The Futility Of Self-Punishment

Jason walked in to the room. His brother, Fred, was sitting there, punching himself in the face.

”What are you doing?!” cried Jason. “Stop hurting yourself like this!”

”Why?” said Fred, getting ready to strike himself again “Things just aren’t working out in my life the way they should be. Things should be better, nothing seems to be working out”.

He struck himself again, this time even harder, since he was realising even more how his Life was not as it should be.

”But why are you hitting yourself?” asked Jason, trying to grab his brother’s fists

”If I keep hitting myself, if I create pain for myself, then that will help me to sort things out, to be better, to make less mistakes, and to ultimately be happier.”

Jason was stunned. How could his brother be thinking like this? It was utter madness. All Fred was doing was creating pain for himself, and the pain, if anything, was inhibiting happiness, not creating it.


Many humans believe in the efficacy of punishment, particularly self-punishment. Many of us are acting out a less-extreme version of poor Fred. Physical self-harming can seem quite insane, but we often regard psychological self-harming as quite normal - to condemn yourself, to criticise yourself, to judge yourself, all in a vain attempt to improve things or prevent mistakes. All of these things just keep your vibration down, feeling and acting the exact way you are trying to avoid.

In the absence of self-judgement, is there even a self that can be criticised? In the absence of self-condemnation, does this prevent you from acting effectively, or does it actually create space and freedom, in which action can arise that is far more intelligent and enjoyable?

We are often taught the value of punishment, as if it is the way to fix undesirable behaviour. But it doesn't really work. It doesn't get to the root of anything, and when the mind begins to punish itself, it robs itself of all intelligence, peace and creativity.

Give up expecting perfection from yourself, anyone else or anything else. In no longer expecting perfection, perfection is realised.