If you make a serious mistake on earth you may be tried, judged and punished. This is how society keeps order. However most of us wander through this life not doing anything too serious, making the odd mistake here and there or some rather bigger personal ones. Maybe you are on a diet and you binge on food for a whole evening, maybe you cheat on someone, maybe you take pleasure in something that you know you shouldn’t. How do we deal with our wrongdoings?
The human is the only animal on earth that pays for their mistakes a thousand times. Not only do we pay for our own mistakes but others who were involved may try also. Animals make a mistake and then get on with life. We have a different system. We have our own judge, jury and witnesses and they hardly every judge you not guilty. We wear guilt and shame like a badge of honour.
Let’s take a simple example with overeating. Maybe you are trying to lose weight or you are on a diet and you have a binge. First the witness arrives with something like, ‘there you go again, you’re a failure’. Then the judge, ‘ What’s wrong with you, you have a real problem, you have done this before’. Then the jury,’ Guilty! tomorrow you are going to eat nothing to make up for today’s gluttony’. All in your head, all made up voices, all believed by us. We make a mistake, we judge ourselves guilty and we conclude with a fitting punishment.
The psychology of yoga talks about a kinder way to deal with our own inner judge to help stop us self-punishing and step out of our own self-imposed guilt.
Firstly you must bring awareness to the inner voice. What is it saying to you? If you need to, write it down.
Secondly you need to disengage from the voice. You need to separate the truth of what you are hearing from reality. So you may hear in your head ‘you are a pig and a failure’. But is this really true? Can you say it is true for your whole life? Are there scenarios where you are not like this? If you were really analytical you would see that it wasn’t true but a label you had conjured up for that situation.
Thirdly you need to treat yourself with kindness. Do you need to punish yourself even more now? What can you do in this moment that is the kinder option to yourself? Maybe you could treat yourself with some kind words like ‘it’s OK, it’s not my fault’.
Practice for today: If a situation arises today where you feel you have failed or made a mistake follow the three ideas above. If you have a situation that you are still revisiting from the past take some time out to go over the steps. Life is about good intention, it is not a competition, you are not being judged, there are no absolutes. Give yourself a break.