our Big Self and the little self (& what happened to me today)

October 17, 2015

Knowledge and experience are oceans apart.

If you go to a therapist, you may hear the term Wise Advocate.
A lot of therapy is about teaching you to access your Wise Advocate who soothes your other parts.

That’s why you can do cognitive therapy on yourself. They will tell you to write down a thought you are having right now.

I’m a big loser because I ate three donuts. I should know better. I’m a big time failure and I’ll never ever lose weight.

Your job is to label this thought as an “irrational thought.”
A cognitive distortion. Black and white thinking. Over-generalization. Catastrophizing. Etc

Now you ask yourself, is this true?
Does this sound rational? Is everyone who eats three donuts a big loser? Is it possible humans can eat three donuts one day and get back on track the next day? Does eating three donuts mean you should be in jail? Is it illegal or immoral? If your best friend ate three donuts and was hating herself, what advice would you give her?

When doing this exercise by yourself, you will start to wonder. How is it possible for you to have the irrational thought and also be able to correct that thought yourself?

Weird, huh?

In the Baghavad Gita, Krishna talks about your Inner Being.
The Soul. The part of you that is divinity. It’s always pure, loving, invincible.

The problem is that the human animal part of us forgets that there is divinity hidden within us. Krishna’s cure for this problem is to meditate. Quieting our thoughts calms the animal enough to connect with that pure Self.

Buddhists talk about the Big Self and the little self.
Abraham-Hicks talks about your inner being. So does Louise Hay. Every spiritual teacher talks about that part of you that is divine.

This is knowledge I’ve collected by the buckets for a decade.
That’s all fine and well.

But today, I experienced my Big Self giving my little self advice.
And it was enlightening. I had never put this to practice before.

Today, I kinda had a challenging day. Nothing bad. But it wasn’t perfect. And I was being hard on myself. I want perfection. Every moment and every interaction.

I drove to Walgreen’s to buy some cleaning supplies.
But the drive wasn’t perfect enough for my standards.

I wanted to drive like an alpha male. Whatever that means. I wanted to drive perfectly. I wanted to be the best driver on the road. But my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders and I hesitated taking a right turn. For a long time. Because my eyes couldn’t tell if the traffic was near or far. And my brain couldn’t send the “push accelerator” signal to my feet in time.

Then I went to Chickfila for a chicken wrap. As I pulled into the lot, this driver pulled out onto my lane from nowhere and zoomed by. My little self was angry. That should not have happened. I should be commanding all of the lanes I’m in, it said. I need to break that guys tinted windows and show him who’s boss.

Heart racing. Adrenaline & cortisol pumping.
I started seeing red.

At the drive thru, I asked for a chicken wrap but with a spicy chicken fillet instead of the regular one. It’s not on the menu but last time, the girl was nice enough to have it made for me. The new guy had no idea that could be done. I didn’t argue, but my little self felt disrespected. Even though the guy was nice enough to include tons of hot sauce packets to make up for it.

Then on the drive back home, I was completely zoned out. I wanted to go left, across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic, without a traffic light, but I hesitated. My neurons weren’t firing fast enough today. So I sat there waiting for my brain to wake up. Eventually, I took a right and went around the long way. It’s safer.

The rest of the drive home, there was a rebellion happening in my body. The little self was throwing a temper tantrum. Only I was not aware of this. I had forgotten that the Big Self exists. I had all the knowledge in the world but when it came to game-time, I forgot!

I kept missing turns. Hesitating. Felt like a 16yr old, with his new driver’s permit, operating a car for the first time.

I came home in a rotten mood. And after doing some chores, eventually passed out for a nap. Exhausted.

But something new happened this time.

My Big Self started talking to my little self as I slept. I was watching this interaction take place as a third party.

Big Self said: it’s ok not to be perfect. Just because you had an off day doesn’t make you a terrible person. I know you’re upset right now but tomorrow is another day. Perfectionism is an ideal but everyone falls short. We don’t have to be perfect to enjoy the day. And the tough days make the great days even better. Remember? It’s all good. Take it easy.

little self: *listening quietly*

I watched this interaction with awe.
My brain was self correcting.
Without going to a therapist. Without meditating. Without having to pull out a pen and paper to manually do cognitive behavior therapy.

I woke up in a better mood. And now I’m writing this to let you know why I think today was different than all the past days.

Elizabeth Gilbert.

I’ve spent the past few days listening to all of her interviews. And today, I listened to her audiobook. I’ve cracked the code on why her book is good.

Her book is her Big Self soothing all of our little selves.
That’s her voice. That’s her tone. That’s her message.

She is accessing that part we all have. Since she’s a creative person who has done the inner work for a long time, she’s able to do this. She’s sharing with us the same voice she uses to soothe her little self.

That’s why you’ll feel comforted listening to her message.
It’s like a soothing hot chocolate on a wintry night.

We can borrow her Big Self to wake our Big Self. Like a tuning fork.
Because we all have our own therapist and motivational coach within us.
That’s the real Big Magic.


Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
15 common cognitive distortions