I Am Not My Symptom

There’s a mantra for you. Whether it’s physical pain, depression, anxiety, or even something as simple as being at the back of a long line, it’s helpful to remember that the person experienced as I is separate and distinct from the contents of the five senses, the inner monologue, the emotions, images that may be flashing through the inner movie screen– everything that’s not pure consciousness.

This is an aspect of mindfulness. When we practice mindfulness, we realize that the experiencing I  is something separate from all those things. I am not my thoughts, my sensations, my memories, my feelings. There are many great mindfulness teachers out there, and one of the great things about mindfulness is that it’s not a new fad that people are rushing to make bucks on, though there are lots of courses  you can take that do involve spending money. It’s been around for thousands of years. One exponent of mindfulness who’s giving  stuff away is Dr. Dan Siegel, who has a web site:


There are many mindfulness tools there. Buddhism might be said to be the original home of mindfulness, and there are many resources there. An author who I’ve gotten a lot from is Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a Buddhist teacher. After all, the Buddhists had mindfulness first, and it is from them that most mindfulness practices come. One video I’ve seen includes the statement that “you don’t need a teacher,” made by a guy who sounds an awful lot like a Buddhist teacher. But in my experience, the biggest barrier to beginning mindfulness practice is the judgment “I’m not doing it right.” Well, when your brain tells you that,  just observe that thought, perhaps label it “thinking” or “judgment” and get back to mindfulness practice. And like so many other things, remember it’s a learning/performance thing. It takes time to learn, practice to get better, and not every time is going to be good, or as good as the last time, or some other expectation.

(photo courtesy of Middlemarch Films/TPT)

About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
This entry was posted in behavioral health, Emotions, Feelings, handling the unexpected, happiness, mental health, mindfulness, physical health, physical health, spirituality, Therapy processes, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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