Every once in a while, I want to set fire to my brain. I want to light a match, and get a bucket of kerosene, and just go to town on it. The desire usually comes when my brain is on fire already, and it’s getting out of control. I figure that if I hasten the job, the whole thing will be over more quickly, and afterwards I can cool it off and start rebuilding.
Yeah, that’s the answer. More fire.
Allow me to explain.
A few months back, I was going through a rough time. So, I decided to try something a little different. I was sick of practicing acceptance, saying “love, love, love” and meditating all the time. I needed, instead, to vent.
The situation: bad behavior boot camp.
Have you ever tried this? Well, don’t. Or do. I don’t know yet. Results unclear. Regardless, it’s when you take your two whiny children and make them stay at home all day and fight with each other. Then you take every single one of those fights as a “learning opportunity,” complete with one-on-one conflict resolution coaching, the patience of a goddess and, of course, appropriate consequences.
You can guess how well this went. The good news? It inspired a new spiritual practice. I call it my “I hate this” meditation and that pretty much sums it up.
So maybe I’m the only person in the world to find this as helpful as I do. But on the off-chance that my experience can be replicated, here is a brief description of what I’ve been up to.
One of my favorite spiritual books is Loving What Arises, about, well, loving everything as a spiritual practice. Matt Kahn is the author. He’s a channel, though he doesn’t use that term, preferring the word “empath.” Basically, he holds lectures on the topics of love and spirituality, mostly love, and how to bring everything in our experience back to that.
So one day in the midst of this bad-behavior stuff, while attempting to do what Kahn suggests, I realized something: I didn’t want to love this. It felt fake. So, I tried something else instead. And it worked. So I tried it every day that week.
It still worked.
Here is the technique: You get alone, in a quiet spot, and start by saying the phrase “I hate.” Then you just let it rip.
I hate my outfit. I hate my hair. I hate the gym. I hate that person. I hate the morning.
You go on and on like this, getting it out, letting it go. Then you take a deep breath, and meditate a while.
This sucks so much, I think. But damn, am I growing. You know, as a person.
And then I call it a day.
Then, about half the time, I get this feeling of gratitude. Something like, Wow. I’m okay. I’m doing it. I’m getting through it. How much awesomer am I going to be at life (in this case, parenting) after I get through this?
I feel truly grateful for my crap.
And then there’s something else that happens, also about half the time: A bit of positive thinking accidentally creeps in. It’s weird, really: there I am, trying my damndest to be negative, and my ego part—the part of all of us that makes reverse psychology so effective—starts arguing with my silly list. “I hate the gym,” I’ll say in all sincerity. And everything I appreciate about the gym—the childcare, the alone time, the dress code—will come to mind. Then I list the next thing—say, giving up dessert—and Reverse Me will do it again. “You don’t care about that. You love the food you eat. And you look really good, too.”
Then I argue that point a bit.
Ah, that ego. Always arguing. Mostly, it’s best to just ignore it. But every once in a while, we can outwit it instead.
Reverse psychology. It works.
So, in sum: I’m saying “I hate” over and over—and calling it a wellness practice. Take that, lame, phony life rules.
Admittedly, my results with this technique are pretty mixed so far. Sometimes it helps a lot, but about half of the time it offers little to no real relief. It’s one of those things: you have to sort of search your soul a bit, ask yourself if you just need a few moments to vent. If the answer is yes, the practice could help. It gets everything out there—a brain dump. Then you can pick through the garbage for what you want to keep. The rest goes and doesn’t seem to come back. At least not right away.
Admitting, truly admitting, what I hate—no rose colors involved—is something I’ve deprived myself of in the past. Allowing myself to admit I hate what is, that I don’t effing want to be spiritual right now—it feels like eating ice cream for the first time after years without sugar.
I love that honesty can work for depression, at least sometimes. I don’t want to have to be positive all the time. What a drag.
After Rachel and Matthew had their first child, they had a couple of fights. Well, okay, more than a couple—they fought for over three years. They fought about schedules. They fought about bad habits. They even fought about the lawn mower. And besides actually having their child, it was the best thing that could've happened. Get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Story on Amazon now.