I've had a depressing week. I've been comparing myself and letting my mind drag me into a low mood by believing (or not challenging) the stories of comparison, regret and self judgement:
This kind of thinking is responsible for so much despair in my life and so many other people's. I coach people and have the privilege of helping them to escape this endless loop of misery and internal drama. But that doesn't mean I can always escape it myself. In fact I notice how I often post all the nice bits of life on social media - then other people can compare themselves negatively to me! Oh dear! With practice I'm getting more resilient to comparison. What is the practice?
I'm fortunate enough to have access to some pretty awesome friends and therapists and this week I've been taking a look at my inner critic in more detail, as well as the vulnerable inner victim. In the paradigm of 'parts work' (AKA internal family systems, voice dialogue, fooling etc) we recognise there are many parts at play in our internal landscape. There parts are like people of their own accord. If you pay attention to yourself you'll notice your energy levels, voice and posture change when you are 'playing out' different parts.
In one recent therapy session I took time to go into my sad 'I don't know what I'm doing' part and really empathise with him. I was able to link it back to a 12 year old version of me that had trauma when entering secondary school. He felt (and still feels) deflated, small and depressed at the challenges of 'big-boy school'. My posture become hunched and my voice is squeezed. I feel this today whenever I encounter setbacks, particularly related to my work or areas where I demonstrate I'm a capable and intelligent person.
I also played out the critical parts of me - the thinkers and judges. These parts embody a more confident and even aggressive energy and posture. These relate to parents, bullies, teachers and... myself. They were necessary parts of myself that helped to protect me.
The purpose of giving these parts space to express themselves is:
What does this look like?
This morning I gave a lot more space to the critics - who really had some good advice (albeit delivered with some anger and judgements). I took a mirror and placed it in front of me and I began to lay out all the criticisms - full throttle, for 10 minutes! I went through what I should do and how I have been so wrong. Turns out I really do want to be more successful, prosperous and have more ease and fun and if I listen to the advice and weed out the condemning judgements.
I was only able to do this because I've given each part that needed it some space. In my therapy session the vulnerable victim cried - a lot! That cathartic grieving left space for me to hear, understand and appreciate the advice of the inner critics.
The beautiful side effect of all this is that the comparison mindset vanishes (along with the despair) and is replaced with a more appreciative mind - that sees the present moment as a gift - an opportunity to live! Now is wow! Today I've been exercising, working, reading and enjoying nature. It's not perfect and I still get the symptoms of 'compare and despair' occasionaly, but now I can recognise it and meet it with understanding , compassion and some really good 'self care'.
If this sounds like something you'd like to explore let me know and we can do some coaching together, I'm offering a free 1 hr intro session from October 2021. Book here.
Neil Morbey is a meditation teacher, group facilitator and inspiration guide for Positively-Mindful.com