I’m not much for conspiracy theories, as alluring as they are, but I do think there is a general prohibition against giving ourselves time and space to tune into ourselves and to know ourselves. We listen to the voice of the critic, our internalized naysayers, Puritanical ideas of work first, play later, and we give them weight and try to sneak in having an inner life around other things that we are sure are more valid, more urgent and more important. Before long, we have actual responsibilities and commitments, we’re busy, and we’ve forgotten to get to that last thing on our list: time with self.
Yet, it’s daily time with self that forms the foundation of loving yourself real. The ultimate proof that you do, in fact, exist as a person in your own right is that you take up space, time and attention. Maybe that wasn’t on someone else’s agenda, and maybe they didn’t do that for themselves, but now you have the choice to revolutionize all that and live your life as if you matter. Ultimately, I believe that makes us better members of our families and communities.
So how do we listen to ourselves until we become real to ourselves? In a minute, I’ll tell you all about the powerful practice of daily writing. But first I want to address some of the obstacles and issues with that, and offer some alternatives. First, as I mentioned, it’s almost against the law to prioritize something as indulgent and directionless as daily writing. Daily writing implies – contains within it – several truths: You will be alone. You will be in a room with the door closed. You will be doing nothing productive. You will be giving yourself your undivided attention. You will feel feelings. You will not be in fix-it mode. Whether this sounds wonderful to you or slightly nauseating, these are the facts of daily writing. In and of itself, it’s not redemptive of any purpose but you, you, you.
As such, there is backlash against such a boldly and baldly self-interested process. First, enter the Puritans. Work first, play later. Be serious first, indulge later. Meat and potatoes first, desert later. What can I say? Develop a defiant streak! Secret: It comes out anyway. How? Oh, to name a few: over-eating, drinking too much, smoking, obsessing over movie stars or the quiet guy or gal next door, anger attacks that need to be medicated away, addiction to drama, indigestion, and, yes, heart attacks. Deciding to take time every day and express yourself somehow and witness yourself doing it is a radical, death-defying, defiant and lifesaving choice.
Second issue: PTSD from past attempts to express yourself. Maybe you wrote in your journal and somebody read it. Maybe you tried drawing and you showed it to someone who was underwhelmed with your work, or worse, derided it. Maybe you just can’t stand what comes out of you. Let’s take these in turn.
First, the privacy issue. In order to express yourself in safety, you have to …feel safe. If this means keeping your notebook under lock and key, then do it. You can also burn the pages after you write every day. People have made up codes and whole languages. At this point, I challenge anyone to be equal to the sheer volume of my writings, which now fill several 20-gallon plastic tubs in an upstairs closet. Spiral bound notebooks are heavy! Get the idea? Find a way to keep it safe for yourself.
Second, the judgments of others, and for that matter, yourself. This is simple: Don’t show your work to anyone. Including yourself. Don’t re-read. Just close the notebook. Don’t dance in front of a mirror. Don’t look at your drawings. There’s an art to receiving your own expressions: You have to do it with the highest integrity. You need to be a safe listener for yourself. You have to cut yourself huge swaths of breaks. Over and over again. You have to put the judgment gavel away and see yourself as the struggling, brave person that you are. Unskilled, just starting out. Not defective or bad.
Handling the Inner Critic
That’s my name for my inner shithead, my inner critic, or simply, the voice. You know the one, right? In spiritual psychology, also known as transpersonal psychology, this voice is called the Adversary, the Shadow, the Bully, or the Saboteur. This is the part of us that perpetuates the damning, critical thoughts and beliefs that create our mental environment when we are struggling with low self esteem and low self confidence.
Wait, it’s part of us? Remember that earlier we said these were internalized ideas about who we are that in the absence of information to the contrary we take on as truth. How does this happen? Why would we do that? Because, in the absence of effective love and nurturing, we grab onto whatever’s there. It’s as if there’s a contract between our Inner Lost Child and the Shadow: In exchange for the illusion of safety, care and love, just for the balm of having attention, we agree to believe everything the Shadow tells us. It’s like befriending the school bully so you don’t get beat up, but always living in fear that he will turn on you. In fact, the Bully or Shadow is actively destroying your self esteem and promoting shame and inadequacy.
In the Love Yourself Forward process, we actually re-parent ourselves, nurturing that child part as well as the adult parts. We are then able to move forward as a whole, our allegiance now firmly pledged to our own wellbeing, instead of the false sense of security we get from staying loyal to the inner Bully. Over time, the connection with the Shadow weakens and eventually breaks.
by Phyllis Capanna © 2016 joyreport
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