Have you ever been in an argument with someone and even though you had some very valid points, the cotton headed ninny muggins you’re trying to drill your opinions into just simply isn’t seeing that you’re obviously right and they are obviously wrong?
You and your foe start planting your feet more and more firmly. Your voices get louder. Sometimes you find that they (and maybe you) are scrambling for any obscure tidbit to hurdle into the ring just to hold their ground.
Neither of you can see the other person’s point of view because your amygdala is in full swing fight mode and cortisol (the stress hormone) is coursing through your veins.
The same thing happens inside us with our thoughts and feelings. The more we judge and condemn ourselves for having self defeating thoughts or uncomfortable emotions, the bigger the negativity army gets and the more weapons it pulls out to hurt us.
Fighting against something does not solve the problem. It causes the problem to start swinging it’s fists and fighting back.
I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news for you.
Bad news, you can’t stop your negative, judgmental, blaming thoughts.
Good news, you can’t stop your positive, kind, loving thoughts.
According to Kristin Neff author of Self-Compassion:
“Thoughts and feelings arise based on our history, our past experiences and associations, our hardwiring, our hormonal cycle (canI get an amen?), our physical comfort level (hangry anyone?), our cultural conditioning, our previous thoughts and feelings, and numerous other factors.”
Guess what this means! Our thoughts and feelings are not our fault! Wahoo!
Unfortunately this information is not a get out of responsibility free card.
There are things we can do to help keep our behavior in check and if you’ve been a regular reader around here, or you were a part of the Self Love Challenge, I bet you can guess what I’m going to say. They require practice.
Here is a list of ways you can help yourself create inner harmony :
- Become more mindful. Paying attention to our thoughts and feelings when our emotions are well contained is a game changer when it comes to how respond to the world around us. There are a couple of suggested exercises you can do to be more mindful. The first is a mindfulness meditation (I would be happy to send you a guided meditation that I recorded to help you get started on this). The second is to pay attention during an everyday task in your life. Take brushing your teeth for instance. Use all of your senses to take in this experience. Notice how the tooth paste smells, the feel of the bristles on your gums, the support of your hand around the handle of your tooth brush. Becoming aware of these things helps us become better aware of when out thoughts and feelings might be starting a downward spiral.
- Don’t fight your harsh thoughts and feelings. “Just as hate can’t conquer hate- but only strengthens and reinforces it- self judgement can’t stop self judgement.” K.Neff. Instead try to understand your thoughts and feelings, be compassionate toward them and then substitute them with a more loving response.
- Choose which thoughts you will nourish. “We can’t stop our judgmental thoughts, but we don’t have to encourage or believe in them either.” K.Neff There is a story Neff brings up with this point, you may know it, it’s the story of two wolves. We each have two wolves living inside. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. What wolf wins? The one you feed.
When you find yourself in the presence of the good wolf, bask there for a little while. Breath deeply in it. Sink your hands into the warm soft fur. Feed that wolf for as long as you can.
There will always be a self critic that rears it’s head from time to time. Recognizing that she is actually trying to help and treating her gently is a key move in being kind to ourselves and developing greater self love.