For those of us, like myself, with a history of harsh self-criticism, it may seem like the last thing in the world we need to do is cultivate self-doubt! We often feel like we’re doubting ourselves constantly, for example, when we second guess or criticize ourselves.
Paradoxically, this tendency toward self-criticism can actually result in us being closed minded with others, because it makes receiving feedback from them even more painful than it might otherwise be. In order to protect ourselves from the pain of receiving feedback, we develop ways to avoid or block it. For me personally, I have noticed several ways I avoid or block feedback. I may not ask for feedback when it might be a helpful, for example, at the end of a therapy session that I felt unsure about, or at the end of a staff meeting. Or, I may present my opinions as facts, making it hard for others to disagree. I may come across as certain and confident when feeling anything but. I may shut down or pout after receiving feedback, making it less likely the person will want to do it again. I may come across as fragile and uncertain in the face of feedback, implying that it’s too much for me. All of these behaviors serve to (usually unintentionally) block feedback from the people in my life.Read more
Does too much self-compassion make a person lazy and self-indulgent? It seems sensible that self-compassion could help a person feel better, but couldn’t it also lead a person to, say, binge on Netflix and eat ice cream all day?Read more
It’s often painful to get feedback from other people, and even harder to know what to do with it when we do get it. It can feel like an attack on our person, and it can be hard to identify whether there is something in the feedback that we can actually change.Read more
A mentor of mind, Kelly Wilson, said the following years ago about himself and it’s always stuck with me.
The levels of self-deception are endless.
There are certain phrases that stick with you because they resonate deeply. I’ve had so many times in my life where I thought I knew the answer and yet my knowing had blinded me to what I needed to learn.
However, as a person who’s been highly self-critical much of my life, I have often found it difficult to reflect on myself. Reflecting on myself brings evaluation and judgment.Read more
Certain therapies, such as Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) and the work we do at ACT With Compassion, are based upon the idea that shame plays a role in the maintenance of a variety of mental health struggles, including disordered eating. Yet, the evidence-base for how shame and self-compassion affect therapy and remission over time is more limited and sometimes contradictory.Read more
August 2017 Tool of the Month: Adaptive Disclosure for Moral Injury – A New Treatment that Uses Exposure and Perspective Taking to Address Problematic Social Emotions such as Shame
In talking with colleagues working within the Veterans Administration in the US, I’ve noticed that the topic of moral injury is receiving a lot of attention as of late. For those of us interested in helping people with deep-seated shame, the literature around moral injury is important because it deals with a context in which chronic and extreme shame often arise. A moral injury happens when a person perceives themselves as having violated closely held beliefs or moral codes. Shame, humiliation, and other social emotions are central to this experience of moral injury and need to be targeted in any intervention. One of the best researched treatments for moral injury is something called Adaptive Disclosure, and a new book by Litz and colleagues called “Adaptive Disclosure: A New Treatment for Military Trauma, Loss, and Moral Injury” provides an excellent overview on the treatment.Read more
Unfortunately, there often seems to be a wide chasm between what happens in the research lab and what happens on the front lines of clinical work. On the one hand, researchers need to listen to clinicians and learn about their direct experiences with clients. On the other hand, clinicians can benefit from hearing about clinically relevant research. We hope these posts reviewing recent research can help improve your practice with highly shame prone and self-critical clients.Read more
Like many people, public speaking has been a struggle for me. When I first started out, I wasn’t simply anxious about public speaking, I was really bad at it. And I have the evidence to prove it. After the first psychology course I ever taught in graduate school, I was told that I had the worst evaluations in the history of the program. The problems continued in my role as a psychologist when I started giving workshops. I would bore the audience, criticize people, and be confusing. It was excruciating. I knew I was bad, but I did know how to be better. I kept trying, but I felt like I was failing again and again and again. The hours, and often days, after workshops would be filled with shame and self-loathing. As I think back on that younger me who went through that, I feel sadness for how much pain he endured. That younger me didn’t know any better at the time and was only doing his best.Read more
Four Emotion Systems: Flexibility is key!
In our work with clients who tend to be highly self-critical and shame-prone, one of the first things we seek to do is to create a deblaming platform for understanding how the person has come to operate the way they do in the world. It’s important that client (and therapist alike!) understand that even though certain behaviors or tendencies might be contributing to someone’s suffering now, these things likely evolved for very understandable and important reasons.Read more
In this month’s post, we’ll turn the spotlight onto a paper that recently came out of our own center. A special thanks to all of the clients who, by choosing to come to our center, support our scientific research, and to all of the participants who donated their time to this project – our research wouldn’t be possible without people like you!Read more