Simple Practices for Solving Conflicts, Building Connection and Fostering Love


Clint Murphy Rick Hanson


Clint Murphy, Rick Hanson

Clint Murphy  00:15

Welcome to the growth guide podcast. I’m your host, Clint Murphy. Every week I talk to authors, subject matter experts and millionaire mentors to share the lessons that will help you and me be better achieve more and become financially free.

Clint Murphy  00:37

Today, I had an amazing conversation with Rick Hanson, a psychologist, couples and family counselor, and New York Times bestselling author. Rick is the author of Making Great Relationships, Simple Practices for Solving Conflicts, Building Connection, and Fostering Love. This book provides fundamental skills to help you handle conflict, repair, misunderstandings, get treated better, deepen a romantic partnership, and be at peace with others, while giving the love that you have in your heart. It was a wonderful conversation, I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. Rick, welcome to the growth guide podcast, we are here to talk about your book Making Great Relationships. Before we do that, for our listeners who may not have met you yet, can you start with a brief bio, and let them know a little bit about you.

Rick Hanson  01:40

I’ll try to keep it short. Right. And I want to say first off that I love the title of your show, Growth Guide. Because that’s kind of a very fundamental thing to me, which is realizing that whatever has happened in the past, you cannot change. And even what it’s like exactly in the present moment, is sad. It’s what is the case, but you can always grow a little, heal a little, learn a little every day, you can grow, growth mindset. And then I’ve gotten very interested in a growth toolkit, so that you have the skills, drawing on recent brain science and also some contemplative wisdom. You have the skills to turbocharge your own growth process. So your learning curve and your growth curve, your healing curve, starts steeping in the flow of daily life, you start growing more the good inside. So I’m a total fan, what you’re up to here. Super short bio, let’s see. So I grew up in a decent loving home with a fair amount of criticism and anxious control. And I was a quiet, nerdy kid who skipped close to two grades. And I was very young gone through school. And I felt shy and like an outcast, kind of like a loser. Wasn’t horrible, no abuse, but it was, you know, I was pretty unhappy. And then I started really around age 15, considering how can I help myself. And then that led me to college, entered UCLA in 1969, human potential movement was starting to move in full flood, I caught that wave through college and then for the next 10 years, and finally realized I really better get a legitimate degree, otherwise I don’t know what, I don’t know what I’d be doing. So then I went to grad school. Along the way, I’d gotten into meditation, that seemed very cool. So combining meditating and clinical psychology and then around 20, 30 years ago, got more involved with brain science, because it was starting to really come alive. And so then for the last 20 years or so, my work has been at the intersection if you imagine that three circles, clinical psychology, contemplative wisdom and brain science. And right at the center of those three circles is sweet spot. You know, it’s very cool. And I’ve been kind of riding that wave ever since. My wife and I, today’s our 41st wedding anniversary. We have two adult kids. I live in Northern California. I love rock climbing and taking a break from emails.

Clint Murphy  04:04

41st wedding anniversary and you were very smart. You timed it. So for those who are aren’t the date that we are, this obviously won’t be the date we have the conversation. Today is Valentine’s Day. So that was perfectly timed so that you will never forget your anniversary and 41 years that’s magical. The intersection of everything you talked about is absolutely why the name is what it is, is drawing on meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, Shadow Work, psychoanalysis and helping people be better, achieve more and then I add in become financially free because I’ve spent 20 plus years as an accountant prior to that Rick, the goal going to college, my first, I’ve never shared this on the show, but my first two years were psychology The goal was to do psychology and English, my wife said, I think you should change to something that will get you a job. And so I switched to accounting. And I’ve done it for 20 plus years. But as I near early retirement, or we’ll call it a pivot, the idea is to go back to where I’d intended to when I was a young student, because that’s the purpose. So reading your book, it aligns with the direction we’re going, which I loved. And so the first area I’d like to tackle with you is just working our way through, it’s perfect. There’s 50 different ideas and ways you’ve given people to, or practices that you’ve offered. And so working our way through some of them and leaving the listener to purchase the book and work their way through the rest of them. The first one I wanted to look at with you is this idea of being loyal to ourselves, right? So many of us find it easy to be loyal to loved ones, to our pets, to our friends, but for some reason, not necessarily to ourselves. So what does being loyal to ourselves look like? Why are we so challenged to do it? And then how can we do it?

Rick Hanson  06:09

Well, you’re exactly right. So the book is 50 very specific how tos, with what you think and what you say each day, to make your relationships better. So it’s completely practical, each chapter’s, roughly three pages long, it’s very direct gets right to it. And so that’s the spirit of the book, you know, what do you what do you need to know what would really help. And it honestly, it comes out of my experience of just watching couples, I’ve been a therapist for a really long time, I’ve been a business consultant, I’ve been a parent, I’ve made all the mistakes that the chapters in the book come out of, as lessons learned, okay. And so often we’re in a situation where we either just sort of feel stuck in general, we don’t know what to do, we don’t know what to say. Or we’re in a situation in which we say this, they say that, we say this, then they say that. And now we don’t know what to do, and we’re gonna feel stuck. So I was really focused on giving people skills and things they can actually do inside themselves, and or what they say or how they act with others. So that’s a frame. And you’re right, first one, get on your own side, before yourself, like to make sure the pilot lights lit, be loyal to you. Yeah, because I’ve seen probably about half the people I’ve ever worked with, that pilot light was not lit. And so they were kind to others, they cared about others, they were loyal to others, they were muscular, in their response to the suffering of others, they were compassionate to the suffering and difficulties of others, not to themselves. And so that’s the first one, that’s foundational, because if in the first chapter to the book, you’re not already centered there. Well, you know, how can you make use of anything else. And I have found honestly that that turning point for many people, not to be a bully, not to be arrogant, not to be conceited, but to realize that you matter, too. And that’s really important for people, clients who belong to any kind of group that have internalized messages that well, you know, I actually don’t matter that much. Or well, you know, you need to defer to others who are well, better not say what you need, because, you know, the nail that stands out gets hammered down, or something like that. And you think about groups, classically, girls and women in particular, on average, gets socialized with those kinds of messages, other people as well, I definitely got that message. And I was to be seen and not heard, I grew up in a traditional loving, but traditional kind of home to parents who grew up, grew up themselves in the Great Depression, wanted to control things, you know, shy kid, those stay invisible. So for a lot of people, there’s some reclaim reclaiming to do to get on your own side.

Clint Murphy  08:55

And so for, when you think about the idea of a lot of times, we’ll call it, especially in meditation, we’ll call it the monkey mind. And so, so many people, the other one I like to do is talk about it as a roommate, you know, if the voice in our head was a roommate and talked to us the way did, we probably kick that roommate out of the place as quickly as we could, yet for some reason, we let it just continue to talk to us that way. And is that monkey mind or that roommate, is that part of being loyal to us is learning how to shift from the negative narrative that often is it’s using, to a positive narrative and being positive with ourselves in our own mind.

Rick Hanson  09:43

That’s part of it. And I get into that in different other chapters, as you know, just in terms of things like you know, don’t beat yourself up and you know, use anger don’t let it use you. You know, and many times we’re angry at ourselves and we’re not compassionate with ourselves, and you know, we get carried away. So that’s definitely really true. And one of the things I find that’s super helpful is to build up what I call in the book in a sense of caring committee inside yourself. Like, yeah, to stand up to the inner critic, the inner pusher, the inner attacker, and, you know, go into a little bit of the neurology actually, of how to take in the good of experiences of others, being supportive and encouraging and, you know, warm to you, towards you. So you build up more and more of a feeling of inner allies, or an underlying feeling of alright, like, one of my chapter titles of the 50 is, “relax, you’re going to be criticized”.

Clint Murphy  10:42

Yeah, we’re gonna dive into that one.

Rick Hanson  10:44

Yeah, yeah. Sooner or later, someone’s gonna say something. So what does it land on? Does it art land on a kind of barren ground? That’s not very green for yourself, and in which the winds of criticism and shaming or blowing at your view? Or does that criticism land on a, you know, an authentic, healthy sense of worth, and confidence along the lines of you know, I’m going to make mistakes, I get that I want to do better, I can do better by encouraging myself rather than beating myself up.


Clint Murphy  11:16

And then we can jump around. So we’ll, let’s stay on that criticism, one, because, you know, a lot of these, I’m turning 45 this year, and a lot of these I’ve only gotten better at, I’d say in the last decade, well most of them the last decade Prior to that a lot of monkey mind, a lot of learning. And something that’s allowed me to become much better with criticism, I’d say would be two ideas. One, someone suggested recently, it might have been on the show, the concept of what if they’re right? And just exploring that, being kind to ourselves, but exploring what if they’re right, would I change? How would I change if they’re right? And the second one, maybe it’s a little less soft, is examining what they say, if they’re right. Okay, do I want to change or not? And if they’re wrong, learning to just let it go like water on a duck’s back, and no need to argue, they’ve given you the criticism. In your mind, you know, it’s may not be accurate, and you just move on. But for someone who had the life experience to get to that stage, how did they develop that ability, and how do those two resonate with the way you look at being able to handle criticism in a safe, respectful way,

Rick Hanson  12:33

This is deep, because very often, the issue in a relationship is that the people in it, it could be at work, could be your teenager that you’re raising, could be your partner, could be friend, a neighbor in law, relative is that there’s some disagreement, there’s some difference, when everybody is completely aligned, and they’re total fans of each other, hey, that’s great, you don’t need my book. But if you have any relationships that are not like that, it might be helpful to you. And so one of the key things I have found extremely helpful for me, particularly since from my history of growing up, I tend to get kind of prickly and defensive, when input comes my way, it has really helped me to try to slow it down and slow down the activation of kind of the more primitive parts of the brain, slow it down, and then try to zero in on what’s useful and accurate in whatever the other person is saying. Even if it’s in a real bag of garbage. And that’s been thrown into my way. What can I support? What can I join with? What are the deeper wants that are underneath that what they’re saying that I can really align with? For example, I’m dealing with a situation at work, where someone important in a team I’m part of is actually dropping the ball. How do you talk with someone who’s actually dropping the ball? It’s important for them to stop dropping the ball. And they don’t like it, when because I’m the boss in some way. You know, I’m the leader in fact, and they don’t like it. People tend to not like it, you know, you see the ball dropped. Oh, and then they all get understandably react. And it’s helpful for me to try to remember underneath all that, what do they really want? Well, they don’t they want to feel respected. They don’t want to feel shame. They want to feel seen, they want to feel like they can have another chance. There’s kind of a forgiveness there. And so I try to keep that in mind. And then to finish, to really zero in on what I can take maximum reasonable responsibility for and implement going forward. Now, that may just sound so procedural or Spock like or like a guy would do it or something. Dare I say that? Obviously, saying that kind of joking, but and no, actually, other people are hurting, they have needs, they have wants. One of the chapters titled “give them what they want”. Another one is “”admit fault and move on”. Another is, you know, “take care of your side of the street”, these are all things that are in our power to do that totally increase the odds of good treatment by others, make us feel better, remove distracting side issues that they can start shooting the messenger about, to avoid dealing with the message. Right, and are kind and compassionate as well. So for me, these are really good guides for dealing with, you know, grievances, criticisms, complaints, and so forth. You know, coming at us.

Clint Murphy  15:40

And when you talked about the idea there that you’re giving criticism, in the way someone’s responding to it, or the way we’re responding to it. Often, we’re not even responding necessarily to the criticism. But we’re responding to the conditioning we have from childhood, that teaches us to respond to that criticism in a way because of how we would have dealt with it when we were younger, which is why one of the quotes we use the most on the podcast is “until we make the unconscious conscious, you will forever be led by it and call it fate” by Carl Jung and I usually butcher it slightly. But what that ties to me is you talked about this idea of when it comes to accepting ourselves, and how do we get an understanding of that childhood programming? So that we can accept ourselves. What does that look like for the listener to say, well, wait a second, so much of who I am today is from when I was six to 11. And I don’t remember it. And maybe it served me back then. But it probably doesn’t serve me now. So how do we uncover that, bring it to the light, and then program ourselves the way we want to be programmed?

Rick Hanson  16:57

Right, well, it’s a great question. So you’re talking about knowing ourselves and accepting ourselves.

Clint Murphy  17:03


Rick Hanson  17:04

Yeah. And so part of that certainly is self awareness, classic set therapy 101, classic Socrates, know thyself or something, you know, mindfulness, you just become more and more aware of yourself, you make more room for who you are, there’s a lot about that. That’s very fundamental. And part of that, I think, again, it’s one of the chapter titles, know that you’re a good person, you don’t have to be a saint, and you don’t have to be perfect all the time to be a fundamentally good person, to know that you’re a good person. And you know, you’re gonna make mistakes, but you could still be a good person. And so, in the context here of all this, accepting yourself doesn’t mean that you like every part of yourself, or you agree with every part of yourself, think of the psyche, who you are, it’s like a mansion with many rooms. For many, many people, me included, many of those rooms were locked up, or even painted over as if there was no door there at all. And, unfortunately, the way the brain is, the mind is, is that stuff doesn’t go away, it smells, he gets her hands, swamp gas starts to bubble out. It leaks, right. And it triggers us, if we overreact in certain situations. And so it’s really important to become aware of the different rooms and dimension of the mind, while understanding as well, what’s in some of them needs to be regulated. You know, I’ve learned over time that partly because, you know, I was criticized a lot as a kid, I can get overly prickly about criticism. And so I’ve tried to work with that, you start to recognize that in that room, is this kind of snarling dog, you know, like, hey, Fido, you know, pet the dog, don’t hurt the dog, but, you know, regulate the dog, if you will, that particular dog, I like dogs a lot. Let’s be clear about it. Anyway. So in that context, then it’s really powerful for people to consider different parts of themselves in us and just go, you know, I accept that you’re part of me. Imagine, like a table like a round table, King Arthur nice, whatever the table, and around this table are 10 or 20 parts. Richard Schwartz and before him, many others have pointed out the, including the Buddha 2500 years ago, the sort of compounded structure of the mind. In other words, it’s made up of many parts that are connected in changing parts. And Dr. Schwartz’s I think recent book is titled No Bad Parts, it’s like that they might need to be regulated. Maybe some of them have grabbed the microphone way too much. You need to take the microphone back as the kind of core of the personality, but there are no bad parts. Imagine looking at each one of those parts of you and saying, you know, I see you. I see you, irritable part. I accept you. I see you the part that gets fed up after a while, you know, you have a long fuse. But when you get to the end, you’ve just kind of had it. I see you, I accept you, I see you crazy goofy little kid who wants to have fun. And that makes a lot of messes in the process. I see you, I accept you. And you know, on and on, it goes like that’s extremely powerful. And then it helps us be more accepting of what’s in other people.

Clint Murphy  20:25

That’s powerful. And so not only accepting of them accepting of ourselves in. So if we rewind back early in the conversation, when you when you were saying what you enjoyed about the title, you talked a little bit about mindfulness and the past and the present moment. And it made me want to jump right to the second practice, which was the idea of let be, let go and let in, which for me has been pretty life changing. One of the reasons I’d say, or a lot of the reason I’ve done a lot of work over the last 10 years and all of these areas, is to increase that gap between stimulus and response and to be able to choose emotion, choose reactions, which is still an absolute work in progress, and will be a work in progress for my whole life. But it reminds me, you had a statement where you said just about everything I’ve learned about practicing with the mind fits into three categories. Being with what you’re experiencing, reducing what’s harmful and painful, and increasing what’s helpful and enjoyable. Can you take the listeners through that?

Rick Hanson  21:44

Oh, thank you for appreciating that, honestly. Because it’s very fundamental. Let’s think of a real time situation. Here you are. And something’s happened with a person. And you can tell it’s bothered you, right. So the first and most fundamental step is to be with your experience, be with it, let it be, you be with it. You hopefully bring to bear skills like mindfulness, compassion for yourself, the capacity to tolerate intense experiences, but you’re not invaded by them. You’re feeling them, but you’re not hijacked by them. You’re simply being with it. So you might feel the body sensations of getting a being angry, feeling hurt underneath it, feeling frustrated, you might be aware of speeding up, accelerating, there’s so many things you want to say. You think you’re right, you know, the inner, I don’t know what to call it, the Chiron that goes under the news thing, or Zadar why I’m writing, you’re wrong writing. Now righteous land, but you’re trying to get some air, try to get some space around it, you be with it. That alone is the foundational practice. And sometimes it’s all you can do. All you can do is just be with it, you can’t change anything, maybe you’re just completely shocked, you’re flooded. You just be with what’s there. But it’s not the only practice. And it’s been, in my view, way overrated or isolated, as the only thing to do and certain kind of schools have mindfulness and non dual approaches and things like that, you know, this, it’s all about just be with it. Well, maybe if you’re a monastic, and you can just be with stuff in a meditative way, 10 hours a day, in the rock tumbler, if you will have 30 years of monastic practice that might polish a lot of grit. Okay, but what about the rest of us that are in the trenches? And you know, we need to respond right there, what that person said, or did at work, or across the dinner table, or your kid looks to you with a look at total contempt. And what are you going to do, right, that’s why we also have to work with the mind, not just be with it, and working with has two aspects. One is that we reduce the negative and the others we grow the positive. So thus, let be, let go, let in or think of the metaphor of a garden that you’re familiar with having read that chapter, we can witness the garden, we can pull weeds, and we can plant flowers, all are really important. And they all support each other. For example, to be able to just be with painful experiences, to be able to slow it down in your mind. So you don’t just immediately react to the flames that other people, the bombs, other people are dropping, it really helps to have led in to have grown flowers and fruit and so forth. Have a kind of inner calm, a sense of self worth inner shock absorbers, you know, so that what lands, you can just slow it down. They all work together. And I think some people tend to be more oriented around being with the mind, some people more working with the mind I was more working with the mind fix it fix it, kind of person than I had to because I didn’t want to feel my feelings because they hurt. And I had to realize over time, oh, gotta open up. Gotta let them flow. Gotta be with them, you know. And so that’s how it all works together. And for me, it’s a fantastic roadmap. Yeah it gives you a kind of progression, like, there you are, you’re bothered by something you’d be with it, then you move into releasing, you let the tension flow out of your body, kind of let it drain out of you, you check beliefs, you have you disengage from them. And then you let in a wise perspective, a wise perspective

Clint Murphy  25:30

What really resonates. That really resonates for me, I got in a little bit of trouble in my practicum, for my mindfulness, teacher certification in that, in one of the videos I sent in, I guess, in the q&a, I integrated that type of approach, instead of just letting it be, I added in some elements of stoicism or CBT, to say, well, hey, you know, you’re having these thoughts, observe them. And if they’re wrong, don’t let them in, in their response was, well, no, no, no, in this practice, we just teach people to be with them. And I thought, well, why would we let them be with wrong thoughts? That just seems really odd, Rick, like I would think I would want to teach them how to challenge those and not let them in. But so I hear you, and I love it. And stoicism for people is a great spot. Nowadays, a lot more people will will reference CBT, but stoicism being the forefather of CBT. And so one of the things you talked about in there was dealing with the anger side of things, which tends to be one of the harder emotions for people to handle. And a lot of us think anger is always bad. And you point out some other authors, I’ve enjoyed that it’s not necessarily bad, it can be information. It’s potentially how we deal with the anger. And I love how you said, anger has a honey tip and a poisoned barb. And you talk about priming and trigger stages. And then what jumps out at me is well, how do we slow it down? And this idea you have of taking the wheel of the bus so anger isn’t driving us. What does that look like for the listener?

Rick Hanson  27:18

Oh, that’s really good. I want to say first, that I teach pure mindfulness sometimes, and I think there’s a place as like a skill. So if you’re learning a skill, of strictly just being able to tolerate or stay present with, just stay present with whatever you’re feeling, which is very profound, then it’s appropriate, I think, to teach only that skill, and, you know, leave it there, well integrated, you know, approach to anything, whether it’s a therapy, or, you know, in general, I just think, you know, why not play with all the toys, why don’t use all the tools. And if simply being with what’s there in a so called choiceless awareness kind of frame is working for you, great. But if it’s not clearing your trauma history, or helping you acquire skills to be more effective at work, or with your partner or your kids, or helping you release chronic anxieties, or depressive moods, if it’s not helping you in those ways, well then use other tools. Mindfulness is a foundational tool, but use other tools when that’s appropriate. So that would be my general view. I’m certainly a big fan of mindfulness, about anger, which I’ve tried to become more mindful of, you know, it’s interesting that of all the four categories loosely of negative emotions, so we have fear. We have sadness, sorrow, depression, we have inadequacy, shame, guilt, remorse, shame. And then we have anger, ranging from subtle exasperation to gripping blinding rage. Okay. Of those four, only one, releases reward neuro chemicals in the brain. It’s anger. People don’t like feeling anxious. They don’t like feeling sad, they don’t like feeling ashamed or inadequate or less than or hurt. Anger has that honeyed tip. And it’s important to be aware of the seductive power the way it can just suck us right in. And so for me, I think, as I said, there’s a chapter called “use anger, don’t let it use you” and as foundation to that, none of this is about adding my voice to that of many voices that try to suppress anger in people who have every reason in the world to be pissed off, because they were mistreated in some way or the target of structural bias and oppression, discrimination, even abuse, and go, I’m just trying to say, let’s observe what happens when we come at people with anger usually doesn’t produce a good result. And there’s a sweet spot in which you’re feeling the anger because it is energizing, and it focuses attention, including on what’s wrong, immobile, it organizes us. So these are useful, especially if a person has been oppressed in some ways or has been mistreated. You know, anger is Mother Nature’s jet fuel. And be careful that it doesn’t just take you down a road, I’ve had experiences, including recently where it’s just so tempting to write that email, and then hit send. But once you send it, you can not get it back. And then there you are the other people staring at you, kind of losing your cool on the page, or enabling others to avoid dealing with the substantive merits of whatever it is you’re talking about. Because then they can say, oh, you know, you said that word, or oh, I don’t like your tone, or Oh, you’re bullying or something like that. So, you know, be aware of it, feel it, try to get to what’s underneath the anger often hurt or fear is underneath the anger, and then see what you really want? What do you really, really want without other person

Rick Hanson  27:55

And if you go to that idea of tone, because you did talk about that later. And a lot of us don’t necessarily think of the ways that we’re communicating. So we just think about the words we’re saying. And what you point out is, well, there’s three elements to our communication, we have our explicit content, so what did we actually say to the person, but then we have our tone, which is made up of the emotional subtext in the implicit statements about the nature and relationships. What does that all mean for the listener? And how do they how can they make sure that the tone they’re using with their loved ones or with their colleagues is the right tone for the situation?

Clint Murphy  31:50

Great question. It’s funny, like research on communicating, there are these three aspects to it. So one nerd to another, you know, you and I, right, maybe some other people be interested, too. There’s the overt content, such as, you know, pass me the salt, okay, it’s a pass, it’s an instruction passing the salt. Second, there’s the tone on it. Now the tone might be pass me the salt, or the tone could be, pass me the salt, right, tone. And third, there’s an implicit statement about the relationship. The way I put the language was in the form of a command, not a request. So already, there’s an implicit statement that I get to tell you what to do. I get to give you instructions in the tone as well, there’s often a communication like a dotron domination, people tend to put most of their overt attention on the first of these three, the actual content. But what has the most impact is the second and the third tone, and implicit statement about who’s on top, the nature of the relationship, that’s why it’s extremely, extremely important to pay attention to the second and the third, and just tried to stay out of trouble. There are a lot of situations where you can realize that for the sake of the bigger fish, you know, or the greater good that you’re going after, you just don’t need to take the bait, a tendency to just sort of respond quickly sometimes when in fact, you know, it’d be better to give it a day, and then make the same response. But just other people need more time to process. So don’t take the bait, slow it down. Try to center yourself and what you really want to communicate what’s the bigger picture here, what’s more important than you. Neurologically, when something irritates us or frightens us or we feel hurt by you know, we’re afronted by, we’re maybe indignant about it. Awareness just over focuses on that single tile in the mosaic and ignores everything else, that one tile that’s flashing red,get in trouble then, that’s Mother Nature’s plan to keep us alive in Jurassic Park or the stone age but these days creates a lot of trouble, including on social media, much better, open out, go wide, go big picture. And it also helps to have some kind of inner rules that you just will not use a certain tone. You know, like, my wife has called me on eye rolls. Or I just kind of roll my eyes and exasperation and a little bit of like, disdain, like, what? And so I’ve tried to clean that up. What do you think what’s been helpful for you about watching your own tone, or trying a softer tone? That’s the title of that chapter.

Clint Murphy  34:33

Well, what’s really jumping out at me and it’s a big one because I’ve historically and I think it comes from a childhood where my dad would yell a lot. And it would be a level of yelling that was just aggressive. You know, there’s very few people that have scared me in my life. He’s one of them. And this came up for me when you were talking about anger and shame because one of the realizations I have the more work I do is like when I get into that situation where I feel shame. A lot of times the immediate anger, or the immediate answer is to cover the shame, with anger, so you don’t feel the shame. And so then I’ll become a yeller with my family. And so the big thing is, it goes back to that earlier stimulus and response and building the gap in so I think, the more I can have that pause, and give yourself that 90 seconds, squeezing a little breath, work, a little box breathing. If it’s my son, who I’m having that interaction with one of the two, or my wife, throw in a little loving kindness meditation with them in the image, and then respond, because when you do that loving kindness meditation, the way you would respond, is completely different in tone than what you would do before it. And ideally, although my wife said it would be odd is the way that I talk in life with my family, with colleagues with friends, the way I want to be able to do it is the way you and I are talking right now is from a place of curiosity and calm and respect, and it’s much slower probably than my average talking voice. And much more, each word is a little more clear, because we’re talking on a podcast, we want to be clear and how we communicate, this is the way I want to be able to talk in my everyday life. And so the more I can work on, shutting down that immediate response, because the other thing that jumped out at me, that I wanted to ask you was, if you’re quick to respond to the email, or you’re quick to respond to the letter, and you skipped a couple grades, given what you’ve done for study, I can make general assumptions about your level of intelligence, which can often mean that you think really quickly and so in conversation, have you found historically, that you may respond with an answer quite quickly, and the person who’s receiving it, even if you would have taken a minute or two or a day, you would have had the same response. You’ve just gotten there really quickly. Does it come across to the listener in how quickly you’ve responded and how quickly you might respond, that you haven’t put adequate thought into their question? And that you’re being flippant in your tone?

Rick Hanson  37:32

Well, whatever, you know, the genetic lottery right of intelligence or other abilities, is so actually I’m kind of a muller. I was that person in school, like in college, I wouldn’t say anything the first half of the semester. And then if you were to divide a semester and the quarters, you know, in that, by the last couple of weeks, I was probably the most talkative person in the class, right or seminar or something. But I’m a muller No, I’m pretty patient. And I slow it down, probably because I like people and I want to understand what’s really been said, and I think you’re right, I’m really struck, like you’re an excellent listener, here, I am rattling on a few minutes in a row, typically, your present, your face is nice and warm, you know. And I like it. And it’s interesting to think about, we like it a lot when other people actually listen to us and give us the gift of two minutes of focused attention in a row. It’s, it’s not that we’re going to drone on for dozens of minutes, or certainly not hours, but a couple minutes. Such a small gift, really. And yet, it has such a big impact on other people. So I try to, and when I’m on my game, when I try to remember that and just slow it down and give other people the sense of being actually received.

Clint Murphy  38:51

And as you say that what can often jump out and I think this is really important for the listener, and I know it’s something I want to work on, is when you and I have that conversation, it can be so easy to have that as my default mode, but with the ones that matter the most in our life, our partner or children, for a lot of us that they’re often the people that we offer that to the least and so what are some good ways, and do you see that in your therapy and in your work? And then when you talk to your clients where you do see that, what are some good ways that you offer them to say, hey look, like, why don’t you treat your partner the same way you do your colleague at work? Or the same way you do a dear friend? How do we make that shift for the ones that matter the most?

Rick Hanson  39:40

Yeah. Well, you have to want to, you know, there’s a joke how many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change. It’s kind of a Zen teaching in a way. I think it’s helpful to have little practices. That’s why a book like this is really useful, because it’s just the thing to do and each of the chapters is titled in the form of kind of an instruction or a practice. One of them is called “Ask questions”. Another is “express appreciation”, you know, and these are good practices, I think so many, like, let’s just talk about romantic relationships, maybe they’ve become a long term relationship, and the book’s about all kinds of relationships, right? But let’s say a long term romantic relationship, people start out there, they can just stare into each other’s eyes, you know, they’re so interested, it’s all wonderful. But after a while, maybe the, you know, the spark kind of starts to fizzle, some, you know, a lot of water under the bridge. Now, where are you? And what I observe just routinely, is that in those long term relationships, two things do tend to go out the window, that are actually really important for the well being of each person, and are really important ways to keep re-knitting the fabric of a relationship, which is endlessly fraying. Entropy is real rust never sleeps, the fabric of a marriage or a relationship is slay is is fraying. We need to keep re-knitting it all the two major ways to there are two great ways to re-knit it. One is to ask each other questions and really listening, offer to each other, you know, significant minutes of deep listening every day, a dozen, 20 for many, many long term relationships, for A to really listen to B for 10 minutes in a row or for 20 minutes over a conversation about something would be a kind of a big deal, it would stand out. And yet it’s just 10 or 20 minutes, but it would really make a big difference to the person. The other one is on a good foundation of healthiness and teamwork and safety and friendship maintaining some kind of in a romantic relationship, some kind of romantic connection over the long haul, even as you age into your, you know, 50s 60s 70s and beyond, really important, and I just see people often on any given day, they’re nice people, they still love each other, you know, cut, yeah, but they don’t make that that effort. They don’t build it into their day or their week to make those kinds of efforts. And they’re missing opportunities to keep re knitting the fabric of their relationship together.

Clint Murphy  42:15

And so what jumps out at me there is you’ve been with your wife for 41 years, I’ve been I’ve been with mine for 27. And you often think, well, gosh, like, I’m out of questions to ask you, you know, I’ve spent a fair bit of time with you. For our listeners who are in that situation, or even our listeners who are newer in the relationship, what are the three or four questions that we can keep in our stockpile, that really evoke the deep thinking in our partner, that gives us that opportunity to offer them that gift of space and gift of listening?

Rick Hanson  42:54

That’s beautiful. Well, one question is along the lines of how was that for you? And people have different ways of asking so often a person will be telling a story, or like their day or just kind of reporting on their day, or they’ll be describing an event or saying something they’re thinking about maybe worrying about, you know, just some version of oh, what’s that like for you? How is that for you? How are you feeling about it? And, you know, if the other person then comes back, as many people do with a kind of superficial or intellectualized or distancing kind of answer, then you can decide whether you want to follow up. Often other people appreciate a follow up where you kind of go, yeah, I hear ya. I just kind of wondering, and then maybe an empathic probe, that would have been my second suggestion, my first is of just open ended. Oh, how was that for you? Or how is that for you? A second one would be an empathic probe that’s based on kind of a sense of what that person is talking about. Right? The sense of you might say something like, well, I hear you, I can’t quite tell. Did you feel annoyed about that? Or, like you didn’t care? Or, you know, were you sad or anyway, another question is something like if it’s appropriate, what is, you know, when they’re describing how they feel about something, just sort of, what does this remind you of? You know, you asked the question about childhood, you know, the situation you’re dealing with. I’m, like I said, I’m dealing with a situation right now involving dropped balls. What does that remind you of? And I, you know, it reminds me of multiple situations were reaching through many time events as an adult and in my childhood in which I was obstructed, and in accomplishing something important of various kinds of sites to be careful about the ways that history is involved in turbocharges my reactivity here and now, for example, so it’ll be another question, you know, and not if you’re playing therapist, but you know if you have the room in your relationship to just talk about what else is cooking in the deeper layers of your mind that’s at work. And oh, here’s the last one. What do you want here?

Clint Murphy  43:15

Oh, yeah, because we often, especially as guys, we often jump to well, let me solve your problem. But what do you want? Do you want me to just listen? Or do you want some feedback? Yeah, what do you want here? I always forget that one.

Rick Hanson  45:25

Yeah, what do you want from me? Or even what did you wish had happened? In that situation? You’re talking to your you came back from the doctor’s office, they gave you some kind of worrisome news. Deep deep down inside, you kind of felt, you know, like, a what did you wish, but they were kind of cold about it, you know, and matter of fact, and they brushed your questions off. Well, what did you wish it happened? For example, or interpersonally, oh, okay. I got it. Something bugged you about how I’ve been talking with you or bugged you about housework, kids, whatever. What would it look like if you got what you wanted here? And not with tone not like, what do you want? No, not like that, or well, what would it look like if you got what you wanted? No, just sincere. I mean, sincerity is way underrated. You know, even if you’re acting in good faith, we can, like I make mistakes. But are you sincere? Are you acting in good faith? And if you are, you know, people usually get it.

Clint Murphy  46:31

Yeah. And the more we can read examples of these practices, and we’re never going to be perfect at them. But the more we can come back and say, I’m gonna practice this, I’m gonna practice this, the better, the better we’ll get by day,

 Rick Hanson  46:43

Here’s a file. Here’s a great one. Can you tell me more about that?

Clint Murphy  46:47

Yeah, it’s in the Coaching Habit. That’s my favorite question is, can you tell me more? Or he’ll use an example of and what else? And what else and you don’t let it go, until the person has no, no, what else left. I find that just beautiful. Yeah. And so pivot in a bit of a different direction. We’ll go back early in the book, and you talk about the idea that we all need to feel wanted, recognized and nurtured.  Social supplies, these like feed the emotional heart just as good food nourishes the body. What does that look like? And how can we do that in our lives? For example, can we do loving kindness for ourselves to feel that for ourselves? Or is this one where we’re looking outside of ourselves, to help supply it, which becomes a bit of a problem if we’re always looking outward instead of internally? Thanks for listening. If you enjoy what you’re hearing so far, and want me to be able to get your favorite guests on this show, please do me a quick favor, subscribe to the show. And leave me a rating, the 30 seconds of your time will mean a ton to me.

Rick Hanson  48:09

That’s an incredibly deep question. I mean, people might kind of hear like, oh, but actually, it’s incredibly deep, because it gets out some of the deep spiritual teachings around cravings, and the endless search for what seems endlessly outside ourselves and yet was already here. Deep inside all along. Right is a very deep, deep, deep question. Neurologically, one of the things that I’ve really focused on is, you know, this, this whole sense of taking in the good rather than letting it wash through your brain, like a water like water through a sieve, all that negative is caught because we have a negativity bias that’s like velcro for bad experiences, but Teflon for good ones. So how can we actually help things land in us again, and again, and again, that helps us slow down and act well. So for example, my story briefly cuz I was shy and dorkish, and incredibly awkward socially. As a kid going through school, I had many little experiences of feeling unwanted and second tier, and also I there I lacked a lot of positive experiences. So in the ACES structure, you may be familiar adverse childhood events, there does a key score scale that’s increasingly well researched. These are events. My list of ACES is zero. I did not have those adverse childhood events. I still grew up in a home with a lot of bickering and criticism, and tension and kind of weirdness. And that combined with my kind of shyness and awkwardness in school, led to an absence of what now are called positive childhood experiences, PCEs, so ACEs and PCEs in a sense. And so my point being, by the time I landed in college, I felt like there was a huge hole in my heart. In which I just had not felt, it was like the absence of the good, there wasn’t a lot of presence of the bad, I wasn’t bullied, I wasn’t traumatized. But there was a significant absence of the good, in part, because also I kind of turned away from it. And I didn’t know how to internalize it, I got defended, I went up into my head, I was numb from the neck down. You know, that’s how I kind of went through my teen years. And while getting good grades and staying out of trouble, quietly, you know, along the way. And then in college, I just stumbled on an incredibly valuable method, which is I started, in effect, recognizing good facts of other people waving me over to sit with him at dinner, or a girl smiling at me in the elevator, whoo hoo, right? Notice the good facts. And then second, help yourself have a appropriate good experience as a result, let yourself feel it, feel it, right. And then third, really important, help the experiencing of that good fact, to sink in. So that in effect, you’re just staying with it for a breath, or two or three, you’re feeling it in your body, you kind of feel like it’s landing. All I didn’t know what I was doing neurologically that I just knew at work. But neurologically, those methods and others that I teach about, including elsewhere, are evidence based. And they turbocharged the learning process, emotional learning, body learning, somatic learning, social learning, motivational learning, these processes of internalization. And so gradually, drop by drop, brick by brick, I started to fill that big hole in my heart over time. I can still get triggered these days, little things, but I’m pretty full, I’m pretty full up now. And for me, it’s an incredibly beautiful practice, because it’s in your power, right? And it’s authentic. It’s based on what’s real. When it’s real, slow down, for a breath, right? To take in the good. Then you have a with you wherever you go, which undoes craving, the engine of craving, including in the Buddhist tradition, is based on a sense of something missing or something wrong. It’s a lack. And it’s deficit based. So when you feel already full, and already balanced inside, there’s no basis for craving, you feel already peaceful, content and rested in love. Not in some lightweight way, you’re still working, you’re still dealing around the edges, you’re kind of annoyed by this guy who just cut you off, you know, on the freeway, or somebody dissed you or you got a one star review about your book on Amazon, because Amazon sent it out with a torn cover. Wait, that’s not my fault. But you know what I mean? That stuff can arise, but in your core, and then even you can return to quickly even if you get disturbed in your core, you can come back quickly to that because you’ve built it up 1000s of times, a breath at a time, increasingly hardwired into the fabric, the living tissue of your nervous system.

Clint Murphy  52:58

And how might either a meditation on gratefulness or the act of journaling three things that I’m grateful for today. And recognizing those as moments where we received the positive is something we’re grateful. Is that a way that we can really nourish that and build that sense of fullness?

Rick Hansen  53:25

Yeah, part of it is recognizing, like I said, these three things, in fact, recognize the good facts. Like a lot of us, we don’t even notice it. When another person is kind or we got something done, we hardly notice that we’re on autopilot. We’re thinking about other stuff. We’re ruminating about this and that our mind is caught up in you know, thinking about the last episode of White Lotus or something just rolling down the highway. Notice the good facts, the ordinary jewels strewn on the sidewalk of everyday life. Those are the flowers that are still blooming, the children that are still laughing, I have another little three part mantra, you know, deal with the bad, turn to the good, take in the good. All right, deal with the bad for real. But the best way to grow up the strengths inside that will help you deal with the bad successfully is to turn to the good. That’s also true. Like you said, you’re quoting that that Coach, what else? What else is true? Not to minimize or to rose colored glasses is no spiritual bypass. What else is true? What’s the good that’s also true, and then take in the good? Yeah. And when you do it, you feel the benefits of it quickly. It’s a great method for children. What you also will often do is you’ll run into blocks that will surprise the heck out of you. You’ll suddenly be like, Whoa, I’m afraid if I slow down and feel good. I’ll lower my guard. That’s and then I’ll get whacked. Well, it’s helpful to realize you can slow down and take in the good whilst remaining vigilant and centered and calm strength or people fear of taking the good will become complacent and lazy, I’ll lose my edge. Stay thirsty.

Clint Murphy  55:05

Well, that’s exactly where I was gonna go. Because in for a lot of people who look at high performance, you’ll often hear that some of the traits that people will share is one, somewhat of an irrational belief in what you can achieve. And then the flip side of that, and I’ve always found it odd because because I have these two things. So very high self confidence in what I can do, super low self regard for anything I have done, like a zero and so something that’s very hard to receive is any compliments, which is the essence of someone going out of their way to offer kindness is to say, Hey, I appreciate this about you. And for me, like, inability to almost receive that.

Rick Hanson  55:51

It’s great mindfulness. So you’re being with it. And this is a good illustration about the place for letting go and letting in you know, I won’t therapize you on the air, although that would be a lot of fun. I know you’d be a good sport, right? Yeah. But it’s great. You’re observing it. And then a question is, well, why not? Let me a question is, if there was a clone of Clint, we’ll call that person, you know, Sam or Susie, over there, who is doing the kind of stuff that Clint does in terms of solving problems, accomplishing things, being a good guy in different ways. And you saw Sam over there doing that. And then you saw another person, compliment, Sam, for doing that. If you liked Sam, wouldn’t you want him to take it in? And if it would be therefore good for Sam? Well, why not give it to yourself? Why would it not be okay for you to take it in? And this inquiry is a really useful inquiry because it surfaces beliefs, like I’ll lose my edge, or Oh, in my family, we brushed off compliments, or oh, people will think I’m all vain, or, Oh, it’s kind of vulnerable, sort of whoo intimate with another person to kind of slow down and receive what they have to offer. Oh, you, you might discover some of that. But I call it the friend test. If it would be appropriate for a friend or good for a friend that you wished well, to, toward wished well toward, whoa, wow. That’s the test who passes the test? It would be good for you to let yourself receive that as well.

Clint Murphy  57:29

Yeah, I think for me, it can also be that you never received it from the one person that you wanted it from. And so when it comes from anyone else, it doesn’t matter. It’s that one person in your life who you wanted it from, and you never got it. And I kind of got it a couple of days ago, and it felt really awkward at first, but then it felt, you know, I could sense that, that effort from the person. And it felt good. It felt good. And I could receive that because it’s like, oh, well, I’ve been waiting 45 years for that. That felt good. Yeah, it was beautiful.

Rick Hanson  58:07

Yeah, that’s touching and sweet. And I know we’re finishing so I’ll just maybe finish on this. It’s really normal. Like the two parts of it. One is obviously that longing. Goof. You know, I don’t know. May I ask if you’re you a parent?

Clint Murphy  58:24

I have two boys. Yeah, 14 and 11.

Rick Hanson  58:27

Do you know the Runaway Bunny, little book? You mean? Okay. It’s a really touching book. It’s probably aimed at about a three year old but the runaway bunny. And basically, the bunny is running away from the mommy bunny in his various forms. And the mommy bunny basically says, over and over and over again, I will turn into this to come find you. I will turn into that to come find you. And it’s about the deep longing and all of us to be found. Yep. Yeah, that’s true. And particularly from key people, but to be found in general, and part of it is to find ourselves being that brings us full circle to being loyal to yourself. Can you find yourself? Can you come home to yourself? Can you recognize the good in yourself as much as you long for key people to recognize in you? Right? That’s one part. Another part is to realize that yeah, it would have been great, or it would still be great today if those key people would give you the whole pie. Or to have a kind of relationship like soulmate love where you get the whole pie. And what people do routinely is they don’t accept any slice of the pie because it’s not the whole pie. Yeah, interesting. Okay, understandable. But we need pie. I feel like I’m quoting from Star Man a film in the 80s excellent film by the way. He there’s a great scene where he has cherry pie a la mode and he’s like, having an orgasm on the screen, it’s pretty wild. Anyway, or apple pie either one I forget. I’m partial to Cherry Pie ala mode, but Okay, and so, pie we want the whole pie but it’s better to have at least some of the pie The no pie at all. And actually, as we take in the good of some of the pie, we often build up our capacities, and kind of who we are that magnetizes people who are the whole pie, you know, to kind of come toward us.

Clint Murphy  1:00:15

Excellent. Rick, do you have time for a quick final fur rapid fire questions.

Rick Hanson  1:00:19

Yeah, for sure. All right, let’s do it.

Clint Murphy  1:00:21

What’s one book that’s had the most influence on you in your life?

Rick Hanson  1:00:26

There been many one of the dorkish first ones was called Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, classic Robert Heinlein book aimed at teenage boys, mainly sci fi. And it was really landed on me like me complete. I felt like a weakling, you know, when and I realized, Oh, I could use my, you know, kind of nervousness to just figure stuff out. Problem solved. There was a there was a vision of the possible in that, I think that book had a big impact on me. Dune, also a sci fi book about learning. Yeah, learning. Palma de he’s a learner, you know, he has a growth mindset, you know, on steroids, that the book made a lot of difference for me, and then maybe bring you more current, many psycho spiritual books. A book that I’ve read recently that I heartily recommend everybody is One Blade of Grass. by Henry Shukman. S H U K M A N, describes it’s a kind of a memoir of Zen practice in which describes with beautiful writing. He’s an extraordinary writer realizations he had and how he made sense of them and in ways that you can really get a lot out of. Maybe another kind of self helpy book would be Tara Brach’s wonderful book Trusting the Gold. Yeah, it’s so deep. And it’s like each chapter is about a page long with a pretty watercolor picture is so sweet. And then closing out the hitlist here, if people haven’t read it, Lord of Light, again, classic sci fi novel a beautifully written the storyline, essentially, it said in a future Earth like planet where, you know, Star traveling ships came that crashed, the passengers were allowed to regress into a kind of medieval level of technology, while the crew took upon themselves, the powers of the Hindu gods. And then along comes one of the main characters who takes on the role of the Buddha to challenge the authority of this other crew members, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And this is gorgeously read and it’s fun. It’s got some good teaching in it. Okay, I’ll leave it there.

Clint Murphy  1:02:40

I have to check that out. What’s on the bookshelf right now? What are you reading right now?

Rick Hanson  1:02:44

Well, I’m working my way stumbled into the John McDonald Travis Magee detective novels, you know, trigger warning. They’re written in the 60s and 70s, extraordinarily sexist, hyper traditionalist, and still, you know, kind of compelling plots and characters to let’s see, recently, I’ve, on the other side of the spectrum, I read The Death of Ivan Elliot, I couldn’t figure it out. Like maybe because I’ve been a therapist too long. I mean, I felt I’m probably lame. But anyway, that’s a whole other thing. I Gosh. And then last maybe, I’ll tell you another great novel, I just think it’s fabulous. Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, written by a Nobel Prize winning I believe she’s Polish about an eccentric woman who loves animals, and it’s a detective novel, really beautifully written and interesting. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.

Clint Murphy  1:03:41

Just sounds so evocative in the title. I know. Yeah. It and so what’s one thing that Rick has bought in the last 12-18 months that’s under $1,000 that you think, wow, I really wish I’d bought this earlier in life?

Rick Hanson  1:03:54

Well, it’s over $1,000, but an exercise machine in my garage. You know, I’d say that. Ah, good question earlier. I’m not sure I could answer that. Because maybe I’m fortunate, you know, I’m privileged for multiple reasons.

Clint Murphy  1:04:11

It’s okay, we can go with garage gym, it was a little bit over but having a gym at home is a good way to get fit.

Rick Hanson  1:04:17

This is less than that. I had the opportunity to work with a rock climbing guide. And because I’m getting older, and it’s important that I don’t hurt myself while I’m rock climbing with ropes and technical stuff. So he goes up first because he’s better by far than I am. And so it enables me to climb challenging things without risking hurting myself and I’ve invested in days in Joshua Tree park with him. And if I can put a plug in for him, people can find him online. Roddy McCauley the way I’ll put it here is that Michael Jordan is the Roddy McCauley of basketball players.

Clint Murphy  1:04:53

Oh, wow. And Joshua Tree, what a beautiful area.

 Rick Hanson  1:04:56

Yeah, Roddy McCauley you can find them online. Yeah, any He’s also reason that Eastern Sierra and summer and Joshua Tree in the winter.

Clint Murphy  1:05:04

Yeah, Joshua Tree’s phenomenal. I think that’s where I did my only Silent Retreat. It was a blast into the last one because the shows about growth is what is one mindset shift behavior change or habit for you that’s had an oversized impact on your life. Great question.

Rick Hanson  1:05:23

Many I could think of taking into good, absolutely fundamental, I’ll call it like, widening the view, whether it’s more of a bird’s eye view with somebody or in a tiff with or in this moment of experiencing even meditatively widening the view. And neurologically, it does a lot of good things. It kind of calms down the self centeredness, it pulls us out of rumination. It gives us more of a sense of big picture brings in new information is calming, just spaciousness, spaciousness and more and more identity starts shifting out of the flotsam and jetsam, in the streaming of consciousness into more of the streaming itself, the spaciousness of awareness, and spaciousness of this moment of occurring and reality altogether. That kind of widening out. That’s had a big, big impact.

Clint Murphy  1:06:19

For our listeners, you can practice, I like to say when in doubt, zoom out. Just widen that zoom. So Rick, thank you for joining us today on the growth guide podcast really enjoyed having you here.

Rick Hanson  1:06:32

Thank you, Clint.

Clint Murphy  1:06:33

Could have been hours conscious of your time. Thank you.

Rick Hanson  1:06:37

Yeah, thank you boughs back. Take care.

Clint Murphy  1:06:46

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