Mindfulness and Self-Judgment from Another Angle

Thanks for all of your comments regarding mindfulness on that last post, it is a topic that I keep circling back to in my mind because it has been hard for me to grasp the concept.

While some people seem to lean heavily toward the aspect of mindfulness that involves being aware of emotions and their changes, this is the part that I feel completely confident in. Identifying my emotional state is something I have been working on tirelessly for four years now (and I do it 4-12 times per day or as mood shifts happen). Mood charting has allowed me to check in with myself to identify my mood and potential triggers (among other things) so in a self assessment, this is an area where I would give myself five stars.

Having said that, while I have strength in the area regarding identifying my moods and mood swings I am not very good at identifying psychosis. I can sometimes identify this phenomenon when it is slowly gaining momentum (like over a period of days) but when it occurs suddenly and without warning or builds slowly over several weeks it often goes unnoticed by me until I am so irrational I have previously only been able to identify the psychosis after it passes.

This concept (and realization by me) has led to trouble on the second leg of mindfulness; withholding judgment of myself and my emotions.

When it comes to withholding judgment about what emotions I am experiencing, I thought I had that in the bag. For many years I would judge myself harshly and consider myself depraved or inhuman for some of the urges and thoughts I experienced (and still do, some of them daily) but over the last few years I have been able to step back from that and conclude that many (if not most) of these things are a product of my own mind playing tricks on me during periods of depression, mania, or psychosis. I thought that taking the step of realizing that these desires (born of the illness) are not my fault, and that being somewhat burdened by the unwilling desire to do bad things (you know, like homicide) doesn’t mean that is how I am going to live my life and it doesn’t make me a worthless human being.

Having revisited this concept several times in the last few weeks, I couldn’t figure out exactly what was bothering me about mindfulness and why I both seemed to “get it” and not “get it” at the same time. What I stumbled upon the last few days is that even though I am reserving judgment of my emotions in terms of identifying them in a self-deprecating way, I am not withholding judgment completely.

Because of the combination of the psychosis factor and the, well, less than desirable “socially unacceptable” thoughts and feelings I have put up with on a regular basis I have a track record of inexplicably doing things that I wouldn’t normally do. There have been times where, let’s face it, I have not had control of myself or my actions, and during those times I have done some things that have scared the bajeezus out of me.

Things like running away from home, or plotting to murder someone (hello hospital), or attempting to harm very cute, innocent, furry creatures (hello again, hospital). What I have learned from these experiences (and others) is that I shouldn’t trust myself, and that I am capable of doing things that frighten myself and others.

Even though I might be reserving judgment about the origin of these thoughts or actions today, my judgment is taking place in a different way; through fear.

And, well, we all know how that story goes. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. (Thanks Yoda)

Personally, given my track record and the notion that any one of my swings could suddenly bring the overwhelming, incoherent madness of psychosis, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for me to feel terrified when my mood starts to shift or deteriorate. With every additional layer of emotion my reaction becomes more complicated, I begin jumping to conclusions out of a place of fear, and quickly go tumbling down the rabbit hole.

I find myself in the age old riddle; which came first, the panic attack or the anxiety about having a panic attack?

At this point I am not looking for answers from any of you, just thinking aloud. What I do know is that this fear is something that I need to address, and hopefully with enough applied reasoning (or voodoo) the fear and I can reach some kind of understanding.

No cute, innocent furry creatures were harmed in the making of this post.

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2 responses to “Mindfulness and Self-Judgment from Another Angle

  1. That’s so rational, I’m not sure I see what would be gained by abandoning that perspective… I only recognize potential psychosis by doing exactly what you’ve described above. For me, it was planning to murder my youngest that really drove home the point that I was in my wrong mind; I didn’t hate myself for thinking it, but viewing such thoughts with suspicion? How can we not?

    Maybe there’s a loophole, here. A kind of recognition that it’s fair enough not to judge those thoughts and feelings that actually belong to us… but a good case can be made for psychotic thoughts being outside of our ownership. What do you think? I gotta tell ya, mindfulness is great; but I need *some* barometer for recognizing batshit crazy thoughts, just in case.

    As always, good luck with this. It’s tough.

  2. Just Plain Ol' Vic

    Mindfulness is a straight forward concept to intellectually understand but very challenging to actually implement. I am not the one that is bi-polar in my family yet even I find it difficult to be aware of my moods and the causes of it.

    I think ultimately, there are a ton of techniques out there that are designed to make you aware of your emotional state and to be able to better react to it. Find what works best for you!

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