(WARNING: You will have to lose your mind!)
This morning I took little one to school. In the school yard, parents were chatting in little groups while waiting for the doors to open.
As we arrived, my mind whispered: “Nobody will want to talk to YOU. You are an outsider.”
To prove it wrong, I joined a couple of Mums. But as I tried to contribute to the conversation, they talked over me, taking no notice of what I was saying.
“See?” My mind gloated. “They don’t want to have anything to do with you. You aren’t interesting enough. People will always ignore you.”
As the children swarmed through the school doors, the two Mums wandered off, still chatting, without acknowledging my existence.
“I told you so”, my mind confirmed. “You are an impossible person to like. People just don’t click with you. You are too boring, odd. Just not good enough. You have nothing to offer. You will be alone for the rest of your life. You pathetic loser!”
A few years ago, this experience would have thrown me into a bottomless abyss of self-punishment, self-loathing and self-pity. For days I would have beaten myself up for being unlovable, unpopular, worthless.
My mind would have been racing. Analysing the reasons why people didn’t like me. Trying to comfort me by recounting the reasons why people should like me. And worrying about a lonely future full of unavoidable isolation, rejection and heart-ache.
But today I wasn’t bothered. The school yard experience didn’t affect me at all. I didn’t lose another negative thought on it. I went on with my day feeling happy.
So, why do I react so differently now? What happenend?
A few years ago I stopped beating myself up. For good. No more self-flagellation, no more suffering, no more negative thoughts about myself. Because I discovered 3 essential truths that changed my life:
When our ancestors first emerged from the prehistoric swamp, they started to use tools to increase their chances of survival. One of these tools was the mind. The ability to analyse situations, learn from the past and project the future gave them a survival benefit over other species.
And it still does. The mind is an invaluable tool that enables us to build societies, establish our current lifestyle and conceive technology.
Unfortunately, at some point in our history, we started to identify with our mind. We began to believe that the mind IS us. That we are nothing but our body and our mind. And that every thought the mind produces determines who we are.
The truth is though, that the mind is a mere tool. So we aren’t actually beating ourselves up. We are allowing the mind to beat us up.
Imagine your iPhone. What would you do if Siri decided to tell you once every 5 minutes how worthless you are: “You are a loser. Everybody hates you. You are a failure.” Would you put up with the verbal abuse? Of course not! You would take the phone to the next Apple store to have it fixed. It is most obviously faulty!
But still we put up with all the verbal abuse we get from the mind. It is a tool, just like Siri. It isn’t who we are. And we don’t need to believe what it says. We can choose to watch it from a distance without judgement. To smile at its antics, shrug our shoulders and ignore it. Just like that.
The mind isn’t a horrible sadist though who wants us to suffer. The mind’s primary responsibility, it’s sole purpose, is to keep us safe. To ensure we survive.
And as such, it is mostly concerned about learning from the past to avoid negative (and potentially threatening) experiences in the future. That’s why it interprets every event based on past trauma.
The two Mums this morning might have just been too focussed on their discussion to notice me. But as I stood in the school yard, my mind remembered the traumatic rejection I experienced during my High School years. And it took me right back there, to make sure I would spare myself the suffering this time. “Don’t even try to make friends. You’ll be rejected anyway.”
The mind means well. But it’s methods are questionable. It makes us doubt ourselves to save us from failure. It makes us feel incapable, powerless and anxious to stop us from leaving our comfort zone and potentially get hurt. It tells us we are worthless to spare us possible rejection.
And if we believe what it says, if we still identify with it, its attempts to protect us from pain can seriously damage our self-worth, self-image and self-love.
Until we realise that we are more than our mind. Until we discover that our negative thoughts about ourselves are not the truth. They are the mind’s constructs. Reflections of present events distorted by past experiences and societal beliefs. Warnings and manipulations meant to keep us out of harm’s way.
So, the only way to stop beating yourself up, is to lose your mind. Or more precisley, lose the identification with your mind. Because we are so much more.
Eckhart Tolle teaches that our true Being can only emerge in moments of no-mind. When we stop the never-ending chitter-chatter of our thoughts, the gap between the thoughts contains our essence which is love, joy and worth.
As long as we identify with our mind, the thoughts can never stop. Because, subconsciously, we believe that it would mean the end of our existence.
But once we learn that we are separate from our thoughts, once we watch our thoughts from afar and use the mind as the tool it is, the obsessive urge for incessant thinking will cease. Our mind will be quiet at times.
And that’s when we will be able to feel the truth. That we ARE worth.
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