S3E10 Self Growth

There are many ways for people to try and evolve, and today’s culture heavily emphasizes the importance of wellness and wellbeing. In fact, there could be some criticism about self-growth being viewed as a fad, but Dr. Pete and Dr. Rubin break this down for you and tell you how important self growth truly is. Don't believe us? Tune in to see how the eastern spiritual practices have focused so much on growth and change, and how western behaviorism can teach you effective ways to do so.




Pete: Well, everyone's looking for ways that they can grow, well, maybe not everybody, but certainly people are coming into our office.


Nikki: That's unfortunately not true but lots of people are. Yes. 


Pete: Well, I think we're in a time and a culture and, you know, in this given space of time more people today like our efforts that we did. There are people looking more for growth to the point where I've been doing executive coaching for a long time in my practice, and so now I started to call it ‘A Executive Growth Consultant.’


Nikki: Oh, very fancy title there. 


Pete: It's not. I don't know what it's, but it reflected more than of what I was doing. So, so today, Nikki, we're going to talk about self-growth.


Nikki: Great. And I think what Pete and I were interested in with regards to this topic is, and this is something that I want to start with. What’s so wonderful about it is, you know, especially with, I would say Gen Z, there's so much more willingness, openness, acceptance of self-growth. Not just something nice to have, but like a necessary part of like being a human and that of course factors into sort of the ongoing work to destigmatize you know, taking care of one's mental health.


Pete: Yes.


Nikki: I mean, I definitely would say, like 15 years ago when we were in grad school, you know, I couldn't have predicted like sort of the explosion of like discourse around that and. And that's, of course like really lovely to see as a psychologist. I'm like, it's cool that I hear people tell me they want to go to therapy and they're asking for therapist referrals. And I know it's going to vary obviously based on your community and your family and all that. But I would say on the whole, the trend is certainly in that direction.


Pete: Way less stigmatized than it once was for sure.  Especially I see that in the sports world it is not like it used to be. I mean, people will be talking about what time they have my appointment in the locker room.


Nikki: Yeah.


Pete: Whereas in the past it would be like hiding to try and like sneak away into the psychologist's office. So yeah, it's a time for that. So what are some ways that you help people kind of manage? You know, as behaviorists we definitely kind of have like a treatment plan that outlines steps towards self-growth.


Nikki: Yeah. Well, I think that it's interesting. I mean, I could certainly talk about like, the treatment plan. I think we've spent a time talking about that. I don't know if anybody wants to hear me go through all my treatment plans. But, I think something that's I've found interesting is that as therapies become more accepted in the culture there's also this funny thing that human brains do where, brains, as I always say, can get sticky about anything. And so that's kind of like gotten put on a pedestal so what I've found myself often doing now in therapy is reminding people that this is just one way to evolve right? I'll say like, this is Western psychology and that's great. I'm like; obviously I'm a therapist, like I’m in support of Western psychology. But there are tons of ways to evolve, first of all through Eastern spiritual practices, which have been around thousands of years through other religious and spiritual communities. I love to talk about 12 step programs, which have been around since the thirties. And they are awesome, awesome, awesome. I mean, it's just like amazing, amazing self-growth work. And I just think that's important to know, and again, you know, we could do a whole other episode on this. It can be expensive, especially bit hard to find a qualified therapist for what you're looking for. Unfortunately, it's not always as accessible as we would like it to be and I think it's just important for people to know, like, it's not the only way to evolve as a human is with in Western psychology.


Pete: No. And, I don't know if it'd be nice if we had the stats, but the self-help books have skyrocketed in terms of like availability.


Nikki: Sure. Yeah.


Pete: That section is huge because there is a need for it. And to your point, it's because we could be expensive, you know? So, going to therapy is expensive, so it's a privilege. There are not enough psychologists, I mean; it's definitely a national endemic where we do not have enough psychologists, psychiatrists who do the medication to treat what we need in today's world. So there are ways to do it, for sure.


Nikki: Yeah, and I mean, have you found that where there's maybe sometimes like a pudding? Again, I want to be really clear to listeners, I'm not trying to negate what we do or say that it isn't needed, it absolutely is. But I just want to make sure that we're all also keeping in mind, I don't want therapy to then become a way to sort of like elevate oneself against other people that don't have access to therapy, you know? 


Pete: Right. I mean, of course our brains want to do that. 


Nikki: That’s what I mean. Yeah.


Pete: No. I mean, especially in cognitive behavioral therapy, which you and I always want, the first session I say my job is to not have a job.  So I'm always trying to get people to not be there and so, like, that's one thing to be mindful of, it's like growth. And so from an eastern perspective, growth is forever. 


Nikki: Yes, that's right.


Pete: You know, historically they taught about enlightenment. And so I think when you're reading about Buddhism, you think once the Buddha receives enlightenment, that was it. And that's not the case, you know, because once you think you've been enlightened you're not.


Nikki: Well, also, isn't it, one of my favorite sayings is it was, I hope I'm not butchering this, so tell me if this is right, but it is something to the effect of like first enlightenment and then the laundry or something like that. Do you know what I mean? 


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: Which I love. For listening, it basically just means like, even if you've had a spiritual awakening, it's like, we're still living in this human life on earth, and we've got to take the next step and do the next thing, you know.


Pete: Absolutely. But also, what are we doing it for, you know? And that's the key because a lot of people in the west, the self-growth is for self-improvement. And the East would not really look too much for achievement.


Nikki: Yes.


Pete: You know, we're just doing, we're just growing, you know, we're not trying to grow our bank account or grow our access to whatever it is.


Nikki: Or, be fixed. I think that's the thing.


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: And of course I'm going to keep like thrown in like the little kernels of truth. It's like, again, I'm not trying to say that you can't, you know if you come to see a psychologist because you know, you have obsessive compulsive disorder or you're in a major depressive episode. Of course, it's important to want to go and get the tools necessary to stabilize your symptoms, right? Like, that would be ridiculous for us to say like, no, that's not an important part of what we do. Of course it is.


Pete: Of course.


Nikki: We have science that can help it’s like, alleviate suffering, you know? Absolutely, just like when you go to your physician and you have a high fever in there, we want you to take an Advil to bring it down.


Pete: Right. So we have things to do. It's just that being a human, we don't fix being a human, we don't fix struggle. And I think that, to your point, Pete, it's like we can in a western framework really think of therapy as like a means to an end. It's like, I'm going to do therapy and then, you know. I wouldn't say folks I work with tend to do this, but it could be like, I'm good, I'm fixed. And it's like, no, but maybe you're like, good for now and then you're going to keep growing in your life and maybe you don't come back to therapy, but you continue to grow through like reading that you do. Or spiritual practice or like elders in your family then they'll give you wisdom. I don't know, there's like, so many versions of this.


Pete: Many versions, I joke with my clients, and I’ll say, there's no certificate at the end of this.


Nikki: Yeah, right.


Pete: There's no diploma, there's no certificate, we'll do it together when you arrive, you arrive, and to your point, it never ends. And I do think when I first started on this journey, and also like in the Eastern Buddhism, they focus a lot on the path, you know.


Nikki: Yeah.


Pete: Whether it's, the middle path, which is finding that gray area of things or the eightfold path of how to live.  There’s always the vision of path, because we're all on it, you know, and we're on it together. We're walking on it and there's no end, which can feel really overwhelming at times.  And then also it's beautiful. And this is where I've now arrived in my life where it's just an opportunity to reset. It's like another new beginning, you know, you always say like return to it.


Nikki: Return to it. Yeah.


Pete: Yeah. You always have a chance to return to it, no matter if you just mess something up. If there was something big in your life that just happened that feels really overwhelming, that's growth.  So also being able to like, during those moments say, you know, Nikki, this is really hard.  that's growth.


Nikki: Yeah. And it's like, how as individuals we evolve. I think the message Pete and I want to communicate today. There's so many ways to do that and I mean this, and I say this to patients all the time, I feel very honored that people like, let me into their world and I'll speed the path. And I'll say, I’m like, walk next to you and help you and support you and give you tools. You know, and I also want to say like, I honor that there's lots of ways to move through that evolution in our lives. I think there's a lot of wisdom out there. Let me put it that way.


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: There's a lot of wisdom to be had out there that we can encounter. And you know, we don't know at all, I certainly don't know everything. Western psychology certainly doesn't know everything, you know? Eastern philosophy doesn't know everything, nobody knows everything. And I think that's another thing we're we as humans are looking for who is the person who's the thing that's going to give you the answer?


Pete: I love that you just said that, so thank you because I know nothing.


Nikki: It's more like, ‘no, you know something,’ but we don't know, no one we'll never know everything.


Pete: No. And the problem, especially in the West is that we're seeking that, or socially, we're trying to be the person that does know everything, which is super problematic. And that's what we say a lot in this podcast of like, how do I just non-judgmentally say curious and listen to someone.


Nikki: Yes.


Pete: It's also growth; you know have you ever had an argument with a really good friend of yours and just listened? And that's hard. 


Nikki: It’s super hard.


Pete: Yeah. Because we want to be right you know, we want to try and pin it on the person but there is nothing. So all of that, you know, contributes to growth.  


Nikki:  Yeah. And so, again, it's very dialectical in that like, in order to learn more and gain knowledge, you both hold the knowledge that you're taking in and building while simultaneously making space for the not knowing and that you'll never know everything. 


Pete: That’s right. 


Nikki: And so yeah, that's the path. And that's the like returning back to that practice because we'll always default towards like, wanting to know, or wanting to be certain, or wanting to be right. It's just these pesky human brains we got here.


Pete: Beautiful neurons. You know, I was with my teacher recently and we were talking about in Dyson, which is the time where you sit one-on-one with your teacher and you know, sometimes I bring him a Curran or it's just something that I'm reading. And he said to me, “You can't train a galloping horse.”  You know, and of course I just laughed and then I wanted to write it down and I was like, I'm that horse, aren't I, Roshi? You know, because I'm one of the youngest students he's ever had and so there's certain things about me that are very different. It's also a different world, you know, because traditionally there was like a brick and mortar kind of Zendo that people would go to that you would do some teachings. And I do think that When East Meets West and some of the things that we do in social media, by we, I mean I, not you, those are ways of trying to like spread some of the teachings and that leads to self-growth. So for me it's like meditation is self-growth. When East Meets West is self-growth, and really just trying to like slow the horse down because we cannot learn when we're galloping.


Nikki: Absolutely. And I love that. I'm going to say that about the galloping horse. I just hope that in this like current era where people are talking about mental health, but I think we could say it's like talking about their humanness.


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: Talking about their struggles, you know, then there's more room to not just talk about going to therapy, which again, obviously I'm very, very happy about that and grateful that there's been such like loud voices now, like supporting that. But that it also creates room for people just to recognize like there's all kinds of ways to evolve as a human and work with the struggles that we have. And like I said, there's a lot of wisdom out there. 


Pete: Lots of wisdom. And I shared some of that with you right before we got on today. We're almost out of time already. But that was about, you know, from the pink fan page where she was just being interviewed and said, just don't be mean to people. You know, she probably said a profanity in there. I'm trying to keep us g-rated right. 


Nikki: I don't think she said the profanity. I said the profanity.


Pete: That may have been you.


Nikki: That was me. But yeah, be kind to other people, that's part of self-growth too, I guess.


Pete: That's right, being kind and self-growth. So for all you out there thanks for tuning in and I'll leave you with this quote, “Accept both compliments and criticism, it takes both sun and rain for a flower to grow.”


Nikki: This has been When East Meets West. I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin.


Pete: And I'm Dr. Pete Economou. Be present. Be brave. This has been When East Meets West; all material is based on opinion and educational training of doctors Pete Economou and Nikki Rubin.


Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only.