Self-Forgiveness (Burnt Eggs)

When we make mistakes, there is a part of us that wants to believe that 1. We cause our own struggles by making mistakes 2. Because of this there is something fundamentally wrong with us and, finally, 3. We should pay for these mistakes with emotional suffering. It is embedded into the Western worldview to see ourselves as conditionally lovable and worthy of dignity and respect. In this view, we must always guard ourselves from our underlying nature, which is conflicted, flawed, and even dangerous. From the Buddhist tradition, this is part of our ego’s game of appropriating every difficulty—and victory for that matter—to demonstrate that there is a solid and enduring self that we can rely on. In ego’s logic, it is better to be fundamentally “bad” than to not exist at all. For those of us who are prone to spells of self-aggression this worldview—and the actions that come from it–cause seemingly endless heartache and depression. However, I would like to offer a couple of remedies to the blues we get when we’ve made mistakes. The first is to take a step back in our lives and to recognize that as humans we will always make mistakes. We can also realize that everyone else is making–and continues to make–their own version of those mistakes. From there, we can reorient our minds towards the connections and commonalities we have with other people. And ultimately realize that our mistakes are generally not so big and definitely not worth the aggression we give ourselves having made them.

For example, you burnt the scrambled eggs this morning. This might seem trivial, but if you watch your mind, often times you will notice how something so simple can lead to a general state of frustration, anger and anxiety pretty quickly. So the eggs are burnt, you’re angry and frustrated. Start by taking a deep breath and relaxing, even for a moment. Rather than making a colossal trip out of this mistake you might realize that countless other people have made the same mistake on the same day and throughout history. People are breaking eggs from Bangladesh to Bangor, Maine! You can empathize with them and realize how much frustration and anguish they went through in that moment. You might even offer them a kind attitude in your mind, like “it’s not such a big deal, they’re just eggs!”. Offering this attitude towards others can be the beginning of offering it to one’s self.

Often times, there are bigger emotional difficulties we experience throughout our day and we can apply the same attitude of sympathy with others, connection to the struggles we all have, even humor when those situations arise. So when we overdraft our checking account and pay penalties, we can remind ourselves that countless others are going through the same situation that day and multitudes of others have done so over time, including people we care for deeply. Ultimately, it is the attitude of sympathy and forgiveness that liberates our mind and our energy to be present for life’s situations. This attitude can be difficult to cultivate and our minds often will try to make self-forgiveness into a huge hassle, but even then we can think of how many people struggle with self-forgiveness. When you notice you’re feeling bummed about something you’ve done, try connecting with others in your mind and offering yourself the gift of self-forgiveness. See what happens!

Nikolas H. Maslow, M.A., LPC, CGP
Founder Acumen, LLC
nikolasmaslow.webs.com
Therapist at New Beginnings Health & Wellness
newbeginningshealthwellness.com

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Self-Image and Loving-Kindness

Traditional therapy approaches to self-image often center around a person’s personality and family of origin issues. Others view self-image through the lens of “self-improvement” and within that view challenges are addressed with lifestyle choices (such as exercise habits, positive self-talk, addressing distorted perceptions, and so forth). I think that these ways of helping a person with her self-image—among others–are both beneficial tools. But I would also like to offer another idea, gleaned from the Buddhist tradition. The concept is known as maitri. The term means loving-kindness and in a sense is a radical departure from Western views of self-perception and behavior, which often ultimately lead us to believe that our love for ourselves needs to be conditional. That is, “if I do A and B very well and follow up about C then I have the right to feel satisfied and happy”. On the other hand if A, B, and C weren’t up to par or worse weren’t done at all, then all is lost and we should feel saddened and depressed by our failures. This is what we have been trained to believe about ourselves. Crazy but true right?! With maitri the person is asked to mindfully examine herself with compassionate awareness and to treat herself and her life with equal compassion and respect. Most of us already practice elements of maitri on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. Whether it is taking a hot shower in the morning, making and eating a tasty and healthy meal, napping if we’ve had a long week, walking the dog in a pretty park, or just making a cup of tea for oneself and a friend, all of these “practices” develop our sense of kindness towards ourselves and give us the experience of self-respect, dignity, and gentleness. These practices in turn, lead us to feel more emotionally spacious and grounded, which in turn creates greater contentment, satisfaction, and self-acceptance. In making maitri practice a mindful everyday experience we become more appreciative of ourselves and our lives. And the amazing news is that these practices are always accessible, in one form or another, to all of us! So, for this week, why not find two or three things to do each day to consciously take care of ourselves and our world and do so in a mindful and gentle way?

 Good luck! Nik

Nikolas H. Maslow, M.A., LPC, CGP                                                                                                                                                                                                             My background is in Contemplative Psychotherapy, having received my master’s degree from Naropa University in the spring of ’05. I have worked with several different populations and age groups, including adolescents , people in retirement and everyone between. I specialize in individual work, groups, and family therapy for young adults and their families. I am passionate about my work and dedicated to offering a warm and engaging environment to my clients that is safe for exploring their lives in my presence.

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