must be installed as a durable change in neural structure or function.
Experiencing alone does not equal learning. Think about all the times we experience something useful – a moment of satisfaction at finishing a task, an insight into how to be more skillful in a relationship – and we zip along to the next experience so that first experience is wasted on the brain. Besides the impact on everyday life, this is the weakness of much psychotherapy, coaching, human resources programs and spiritual training.
This general problem is worsened by the brain’s evolved “negativity bias,” which makes it like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for good ones. We overlearn from stress, worry, irritation, sadness and hurt, while underlearning from moments of confidence, determination, calming, kindness and realization.
Here are two practical suggestions a person can use every day:
1) Half a dozen times a day, focus on and stay with a useful, usually enjoyable, experience for a breath or longer. Feel it in your body and notice what feels good or meaningful about it. This will help the experience be more consolidated and installed in long-term memory systems. In effect, you can make it “stick to your (mental) ribs.”
2) Pick an inner strength that it would really help to have more of. Perhaps greater calm, gladness or the sense that your own needs matter, too. Then look for opportunities to experience this strength each day and take these experiences into yourself.
You’ll notice that most experiences of inner resources are enjoyable – an aspect of well-being. Resilience promotes well-being and as you take in experiences of well-being – including experiences of inner resources – that will make you more resilient. Resilience fosters well-being and well-being fosters resilience, in a wonderful upward spiral!
FD-C: What are some things you do to take care of yourself?
RH: Firstly, I try to frame taking care of myself in a larger context of service to others. Second, I try to take care of myself by having many little moments in the day in which I take in whatever might be calming, soothing, wholesome, beautiful, loving or happy.
Fiona Douglas-Crampton is the president and CEO of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, a charitable organization focused on “Heart-Mind Well-Being.” dalailamacenter.org
May you (and all beings) be safe
May you (and all beings) be happy
May you (and all beings) be healthy
May you (and all beings) live with ease