Every stage of life we have unique challenges, stresses and painful experiences; life can get hard, overwhelming and even traumatising for some people.
One thing is certain, we all struggle, yet “all people want to be happy and free of suffering”.
The Impact of Negative Feedback
Moreover, as we go through these challenges, we receive a great amount of feedback and rely on it as kids and young people for direction, to help us make sense of the world and ourselves as individuals.
Many times, however, this feedback can be negative, painful, inaccurate, damaging, and just plain wrong. We end up just soaking it all in, and without realising, let it dictate our thoughts, the way we talk to ourselves in our mind, and the choices we make in life. We become our own worst enemies, the harshest judges we cannot escape or have a rest from.
People who go through early trauma, experience this much more intensely. The closest word that comes to my mind to describe this ongoing, silent torture is … personal hell.
We need to understand this process so we can create change. This is a normal psychological process, which can be reversible. We learnt to judge ourselves, by suggestion and repetition, so we can unlearn it in a very similar way – but this time, with conscious awareness of what we are doing and why.
Steps to Overcoming Self-Condemnation
This self-judgement, self-condemnation and self-loathing can actually become a comfort zone for us.
If this is all we have ever known, how do we know to treat ourselves any differently? How do we talk to ourselves? You may even try a few different things and they will not feel natural. Of course not! We become comfortable with what we know (‘better the devil you know’).
But at some point in life, when the suffering becomes unbearable, or we just get tired of the old ways that do not seem to work in our life, we may want to take a little step out of the comfort zone, then another, and one more.
Step 1: Start noticing when you treat yourself harshly in your mind. Notice that remark when you dropped the plate at work (“you clumsy clot!”); when you felt anxious at a meeting (“get a grip of yourself”); when you said a wrong word in a conversation (“so stupid”), when you feel low, depressed, unmotivated, unproductive (“Lazy! … get up already … loser … useless …”). The list goes on. Just notice it, without judgement. Just notice, with a neutral “Hmm, here it is again”.
Step 2: Start replacing the usual negative remarks you make to yourself. Think of a few ahead of time, and when you find yourself acting / reacting in a negative way (even if you made a real mistake), choose to tell yourself a more neutral or supportive comment such as: “Grrreat!” (sarcastically), “Oopsy”, “well done you”, “no biggy”, “at least I didn’t … “, “I’ll do better next time”, etc.
Step 3: Removing self-judgement does not mean we give ourselves permission to be mean, hurtful, unprofessional etc. We aim to always use self-reflection in order to learn and improve but we choose to stop abusing ourselves along the way.
Step 4: It is a choice, a conscious choice to treat ourselves differently, in our thoughts and actions. Our thoughts are where everything starts. It may be powerful to write this choice down, in big letters, put it up where you can see it, and say the words aloud a few times each day eg “I choose to treat myself with respect, compassion, care and love”; “I choose to be my support person and friend”.
And finally, a few words of Buddhist wisdom:
Emotional pain is unavoidable. Suffering is a choice”.
Let us all make this journey easier on ourselves. Once we learn to support our human experience, our SELF, the one and only SELF we have, we alleviate the unnecessary suffering and will be able to manage the pain better. It is our responsibility, our choice.
Author: Ilana Gorovoy, B.Arts (Psych), B. Arts (Hons.)(Psychology), MPsych (Couns.)
With a Master’s in Counselling, Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy draws on therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Existential and Strengths-based approaches, Person-Centred and Positive Psychology, to assist her clients to become conscious of their strengths and difficulties, design and reach their goals, live a life of meaning and purpose, and reach their full potential through empowerment.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy, try Online Booking – Wishart. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology (Wishart) on (07) 3088 5422.