Why do we give ourselves such a hard time? For whose benefit do we beat ourselves up, worry, suffer?
What many of use perceive as the normal state of affairs is indeed a self-chosen affliction. Not only do we deny how things are in the world right now, but in addition we accept even less our own state of mind.
We are all Wanderers denying What Is
Imagine a wanderer on his way to a far-away town through rough terrain. By mistake he deviates slightly from his path, even though it is still clearly visible in the distance. But our wanderer won’t accept that he went off course. Surely, a man as experienced as him couldn’t possibly lose his way. He studies his map, pinpointing exactly where he should be and which direction he would have to go if he was, blindly moving on. Days later, pinpointing that right now he should have reached the town, he dies of starvation in the wilderness.
As ridiculous as this story sounds, it is not unlike how we behave daily. We won’t accept the situation, deny what is, focus on how things should be, how they would be, how they can’t be the way they are. This is our first mistake, but far from our only one. Even experiencing our familiar feeling of lack, of imperfection, of taintedness, we could still be alive, vibrant, awake in our reaction to it.
By embracing our feeling of anger at the situation, our frustration, our sadness, we could still live, still experience. And through embracing our reactions, bringing self-forgiveness and self-love to our feelings we can still become whole.
Wouldn’t this be just “Giving Up”?
But isn’t all this talk of “accepting what is” just a veiled form of submitting to circumstance, standing by, giving up?
Coming back to the wanderer lost in the woods, these are two different things. If the wanderer just finds out where he is on the map, sits down, moans about being lost then of course it would be giving up.
But if he accepted that he was lost, reoriented himself and got back on track, then it would be the most proactive way of dealing with the situation. Denying what is is the surest way of not reaching your goal!
The “Feeling about the Feeling”
That which we reject becomes the fate we live. – Hal Stone
But our pathology is much worse than this. Not only do we deny what is, deny reality, but we also deny our reaction to it. “I shouldn’t feel this way”, “I shouldn’t let him get to me like this”, “I can’t be sad right now”. After denying what is, we deny our reaction to reality as well. Our “feeling about the feeling” fuels our emotional reaction, fuels our shadow, our disowned self. By denying our anger, wishing it away, rejecting it, we give it power over us.
And sometimes it doesn’t even stop there. At times we feel anger at a situation, feel angry about our anger, and frustrated about that. This way we completely leave the “Now”, and instead choose to live in a world of should’s, ought’s, mustnot’s, disappointment, denial, rejection.
If you cannot accept what is outside, then accept what is inside. Do not resist the pain. Allow it to be there. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Embrace it. – Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Self-Forgiveness and Self-Love
And even with these multiple levels of self-punishment, castigation, self-loathing, self-denial all we need to do is to forgive ourselves, accept ourselves, love ourselves.
If this sounds easy, don’t be fooled. Your internal critic will soon find new discontent to feed upon. “Why can’t I forgive myself? Why can’t I simply accept myself the way I am? I should have been easier on myself”.
The most important forgiveness is our own. – Stephen Gilligan
Stop Becoming and Start Being
Even though it is at any point in time in our power to stop becoming and simply be, part of us resists this violently. Part of us always looks for faults, for problems, for lack, for risks, for danger, for ways to improve ourselves. And of course we shall embrace this part too, while not giving ourselves to it.
- Whenever you feel strong inner conflict, take a time-out, take a breath. Really feel that conflict, locate it in your body. Step out of it, and look at yourself experiencing that emotion.
Do you have a strong reaction to seeing yourself that way? Repeat stepping out of your reactions until you reach a point of compassion, of self-love
- Really experience that compassion, that self-love. Give yourself permission to forgive yourself. Experience the warmth of simply Being and with this feeling step back into your “feeling about the feeling”.
- Experience how the conflicted state changes, alters, transforms, integrates the self-love and the self-forgiveness, and expresses its true intent.
- With this intent, with this embracing feeling step forward into your conflicted state. Feel it deepen, changing, ripening, coming to fruition and express this mature feeling freely.
All we ever need to do is to forgive ourselves for being so hard on ourselves, accepting ourselves as we are right now, and becoming our own sponsor. And at any point we can allow ourself to be, give ourself permission to experience, and as long as we don’t we stay prisoners of our own making. And as soon as we do we become free!
I’d rather be whole than good. – C. G. Jung