If at First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie, Again

As I witness once successful people like Bernie Madoff, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Charlie Sheen become victims of their own avarice, lust and addiction, my heart hurts.  While each of their situations is somewhat different, I see a common theme: a betrayal of trust that probably starts first with a lie they tell themselves.

I understand the appeal of avoiding the truth, particularly because in our culture, we tend to be judgmental. Practicing self-examination without compassion is more likely to result in pain than positive action. In other words, when things go wrong, we often beat ourselves up or blame someone else.  For example, “How could I be so stupid?”  “What’s wrong with me?” “I’m not good enough,”  “It’s all his fault,” and so on. Of course, Schwarzenegger and Madoff’s self-delusion might sound more like, “I can get away with this. I can fix it and no one ever has to know.” Just guessing.   (Also just guessing that those guys felt and avoided dealing with an emptiness in their souls that they hoped more sex, more money and more power might fill. Perhaps their self-deception really starts there.)

My experience is that beating myself up and blaming others doesn’t’ translate into a more beneficial outcome. Instead of inspiring me to action, it just makes me feel like a guilty loser.  On the other hand, when I replace judgment with curiosity, (acting a bit like a scientist), I can more easily examine my situation, accept myself, and decide what I want to change – and then I can get it done! For example, “Gee, I really didn’t behave as I wished I had.  What caused me to act or to feel that way? What went wrong?  Is there an action I can take to improve the situation?  What will feel better? What can I do better next time?

As I try to make sense of it all, I know there is no quick fix to self-betrayal; but I do believe that if each of us (even famous folks) could regularly practice compassionate self-awareness, we could feel and deal better with many of life’s everyday challenges.  Dealing directly with difficult thoughts has its benefits – because avoiding self-examination nearly always has consequences.  It’s just a matter of whether you pay now or later.  Can you imagine what might have happened if Madoff had confessed to his ponzi scheme after only a year, or if Schwarzenegger had shared honest feelings with Shriver 14 years ago? Sure, those would have been difficult things to do, but might the consequences been less punishing to all involved?

Facing your fears and your truth may require outside help.  If you’re interested, here are a few “starter” ideas for taking a first step toward kinder, gentler self-awareness:

1. Try a self-compassion practice

  • Not sure what that is? Here’s a suggestion from a Huffington Post interview with Tricia Donegan, Lady Gaga’s yoga teacher (as reported by author and psychotherapist Jean Fain). Donegan said, “Every morning when you first wake up, before you get on Facebook, sit down with a cup of hot water and lemon and think compassionate thoughts about yourself. If you get stuck on critical thoughts, repeat the last [compassionate] phrase like a mantra. Do that for five minutes, 21 days in a row.”

2. Ask yourself this question when facing a difficult decision:  “What action on my part will create the most love for me and for others?”  Your gut will know the answer to this question, even if your head doesn’t like it. Pay attention.

3. Try a loving meditation practice.  There are tapes, books and groups you can explore to get started.  Google to find one that works for you.

4. Try a 12-step program – your choice.

5. Connect with others for support: a therapist, a coach, or read a book and join a group practice. (Two of my favorite books with practical programs and YouTube footage are, “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie and “Nonviolent Communication,” by Marshall Rosenberg.)

Whatever you do, start somewhere.  Don’t lie to yourself to safeguard your alleged success.  It’s a trap.  Most importantly, please treat yourself with loving kindness. You deserve it.

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Date: Wednesday, 25. May 2011 11:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Self Actualization, Wellness

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