Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Not About Affirmations

By: Niloofar Shahmohammadi

Have you tried everything to overcome the feeling of inner emptiness?  Have you looked for joy in things, people, places only to be disappointed?  Maybe you've tried various types of therapy or the standard self-help fare.  Read on to find out why "affirmations"and other typical "how to be happy" tips won't work...and find out what will.

Last week, in my article “It’s Not About The Desire”, I promised to discuss how to feel happy inside (which can never come from anything outside…whoulda thought?!)  If you thought my answer to experiencing inner peace was going to be something like:

“Love yourself!”

….you’re wrong.

Well, partly wrong.

See, the problem with clich├ęs like, “You need to love yourself” (before anyone else can love you, before you can love anyone else, before you can feel happy, before you can stop feeling depressed, etc.) are that no one knows what that MEANS!  I remember my elementary school counselor coming into my kindergarten class and telling us all to love ourselves, but unfortunately most of the people I know are flunking in that department.  Many of my classmates turned out to be math whizzes or literary geniuses, but I’m hard-pressed to think of someone who is a model of total love.

Unfortunately, in our society, we have very few models of loving behavior, and even more unfortunately, society calls all kinds of behaviors “love”, that are not love at all. 

So I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all the problems in your life have to do with a lack of self-love.

When people hear that, the most common response besides, “I don’t know how to love myself” (or “That’s bull****!”) is to start doing affirmations like “I am beautiful.  I am worthy”, as your brain screams, “No I’m not!!!  How about ‘I am a LIAR!!  Why don’t you try that one on for size!!’”  The more you try to use “positive self-talk” the more frustrated you will feel. It’s exhausting, it feels fake, and it just plain doesn’t work.

You’re trying to CREATE love inside of yourself or CREATE happiness or joy…and those are not feelings that can be manufactured.  Those are feelings that must be OPENED to. 

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Jalal ad-Din Rumi (13th century Persian Poet)

So what are some of the barriers to loving yourself (and subsequently others and life itself)?  It’s often much easier to arrive at what something is, by taking a look at what it is not!

Love is not:

SOMEONE ELSE – If you read last week’s article it would seem to go without saying, but a reminder can’t hurt.  Love is not someone else and does NOT come from someone else.  Even if you have an amazing person in front of you who loves you with all their heart, if you do not feel connected within, you will not be able to experience this love.  ALSO, you must remember that you shouldn’t love yourself “so that someone else will love me.”  This is just a sneaky way of trying to get someone else to do it for you.

Judgment -  Oh the irony!  Here I am, a self-help writer telling you not to judge yourself. The entire self-help industry is built around this idea that we are broken and need fixing.  We need “improving.” The even greater irony is that when we realize that it’s harmful to judge ourselves…we start to judge ourselves for judging ourselves!  But the truth is, if you want to open to the love that is always available…you need to drop judgment.  You are not too fat, too tall, too mean, too serious, too lazy…

You just are what you are…and it’s ok!!  This doesn’t mean you won’t change.  But the first step in change is total acceptance of the NOW.

Stuffing – I don’t mean Stovetop Stuffing…that feels like love to me!  I’m talking about stuffing your feelings.  You can stuff your feelings in any number of ways.  Substances, watching TV, exercise…almost anything…even something seemingly positive…can be an attempt to avoid addressing difficult feelings.  If someone you loved, like your child for instance, came to you and told you they were experiencing difficult emotions..would you ignore him or her or give him or her some candy to make the bad feelings go away?  Hopefully when a loved one comes to you and tells you they are hurting, you access your empathy and listen.  Do you listen to yourself?

Competition – When we try to compete with other people, we are coming from a place of lack and not accepting our own unique gifts and our own unique “job” on this planet.  You don’t need to be like anyone else or be BETTER than anyone else.  Who defines “better” anyway?  Anytime you mentally decide that you are better than or less than somebody else, you have stepped away from self-love.

The list of what love is not could go on and on, and each of these points could be greatly expanded upon, but for now, notice this week anytime you move into judgment, stuffing your feelings, competition, or trying to get someone else to fill your emptiness.  As you recognize and release these barriers, you have moved that much closer to the peace and joy that is always available to you at this very moment. As one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Chuck Spezzano says, “Just get out of your own way!” 

Move aside! ;)

It’s Not About: Manufacturing happiness/love
It Is About: Opening to happiness/love

*Experiencing love and joy right now is not about positive affirmations, changing your haircut, or DOING something to make yourself feel better. 

*The reason you are not experiencing peace or as much happiness as you know is possible is because you have blocked yourself from it (it is already there!) Think of these barriers as clouds covering up the sun.  As you allow these clouds to pass, the sun that was always hiding there will be revealed.

*Blocks to love include seeking it in someone else, judgment, stuffing your feelings, and competitiveness.