I’m a student of all things psychology oriented. The mind, the brain, and the nervous system, are all favorite topics of mine. I see each misrepresented in laypeople all the time.
The mind isn’t what we think it is. It isn’t running the show. You, the conscious you especially, aren’t really running much of the show.
You, the conscious you, play a part in your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. But your role is more minor than you would want it to be. And for this topic, that’s a good thing.
Your mind is not the enemy. Your brain isn’t the enemy. You are not your enemy.
Knowing and doing are two different things. This is intuitive to us. We can know what the right thing is to do and yet not do it. That’s for a good reason.
The lower, older parts of our brain that are more responsible for our feelings and our habits and have more control over our behavior than the newer parts of our brain. The new parts of our brain are more responsible for our consciousness…including thinking. Thinking (or knowing) and doing are very different in the brain, too.
And when we don’t do what what we wish we would, we can make it worse by thinking worse of ourselves. We can be ashamed ourselves…and shame makes us hide as opposed to making us try to do better. Feeling too bad about doing “bad” makes bad even worse.
When you view yourself, or some part of yourself, as an enemy, you engage in self harming behaviors. I don’t mean anything as obvious as “cutting” or issues of that ilk. Your own thoughts hurt you…literally.
The so-called negative emotions increase catabolic processes in your body. Catabolism is a necessary part of metabolism. When it runs amok, your body starts (over)eating itself.
You may hate the way think or the way you feel or the way you act…but the act of hate makes changing the way you think, feel, or act even harder. The act of hate makes the actor worse.
Hate makes the actor dumb, forgetful even. Forgetful of where the hate started. Forgetful that hate came before the actor.
It’s my belief that we over-identify with our conscious mind. And this leads to the misconception that we are our own worst enemy. “I’m thinking all of these bad thoughts right now, so I’m self sabotaging.”
That thinking would be accurate if all the self sabotaging thoughts originated with you, but that’s not how it works. We aren’t born blank slates. We only need to look at our parents or our children to see the power of genetics, of nature. And in some cases, nurture plays as big a role as nature.
I mention nature and nurture to remind you that almost of all of “you” was inherited and learned. You didn’t spontaneously harm yourself with your own language..you were first harmed with language. You’re not your own worst enemy, and if you think you are, you’ve internalized the enemy…thinking him (or her or them) to be you.
Self harm doesn’t start with the self…but for it to end, the self has to start. The conscious part of you has to wrestle with what you’ve inherited and what you’ve learned. And how you win that match requires a change in focus. It requires you to be aware of two things.
The first is how you feel. When you don’t think, feel, or act as you’d like and would like to change it, how you feel matters. You only need to feel “bad” enough about undesirable thoughts, feelings, and actions in order to want to change. But changing requires better feelings.
Whenever we feel bad, our ability to act is impeded. Think of when you’re physically sick. You can’t function as much, right? And that same goes for when you’re emotionally feeling bad.
Feeling better requires a modicum of self compassion. It requires an understanding that you simply haven’t learned to act, think, or feel as you’d like to. No one taught you yet…and so now it’s up to you to change.
And the change is hastened along if you can learn to be kind, patient, and understanding with yourself and all your shortcomings. This brings us to our second focus: action. No matter how bad you feel, and whatever you can’t do, instead of being your own worst enemy and become your best friend?
Can you help yourself find that one thing that will help you feel better? Can you continue doing so? Can you keep finding those thoughts and actions that you make you feel better until you’re convinced that you’re no longer your own worst enemy?