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Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson

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Positive neuroplasticity is turning good passing experiences into lasting inner resources built into your brain.  Experience what you want to develop in yourself—such as compassion or gratitude—and second, focus on it and keep it going to increase its consolidation in your nervous system.  Getting in the right state of mind, and enjoying it helps turn it into a positive trait embedded in your brain.

Remember The Golden Rule “we should do unto ourselves as we do unto others” although be sure this is a two way street – you must be kind to yourself.  The more influence we have over someone, the more responsibility we have to treat them well.

Who’s the one person you can affect the most? It’s yourself, both you in this moment and your future self. If you think of yourself as someone to whom you have a duty of care and kindness, what might change in how you talk to yourself, and in how you go about your day?

Being good to yourself is good for others. When people increase their own well-being, they usually become more patient, cooperative, and caring in their relationships. Think about how it would benefit others if you felt less stressed, worried, or irritated, and more peaceful, contented, and loving. 

The whole self is like a big house, and not accepting all of who you are is like closing up some of its rooms: “vulnerable, better shut that door.” “I make mistakes when I get excited, so that’s it with passion, throw away the key.”  Consider for a moment what if you opened all the doors inside yourself? You can still keep an eye on what lies inside the various rooms, and decide what you act upon or show to the world. Accepting what’s inside yourself gives you more influence over it, not less.

Enjoying life is a powerful way to care for yourself. Think about some of the things you enjoy.  Minute by minute, step by step, strength after strength, you can always grow more of the good inside yourself. For your own sake, and the sake of others as well. The most important minute is the next minute. Little things add up over time. Many times a day, you can change your brain for the better.

If you try to let go and let in but find that it feels superficial or inauthentic, go back to the first step and be with your mind. Explore what else is there to experience fully, perhaps something softer and younger. The process of letting be, letting go, and letting in can sometimes uncover the next layer of psychological material. Then you can use the three steps to move through that layer, and perhaps additional layers, in a deepening spiral. Stay mindful, and you’ll be pulling weeds, planting flowers, and getting to know your garden better all along the way.  It is best to focus on positive experiences, these fill us up.  Generally if something feels good do more of it.

Our experiences are built from five elements, and each element is a type of jewel you can weave into the fabric of your brain and your life. These elements are thoughts (e.g., beliefs, images), perceptions (e.g., sensations, sounds), emotions (feelings, moods), desires (e.g., values, intentions), and actions (the sense of posture, facial expressions, movement, or behaviour).

Try to enrich your experiences and absorb them.  Five ways to enrich an experience:

1. Lengthen it. Deliberately stay with it for a bit longer even five, ten, or more seconds.
2. Intensify it. Open to it and let it be big in your mind. Turn up the “volume” as it were by breathing more fully or getting a little excited.
3. Expand it. Notice other elements of the experience.
4. Freshen it. Look for what’s interesting or different about an experience, imagine that you are having it for the very first time.
5. Value it. Be aware of why the experience is important to you as we learn from what is personally relevant.

Clarify the main challenge you are facing. Identify the resources that can help.  The three major mental resources are safety, satisfaction and connection.

This distinction between conditions and experiences, between means and ends, is very important, and losing sight of it is the cause of much stress and unhappiness. For example, a person could get fixated and driven about attaining a particular condition such as a new car or a promotion, and then lose sight of the needs that attaining the condition would fulfil., Potentially missing opportunities to experience those needs being met in other ways. Is the car itself important, or is a sense of comfort and safety what’s most valuable? Is the promotion itself the crux of the matter, or is it a sense of success and satisfaction?

When you know the true ends, the experiences that matter most, then you can look for when they are already occurring, or deliberately create them.

It is possible to relate  your mind to simply be with something that’s upsetting, this naturally links a disturbing experience with the always inherently undisturbed field of awareness.

Using the Neuropsychology of Learning
Linking is a powerful method. The brain learns through association, and when two things are held in awareness at the same time, they affect each other. The key is to make sure that what’s beneficial stays more prominent than what’s painful or harmful. Then the positive will purify the negative, rather than the negative contaminating the positive.

Practicing mindfulness will increase your capacity to do ths. If you get pulled into the negative, drop it and focus only on the positive. Later on, you can allow the negative to come back alongside the positive in awareness. Most experiences of Linking last under 30 seconds.

This is not positive thinking, it realistic thinking, seeing the whole mosaic of reality with its problems and pains as well as its many, many reassuring, pleasurable, and useful parts.  Remember you can accomplish big things by persisting with small actions.

Agency is the sense of being a cause rather than an effect. Agency is present if you deliberately select something.  In life, there are times when we step back and take a hard look at something—such as a relationship, living situation, or way of parenting—and in a deep and honest way recognize that we need to make a significant change. It could be hard, it could be painful, but we choose the change. This also an example of agency.  It makes sense to focus on where we do have agency (control) instead of where we do not.  Most people know what they should do, the key is to actually be determined to do it. 

The truth is most things are beyond anyone’s control. Recognizing this fact and accepting it may feel initially alarming. But as you get used to it, you could feel an easing of tension and drivenness, and a growing serenity.

Don’t put off sensible actions for your physical health. It’s always easy to start tomorrow. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I do today?

At work, every email read, text sent, and point made in a meeting is an accomplishment.  Since each day is full of goals, large and small, it is full of opportunities to take in experiences of successful goal attainment. Doing this builds up an internal sense of being successful, which helps us weather criticism and be less dependent upon the approval of others.

Much self-importance and acting superior is a compensation for underlying feelings of failure and inadequacy. Consequently, feeling like a success deep down can help people lighten up and take themselves less seriously. A durable sense of being successful comes from internalizing many experiences of small successes, not from seeing a big trophy outside such as a fancy car parked in the driveway.

Be mindful of succeeding at small outcomes and notice progress toward big outcomes.  The more that you feel defeated about some things, the more important it is to recognize your victories in many other things. Use HEAL steps.


Have a positive (enjoyable, beneficial) experience,

Enrich it,

Absorb it,

and consider linking it to overcome negative material.

Dalai Lama: If you can be happy when others are happy, you can always be happy, since there is always someone somewhere who is happy.

Think of a time when someone was really glad for you—perhaps you’d been promoted or a health scare had turned out to be nothing—and see if you can remember how that touched you. Turn it around: the support, recognition, and good wishes that were given to you are exactly what you give to others when you are happy for them.

The two-step process of initial and then secondary reactions was described as the first and second dart by the Buddha. The first dart is unavoidable physical or emotional discomfort and pain: a headache, the cramping of stomach flu, the sadness at losing a friend, the shock at being unfairly attacked in a meeting at work. The second dart is the one we throw ourselves, adding unnecessary reactions to the conditions of life and its occasional first darts. The second dart is fuelled by the inner critic.

Lessen the blow of the first dart – be with the experience, riding it out mindfully, accepting it with a sense of curiosity and self-compassion. Let go of tension and emotions, and step away from unhelpful thoughts or desires. Try to let in whatever might be beneficial, replacing what you have released with something that’s useful or enjoyable.

Remember first darts are unavoidable. The second dart hurts because humans evolved to be interactive creatures who care about other peoples opinions. 

There are four major types of “negative” emotions: sadness, anxiety, shame, and anger. Of them, anger is the most seductive. Most people don’t enjoy feeling glum, worried, or inadequate. But the surge of righteous indignation and energy that comes with anger can feel stimulating, organizing (as it draws together the threads of a scattered mind and identifies a clear target), and even pleasurable. Anger is also an effective way to hide hurt and vulnerability, assert status or dominance, push away fear, and compensate for feeling small or weak. In relationships, arguing or bickering can serve the purpose of keeping others at a comfortable distance. A saying describes anger as a poisoned barb with a honeyed tip.

the process of getting angry, which typically happens in two stages: the priming and the trigger. In the first stage, little things add up then in the second stage, some kind of spark lands and starts a fire—often way out of proportion to the trigger itself.  Getting angry at others is like throwing hot coals with bare hands—both people get burned.

Before entering a situation that could be exciting, intense, or even a little nerve-racking, lay a foundation of positive emotion. Bring to mind good feelings and attitudes that are matched to the basic need that is at stake.

Empathy is necessary for intimacy. Try to think from others perspective & remember they will likely have different values to you which occur from their personal experience, upbringing and background amongst other things.

Compassion and kindness can be strengthened inside you like any other psychological resource. Recognize suffering, see our common humanity, separate approval from compassion, and deliberately internalize warm-hearted caring toward others.

Focusing on the faults of others creates deadlocks and resentment. It’s better to practice unilateral virtue: focusing on your own responsibilities and personal code of conduct no matter what others do.

Try to be very clear about what it is that you see, feel, and want in a particular relationship. Take some time to sort things out for yourself.

Two ways to communicate Sharing Experiences and Solving Problems. Sharing your experience is usually worth doing in its own right.  If problem-solving is getting tense, it’s useful to shift into experience talk, perhaps about what you are experiencing during the interaction. Try to agree about what sort of conversation you’re having, so you’re both working together.

Open, authentic communication is fundamental to any significant relationship.  To make it safe for yourself, recognize any real dangers, talk about talking, and separate solving problems from sharing experiences.  Speaking wisely means saying things that are well intended, true, beneficial, timely, not harsh, and, if possible, wanted.  To assert yourself skilfully with someone, establish the facts and know your values. Focus on the results you want, consolidate your gains, and emphasize what will happen from now on. Make requests, not demands, and establish clear agreements.

Dreaded experiences cast a long shadow over our dreams. But what we dread is usually rooted in childhood, and today it is much less likely, less painful, and less overwhelming than we fear. Pick something that is important to you but which you’ve been putting off pursuing. Next, ask yourself this: “What have I been avoiding?” It’s fine to think about situations or interactions—and then try to dig deeper and find the uncomfortable, stressful experiences you fear you might have in those situations or interactions. Once you have identified the experiences you haven’t wanted to risk, really consider these questions:
• What are the chances, actually, that events will turn out as you fear if you pursue this?
• Even if events did go badly, how painful an experience would you likely have? How soon would it begin to fade?
• How could you cope with the experience? What inner resources could you draw on to deal with it?
• What benefits would come to you and others from fulfilling this? What benefits would come from simply pursuing it? Take some moments to get a feeling for these benefits. Then ask yourself truly: are these benefits worth taking the risk of a dreaded experience?

Two ways to give forgiveness. Without offering someone a full pardon, you can still disentangle yourself from resentment by considering that person’s perspective, deliberately choosing to forgive, and letting go of ill will.  The second is to give a full pardon, think about the person who wronged you as a whole human being with many parts and deep down a good heart.

We sort people into two groups, we tend to cooperate with “us” but fear and attack “them.” It is generous to expand the circle of us to include them, and it is necessary for all of us to live together in peace.

As you grow inner strengths such as compassion and courage, you develop resilient well-being. This gives you more that you can give to others, and then they have more to give you, in a beautiful upward spiral.   Remember you can accomplish big things by persisting with small actions.

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