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Knowing ourselves is essential for making supportive decisions, for taking compassionate care of ourselves and for living a fulfilling life. After all, when we know what we need and want, what our natural tendencies and preferences are, we can act accordingly. That is, we can act in ways that honor ourselves.
Our inner critics can be quite harsh and cruel. Which is why many of us start to dislike, or even despise, that inner voice. We might even find ourselves constantly getting caught up in battle.
Some days everything just feels so loud. And so intrusive. The random thoughts screaming inside your mind. The tension sitting inside your body. The frustration sticking to your skin like glue. The laundry that needs to be folded. The 80 unanswered emails. The 80 other things that need to be done. When? When?
So many of us struggle with feeling our feelings. Maybe we were taught to dismiss them, to pretend they don't exist. Maybe we were taught that anger is an emotion to swallow and sadness an emotion to sweep away. They're negative, after all. Maybe we received the message that some feelings are OK ---like happiness and excitement---while others are not. Maybe we received the message that good kids smile and don't rock the boat by having "bad" feelings. That bad feelings equal bad, ungrateful, naughty, unruly, shameful kids.
There's a powerful passage in the new book Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic For a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living where author Shauna Niequist talks about why she's choosing to be present in her life---instead of striving for perfection. She writes:
Are you rushing a lot? Hustling to get everything done? Do you feel exhausted and depleted? Regularly? Have you forgotten what it feels like to simply sit and do absolutely nothing? Do you play? Do you even remember how to play? When was the last time you wasted time---and didn't feel an ounce of guilt?
Is it easy for you to be kind to yourself? If you're like many people, the answer is a big, clear-cut no. It's not easy at all. Instead you're more used to berating yourself. Instead you're more used to criticizing your every move. To being impatient. To minimizing your struggles. To minimizing yourself.
Does this sound like your morning: You wake up to your alarm, grab your phone and start scrolling social media, news headlines and your inbox. You learn about something terrible or tragic, something you can't shake. Your mind focuses on the 100 tasks you need to do before 10 a.m. Or it turns to a few or a slew of negative, worrisome thoughts. Or you jump out of bed, already fearful that you forgot something. Or you sleep walk from your bed to the bathroom (and likely trip on something on your way). Or you beg the kids to start brushing their teeth, and sprint into the kitchen to start breakfast. And you already feel behind.
Every day, we face many annoyances that only weigh us down. Annoyances that sink our energy and our mood. Annoyances that genuinely affect us. Annoyances that take time and attention away from what really matters to us. We assume there's absolutely nothing we can do. And sometimes, acceptance is our best bet. But other times we can get creative. Other times we can become intolerant (in a good way, of course).
I just penned a post for my creativity blog about exploring our nighttime dreams to inspire new projects---and to gain a deeper, richer understanding of ourselves. Because exploring our dreams uncovers our inner world. According to Susan M. Tiberghien in her book One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft, "C.G. Jung defines the dream as the little hidden door in the innermost recesses of the soul."