Skip to main content

Self Therapy

We adults can spend our days trying to meet ever mounting 'to do' lists, unmeetable schedules, wearying routines, the ceaseless demands and responsibilities of adult life. After all, those bills don't go away on their own. And so it's easy to forget that along with us on this dizzying ride there's a child, often bewildered, overwhelmed, still healing from old wounds.

You've encountered the child many times in the past—it signal its fears through our frustrating procrastination, anxiety, insomnia and exhaustion; the embarrassing or shameful images that pop in the mind. How easily we misinterpret these important messages from what dwells in our unconscious as personal failures, behaviors 'to get rid of' by any means available.

You see, the child is too young to speak to us in words; but even if language were available to this forgotten self, our inner chatter would drown her out. But the child can express itself through the body, in all the physical sensations we feel lingering beneath our conscious attention: the taut abdomen, the lump in the throat, locked shoulders, clenched jaw, hollow chest, in all the non-verbal states of awareness, such as jumpiness, exhaustion, .

The child tells us its angry, sad, or, most commonly, terrified that the disappointments, rejections, abandonments and even traumas of our buried pasts will reoccur—the child seeks reassurance, care, a little attention. 

So do we stop and pay attention, by putting aside the inner mantras listing of all we need to accomplish before we can rest? Can we stay with our feelings, attending to the shaking rage, the heaviness of despair, shame, boredom– as the share their truths in fluid sensations? Can we listen with a kindness free of judgment or impatience? Can we offer a safe space in our heart without turning away? Can we integrate these feelings—the need for safety, close friends and self-care —into the important life decisions we make? Or do we once again abandon the child, like so many times in the past?

If we are impatient and frustrated by this child we’ll judge ourselves ceaselessly, feeling ashamed of our progress; we’ll even try to use spiritual practice as a way to silence these needs, hoping that focusing on the breath will quiet our unrest. 

But the child never goes away. Years ago, in family therapy, my 82 year old father revealed how his inner child was terrified of being vulnerable with us, his grown children, of whom he was constantly suspicious.

Perhaps it’s worth remembering that everyone has their own child, many of whom are so unheeded as to render their days hollow, virtually free of freedom, dance, joy, exploration. How many of us leave the child unattended, repressed into the realms of the shadow self, from which we spend our lives running. But no matter how much we may wish our anxiety, sadness, longing or anger to stay quiet, it will never give up. So let’s stop and listen, shall we?


Popular posts from this blog

5 ways to resist obsessive thoughts (Vitakkasanthana)

The mind can be thought of as a committee
Our thoughts are present by many "voices," some skillful and unskillful
W there are some skillful voices in there, focusing on useful ideas, there are also the many voices in the "committee" that cause us suffering by advancing and encouraging useless, stress inducing ideas, plans, worries.

Some examples of unskillful, stress producing obsessions
—are dedictated to figuring out the worst possible outcomes (fear) of any situation
—fixate on unknowable future events, i.e. what will we experience later in life?
—try to figure out what other people are thinking about us
—compare ourselves with others, especially in material concerns
in general, the buddha broke these down the thoughts of craving, aversion and delusion.

How unskillful internal voices persuade us
some of these committee members try to get their way by
—most work by repeating the same thought over and over
—some split into thousands of variations that seem different, but are …

The Two Arrows of Suffering

“When hit with discomfort, the conventional reaction is to whine and regret, kick oneself, take it hard. So we feel two afflictions: 1) the inevitable, physical feelings [a first arrow the world blasts us with] and 2) the additional, mental reactions [the second arrow we shoot into ourself]. We may fail to note any relief or escape from uncomfortable feelings [the first arrow] other than to distract ourselves with sensual pleasure. So we cling to diversions, rather than observing what is actually present, the arising and passing of feelings.”
—The Buddha, The Arrow Sutta
This teaching is often summarized as “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” We have in life two forms of distress in life. The first arises from the unavoidable events that occur in life: the pains, insults, rejections, losses, separations, aging, sickness and on. Such events quickly give rise to inevitable, uncomfortable physical expressions, such as feelings that the wind knocked out of us, a hollowness in …

Buddhism and the Bilateral Brain: A Brief Sketch of Ideas Ranging from the Ancient Greeks, Early Buddhism, Nietzsche and a Smattering of Neuroscience

In Greek mythology, Apollo was the god of the reason and logic, appealing to the ideals of precision and abstract purity. Dionysus was the god of the spontaneous, the emotional, embodied, often irrational instinct. These gods were not considered to be antagonistic but rather complimentary.
Today, from the vantage of contemporary neuropsychology, especially in the works of Iain McGilchrist, Allan Schore and Robert Ornstein, we can readily note how these twin gods neatly represented the asymmetrical brain: • Apollo depicts the perspective of the left hemisphere, which represents the world in static ideas; reality is comprised of separate and fragmented objects, abstracted from their context; reality is separated into parts. The kind of attention is inherently dualistic and isolating—self versus other, me versus you, humankind versus nature; this attention tends to represent the fluid and organic as lifeless, static, in language or symbols. • Dionysus depicts the worldview of the r…