It’s easy to spot in another a quality, characteristic or behavior we can’t stand. Isn’t it? They are being selfish or angry or aggressive. They lust or envy or lose their temper. We see it in them and we don’t like it, but what about us?
It’s harder when someone else points out something like that in us. There are times when we are not having our best moment. We’re tired or hungry or hurt and we lose our composure or kindness. We behave in a way we are not proud of and we don’t want to admit it. We can’t admit it! It is so difficult to acknowledge or connect to that part of us that we deny it. Who can blame us? Admitting our darker, more cruel side brings about some of the most difficult feelings we have to tolerate. When we recognize something about ourselves that can be easily judged by others as wrong or bad, we feel guilt, shame, and humiliation. Almost anything is easier to tolerate than feelings of guilt, shame and humiliation.
As much as we like to focus on our differences as human beings, if you turn to science and look at our neurology, physiology, biology, endocrinology, and genetics, we are ALL far more alike than we are different. It is difficult for any one of us to tolerate guilt, shame and humiliation, or to even recognize that we have a dark side to begin with. Yet the truth about our nature is the same for all of us. We are neither all good nor all bad. We are, instead, an unpredictable mix of selfish animal brain survival mechanisms as well as generous human brain capacities like empathy, compassion and kindness.
Every one of us has our moments. When we feel good, we do well, and when we don’t feel good, we don’t do well. Period. This is a scientific fact for us and it is a scientific fact for them.
What I hope for this new school year is that we begin to practice more compassion with ourselves, in those inevitable moments when our dark side shows up as it naturally will because we’re only human animals after all. I hope we practice catching ourselves and reminding ourselves that we have an animal brain that kicks in even when we don’t want it to. I hope we practice forgiving ourselves so we can move right back into the present moment where we have a chance to be new.
We’re going to have selfish, angry, judgmental moments that make us cruel or irresponsible. Ok. Radical acceptance. I’m not perfect, not even close. I’m no longer going to punish myself for my nature and I’m going to catch myself when I want to punish someone else for theirs.
Let’s be in this together with understanding, compassion, and forgiveness, that every one of us, big or small, is dealing with too much stress, pressure, trauma, and insanity, really. Whether we look like we can handle it or not, we can’t. It’s just not physically possible. We are trying to contain too much and, sometimes, that is just not going to look very pretty. You know what can help? Using our tools for soothing the animal brain and getting back into a zone of greater humanity. Sensory tools for regulating those big emotions will help us ground right back to now and get on with it. Here are a few tips to help:
1. Remember this excellent definition of mental health: The ability to observe our own behavior. Do we have mental health or don’t we? If we don’t, it’s never too late to start practicing it in!
2. Focus on similarities and not differences. It doesn’t matter that someone else’s cruelty comes out a different way than ours. That doesn’t make us better or even all that different. Cruelty is cruelty. It’s natural, inevitable, and it will pass when we feel better. So let’s not analyze cruelty, ours or theirs. Let’s, instead, use our tools to feel better to shift out of it as quickly as possible.
3. Ask yourself, am I noticing how my behavior is impacting another person? Do I care? If not, I’m probably not feeling very well which means I need to use some tools to feel better.
Please see all of my resources at www.drmelrose.com
to learn more about the most effective tools so we can have a great new school year. My best to all of you.