Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Beware of Contra-Mantras

Do you ever catch yourself saying the most awful things to yourself? I tune into my own inner dialogue at times, and find a terrible, critical task master has hijacked my brain! Out, out! I say.

This happens to all of us, however positive and confident we may be in our mind states, these thoughts and feelings will sometimes make their way in. A fellow yoga teacher once referred to these repetitive, negative, critical words or phrases as "Contra-Mantras." And they are just that. Negative programming that comes up and plays like a repeat of a bad TV show. What to do? Turn off the tellie! Or, at least change the channel.

When you notice these self-critical voices coming into your thought process, bring mindfulness back into your process. Stop, pause, take a deep breath. Don't try to push the thoughts away, to the contrary, embrace them. Take a good look at them. Who's voice is that? Is it really yours? Or is it an "old script" performed in the past my a critical parent, an unkind teacher, a bully, a jerk boss, etc. Sometimes even a passing comment can strike such a deep cord that it lasts a lifetime, showing up as a "contra-mantra" when something triggers our insecurity. Just examine this commentary for what it is, and then gently offer a positive mantra in replacement.

For many of us the self-critical mind talks comes from a certain level of perfectionism. While it may sound like a positive trait, studies have show time-and-time again that perfectionists not only suffer heavily as a result of their unrealistic goals for themselves and others, but actually short circuit themselves, and achieve less in the long run. It is hard to even get started when deep inside you know your goal of "perfect" is unattainable.

I came across a letter to Let Your Life Bloom blog author, Vanessa Smith, from a reader struggling with these particular issues. Vanessa gives an insightful response which includes the advice to, "release your need to release you perfectionism." You can read the rest of her response, here.

Think of it this way, one of the most widely used and effective forms of torture is to repeatedly bombard someone with certain words or phrases that "get inside their head" and change the way they think and feel. This "programming" or "brainwashing" is devastatingly effective. When you repeat in your own mind negative, even cruel words and phrases, that you would probably never dream of saying to someone else, you are doing the same thing to yourself. It is a harsh analogy, and I mean it to be, because I want you to understand how hard you are being on yourself when you do that. You are wonderful, you deserve better, regardless of what anyone has told you in the past. Let that go. Give yourself the gift of kind words, and gratitude for all the incredible things that you are.

As my teacher Rammanand Patel says,
"Everything that you can do is a gift from God. Everything that you can't do is part of the wonderful challenge and adventure of life."

Try these positive mantras, when you hear a "contra-mantra" popping into your head:

I am beautiful.

I am strong and smart.

My body is healthy and full of vital energy.

I am an excellent mother/father/brother/sister/wife/husband/friend/worker.

I deserve love and respect.

I can do anything!

My life is full of abundance.

I am calm and resourceful.

I have everything I need.

I am loved.

I am peaceful.

I am safe.

Write your own positive mantra, or affirmation. Make it a short and positive "I" statement. Repeat it to yourself throughout the day. Write it down and tape it to a mirror, or the inside of your desk. Anywhere you can quickly access it when your need to counteract a "contra-mantra".

May you be happy, may you be free from all suffering.

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KandiB said...

What a wonderful reminder - we have so many "negative scripts" pounding at us each day. Each of really needs our own positive mantra. I'm going to write mine now, and put it on my computer where I can remind myself OFTEN!

Anonymous said...

A wonderful reminder. I am going to start writing my own positive mantra.


Jenn said...

The phrase "Let your life bloom" really jumped out at me. I feel like I need to think about that some more and take it to heart. (ICLW)

Mary said...

Thank you!!! I needed this! I find myself so often repeating in my head negative things...not only about myself, but about others...which I believe prevents me from having positive relationships with them. My computer's getting a new sticky note today!


Kristin said...

What a beautiful post. BTW, I love the picture at the beginning.


Andrea said...

What a great mantra! I will remember your tips. Thanks!


Michelle said...

This is me for sure. I am trying to learn to let go of my inner perfectionist and be happy with the now instead of sometime in the future.

Sassy said...

This is such a brilliant thoughtful post.

Amy said...

This is a great reminder. We really do have to be mindful of not allow negative thoughts fill our mind. Thanks!


~Jess said...

IF has certainly thrown the contra-mantras into my head. I'm going to try embracing them and disecting them, rather than pushing them right out, understand the whys of them.


E. Michelle said...

Yes we've all brainwashed ourselves with those "old gramophone records". Nice post.