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How to stop avoiding yourself

English version by Vivian D Ignacio
[email protected]

All the time we are reacting to some kind of stimuli, either good or bad. However, if we act driven by our unconscious patterns, we can easily fall into the schemes of our bad mental habits. The good patterns are always welcome – they are a valuable resource when we are facing physical or emotional challenges. The fact is: it is not easy to change our inner environment if we can’t light up our interior world.
Some scenes of life are so uncomfortable to watch or remember that we close our soul’s eyes just like we do to avoid a violent scene in a movie. It is too simple.
Nevertheless, after the shock, we can try to visit these dark places, not to suffer but to become more open, free and relaxed in front of what makes us react negatively even for a moment.

In our occidental culture, to know implies “know more” about something. On the other hand, the Buddhist psychology is not based on an accumulation of knowledge of our interior world but on our ability to open us. In other words, it is more important the way we see than the way we analyze. In the end, it would be the openness that we nourish interiorly that will support us when looking at complex and hurtful emotional scenes.
It is like visiting a foreign country. Instead of reading everything we could about the place, we open ourselves and let the place tells us its story.

Our inner environment influences the way we perceive the external environment. For instance, if we grow up without being recognized by our necessities and desires, we can become blind to the sincere and affectionate look of those who try to love us.
If we could imagine the lens of our interior eye, we would see if we need to focus more on those that are closer or distant from us.

This reminds me of when I needed to use glasses years ago. For those who are accustomed to see without glasses, not seeing is unpleasant. The fact is when the doctor gave me the glasses and I were able to see perfectly, the sensation made me to relax and breath with relief. From that moment on I do think better with my glasses on.
Our brain reflects our subjective world. If we keep a self defensive attitude all the time, no matter who is with us, we won’t be able to listen to them. And there is no transformation without listening.
The first step to open ourselves to us and consequently to others is to train to recognize when we are stuck in a self defensive or attack-first attitude. For that, we can observe our body language. Are we constantly relaxed or tense?

It is important to point out that reading our body is not an obvious task. There are people so unaware of their own body that when asked about how they feel their answer is going to be always: I’m Ok, I feel nothing. If we learn body consciousness we will be surprised by how the feelings affect directly the body. Each part of our body reacts differently according to the moment. It is like a song with different tones in the same melody.
The part of our brain that is responsible for our perception is called insula and through it we receive the signs of our visceral organs. Some people are too sensitive to the body signs while others barely note what is going on inside. Both extremes are not ideal. For example, the hypersensitivity can lead to a panic attack or to hypochondria, when the person starts to doubt of any alteration.
The insula give us the ability of self perception either physical or emotional, that is why, as we learn to perceive ourselves we also develop the ability of supporting the emotions, positive and negative ones.

The neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley better explain that in the book “The emotional life of our brain”. They add: the emotional signs around us are strong distractions present in our whole life, frequently interfering in our ability to do the task with tranquility. The study indicates that the capacity of filtering emotional distractions is related to the capacity of filtering sensory distractions. A focused person can pay attention in one conversation in a loud party at the same time that an unfocused person keeps looking around in response to every stimuli. Some people are able to disconnect even in the middle of an emotional crisis – they keep their attention. Others are frequently distracted by emotional impulses that are not connected with the current activity – they are not concentrated. Concentrated people can control the emotional impulses and manage the anxiety, something that the unfocused cannot do.
We spend lots of energy avoiding facing reality simply because we intuitively feel that we don’t have interior space to do it. There is no need to throw ourselves in our pain unprotected but we can face it gradually instead of pretend that it does not exist. Open yourself to reality is a courageous and compassionate act.

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Bel Cesar é psicóloga, pratica a psicoterapia sob a perspectiva do Budismo Tibetano desde 1990. Dedica-se ao tratamento do estresse traumático com os métodos de S.E.® - Somatic Experiencing (Experiência Somática) e de EMDR (Dessensibilização e Reprocessamento através de Movimentos Oculares). Desde 1991, dedica-se ao acompanhamento daqueles que enfrentam a morte. É também autora dos livros `Viagem Interior ao Tibete´ e `Morrer não se improvisa´, `O livro das Emoções´, `Mania de Sofrer´, `O sutil desequilíbrio do estresse´ em parceria com o psiquiatra Dr. Sergio Klepacz e `O Grande Amor - um objetivo de vida´ em parceria com Lama Michel Rinpoche. Todos editados pela Editora Gaia.
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