Focusing as a way to understand self-criticism

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Focusing helps us understand why we criticise ourselves.

Most of us have heard that inner critical self:

I’m too fat / too thin

I work too hard / not hard enough

I don’t give enough of my time to: my children / parents / partner / great aunt Hilda who lives in Timbuktu

Why haven’t I: done the housework / finished that report / played football with the children / got an immaculate garden / read War and Peace?

I’m stupid because I don’t understand something.

There’s something wrong with me because I’m feeling …

I should have / shouldn’t have …

I should make more time for myself (even after we’ve criticised ourselves for not doing all of the above!)

and a myriad of other things that we berate ourselves for.

This inner criticism is about a part of us that thinks we have to change ourselves to be okay. We feel we need to live the life that is expected of us, rather than the life that is right for us. And this causes us difficulty. We might harbour inner resentment, even if on the outside we disguise it. And that little voice inside us criticises us for not matching the ideals that we’ve set ourselves.

Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin realised that these critical parts of ourselves are afraid for us – for our own safety or well-being. As these parts see us blind to their cautions, they try all sorts of tricks to make us listen, and so the self-critical voices get louder and ever more scathing.

How can Focusing help with this?

I have found no other method that works so well at helping us to listen to these parts of ourselves that are struggling to be heard .  Parts that we have been ignoring for so long.  We can be kind to these parts – remember they think they’re looking after us, wanting the best for us. Then we can really listen to what they have to say, hear and stay with them until they feel understood, and then we can move on.  And I find that when I have a Listening companion, it is much easier to stay with these self-critical internal voices.

“When we peer with compassion into the soul of a part of us that is criticising, that it believes it is helping us. It has to help by criticising because it fears that the other part of us which it is pushing or holding back has no other hope of changing”.  (Ann Weiser Cornell)

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