Our minds are like our homes. Create a hostile, unsafe, chaotic environment in your living space and few folks will want to visit or, if they do, they’ll soon be unhappy, uncomfortable and wanting to leave. Provide a comfortable, hospitable, inviting, safe, environment and they’re likely to want to relax there and return frequently. What kind of “home” is your mind: warm and friendly, cold and intimidating, an utter mess?
Because we spend a huge amount of time in our minds, it pays to create a mental and emotional landscape that’s hospitable to and supportive of growth and well-being. That can’t happen if we’re highly critical of ourselves or others, frequently confuse memory with reality, regularly make invalid meanings of events, or wall off parts of ourselves from our consciousness while stuffing our minds with grievances and misery.
If this is what you do, no wonder it’s difficult for you to spend time reflecting or wondering about things. You’re not entering a mind-space that nurtures exploration, so that any self-examination of your thoughts or feelings leaves you confused or feeling as if you’ve come up short. I wouldn’t want to hang out in the minds of many of my clients who are self-critical, fear uncertainty, are full of doubt, believe they’re defective, feel they’ve never measured up and never will, and call themselves horrid names for making mistakes that humans tend to do. Their minds are like “gotcha” traps. No matter how wonderful they are, their default setting turns all that is good in them rotten and ugly.
Here are some mind traits that are neither welcoming nor constructive: harsh self-criticism, constantly comparing yourself unfavorably to others, a devotion to shame, discomfort with pride, self-judgment, self-blame, self-doubt, perfectionism, and rigidity. How long would you visit someone if they made you stand in the corner and pummeled you with rotten tomatoes? That’s what some of you do to yourselves.
Create a comfy and safe environment in your mind so that you can go there and feel better, not worse. Be compassionate and forgiving of yourself. Remind yourself that while others might judge you, you will always refuse to judge yourself. Be curious. Although others might not see your viewpoint, validate your own experience. Be flexible. Ask yourself, “If I didn’t believe such and such, what would I believe?” which gives you an opening to shift your thinking for the better. Listen to yourself rather than tell yourself that you shouldn’t be thinking something so wrong/awful/weird/etc. Embrace new ways of viewing yourself and view your mind as a playground for mental experimentation and a ocean of self-knowledge.