Sunday, May 8, 2011

Now What? Life Beyond Self-Soothing

It's no wonder people engage in self-soothing behaviors in this crazy world of ours. It's not easy to remain centered with the economy crumbling, earthquakes and tsunamis wreaking havoc and goverments falling apart. It doesn't matter if these things affect you directly; in fact, it's more the slow but sure external chaos created as a result of these events, moving out in wider and wider concentric circles. It's futile to wait for external order to happen. But no matter what you experience, if you can read this, you can practice bringing that ease you long for to your inner life.

For hair pullers, right now, this very instant, decide to love yourself NOW. Not when you stop pulling. I guarantee -- you have this in writing -- that most people will NOT judge you or think less of you cause you draw on eyebrows or wear a wig. You are trapped in an illusory world that you've created, a world where you are judged, a world in which you are "not good enough," and one filled with people who will abandon you.

But to all of you who feel that way I can honestly say this: You are not who you think you are! We all construct a reality when we are very small that is our way of perceiving the world. If our parents ignored us, we will learn that we are not worth paying attention to. If they told us we weren't good enough, even with the intention of helping us to be better, the lesson that sticks will be, we are not good enough.

And as we walk through our lives with a virtual sign on our head thst says "not good enough," or "not worth much," or "will be abandoned," well guess what? We are carrying our faulty beliefs into the world we inhabit and our behavior, our body language, our choice of words, all these will convey these beliefs to those we meet.

How can I stop doing that, you ask? Well, in short, by truly observing and seeing and recognizing that this is what you are doing. That's the part that takes time. Asking yourself before you see friends, meet someone new, take a walk, even, What beliefs am I bringing with me? If you're nervous about people liking you, that may be one indication that you don't believe you're likable. It's ok to be nervous. But ask yourself, Would you be nervous about whether people will like your best friend or your dog? Probably not, because you know they're great. You know they aren't perfect of course. But if people don't like them I'm sure you would believe it was THEM, not an indication that your friend and dog are not likable or good enough.

So step one, ask yourselves what beliefs you are bringing into each situation and see if you can identify them. You don't need to try not to feel scared or insecure. Just identify the beliefs. And label them. Ok, im scared because I believe people will think I'm dull, silly, not smart enough. Those are beliefs. And even though they feel like "reality" because I've looked at things this way as long as i can recall, I can see that this is not reality. If you can't say that, just see if you can say to yourself, I can't quite see that my perception is not reality. But I'm willing to.

As a therapist, I too once valued and prioritized how I felt over what I think. I would say, Well this is how I feel! I would defend to the death my right to be miserable. And I do have that right. I'm just not sure I want it.

So how will the practice of observing what beliefs I carry change things for me? Well, doing it just once will not. Doing so regularly though will. Because you will begin experiencing yourself as a being separate from these beliefs. And eventually you will actual feel different.

Two short books may help you to see this is true: Freedom from the Known by Krishnamurti and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. Krishnamurti will help you to see how your perception of Self has been created by who you think you are and who you believe others are. Once I read it I understood how much more there was to me and everyone I knew. Thich Nhat Hanh's book will give practical instruction in observing your thoughts and beliefs.