I have just taken up Pickleball with fun and frustration. I hit the ball into the net. This just isn’t about a shot that was intended to go over the net but didn’t. It means a whole lot more than just that. There is this belief that not only is the shot bad but “I” am bad. I have a childhood belief that I need to be perfect in order to feel safe and loved. The imperfect shot triggers this historic memory and the immediate associated self-criticism and judgment! Everything that we encounter is referenced against our personal unique belief system that represents who we believe we are. What core belief do you have about yourself that is the basis for judging your present moment to moment action?
If we bring awareness to this process we have the potential to move beyond being trapped by our conditionality. I would like to suggest a 4 step process to help lessen our self-criticism.
1) SENSATION: When your mind starts to judge and criticize you immediately look just for the initial stimulus. For me it is: “The ball was hit into the net.” That’s all that happened to start. Everything else is an add on.
2) SELF-REFERENTIAL JUDGMENT: Next look for the judgment of self that arises. In my example it is: “This is terrible. I am terrible. How could I have missed that shot. I should have done better.” Identify the criticism of self that has arisen from the initial sensation. Isn’t it amazing what we create from hitting a ball into the net. A self comes into existence and then we judge it. If we are aware of our personal story and our unmet need we can even look for what is calling to be heard in the moment. My need to be perfect to feel loved.
3) NON-SELF-REFERENTIAL DISCERNMENT: Now we inquire what would the response be if the present moment experience was not referenced against our sense of self. The observation would be: “The ball was hit into the net. The aim of the game is for the ball to go over the net and ideally score a point.” Nothing about me! No judgment or criticism. Only information about the action and what it informs me about how to improve. Everything is meant to be the way it is driven by either uncontrollable external circumstances or by our subconscious automatic internal conditioned actions.
4) SKILLFUL ACTION: “What needs to be done if it wasn’t about me?” At this point you bring your attention back to the original sensation and enquire what needs to be done about what has happened, without a sense of self being present. In many situations nothing needs to be done. What we normally believe we are dealing with is: “What if, not what is.”
Next time your mind starts to yell at you, Pause and then try this 4 step inquiry. It is amazing to witness how our minds create such illusions based on what actually happens.
by Dr. Phil Blustein