We all have different parts of ourselves, different aspects to our personalities, different roles we play. Some of the simpler or more obvious parts – father/mother, sister/brother, friend, worker etc. – immediately come to mind. Sometimes it can feel hard to locate what we see as our real ‘self’ in amongst those different and at times conflicting parts.
We sometimes think that in order to succeed or fit in, we need to play only one part, while we hide or discard the rest. This sets up a tricky paradigm, where trying to be loved or acknowledged is inherently tied to disowning aspects of ourselves: leaving us battling with which parts of ourselves are acceptable and which not. Being accepting of our less acceptable parts – the jealousy, hatred, selfishness etc. – can be hard to even contemplate, particularly if we’ve grown up being told those parts are bad or abhorrent. Nevertheless, those parts exist in all of us. We can work on recognising them so as to not be dictated to by them, but we deny them or bury them at our peril.
Owning your whole self brings you into the reality of your life because you aren’t fighting with the truth of who you are and your circumstances. It enables connection with others because we all relate to the human condition and you aren’t working so hard to manage what you want people to see. We are all a ‘little of this and a little of that’ and one aspect will never define us entirely. Let the sub-personalities co-exist, let them have a conversation: it doesn’t make you crazy, it actually makes you sane.
Watching an advert recently, I marvelled at the young woman walking in a beautiful, seaside setting, her attention riveted on her tablet screen, oblivious to the world around her. I was particularly struck by how this was supposed to be an ad promoting such devotion to the digital. It seems that our attachment to screens, social media, the internet has come at a price and that price is being able to appreciate what’s happening right here right now. Apparently we instinctively check our mobile phones every six minutes throughout the day, on average. What effect does this constant distraction and lack of digital discipline have on us?
The impact of technology has brought with it a significant revival in interest in mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness and meditation promote a focus and attention to the here and now, to the breath, that is as opposite to that state of restless online anxiety as is possible to feel. Mindfulness can be seen as an enquiry for objectivity, to regain some control over the demands technology makes of us: a powerful tool in creating an invaluable bit of space and perspective.
So maybe the next time you find yourself caught up in a fruitless search for digital stimulation and satisfaction, perhaps mindfulness is worth a thought. It’s emphasis on exploring the sensory experience of being alive, rather than the superficial sensations of being online, may help you to understand what it is you are truly seeking.
I think that often we wish emotions were controlled like a light switch that we can turn on or off. They can feel so overwhelming and hard to bear. However, a better and more realistic way of dealing with emotions – and particularly those that feel intense – is to think of having a dimmer switch: learning how to turn down the intensity of emotions so that they don’t overwhelm you (which is often the root cause of emotional eating, stress and other issues).
Science shows us that some foods can spark cravings that rival those of any abused drug or alcohol. The brain calls out for more of certain foods (typically sugar) and stopping feels impossible. Over-eaters may hear ‘Just don’t eat it, then!’, both from others and from themselves, more often than drug addicts or alcholics. Somehow, we understand the pull those drugs exert. Those who eat without struggle often can’t understand how someone simply can’t ‘each just one’. However, what we can do is recognise how to cope with and change the process of overeating: potential food triggers; learning to cope with emotions; allowing support from others; developing a healthy lifestyle; and being kind to yourself.
Stopping addictive habits is very hard and it’s important not to underestimate this. Ups and downs almost always occur. An attitude of self-forgiveness and reflection not only makes the process easier, but improves the likelihood of success. When you’re not busy tearing yourself down (and saying ‘why bother’), you have more energy for solving problems, picking yourself up and working towards what you want to achieve.