At first when I open an email from Rick Hanson seeking input for his new book on experiences any of us have had with his suggestion of “taking in the good,” I think I have nothing to offer here. Right now. I’m too bruised.

Hanson writes:

As you probably know, the three basic steps of taking in the good are:

1. Let a good fact become a good experience.

2. Open to and savor this experience for 10-30 seconds in a row.

3. Intend and sense that the experience is sinking into you, becoming a part of you.

You can use this method for the good facts around you each day – most of which are relatively small, such as coffee smells good, you finished a batch of emails, flowers are blooming, someone was warm to you, etc. Most positive experiences are fairly mild, and that’s fine. But mild or intense, they normally flow through the brain like water through a sieve while negative experiences get caught every time (which helped our ancestors survive). That’s why it’s so important, several times a day or more, to turn toward a positive experience and take it into you. And since “neurons that fire together, wire together,” you’ll be weaving positive feelings, sensations, and thoughts into the fabric of your brain and your self.

Then there is the 4th, optional step, in which you’re aware of a strong positive experience connecting with some negative material – such as a longing for love, feelings of anxiety, or some pain from childhood – that is dim and in the background of your mind. You don’t let yourself get sucked into the negative material but keep the positive material relatively intense and in the forefront of awareness. With repetition, the positive material will gradually associate to, infuse, soothe, and even gradually replace the negative material. For more on all four steps, see chapters 2 and 50 in my book, Just One Thing.

An Easter card from my older brother is waiting in the mailbox this afternoon. He recalls a memory of a warm late Easter, how the grass is so green and we have white rabbits. The thrill of Easter mornings when we are very young sifts unbidden through my consciousness … We rise early, rush down to find our baskets — always spectacularly wrapped in softly shaded cellophane — and (after biting an ear off the big Easter bunny and chomping down a handful of jelly beans and chocolate eggs) spread our candy on opposing sides of the dining room table in a checkboard-style faceoff. All this before the hunt, as I recall.

The Easter Basket Battles ceased when our younger brother began walking.

So does it count then, taking in this good, fetching this fond memory and facing it off opposite the pain and negativity which characterize my current relationship with both my brothers?

I don’t know how to mend anything.

Join the Conversation


  1. It sounds as if your brother is extending an open hand with an Easter card. Who sends Easter cards? It must be a sign of interest in continuing a relationship. Perhaps you don’t need to mend anything, just acknowledge his kindness. That doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten or forgiven or anything else, just that you acknowledge. And, yes, you can savor those old memories. Your enjoyment of them is a free gift to yourself that you deserve and should savor with gratitude that your life has been a mixture of lovely and hard, as all interesting lives are.

  2. I found your blog through a search for Effexor and cognitive disfunction. I spent 9 years on Effexor, and towards the end I couldn’t even read a paragraph and had to drop out of graduate school. Now that I’m off Effexor I can read, but I still have severe concentration problems. My questions are: do you know if any studies were done about this, and do you know what can be done to improve cognitive function.

    1. i am still on Effexor. Got down to 37.5 and then had to up it to 75. Not ready to try again. BUT I did sign up for Luminosity online cognitive training and my cognitive functioning has improved substantially in six months. It’s about $6 a month, I believe and I was doing daily exercises. Cannot recommend highly enough.

  3. What’s happening? Are you okay? I too have been on effexor for a long time, with a fading memory. I just found your website and you have presented so many good alternatives. I’m concerned with the info I’ve been reading about increases in aluminum and barium in the soil. I do not have any firsthand knowledge of this however. I am struggling with many of the same issues you seem to be struggling with — I wish you all the best.

    1. I finished an 8 week clinical trial using MBCBT to deal with treatment resistant depression. Was very helpful. Currently, I am on 75 mg of Effexor and less than 5 mg of Lexapro. I just began an exercise regime again and am hoping to be able to cut back again once I have established a regular routine for 2 months.

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