How often has the thought arisen, “I can’t believe I did that!” (or thought that…, or felt that). “I’m such an idiot!” How often do you find your mind judging itself? How often do you experience self-criticism, shame, self-hatred, or a global feeling of unworthiness?
We can all suffer from self-criticism. Many people even experience strong self-hatred or self-condemnation. These mental processes can be triggered by the negative judgments of others. Trauma can also induce self-hatred, because trauma can cause us to feel that we are somehow bad. Neglect can also trigger chronic feelings of unworthiness. Together, these negative experiences create a mental state called shame.
Unfortunately, these shame experiences are not only unhelpful, they are harmful. Shame poisons our consciousness and impairs our ability to love.
The antidote is awareness. Look closely, and you will see that there is no :”you” that chooses the thoughts, feelings, and impulses that arise in awareness. Brain research even shows us that we don’t choose many of our actions. Thoughts, feelings, and impulses arise in awareness on their own. If you look even closer, you will see that there is no person—no you—thinking your thoughts or feeling your feelings. There is only awareness. There is no thinker, only thinking. No feeler, only feeling. No doer, only doing. Look closely. You will see that the experience of self is an illusion—it is just another experience constructed by the brain. There is no “you.” There is only “you-ing.”
This realization is profoundly liberating. You don’t have to take your brain, your mind, or yourself personally any longer, because ultimately there is no person. There is only brain generating awareness and the contents of Awareness. What a relief! Seeing this leads to a resolution of shame and negative self-judgments. Instead, you will see negative self-judgments, shame, and feelings of unworthiness as trauma-induced mis-programming of the mind. Then, when these experiences arise, the natural mind response will be one of compassion for the suffering experienced. Awareness triggers compassion, which triggers a healing reprogramming of mind and a resolution of toxic, harsh, critical, negative mind states. An attitude of kindness towards the mind replaces condemnation.
This not to say that there is no accountability for behavior. We can and must take accountability for our behavior. The mind has the capacity for intention and reflection. The mind can, through intention, decide what to focus on, what attitude to hold towards experience, and what actions to take. The mind can contemplate, reflect, and consider the pros and cons of various options. Through intentionally directing attention and engaging in skillful action, there is the capacity to positively influence both behavior and the experiences that arise in Awareness.
Be kind to your mind. Stop taking what your mind does personally. After all, there is no separate, static person. See the true nature of mind. Let compassion arise for the negative mis-programming of mind that generates suffering. This will trigger a healing of mind, which will reduce suffering and grow your capacity to love.