Compulsions: two levels of what we escape

 

When we have a compulsion, there are usually two levels to what we try to escape. 

The compulsion could be any activity – eating, using alcohol or drugs, internet, work, upholding an image of ourselves, certain thought patterns, or just about anything else. Behind compulsions is a wish to avoid certain uncomfortable sensations and thoughts.

And those uncomfortable sensations and thoughts come in two layers

First are the immediate sensations in our body we wish to avoid. They seem frightening to us, so we use our compulsion as a strategy to avoid them. Sometimes, we may be conscious of uncomfortable or frightening thoughts associated with these sensations, but not always.

Then, there is a whole undergrowth of uncomfortable and frightening thoughts and additional sensations often in the form of chronic contractions. These can be quite entrenched, seem very real to us, and can stretch back to childhood experiences. 

Often, we would do almost anything to avoid consciously entering and meeting these. Including escaping into our compulsions, even if these come with their own unpleasant consequences. 

Several things may prevent us from consciously entering what we try to escape from. Mainly, it seems scary and frightening. We have our own beliefs telling us it’s scary and dangerous. Our society, at least traditionally, has told us these parts of us are dark and hide something terrifying. Our society makes it easy to escape through various addictions and compulsions. (We see others do it, and escape routes are easily available partly because some of them are profitable.) We may, wisely, think we would get lost if we enter these parts of ourselves, we may rock the boat, and we may take the lid off something we won’t know how to handle. (This may be true if we don’t have the right support, guidance, and skills.) 

The answer is to do exactly what we have avoided, do so with support and guidance, and eventually learn how to do it safely for ourselves. We need to meet and befriend these areas of ourselves. Become familiar with them, see the innocence behind it all, and perhaps invite these parts of us to heal. 

Over time, we get to see that it’s actually not so scary to enter these areas after all. It may be uncomfortable at first, but as we rest with the sensations and thoughts, and investigate what’s there, it tends to shift into an experience of relief and even of returning home. We are returning home to parts of ourselves we have shunned. 

It’s important to do this befriending in a skillful way, and that often means to initially be facilitated by someone experienced. These parts of ourselves are best met and explored in a way that’s respectful, patient, allows these parts to be as they are, see the innocence behind and in them, and invites them to heal in their own time. 

For me, the most helpful ways I have found of doing this include natural rest (notice, allow, rest with), inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process), heart-centered practices (ho’oponopono, tonglen – towards these parts of ourselves), and releasing associated body contractions (TRE, massaging the contractions etc.). I won’t go into the details here since I have written about it in other articles. 

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Befriending struggle

 

I have found it very helpful to befriend struggle. 

As most human beings, I often find myself struggling or wrestling with situations and issues. It can be very gentle, as a pondering or curiosity, or more obvious. 

The more I recognize this wrestling as natural and having a very good evolutionary purpose, as kind and here to help and protect this human self, and as useful, the more I see it as a friend. And the more I recognize it as a friend, the lighter I can hold it. And the lighter I hold it, the more I find appreciation for it.

Another side of this is that it makes it easier to recognize that it happens within and as what I am. It’s an expression of the creativity of the mind, or – if we want to put it into a more highfalutin language – even the creativity of the divine. The divine can recognize itself as this too. The divine can wake up to itself as this too. 

Article: Ways to help children with the “critical critter”

 

5 Ways to Help Children Silence Negative Self-Talk – Shrinking The ‘Critical Critter’ (by Dr Hazel Harrison)

I am a little ambivalent about this article. On the one hand, it has several good approaches. It does help to see these voices in us as voices or subpersonalities or even beings. It does help to dialog with it.

And yet, in this particular approach, the voice remains a problem, an “other”, or even a subtle enemy. Something to keep at a distance. Something to be vigilant about. Something where we can’t really let down our guard. And that’s tiring and doesn’t lead to any real sense of resolution.

For me, the next step is befriending this part of me. Getting to know it. Listen to what it wishes to tell me. Find it’s deepest wish for me. And through that, perhaps see that it’s on my side. It may be here to protect me. It may be here out of kindness and love. It may wish to help but not really know how.

It just knows the harsh approach, which it may have learned from parents, teachers, and society in general. So through befriending, getting to know it, patience, respect, listening, and dialog, it may learn a different approach. I learn how to relate to it differently. And through that, there is an invitation for it to relate to me differently.

These parts of me want what I want. They want to be met, heard, loved, respected. They want to be understood. They want their deepest and real motivation heard and understood. They want space to be as they are, and change their approach on their own time.

So with children, the five approaches mentioned in the article may be a good start. And then, we can help children to get to know and befriend these part of themselves. They can see them as scared and frightened animals that wishes to be met with kindness, understanding, and love. Animals that over time will learn to relate to us differently, if we relate to them with kindness and patience.

In this way, we move from a kind of zero-sum approach where we learn to passify the voice (which, at best, is a temporary solution), to a win-win approach where we both get what we deep-down really want.

How would we do this practically? I assume we would have to experiment and see what works best, and also find different approaches for different children. Here are some possibilities:

How does the critical critter (cc) look? Can you make a drawing of it?

When the critical critter comes up, where do you feel it in your body? Can you feel those sensations? Rest with them? Let them be there as they are? And if there is fear of doing that, how does that feel?

How would it be if you made friends with it? How would it react? What would it do? Would it change?

What does the cc really want? Perhaps it wants your best but doesn’t know how? Perhaps it wants you to do better? For you to act so your teachers and parents approve?

Can you ask it if what it really wants is for you to do better? For people in your life to approve of you?

Can you ask it what it wants for you? What does it want you to know? If it could speak, what would it say?

Can you ask it how it can help you better? How would it change so it helps you better? Is it willing to try that?

Not having worked with children in this way, I don’t know exactly what would work the best but these are some things to try out.

Note: The next step would be to notice that all content of mind is mind itself (consciousness, awakeness).  I suspect that would be for a few especially interested, although I could be wrong.

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Discovering that troublesome parts of me are actually on my side

 

Again, a topic I am revisiting in life and here.

Some dynamics of the mind can seem like a problem, an “other”, and even an enemy. It may be uncomfortable emotions, distressing thoughts, compulsions, pain, or something else.

Seeing it as an enemy tends to create additional struggle and discomfort. So we can explore the triggering part of us. How is it get to know it? What happens if I befriend it?

I tend to use ho’oponopono or tonglen to befriend, and also dialogue or inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries).

When I dialogue with this part, I tend to ask a series of questions. For instance: (a) What do you wish for him (me)? (b) What happens when you do as you do? (c) How could you do it differently? How can you do it in a way that helps you achieve what you really wish for him? (d) What do you want me to know? How can I be of assistance from my side? (The wholeness of my human self.)

What I find is that all these apparently unhelpful or uncomfortable dynamics are here to protect my human self. They are here to be of service. They are here out of kindness and love. The way they do it may be a bit unhelpful, but their intention is protection and care, and comes from love.

When I get to see that more clearly, perhaps through additional questions and explorations, I can genuinely say “thank you for your protection, thank you for your service, thank you for your love” to these dynamics.

On thing that happens here is that I see – and feel – that these dynamics come from a wish to protect and serve my human self, and we are on the same side. Before, they may have appeared as an “other”, a problem, or even an enemy. And now, I see that we are actually on the same side. We have the same intention for my human self. That in itself is a big shift. It’s a relief. It’s a new beginning. It’s a starting point for us – the dynamic and me as the wholeness of the human self – to work together in a more intentional and coordinated way.

Note: Are these really “parts” of me? In one way, yes. It can help the mind create an image of it when it’s called a part which can make a dialogue easier. They are more habital dynamics. Movements more than a thing.

Also, are they unhelpful or uncomfortable? Not inherently. They just operate as they do, and our minds says it’s helpful or not. And the minds struggle with it, with these parts of itself, is what creates the discomfort.

And this is something we tend to rediscover over and over, each time one of these dynamics surface. We often need to rediscover it with each new surfacing dynamic, although as we get more familiar with it it tends to be easier and quicker each time. Our system gets used to this new way of operating.

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On the same team 

 

We are on the same team, the unpleasant experience and me.

It makes a big difference when I get to see this, and to the extent I recognize it.

We both want freedom from the suffering. And, really, what we want is to be free to experience what’s here.

It comes from a wish to protect this human self. It comes from a deep caring. It comes from love.

We are both presence. Consciousness. Love. We happen within and as presence.

The unpleasant experience can be an emotion, a body contraction, scary thoughts, emotional pain, physical pain, cravings, discomfort, uneasiness, and more. And although it may help to (think we) know this, what really helps is exploring it and see what we find. Is it true that we are on the same team? What do I find when I take a closer look? When I explore it through dialogue, heart explorations, inquiry? When I gently rest with it?

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Protecting, care, love

 

Here is one way to explore what in my experience appears as an enemy, whether it’s an emotion, a state, emotional or physical pain, or something else.

Thank you for protecting me.

Thank you for your care for me.

Thank you for your love for me.

I repeat each sentence long enough so I start to feel it and then deepen into it. I may also get some insights into how the emotion, state, or pain is there to protect me, or comes from a deep caring for me, or a love for me, whichever one it is. Then move on to the next sentence.

It helps me shift my relationship from seeing it as an enemy to befriending it, and seeing how it’s genuinely there to protect me, and comes from a deep caring for me, and love for me.

It’s helpful to stay with each sentence for a while before moving on to the next one. If I do it too quickly, or try to skip a step, then the jump from where I am to recognizing it as coming from a wish to protect, and especially that it’s coming from caring and love, may be too big. When I stay with each one for a while, I can ease into it and start to feel and see it.

When I say the sentences, it’s while resting with the emotion, state, or pain. Within presence, noticing, allowing.

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Meet it more intentionally

 

A few days ago, I had a sense of dread and fear in my belly.

I recognized that feeling from going to elementary school. I sometimes had it walking to school in the mornings.

Back then, I didn’t know what to do about it. Nobody had shown me.

And now, somebody has shown me and I can relate to it more intentionally. I can meet with presence, kindness, allowing, patience. I can give it what it really needs and wants. I can meet it as it wishes to be met. And that makes all the difference.

It’s such a simple shift, and it changes the situation from feeling victimized by that dread to befriending it.

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How the mind relates to physical and emotional pain

 

What’s the difference between physical and emotional pain?

Not so much, if you’re the mind. In both cases, it may either see it as a threat and recoil from it, or find a way to befriend it.

In both cases, it’s possible to deconstruct and examine how the mind relates to this pain, and find another and more comfortable way to relate to it.

Here are some ways to use the Living Inquiries to explore pain:

Threat. Where is the threat? What images, words, and sensations appear threatening? What additional images, words, and sensations are connected to these? (AI)

The pain itself. Can I find the pain? How does my mind create its experience of the pain? What images, words, and sensations makes up the experience of this pain? (UI)

Someone in pain. Can I find me, the one in pain? What images, words, and sensations make up the experience of me, the one in pain? (UI)

Command. Can I find the command to not be in pain? How does my mind create this command? What images, words, and sensations make up this command? (CI)

Isolating. Can I isolate out sensations, recognize and feel them as sensations? Can I isolate out the images and recognize and look at them as images? Can I do the same with the words? This is the beginning of inquiry, and a crucial step.

Resting. Can I rest with the pain. Notice and allow. Notice sensations, images, words. Allow. Notice they are already notice. Notice they are already allowed. This is the context of inquiry, what inquiry happens within.

Mining. What’s the worst that can happen when I am in pain? What do I fear the most? What’s the best that can happen if I am not in pain? What does the pain mean? What do the sensations mean? What would it say if it could speak? What does it want from me? How would it like me to relate to it?

A lot of the discomfort in pain is how the mind reacts to it. When it sees it as solid, real, and a threat, it recoils from it and reacts to it. And that drama tends to increase and intensify the experience of discomfort. Without these extra layers, the pain itself is easier to relate to and befriend. It becomes less of a threat.

Befriend, and it appears friendly **

 

When I struggle with my experience, I do so because it seems scary to me, and in the struggle, it still seems scary. It becomes even more scary.

When I befriend my experience, I get to see it’s not as scary as my mind initially told me it was. It appears more friendly to me.

So they way I relate to my experience, is how it seems to me. When I relate to it as scary, it becomes scary to me, or even more scary. And when I befriend it, it reveals itself as friendly to me. (No wonder, since it is me. I am my own field of experience.)

It seems so obvious. And yet I know it’s often not. It’s not what most of us have learned, from parents and culture and others.

How do I befriend my experience?

By resting with it. Noticing. Allowing. Notice it’s already allowed. Shifting from thinking to noticing. (From being identified with thoughts and their stories, to noticing them as thoughts and stories.)

By meeting it with kindness. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. (Ho’opopnopno.) Thank you for arising. I love you. Stay as long as you like. (Living Inquiry.) You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. I love you. What would satisfy you forever? (Holding Satsang with it.)

By noticing it’s already allowed. It’s already allowed… by life, mind, existence.

By noticing it’s there to protect me, and comes from deep caring, and love. (Anger, sadness, grief, pain, and more.)

By exploring it through inquiry. Looking at images and words. Feeling sensations. Asking simple questions to see what’s already there. (Living Inquiry.) By examining my beliefs about it. (The Work.)

All of these are (or can be) forms of love and curiosity. Very natural, simple, and even (eventually) quite effortless forms of love and curiosity.

And anything is included. Any experience. Anything that’s here is included, whatever it is. Especially those things that tend to slip through the cracks. Including tiredness, sleepiness, resistance, fear, seeking, judging thoughts, and more.

Befriending flatness

 

Over the last few days, I have experienced a sense of flatness and dullness, and also a sense of emptiness and nothingness. There has also been a relatively quiet mix of a wide range of feelings and emotions experienced all at once.

I notice how a part of me sees this flatness and dullness as a threat. It feels wrong, unfortunate, even a hindrance. And a thought says it’s always going to be that way.

It may also be that I have set aside and pushed away this feeling of flatness and dullness most of my life, and it’s now surfacing to be included, befriended, and met with love and understanding.

This flatness and dullness is also an experience, as any other experience. Why not befriend it? Meet it with curiosity? Find love for it? How is it also to befriend my fear of befriending it, and any shoulds behind befriending it?

What’s the worst that can happen if I befriend it? What actually happens?

How does this experience appear in images, words and sensations? Looking at the images, one at a time, is it flat or dull? Are the sensations actually flat or dull? What’s actually there?

Guardian of the treasure

 

In fairy tales and mythology, there is often a guardian of the treasure.

It may be a dragon guarding a princess or gold and diamonds, or – in the case of Greek mythology – Cererbus guarding the gates of the underworld, preventing those who have crossed the river Styx from returning to the world of the living.

And I find this in my own life as well.

My treasure is what’s revealed when I (a) meet and befriend what I am experiencing now, and (b) inquiry into the stressful thought that’s here.

And the guardian is my fear of doing just that. My fear of looking at what’s here.

My fear of meeting and staying with what I am experiencing now – whether it’s discomfort, unease, pain, joy or fear itself. And my fear of identifying and investigating the stressful thought that’s here.

This guardian, this fear, is created by additional beliefs: It will be too much. It will open a Pandora’s box. Reality is unkind. Opening to it will be worse than avoiding it. Something terrible will happen if I open to my experience, inquire into my stressful thought.

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What I resist is the gateway?

 

What I resist is the gateway.

What do I find when I use this as a question, a pointer for own exploration?

I resist an emotion, and when I allow and meet that emotion, I find relief, an open heart, a sense of coming home, flexibility in relating to situations. I find what I really seek.

I resist a thought, and it’s the same there. When I identify and inquire into that thought, I find resolution, creativity, kindness, a sense of coming home. I find what I really seek.

So what I resist is the gateway.

And really, something else seems more true:

The thought behind – creating – the resistance is the gateway.

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The impulse to escape experience

 

Elaboration on an earlier inquiry:

– o –

Basic dynamics

(a) When I believe I need to escape experience, I may be able to do so partially and for a while.

I may distract myself.

I may find tools and techniques that change my state and experience for a while.

But I cannot control experience. Experiences come and go. They live their own life.

I cannot control what I will experience when I wake up tomorrow, or next week, or even the next minute or second.

The specific experiences I try to avoid may still be there in the background, and they may surface again and be triggered again.

When I try to escape experience, I can only do so partially and temporarily.

(b) Also, believing that I need to change my experience is uncomfortable in itself.

I get myself into escape mode. I keep trying to run from what’s here.

And that is inherently uncomfortable.

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Befriending fear

 

I still have nights where experiences surface that’s difficult to befriend or welcome. Mostly, it’s a sense of strong wordless inner struggle along with a sense of everything dissolving – the image of a larvae in a pupa describes it. From the outside, I see there is nothing to fear here. It’s probably just part of the process. But from the inside, when it happens, a great deal of fear comes up.

When I get caught up in this, it’s easy to “forget” what may help, so I’ll go through it here as a reminder for myself.

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Even keel through shifts

 

I notice shifts between three different states.

The first is into wounds, beliefs and hangups. A belief surfaces to be seen, felt, loved.

Another is into what I am, into Big mind. The veils are thinner. It’s easier for what I am to notice itself.

And yet another is a release from either, just ordinary life.

Each of these is an invitation to see, feel and find appreciation for what’s here. An invitation to befriend experience and stories, notice I am what happens and inquire into stories.

These shifts are also an invitation to find a more even keel throughout states, and one way to do that is to befriend experience and inquire into stories – especially those saying something is not OK.

And these shifts is an invitation to notice what I am throughout states. Content of experience changes – what is it that does not change?

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Befriending oneself

 

The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

– from NY Times, Go Easy on Yourself

One of the main keys to healing, maturing and even awakening is to befriend oneself and the whole field of experience in general (AKA the world).

The reason is simple: When I am not a friend with what is, I am caught up in resistance and beliefs, and that’s what (re)creates wounds, keeps me locked in old patterns, and it comes from identification with stories which prevents what I am from noticing itself.

So when I befriend what is – through allowing experience, noticing I already am the field of experience, inquire into beliefs, find clarity to live from my inner guidance and so on, there is an invitation for healing and maturing, and it may even be easier for what I am to notice itself.

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