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Emotional Healing

Emotional healing is a process. It requires a number of skills. You will need some control over your attention, the ability to be present with the emotions you discover and ability to release them. A breath-work exercise is often used. It is helpful, if not required. You will also need the awareness to observe the thoughts in your head and perceive that they are not true. These are all types of mindfulness and awareness practices that are combined for emotional healing to work

Below I will describe a clients emotional exploration and healing process and the skills used. Without these skills in mindful awareness, and Releasing Emotions, it is very likely that you will lose your attention in the process, fall into some circular thinking, and exaggerate existing emotions instead of release them and heal. The practices I recommend are in the Self Mastery Course, Releasing Emotions Exercise, and Recapitulation series.

Jill’s Journey to Heal Her Emotions

Jill is 38 and anger has been an issue for many years. She describes the type of experience she wants to change. Jill went to pick up her boyfriend of several months. First there was a stressful deadline to finish up earlier in the day. Then there was traffic. But she gets there and doesn’t feel too stressed. Jill texts him that she is in the parking lot. He messages back that he will be down in a minute. As the minutes go by Jill’s thinking becomes negative and the emotions build up inside. It’s been five minutes. The thoughts get louder.

“He doesn’t appreciate me. He is ignoring me. He takes me for granted. He doesn’t respect my time. What am I doing with someone that treats me this way?

Jill has some awareness and tries to counter these thoughts, but they are more like self judgements that add to self-hate instead.

“Wait a minute. I’m over reacting. I should just sit here calmly. I shouldn’t get this worked up. I’m being stupid.”

Her boyfriend gets in the car 8 minutes after the message. Jill is terse with her hello.

He responds with annoyance, “What did I do wrong this time.” Jill’s anger comes out and a fight ensues.  (Yes, this is a poor response, but I’ll avoid the segue as the article is long enough.) Yes, he was late. We can argue the definition of what “one minute” means. Was it literal or just a metaphor for “soon”? In any case, Jill’s emotions are hers, and pointing the finger at the boyfriend prevents the deeper work from happening. This article is about the pattern that Jill has been living for years, and this is just an example. So leave the boyfriend part alone for now.

Jill has been by herself with her thoughts and has built up a pressure of hurt, frustration, and anger with the stories she has told herself. Jill is responsible for the emotions she creates with her own stories when she is by herself so we will focus on that part.

Explore the Emotions not the Stories

As Jill is conveying the story, I ask her what she is feeling. I ask her to explain the feelings related to the thoughts, “He doesn’t respect me. I’m not appreciated. I’m not important to him.” These are the emotions she was generating while she sat alone.

Jill says that these have been a recurring theme for many years. It used to happen with her brother and her parents.

At first she describes a feeling in her head like a pressure and tingling in her neck and shoulders. She says her body just feels empty.

I take this to mean one or more things. The majority of emotions are felt in the belly and torso. If they aren’t felt in the belly and chest then there is a lack of connection to her emotions. Often this is because emotions have been too painful for her to be present with. It can also be that she has learned to not pay attention to them. This is how emotions become repressed. In either scenario emotions build up like a gas under pressure and later erupt disproportionately at minor things.

I have Jill spend time working with the Releasing Emotions Exercise on what she does feel in the area of her head, neck, and shoulders. Later we come back to her body and she notices it feels different now. There is a pit in her stomach. This is common. What you notice at the moment is not the answer. Continue a practice and other emotions will surface. It takes time, patience, and practice to get your systems to offer up these hidden layers.

The Pit in My Stomach

Initially it is just a physical sensation of a pit in her stomach. It is a tightness. It even feels to Jill that her muscles are cramping and constricting. We work with the Releasing Emotions Exercise that she has been practicing the previous week and let go of some of the physical tension.

After some time Jill says, “It’s shame.

It’s not surprising that we can not identify or name a feeling. We typically repress or suppress most of our emotions in modern society beginning in our teens. At that point we are socialized to keep our emotions and behaviors within a “normal” range. We wear a mask over our feelings and project to the outside world that we are “fine.” With so much repetition pretending we are fine, we even persuade ourselves that we are “fine” when we are not.

I have Jill use her attention and awareness to explore the feelings of shame. Around the shame is a container of fear. This is often the case when we have painful emotions like shame, guilt, anger, jealousy etc. We are afraid of those feelings “taking us over” and so we respond with fear and hold them down. With repetition over years we push these emotions into areas we are unconscious of and continue with our socially acceptable behavior.

As young children our behaviors are intertwined with emotions. We feel an emotion and we express it with an action. If adults shame or punish us for our behavior we have to stop our behavior. Since emotions and behavior are intertwined, we avoid behavior by repressing the emotions that drive the behavior. Repressing emotions seem like a successful way to change our behavior.

The layer of fear around Jill’s shame helps her repress that emotions so she feels better. It is a kind of denial system. However, the layer of fear surrounding the shame also keeps her from being present and healing the shame. Fear preventing the expression of it also prevents the healing. We are unaware at the time of keeping all those emotions stored up inside.

It is as if the fear were saying, “Don’t go here. This is painful stuff and it will hurt if you feel this. I’m going to protect you from this shame by pushing your attention away from it.” This was true perhaps when we were young and didn’t have any mindfulness and self-compassion healing skills. In the adult phase of our lives it is up to us to move past this protective fear and commit to healing. This fear layer is part of the denial system which has to be acknowledged and worked through for healing to happen

Skill: Willingness to Feel the Fear of Feeling Shame

I ask Jill to spend some time describing both the shame, and the fear as she does the breathing and release. This time is important as she is becoming comfortable with allowing herself to feel emotions that were hidden in her unconscious. As Jill applies the Releasing Emotions exercise the sensations in her body keep changing. It is a process where the sensations change every moment.

The constrictions in her muscles relax and she breathes easier. Her physical body is relaxing. After a while the fear is not so intense. The shame is also dissipating. Instead of just sitting in a tight knot in the pit of her stomach. It is moves around and changes shape. Without the fear layer the shame stretches and oscillates as it moves back and forth around her torso.  Intensity fluctuates, but generally moves towards releasing and becoming softer as it releases.

Having her describe the emotions is an important part of the process. It keeps her in a witness observer state of mind. This is a mindful awareness state that allows her to feel the emotions and be present with them. With this activity to focus on she is less likely to let her attention be carried off by the emotions and related thoughts.

Without practicing and developing skillful control over your attention, those emotions can “take over”. They push you into distractions of intellectualizing, or worse, overwhelming you with too much emotion, such as shame. This can lead to a feeling of hopeless and despair or cause your mind to shut down so you repress and withdraw from the healing process. If this happens, the denial system has been successful at shutting the door and protecting you from hurting. Having Jill describe the various sensations of emotions can help her to be present with the emotions but keeps her attention from being taken over by them.

Discovering Unconscious Sources of Emotions

Jill describes the shape of emotions and what area they occupy in her body. She says they have the shape of a muffler. There is a long tube like a muffler going back behind her. Describing emotions and healing processes are often symbolic. What we have is a mind trying to communicate something it has never experienced before. Other people will sense it as a feeling, some will see colors.  Any way that your mind presents the information to you is fine. If it doesn’t present the next layer, it may mean that your denial system is working well to protect you from unconscious layers of emotional pain. If this is the case, more time, attention, and patience is needed.

For me, this description of a muffler is an indicator of where the healing journey needs to eventually go. We spend some time working with the shame and fear. Later, we will follow the muffler channel back to the source of the emotions. The amount of time needed to work with the current emotion before going on to the next layer will vary. Sometimes a person needs five days or five weeks. Sometimes the work with the current emotion needs 5 minutes. Only go forward when there is good stability and relaxation with where you are. Patience and self-compassion don’t work in a hurry.

Exploring Unconscious Beliefs and that Cause Emotions

In later coaching sessions I have Jill follow the muffler tube back behind her. Her mind is navigating this emotional field of unknowns. To me it is an exploration of her unconscious beliefs, and repressed emotions in her psyche.

Jill follows the muffler tube of emotions to the engine. As she looks back into herself, it is a feeling like a ball of painful energy. There is a story being repeated over and over inside the ball of painful energy. It is saying over and over again, “I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself.” It seems to have been saying this repeatedly for years.

“I Hate Myself”

I ask her to ask this ball of energy, “Why do you hate yourself?” At this point I don’t want her to answer with what she “thinks” the answer is. I don’t want her to consult her intellect. I want the ball of energy to communicate it to her. I want her to have a dialog with the unconscious part of herself that hates. I want it to tell us what it is doing and why. This is the buried parts of her psyche and they need to be brought into her conscious awareness and healed. Her intellect doesn’t know the answer but will explain away as if it did. It will miss the mark and is usually a distraction and not helpful. More importantly we lose the connection with the repressed emotions that need to be released and the beliefs it is clinging to. Emotional healing is a feeling, compassion, and presence process, and not an intellectual one.

The way the unconscious responds is sometimes with an image or memory. Sometimes it will be as if you are having a conversation with an inner child, or emotional part of your mind. In any case, the awareness connection made with your attention to this repressed part of your emotional body is fundamental to the healing. A healing only happens if done with an attitude of accepting presence. The unconscious and repressed emotions have something to tell us, and we had better listen.

Jill asks the question of this ball of “I hate myself” energy inside her and waits for a response. After a couple times asking, and waiting, it says.

“I’m not getting things perfect. I’m disappointing my brother, mom, dad, teachers. I’m not doing well enough in school. I’m not doing anything right. Even the other girls in school don’t like me.”

The reference to school is interesting. Jill is almost 38 and hasn’t been in school for 20 years. This is a part of her psyche stuck in the memory and emotion of the past. I ask Jill, “How old is she, the one with these feelings?”

Jill tells me that she has the impression of dealing with teen age girl about 13-14 years old.

At first it is a shock to Jill that this sub-personality of an angry hateful teenager is inside her. She had glimpses and thoughts of self-hate in the past, but to see it clearly all at once is unsettling. Jill works through the unsettled feeling and becomes more calm and centered again through the breathing practice.

I have Jill spend time releasing the emotions of anger. It helps as she can more firmly establish a witness observer conscious separate from this ball of hate and voice behind it. It is important not to overwhelm Jill’s emotional system or else she will go into shutdown and healing won’t happen. We move through layers only as her sense of safety, and control over her attention allow.

It is not uncommon to find a ball of emotion remaining inside for years because it wasn’t properly expressed and released in the past. A feeling of hate gets merged with a thought such as “I should have…” and becomes a belief. “I didn’t do stuff right, or perfect enough”, and now she has a belief of herself as a failure, loser, not good enough, etc. The hate is directed inwards and creates more feelings of unworthiness and shame.

Hate for oneself creates shame. Shame leaves us with a false identity of being inadequate, not good enough, and unworthy. The belief that we are unworthy and not good enough, becomes the justification to create more hate for oneself and that produces more shame. In short, hate beliefs produces shame, and the shame beliefs produce hate. The belief system becomes a perpetual emotion machine of suffering inside of us.

When things are settled and much of the emotional energy is dissipated we begin to have a conversation with the teenager inside her. She is 13-14 and she doesn’t feel loved, She doesn’t feel she fits in, and she is angry at herself because she can’t make things perfect. She can’t make people happy.

I have Jill ask her, “Why is she trying to make everything perfect?”

After some detours the “teenager energy of hate” replies, “If I make things perfect everyone will be happy.” I’ll ignore the detours and distracting answers here, but there are many. You will have to stay focuses on course to the core of the issues in order to not get distracted. The system is trying to protect you from feeling painful emotions, and it has many stories of distractions to offer for this. In the beginning you will get distracted by them. It is a trial and error process to become a skilled hunter of these core beliefs and emotional sources. I’m leaving this part out of the article as it is already long enough. But don’t use the example of the seemingly direct line of Jill’s story and process to judge yourself against.

I have Jill ask the teenager energy, “Why is it so important to make everyone else happy?”

After more detours in conversations and distractions, the energy of the teenager replies, “If I get everything perfect, I will get love and attention.”

The teenager wants to continue with it’s story, “But I just screw it up. I can’t make them happy. I’m not good enough, I am a failure and that is why I hate myself.

We have to re-direct the conversation or else the perpetual emotional cycle will continue forever. It tries to pull Jill into her story and take us for that continual ride. Jill’s job is to be the mature presence and refrain from believing the story that has plagued her unconsciously for years.

I go for the preceding domino and continue the inquiry. “Who, or what is the part of you, that doesn’t feel loved. Who is it that needs love and attention?”

Jill asks the question multiple times and waits patiently for an answer each time. Sometimes the responses are distractions, and sometimes the teenager waits in confusion. The teenager energy has been doing self-hate for so long it has forgotten why. Jill’s patients and attention, and compassionate presence with herself eventually pulls the angry teenager energy into Jill’s consciousness.

The Hurt Inner Child Part of Ourselves

Into Jill’s awareness comes an image of a six year old girl. She is feeling fear and doubt. There is some confusion inside her. Something happened with her mom. She was asking her mom a question, or wanted something, but mom was busy and snapped at her. She doesn’t remember what happened exactly, but she remembers how she interpreted it. She feels herself questioning, wondering, and concluding that she is not loved unconditionally. She feels fear, doubt, something painful. She is not feeling loved, and she is not feeling love.

I’m not loved. I don’t feel loved. This is THE Emotional Pain.

She always felt love before. Love was the only emotion she knew. Now it is gone. Now there is something else, and it is painful. It is confusing.

It is world shattering to a six-year-old. A paradigm of unconditional love was all she knew until that moment. She lived in a world where everything and everyone around her loved her and accepted her and now it had this painful crack where she could be rejected and pushed away. Her world of love had a crack in it and it felt painful, confusing, and scary.

That broken feeling was now inside her, a feeling that wasn’t there before. This is a loss of innocence. Everyone experiences it at some point while growing up. Most everyone forgets by burying those emotions below the range of our conscious awareness. We simply don’t know what to do with them at that age. Add to that, our mind has to explain the experience to ourselves in some way. The explanation is usually some kind of distortion of what happened, a lie. The lie becomes a false belief. In her case, the beliefs, “the world is a scary place” and “I am not loved” seems to fit.

Attempt an Imperfect Solution

A little girl lost that feeling of love and didn’t know how to get it back. It needs to get it back. It needs to build a world where she feels loved. “If I try hard to be perfect I will get love and attention again.” It’s a good belief, and it works often enough to make the belief in this plan appear true. She can do something good for a moment, and get some attention, praise, and love. But the six-year-old girl inside her still feels broken. It has to try again in the next hour and the next day to get some more love and attention from the next person, and then the next person.

Underneath there is still the hurtful memory, and unloved little girl as her identity. That belief that “I’m broken” is a lie. But she beliefs it, and it acts like a hypnotic spell in her psyche creating feelings of unworthiness. Since she no longer feels the joy inside her of her own love, she makes a second false belief. “Getting love and attention from others will make me feel better. Up until this time her natural joy just flowed out of her. Now with these false beliefs she is stuck in a pursuit of happiness that can’t be satisfied.

The little girl part of her begins a program of getting love, but it is always conditional. It is dependent on her being perfect, and pleasing other people all the time.

By the time she is 14 years old she has been following the program of trying to be perfect for everyone else, and failing. She assumes their emotions towards her are all because of her. She is failing, and the 13-14 year old self is hating herself for failing to be “perfect”.

The first lie, “I’m not loved,” is like putting a hot pepper in your mouth and having it burn. The second lie, getting love and attention from others is like drinking water that cools the pain and feels better. It doesn’t feel good, but you feel less pain so it is better. But the moment you stop drinking water, water you depend on others for, the pain returns. The mind has fixed the belief of our identity as being unworthy and not good enough as a fact. So that doesn’t seem changeable. So the mind fixates on getting more water all the time.

For years she has been trying to sooth the pain by drinking in the love from others. She has been trying hard to be perfect and be just what others want her to be so she gets that love. But she can’t do that all day every day. The moment someone else isn’t happy, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with her, Jill feels that hot lie of pain, down in the pit of her stomach. Jill feels the emotional pain in the memory the six year old self is still holding. Her world is broken, she is not loved. By her teenager hates herself for failing at her plan, or so she thinks. It wasn’t that she failed, but that she had a bad plan for conditional love that depended on others. It also left the hurt feelings of her six year old self burning inside her.

Because the mind has fixated on the image of the hurt girl as her identity this is what hurts. It doesn’t occur to her that she can remove the lie. It is an idea of herself from 25 years before. It is a memory of an identity now. Of course it can only be seen this way with the skills of awareness as an observer of the mind and what it holds. If it was just a pepper in her mouth, it would be a foreign object, and she could take it out. But to her belief system it is her own identity, her own sense of herself as a broken person, and she can not remove “herself” from herself.

What the hurting six-year-old identity didn’t have the awareness to understand was that she could feel the pain, release it, and let go of the idea that she was broken. Jill didn’t do it when she was six, but she can do it today. She can finally take that painful lie of her false identity out of her mind.

In her mind, I have present day Jill go to this six-year-old version and listen to her. Find out what hurts,,, hold her, and love her. I have Jill work with the Releasing Emotions exercise to help the little girl inside her release the emotions she feels. In this process, the “little girl” is the minds symbol for the memory, and her emotional body that is wounded. Is there really a little girl inside her? The question to that doesn’t matter. If the mind and memory has constructed it that way, then I work with it that way. If it constructs it a different way, then I work with that.

This hurt six year old is the bottom of the pit, and where everything else emanates from. Or so it seems at this point. This is the source of confusion, fear, doubt, and pain. The wounded lie amplifies the need for love and attention as an antidote to the pain. It generates the need to be perfect in order to get love and attention. It makes her mind think up all the ways to have someone else make her feel special and important to make up for it. It generates the anger at others for not making her feel loved, special, and important. Then it generates anger and self-hate for over reacting, and not being perfect herself. With all that self-hate at over reacting, comes the shame. Now the Inner Judge has something it can use as evidence as to why she is broken and not loved. Then the cycle starts over again.

If after cleaning these layers, more or other emotional reactions happen, then we will apply a similar inquiry and belief system inventory to the those dynamics. We clean and heal one layer of emotions after another as we discover them. For emotional healing to be complete, there are typically multiple journeys inward.

In Defense of the Denial System

Did Jill consciously know this or choose this emotional cycle? No, she wasn’t aware of what her unconscious beliefs were doing at these levels. She had clues at times, but not the whole picture. Jill could feel the hate and anger, but she didn’t even know that the belief system was directing it at her. She felt the “unworthiness” or “disrespected” and the response of anger, but her intellect justified it to be directed at her boyfriend.

Directing, or projecting that anger and hate outward is a defense and denial mechanism. We don’t want more of it directed at us. We are already in pain and it is less painful to direct responsibility to others. So, after hiding all the pain, and false beliefs in the unconscious, our rational mind says that someone else caused the pain.

This may be the most dangerous false belief of them all. This blaming of others for the emotions we feel inside prevents us from taking responsibility for our own emotions. Preventing us from taking responsibility for our own emotions, also prevents us from looking inward and making our own healing journey. If we blame others as the cause of our emotional pain, then responsibility to change the way we feel relies on others. If the responsibility for changing our emotions depends on others, then we have put ourselves in a paradigm of powerlessness over our own emotions. The first step on the path to emotional healing is to stop blaming others.

Yes, there are times that people treat us with disrespect, anger, criticism, judgments, resentments, and other harmful emotions. For these instances we need boundaries and to stand up for ourselves, or walk away. But if we are sitting in the car by ourselves, and getting worked up and feeling pain through the stories in our head, then that part is our own creation.

Look to Your Self for Healing

It is this journey inward, through all these emotional memories that is the healing journey. Through a recollection of these false, and unconscious beliefs, we bring these disconnected parts of ourselves back into our conscious awareness, release the emotions, and release the lies we told ourselves. In the process we reconnect with the parts of our psyche that have been lost to the unconscious and integrate them so we can feel whole again. When we discover the little girl or little boy parts of ourselves and heal them, we heal our emotional body. We are then more present with our emotions and more able to love from then on in our life. This is the healing journey back to love, wholeness, and Integrity.

For practical methods and techniques to stop blaming others, and heal your emotions,  check out the free sessions of the Self Mastery Course. 

and the Releasing Emotions Exercise available in the membership area. 

For releasing and cleansing out emotional memories from the past I also recommend the Recapitulation Series available in the Purchase Products area

Projecting Emotions

A woman lived near the forest. She would look at the forest and say to herself that it looks really scary in there. The forest looked like a dark and scary place. It felt like a dark and scary place to her. She assumed that the fear was coming from what she was looking at. This is projection
She would see people go for walks alone on the trails and wonder, “What the hell are they thinking. It’s looks scary in there.”

The question is, were the emotions of fear really from the forest?
For her, she was certain they were. However, the woman took a journey of emotional healing and now she loves the forest and sees beauty in there. So things were not at all how she believed them to be.

What happened?

The emotions inside her were dark and scary. She would look at anything and feel scared. She was afraid to drive. She was afraid of social settings and meeting new people. She was afraid of sharing about herself, and her past for fear of being judged. She was afraid of being a bad mom, or not having her children turn out “perfectly.” She was afraid her husband would leave her or that his business would collapse and they would be on the street.

The common denominator in these scenarios were her emotions, but she was so busy avoiding triggers that she didn’t notice the pattern.

Projection and Blaming Makes Us Feel Better About Ourselves

The woman had fear and anxiety, and her mind projected all these scenarios and outside things to be the source. This projection of the cause of her emotions made the fear appear rational. If the forest or the grocery store was a scary place, then she was perfectly fine feeling all that anxiety.

Imagine the other scenario. The forest, grocery store, and yoga class are perfectly safe places and she feels anxious about going there? Well, then SHE, has a problem. SHE has fear in side her and that fear is irrational. Well, then that would be a problem and she might have to deal with it. But if all the places outside are scary, and other people are scary, then her fear is just a good reminder and protection of what to look out for. She felt so much better about herself while perceiving other people and environments as the problem.

Projecting the cause of our emotions to be something or someone outside of us makes us feel better. We don’t have to look inward, nothing is wrong with us, and we can feel we are perfectly fine. We don’t look into the dark and scary feelings that are inside of us. It is a pleasant form of denial.

The downside is that you are continually reinforcing unnecessary fears, jealousy, anger, etc. You will never find a place or a person that feels safe. You are also likely to isolate your self from other people and this can lead to other problems like depression.

Looking Inward at Your Emotions

The forest looks dark and scary to the woman because her emotions felt dark and scary. She was afraid to go inside herself and explore her memories and clear up the false beliefs and fears that they held. Since she could feel these emotions, but wasn’t willing to look inward, she mistakenly projected that the emotions were coming from outside.

The woman went on a journey of emotional healing. She dealt with sexual abuse from her childhood, fears of what others thought of her, and projections of catastrophic outcomes. Much of it was through the belief system work in the Self Mastery course, Releasing Emotions Exercise, and also included EMDR work, group yoga to nurture the feeling of belonging, acupuncture for her nervous system, and stopped pretending to others. This included having conversations with her husband and children about what was going on for her.

In sharing the truth of her fears and abusive history she found they were understanding, supportive, and compassionate. It also helped them change their expectations. The family’s shift in expectations helped reduce frustrations and judgmental responses. In the journey of emotional healing the truth and honest helped everyone.

Now she goes to all those places, and she looks inside herself with ease. In her journey she still finds painful memories, hurts, and anger, and fears, but they don’t overwhelm her anymore. She is not afraid of going into the forest within herself. She is aware that they are part of her beliefs and memories from the past that she has been carrying through time. She has learned to change and heal them instead of being a victim to them. She doesn’t believe her stories when they try to convince her that her emotions are entirely from someone or something outside herself. She takes responsibility for what she feels and that gives her an opening to have power over changing them.

The Forest Doesn’t Look Scary Now

In the beginning it was hard to look inside. Looking inside was a dark and scary place where she had buried many painful emotional memories. It isn’t anymore. And now, the forest nearby, it looks beautiful to her and it feels lovely when she takes a walk in there by herself all the time.
She is still projecting that the forest is beautiful and lovely. With more time the woman will gain more awareness and she will realize that the beauty and love she feels is herself, and the forest is just a place to reflect what she feels.

for practical methods to stop blaming others, take responsibility for your emotions, and gain control over them. check out the free sessions of the Self Mastery Course. 

Why Do We Have Resistance To Change

What are the forces of resistance that come up when you try to do what you want, and live the life you want? Sometimes it is that ever ambiguous and elusive thing called resistance.

Are you finding it difficult to follow through with your New Year Resolutions? Perhaps you start the year with a commitment to exercise, eat healthier, or meditate regularly. Did it derail due to some resistance?

First understand it takes about 40 days to establish a new habit and make it an automatic part of your routine. One of the reasons is that you must build new neural pathways in your brain and nervous system. Until you have been doing a new activity regularly for 40 days it will require some effort of will power to establish the neural path. Once the new neural pathway is created, the activity, emotional response, or behavior becomes more like a part of your normal flow. It will likely take effort, but not as much now that the path is formed. If you find resistance after that it is because some unconscious beliefs remain in the way.

We are at that 40-day point in the new year. Maybe it is time to look at the resistance and procrastination behaviors that might have come up against your resolutions and see what can be done.

Here are some ways to overcome your resistance to change. The first one is a practical thing you can do. The others have to do with eliminating resistance all together. The benefit of eliminating resistance is that it makes it easier to make changes for the rest of your life. Once you become practiced at identifying and eliminating resistance, it is just a natural part of your mind that makes it easier to make any change you wish.

How to overcome Resistance 

1. Do Something Different

If you keep doing the same thing you will get the same result. “Trying harder” to do something that doesn’t work, might mean that you are putting more effort into an approach that doesn’t work.

Something different might mean that you exercise in the morning instead of after work. In the afternoon you are tired and have less will power to follow through. Something different might mean that you don’t buy the potato chips or ice cream or other unhealthy foods so you don’t have to resist them once they are in the house. Something different might mean saying “no” to someone’s request for your time so you can put attention on your goal and commitment.

Might this issue of saying “no” to someone bring up some other kind of resistance? Absolutely Yes. More on that with the rest of the list.

The Do Something Different approach is more like a work-around to the resistance. These are obvious, and you will find them in typical self-help and coaching approaches. The problem with them is that they don’t remove the resistance. They require you to take a different action that will have its own specific resistance that you then have to overcome. This happens when we consider saying “no” to someone’s request. There are likely multiple causes that we would hesitate or not even let our mind consider the option.

To really remove the resistance to change you will need to focus your attention on the resistance itself. Focusing your attention is more than just thinking about it.

2. Start with curiosity. 

There you were totally committed to a plan, and by some unseen forces you are knocked off your path. It’s as if you were walking on the sidewalk to your car and something pushes you over into the grass. You are laying on the ground wondering what happened. It might be at the end of the day, or a week, or month later, but you remember back to your commitment, and wonder, “why didn’t that get done?” Maybe you are continuing to have the same argument with your spouse and wonder, “Why am I here again?”

It’s a good question to ask. It is your natural curiosity and so run with it, but most people don’t stick with the question long enough to get to a good result. You might give up because you don’t see the answer right away. Or, worse, you accept some trivial that isn’t the real cause. A quick false answer, if believed, appeases the brain’s feeling of curiosity, but doesn’t solve the problem. Without the real answer you are set up to get knocked down into the grass again tomorrow.

3. Commitment to the Curiosity 

Stay committed to the question. You might re-commit to “I’ll just try again tomorrow”. But don’t let this appease your curiosity. This commitment is one part of the equation, but you need the other half about finding the real source of resistance as well. It’s better to make the statement, “I’ll try again tomorrow, AND I’m going to pay attention so I can be alert to anything that might derail my plan.” If you ONLY “try again tomorrow” you are setting yourself up to fall into the grass again.

To stay committed you need to avoid accepting the first answer that comes to mind. Make note of it, but don’t believe it. I got busy, I got tired, or the boss called me in to work and had me stay late are part of the equation, but not all of it. What got you busy? What got you tired? What was the decision making process? Was it conscious that you were trading away your goals, or did it happen unconsciously?

Your boss asking to stay late sounds like the answer. But in that moment did you weigh in the possibility of saying “no” and what you were giving up that you wanted? In this case, the “yes to the boss”, often comes out automatically. It is this “automatic” yes that is part of the resistance pattern where we derail ourselves. Saying “yes” to another commitment, is an “unconscious no” to your plan.

Quick answers won’t include such things as the uncomfortable emotions we would feel if we told our boss or someone else “No”, to her request. That’s a significant feeling, and it moves us towards an automatic yes. This is part of the unconscious that you need to become aware of if it is going to change.

Start with, “that’s interesting?” What was that? And then begin to look for the layers of feeling underneath. Resistance is often experienced as a feeling, physical, or emotional in the body.

What would I have felt if I had said “no”?

How would I feel just negotiating with her, “Hey, I have some plans for today, can I work on it tomorrow?” What feelings come up in the body? Where do you feel them? These feelings have more to do with our automatic answers than our conscious thinking.

Maybe you didn’t even consider “no” or negotiating as choices before you said “yes”? If not, then you have limitations in your perspective that takes away choices from your life so you don’t even get to consider them. This is a matter of having built certain neural pathways earlier in your life and noticing their tendency to make decisions unconsciously. The Self Mastery course can help you understand these layers.

4. Find the Underlying Sources of Resistance: There may be Many

What you might find underneath that resistance to negotiating or saying “no” to your boss, or others is a genuine desire to say yes. This will be understandable.

A. The Biological Resistance to Saying No.

First, we are instinctively dependent on others from the time of infancy. We need others, and we needed them to provide for us. Now, as adults we might not have this dependency, but our psyche and nervous system may not have grown out of it properly and so we are still inclined from that early age to say yes. If we’ve always relied on others around us in certain ways our biology will push our mind towards an automatic, and unconscious “yes” response to requests.

B. The Socialized Resistance to Saying No.

You might also find a motivation to say yes because as a species we have a history of growing up in tribes and communities. We have shared with each other and relied on each other as a way of survival and of life and it is a natural part of our social interaction to do things for others. So not only is there an instinctive biological “yes” but there is also a socialized instinct.

C. The Polite Resistance to Saying No.

Then there is just the more obvious response of yes because it is polite.
Now this is all fine to help others at times, and at times they help us. But there can be times that the other party doesn’t give in their sharing in an equal way. Do we do for our boss when she asks, but not get a raise, a bonus, or time off when we want it? If this is the case, we are continuing to act on our biological, social, and polite conditioning but not aware that the rest of the expected community isn’t reciprocating. If this is the case, then our automatic yes is happening without awareness of the full picture and we are not acting within our integrity. People can take advantage of our giving. This can be unconscious in others, or we simply haven’t learned healthy boundaries and to effectively say no to others. In extreme cases it is not innocent. The other party can be a sociopath and will knowingly do it and privately celebrate taking advantage of you.

D. The Fearful Resistance To Saying No

Then, if you look closer, you might find another layer of motivation affecting your “yes” or “no” response. Maybe there is a layer of fear. The boss may have say over your raise or getting laid off. In this case, maybe you want to say yes to ensure your job. Or, maybe your job is completely safe, but you feel such a fear because you have been laid off of a previous job, or grew up in a house where your dad lost their job and the family experienced rough times for a while. These memories can affect your response in ways that are unconscious to you.

Our unconscious memories and their connected emotions pushed our mind to agree to stay late without an awareness that our mind was made to think that way. Our conscious intellectual mind will miss these impulses from memory, biology, or childhood socialization. Our conscious thought might be some excuse that covers up these underlying patterns with a gloss over comment like, “no big deal, I’ll get that thing I wanted done tomorrow. It is these dismissive, and initial thoughts for you to look past and find some other layers. You will miss the significant unconscious motivations until you choose to look deeper at what your resistance is made of.
You will get knocked over into the grass at times. It is inevitable in life. But it will happen less and less as you become aware of these unconscious forces in memory, emotions, biology, and socialization. As you incorporate these beliefs and patterns into your conscious awareness you become wise, and strong, in your ability to do what you say you are going to do.

5. Once on the Ground, Don’t get Rolled into the Ditch

What knocked you over into the grass? You are lying there in the grass at the end of the day or week and look around at why things didn’t get done. You might see the hundred of other things that kept you busy. Or you might look at the procrastination and time you wasted. What typically happens at this point is self-judgment. The voice of the Inner Critic is harsher on ourselves than we would ever allow towards anyone else. The Judge berates you with an internal dialog about being lazy, poorly organized, or poorly disciplined.

For the record self-judgment like this doesn’t make you a better person. It doesn’t help you change a behavior, and there is good evidence to show that it reinforces the old habit. Some people will rebut that the “judge motivates me to get things done because it gives me a kick if I don’t do it.” This sounds true but is a lie. It sounds true because negative motivations work for short periods of time, but not over time, and not very well on us as adults.

Sustained negative talk demotivates us. Having the Inner Critic telling you bad things about yourself tends to keep you in the same loop of failure, resistance, and procrastination it says it is trying to motivate you to break, but this is a false belief based on old experiences of short term results. It is reinforcing the mindset and neural pathways that “you are a loser, lazy, undisciplined, and don’t’ get enough done.” If you receive this message from the Inner Critic, and accept it, the neural pathways and corresponding beliefs get strengthened, not changed.
The resistance might have knocked you into the grass, but the Judge is trying to push you into the ditch. The personal power lost to the Inner Judge is significant if you believe what it says. When you don’t reinforce the Judge’s thoughts anymore, you will have a lot more personal power to accomplish what you set out to do. The Self Mastery course will help with breaking the impact the voice of the Judge has on you. Phase II of the Self Mastery Series goes directly after this Self Judgment dynamic and provides and exercises to uproot the Judge entirely.

Sources of Resistance, and Sabotaging Behaviors In Your Unconscious Beliefs

If you don’t figure out what knocked you off your intended target, then it is likely to happen again. Because you look around and don’t see it doesn’t mean there isn’t something there. When it comes to your mind 95% of it operates at a level you are unconscious to. This is true no matter your level of intelligence. Thinking makes up a small part that we can consciously monitor, but the rest of it happens automatically.

Driving a car is an example of how much our unconscious patterns are living our life automatically. Driving is a complex activity, and yet we can do it while our conscious attention is focused on a conversation or listening to a podcast. Being vigilant for our safety, navigating streets, changing lanes, monitoring other drivers, obeying traffic signals, and mechanically operating the vehicle are part of the 95% that is controlled by the unconscious. This kind of automatic operation is at work all the time during the day in other activities as well. It influences making decisions and directing our thinking and attention in automatic loops. These automated routines are part of the resistance. Our mind likes to keep doing the same thing in the same way it knows.

Ever get into the same argument about the same thing and wonder how you got there again? Answer: Unconscious Beliefs.

It is extremely useful and efficient to automate certain tasks to our unconscious that can do them automatically, like driving. However, when we want to make a change, we have to re-program these unconscious patterns.

When you consciously decide to make a change in your life, your unconscious beliefs and neural patterns do not simply shift and say, “okay, we will build a new neural pathway for that and have it ready for you tomorrow”. No. You will have to consciously put attention on building the new habit and routine. It will also help to focus your attention on the details of the current patterns that act as resistance. Putting your attention on these beliefs, impulses, and emotional patterns will free you from them much faster.

Awareness of these previously ignored belief system dynamics is the pathway to change, and happiness. The first step is to have awareness that there are forces working in your unconscious. The second step is to hold your attention there long enough to see them with clarity so you can change them.

The Self Mastery Course will help you do this in a measured step by step process that you can apply to any area of your life.

Bad Thoughts

Janet has a memory of when she was about 3 years old. She followed her mom into her baby brother’s room. Mom picked up her brother from the crib and laid him on the changing table. In that moment, for reasons that she would not understand until 50 years later, she had the thought, “I hope he falls off the table and dies.” Janet immediately followed that thought with judgments of what a terrible thing that was to think. Janet then had thoughts that she must be a terrible person for having such terrible thoughts. Janet then thought, “I am an evil person.” A belief about herself was created.

Did Janet choose to think that thought about her brother falling? No. At such a young age we don’t know that our mind generates thoughts all on their own without our conscious choosing. Did she want her brother to fall? No, not really. Did Janet feel bad about those thoughts? Yes, even though she had no intent to think them. Janet had a deep sense of remorse about thinking something terrible. Her mind took that sense of remorse, and gave it a judgmental twist about her being a bad person. It took the worst thought of her whole life up until that point and exaggerated it into Janet’s identity of being an evil person. In this case, the worst one she had in her life to that point. That’s a pretty skewed measurement. The sense of shame, guilt, and unworthiness attached itself to that thought fixed an idea in Janet’s mind about the kind of person she is. That idea grew over decades not allowing herself to feel self-acceptance and self-love until she was in her 50’s and began to question the thinking of her thinking.

How could we think such bad thoughts?

As children we have an innate desire to love, and be loved. We also have many other instincts. One of which is a survival instinct. We know instinctively as an infant, that if we are left alone we will starve or die of other means. This is somewhere in our genetic intelligence for survival. The truth is that as an infant, and even as a toddler we are simply not able to provide for ourselves. We also need physical attention and touch. If a child 0-5 years old doesn’t receive adequate touch and empathy their nervous system and brain doesn’t develop properly. In some cases, when touch, affection, nuzzling, and hugs are so inadequate a baby will die from lack of touch.

So maybe, just maybe, there in her little brother’s room, Janet’s primal brain and body senses a survival need for connection with mom. Mom is walking away from her to her brother so Janet follows. But Janet is a polite young child and so she expresses this by tugging on mom’s pant leg and asking to be picked up. Mom, focused on getting her brother’s wet diaper changed understandably ignores Janet’s request and proceeds with one of the 100 tasks she will do that day.
The rebuffed request to be picked up amplifies the desire for connection just a bit more. Her nervous system creates a small “fight or flight” response for survival. Now there is a fear for herself, and a perceived competitor for the resources of mom’s attention.

Perhaps the primal brain and nervous system express this as an anger for not having these desires met. That feeling from her nervous system is looking for a way to be expressed. It isn’t big enough to have a tantrum, or take a swing at anybody. It isn’t even enough for her to complain, yell, or scream. It’s just enough emotional motivation to create an impulsive thought in her mind. “I wish my brother would fall off that table and die.”

The wish, if it came true, would eliminate her brother as a competitor for the resources of mom’s attention and affection. It is one of a thousand possible ways for her complex system to get its needs met. Is it really necessary for her brother to die for Janet to live and thrive, of course not. But her young brain isn’t sorting through a list of all her needs and feelings, taking an inventory of available resources to meet them, and how to appropriately ask for what she wants. Her brain is just processing some impulsive feelings and forming them into thoughts. Janet didn’t choose to think the thought she did. Janet didn’t even choose her desires and impulses. Nor did she choose to judge and condemn herself as evil. That was just another type of impulsive thought she didn’t choose.

It stuck with her though, that thought that she was evil. The creation became a belief in her mind and she felt it there for years. It was one of the many ideas of her self that made up a collage of what she thought and how she felt about herself. It was a very painful lie about herself that she believed. The lies formed around the memory held shame, guilt, and even some self hate.

The mind is a peculiar thing. It seems to gravitate to stories, and the more emotionally dramatic ones have more pull on our attention.

Janet’s thought about being an evil person might just be one of 100 ideas and thoughts she had about herself that week. But it is the kind of one that is emotionally significant. It generates more emotion than most of the others that month. It is also one that defines her identity. When Janet thinks of who she is, or what kind of person she is, her mind flashes on that memory, and a feeling of shame is invoked. It might flash so fast that she doesn’t consciously see the memory anymore. As years go by, she might not remember that day in her brother’s bedroom, but she will still feel those feelings of shame and unworthiness. Over time they grow into a kind of self-hate. As an adult she can’t figure out why she doesn’t love and accept herself as much as other people do. She has a difficult time taking a compliment, and she seems she is always trying to prove herself good enough to others. Janet doesn’t realize that these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can arise from false beliefs of her identity formed when she was three years old.

At 3 years old her mind had learned the ability to identify what good and bad behavior were, and her mind labeled it, automatically. Just the way we would if we had seen someone else steal a bike. A label formed an identity and self image in the mind that easily. The mind doesn’t think through this process. It doesn’t wonder if the label is accurate. It doesn’t look for alternative explanations. It doesn’t give it a proper ratio against all the good thoughts that day. It doesn’t understand the survival instinct of the nervous system and how it might be operating to drive feelings which create impulsive thoughts. It doesn’t look at the sense of remorse, and factor that into the measurement of moral character. Janet’s attention focuses on one thought, and uses that to define her whole identity in that moment. In that moment, the mind completely distorts Janet’s self image, and Janet, without any conscious considerations creates a false belief. The mind doesn’t even see that it is creating these labels while it is operating as something separate from Janet

Janet’s Mind Creates More Bad Thoughts Based on the Preceding Ones

By the time Janet was 5 years old she had a firm belief that she was an evil person. Of course she would never tell anyone that she believed this about herself. She worked hard to “act” like a really good girl. She did good in school, was polite, and respectful, dressed nice and behaved nice to everyone. As she did this it fed an internal story that she was deceiving people. Which added faith to the belief that she was evil. After all, she was deceiving people into thinking that she was “good” and deceiving people is what an evil person did. This goes back to the mind being a peculiar thing. The more polite and respectful she was, the more the story twisted it into deception and therefore she was evil. The “evil self image” began to make interpretations as if it were her and used everything it could, even lies, to reinforce the belief that the “evil character image” was Janet. It couldn’t see that there were very kind and loving motivations behind her positive actions as well.

When Janet was about 5 years old her dad would drive her to school and drop her off on his way to work. He would always tell her how smart and beautiful she was. This used to make Janet angry. Janet ended up being angry at her father for many years. She didn’t know why. At 50, and through her work in the Self Mastery course inventorying her beliefs, and some coaching sessions, she figured out why she was angry at her father.

Janet discovered that she didn’t feel accepted and loved by her dad. He said it all the time, but she didn’t feel the love. Janet just felt angry about it. Upon close inspection Janet realized what the anger was about. Janet believed she was an evil person. So when her dad complimented her, Janet’s belief was certain that her dad didn’t really “see” the “evil person” that she was. In her mind her dad didn’t know and understand her. It was as if he was talking about, complimenting, and loving a “good person” which meant someone else. Janet couldn’t accept that love because the belief image about “being evil” said it didn’t belong to her.

Janet felt that the “evil” person that she was wasn’t really seen, and wasn’t really accepted. The love and compliments weren’t for her, or at least that is what the false identity belief interpreted. Janet wanted to be accepted and loved for who she was, evil. If they loved a kind and beautiful person then they didn’t love her.

According to the false identity of the “evil Janet” her dad didn’t see, or acknowledge her at all. Not only that, but the “evil Janet” persona was really angry at being neglected. Never mind all the good behavior tactics the rest of Janet’s personality put together to be “good image” to hide the evil part. The “evil Janet” persona belief ignored the effectiveness of the deception and just focused on the aspect of not being recognized. As it felt more and more misunderstood, overlooked, and “unaccepted” it became more and more angry.

One night, when Janet was taking care of her father in his last year of life, he confessed how hurt he was that she was so angry with him for so many years. He was never able to figure out what he had done wrong or how he might have failed her. He worked so hard to express his love and support for her. He wanted so badly to have that love returned, but he felt he had failed her somehow. He just didn’t know how.

Janet apologized that night. She knew she had been angry for years, and told him what a great dad he was, and that she did love him. Yet, when she left the room, the voice in her head berated her for being such a terrible person for being angry at her dad and to have caused him such pain. That false belief image of “the evil Janet” persona, said that this proved that Janet was really evil. The false image of Janet was telling Janet that she was the false image. Janet continued to believe the lie. The false image was angry, and had Janet express it all these years, and then was angry at Janet for expressing it. Then told Janet that it really was evil for having expressed that anger.

Janet might have been playing out the role in some ways, such as not accepting love, and not feeling worthy of it, but that didn’t make Janet that character. It just made Janet believe the “evil image of herself”, that she began building at three years old, was her. You might say that Janet was hypnotized the “idea” of what she thought, and had been for many years. The false self-image of the “evil janet” acted and thought in a way to hypnotize Janet to believe she was the “evil janet” in one moment after another.

Janet discovered with some awareness and practice that it was only a story of her identity, and that she could change it.

Janet isn’t the “evil” character of the story in her mind, but she often believes she is. When this happens, Janet feels the guilt, shame, self-hate, and various other emotions. It also acts as a mental block to love, self-acceptance, self-respect, and self-compassion. In the story in Janet’s mind, “evil janet” doesn’t deserve these things and so they have to be pushed away. If she were to get some respect, acceptance, and love from others, she would likely feel guilty for getting love she doesn’t deserve. She would feel as if she had done something wrong by deceiving them. It is tough for Janet to take a compliment.

This isn’t the only story line of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. In many ways Janet has a wonderful life. She has a loving husband, and great career, and enjoys her work and her free time. She just couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t that happy when she had so much to be grateful for. At least as much as her internal dialog of false beliefs allows her, but she is changing that. Her exploration of these false beliefs about her identity, self-worth, love, self-judgment, hate, and self-acceptance, are changing her internal story. In doing so she is changing how she feels emotionally, and is becoming happier. She is replacing the lies she hypnotized herself with earlier in her life, and consciously adopting Truths about herself.

Janet isn’t an evil person. She wasn’t’ an evil girl. Her mind just had thoughts, all sorts of thoughts. We all have an imagination and it often thinks and imagines on it’s own. We don’t consciously decide what we think. Our thoughts arise and pass like clouds and weather. You don’t know what you will be thinking 1 minute from now or one hour from now. It is possible to consciously choose to think about something, but most of the time, thoughts just happen. The mind is imaginative and creative that way. However, you can decide what you believe about what you think. You can also decide not to believe what you think. Most importantly you can decide what to believe about your self.

You can change what you believe, and when you do, you change the story and the thoughts you tell yourself. When you change the false beliefs into Truths, you will change how you feel emotionally about yourself, and your life. Changing what you believe about yourself is the path to real change, and lasting happiness.

The Self Mastery Course – Find and Change Your Core Beliefs

The Perfectionist

Perfection can Inspire us to a goal, or be a demon in our head that makes us suffer.

The Perfectionist is one of the voices in our head. It has the role of pointing out all the ways that we should be perfect, better or different than we are. As a secondary role it also points out how other people should be as well. It might seem very helpful with high ideals and standards, and it might seem very noble with its authoritative voice of “knowing”, but it has a dark side. It can make us miserably unhappy, feel inadequate, and even invoke emotions of self hate and depression. So with that much at stake it’s best not to leave these goings on in our unconscious.

The dark side of the perfectionist is that we are always left feeling inadequate. Or, in its secondary role, when we believe what it says about others and end up disappointed, frustrated, or angry. We often don’t see this darker emotional role because we are focused on achieving that elusive standard of perfectionism. If we stop chasing that standard for a few minutes we can see some how wrong the Perfectionist is.

The Perfectionist is full of false beliefs and lies that we are trying to appease.

Perfection looks like the solution that will make us feel better. If we achieve it, we will avoid the harsh Inner Critic of the Judge. But the bar the Perfectionist puts up there isn’t what we should be striving for. It is a contest that has us set up to fail.

The concept of Perfection over so many years has become intertwined with the narrative of the Judge. The Judge’s use of the standard of Perfection is far more common than how we would use it, or in a way that it is used in our psyche for a helpful purpose. Getting things perfect, or even good enough is synonymous with the Judge’s criticisms and feeling inadequate. The same is true for related ideas of “good enough”, “right”, “Better”, “supposed to”, “success”, “should”, “Fair”, etc. All these ideas illicit some feelings of unworthiness, frustration, disappointment, and failure.

The Judge is likely to be using these terms against your emotional body more than they are being used in a way that helps you to be happy in the world. The same is true for all the terms that are the opposite, “imperfect, not good enough, wrong, worse, etc.

You can notice how much this game is rigged by counting the number of times the Perfectionist and Judge congratulate you on how great you were.  If you can’t think of any times that happened, then you get my point. They always use their standards to induce unworthiness and inadequacy feelings and that makes them a problem not a helper or keeper of some great goal to achieve.

Perfection, or even just the idea of something like it is a beautiful creation in your imagination. However, the perfectionist version is not generally based in reality and shouldn’t be used to judge what we do in the real world. Use it as a goal you strive for, but don’t use it as a measuring standard.

The challenge in awareness is to be present with that idealized perfectionist version as a goal in the imagination and be aware that what we create in imagination does not transfer immediately or easily to the world of reality. Creating beauty in the real world takes practice. With an awareness of the difference between the imagined world and the real world we can avoid the Judge’s misplaced criticism that expects the two to be congruent.


Consider this.

  1. Take something you do. It could be build something in your garage, sing a song, dance, or a project at work. Take a moment and imagine that you did it perfectly. Great.  You just used your imagination to flash on an imaginary performance. It probably took you a few seconds. Now consider how long it really takes to do that activity. Playing a song would take you 3-4 minutes. Getting to your ideal weight might take several months. A “perfect” work out at the gym might be 30-60 minutes. You can imagine being “there” in the imagination in only seconds but in real life that same thing takes 100 to 100,000 times as long. That is a clue how far removed your imagined version of perfection is from real perfection. Your imagined version is seen finished instantly.

2      Now imagine doing the whole song, work out, or project perfectly in actual time. Imagine playing or singing every note of the song. Imagine building that work project in the garage or at work and it happening perfectly. (no, I don’t expect you will do this but try doing it for 3 minutes)  If you just imagine doing it for a few minutes you will likely notice something interesting.  Your imagination, right where the Perfectionist can direct the whole show, can’t imagine doing it perfectly. Your imagination wanders.

Your mind will jump around, lose track of where you were in the project, forget something, retrace a step, or get distracted on to something else. In the previous exercise, where you spent 3-4 seconds imagining it “perfectly” you really imagined it in a really distorted way. You only had a symbolic idea of perfect. You can see that really focusing your attention can be a challenge. It also shows you that your Perfectionist isn’t even a Perfectionist in it’s imaginary world. He’s just pretending about that. This awareness can also help take away some of the authority we unknowingly give him.

The other place where your Perfectionist gets it wrong in the real world is in the instantaneous results. If I take a dance class and I watch the instructor demonstrate a move, my mind can intellectually say, “I got it.”  Now, what I have is the intellectual idea of what the instructor did. To really “get it” I’ve got to take the idea of what my mind saw and train my muscles and nervous system to move that way with the timing of the music with a dance partner. That is much more than an idea. It is work.  It takes multiple iterations to get my “idea” integrated into my unconscious memory, nervous system, and muscles, so that the dance move is automatic. If I practice 10 or 20 times I might get it, as long as I’m not also trying to learn other things at the same time or too complicated. Then there is the issue that I may not remember that move next week at the same class.

Your perfectionist lives in an imaginary world where it is possible for you to do things perfectly without any trial and error or practice. Actually, your perfectionist not only thinks that it is possible, but that you are supposed to do things perfectly without any practice. It thinks you live in the imaginary world also, but you don’t live in an imaginary world. If you develop awareness and mindfulness of these two separate worlds you can eliminate a lot of unhappiness from your life.

One of the consequences of these delusional “Perfectionists” expectations is that if we aren’t aware and skeptical of it, we succumb to the next character of the story in our internal dialog. If we accept the Perfectionists imaginary standard, then we fall to accept the Judges criticism for not meeting them as well.

Then one of two things happen. We attempt the dance move, song, or work project. It goes in accordance with reality, which requires some trial and error to get it right. This doesn’t meet the perfectionist standard and so the Judge has a harsh internal dialog of criticism for us about how we are a failure, can’t do things well enough, and that other people must think we are incompetent, etc. From this harsh self-criticism we suffer emotionally.

In the second scenario we have some awareness, that this harsh criticism and emotional crap will be generated by our belief system if we try to do something. So we unconsciously employ an avoidance strategy. We procrastinate any attempt or work on the project. Procrastination is one way to avoid self judgment. If you don’t try, your Judge can’t make you feel unworthy for not being “perfect.”  Or we avoid doing it all together often with a false justification like, “I’m not good at that.” Or “I don’t feel like it right now.”

But I think the real thing that is failing us here is the Perfectionist. It is failing to give us the space to learn, grow, practice and develop skills to get better. The Perfectionist is living in an imaginary world where things happen without time and without effort or practice and come out perfectly. It is failing to be aware that we live in a real one where our nervous system takes time to learn things and we have distractions in our life. Our failure is in awareness when we don’t notice that the separation between the imaginary one and the real one and try to merge the two. The “Perfectionist” is going to fail at this distinction but we don’t have to.

Baseball players swing at pitches and miss. Golfers hit shots into sand bunkers. Basketball players miss shots, including free throws when no one is guarding them, they still miss. These are the best in the world and paid millions of dollars, and they still live in world of reality where they practice, develop skills over years, and play for percentages not perfection.

The next time your Judge and Perfectionist want to give you a hard time for failing to meet their standards. Consider that they are failing you. They are failing to notice that their imaginary world doesn’t map to the real world.

If you find it difficult to be aware and skeptical of the Perfectionist and Inner Critic, this is understandable. Awareness and skepticism are mindfulness skills to be developed with practice and time.  You can find helpful exercises to practice in the Self Mastery course.

The Self Mastery Course: Practical Tools for Getting Rid of the Emotional Drama in Your Life
  • Stop Emotional Reactions
  • Change Core Beliefs
  • Quiet the Criticizing Voice in Your Head
  • Develop Communication and Respect in Your Relationships
  • Create Love and Happiness in Your Life
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