What We Say To Ourselves
Now is the time to develop trust in our basic goodness and the basic goodness of our sisters and brothers on this earth; a time to develop confidence in our ability to drop our old ways of staying stuck and to choose wisely. We could do that right here and now.
Taking the Leap
One of my observations that has been very consistent over the years is that most people are verbally abusive toward themselves. We say things about ourselves to ourselves that we would never say to another person. When we listen carefully to ourselves throughout the day the level of self-inflicted verbal abuse is often quite startling. This creates an energetic undertow that sabotages efforts at spiritual growth.
Mistakes become grounds for a tirade of inner attack. “I am such a dope.” “When will I ever learn?” “I’m such a failure.” Simply stubbing one’s toe on a coffee table becomes, “I am such a clumsy oaf, and always will be.” A bounced check unleashes a torrent, “My father was right. I am hopelessly irresponsible with money.” This chorus from the inner critic becomes so constant and familiar we think it is natural and the way things should be.
When we accept the torrent we allow ourselves to become the victim of our inner critic which the Sufis call “the evil whisperer.” We get dragged down rather than empowered to raise our energy to a higher level.
Counteracting the negative self-talk requires four steps which I have adapted from Pema Chodron’s wonderful book “Taking the Leap.”
1. Acknowledge this tendency. Observe the process very carefully in great detail. We have to see the pattern clearly before we can change it. At times it is helpful to write the negative comments out so that the reality of this is very clear.
2. Pause and take three breaths. Each time you discover a negative statement pause and take three breaths and feel its impact. Compassionately feel the impact of this pattern on your psyche, heart and Soul. Chodron says, “Like Ulysses, we can find our way to hear the sirens without being seduced by them.” Observe each one without believing them or reacting.
3. Restate the negatives. Transform the statement into a positive affirmation. Especially early on in this work it is helpful to write out the statements. “I am a person with great talents who occasionally makes mistakes.” “Sometimes I am clumsy and I am still a reflection of Divine Presence.”
4. Move on. Reenter life with increased awareness of our true inner light, strength and Divinity.
Initially, people often resist this process. It can feel inauthentic. “No I can’t say those things. My father was right I am irresponsible.” This sort of transformation takes time. Release from longstanding patterns takes time and practice. Positive statements are new not inauthentic or inaccurate. The negative has been a tool of the ego for decades and the ego will fight to keep this valuable weapon in its arsenal. In addition, there can be a sort of comfort and sense of safety in this self-abuse. Resistance is a way of saying, “If, after all, I am basically a failure or miserable slob (insert any negative phrase) very little should be expected of me.” Self-love challenges the status quo set up by the ego. It calls us to move out of safety zones and embody the true depth of our beauty.
The ability to accept and truly love oneself is vital to all growth. Paradoxically this includes loving the parts of us which cling to false safety and resist loving.
When we transform and release ourselves from the self-abuse and move into this loving space this is not just a gift to ourselves as individuals but is a way of loving the world and Spirit since we are the representative of the Divine.