Recently a client of mine asked to share her journal entries, with me and you, so that others could benefit from knowing what it is like to gain new insights, and begin to act on them.
In this case she was struggling to love herself, for she was really good at intense and unconstructive self-talk, and at beating herself up for every little thing she judged herself for doing wrong. We were trying to help her move into more automatic constructive, rather than unconstructive, self-talk. One of the things we had worked on was helping her distinguish between discernment and judging.
I asked her to consider discernment as observation, as experience. I suggested she could simply experience what she was doing, that she could notice it and observe it, but that she could refrain from judging it. I described judging as going beyond observing, as deciding that the experience had to be classified or filed away in some file, like in either the good or bad file, the right or wrong file, or some other all or nothing classification of her experience, of her life. We had talked about how that as she could allow herself to experience, and could suspend judgment and all or nothing thinking, it would allow her to relax, to self-love, and to really begin to enjoy her life. She had left our session quite frustrated because no matter how much I described it, or led her through some mindfulness experientials to feel it, she believed she could not get what I was talking about. She was quite activated in judging herself as a failure, as stupid, and similar other all or nothing labels of herself. But apparently, she continued to journal about it, and persisted on doing her homework of practicing the exercises we had decided upon. And the next week, she brought to session, the following journal entries for two consecutive days of insight.
Today was an eye-opening day. For the first time in my life, I think I know what I want to live for. I believe I’ve spent the majority of my life living by someone else’s standards or rules or setting expectations that were not satisfying to myself. Or making un-constructive decisions. I think the phrase that I’ve really identified with is being my own friend. I’ve been blessed to surround myself with beautiful people who I trust very well, treating them how I’ve wanted to be treated. Instead I should treat myself how I want to be treated. I want to treat myself with love, compassion, understanding, praise and most importantly gently. I think the rest of the world (external forces) can do a great job knocking us down so why do I need to treat myself that way? I am sure that I have a lot to offer the world just by being me. So why should I waste my thoughts on the negativities (or tearing myself down) instead of praising the things I do excel at (I feel like that’s an all or nothing statement). Maybe the way to say it is focusing my energy on constructive behaviors. I can’t wait to just live by my own standards instead of others’. This new “constructive” way of thinking will of course take practice as any skill does but just like learning how to walk it will soon be an invaluable skill. I know I’m a beautiful human being and it’s time to start living as such. I’m really excited. MG
And the next day she wrote this after attempting a many, many mile bike ride that was probably excessively ambitious for her skill level at that time:
So today I went on a super long (and perhaps the most difficult) bike ride of my life. While I was riding there were lots of times that I wanted to give up and I was feeling frustrated that I wasn’t keeping pace with everyone else. Then I started thinking about what was I out there for…and the answer was me. The things I do in my life should be because I want to. I think this is a part of what Val was talking about. So while I was struggling back to my car, I was thinking about how great it’s going to feel when I’m finished and started talking to myself like I was my own friend. Also, I wasn’t thinking about whether my pace or the time it took me was right or wrong but merely how it was an experience. I think I finally get what Val was saying. The thing that I’m finding out is how this discern vs judging is not something common. Most judge so it makes sense how people treat themselves that way. With anything, it takes practice (and adapting to being the majority). MG