Interview with Dr. Jeffrey Rubin, The Art of Flourishing
Dr. Jeffrey B. Rubin is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City and Bedford Hills, NY. who has worked with children, adolescents and individual adults for over thirty years. He is also an experienced couples therapist with a strong background in both traditional psychotherapy and more contemporary modalities.
Dr. Rubin is widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on the integration of meditation and psychotherapy.In his recent writing and workshops on The Art of Flourishing, Dr. Rubin is especially interested in illuminating both those forces in the world that are driving us crazy and those personal and collective resources we can draw on to not only stay sane, but to flourish in challenging times.
Christine spoke with Dr. Rubin recently to get the goods on How to flourish, from the author himself.
Christine: I love the title of your book, “The Art of Flourishing: A New East-West Approach to Staying Sane and Finding Love in an Insane World.”. So often, we find both the idea and act of self care and intimacy are given in ego stance of lack and scarcity where if we put ourselves first, for the most part, people think that that’s a selfish act. I love that your book really helps people explore that belief and that understanding.
In the beginning, you touched on human capacity for self deception and the elaborate strategies that we put together to self protect. I was wondering if you could talk about why do we do that, why do we try to protect ourselves, why do we create this whole idea of doing what we’re supposed to do, what people tell us that we’re supposed to do instead of what we’re really meant to be doing.
Dr. Rubin: It’s a great question. I think we protect because most, if not all people go through earlier woundings, pain, trauma, and we developed a strategy that I call self-splinting, emotional self-splinting. Just like if there were two children, 10, 14, playing in the woods before dinner and one sprained an ankle. The other one might say, “Don’t panic. Let’s take your sock. Let’s get some bark.” And they created an artificial splint and they hobble home. It wouldn’t be wise to keep that splint on the rest of the person’s life. It would get weak, discolored, infected.
Dr. Rubin: And we all have that. We all have our earlier solutions to the dilemmas we face growing up that caused us to protect around areas of vulnerability and I think there’s a cultural piece too. I think there’s a great taboo against selfishness in the culture. The psychoanalyst, Derek Firm, wrote about this decades ago and it’s especially dangerous for women I think because women that equate taking care of themselves ie: being authentic, being self-nurturing, many women feel that it’s ruthlessly selfish and then they become guilty if they take care of themselves. So this is a huge block towards self care. I think that if men and women were more comfortable seeing self-care and intimacy as 2 sides of the same coin, you can’t have one without the other, relationships would be much more healthy. So if we take better care of ourselves, we’re actually more available for other people. Wether we’re in a committed relationship or it’s friendship or it’s parenting or colleagues at work, we just can do whatever jobs we have in a much deeper way if we also take care of ourselves. Self-care and intimacy don’t have to be at odd and they don’t have to be fighting with each other.
Christine: How is it that we can tell if we have self-splinted and maybe this is an area that we need to revisit to heal. How can we tell if that’s where we’re at?
Dr. Rubin: One way is that our behavior is very restrictive and very repetitive and we keep getting into the same kinds of problems, the same kinds of problems with self-care, of neglecting ourselves, we have the same kind of problems with other people where relationships keep ending badly in a similar kind of way where we keep avoiding some area.
There is a principle that splinting leads to and I call that invisible psychological fencing. In invisible fence, our animals get shocked if they go to the edge of the fence. Invisibly, you can’t see it but the animals get shocked if they go to the edge of it. I think people have that too what I call this invisible psychological fencing and if we get to the edge of what we can handle, we shut down, we get scared, we live in a restricted way so it’s as if many of us are living in 2 acres but we only use 20 yards of it.
So one signal about the self-splinting is areas we don’t go to. When people say, “Oh, I can’t do that,” or “I won’t do that,” to bring gentleness and compassion and patience but to start to get curious about it because while it’s a very fearful area and it’s very natural for us to stay away from it, it actually provides a great opportunity to open up to more of life.
Christine: Absolutely, So if we find that we have this area that’s kind of been locked off by this invisible gate, what are some steps that we can take? Because usually, like you were saying, it’s something that’s repetitive. So how do we break through that? How do we move past the repetitiveness even if we know all the things we need to know, we just keep doing it anyway?
Dr. Rubin: That’s a great question, Christine. I mean I think the first thing is really to bring a spirit of humility and patience because it’s going to be tough and maybe tough at first because we’re traveling at a new territory.
Dr. Rubin: One thing that’s helpful in addition to humility and patience is to get really curious about why we needed to do it, why in earlier time in our life that may have felt like the only or the best solution to the dilemma we faced. So let’s take a very prominent example women who are caregivers.
Dr. Rubin: Sort of compulsive caregivers. It’s something I talked about in the book and it’s something men and women know but the women are often very, very trained in that. To look at why the person had to develop in that way, maybe they felt very conditionally accepted, maybe they felt very unloved, maybe they learned that the only way of increasing the chances that they wouldn’t be neglected would be to give to somebody else.
So the first thing is to see the value actually in the splint and the value in that fence. In other words, why was it necessary? And to remember that it was necessary and functional but it just may not be the best solution right now. That’s the first thing. Does that make sense?
Christine: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Dr. Rubin: The second thing that’s related to that is to see the gain we got from it to really become familiar with it. So I have a friend who knew a lot about health and took yoga classes and so forth and was a smoker. And every 3 months or so would get respiratory issues. As I talked to her about it and got more clear about it, I think that what I detected was that she was afraid of gaining weight so she smoked to not gain weight. I call this in the book, “right impulse, wrong solution.” It’s fine if she doesn’t want to gain weight but maybe there’s another way to do it other than smoking which may create additional problems.
So often with the splints, they were the best solution we knew at an earlier time to dilemmas we face. They might not be the best solution now. But if we start with why did I need to do it then? What was the dilemma? Thats sort of the wounding underneath the splint, then they can start to see now as an adult or now as a teenager, can they approach the wounding in a more holistic way, can they approach the wounding in a better way, not a reactive way but in a creative way.
Christine: It really speaks to visiting the inner child and coming from a place of now being the adult. What happens for people because I’m sure as you’ve experienced when there has been severe trauma, you know, they can’t access some memories. In fact, a lot of times, whole pieces of their childhood are missing. Is it still something that they can access the healing on their own?
Dr. Rubin: That’s a very good question. You’re exactly right. Sometimes, that cannot be accessed on their own although what they might find is if they do some kind of awareness practice which could be sensory awareness which is an older practice developed by Charlotte Selver, or tai chi or meditation, whatever tradition, Christian, Buddhist, or yoga especially done in a mindful way, or body work, those often bring up encoded memories in the body of stuff that at first, all there is is a feeling tone or a quick vision of something but those can often be roots to it.
Often, it has to happen either in a close friendship or in a therapeutic group, some kind of therapeutic relationship which could be a relationship of congregate and a minister or a rabbi and someone in that community, or Buddhist teacher and a student, or traditional therapist and client. But often, you need the emphatic response of another which helps bring stuff up a safe environment. Because often, what I think happens with trauma is the double trauma. There’s the trauma of physical violence or there’s a trauma of neglect, emotional neglect, or there’s a trauma of some kind of sexual abuse. Actually, it’s a triple trauma. The second trauma is often when the traumatized person goes to another adult, the other adult sometimes invalidates that experience. “No, he didn’t sexually abuse you,” or “No, she wasn’t violent towards you,” the other parent says or the other adult says, and that then makes the person doubt the validity of their own reality and it scars them for the rest of their lives because they begin to systematically doubt themselves. And then they are set up to put themselves in abusive relationships moving forward where the other person also invalidates them and mocks them and undercuts them.
The third part of the trauma that extend to the original trauma and the invalidation by the other person, the third part is that often, there is no one to hear and witness our pain especially the emotional side of it. Then we learn we then learn to sequester the feelings because it’s not safe to bring them up. So often, there is some kind of healing relationship, we slowly learn through testing the person that it is safe to bring up what we thought was shameful, what we’re too scared to face ourselves. Then, if that person can greet the pain and woundedness and trauma with a loving heart in an accepting way, then we slowly bring out a little bit more and eventually more and more. It’s like the tip of the iceberg, more and more of what’s underneath can emerge and then healing can begin.
Christine: Yes. Having somebody to hold that space and ask the right questions even they aren’t necessarily answers. Sometimes that allows the answers to kind of come up.
Dr. Rubin: Yes exactly. I think we all possess capacity for healing and creativity that we might not usually recognize. It’s within all of us and sometimes, when we’re set on the right course through someone else’s loving witnessing of our experience or for someone else caring about us enough to ask us a deep question, that can sometime start this internal process which I think is very mysterious and magical. We can’t always cognitively rationally map how it works. But we set a process in motion where someone else’s question then helps us begin to search out for us the answer.
Christine: Absolutely. And the word that you’ve used a few times is curiosity and I love to say, “try to cultivate some curiosity” because it just even in that word, it signifies that there is no judgment, there is just an open approach to looking at things and being curious about what could be the cause of this.
Dr. Rubin: Exactly. And realize that it was the best they could do at that time.
Even if now, it looks disturbing, dysfunctional, perverted, perverse, it was the best solution that they knew at that time. The deeper we can go with self acceptance and self-compassion, then it’s a little bit easier to greet other people’s vulnerability with a more loving heart. But if we can’t face those areas in ourselves, it’s tougher to face it than others. So if we keep working with deepening our own ability to sit with more and more of what we went through and understand and feel that it was the best we could do, then we set a process in motion where we can do more and more of that for other people.
Christine: Does that include self forgiveness and forgiveness of others?
Dr. Rubin: Yeah. But to be honest with you, one trap I have seen with “spiritual seekers” is too quickly rushing to trying to forgive. I had a session years ago when a person said at the end as we’re leaving, I forgive my parents, I forgive them, and I was really confused because we hadn’t really talked about anything related to that. So I said, I’m confused, what do you forgive? And the person said, I don’t know, and I said, well then you don’t forgive yet. I think we have to be a little bit wary of, and not to rush to forgiveness because it’s a wonderful quality, but it’s better if we first go through what the experience meant to us and the pain it brought us. And then if we stay with that and work with it overtime, the forgiveness can emerge but it’s earned forgiveness. It’s not the rush to forgiveness.
Christine: Yeah. It’s the real depth of forgiveness.
Dr. Rubin: That’s right. It’s not the depth of I forgive but I’m still angry at you but I think that I should forgive and I’m unspiritual if I don’t forgive. It’s I really come to terms with it in my heart. I choose not to be with you or you’re not safe for me but I understand why you had to do that to me and I don’t wish ill towards you.
Christine: Yeah. Really being able to come from the place of really feeling that instead of just wanting to feel that and so “acting as if”. Maybe forgiveness is not something you can “act as if”.
Dr. Rubin: That’s right. Although I think it’s important for readers to realize that all of us are different places on the continuum with these kind of things. And again, if you can’t forgive and you’re judging, just try to be compassionate about the fact that you’re being tough on yourself and just try to settle into that, accept that, and if we keep working with this stuff, it has an organic flow and it seems to open up but we have to accept wherever we are, we’re going to be in different places, at different times with that sort of stuff.
Christine: In your book, you mentioned a certain phrasing that I loved which was emotional allergies where you described human beings inability to experience the pains and the fears, which is a little bit about what we’re talking about here. Is this something that you see mostly in the west or do you feel that most cultures hide from these feelings.
Dr. Rubin: First lets define an emotional allergy. By emotional allergies, I mean a similar kind of process that goes on with physical allergy. A physical allergy is something where let’s say pollen, triggers a reaction in our immune system and the system panics and we treat a non-enemy as an enemy and then we mobilize against it. We have allergic symptoms but pollen may not be the problem, it’s the hyperreaction of the immune system.
So an emotional allergy is a similar process. We overreact to emotions that don’t have the power to hurt us and then we fear feelings like fear or shame or guilt and we panic in the face of them and we shut down and then we want to get rid of these feelings or we blame our neighbor or we dump them on to someone else instead of being able to stick with the feelings that open to them. Once we can sit with them and open to them, we can do what I call in the book emotional composting, which is openness to the feeling, the curiosity you were just speaking of, Christine, and then decoding them, in other words, translating what the feelings mean and then action, what do we do about it. Transformation, what do we do about it and how do we respond.
So let’s take the feeling of jealousy. Jealousy at least in the west, it seems to me, is probably almost universally stigmatized and judged. So if I feel jealous towards someone else and I become aware of feeling jealous, I’m going to immediately feel very badly & guilty, it’s “How can I be jealous towards my friends.” But that’s the emotional allergy. We’re panicking and overreacting in the face of jealousy but what if I say to myself, oh let me open. Here is jealousy, let me open to it, let me translate what it means, let me figure out what to do. Something very interesting happens which is: jealousy is feedback about what we want more in our life. So if we are jealous about a friend who has a more leisure lifestyle or sees more sunset because they’re not working so hard, that’s an indication, that’s a doorway into what we would like to have more of. It’s not really about the other person, it’s about where we’re feeling. I love it what you use earlier, scarcity where we have a kind of hunger mentality where we need more. And then we can say is there a constructive way that I can see more sunsets or sunrises or whatever.
So these are the way our feelings work. Fear often covers hurt. So when we have fear, we close down or we attack someone else. We fight, we flight. There is fight or flight. But what if we say, what is fear trying to say to me, what is fear trying to communicate? It’s a kind of letter from ourselves to our self that I think what I am arguing in The Art of Flourishing is we would do better to open a letter and see what it says and see if they can enrich our lives. Just like in physical composting, we take what looks like trash that we’re going to throw away, we put it into the soil and it enriches the soil. In emotional composting, we take what we think is garbage or trash that we ordinarily would throw away and we use it to enrich ourselves and our relationships. That’s the composting part.
Christine: Absolutely. It really gives us the ability to transform how we look at something and I love that you’ve used that example of jealousy because often I find many, mostly women but men as well, become so locked in the pattern that has been set before them or what they are supposed to do that they’ve lost their connection with what they even want. So when you present them with “How do you want to create your life? What would you like to do?” it almost immobilizes them because they have no idea.
Dr. Rubin: That’s right. I feel that this can be an epidemic for people and one thing that I talked about the book, there’s a chapter on passion, is if we can try to begin to be alert to what we’re passionate about. Passion is different than obsession and it’s different in addiction. You can feel the difference. We don’t feel depleted later, we don’t feel caught in it’s grip in a bad way but a passion is a signal of our potential purpose. It’s a signal of what we love. What we do when there are no should’s, when it’s a holiday, when it’s evening, when it’s the weekend, and what do we seamlessly gravitate towards, because that’s often a clue as to what direction we need to go in and now the problem for many, I need specifying genders but the problem for many people and many, many women that I have seen is that they are not even in that stage, this is exactly what you’re talking about. Either they lost connection with it or they never developed a connection with it because they were trained to be such exquisite caregivers or such exquisite, what I call in the book, accommodators, figuring out what other, using their intuitive ability to suss out what other people need and to merge and blend with other people but then they get left out.
If we could help men and women to and more into what makes us come alive, what vitalizes this, what we’re passionate about, whether it’s sailing, whether it’s the flowers on your night table, whether it’s tutoring someone else, whether it’s kind of work you do, whether it’s swimming or being a healer, whatever it is, if we can embrace that more, we actually have more to give to other people because we come from the place of a little more joy and more flourishing and then we want to support other people having the same experience.
One of the lucky parts of my own development was that I fell in love with basketball when I was a kid. There is a basketball story right at the beginning at the book and it was my first love, it was my passion and I really learned a lot of important life lessons from it and I feel sad about people that I look at and they’re teenagers or they’re adult and it’s just sort of nothing they ever got really excited about. If we could value more trying to get in touch with that or trying to create the conditions that will make them a little more possible, our lives will be transformed and enriched.
Christine: Right. And you know, the economy is really, even though it seems like it’s a far distant connection really when we’re really feeding ourselves with the truths of what we really desire, the excessive spending isn’t necessary and the living beyond your means doesn’t even come into play because you’re living on purpose and in your passion.
Dr. Rubin: That’s right. There’s a chapter in that book on embodying your values, living your values. There’s a talk I gave at the UN and I realized writing this that one of the things that’s not talked about the moral free for all that’s going on right now, in all sectors of the culture from professional sports to politics to organizations, Wallstreet, it’s everywhere. One of the things that’s missed is how people that do that are actually harming themselves forget for a moment harming everyone else but harming themselves and Eric Hoffer who I quote and he wrote a book years ago called The True Believer, he was a long shoreman in San Francisco. He said you can never get enough of what you really don’t need to make you happy. The problem with seeking what I think of a false substitutes for meaning, purpose, intimacy, connection with other people, the cost of having the false substitute is that we can never get enough of it so we need 2000 pairs of shoes or we need another conquest or we need to build another building. The problem is it’s like we are an empty bucket with a hole at the bottom and we feel empty and we keep pouring things in but it leaks out and it’s never going to be enough.
This is what I called in the first chapter of the book, cotton candy. So cotton candy, those who went to amusement parks. Cotton candy looks good, tastes good, but 3 seconds later, it disappears and we’re hungry for more. So the problem with a lot of self-care I feel in the west, is a lot of our self-care tends to be cotton candy. Looks good, taste good, and at the end of the evening, we watch the rerun of such and such ago and we feel we want to stop later because we’re not really nourished. And if we had done something that truly spoke to us that evening, connected with a friend and in nature, taken a walk, whatever truly nurtures them, then we don’t need to seek these false substitutes of money, power, fame or all of that.
Christine: Absolutely. And you gave an example of an artist. In the book, you gave an example of an artist who is spending his time on the internet instead of creating art and I think that’s something that a lot of people and myself included at times get sucked into, updating things and checking on this. It’s almost like the bottomless pit that you were talking about or eating cardboard instead of something that has nutrients in it. You know, it’s not going to fill you up.
Dr. Rubin: Exactly. It’s kind of empty carbs of the spirit.
Christine: Yeah, it really is.
Dr. Rubin: I have that done that too. I think maybe everybody has done it. You know what I would do is just try to open it up, become curious about it, bring some patience and compassion rather than judgment and shame and then see if we can truly tune in what nourishes us. The civil right activist & comic, Dick Gregory had it taken for years ago. He had wonderful book on nutrition, a small paperback on eating & nutrition and I remember one thing from the book, he said, would anyone put garbage into their car, would you stick rocks or trash into your car as fuel. Nobody would do that. Nobody. But if we put trash in ourselves, either mentally, spiritually, physically with that food, we’re literally polluting ourselves and I think we’re all capable of figuring out what truly is good fuel for us, what nourishes us, what helps us. And if we can start to look at that and without any judgment and again with patience and compassion, we can transform our lives and genuinely nourish ourselves. That’s what I call genuine self-care in the first half of the book, the first 10 chapters. And then we’re at a much better places to be related to other people either an intimate relationship, friendships, whatever because we’re centered, we’re nurtured, we’re feeling more vital and alive and then it’s easier to connect to the deeper level with their friends and loved ones and so forth.
Christine: Absolutely, for the most part, we have an idea of what we should be doing or what is best for us but we’re just choosing something almost out of default. It seems that we get in these patterns and when we get curious about it, we can open it up and slow down the pattern. I also liked in the book when you talk about going against the grain, when you do have the knowledge, you know the intuitive part of it, you know what you’re meant to do, you know that this job or this friendship or this relationship is it’s over but you’re still staying in it for whatever reason you know in all levels. Can you explain that a little bit.
Dr. Rubin: Absolutely. I’m glad you picked that up because it’s an important concept. It’s an idea in the yoga sutras, to see with opposite eyes. So let me give a very personal example. I am a pretty careful guy, sensitive to what I put inside of me. I love movies, and one of my vices is: I love buttered popcorn. I started noticing a year or so ago that I was feeling cloggy the next day and I wasn’t positive it was related to that but I suspected it might be, that I might be allergic to the butter or the artificial butter or whatever was in it. So the next time I went to the movies, I sort of habitually walked towards the concession stand and then I visualized how I’ve been tending to feel the morning after the movie, the morning after buttered popcorn, and I visualize sort of the cloggy, a little bit foggy head itself. And in that moment, I saw that I really didn’t want to be in that place and so I just got some water and went into the movie without the popcorn.
So part of this is just bringing this curiosity and this awareness to what we’re doing and sometimes we need to go against the grain of what feels familiar. One of the essential teachings of Taoism is that it’s about opening to and becoming connected to the grain and the flow of the universe, the grain of the universe so that the taoist sage is one that is supposed to flow with the grain. One way to think about that is if you’re cutting the tomato, you can cut it against the grain and you lose a lot of juice or you can cut it with the grain and you don’t lose juice. There’s a way to live according to the grain of the universe.
Working on the book, I realized that the opposite was also true, that sometimes we need to go against the grain because sometimes, the grain is what’s habitual or what’s familiar. So for me, what was habitual or familiar was walking towards the concession stand, getting the popcorn and then having popcorn while I was enjoying the movie. And then sometimes, we need to challenge that.
My first yoga teacher, Jill Kramer, wonderful teacher in Northern California talked about, in yoga, playing the edge. The edge is the place after no challenge but before pain. It’s a way that sort of go beyond what you’re familiar with but without doing it the way that’s harmful or too much. Going against the grain is kind of like playing the edge, it’s challenging your way of thinking, it’s challenging your limits. And it takes millions of forms. It could be that you’re a gentle soul who’s afraid of complex aggression and gravitates towards meditative practices or yoga practices and you got in touch with the fact that while they’re wonderful, secretly they allow you to hang out. What you might need to do is take a kickboxing class where you face a little bit more aggression or you can be someone who is a little bit shy and introverted and you can love meditation retreats where you don’t have to talk to anyone or you don’t have to look at anyone and maybe you need to go to some kind of social function where you actually look people in the eyes. That would be what going against the grain would look.
There’s an idea, wonderful idea, in the yoga sutras, Vinyasa Krama and it means an orderly progression, a logical progression. So if you were going to run the 5K race, you would just go out and run the 5k race, you’d might walk around the block once. And then 2 days later, you might walk around the block again once, and then a week later, you might walk around twice and then eventually, you might start slow jogging, you do things in a slow logical ordered way so your body and your mind can assimilate it. It’s the same thing with playing your edge, you don’t want to do something that’s just too much and too terrifying. You just gradually do a little bit more.
Christine: Right. And it really, I once read a quote in a magazine where it said, I don’t want to get to the end of my life and say that I only lived the length of it. I want to be able to say I lived the width of it as well.
Dr. Rubin: Oh that’s beautiful.
Christine: Yeah, it was beautiful, it is beautiful. It’s challenging those areas that maybe once you just challenge it just a little bit, it will expand and it really allows you to experience both aspects. It’s almost like you don’t know how light it is until you go into a dark room and then turn on the light. You know, having those opposites really allows you to get a tangible experience of what it is that you are wanting or how to transform something.
Dr. Rubin: Yes. Often what happens is we’re too attached to how we feel about something. So in other words, something doesn’t feel good and we think we should stay away from it or something feels good so we go towards it, and sometimes, we need to take our feelings very seriously but sometimes, we need to not make them everything. So something could feel like we can’t handle it but we could handle it. Or something could feel like it’s too much and it’s okay to lean into it and open to it. One trick with this is not to let feelings dictate everything.
One of my first meditations teachers, a wonderful teacher, Joseph Goldstein, I once heard a tape and he said, if you can remember this one thing, your meditation will be totally different. Good is not good and bad is not bad. And I think what he meant is bad feelings don’t always mean you’re doing badly, it could be you’re scared because you’re challenging something that needs to be challenged. And good feelings don’t always mean you’re doing well, it could just mean you’re staying within an narrow comfort zone or you’re staying within an invisible psychological fence and not venturing outside.
So one trick, and this easier for me to explain to people then for people than do it. It’s a listen to your feeling but be willing sometimes to play with them and to challenge them.
Christine: A good example of that is someone who’s really meant to be a public speaker but has stage fright and you see it time and time again where they’re really meant to speak to people but maybe they’re afraid of getting on the stage and if they were to just push past that initial discomfort, they would be able to explore and really reach and grow.
Dr. Rubin: That’s the perfect example. You totally have explained what I’m saying, that’s exactly right. I was shy and introverted in high school, and I think that just doing therapy for so long and spending my working life sitting and talking to people, I became more and more comfortable sitting and talking to people. Then it sort of naturally morphed into feeling very comfortable speaking. Another key to working with this is not to get always get locked in our self-image. The self-image is one of the pillars of the invisible psychological fence. Fear is the pillar of it, habit is the pillar, not knowing something is a pillar. In other words, these are the things that keep us locked in — not knowing something, fear, habit, but another one is self-image. Because self-image is often who we think we are and what we tell ourselves we can do. So I would have told myself I can’t really be involved in more public speaking because I’m shy and introverted. Then I sort of just forgot about that and I probably still held it in the self-image, but then I started doing more and more writing and then I was asked to speak on my earlier books, Psychotherapy and Buddhism, was one I was often asked to speak on. And then when I was asked to speak, it threw me out and I just went with the challenge of it and then I came to discover, gee, I really liked talking to people, I love communicating, I love learning where other people are at, it’s wonderful. So yeah, not to let the self-image totally dictate but to be willing to play the edge of our self-image. So one way you can come quickly to this is write down who you think you are. I said it that way on purpose. I didn’t say write down who you are but write down who you think you are.
Dr. Rubin: And then you can do an interesting experiment which is hunt for examples of where the opposite is true.
Christine: Wow. I love that idea.
Dr. Rubin: Hunt for life experiences where so if I was doing the exercise, Christine, and I said, “Well, I’m shy and introverted” and you were guiding me, you can say, “Well, Jeffrey, are there any examples in your life of where you weren’t shy or introverted or were you were involved in public speaking?” And another way to finding, you’ve been a good scientist, you’re finding counter examples to your theory and like the scientist when you find counter examples, you actually refine your theory.
Dr. Rubin: Not all of it but it’s a part of it. Because if we have a very, very narrow conception of ourselves, if a woman said to herself, I’m not entitled to equality in this relationship, I’m not entitled to speak up and tell my friends, partner, husband that I feel deprived or I need more, and you got to listen more to me or take me more seriously. If we don’t feel entitled, in the old sense of the word, that becomes a virtual prison. In other words, that serves as a prison even though there is no prison there.
Dr. Rubin: But it becomes the best we can do that we just, you know, sometimes I jokingly think we don’t need a dictator, we don’t need a censor because so much of the time, most of us are dictating to ourselves and censoring ourselves and it serves like a little prison.
Christine: Absolutely. It reminds me a little bit of, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it but Byron Katie’s work where she says “is that true. Can you be 100% sure that that is the truth?”
Dr. Rubin: Yes. It’s very, very similar. The way I’m trying to make it emotional not cognitive, is finding examples.
Dr. Rubin: And you’re not in your head but at this point, it’s something concrete. And then it needs you to hold on to it.
Christine: Absolutely. And it’s interesting that you use that word concrete so many of the ways that you explain things makes it much more concrete for us to understand.
Dr. Rubin: That’s important. I had a teacher in college. He has since died, but he was a very prominent philosopher named Richard Wordy, and he would explain the most esoteric stuff in a very down to earth way and it really affected me. I think one of the things the world needs is for us to work on better communication, connecting more with ourselves, connecting more with other people, and the more we’re careful with the communication and the more we’re pin down things into the very concrete, it decreases the chances of misunderstanding and it process communication.
Christine: There is no right, there is no wrong, you can see how everything is connected.
Thank you so much for your time Dr. Rubin, I really feel like I have some great new tools to utilize in my own life and to share with my readers.
Dr. Rubin: Thank you Christine, take care of yourself.
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