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My experience with looking at me

I've been looking at myself since 2007. I first started doing this because I thought it might give me some relief from my constant feelings of anxiety and worthlessness, and the general background feeling that something was always wrong. In the four years that I've been looking at myself, my feelings about doing this have ranged from total faith that it's the solution to all my misery to suspicion and skepticism that it's all just a pretty story, and to this day I sometimes have both feelings going on at the same time.

I got my first direct experience of me quite easily, with the method of bringing up a childhood memory. When I tried to look at me again later though, it wasn't always easy; sometimes it felt like no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get it, and other times I could make that contact with very little effort. I did this for about six months, and then I kind of forgot about it, probably because my life situation got easier and the bad feelings became less intense. For about three years I sort of forgot about all this, but even then, sometimes my attention seemed to focus on the feeling of me all on its own for no reason I was aware of; and sometimes when I got very emotionally distressed I'd remember about John's talks and try looking at myself.

Then in January of this year, my life situation changed again and I became extremely fearful and anxious. I decided to re-commit to looking and see it through to the end this time. For the first month or so I didn't feel much difference in any way; and then around the second month, all the pain and fear and feelings of worthlessness became much more intense than before. I couldn't see any reason for any of it, it just came over me and I couldn't get away from it. That was really hard, and it lasted a couple of months. But all that time I continued to look because I couldn't think of anything else to do, although listening to John's podcasts and other people's experiences gave me some comfort and helped me deal with the pain. And then maybe five or six months into the process, that constant pain started to fade. At first I didn't even notice it was fading, and now it is pretty much gone. Again, I can't think of any reason the pain went away, it just did.

Meanwhile, I'm not much different than I used to be; I still get anxious, I still freak out, but those scary feelings don't seem to last as long, and even when they're here they don't have the power over me that they used to. I used to work so hard to tell myself that those feelings are just feelings, but now I don't seem to have to remind myself; I *know* that they're just feelings, and they're unpleasant but they can't hurt me. I've also noticed some very subtle changes. For example, a friend of mine recently criticized me to my face. In the past I would have gotten really defensive and huffy and I would have sulked for hours afterward. This time though, it was clear to me that my friend was right, and that her criticism was actually useful to me. I still tried to make excuses and justify myself as the conversation continued, but even as I made these half-hearted attempts, in my mind I knew she was right. I think I'm still very much in the process of recovery, but I feel more and more like I don't have to be suspicious and distrustful of life. I have a growing feeling that it's really ok to just enjoy this.

That is a vely account, I think your first paragrph sums up what it's like for many of us, that swing from total faith and joy in finding the looking process and trusting it will all our heart, to the near utter dejection when, at times it all seem a futile game. But somehow, fortunately, the trust kind of holds on in there. Thank you for sharing. D


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