Part 2: Self-Love

Posted Sunday 15 November 2020 by Urs Riggenbach.

This is post is part of a series of posts of creative writing done in the winter days of 2020.

 

How much do you criticize yourself, and for what? Let’s imagine something. You trip over some steps, and immediately you tell yourself “Look at you, you’re so clumsy, such a mess, always falling over stuff!”

Unfortunately, we often react like this when small or big things are not working out in life: We judge ourselves immediately and harshly so. But wasn’t it already bad enough to fall, why doubling down with these hurtful thoughts?

Of course analyzing ourselves and being critical at times is healthy and a great way to drive self-improvement. But there has to be a balance and many of these thoughts, especially the immediate and harsh ones do not serve that balance.

Many thoughts we have are thought patterns we have accumulated and trained over the years. Things like worrying, criticizing, self-loathing, stress; thinking processes that result in bad emotions. There are others, like love, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness; these result in a lot better emotions.

There is a lot of value in noticing these thought patterns, to understand how much time we spend in each of them. You may notice unbalancedness in people who spend most of their time in one thought patterns, for example being super worried, or critical or untrusting or stressed, basically all the time. It is almost as if this person is somehow addicted to a thought pattern.

If we start paying attention to which thought patterns we’re in, for how much time and how they make us feel, we may uncover times when we apply thought patterns that make us feel bad for no good reason. For example, there are good reasons to feel stressed, but we often remain longer than necessary in the stress mindset than needed, even after the job is done or the situation is over. After a week of high-stress working we may continue to work recklessly, sleep equally bad and rush from thing to thing. Our mind has gotten used to applying the stress mindset over the past days and is now continuing to do so. In this way, we get used to (or addicted to, or stuck in) the thought patterns we apply, and the more we apply them, the more our mind will re-apply them in the next situation.

But there are deeper, more specific thought patterns that may live in us. We may have accumulated them from our guardians, teachers and other figures of authority.
For example, if you have been judged heavily on your dress code as a child, you may still do this today. If you have been pushed to reach for excellence you may still do this in many aspects of your life today. This is just to show that thought patterns may not necessarily be your own but come from conditioning. By noticing them and inspecting them it becomes apparent if it is a pattern you have developed or aspired to yourself, or if it has been forced on you.

No matter where it comes from, a thought pattern knows no limit by itself. In fact, thought patterns are pretty much the opposite of self-regulating: The more you listen one, the more it will appear. So it’s your responsibility to watch them, understand where they come from, and sometimes, stop them.

By stopping a thought pattern that you have identified as not helpful, you reverse this trend, by dismissing the thought you spend less time it in, and thus reducing your mind’s tendency to spend time in it.

It starts as simply as noticing the thought and saying “oh, I’m having this thought again”. Now you are focusing on your emotions, on what you want to think about it and most importantly this creates a differentiation between your thoughts and yourself. This is very powerful. Instead of being your thoughts, you have thoughts. And it is up to you to pay attention to them.

You can also start by thinking about yourself, the things you do and think, and wondering where they come from. This too can help you identify hurtful through patterns, and once you’ve identified them you may more easily spot them in your daily life and dismiss them.

Disclaimer: This is the first time I’m expressing myself on this topic. I’m trying to express some realizations I had that have helped me tremendously to be less shy, more compassionate and stable/stronger. It’s a collection from many teachings I have had the pleasure to observe, and I am happy to provide sources or pointers where needed. Most importantly I am trying to figure out if there is an interest for this kind of content as I would love to carve out more time for this type of writing.


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