As i am using Nonviolent Communication less as a tool to deal with self-judgments (the underlying needs are always the same: self-acceptance and self-worth with some belonging thrown in), i am using meditation more. This is helping me to see the way i mistreat myself. However, until my latest “crash,” i had forgotten about another tool, a potent anti-dote to self-judgments: Lovingkindness (metta) meditation. Unlike the Western teachers i have learned from, Dipa Ma recommends that we proceed through stages, which are described in Amy Schmidt’s book about Dipa Ma. Only when we’ve mastered all four stages can we combine them in one sitting. This combination is what most Westerners teach. Stage 1 directs metta toward ourselves. Stage 2 sends lovingkindness to a friend or teacher. In Stage 3, we take a group of sufferers into our heart. And in stage 4, metta is directed toward all beings. I have been including a 10-minute stage 1 practice in my morning meditations.
The lovingkindness seems to help me experience the self-judgments differently, allowing me to adapt more tools. For example, i have started talking back to the voices. As i was typing the first sentence of this paragraph, i noticed the discomfort in my stomach that usually accompanies self-judgments. So, i stopped and listened more closely because most of the time my self-judgments are barely audible making them more toxic. The first step, therefore, is to bring them to light. I heard a voice snarling “why are you sharing this? trying to show what an enlightened meditator you are?!?” I responded “no, i am sharing this because i decided that this is something i can do to help others, remember?” That shut the voice up long enough for me to type this up. Now it came back with “who do you think you are?!?”
That’s when i employed another tool: A rather gory image that came to me yesterday when i was beating myself up. I saw myself stabbing myself into the heart. Repeatedly. That sure woke me up out of the trance! These judgments are like stabs into the heart! I stopped immediately. Of course, stopping mid-thought doesn’t always work but when it does, it’s pretty healing to experience the silence in the mind.
Because the judging voices deep-down need acceptance, i am also trying to use the self-judgments as a mindfulness bell of sorts. When i notice myself judging, including other people, i remind myself that i am worthy of love and belonging and imagine washing myself in self-acceptance.
Since i’ve only used these tools for a few days, i have no idea whether they will help consistently. I did test them during a couple vicious attacks yesterday. That helped me come up with another tool: Viewing a self-judgment episode as giving me the opportunity to practice this! This way lessens the chances that i judge myself for judging myself…
Underneath all of these tools is my understanding that i am dealing with cultural trauma. The self-judgments are the internalized voices of cultural normative pressures (increasingly enforced by pop-culture), many designed to keep me docile, in good-girl-mode. So aside from their painfulness, i want to hold self-judgments differently because that allows me to move closer to inner freedom, which is the basis of designing my life more sustainably for myself and the planet.
What tools have you found helpful when counteracting self-judgments?