22 Jul 2015

Why Beating Yourself Doesn’t Work

[The whip: A piece written for mail-support along with meditation class]


Well-done because when you opened this mail, you chose not to blame yourself for missing a couple of meditations.

But shouldn’t you punish yourself for failing at your goal? Shouldn’t you whip yourself and promise to do better next time?

No. Blaming yourself is the worst thing you could do right now. And here’s why:


Your mind avoids pain.

– and you know this, because that’s exactly why you blame yourself. You cause yourself pain to motivate your mind. You tell your mind bad things to move it away from other bad things – you whip the mind to keep it moving.
The whip is a horrible way to get things done.
The whip doesn’t last.


To avoid in all the wrong directions.

Whip your mind enough and you put it in a dangerous place. Your mind then has two choices, complete the action or make you forget the action. Your mind doesn’t care what choice you make – it simply wants to avoid the whip. And it’s here that we make the mistake.


The mind cowers under the whip.

The mind cowers under the whip: you didn’t do what you wanted to, and you’re about to blame yourself. And it’s here that most habits fail, your mind makes excuses, your mind justifies, your mind pleads with you. Your mind wants to avoid more pain, and it wants to avoid more pain for your sake.

So your mind tells a lie. Just a little one. But that’s enough. It doesn’t want to lie, but you’ve given it no choice. In this case, your mind’s last defence is to lie. It lies so you can forgive yourself. And when it lies enough, you can begin to ignore. And when you ignore enough, you can forget.

And when you forget, your self-esteem lives to fight another day. Your battered mind is allowed some much deserved rest.

Until you are reminded again.


Pleasure and Pain.

We can avoid this whole game. And although the whip method of motivation has been ingrained since childhood, we can choose to ignore it and choose another method of motivation.

I can’t tell you how to choose your own method of motivation, because everybody has their own way of building their own method of motivation. But I can tell you – the best method of motivation isn’t the whip.


What I can tell you.

I can’t tell you the mechanics of you own non-whip motivation, but I can tell you what it sounds like when people found it:

“Sure, I’ve fallen out of practice a few times, but I’m getting it done”

“I don’t think about it, I just do it.”

“I simply take it day-by-day”

And now, come to think of it, these expressions of personal expertise have some similarities …


Keep it up.

All the expressions above have one thing in common – the bigger picture. That you can’t fail if you don’t give up. Sure, meditation is important to you, but don’t beat yourself over the head with it.

I can tell you what it sounds like when people have whipped themselves too much with meditation: it sounds like silence and no eye contact – they don’t talk about it, because talking about it hurts.

Daily meditation is a habit and habits take time, but if you don’t whip yourself, and you do keep it up, you’ll get there.

So well-done! You’re at one week! Amazing that you’ve held determination this long, a daily habit is a tough thing to bring into your life. Yet you’re doing it. You’ve managed to pick up a habit out of no-where and managed to keep it up. Go buy yourself an ice-cream. Take some time-off, relax.

This whole habit thing is only going to get easier.
You’ve just got to keep it up.
You’ve just got to have faith.

To do a habit like this properly, you have to learn how to hold a deep, individual responsibility for your actions, without the messy, brutish functionality – the hack and slash – of the blame game.

Come to think of it, that sounds like a nice way to approach life too.


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