Self Hatred: Stuck in a Story
What’s your story line? What do you tell yourself about yourself? That’s the story I’m talking about. It’s our narrative.
It’s our Self Talk, the ongoing commentary we’ve grown to believe, and automatically trip into when we get triggered.
CBT = Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The track runs in both directions.
This diagram shows how our thought patterns (actual neuropathways in our brains) cause a chain (train) reaction. We think, for example, “I look Stupid.” We feel judged, anxious, even angry. The thought and the resulting feeling then cause us to behave in a certain way. Or rather, REACT in an automatic chain reaction Some of us react by self mediating with food, alcohol, pot, porn, gambling, or excessive exercise. You name your drug of choice. Others just pretend it ain’t happening, and go into an automatic avoidance pattern. These thought patterns are embedded in our neural circuitry.
Thus, automatic REACTions.
Many of us have been telling ourselves these stories since we were little kids. As we develop our sense of selves, we internalize messages. Our parents, teachers, coaches, and other significant people in our lives ( the Family in the Head) model behaviors, or say things we, as young children and teens, take to heart. This is not a BLAME GAME. It’s just reality. Our past informs our present. And, the stories about ourselves become who we are. Some are good and some are not so healthy.
Take for example the young boy who’s constantly told, ” you are a bad boy. Go to the office. Go to your room. You are too slow, too fast, too this, too that…..” Over time, that boy decides he’s a bad boy. If he hasn’t figured out, or been validated to be a good boy and get attention and love that way, he might decide, “well, I guess I am a bad boy. I might as well go for it.” Any attention is better than no attention, right? A simplified example, but I hope it’s useful for you to contemplate your story lines.
Many of us developed what’s called a FALSE SELF. We think we aren’t OK the way we are, so we start acting and making chooses based on what we think our most important caregivers want. We seek after approval, love and attention, and create a self that will ensure a steady diet of love and affection. Make sense? Dr. Riggio coins it in his Psychology Today blog, being like a Chameleon. We change based on who we are with and what they think and feel.
These patterns often work well for us as children. We have a family of origin dance we’re familiar with. The tough part is the same dance (patterns of relating to others based on what we believe about ourselves, our stories) often doesn’t serve us well when we move into adulthood, and start dancing the same relational dance with others who didn’t learn the same dance as us!! Yikes!
This is so depressing! I am going to just tell myself the same familiar stories and move on with my day. Well, if we are happy, functional, and your relationships are working, keep on keeping on.
If, on the other hand, you are not content with your life and your relationships, and you’re not functioning as your best and TRUE self, it’s time to change-up your Self Talk. You can learn how to respond instead of react. Albert Einstein said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” And, once you start choosing what you think about, you will feel differently, and respond rather than react in an automatic pattern.
Today’s TIPS FROM THE TRAIL:
- First, we have to become aware of those automatic thoughts. Listen to your SELF Talk. What are you telling yourself? How do you speak to yourself?
- Once you recognize the less than honorable thought patterns, notice how you feel inside. Where in your body do you feel the anxiety, fear, anger? See if you can differentiate your thoughts from your feelings.
- The hard part for many of us is doing it in a kind way! Our self talk is often self-deprecating. ” You idiot. You did it again!” See if you can just notice, “there I go again. Wow, I didn’t know I told myself how stupid I was so often.”
- Challenge your Self Talk – use the tool STOPP you learned in a previous post.
- Stop and Slow it done.
- Take a deep breath – in for 4 and out for 4.
- Observe what you are thinking about and what it feels like. Where are you feeling it in your body. Connect with your body. Many of us never do this. It’s how we are going to learn to UN- couple thoughts from feelings.
- Pull Back. Get a panoramic view of what you’re thinking about. Can you see it from another perspective? Do you have all the facts? Is what you are thinking even true? Challenge any errors in your thought process
- Practice. Practice and practice. We have to derail those negative thought tracks and replace them with more functional tracks.
Let me know if this makes sense to you. Thanks in advance for your feedback.
Until next time, happy trails to you and yours, Allison