Friko's post reminded me of something I learned many years ago from Stephen Levine, a gentle, modest, mindful soul who shared many of the mental/emotional training skills he taught to help reduce the suffering of patients in palliative care. Among his many books are: A Gradual Awakening; Who Dies?; Meetings at the Edge; each one full of wisdom and comfort.
Back to one of my favorite teachings of Stephen Levine. He tells his readers to 'relate TO a feeling, rather than FROM a feeling', especially if it is not a good feeling, or one that will not lead to skillful actions.
So what does that mean, exactly? Well, let's say I find myself immersed in a feeling of self-doubt or worthlessness. If I buy into the feeling and believe it, I would be relating to myself and eventually to the world FROM that feeling. Doubt and worthlessness would be where I would be 'coming FROM' in the way I think about and treat myself and also in the way I interact with others in the world. BUT, if I can make a simple shift away from relating FROM the feeling, to relating TO the feeling it would look/sound something like this:
"Well there I go again, doubting myself. It is an old feeling that has its origins in some childhood experiences and is not relevant to the person I am now. I have accepted that I am a flawed person (like everyone else on the planet) and I love and accept myself regardless. I have many competencies, that when in this mood, I have difficulty remembering. I know feelings of worthlessness arise when old wounds get tweaked. Feelings pass through my body/mind/emotions and are not the truth of who I am. I acknowledge the feeling but I refuse to give it room to grow. I have occasional feelings of worthlessness, but I, myself, am not worthless."
By relating TO the feeling you acknowledge its presence and don't go into denial about it. You explain to the part of yourself that is pained by the feeling, the origins of the emotion and belief, and how based on the way you were treated it probably made perfect sense that the feeling was evoked - there - and then. It is not the whole truth, and therefore, not appropriate now. You remind yourself it is a feeling accompanied by thoughts - that you do not have to buy into. You create some distance between you and the negative feeling/thought. When you relate TO the feeling and NOT FROM the feeling you have assumed the stance of 'the witness'. You witness the bumpy ride your emotions cause, rather than getting caught spinning in circles on that not so merry-go-round.
Here is a visual reminder to relate TO and NOT FROM debilitating feelings. You are welcome to download this image for your archives and use it to help yourself and your loved ones. My only request is that you do not claim it as your own, and if you use it on your blog make a link back to the source. :-) Please click HERE to download the image.
(Yes, for you long-time readers of this blog, I have previously posted about this helpful mental/emotional shift.)