I have tried a radical experiment recently. I call it: THE EXTREME LOVE EXPERIMENT.
Whenever I have a dark thought — a “forbidden” thought, like anger, jealousy, resentment, lust, shame, contempt — I immediately say to myself, “I love the part of you, Liz, who is full of anger right now.”
or: “I love the part of you who is ashamed of yourself right now.”
or: “I love the part of you who can’t stop judging yourself right now.”
or: “I love the part of you who feels weak and helpless right now.”
or: ‘I love the part of you who just had an explicitly violent fantasy about watching that person who is talking loudly on her cellphone suddenly have her head blow up.”
or: “I love the part of you who is still having an argument in your head with a man you haven’t talked to in 15 years.”
or: “I love the part of you who broke your New Year’s resolution on January 4th.”
or: “I love the part of you who believes that she is such a spiritual hypocrite, it’s ridiculous.”
or: “I love the vain/insecure part of you who stands in front of the mirror lifting up the dangly flesh on your neck and wondering if there’s some kind of plastic surgery for that.”
or: “I love the part of you who is jealous of that other novelist for winning that big award.”
I used to try to banish all those parts of myself. Because they were BAD. They were WRONG. They were UNEVOLVED. They were NEGATIVE.
But banishing the parts of myself that I hated has never worked. The more I try to banish them, the stronger they grow. The more I hated these parts of myself, the more they multiplied. It’s like my self-hatred was fertilizer — creating a dark, warm, nourishing environment for all those “bad” thoughts and impulses to grow…and as they grew, they destroyed me.
Now I just say to the dark thought, “I love this part of you”…and the dark thought loses its power.
I understand now that I am not a SELF. I am SELVES. I am thousands of different selves — and all of them are worthy of love.
To say, “I love you,” is the only force strong enough to diffuse darkness.
And here’s the crazy thing — this habit is starting to spread out of me, and I can now do it toward others.
For instance, I now have the capacity to think: “I love the part of my husband who is constantly interrupting me. This is just his weird humanity at play.”
Followed by: “And I love the part of me who gets so freaking irritated about how my husband is constantly interrupting me.”
Followed by: “I love the part of me who doesn’t really BELIEVE that I love the part of my husband who is constantly interrupting me.”
Followed by: “I love the part of me who is saying that this EXTREME LOVE EXPERIMENT is total bullshit, and it will never work.”
Followed by: “I love the part of me who wonders if I will ever truly love myself.”
And it goes on like that. But I go on, too. I just keep throwing love at everything that comes up…until finally it all gently quiets down.
And it does all finally gently quiet down.
I love all these dark parts of myself not because they are wonderful and adorable and perfect and fantastic, but because they are THERE. My dark bits are with me and they will likely always be with me. Just as your dark parts are with you and will likely always be with you. All that is there needs to be loved.
As they say: “It’s not a bug; it’s a FEATURE.”
Our humanity is not an ERROR. Our crazy thoughts are not MISTAKES. Our scary longings and giant failures and ongoing disasters are not ABERRATIONS.
This is merely what it is to be a person — messy, weird, inconsistent, doubtful. This is how we ARE, and that has to be OK, or else nobody is OK.
We are not some early Dell Computer Operating System, here to be de-bugged. We are not some new product for sale, here to be perfected. The goal is not to become an immaculate golden orb. The goal is to return to a place of kindness, where you can be gentle with yourself and others, no matter what arises. This requires, I think, a friendly sort of loving humor about who you are and who we all are. Why does the Dalai Lama have such a twinkle about him? Because he gets it. He gets that it’s kind of funny, how we are. Even when it’s terrible. The whole thing is…very, very strange. And that’s OK. It’s strange, but it’s sacred.
And I believe there no is gentler or safer place to stand on this earth than in a place where you can say to yourself, “I love every bit of you, you beautiful freak.”
The Buddha said it better, of course. The Buddha said, “You can search the whole world over and never find anyone as deserving of love as yourself.”
In other words: Be good to you, OK?
Please put down the knife you have been holding to your own throat. You don’t deserve that kind of abuse, and it won’t help.
Just try it. Try saying to your scariest bits: “I love this part of you.”
And then say it again to the next part…and the next part…and the next part…and the next part…and ONWARD.
Good luck in there.
I have read this in-depth post by Elizabeth Gilbert and found it both amazingly timeless and timely – timeless because loving and accepting ourselves in the fullness of our humanity is an ongoing process for time and eternity, and timely because I have been exploring my shadow lately as I continue to delve deep into my soul to experience greater intimacy and authenticity with myself, and also with others as a result.
I realise the more we awaken to who we really are and free ourselves from expectations of society and organised religions, the more we will come to appreciate and accept ourselves completely regardless of what we do or think because we no longer measure our worth based on our actions or accomplishments or mistakes, or based on what other people think of us, or based on what we think of ourselves; instead we simply rest in the wonderful truth that we are worthy simply because we are Love, and therefore we are worthy of love every moment of our lives.
I like her suggested meditation or practice or experiment of extreme love because it is immensely practical and relatable as we all would have experienced or done or said something that society or religion or our own inner critic would frown upon at any point of time, and it is indeed vital that at that very moment we think we fall short of any kind of self-imposed or others-imposed “standard”, we can choose to love that part of ourselves that “falls short”, and it would lose its power over us, and we will indeed experience a deep sense of peace within ourselves, like taking a warm relaxing bath of endless and unfailing love.