There is no content to display.
The human brain is really really tricky. We walk around all day with this great mass in our head and we have only tapped the surface of its workings, its complexity and its scope. What we do know however is that the brain is trainable. Just like your muscles, the brain can be ‘worked out’ on a daily basis to respond to your everyday world in different ways that it did in the past. Phew! Thank goodness for that! That means I can even rewire the crummy training I ‘might’ have had growing up into a healthier way of being! But hang on, does this mean that I can’t blame my parents any more for my mental shortcomings? Oh which path should I choose?
Recently, I listened to a great interview between Rick Hanson- neuropsychologist and Paul Gilbert, founder of Compassion-Based Therapy. It centered on growing a sense of worth, keeping a friendly relationship with yourself and being honest with yourself without being critical. My main take away was the importance of way in which we talk to ourselves and how to gear out self-talk so it works for us rather than demolishes our confidence.
We all have our own inner critic that stops us from doing things, berates us when we make mistakes (especially when parenting) and in general, doesn’t cheer us on. So how can we mindfully catch and accept and perhaps slowly change our inner critic?
A good thing for us to remember is that catching our inner critic is the first step to creating alternative thoughts. The brain WILL criticise, this is what our brain does. It’s not our fault. Brains will be brains… But we can train our brains to criticize in a more constructive fashion while taking responsibility for our actions.
But first we need to notice our inner critic.
So here’s the ‘how to’:
Mindfully check in with your self talk. Especially perhaps after an incident that you are not so proud of. (Yelling at my son is an incident for instance that brings up a lot of stuff for me). Are you putting yourself down? Are you telling yourself the truth?
Ask yourself: How would your friend speak about you? Or even better, as a parent, how would your ‘inner parent’ speak to you if you were a child?
But here’s the clincher. You need to change the TONE of how you speak. The emotional tone. Even if you generate alternative thoughts, if the voice isn’t kind, it doesn’t really help. The tone is as important as the actual words.
A small practical exercise to improve your tone…
Slow the breath and soothe the body. Try to elongate the breath. On the outbreath practice saying hello to yourself. Practice what happens when you create different voice tones. The voice tone is really key to how the thoughts land in your emotional brain. When you use a harsh tone, do you feel more tense? When you soften the tone, do you ‘melt’ into the feeling and perhaps feel more forgiving towards yourself?
Compassion needs to be there in times of difficulty to remind us of our true intent. It is essential for allowing us to deal with the not so great side of our personality. Self-compassion and soft voice tones are not designed to let you off the hook for crappy moments, but taking the rage, contempt and anger out of the critic that speaks to us in desperate times, helps us take responsibility for the episode while trying to be better the next time.
Brains are like gardens, they WILL grow, but we need to cultivate them.
How about you? Can you check in with the tone of your self-talk more often than usual?