Breaking the Loop

A few days ago, I was editing and listening to a teaching on breaking the loop of egocentricity that my colleague Choden did for the membership (for more information on our membership and how to join, click here). Choden was explaining that the way to break the egocentric spell is to focus on other people, and the more that we do this, the more we are in line with the truth of life which is interconnection. He then quoted the Dalai Lama as saying something along the lines of focusing more on others, rather than on oneself, might help others, but it will definitely help you.

This got me to thinking about psychological resilience. Hora Estroff Marano, the editor-at-large of the journal Psychology Today explains that, [a]t the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself- yet also a belief in something larger than oneself. Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves, transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs (Psychology Today website, May 21st, 2013, para. 1). Psychological resilience demands a movement of mind beyond self. Moreover, not only does it correlate with what the Dalai Lama was saying, but it also speaks to Choden’s teaching on the importance and need to break the egocentric loop that we often find ourselves in when we get stuck in rumination and fixation on ourselves and our own problems.

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I can remember a time when I was struggling with low mood and anxiety. I was worried that every little twitch and tinge in my body meant some sort of impending doom, and then my father walked in with an upset stomach. My father’s upset stomach was enough to pull me out of the rumination that had hooked me in through all of the luscious stories of all of the things wrong with me. I made him a cup of chamomile tea and offered to watch a movie with him as he rested. Through focusing on someone other than myself, the egocentric loop had been broken and I felt useful and better in myself. My mother found this quite amusing and made some comment about misery loving company- however, both my dad and I felt a sense of care and well-being.

So, this week’s challenge it to see if we can bring in our mindfulness and recognize when and if we become stuck in an egocentric loop of rumination and worry about ourselves. Then, see if we can switch the tape- can we move towards not defining ourselves by this destructive thought pattern, rather, can we also include our concern for others who we might know are suffering or struggling, just as we are? Can we move beyond ourselves and towards resilience?

Let us know how you get on!

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