Self Compassion & Toxic Shame
It has been eye opening to offer self-compassion practices to clients and recognize the wide-spread awe with which people recognize how this simple mindset has been lacking in their lives.
Negative Self Talk
Our relationship with ourselves is so private, it is so personal. It is truly intimate - the way that we talk to ourselves. As a therapist, I have the privilege to have people share with me about their relationship with themselves. I ask clients to identify automatic thoughts that come up frequently in their minds. You might find negative self talk is more common than you realized. These thoughts sound like:
"I suck at this."
"I'm no good."
"Nobody cares about me."
When you are not kind to yourself, you may be treating yourself in a way that you would never treat another human being. You are injuring yourself. This is perhaps the most subtle and subversive form of self harm. It is usually self-inflicted because you are continuing a pattern that was consciously or unconsciously begun by a caregiver or other family members.
It is understandable that we form the same kind of habits, internal as well as external, that have been modeled for us. We haven’t been introduced to any other possibilities. Many times, this kind of negative internal dialogue is the source of toxic shame. Toxic shame is defined as “a feeling that you're worthless. It happens when other people treat you poorly and you turn that treatment into a belief about yourself.” (Here is an article that expands on toxic shame.)
When people open up with me and are honest about how they treat themselves, they find out that there are other choices. Initially this might increase the sense of shame. The "Toxic Shame Part" continues the cycle by saying things like
“You’re bad for treating yourself so badly!”
“You’re ignorant and stupid for not realizing this sooner.”
“You’ve wasted so much time beating yourself up, you’ll never get that time back.”
STOP! START KINDNESS NOW!
When you notice yourself doing this, or hear these kinds of phrases in your mind, STOP! Take a deep breath and commit to shifting gears. You have the power to reclaim your self-worth. You have the authority to choose how to treat yourself. The neuropasticity of our brains allow us to form new thought patterns and retrain the mind to be kind. This may take some time and practice - just like training muscle groups when you lift weights. But if you dedicate yourself to practice and consistency, you will become stronger. You will form new neural pathways in your brain that improve your sense of self. Here are some self-compassionate statements to use as a replacement:
"I'm doing the best I can."
"I can learn and let myself grow."
"I don't have to do this perfectly."
This is a fabulous website dedicated to the practice of Self Compassion. You will find exercises and guided audio meditations to cultivate your own healing.
Every step you take in healing your mind, brain and body - is a step toward Self Compassion. Navigating to this web page, reading this article, getting to a class or a therapy session, taking a walk - it is all in service of your highest potential.
I welcome you to share your journey with me as well as your community so that we can lift each other up and recognize we are not alone.
We are sharing the ins and outs of Somatic Psychotherapy and joining the international conversation of the somatics community around the world with our regional hub here in Milwaukee