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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

How Well Do You Know the Committee in Your Mind?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 12th 2010

There is a committee that lives in our minds each with their own set of fears and hopes and each with the intention of doing their best for us. In this room there are no doors and no windows, so they are stuck with one another and oh yes, friction can occur. No, this is not dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personality disorder). At some point, one becomes fearful of another and talks to the rest of the committee members who all are in cahoots to drive another out. The problem, there's nowhere to drive that member to because again, there's no windows and no doors.

The end result is a perpetual state of tension and self-judgment that lives in us causing suffering.

How might this play out? Well, let's say there is a part of you that you consider to be weak, intolerable or a part of you that you just don't like. This may be a part that feels anxious or maybe depressed or maybe the part of you that is driven to addiction or distraction. You hate this part of you and you spend time trying to "fix" it or just wish it away.

But, alas, that part has nowhere to go and so just continues to feel isolated and shamed by the committee. There's a saying that says you're only as happy as your least happy child. We can use this same saying for the committee, you're only as happy as your least happy committee member.

With this in mind, we can see that the strategy to try and isolate, punish or hate this member only serves to make us unhappy.

I might argue that the member that is being so constantly judged blamed and ostracized needs the exact opposite approach for our mental health. It needs to be understood and loved. In other words, it needs to feel accepted.

Some of the greatest leaders in history such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, the Buddha, and even Jesus preached non-violence. There's a reason for this. They believed violence just creates more violence. We can apply this same wisdom to ourselves.

Ask yourself the very important question: In what ways am I violent toward myself?

Go ahead and write down the automatic negative phrases or words that you call yourself. What part of you are those messages aimed at and how do they make it feel? What does that committee member need?

See if you can recognize these thoughts when they come into your mind and figure out which member is saying them and why. What is so threatening that it has to resort to name calling? At the end of the day, neither member really feels good and it's up to us to be the parent of these members engaging them with love and understanding.

The Beatles sang, "All we need is love."  Well, they only really told half the truth. We also need to feel understood, because without that, we don't trust the love. With love and understanding, they begin to feel safe and at peace.

Do you recognize any of your committee members and what do they say. Please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Effective discourse - Jim - Feb 12th 2010

Compassion, acceptance, gratiitude, patience, tolerance, non-violent communication, restorative cricles...  these are all tools I've studied and put into my life sometimes on a moment to moment basis - with the commitee(s) inside my head. 

The communication I allow between my ears is what gets reinforced and becomes my reality and my actions.  How simple yet profound and frightening...

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