So often when we talk to ourselves, we are berating ourselves, telling ourselves off. We might regret having said or did something. We might have eaten too much, drunk too much, been too harsh with family members, angry with someone for something that wasn’t their fault, failed to reach a work target, or pass an exam.
We can be very inventive about the ways we criticise and shame ourselves.
We can sometimes be much harsher with ourselves than we would be with others, and more critical of ourselves than we would dream of being with another person.
Sometimes this is a fleeting self-criticism, or it can go on – for a few days or weeks. Sometimes we can spend years living with regrets and failures.
What if, instead of this one-way conversation with yourself, what would it feel like to listen to yourself?
You might begin by becoming aware of your body.
You might notice your surroundings as if for the first time.
You might notice the floor beneath your feet, the chair on which you sit.
You might wish to close your eyes, or you might prefer not to.
You might become aware of the touch of your clothes against your skin.
You might notice the breath that flows in and out of your body – not trying to change it in any way, just being aware of it. Some breaths might be deep, some shallow, some smooth, some a little ragged.
Then you might turn your attention to other parts of your body – your throat, perhaps. Your chest. Your abdomen and belly. You might see how they are.
Don’t rush any of this.
If this is something new for you, your body has to get used to being listened to in this way.
Like a shy child. Or an untrusting animal.
You wouldn’t rush an encounter with these, would you? You would take your time, being kind, letting the child or the animal come to you in their own time.
As you stay with this attention on your body, something might arise. An image might come. Or a feeling. A colour maybe. Or a memory. Or something else.
If something comes, however fleeting, however vague, however vivid, allow yourself to pause.
And in that pause, stay with whatever comes.
Be curious about it. Invite it to be there, as fully as it wants to be.
Allow it to stay the same, or change, without any pressure from your thoughts or your mind.
Take as long as you like.
Try not to analyse what comes.
If it helps, you can say aloud things that arise or change.
You might notice emotions arising – not always.
You might have an attentive listener, in which case, ask them if they might say back to you some of what you’ve said, but not everything. And ask them not to add anything, or put their own interpretation on what you’ve said aloud.
And you don’t have to say everything – or anything.
Allow your body to speak to you in this way, without any judgement from you or your listener.
Allow your body to say as much or as little as it wants to.
Allow the feelings, or images, or memories, to change. Allow this to come from within you, rather than instructing your body.
Resist any urge to tell yourself what you ‘think’ it should be feeling or doing.
Allow your body this time and space to let you know what its wants and needs are.
When you wish to complete this special time for yourself, take a moment to check if anything else wants to come.
Then thank your body for all that came. Thank your body for this conversation.
Then gently, slowly, mindfully, come back to the present moment. Open your eyes.
Rejoin your normal day after a pause – not too quickly.
And then what? What happens next?
It might be that you realised something new about yourself.
It might be that the answer to a problem unfolds.
You might realise why you reacted the way you did in a particular situation – or every time you find yourself in a situation.
You might feel a little more peaceful.
You might find yourself being more kind and accepting of yourself.
You might find that you no longer carry things with you, such as grievances, hurts or betrayals.
You might find, in times of stress or panic, you can notice the feelings that arise, and acknowledge them, and manage them more easily.
I would be very interested in how you find this little exercise. Please feel free to get in touch, and ask me questions.