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The Therapeutic Value of Looking at Yourself

Leia este texto em português.


The following forum posting recently made by Bruno is really a very good one because it suggests something that, strangely, I had not considered before. It is also a good example of what we most value here, which is the intelligent participation of members of the community in the development of our collective understanding of the perplexing matter of the nearly universal human dissatisfaction with life—its cause and its cure.

Based on your teachings, I had the impression that the benefits of looking only unfold with time, acting almost silently in the background, because the "psychological apparatus" goes on doing its old job for quite some time. For me, each looking helps. Whenever neurotic behaviour sets in, or anxiety, successful looking helps, almost immediately, to calm me. It just helps to be reminded of me. (And I do not confuse the looking with some desired state of bliss or whatever.) Is this observation another old trick of the mind trying to find escape?

Until now, I had assumed that the entire usefulness of looking at yourself was exhausted in the first look. I had my reasons for this, which have to do with an unexamined assumption that there is no power in the looking beyond the invalidation of the false premise that life is to be feared, and a by now well-supported conclusion that that invalidation occurs instantaneously, thereby making repetition of the act unnecessary and even confusing. There is also a danger of turning the act itself into a fetish, which can only delay the progression of the recovery and render it even more difficult.

But it is also true that, in the time following my first look at myself, I found myself returning to what I had sensed there again and again. I thought at the time that this return was involuntary, and I have always advised people to expect this kind of repetition. I have often suggested that they look whenever it naturally occurs to them to do so.

I can see now that my understanding of this might have been somewhat off the mark. The intentional, repeated turning of attention to the feeling of me can actually be very useful, both as a therapeutic tool that provides some relief for a moment, and as a tool in the development of a person's ability to focus attention.

One of the effects of the destruction of the belief in the idea that life is to be feared is, for some, the arising of considerable confusion, and often an experience of heightened distress and misery, as the foundation of personal psychology is reformed and the mind is regenerated.

We can use the ability to decide for ourselves where to focus our attention in a way that not only minimizes that discomfort, but also strengthens and clarifies our understanding of the power of self-directed attention. We have advised all who are experiencing this discomfort to notice when their attention is captured and held by hurtful sensations and thoughts, and then deliberately move attention to a neutral experience, such as the sensation of the breath as it comes in and out of the body. 

This deliberate movement of attention is very likely the only act of free will that is possible to us humans and exercising it brings skill, strength and satisfaction in a way nothing else can.

What we have missed all along is the obvious and perfect usefulness of that deep, faint feeling of me as an alternative target for this willful and therapeutic movement of attention. 

This conversation with Bruno is a good example of what we see as the main function of the Just One Look community: a collective exploration of the possibilities inherent in a mind that is free of anxiety and discontent. As more and more of us leave behind the self-regard caused by the environment of fear and alienation from life itself and make our voices heard here in this community, our capacity to collaborate with one another and expand our collective understanding of these matters develops and expands in ways that we cannot even imagine. We are in this together.