So, what are samskaras?
Samskara is a word used in the yoga tradition that describes imprints on the mind, or recurring thoughts and habits. They're basically grooves or pathways worn into our minds when we constantly think the same thoughts over and over again. These are shortcuts in the wiring of our brains, causing the same scripts or actions to repeatedly play out like a knee jerk reaction.
They don’t always have a negative influence on your life, some paths are positive, for example: mindfulness, mantras, expressing love, self care rituals, to name a few.
However, for those of us with crippling low self esteem, depression and anxiety, our samskaras are often a form of self abuse. Our recurring thoughts are often directly tied to our negative core beliefs. Things like I'm ugly, I'm stupid, I'm worthless, I'm fat, or no one cares. These words carry a low vibrational frequency, they're heavy. They hurt to even type out, let alone say out loud, things that we would probably never say to another person but we talk this way to ourselves so often.
The more we repeat the same thing, the stronger it becomes, or the deeper the rut. The old phrase is "practice makes perfect" right? Same goes for the negative habits. Practice enough and it becomes second nature. It works both ways, we just have to choose which one we are going to feed.
So, yes, we can change these negative thinking patterns.
First, we have to be aware that they exist.
Begin simply noticing every time a recurring negative thought pops into your mind.
“Oh crap, there it is again.”
Doing this gives you the opportunity to pause and regroup.
Then, this is where you will mentally say to yourself “delete that thought”.
Imagine it like a bubble floating in front of your face and reach up and pop it,
like -NOPE, not today.
Delete, delete, delete.
Next, we do the quick switch
Like when you see someone walking towards you that you really aren't fond of, and you walk the other way. We change the direction by practicing pratipaksa. In the Yoga Sutras, pratipaksa is interpreted as a method for assuming the opposite point of view. This is how we change these thoughts that are holding us back. This is how we begin to form positive thought patterns.
Pratipaksa. This is how it works:
If you have a negative belief or samskara, that you are stupid, the opposite point of view to tell yourself in that situation would be something like
"I'm doing the best I can"
"I deserve kindness"
"My life experiences have given me wisdom"
"I’m learning every day."
We wouldn't necessarily replace that thought with “I am smart”. It wont work because we don't believe you are smart, and it will cause an argument in your mind, where you convince yourself how stupid you are by recounting every stupid thing you’ve ever done. We want to avoid that.
I'll share with you one of my samskaras. It's the thought, “I can’t.”
It goes like this: I see someone doing something cool and I think to myself,
"That's so cool. But I could never do that."
Now, every time I catch myself in this old pattern it’s like a light bulb goes off in my head,
it sounds like -
"Excuse me, what did you say?"
It's like a frat boy inside my brain is challenging me saying
"Bet you won't do it.”
I fight this by saying
“I can do whatever I set my mind to."
Snap snap snap
YES baby girl, you can.
Imagine what someone who loves you would say to you, as words of encouragement, and be that person for yourself.
This process of change takes time! Some of our thoughts and beliefs we have had our whole lives. Those grooves are deep. It will take time to change these habits. Be careful not to take this and turn it into just another thing that we used to beat ourselves up. Don't do that to yourself.
Notice those old thoughts and smile at them, walk the other way, and tell yourself:
"I know what I'm doing. I’m holding it together. One day at a time.”