mindfulness

Embracing Sacred Moments—Learning to Be in the Life You Already Have

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When I was a little kid, I used to always want to be somewhere else than where I was. When I sat in school in the third grade I could hear bulldozers and carpenters pounding nails outdoors and wished I could be one of them—anywhere but in school.  When I sat through long hours at church I daydreamed about playing baseball to avoid the boredom and drudgery. During the summertime as a teenager, I would hoe beans and detassel corn. While walking the rows I would fantasize about swimming in a favorite swimming hole.

Looking back as an adult, some of those places don’t seem quite as bad as I once thought they were. I even have fond memories of grade school and summer jobs. However, as an adult, I have been in places where I wanted to be anywhere other than where I was. 

Addicts and entrepreneurs have the same experience. Dread and craving trigger an addict to avoid what is real. Driven dreams powered by doing more to keep from being less, push many entrepreneurs toward the next enterprise. People tend to want to build a road to someplace other than where they are. Many find it scary and stressful to be present in the now moments of life and struggle to be comfortable in their own skin. So they keep moving from one project to the next or from one high to the next hit as an addict.

Recovery includes a voice that calls each of us to listen to the insights and wisdom that come from the heart. It won’t scream at you like busyness and chaos often do. In your darkest moment when you face total exhaustion, it will speak to you with clarity and resonance.  Rather than look outside yourself for fulfillment you find the realization inside as you sit with your own personal brilliance, not to be utilized to do something great but to understand that you are something great just as you are.

Here are a few keys to cultivating sacred moments in the here and now:

#1: Take a deep breath and be where you are. In the presence of disgruntled living and the tumultuous commotion to create something new, inhabit the life you are given. There is nothing wrong with improving your outer circumstances. Yet, going someplace means nothing if you cannot appreciate and become present in what is real right now! Eckart Tolle wrote “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love–-even the most simple action.” Make the present space you are in a sacred moment.

#2: Slow your compulsive thinking about tomorrow. Understand that this present moment with its trial and tribulation is interconnected to all that exists. Troublesome times augment for inner choice. First, accept whatever situation that you are in with its accompanying feelings. Then change the circumstances by improving your attitude or leaving the unacceptable condition. Wallowing with negative feelings of complaint and derision will disconnect you from a possible sacred moment. Your present day struggle is a significant element to your future success because it is now which is the only time you will ever experience. Let the feelings that lie underneath the compulsive thought teach you what you need at the moment to care for yourself and mark that moment as a sacred experience. 

#3: Don’t forget “Yesterday ended last night.”  Lamenting about what could have been, should have been, or used to be is a common human response to life circumstances. Sports fans often reminisce about lost championships or glory days past. Addicts struggle to let go of missed or failed opportunities. Entrepreneurs sometimes languish in agony about what might be a reality if they just pulled the trigger on a particular investment or idea. Some become bitter with resentment toward others they blame for their missed opportunity.  What is missing is acceptance. Working with what is reality in the present moment requires that you work with the results of past actions and not wallow in what could have been. Even, yesterday’s successes must be treated like yesterday’s newspaper. Saying yes to today’s results is a recognition that yesterday’s negative or positive results do not determine your experience in the present moment. Aaron Rogers, the great NFL quarterback once said “I have been to the top and I have been to the bottom and peace comes from some other place.” He’s right and that peace comes from the sacred moment of embracing the here and now regardless of yesterday’s results or the feelings you experience in the here and now. 

Your Feelings and Thoughts Do Make a Difference

READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.

Addicts are vulnerable. They don’t know how to recognize or manage feelings, particularly strong and powerful ones. What they do know is to split off from their feelings and pretend they are just fine. Once I was sitting at a wedding reception and a clergy colleague who sat next to me began talking.   He had a close friend who was also clergy and was allegedly run out of his church because of a trouble-making family who accused him of sexual abuse. What he didn’t know is that the accusatory family was mine, and I was one of the family members that was abused. I wanted to kill him on the spot. But, I didn’t. What I did was smile and become quiet. I think I excused myself to go to the bathroom. 

Addicts are pretty good with these splits. When they are hurt, numbed with shame, seething with resentment, or dominated with anger or hate, they know how to compartmentalize their feelings and pretend they are not there. They use this ability to manage and control their environment that is unsafe. The problem is that inwardly they lose themselves by failing to recognize their effect. They drown in the feelings that were triggered or go to great lengths through maladaptive behavior to avoid their emotions. Addicts learn to avoid the obvious and embrace the improbable.

They live in a constant state of vulnerability not knowing how to recognize or manage the feelings that have been buried. They are unable to draw from their own internal resources because there aren’t any. They remain in constant need of self-regulation resources. They think the resources are external.  It’s a fantasy that is never realized. Since painful, rejecting, and shaming relationships are the cause of their deficits in self, they cannot turn to others to get what they need or have never received. With few other options addicts turn to their drug of choice. Why, because the dopamine rush delivers what it promises. To get away from the hell of the pain that slaps them around. Any reason is a good reason to use. 

Drugs of choice migrate.  Addicts might find a way to shut down their use of heroin, booze, crystal, molly, or blow.  They just migrate to the next fix. It can be anything including workaholism, exercise, food disorder, rage, and even caretaking. It is common for recovering addicts to create a new cocktail for their choice of drug. It will always be that way until they get to the root cause of needing a fix. Here are a few things to consider.

1. Understand your pain. Slow your life to a pace that you go inward and embrace what hurts. Dare to embrace average. Go inside to the common places of your life and face what you feel. None of us got through our childhood unscathed. There you will find the wounds that need to be scrubbed. It hurts but you are already in pain. Why not make your hurt a healing hurt rather than wallowing in pain that never stops looking for a fix that is never enough.  You must resolve the pain and stop pretending.

2. Learn to regulate your emotions. Practice recognizing what you feel, particularly the powerful feelings of shame, resentment, anger, and hate. Learn to sit with them and experience embracing unwanted emotions and notice that you can get through them without having to numb out. You will need help. Step outside yourself and ask for that help even though it feels awkward.

3. Utilize others for support. Finding your tribe for support is important. This is a long-term problem for addicts in recovery. When in crisis, addicts surrender to a 12-step fellowship. Often, they don’t go deep in a consistent manner to live in consultation with accountability about their feelings. You will need help holding your feet to the fire about relationship issues. Addicts often focus on the fundamentals of 12-step work in order to address their drug of choice. But many miss out by not using that same support to regulate their feelings in other aspects of living. It is important to utilize your community of support around the feelings that come up in your everyday relationship life.

4. Become an observer of what you think about your own thinking and learn how to reflect on the mind of another. Learning to manage your emotions is necessary to understand your thoughts about yourself and the world around you. People tend to be insular. Life becomes a mind-numbing hamster wheel in that we just do what we do. Take time to pause and observe what you feel. Utilize contemplation. Think about your thoughts. Learn to identify and give voice to the different parts of your mind that are contradictory to other parts. Learn to sift and sort by listening and recognizing the truth that is in each thought. Then practice integrating your thought discrepancies with your own wise mind. It is necessary to transform behavior. Emotional maturity and secure attachment are capacities to reflect on your own internal emotional experience and to make sense of it. It includes being able to observe and reflect on the mind of others and connect with them. The way you read others is important. It begins with learning to manage and make sense of your own affect and thoughts.  

Managing your feelings and thoughts creates self-agency. Developing emotional management is necessary in cultivating a true sense of self. When you don’t you foster a false sense of self which blinds your awareness of feelings and thoughts. It further darkens your understanding of ways in which your behavior hurts yourself and others. 

Oh! By the way, I did circle back with the insensitive clergy colleague and insist that he listen to the gory details of sexual molestation by his clergy friend toward me and my family. Though he was stunned with silence, he heard the other side of the story. I have since wondered if that did not change the way he shared the narrative with others.

How to Practice my Best When Stuck in Feeling Down on Myself

Nobody ever beat themselves up to a better place. Then why do I keep doing it? When I was a young 7th grader in junior high, I played basketball for the junior high team. I was good enough to be one of the starting five. However, every time I made a mistake, I magnified the error and would verbally beat myself up running up and down the court. Getting down on myself only contributed to an even worse result in play and eventually, I was sitting on the bench. Ultimately, beating myself up increased my discouragement and eventually, I was cut from the team. In truth, I never figured out how to change this pattern until many years later while in recovery from addiction. Yet, still I struggle with this self-denigrating behavior! What the heck?

It seems really common for people to create a bad relationship with themselves. It seems commonplace for many to get down, to denigrate and think bad of themselves. We seem prone to be hard on ourselves. An obvious observation would be that when I make a mistake I would shed a tear as if I was my own beloved child and was sad to see me do these things to myself. Yet, many of us beat ourselves up instead and live a guilt-ridden life. Someone surmised that guilt reminds me that I am not sociopathic—that at least I care when I have hurt someone else. Once guilt has served its purpose then it no longer has value and should be discarded. Easier said than done!

Often, guilt is accompanied with shame. Many agree that guilt says I made a mistake and shame says I am a mistake. Even if we agree on that, then what? Both pervade and stalk me and become my constant “friend” when I am stuck in feeling down. So the question about how do I do my best when I feel so down becomes how do I manage shame and guilt. I don’t know of anyone who does not have to address these two powerful feeling experiences who is not stuck in pathological behavior.

I have discovered that an appropriate response to guilt and shame is to stalk both powerful experiences. Like a pack of wolves that chase me through the woods, shame and guilt relentlessly pursue with negative self talk. Only when I turn around and face the wolves, negative condemnation, am I able to deflate the power of shame and guilt’s message. I then discover that the power of its message is like paper-mache which appears solid on the outside but when exposed is only hollow and illusory on the inside.

When I am feeling down and dominated with guilt and shame, there are 3 important steps to take:

1. Cultivate compassion toward yourself. When you get hooked by your own guilt and shame, you won’t be able to have compassion for others at the deepest level without knowing and practicing compassion for yourself. Take time to recognize where you feel the guilt and shame in your body. Shame and guilt can be cloaked with other feelings and can go unrecognized by those who have not practiced being mindful to their emotions or who are disconnected from their body.

Cultivating self-love will require that you recognize the negative message and the original voice who spoke this message to you. This message may have been spoken to you or you may have learned it by the way you were treated. To cultivate compassion, it will be important to keep the negative message away from your sense of self. This will require that you scrub the wound of the shameful message that you have carried throughout your life from your family of origin and gets triggered by present behavior. You do this by grieving the message given to you by a primary caregiver (parents) and practice giving it back to them. Seldom is this one and done, rather an ongoing practice of message recognition and giving back the message and embracing your own self empowerment and self compassion. Most people need to practice “giving back” these hurtful messages about self to the original source throughout their entire life.

2. When you have carried out a shameful behavior, direct the shame and guilt to the behavior and keep it away from your sense of self. It is important to recognize that the behavior is an aberration to who you are—not who you are. When you allow yourself to believe that what you did is who you are, you smear the shameful message all over your sense of self. This always scars and mars your view of yourself.

When you separate yourself from hurtful behavior that you did, you are able to transform the energy of shame about the behavior into one of compassion to the one you hurt because you have rooted your belief about yourself with self-care and compassion.

3. Practice ignoring negative self-talk by acting on positive belief about yourself. To believe means to act. When you are stuck feeling down about yourself, it will be difficult to act on positive belief. This will require conscious exercise and practice. Like building muscle mass through exercise, when you practice positive belief about yourself, particularly when you feel down, you will build the power of positive belief through acting on what you deeply believe about who you are. You will need to write down your positive beliefs and regularly bathe yourself in them. This is a life-long skill set that when practiced becomes a beautiful art form that leads to personal transformation.

So, when you feel the despair of being down on yourself, overcome being harsh and beating yourself up by bringing yourself back to being gentle and not beating yourself up. I call this the practice of Velvet Steel which is a life-long experience of transforming guilt and shame into being kind and compassionate to yourself. Don’t ever forget, no one ever beat themselves up to a better place.

Trapped in Negative Thinking

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Addicts are plagued with stinking thinking. They are not the only ones. Addicts learn to stop acting out with their drug of choice. However, many who have put a cork in the bottle are still badgered with negative beliefs that sabotage serenity.  

Addicts wallow in past memories, wishing that things were different. In recovery, many “future trip”, focus on how things will be when sobriety and stability is achieved. Everybody grapples with staying in the present moment, but this is difficult when you don’t like where you are. Mistaken beliefs about self and the world flourish when addicts get stuck focusing on the past or future. 

Most addicts say they just want to be happy. However, happiness depends upon positive conditions. Yet, this cannot always be controlled. In the life of an addict, the results of addictive behavior have a life of their own. Trust is broken and lives have been destroyed. Often, once the havoc is wreaked, there is no going back to fix things. Relationships are devastated regardless of achieved sobriety. Loved ones have had enough! 

People who are not addicted cannot control the conditions for happiness either. For example, loved ones die unexpectedly. Tragedy and heartache happen outside of your control, too! The chase for happiness becomes an illusion because you cannot govern all of the outside factors that contribute to happiness. Your efforts to create happiness are fragile at best. Negative thinking is overcome by seeking inner peace rather than happiness. Inner peace is controlled from within.

Struggle and adversity leave an addict feeling empty and without happiness. It is possible to create inner peace in the presence of unhappiness. Addicts can transform limitation, failed recovery, broken families, and relapse into their greatest teacher. This stabilizes long-term sobriety. They transform emptiness into serenity with perspective and stability.  

Last year, I spent time with friends in their mountain home. We visited someone who modeled peace. He was a campground host and recovering alcoholic. He spoke about past losses and hurt, yet now exuded with enthusiasm, joy, and peace. During a tour of the campground, he underscored how appreciative he was to have such stunning views of the mountains that were nearby. He was excited to show us his small camping trailer. At the end of the tour, he declared that he was the luckiest man alive and that he was living the life he had always hoped. 

Upon reflection, he seemed to radiate an inner peace that was opposite of the negative thinking that dominated his addictive behavior earlier in his life. He talked about being present in the moment with his thoughts which brought him peace. He learned to block out the negative thoughts from the past and anchored his thoughts to the present moment. As I listened to him share, I thought of the many people who had so much more in personal possessions but who were stuck in negative thinking about needing more to keep from being less. When you discipline yourself to be in the present moment, negative thinking is countered with inner peace.

When you lose a loved one or must face your own demise, it is impossible to be happy about the misfortune. But, you can be at peace as long as you have released grasping for things and conditions you cannot control. In recovery, maybe you won’t be able to be with the family you thought would be there for you, but you can have peace. You may face a dramatic change and limitation in your life because of illness or financial restraints. Economic reversals and poor health will never trigger happiness. Yet, peace can be attained within when you let go of negative beliefs by simply embracing the here and now.

Peace comes in the present moment, not the past or future. Anxiety and worry accelerate when you fret about what might happen in the future or lament about a past action. Addicts tell themselves that bad things happen because they deserve it. They create movies in their head that reinforce destructive experiences from the past. They tell themselves they don’t have what it takes to live a sober, serene, and successful life. Their negative thinking sabotages good results in their life and prevents them from being present in the here and now. They become their negative thoughts. This contributes to relapse behavior and impairs the possibility of peace in the present moment. Addicts get stuck and are unable to separate themselves from the negative voice in their heads. 

You stop negative thoughts by learning to sit in life experience as it is whether pleasant or unpleasant. In recovery, you learn to connect with yourself without judgment and without clinging to the past or grasping for the future. You must learn to accept what is, right now. Your sense of self is different from your life situation. When you learn to be friendly with the present moment, you begin to make peace rather than embrace negative thoughts that treat the present moment as an enemy. In 12-step groups, addicts learn to separate their sense of self from their negative thoughts. When this happens an addict can embrace the present moment. They create inner peace and discover the brilliance of who they really are. The trap of negative thinking is resolved by practicing being present in the here and now.

Deep Listening

When Someone Deeply Listens to You

By John Fox

When someone deeply listens to you

it is like holding out a dented cup

you’ve had since childhood

and watching it fill up with

cold, fresh water.

When it balances on top of the brim,

you are understood.

When it overflows and touches your skin,

you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you

the room where you stay

starts a new life,

and the place where you wrote

your first poem

begins to glow in your mind’s eye.

It is as if gold has been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you

your bare feet are on the earth

and a beloved land that seemed distant

is now at home within you.

This beautiful poem expresses so much of what most people long and yearn for. It is a gift simply to feel heard by another. Feeling heard is more than hearing the sounds and syllables pronounced by another to you. It is engaging the presence of another and comprehending the meaning of the spoken word. Listening is so powerful, yet such an elusive skill. Some experts have said that 85% of all learning is acquired through listening, yet they suggest that 75% of the time we are distracted from what we hear. It is believed by some that only 20% of a lecture is remembered less than one hour afterward. Some believe that human beings attain only 25% efficiency of the capacity of our listening possibilities and that our current span of attention is but only 8 seconds. All this said there remains great potential in the resource of listening to self and another. 

Our society fosters a poor listening environment. We are blitzed every day with massive doses of technology to our brain. We are constantly triggered to shift our attention from one thing to another. Algorithms are designed to influence what you listen to determined by what triggered your interest in past sites visited on the internet. There is constant competition for your attention which lessens your capability to listen to yourself and others around you. Some studies suggest that spending more time in front of a computer screen lessens your ability to concentrate because of the influence of distractions to your brain. The challenge to listen is not new. Over 100 years ago William James wrote that there is “a ceaseless frenzy always thinking we should always be doing something else”. There is the urge to do, to declare, to sleep, or do anything other than the work of listening to another. The airwaves are full of talking heads. Seldom do warring countries sit down and listen to each other. It is always for peace talks. 

In today’s world, media often distorts what has been spoken. There’s the little boy who thought he was repeating a well-known prayer translated by what he heard grown-ups share numerous times. He began “Our Father who does art in heaven. Harold is his name.” I recall as a young boy listening to public prayers in church. My dad would verbally declare “Grant it Lord” indicating his support of another’s verbal request. As a young boy, I always thought that my dad was comparing God to a piece of granite rock. It is easy to carelessly distort what others say. 

Here are some points to remember:

Without developing listening skills you will lose sight of the sacred in life. Addicts must cultivate heart listening. This requires quieting the soul to uncover true yearnings of mind and spirit. There is a constant clamor of distractions that addicts must learn to sort and sift in order to listen to the heart and discover true aspirations. Addicts approach recovery not knowing how to listen to their heart. Rather than seek understanding, an addict is driven to numb pain and avoid discomfort. Yet, the sacred is uncovered when you listen to your truth. Some people like to think that written texts provide a way to know truth without listening to their heart. Through religion, they seek truth packed in sacred texts like the Bible, the Koran, or Bhagavad Gita. But truth is discovered in your heart with assistance from sacred texts like a Big Book in 12-step recovery, etc. There is no understanding without listening to your heart. Addicts must cultivate the capacity to recognize needs that must be met in healthy ways through the identification of their feelings. Breathwork helps to slow inner distraction and to notice feelings. Being able to recognize feelings provides a vehicle to meet legitimate needs in mature and healthy ways. Addicts transform the curse of feeling addictive craving into the blessing of intimacy through meeting needs in a healthy manner by listening to their heart. 

Less talk and more listening cultivates understanding that relieves frustration and suffering in others who feel injustice and misunderstanding. Compassionate listening helps to calm reactivity in others. Fear is born from a wrong perception. Trying to correct misperceptions before carefully listening and understanding only fuels debate. As you listen, think about what is behind the words. What does the person want you to know and what meaning is behind the words? It takes courage to listen to someone who is espousing a belief that you do not believe in. Lean into the possibility that you might be changed by what you hear. 

Become aware of your “wanting” agenda. Be conscious of your wanting the person’s approval, wanting the conversation to go a certain direction, your desire to fix the person, etc. All of these impact your listening skills. Can you recognize your agenda and let it go? Can you simply seek to understand? Can you stop planning your response while listening to another? Can you wait to express your thoughts and feelings and focus on another? Maybe not even address the misperception until later. It is difficult to listen without speaking when you feel threatened or offended. It is difficult to attend to the spirit of another when aversion arises. We want to control the conversation. 

Practice becoming a receptive open presence. Conditioning your mind to listen began with inner listening to yourself without judgment. This requires ongoing training. You then extend your receptive open presence to another. It takes meditation and practice to listen to another without judgment and to attune to their spirit. You will need to anchor with your breath and give yourself care while attempting to do the work of listening to another. Telling another that you have not understood their suffering and that it is not your intention to make them suffer more relieves suffering and struggle. Telling them you are eager to hear more about their suffering heals the greatest divides the world knows. It impacts your significant relationships and offers healing to those who hate you and despise what you stand for. 

In a world of divergent interests, pejorative perceptions, and unfriendly resistance toward others who are unlike you, practice becoming a receptive open presence. As you sit with your family and friends during the next holiday, courageously listen to another’s passion and frustration. Practice extreme listening. Find common ground. Always know that when the other person feels heard it is the beginning of trust which heals hate and hurt perpetrated throughout the world by those who choose not to deeply listen.

Taming Your Critical Voice

“The older you get, the more you understand how your conscience works. The biggest and only critic lives in your perception of people’s perception of you rather than people’s perception of you.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along self-consciously the man began to wonder that others might think “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?” So the man stopped and put the boy on the donkey, and they went on their way.

Later they passed a group of men, and the man began to worry that these guys might be thinking that “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides. So sheepishly the man responded to his inner conflict by ordering his boy to get off, and he got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women. Now he feared that one would say to the other “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the man was perplexed with frustration and did not know what to do. Finally, he took his boy up before him on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and he was convinced people were staring at them as they rode their little donkey. He became overwhelmed with shame wondering if the men were thinking “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours — you and your hulking son?”

So the man and boy got off the donkey. To address his shameful thoughts he decided to cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. While they walked along with their donkey tied in this position, the man was convinced that others were scoffing and laughing at him. When they came to a bridge, the donkey getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle, the donkey fell over the bridge, and his forefeet being tied together, he was drowned. 

When you worry so much about what others think you can tie yourself in knots with your own critical voice which pulls you away from doing logical and next right steps. Addicts struggle with their own critical voice all the time. This struggle is likely the greatest hindrance that sabotages long-term sobriety.

Taming the inner critical voice is a challenge for everyone, addict and non-addict alike. Long-term sobriety requires it. Many try to eliminate the critical voice. Realistically, at best we learn to manage the voice and not dispose of it. To do so we have to come to terms with its voice and give it direction so that it does not dominate our behaviors. 

Your critical voice is always delivered with the toxicity of shame. You did or said it wrong. You are never enough. Others do it right but you don’t. You just blew up proving that you will never get it right! When will you ever get it, stupid? These and an endless collection of other judgments and criticisms can be levied at you in rapid machine gun fire within your mind. Often this can occur without anyone saying anything to you. Most people have certain life experiences of failure that make them vulnerable to experiencing the wrath of their own shameful critical voice. For me, it’s when I commit to doing something like meeting for coffee someplace with a friend or colleague and I totally space it out, not just being a few minutes late but as in I don’t think of it until the next day. My mind can go nuts inside. My critical voice has been known to scream and yell at me until it becomes hoarse! It is all motivated by shame. Most people have these failures in life that trigger terrific lectures from your critical voice. How do you address your critical voice when it goes on a nonstop rant?

Here are some suggestions for thought.

1. In the midst of a critical voice rant, take attention away from the thought. You can do this by directing your thoughts toward your body and focusing your attention on feeling the energy in your hands. You can take a walk and concentrate for a few minutes on the conversation of birds chirping and singing in the trees. There are a number of possibilities for distraction. When you take a deep breath, your critical voice will slow down when it no longer has your entire attention. For this to occur you will need to concentrate on establishing an anchor for being present that you return to when the negative rumination runs rampant in your head. 

2. Identify that there is negative self-talk going on in your head—that it is not who you are: There may be experiences of negative onslaught that barrage your thoughts and drag you along whereby you conclude that you are your thoughts. It is necessary to distinguish that you are not your thoughts. You must be able to separate and observe that you have negative thoughts that come crashing in so that you don’t conclude that the negative criticism is who you are. Some people fuse their negative narrative with their identity. They conclude that their addiction is who they are and therefore they must act out. They create a storyline of victimization that underscores victimhood as an identity and defend their right to be a victim. If challenged about their negative narrative they will utilize their anger with “How dare you question my identity with all that has happened to me”. Sometimes when people complain enough they get the attention they never got when they remained quiet. So they discover that their negative narrative has a payoff that is worthwhile. Negative attention is better than no attention at all. So they continue to act out with addiction to support their negative belief that will provide the attention that had previously been missing. Being an identified patient is better than being invisible. However, you never learn to give up the storyline of negative self-talk as long as you see the negative narrative as who you are. 

3. Understand the source of where the negative self-talk comes from: Once you identify the negative message it is important to recognize the voice of negativity. Usually, that voice comes from your family of origin or significant caretaker. It could come from another significant mentor. It is important to then give back the message and its power over you and take back your own self-empowerment. You may simply declare that they are not welcome to the conversation and that you will ignore the negative message.

4. Practice being present in the moment of discomfort: Being present in the moment is difficult when everything feels shitty. Yet it is important to bring yourself to inner alignment with the present moment you experience. It is about accepting where you are right now, not forever. It is important to learn to lean into the present moment. Everything can be going wrong. You might be sore with remorse, financial reversal, extreme loneliness, or other intense emotional or physical pain. As hard as it seems you must come to terms with the immediate moment you are in. It’s not going to change instantly. However, you can change gradually. You must learn to practice total acceptance about where you are and what you are facing. You do this by practicing thanksgiving. In the midst of painful experience, you learn to challenge and change your negative narrative by leaning into what is and making something meaningful rather than waiting for the next big break in life. 

5. Rely upon your affirmations: The secret power of affirmative thought can never be overemphasized. Addicts with long-term sobriety and transformation have long since learned the value of practicing the power of affirmation. There is no lobotomy that works. There is no substitute. Regularly bathing yourself with an affirmative belief that you have hammered into your awareness requires ongoing conditioning and training. It becomes a galvanized shield against the criticism of others and tempers your own self-judgment. It is what I have found to be the secret to taming your critical voice.