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

What to Do in the Places that Scare You: Pema Chodron

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 14th 2010

teen girl depressed When we’re struggling with any myriad of life’s challenges such as stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, ADHD and trauma we can feel pretty isolated and alone. Stories hurl through our minds saying “I’m not good enough,” “Nobody understands me,” or “Nothing’s going to change.” What’s interesting is that the net result of these thoughts is feeling more isolated and alone.

In The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron writes:

“A young woman wrote to me about finding herself in a small town in the Middle East surrounded by people jeering, yelling, and threatening to throw stones at her and her friends because they were Americans. Of course, she was terrified, and what happened to her is interesting. Suddenly she identified with every person throughout history who had ever been scorned and hated. She understood what it was like to be despised for any reason: ethnic group, racial background, sexual preference, gender. Something cracked wide open, and she stood in the shoes of millions of oppressed people and saw with a new perspective. She even understood her shared humanity with those who hated her.”

We can take this story and apply it to our minds. At times it seems like we hate parts of ourselves and wish they were different. We hurl stones at them in the form or automatic negative thoughts only to find ourselves feeling worse. Perhaps Pema’s story can provide us with a clue as to what we actually need in those moments, a sense that all the parts of ourselves aren’t so different and they all share the desire to be understood and loved, to feel safe and secure.

However, if we’re honest, it can be downright frightening to face or come to terms with those parts that we find so threatening; the parts of us who procrastinate, feel insecure, gets anxious, or falls into addictive patterns.

However, it’s just a matter of truth that over and again it has been found that connection is the greatest source of healing.

When we’re at war with ourselves we are disconnected and naturally build up defenses as anyone who is at war would.

So in this moment, look at what parts of yourself are you at war with? How are those parts feeling and what do they most deeply yearn for? Perhaps they are acting from a place of feeling isolated and alone, which inevitable is how you feel.

In coming to terms and embracing all parts of ourselves we find our greatest healing and self acceptance.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates 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.

A Voice in the Darkness... - spiritual_emergency - Oct 16th 2010

I came across the work of Pema Chodron a few years after my "experience".  [Ref:]  There was much wisdom and comfort to be found there.

I, too, also found the practice of tonglen to be beneficial.


Great Teacher - Terry McLeod - Oct 15th 2010

Pema Chodron is a terrific resource, and taught me a wonderful lesson about healing that I have used for many years.  The technique, Tong Len, is a Buddhist approach to healing that she says she's not sure will heal others, but it sure helps her when she practices.

Tong Len is a meditative technique that can help us develop compassion...and the world could use a little more of that these days.

I was happy to see your source for this post.



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