How to manage your inner critic when it arises…
Throughout all twenty-three episodes of the Self Acceptance Project I found Dr. Kristin Neff’s insight into self compassion both astounding and revelatory. But what strategies does she use when faced by her own inner critic? The simplicity of her answer was beautiful.
Her attack on her inner critic was two-fold. To make the fundamental shift from her reptilian brain (which activates the fight, flight or freeze response) to her mammalian brain (the nurturing and loving part of the brain) she simply touches an area of her upper body. Wanting to be able to adopt this practise wherever I was, without looking like I was hugging myself, I opted to rest my cheek on my left hand; a discrete gesture which would go unnoticed by others. For you it may be placing a hand on your wrist or arm, whatever serves to sooth you most, works best.
Christine then engages with herself by using her internal dialogue to comfort herself, saying “’I’m so sorry it’s really hard right now… I’m here for you and you can rely on me and you know I really love you anyway’ – use the words you would say to a child or friend who was distressed”.
Learn from your emotions…
Karla McLaren, author of ‘The language of emotions; what your feelings are trying to tell you’ suggests that very few emotions are actually bad or destructive if we know what they are trying to teach us. In her interview Karla suggests working with our emotions to find solutions. Below is a list of our so-called negative emotions and what they are trying to communicate with us:
- Anger: The need for you to establish boundaries
- Guilt: The need for you to take action towards rectifying past behaviour
- Depression: The need to change the conditions of your life (such as going to therapy for your depression, building your self-esteem and/or getting a more fulfilling job)
- Anxiety and Fear: What situation do you find threatening? Is the threat real? Can you take steps to reduce the threat?
IMPORTANT: If you suspect you may be depressed it is wise to visit your doctor and seek professional help and once you feel strong enough to then – and only then – make changes to the conditions of your life, such as where you work. Although it is not intended as a substitute for therapy, you can work through CCI’s exceptional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based workbook titled ‘Back from the Bluez’ if you think you may be suffering with depression. Another useful workbook by CCI which may also be relevant and helpful is ‘Improving Self-Esteem’.
Change your perspective…
Changing the perspective we take on our suffering so that we can distance ourselves from it and see it more objectively and compassionately is also extremely effective. Steven C Hayes, PhD and author of thirty-five books, over five-hundred scientific articles and founder of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) recommends taking this approach.
In his interview he suggests imagining yourself ten years from now, looking back on your current situation and then questioning whether the present situation will be viewed as still important. Another approach is speaking to ourselves as if we were a child experiencing our pain, with all the protectiveness, love and compassion that speaking to a suffering child would inspire.
Yet another approach would be to speak to ourselves as if we were talking to one of our friends, with all the understanding that we would offer to those closest to us. The great thing about the approach of shifting our perspective is that it is so easy to do and yet so powerful in transforming how we treat ourselves.
Stay tuned, next week learn how to best deal with shame and adopt a ‘spiritual law’ philosophy.
Do you think consoling yourself as Dr Kristin Neff suggests would help calm and comfort you? How beneficial do you think it would be to learn from your emotions? Have you ever used a change in perspective to help you in the past? How did it help? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
‘Self Compassion’ by Dr Kristin Neff