This is a recap of some of the things we discussed this session.
Curiosity rather than Judgment
We talked about replacing judgment of ourselves, especially when we fail or make a mistake, with curiosity instead – as a first step toward acceptance. Here we can use the FIRST THOUGHT, SECOND THOUGHT that was suggested in one of our earlier meetings. We can’t stop the first thought that comes to mind and many times it’s a judgment about ourselves, some kind of label – I’m bad, I’m stupid, I’m wrong, I’m a failure, I’m a loser. However, what we can do, is have a second thought – one of noticing. Aha – judgment is happening. Criticism is happening. It even helps to say it this way rather than say I’m judging, I’m criticizing. It gives us a little space to step back and really observe and see what our mind is doing. Just observing it.
Some people talked about how they have been hurt by others making them feel sad and/or angry. It is so very difficult for us when our family criticizes us, and browbeats us, puts pressure on us to do certain things, to succeed. How are we to respond to this? How are we to cope? Some people do cope and live up to their family’s expectations. But I think many more of us suffer instead and end up hating ourselves for not meeting expectations.
I talked about need, in terms of this issue. Everyone has needs they want to meet. Often parents need their children to live out a certain life, and that is often because they could not. It’s important to notice that their expectations of us are their needs, belong to them and not to us. Their agendas for us. What is most helpful is to determine what we need to feel happy. If it’s to please our family then so be it. But if it is do something else, then the best thing we can do is listen to ourselves. If we try to go against the grain of who we truly are we tend to suffer greatly.
We talked about the importance of understanding that we have all been ‘programmed’ since childhood, even before birth. The genes we inherit are the beginning of the ‘programming’. Those genes will dictate to some extent what our personality will be like, what our physical body will be like. Then when we are born whoever cares for us will ‘program’ us in different ways. When we go to school the system will ‘program’ us in certain ways, our teachers will also ‘program’ us depending on their personality and teaching style, and our peers, our playmates will have a strong influence as well. And our culture, our society will ‘program’ us in certain ways as well.
By the time we are a full grown adult we have inherited a wealth of information about life, and we have integrated certain values and beliefs into our very being. We have adopted certain perspectives and certain attitudes towards others, towards ourselves and towards life itself. We will have come to many conclusions and some of them can cause us harm.
My co-facilitator, A., shared with us a story about the Dalai Lama. He was asked by someone how to deal with self-loathing. He and his translator talked for quite a while together about this question because they didn’t quite understand it. Tibetan people are not taught to loathe themselves, to put high expectations on themselves and then beat themselves up when they fail. A. made the very clear point that our self-hatred comes from this culture, it is not a basic human characteristic. It is created in our culture. This means it is learned behaviour and also means that it is possible to ‘unlearn’ it. We can choose another way of looking at ourselves.
Anger and rage
To revisit the subject – that some of us have been hurt so much in our life, particularly by our parents or caregivers. Our deep disappointment with this situation fills us with anger and rage. Understandable. I put out that possibly anger and rage are a form of aversion, a denial of sorts that we didn’t get what every child needs – unconditional positive regard. For me, it has been hard to accept that my mother was not able to listen to me very often so I felt I could not confide in her or turn to her for comfort. I was angry for a very long time. Eventually I was able, for the most part, to accept that she was taking care of her needs and to accept that she could not take care of mine. She needed herself too much.
One person pointed out that acceptance does not mean condoning someone’s actions. A very important point. It is not about letting someone else abuse, or continue to abuse us. Acceptance is more about accepting what we feel about the situation, what our own emotions are — our anger, an expression of our pain. It is also accepting, coming to terms with the fact that we cannot always get our needs met by others, particularly our parents. We may need to look elsewhere.
A. and I will be confirming with MDABC about a room so we can have our group every week, instead of every two weeks. We are aiming for starting the second week of September. I will let everyone know when we are sure.
This is the Sounds True website. This particular page has a 62-minute podcast with Christopher Germer on self-compassion.
Here is Christopher Germer’s site. One of his books both Alex and I are reading is called “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion”. It’s excellent and very helpful.
Brene Brown — http://brenebrown.com/
She is well known for her talks and books on the subjects of vulnerability and shame (as well as other topics). There is a TED talk on her website on shame. When we have a hard time feeling self-compassion for ourselves it’s often because we feel so much shame for being who we are. I hope her site might help with this.
Dr. Kristin Neff’s website: http://self-compassion.org/about/
This is such a useful website on the topic of self-compassion. Dr. Neff is a leader in the field. There is a self-compassion quiz you can take and a more in-depth article on the self-compassion model of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.
The Self-Acceptance Project: http://live.soundstrue.com/selfacceptance/
This is an amazing website. It’s all for free. You can watch about 30 short videos on self-compassion and related topics. The first video is Dr. Kristin Neff speaking and she touched my heart profoundly. After listening to her I committed myself to learning how to be self-compassionate 100% of the time. And it worked!!
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.