So last night was the last night of my Mindfulness and Psychotherapy seminar at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. It is a class about incorporating mindfulness in psychotherapy for clinicians. Last night’s class was about self-harshness, self-forgetting, self-kindness, and how we can be more flexible in the way we think. Something our teacher said today struck me because I’ve heard it before in different languages, in different contexts, but it stuck with me this time. He said:
“It’s easier to let go of the part we love than the part we hate.”
It reminded me of another way I heard it, which was from an episode of Oprah presents Masterclass with Maya Angelou where she said “love liberates.”. If you want to hear more, feel free to watch clip below.
Although these examples are a bit different, they reminded me of each other in a way. They both say the same thing in different contexts: when we love something or someone, we are able to let it go with trust that it’s already been taken care of and you don’t have to worry about it. So often, we diminish, throw out and undermine our strengths and we see the self of us that is fragmented/hurt/wounded and this is the aspect of us that captures most of our attention.
From an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) mentality, this creates what’s called “psychological rigidity.” But what it means in “human terms” is that it keeps us stuck in thinking in black/white ways (i.e. I like this and don’t like that. I am this way. This happened to me.). We think of ourselves a certain way, we have stories, we have likes/dislikes, etc. When we try to finish those thoughts, we deepen our “rigidity” and the way we think. It creates “egoic pressure,” as a psychoanalyst may describe it. The more we think of ourselves a certain way or try to be a certain way or live in a story we tell ourselves, the more we rigid we stay. But if we can learn to bring more space, breath, love, or awareness (whatever way you choose to describe it) to that which we feel is fragmented, hurt, or wounded, we can begin to let that part of us go. We will begin to see things as they are, not from a place of judgment, but from a place of “hmm, that’s interesting” or “hmm, look how that worked out.” It can be said that psychotherapy’s job is to soften, loosen these identifications, and create psychological flexibility to bring more awareness to those situations which we find difficult.
Let me explain. So what’s the big deal? Why loosen these identifications of how we think? Well, when we stop thinking of ourselves as “the strong one,” “the one who was hurt,” “the one who experienced ______,” or whatever story you tell yourself about yourself, we take out the emotional charge from these identifications. If we do this, we start to look at our life situations past and present from a 3rd party perspective and just observe what happened, neither good nor bad, but just as they are because, either way, they happened. We no longer need to judge our experiences when we do this. This then allows us to look at our experiences as they are, learn from them, and use them to make better decisions moving forward. Perhaps, this is all easier said than done, but hopefully it provides a starting point in
So what stories do you tell yourself about yourself? Are you able/willing to start looking at it from a 3rd party perspective? What conversation would you have with that person who is holding that story? What advice would you give that person? What new choice can you make moving forward? More importantly, what are your strengths? What are you proud of?
Rubin Khoddam, PhD Clinical Psychology student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.
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