Judging Our Intrusive Thoughts

If we we're watching a child banging their head on the wall, we’d go over and help.

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When you can’t have compassion for yourself, what’s in the way? We may feel we don’t deserve our own compassion. We see our actions have led to harm in ourselves and others and now we blame ourselves for being stuck in a loop of isolation and unhealthy, compulsive thinking. Don’t make compassion for yourself contingent on being perfect. This is your experience right now. Can you acknowledge with some kindness that you are suffering?

Shift into that perspective of seeing: “My compulsive and catastrophic thinking has taken over and I am suffering”. Then don’t add to the suffering by judging yourself for that. If you notice judging has come back in, take another step back and acknowledge that “Judging myself is adding to my suffering”.

Compassion is the only way to heal and to open up to seeing our situation with clarity. “I have compulsive thinking that leads to pain and judgment and more suffering.” Okay! Now I know what the problem is, I can at least acknowledge the pattern and that I am in pain.

It’s like if we have a nervous system that is easily triggered. One of the symptoms is a high startle reflex and we jump every time we hear a loud noise. We can’t stop our nervous system reactions through force of will. The remedy is to calm and heal the nervous system. Yet other people might feel uncomfortable and judge us and we can judge ourselves. It feels scary to be at the mercy of an agitated nervous system.

Compulsive thinking is driven by the same mechanism of fear, yet we judge ourselves so severely for the thought patterns we have. Society shames us too for our autonomic systems and reactions. We’ve had experiences that have led to our nervous systems being less resilient than ideal. We are in human bodies with brains and nervous systems. We’re not bad people because we respond to our environment. At least we can open up to being kind to ourselves seeing we have a system that needs healing.

There is no payoff to following fear thoughts and what-if thoughts.

They just scare us.

If we’re watching a child banging their head on the wall, we’d go over and help. We would see what they need and might give them a hug. We wouldn’t just watch them do it and we wouldn’t join them and bang our head too. Compulsive catastrophic thinking is like banging our head on the wall over and over. At some point we pull back and see “Wow, that really hurt! I’ve got a big bruise here.” See that clearly and be kind with yourself. This is the payoff for regular practice of mindfulness and compassion.

I explain more in this 7 minute video

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