January 14, 2017

Shutting up the Voice of Self-Loathing

The inner voice of self-loathing. When trying to resolve an issue with a spouse, a child, a coworker. When trying to get to bed after a tough day. Or when trying to meditate. 

“I really screwed that up.”
“That person doesn't get me.”
“Why even try this if the result will be mediocre?”
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not focused enough.”
“I am not enough.”

When I’ve shared my meditation and energy healing journey with others, many people respond by telling me they don’t think it’s possible for them to clear their minds. They think they have failed in their efforts to connect with their inner wisdom and that it's a pipe dream to find inner peace. In turn, as they believe they have failed themselves, they believe they have failed others in their lives. But this is not true. The negative stuff offers us a jumping point from which to meditate, learn, release, and grow.

The call to negative-town is strong. It is rooted in our amygdala, our early evolutionary impulse to protect ourselves, to survive, to operate from our lower brain. Some trace negative self-talk to early settlers' puritanical ways of thinking about virtue and our socialization from this philosophy.  

Our negative beliefs about ourselves may have been passed down to us from family members, teachers, or others in positions of authority who labeled us and sought to limit us.

We project this junk onto our partners and children, usually without malicious intent, but out of habit, out of self-preservation, from a place of unworthiness, or out of fear that the others in our lives might be judged and vulnerable if not protected by our negative mindset.

When we take the time to ground ourselves (See last Blog post), breathe, and choose to love ourselves in that space of negativity, amazing opportunities present themselves.

In this new year, I challenge all of us to meet our negativity head on. Courageously.

As you enter meditation, I offer the following tips:

1) Acknowledge the negative self-talk. 

2) Choose to put the negative thinking and emotions to the side or examine it. Don’t judge yourself or your choice about whether to put it aside or go deeper. Just choose. It will be alright.

3) If you choose to put it to the side, use your own personally designed mental trick to put it in a parking lot, a virtual box, somewhere else to be examined at another time. Choose to be free of that thought and feeling for now. Return to your breath and your meditation.

4) If you choose to examine the negative stuff, return to your breath.  Ask yourself about where this stuff comes from – is it internal? Is it external?  Consider: How does this self-loathing serve me? What does the negative talk prevent you from exploring within (e.g., fear about performance, anger towards a loved one, etc.) or in terms of your outer world choices (e.g., anxiety about taking a professional risk, projecting your choices onto others, etc.)?

5) Fill yourself with love and light, even if you are faking it until you make it.
Breathe, breathe, breathe.

6) Decide to give yourself a break, and catch yourself when you enter that place of self-hatred. This voice of judgment may surface throughout your meditation and even at times throughout your daily routine. Be gentle with yourself.

7) Remember that you get to choose what power you give that negative self-talk and how you translate or transmute those thoughts and feelings.

The more we allow ourselves to be human and think and feel lousy things, the more we also give ourselves access to our courage. And this courage is contagious, inspiring ourselves, our spouses, our children, and even those with whom we casually interact.

I would love to hear from you about how you manage any self-judgment and self-loathing that creeps up during meditation or elsewhere in life.

Here are a couple of other interesting sources regarding this subject:

“The Self Hatred Within Us” (Sharon Salzberg) http://www.onbeing.org/blog/sharon-salzberg-the-self-hatred-within-us/8097  

“The Fascinating Buddhist Approach to Low Self-Esteem” (Tim Desmond) http://www.alternet.org/story/154566/the_fascinating_buddhist_approach_to_low_self-esteem