I continue to benefit from the insights of Dr. Gabor Maté, both personally and professionally, and am immensely grateful for the opportunity to study and teach with him. One of the areas in my own life that I currently bring awareness to are the mostly unconscious beliefs that show up when I feel self-pity or want to blame others. Both of these states cause internal discomfort.
Here’s a recent example. I was in Utah last week on a family vacation, touring around in my son’s new-to-him 1992 Volkswagon camper van, hiking in gorgeous national parks and tenting at night, enjoying being together with my grown children, son-in-law and husband.
On a particular long uphill hike to a natural hot springs not far from Salt Lake City, I found myself well behind the rest of the family, carrying a backpack with the remaining food rations for our lunch. The backpack was not very heavy, but it seemed so to me as I trudged uphill. Suddenly I thought, “Why am I carrying this backpack? I am the oldest in this family. Why didn’t one of my kids offer to carry it? Instead they rushed ahead and left me behind.” And a little tear slid down my cheek. My mind found the phrase, “I am not receiving the care I deserve.” Seconds after I heard the phrase I recognized it as my own projection, a belief transported from childhood to the present, that shows up in many areas of my life. This phrase, embedded in my brain circuitry, makes it difficult for me to take supplements consistently, stick to an exercise schedule, or pick up the phone to make a doctor’s appointment. It’s not so much that I am not receiving the care I deserve as: 1) I do not ask for it; 2) I do not accept it when it is available; 3) I do not give it to myself. It’s astonishing how long this belief has stalked me, despite my awareness of it, and best intentions to quell it.
Dr. Maté’s response below to a participant in a Beyond Addiction program sheds light on how to work with such a belief.
All you can do is notice that that’s what your belief is. It doesn’t matter how much healing you have done. The fact is that you’ve got this belief, and this belief goes very deep. It’s not going to go away just like that; there’s nothing you can do to make it go away. There’s no conversation I can have with you that’ll prove to you that you’re good enough, because it’s embedded in your nervous system; it’s embedded in your brain. It’s embedded in your cells.
Your wishing that it would go away with all the therapy and everything that you’ve done is futile. You can’t make the belief go away, but you can hold the belief with awareness and compassion.
Just really hold it compassionately. Don’t expect it to go away. It’ll go away when it’s ready to go away. I’m not saying that you’ll have that belief for the rest of your life. But there’s nothing you can do to make that belief go away. What you can do is to recognize it when it’s there, and to just hold it; be with it. “Oh, there it is again.”
As long as you have that belief, you can never prove the opposite. You need to actually accept that that’s what your belief is, and not do anything about it.
We don’t do it deliberately, we just do. But this is what Carl Jung had to say about the unconscious: “Because you do this unconsciously, it’s all the more powerful.” He said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
The whole thing is to make it conscious, so that every moment, whenever you can think of it, you can ask yourself, “What do I believe at the moment? Who do I think I am at the moment? What is my belief about the world at this moment? When I have that feeling, when I have that experience, what am I believing actually?”
Keep asking yourself that. The question, “Who do you think you are?” is a great question. Not in the sense of a put-down, but who do you actually think you are? “Oh, I believe I’m a helpless child right now.” Or, “I believe I have to be the strong one.”
Whenever you have some troubling thought, or troubling emotion, ask yourself what the real belief is.
So, dear reader, I invite you also to identify the unconscious beliefs that drive your behaviour and reactions, hold them with awareness and compassion and ask yourself each moment, “Who do I think I am?”
p.s. Soon after my realization, my husband offered to take the backpack. The hot spring was magnificent. My son carried the backpack down the hill.
for information on upcoming Beyond Addiction workshops and Compassionate Inquiry workshops with Dr. Gabor Maté, see https://beyondaddiction.ca/events/training-programs/
for information on Kundalini Yoga teacher training with Sat Dharam Kaur, see http://satdharamkaur.com/kundalini-yoga-training/teacher-training-programs/