Let’s make Self-Loathing a Thing of the Past
Do you know that the concept of self-loathing is unheard of in some societies?
The Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard likes to tell an anecdote about the Dalai Lama. During a conference on how East meets West in the Indian town of Dharamsala, one of the American psychologists talked about ‘self-loathing’. At first, the Dalai Lama thought he’d misheard, and he asked the interpreter to repeat his translation several times. He then asked for someone to explain what on earth this concept was, since it was inconceivable to him that a human being could hate himself. When he finally understood and realised this was a common phenomenon in the West, he expressed profound sorrow.
Sorrow at the thought that so many people could feel alienated from themselves to the point of self-hatred. Where do they come from, these terrible judgments with which we condemn ourselves? ‘I’m worthless’, ‘I don’t deserve to be loved’, ‘I’m not good enough…’.
In Buddhist philosophy, one of the earliest meditations you learn is the “Loving Kindness Meditation” to develop the mental habit of selfless or altruistic love. Loving-kindness is a meditative practice, which brings positive attitudinal changes as it systematically develops the quality of ‘loving-acceptance’. It acts, as it were, as a form of self-psychotherapy, a way of healing the troubled mind so as to free it from its pain and confusion.
You start by developing a loving kindness with yourself, then a respected person, a beloved person, a neutral person and a hostile person. Using a combination of visualisation and the mantra “let me be safe, let me be healthy, let me be happy,” we break down the harsh, judgmental aspect of our mind that criticises ourself and others unjustly.
If you don’t think this applies to you, try it for just a single day paying attention to your internal dialogue. Listen and be aware of how often during the day you say something harsh or unkind to yourself I guarantee it will happen at least 10 times over the course of the day.