It’s Not About the Content

Content versus connection Oftentimes when I’m working with clients, their central concern is a desire to discuss issues about work, money, children, or their sex life: aka content What couples often don’t understand is that it is very difficult to talk about any kind of content if you are not connected to each other. Trying to talk about important issues while you’re feeling defended or angry leads to fighting, and the content gets lost. The trick to getting through content together is managing the connection you have with your partner. As soon as you realize that you are disconnecting, try to pause and re-establish how you want to be feeling with each other. I’ve found that this is best done by naming how you want to feel and have your partner feel, not how you don’t want to feel. Securely attached partners know how to get themselves and their partner back to connection when they are feeling disconnected. Sometimes simply holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes without talking for one minute can actually reset your connection. Research has shown that looking into your loved one’s eyes can help release oxytocin (the “love hormone”) which can help you feel more connected, calm, and in love.   Exercise: Self-Inquiry If you find yourself often fighting with your partner around certain content, try this mindfulness exercise: Sit quietly and check in with yourself: How connected are you feeling with your partner right now on a scale of one to ten, with one feeling not connected at all and ten feeling totally connected? What is the content that you were trying to discuss with each other? What creates connection with you and your partner? Is physical touch something that brings you together? Do you like snuggling with each other on the couch or in bed? Does talking about your day hope you feel connected? Do you laugh together about certain topics, and does that laughter help you connect? What about sharing an extracurricular activity? What words could your partner say to you that would help you relax and feel more open? Exercise: With Your Partner  Find a time to chat with your partner about re-establishing connection when you are talking about touchy subjects and feel out of synch. Don’t try to talk to your partner about this while you’re already disconnected and angry, or in the middle of a fight! Find a time when you’re both calm, connected, and on the same team. Once you are sitting together, discuss how to create connection instead of talking about the content. Here are some questions to answer: What can you say that helps your partner feel connected to you? What words or phrases help you want to open up to each other? Does physical touch help when you’re talking about charged topics? When was the last time you felt really connected to each other? What was happening in that situation that helped you to feel connected? Are there activities that you engage in together that help you feel connected? How do you want to feel when you’re talking about these topics together?   Read more »

5 Ways to Determine You Are Under an Inner Critic Attack

Often when I am working with my clients it is clear that one of the major reasons they are experiencing suffering is because they are having an Inner Critic Attack. This part of the self has lots of names.  Traditionally known as the Super Ego; it also goes by the Judge, the Gatekeeper, the Critical Parent and many other names. In other words, the Inner Critic is a part of the self that is attacking another part of the self.  Now, normally we don’t walk around experiencing ourselves as having different parts. If we have a fairly healthy ego, we just experience all thoughts in our head as our own. The problem with this is that many if not MOST of our thoughts didn’t originally come from us. So it can sometimes be helpful to separate out the part of ourselves that is attacking us, and distinguish it from supportive voices that can actually help us change. When I first notice a client’s inner critic, my client is often not able to tell that they are having an Inner Critic Attack. So here are 5 ways you can tell that you may be having an Inner Critic Attack: 1) The Wagging Finger: One of the easiest ways to tell if you are talking to yourself from the Inner Critic is if you feel like someone is wagging a finger at you. The Inner Critic says things like “You really should have…”, “You knew better than to…”, “If you had just…”, “You are never going to get better at…” and “You are so disappointing.” The experience is that you are being lectured or admonished by someone, only that someone is you. This voice generally has a little (or a lot) of disgust and disappointment in its tone, and it is also pretty sure that you are never going to change. 2) You Feel “Bad” About Yourself: Many of my clients can’t identify the thoughts or inner voice that is attacking them, but they can tell that they feel “bad” about themselves. That is because the main feeling that the Inner Critic elicits is shame, but most people are not able to identify that they are feeling shame. If you are feeling “bad” about yourself, you are probably experiencing shame about one or many things, and under an Inner Critic attack. 3) You Feel “Not Good Enough”: Technically feeling “not good enough” is not really a feeling, but it seems like it is. That’s because when you feel shame, it often comes along with the belief or thought that you are not good enough. This is your inner critic attacking you for one or many things. 4) Your Body is Hunched Over: Many of us work with computers and sit in desks for work and have a little hunch to our shoulders. This is not what I’m talking about. What I am referring to is the way that your body collapses and hunches over when you feel bad about yourself. This is the body’s natural response to the feeling of Shame. Your eyes become downcast, your shoulders hunch over and sometimes your feet turn in. You feel the impulse in your body to hide or withdraw from people. This is a big sign that you are having an inner critic attack. 5) You are Withdrawing, or Distracting Yourself With Addictive Behavior: We withdraw from people or distract ourselves with addictive behavior for all kinds of reasons. One reason why people withdraw or engage in addictive behavior is because they are avoiding the shame that occurs for them when they are around others. This shame is often attached to an inner attack that is going on in the background of their mind when they are around other people. If you are withdrawing from others, or distracting yourself with addictive behavior, you may be having an Inner Critic Attack. Recognizing when you are under an Inner Critic Attack is one of the first steps towards ending the attacks. In the beginning though, it can sometimes be overwhelming to recognize how much you are under attack by yourself. Make sure you don’t attack yourself for attacking yourself!!! Begin to notice and separate the attacking/judging voice from other thoughts or voices that are more helpful. Stay tuned for ways to interrupt and alleviate the inner attacks! Read more »