Find out what you think about yourself!

We always carry a self-image or a definition of self in not just our heads but in our actions, postures, and critical decisions we make in our lives. In fact, if we look at ourselves closely, the ‘I’ that exists is that self-image. We’d also like to think that we know ourselves better than others do about us and we are very clear about the self-image we hold within. But the truth is almost always far from it. Self awareness is as scarce as common sense. What we believe consciously to be our self-image is, in fact, the defensive-self or the mask we’ve created to face the world. A mask that we’ve built very early in life and have been developing and polishing ever since.

But the true image we hold of ourselves is very deep in our subconscious minds that it takes some practice of awareness to come in contact with it. We get brief glimpse of it when we are provoked into emotion unexpectedly and in our dreams. There are very simple exercises to find out what is truly our opinion about ourselves.

psychology-1580252
Voices in your head are subconscious projections of your self-image

If you’d read one of my previous posts about Voices we carry in our heads (opens in new tab/window), you’ll know that most of the time the arguments we have with other people in our heads are not really arguments with others, but actually an inner conflict. I’ve categorized in that post, the various kinds of voices we carry and it is those voices that provide us with real clues and thoughts about self-image.

These ‘voices’ in our heads are extensions of conflicts we’ve had with others in our lives. For instance, say your spouse said something about you and you found it judgmental – say about your capacity to speak up against your boss, you may or may not argue with your spouse about it, but you then carry around a ‘voice’ of your spouse judging your similarly through your daily activities. And you start an internal argument with that voice and it gradually becomes a part of your daily mental noise.

Now coming back to finding out your self-image through the use of this inner voices we carry in our heads, every time an argument pops up in your head try to look at it dispassionately and without attachment as if you are listening to two strangers speaking to each other at a bus stop. By doing that the first thing you may notice about the voice is that it is not actually a real person speaking to you at that point of time but an imagination on your part. Any voice in your head is a part of your imagination and therefore an extension of your beliefs about yourself and not opinions of others. See what category the voice falls into (see Voices in our Heads for the categories).

Voices of guilt and shame point to a kind of self opinion, like say seeing ourselves as a ‘bad’ person or a ‘sinner’. They may even speak about how ‘deserving’ of something good we feel we are. ‘Put-me-downers’ speak about our opinions about our capabilities. They could also be speaking of the ‘loser’ in us. Morality checks also speak about our guilt – more likely our current actions and our own approval and disapproval of them. Voices usually fall into more than one category since at a deeper level all our problems are interconnected webs springing from our sense of insecurity, self-hatred, and fear.

Once you start trying to find your self-image through this exercise, you may encounter the difficulty of trying to watch your inner arguments being pulled into them. It is an expected difficulty. Just keep on with the practice. Every second of dispassionate observation adds to inner enlightenment. Some ‘voice’ may even start commenting on your inability to stay detached and try to use this activity to feed your mental noise. Just be aware of it, and you will be able to bypass it. Remember, awareness is the key.

Welcome to the Guilty New Age

We have crawled out of the Dark Ages into the New Age of reason and intuition, but we have carried our guilts and fears into the light. Can we heal them now?

For centuries, perhaps millennia, fear and guilt have been the primary tools driving our existence and ‘progress’. Civilizations and cultures have relied on these two tools to maintain ‘law and order’. Religious leaders have found them the best allies of piety. Nations and Politics need them to keep vast populations in conformity. Fear and Guilt have become the hammer and wrench of the parenting toolkit.

Today, after centuries of crawling through dark ages we are finally moving into the age of light and awareness. An age where reason and intuition become the equal partners they have always been. We are ushering in the New Earth, but the devil persists. The backbone is still the same old guilt and fear. Now there is a third partner – Anger. Our generation’s anger and guilt is a heavy stone-filled rucksack we shoulder day and night. Without them, it feels too light and that’s more guilt. How can I enjoy when the world is in suffering? We carry them because they give us a purpose in life. As if we really matter.

self-this-is-my-life-1528199
Angry and Guilty (“Stock photo. Posed by model.” ) Image Courtesy: http://www.freeimages.com

We are guilty of pleasures – no, not the old world pleasures of sex and food – we have liberated those from the gilded cage of guilt. Our generation is guilty of happiness, wealth, comfort and even peace. We are angry and guilty that we raped our earth. We are guilty that we aren’t doing yoga every day. We are guilty to sink into a sofa. We are angry that our family members use plastic. We have guilt of our privileges and wealth. We are angry at our own judgments. We live in guilt, eat in guilt, look into mirrors with anger. We are angry that we are guilty. We are guilty that we are angry all the time. We are the same old ‘morally outraged’ people as any generation before us, only the commandments are different. The New Age has become just old wine in new bottle.

And we are simply passing that on to our next generations. Fear and Guilt are again the tools out of parenting tool kits. I don’t beat my child nor use verbal abuse, but my child is so sensitive today that all it takes to give it a good beating is a look of reproach and blame. I know it makes me guilty to do that, but unless I learn to heal my guilt and anger, I cannot stop giving programmed responses to others. Does it mean that I should stop saving the earth in the meanwhile?

Well, isn’t healing ourselves the greatest contribution towards a better earth? What about plastic and violence then? Let’s look at the motivation behind the question in the first place. Why are we concerned about plastic? Is it because I love this earth all the time, or is it because I am carrying guilt all the time? Perhaps a bit of both. And violence, why do I want to put an end to it? Is it because I love humanity so much that I don’t want to see the end of it, or is it because I live in fear all the time. A bit of both.

If we try to heal just the symptoms without examining the causes, we will simply end up replacing the old symptoms with new ones. In fact, humans have just been doing it over the centuries.

Well, then how can I get rid of my guilt, anger, and fear then? Aren’t they the root causes to all of this? But what is causing them, who is experiencing them? I am not asking a ‘spiritual’ question here. I am asking a practical question. If anger, fear and guilt need to be healed, the one who is experiencing it needs to heal. But who is that ‘one’ when all anger, guilt, and fear are healed? Who is the ‘one’ who is constantly having equally opposing thoughts all the time? Who is the ‘one’ who is on a mission to ‘save’ the world? Am I? Who is the one that is apart from the world? What makes me, me without anger, guilt, and fear? Can we really look at ourselves and ask these questions seriously?

Perhaps these questions are too ‘impractical’ and ‘vague’ to be of real use to some of us. Maybe in that case, I should simply start becoming less and less morally outraged as a start towards healing this guilt and anger. Perhaps I should simply start watching myself and my feelings without too much attachment so as to see the inner movements of fear, guilt and anger before they even become external realities. Perhaps just observing will bring to light many hidden destructive pathways that I seem to take every day with practiced ease.

And what use is it if I do all of the above to save the earth and my children from suffering. That would simply create more guilt and anger every time I fail. Maybe it is time to acknowledge my own suffering as the greatest obstacle to healing and real peace. Maybe it is time to see suffering as the cause of it all. Can we choose to move away from suffering?

The Cinderella Syndrome

ImageImagine this: A poor lonely girl sitting alone by herself on a starlit night full of sorrow and suffering. She is quietly weeping for herself and her pitiable condition. She has nobody to talk to and everybody around her is treating her badly including her family. She hopes somebody would come to her aid. She is yearning for her prince and savior to come along and save her from her plight. Someone who would love her with all his heart and make her worthy of her life. This is the Cinderella Syndrome.

We all know the Cinderella story. The poor fatherless girl mistreated by her step-mother and made to scrub the floor all day. She yearns for a better life and weeps all night long. One day her step-sisters go to the ball at the palace. Cinderella wishes she could go to the ball too. And lo, a fairy godmother appears and turns Cinderella’s rags into a lovely dress, and rats and pumpkin into horses and a chariot. Cinderella dances with the prince at the ball who is taken by her beauty. By the hour of midnight, heeding the warning of the Fairy godmother, Cinderella rushes out of the ball leaving behind her glass slipper. The prince has his staff search for the girl whose foot would fit the glass slipper. Cinderella’s foot fits and she is married to the prince, and she lives ever after.

ImageThe Cinderella Syndrome is a real life situation of a fatherless girl who was unconsciously playing the Cinderella for real. Unfortunately, Cinderella stories don’t end well in reality. This girl had prince after prince coming to her rescue but they would then eventually desert her and go.

This happens because her mind had to survive her identity which she formed of herself from early childhood. And that identity was that of a lonely, suffering girl who is hurt by near and dear again and again. Once the mind forms an identity for the person, its goal is to keep it alive – to keep both the body and the identity alive. So for this girl, in spite of yearning and manifesting princes into her life, her mind has to still keep her lonely and suffering, hurt by near and dear. Now the near and dear also include her romantic relationships. Yet her desperation to get out of the situation is also real.

So she battles with herself endlessly. She manages to attract guys who would take advantage of her desperation and then dump her. She would be left once more the poor Cinderella. After a few repeated such incidents she has a fear of relationships which all the more helps her to remain the suffering Cinderella.

Real life Cinderella is helpless by choice, derives melancholic enjoyment of her loneliness, noble in her own view due to her uncomplaining (not entirely) suffering. Her self-pity, self-hatred, and her pride keep her remaining that way.

There is only one way for real life Cinderellas to get out of this miserable loop – to decide not to be a Cinderella in the first place. They need to give up their life story. They need to look beneath the voids they carry within to find out their true self. The Cinderella Syndrome is an addiction to pain.

Most real life Cinderellas carry a deep void within. They wait for an outside hero to come and fill that void. This is their second mistake. The first and their biggest mistake is in assuming they are the void within. Instead of trying to fill the void, they need to question the reality of the void they carry within. Is she the identity she formed in her childhood? Or is she somebody else? Can she, as a life, survive if that identity is snatched away from her? The day real life Cinderellas can give a yes to the last question, they can effectively come out of their troubles and heal their lives.

Self Pity and Self Hatred: Two Dangerous Extremes

feeling sorry for oneselfLow self-esteem issues are quite common to my practice. In fact, all therapies in one way or the other have to do with self-image. And when we suffer from a low self-esteem problem and are unable to resolve it, we manage to cover it from the world by taking a defensive stand. Some become reserved and gruff, some put up a false intellectual front, some pretend to be uber happy, and some turn shy and silent, and then there are hundred other ways to cover it up.

Dealing with self-esteem issues or any issue for that matter is not a big deal if we are really willing to resolve our problems. But there are times when some of us tend to take an extreme stand about themselves after years of struggling with issues. One one extreme is self pity and other self hatred.

From a healing point of view, both are really dangerous attitudes. Because they not only prevent us from effectively resolving our issues but also become a very important reason why we are facing issues also. Let us see how.

Self pity is a sorry state. A person with self pity begins to see himself in a sorry state and as a figure of sacrifice. He feels he is a helpless victim of any situation and believes he would remain so. He often spends time in pitying himself and blaming others for his plight. He comes to feel so bad for himself so much that they readily accept the victim’s role as a part of who they are.

And once that happens, they continue to attract situations where they can play victims. The mind always makes true what it believes. It manipulates situations and people around to fulfill its needs and beliefs. So once the person believes he is a victim, he unconsciously seeks to worm himself into situations where he could become one. It is like if you become a doctor, you need to treat patients to justify your role. So you set up a medical practice and start seeking people with illnesses. Much similarly, the mind starts looking for situations and people who would victimize it so the self-pity is justified. These people carry a lot of resentment and anger within.

self hatredSelf hatred also works similarly but on the opposite side of the scale. Person who hates herself usually start playing the role of a perpetrator. She needs to justify her hatred. She just starts looking for victims and situations where she could have reasons to hate herself. In her mind, it’s all her fault! These people also carry a lot of guilt. They also carry a need to punish themselves.

People on these two extremes have a need to make sad stories of their lives. The truth is that need is neither ‘subconscious’ or ‘unconscious’. There is no need for a hypnotherapy regression or ‘psychological evaluation’ to bring up this need to the surface. All one has to do is to watch their thoughts and the motivations will be readily seen. If you can watch your thoughts with complete honesty – which means without denying or resisting them in any way – you can readily find out if you are carrying any of these traits in you. By watching your thoughts, you can also easily realize how you are manipulating yourself into a victim’s or a perpetrator’s role

This becomes the first block to any healing or therapy.  This needs to go in order to resolve other issues in your life. How can self pity and self hatred be healed? All you need is consistent refusal to take that attitude. Be alert in your head and watch your thoughts keenly. The moment you start feeling sorry for yourself and anger for situation or the moment you start cursing yourself and feel severe guilt, just move into the present moment and refuse to take that attitude. Be consistent and you can easily come out of that viewpoint.

Suggested Readings:
Emotional Drama
Power of Manifestation
It’s too late now!

Picture Courtesy: David Castillo Dominici @ freedigitalphotos.net

Quarrel with your spouse if you want to ruin your kid’s life!

Weird as it may seem, this is exactly what you will be doing by constantly carrying on quarrels and fights with your spouse at your home. Your children, no matter what their ages, tend to develop a sense of low self-esteem (at times self-hatred), nervousness, constant anxiety and stress. They can also end up in bad marriages themselves much later.

You may be quarrelling for many reasons. You may always be right every time you fight with your spouse (although I highly doubt it). But if you care for your children, the quarrelling’s got to stop.

For children home is a place where love and care is nourished. It is also a sacred refuge for children. They come running home if they get hurt, if they are scolded in school, if they are teased during play and if they feel lonely among friends. But constant quarrelling at that very home creates a tensed atmosphere and it makes the children highly anxious. Because they do not know when they would hear angry voices and shouts next, they are always on edge. What children learn very early at home, they translate it to the world outside home. They grow to be anxious and nervous whenever voices grow loud in any place. They become nervous around any sort of arguments between any strangers too.

Secondly, many children end up blaming themselves for the quarrels of their parents. They assume they are somehow responsible for the tensions at home and consequently develop low self-esteem or at times it goes to the point of self-hatred.

Their low self-esteem is further strengthened by the constant grumbling and muttering of one parent. It is common that in most quarrelling partners, one usually ends up nagging and grouching with a sour-faced expression long after the quarrel is over. This parent also snaps back at children venting his/her anger at the kids. The kids are at a loss to cope with this situation and they blame themselves over and over.

In some cases, the parents also end up dragging the children into the arguments. Each demands the child to support him/her and tends to speak about the defects of the other parent. The child is caught in between. Though in such cases the child never asked to give a verdict nor is admonished for being silent, the child nevertheless suffers lot of pain and anxiety because of being a witness to the dispute and having to hear the angry and ugly tone of voices up close.

And never assume you can fight after the child has gone to sleep, even if the child is sleeping in another room. A child instantly wakes the moment first word of the argument breaks out. Commonly you can also see the child pulls the blanket over itself and notice properly you will also make out the outline of the child pressing hands over his/her ears tightly. They are just wishing they were elsewhere in the world but there.

The anxiety, alienation, low self-esteem (or self hatred), and nervousness your nasty fights create in your child lasts for many years – in many cases into adulthood. Another long term consequence is that many of these children, when they grow up, unconsciously find themselves in similar marriages. There is a reason why this happens.

Though the children hate to hear the quarrel while it is happening, their subconscious is quietly absorbing the ways with which disagreements in a marriage are dealt with. It is learning how to survive if it gets caught in a similar circumstance in future. Now for subconscious what is known is pleasurable and what is unknown is painful. By living amidst quarrelling parents it now knows how to behave during disagreement. But it hasn’t learned how to live harmoniously. When the child grows up and marries, he/she starts unconsciously behaving the same way his/her parent did during a problem – even though he/she may not want to do that consciously.

So the next time you are getting into a bitter altercation with your spouse think what is at stake for you as well as for your children.

Photo Courtesy: Photostock at freedigitalphotos.net