Saturday, November 17, 2012
Self-Love or How to Tame the Big Mean Hate Monster in your head
|Field Sketch of Hate Monster discovered in the Wilds of the Psyche|
Through vigilant observation of my internal world this past week, I have been reminded that this drastic mood shift does not come out of nowhere. It can be directly traced to a series of self-negating beliefs that my favorite little Hate Monster likes to use as fodder for very predictable internal diatribes. The Hate Monster can pop up when you are over-tired, over-worked, hungry, or sick. So if you notice he is getting really loud in your thought stream and shouting over everything else, first check to make sure you have your basics covered. Have you slept enough? If not, take a nap or go to bed early. Are you starving yourself? Eat something healthy and nourishing. Have you been living an all-work-and-no-play existence? Time to play.
Many adults refer to the Hate Monster as the Inner Critic but I think that makes him sound too intellectual and apt to write a thoughtful review of me in the some literary journal. When in reality, he seems more like an cranky or hurt child who is not having his needs met in some way and is acting out. It honestly can be as simple as resting and slowing down but sometimes, of course, it is not.
The Hate Monster can also be fueled by long-standing painful and often un-true beliefs that resurface again and again throughout your life. The one that came up for me this week is the belief that I am too different to be embraced by the society that I live in... that there is something essential in me that will always be foreign... that alienation is a pre-condition of my life. This is how it showed up for me. I started taking a class this week in pattern and surface design where it is essential to find and express your own aesthetic style. At first, I was having so much fun drawing and exploring my imagination and seeing the world around me in a new way. I have my own style of drawing that comes natural to me and I was relishing the freedom of pure self-expression. Then, the Hate Monster pulled out the good ole, oh-so-familiar, alienation manifesto and began with the cutting words, "You have your own style but no one will be able to relate to it. If you put that out in the world, you will not be successful because what you have to offer does not resonate with people. You aren't like everyone else so you should probably hide out and do the safe thing and present a style you know people already like and accept." While I don't intend to follow this "sage" advice, it did thoroughly take the joy out of my creative process for the day. It doesn't take a self-inquiry microscope to see the obvious thread of self-criticism and self-negation in these thoughts.
So what to do if you have wandered down this crooked path deep into the forest of self-hate? As always, there is the temptation to simply add a meta-level to the Hate Monster a.k.a "How could I let myself get so out of control on this negative downward spiral? After all the meditation and yoga I have done, shouldn't I better at this? Why can't I maintain a positive outlook? What is wrong with me?" So keep an eye out for this sneaky addition to the Hate Monster's powers.
At this point, it is important to remember the Hate Monster's resemblance to a hurt child. This part of ourselves doesn't need further reprimands or a series of should's and should not's. It needs a warm and all-encompassing loving embrace. We need the healing balm of self-acceptance and unconditional love.
"Easier said than done," you might be thinking. However, this nourishing feeling is something that can be cultivated even from the bottom of a Terrifying Low. Think about the love you may have felt for animal or a small child or another human being that doesn't diminish when they make a mistake or feel sad or get grumpy. In those moments, you feel compassion for their struggles and love for their simple humanity or kittiness or puppiness including all of their weaknesses and strengths. I found a simple visualization/mediation that can help us begin to access this all-encompassing love and shine it on our own being. Here it is:
The Warm Embrace of Self: A Self-love Meditation
1. Take few deep breaths, tuning in to your body and the movement of the breath.
2. Visualize the part of you that has become the Hate Monster as a child or even as a puppy or kitten. Observe the self-negating thoughts that part of you is holding. Without judgement, just witness the pain that this part of you is experiencing.
3. Inhale, repeating silently or quietly, "I embrace every part of my being." Visualizing welcoming that hurt inner child into a warm loving hug.
4. Exhale, "I let go of self-judgement." Feel the harsh critical thoughts leaving your body with the breath, being carried away on the breeze.
5. Inhale, "I embrace myself with love." Feel a warm wash of golden light filling every dark corner of your psyche.
5. Exhale, "I let go of Self-criticism."
7. Repeat steps 3-5 until a feeling of compassion and love for yourself begins to emerge in your heart. Don't worry if you are just going through the motions at first. Stick with it and keep inviting in this feeling of compassion. Oddly, it is often easier to feel compassion for others than it is for our selves. So, by giving a visual form to this hurt part of ourselves, we can often access that unconditional love for ourselves a little easier.
If you are interested in exploring this topic in more depth, I would suggest this really amazing little book called: There is Nothing Wrong with You by Cheri Huber
It is written in a light-hearted tone but expresses some deep truths. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Huber reminds us that we are not "fix-it projects." When one of our common internal struggles and habits come up for the zillionth time, it is so easy to think, "Man, I really need to work on myself." Well, this book reminds us that we don't need to fix ourselves. We need to embrace ourselves in our beautiful, complex, dizzying-highs-terrifying-lows entirety.
Please feel free to share your experiences with the Hate Monster or ask any questions you may have in the comments.
Love to all... even those shadowy, dark bits that have sharp teeth and biting words. They soften with every embrace.