#truelove #allowing #dating
Relax, you’re going to be criticized.
The title of this practice is a little tongue-in-cheek. What I mean is, most of us — me included — spend time worrying about criticism: past, present, and even future. Yes, try hard, keep agreements, “don’t be evil,” etc. But sooner or later – -usually sooner — someone is going to point out the error in your ways. Often in subtle versions that still have an implicit criticism, such as giving advice, helping or teaching when you don’t really need it, making corrections, comparing you negatively to others, or focusing on the one tile in the mosaic of your actions that’s problematic while staying mum about the 99 other good tiles.
In other words, criticism is unavoidable. Sometimes we take it in with good grace, other times it stings, and sometimes both are true. As profoundly social human animals, it is natural for criticism to sting sometimes. But whatever sting is inherent, we add to this pain with the jabs we give ourselves.
This “bonus pain” — a self-inflicted wound — includes continuing the criticism inside your head long after the other person has moved on. Or pounding o n yourself way out of proportion to what happened; on the highly technical 0-10 Messing Up Silly Scale (MUSS), what you did was a 2 but on the related 0-10 Fiercely Undoing Self-worth Scale (FUSS), you are lambasting yourself at a 5 or even 10: not fair at all. Or ignoring all your many other good qualities — the other 99 tiles — while ruminating about the criticism.
We also jab ourselves with needless pain when we brace ourselves against possible future criticism, or play needlessly small to avoid it. In many cases, the criticism is never going to happen or it’s very unlikely or even if it did happen it would not be a big deal. We tend to transfer into adulthood expectations we acquired as children, or as younger adults. Maybe there was a lot of criticism from someone back then but you’re probably in a different place today. I’ve spent way too much of my life hunkering down or over-preparing to preempt an anticipated shaming attack… that would not occur anyway.
And even if the criticism does come, will it actually be the terrible experience you dread? Usually not. You can roll with it, take what’s useful, form your own conclusions about the person making the criticism, learn and move on. Accepting criticism as inevitable and refusing to live under its shadow will free you up and make you happier.
When criticism, even subtle, comes your way, pause and try to sort it out in your own mind so you’re sure you understand it. Sometimes criticism is narrow and specific, but often it’s vague, general, and has multiple things mixed up in it (e.g., some statements are accurate but others are exaggerated, tone, content, rationale, values). Slow down the interaction so it doesn’t go off the rails. The ancient emotion centers in the brain get about a two second head start over the more recent logical centers, so buy yourself some time for all the resources inside your head to come on line. Meanwhile, shore yourself up by thinking about people who like or love you, and by remembering some of the many ways you do good and are good.
Once you understand the criticism in its parts and aspects, make your own unilateral decision about it. A fair amount of the criticism that comes your way is flat out mistaken. The other person is wrong on the facts or doesn’t understand the larger context. Think of the many scientific theories that were initially scorned but have proven correct over time.
Of the criticism that remains, some is preferences or values disguised as thoughtful suggestions. For example, when you’re driving, suppose the passenger says you should slow down or speed up when actually you are perfectly safe and the other person just likes it slower or faster. Some people value closeness more than others; just because you like more cave time than your partner doesn’t make you cold or rejecting; nor is your partner smothering or controlling; it’s just a difference in values: grounds for inquiry, compassion, and negotiation, but not criticism.
Another chunk of criticism coming at you is thoughtful suggestions disguised as moral fault finding; now your passenger says you should be ashamed of yourself for endangering others when in fact all you need to do is back off another couple of car lengths from the car in front of you on the freeway; you’re not reckless but could be more skillful.
Then there is that which is worthy of healthy remorse. It’s up to you to decide what this part is. Feel what’s appropriate, learn the lesson, make amends if they’re called for, know that you’ve done what you could, ask yourself how much remorse or shame you’d want a friend to bear who did whatever you did, and then see if you can ask no more or less from yourself.
Knowing that you can handle criticism in these ways, let yourself be more open to it. Don’t stonewall or intimidate others who have a criticism for you; then it just festers or bursts out in other ways.
But also don’t walk on eggshells to avoid trouble (unless you’re in a dangerous situation, which is a different sort of problem) or obsess or over-plan to make sure you make no mistakes. A close friend is an extremely successful professor at a top-of-the-food-chain elite university, and I asked him once what led to his success. He said that while his colleagues/competitors were perfecting their one paper, he was finishing three of his own; one of these would be rejected for publication, one would come back with corrections he could make, and one would be accepted immediately; then when the inevitable criticisms did come down the road, he’d already moved on to his next three papers.
Mostly, just recognize that criticism in its various forms and flavors (and smells) is a fact of life. So be it. Our lives and this world have bigger problems, and much bigger opportunities. Time to live more bravely and freely.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (in 12 languages), Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (in 25 languages), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (in 13 languages), and Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and on the Advisory Board of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, his work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, CBC, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and O Magazine and he has several audio programs with Sounds True. His weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 100,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major websites.
Thinking too much, feeling too little, locked in our minds, we are uptight, not much fun to be around, and especially no fun for ourselves. We are nervous and fearful. We have difficulty sleeping. Daily life is more about finding comfort then adventure and new experience. No matter how much, how new, how big, there is a feeling of never having time or space for ourselves. Our awareness is fragile, heavy in worldly matters, thin in resilience. We are judgmental. We find ourselves hungry and unsatisfied. Our needs seem beyond our means.
Pills? Therapy? We stay busy hoping our symptoms will pass. When the brain goes unfed, when nerves are under nourished, stress is the result. Life is complicated. There are a thousand different faces of stress but only one face, the one we are wearing, calls our attention. Our stress is a cry for help.
The problem is that our awareness is separated from our heart. This is like a plant pulled up out of the ground trying to keep living and thriving. Most of us are missing roots. Our minds are racing through life while our hearts have been left behind. We are busy. If we really slow down we feel lost. Our trust is in science, bank accounts, doctors, every thing but not so much in ourselves. Like a plant pulled out of the earth, we feel separate, disconnected, searching for our home. We have little energy. We are running on near empty.
A depleted awareness is bored, needing to be entertained. Even though in the eyes of others, we have just about everything, we feel incomplete. There is not enough. The main symptom of a starving awareness is our lack of joy in our own company and lack of compassion for others.
Time for a new diet. Time for a new beginning. A mind that is always thinking is a brain that is on overload, in survival mode. Metaphorically and literally, now, every day, we want to dip our toes into the pleasure of life. How far away are our toes? How far away are the pleasures of life? We want to heal this distance!
Meditation is becoming more and more popular as we discover when we stop the mind, there is something much more to life. Uncluttered with details of daily life, our awareness finds simple peace, beauty, innocence. There is an inner landscape to enjoy. Mindfulness is leading many to heartfulness. When the life of the mind slows down, the life of the heart grows in our awareness. Mindfulness is watching our thoughts and body sensations. Heartfulness is the next step. We are actively receiving, absorbing the presence in our heart. When we are not busy thinking, the space we find within is full of heart essence. This heart essence is food for our mind, food for life! Recognizing and receiving heart essence is an important development in understanding for modern psychology and spirituality.
As children we naturally are rooted in our hearts, feelings, our well of being. With our cultural stress on intellectual development, our hearts are left behind. At an earlier and earlier age, children are being pushed rapidly into adulthood. The result is awareness is separated from the heart. In the rush into adulthood they lose their ability to simply be, play, enjoy life without gadgets. Childhood is buried under all the thinking going on and on. Before we know it, children are showing adult symptoms of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Time to get back to the heart. Time to understand the importance of being connected to our heart essence.
Meditation should be taught in every school. Meditation should be a regular part of life. When the mind slows down, awareness naturally relaxes and finds a vastness inside. There is an experience of expansiveness, gentleness, love. Our complicated self dissolves into simply being. Difficult feelings find healing. Memories and daily drama are lightened, often just washed away. As our awareness lets go and is free of worldly details, thoughts and feelings find space, untangle, finding their true substance. Meditation brings us out of our heads and into our hearts, our bodies, our wholeness. We trust and feel connected. As we fill our awareness with heart essence, our eyes and smile are expressing the inner peace.
Each new day calls for a diet of heart essence as much as it does fresh fruit and vegetables. Heart essence is real food, light for our awareness. Heart essence is God’s presence in our lives. There is an infinite supply. Heartfulness meditation reminds us to nourish ourselves through the day through self expression, compassion for others, remembering joy and the pleasures of life.
As adults, heartfulness meditation offers us the rest that no amount of sleep can provide. The simple peace affirms, rebuilds, awakens dried up nerves and emotions. When our hearts are fed, our minds light up!
Heartfulness is the true medicine for much of what ails us. The habit of constantly thinking is broken in heartfulness. The doors open, setting our awareness free from the lonely world of being trapped in our minds. There is so much heart to explore, be, and celebrate life with. Lets save our children with heartfulness. Lets save ourselves.