People who are chronically self-critical often become numb to the effects of their self-criticism.
Through closely attending to the emotional reaction to self-criticism, people can begin to feel the real impact of this way of relating to oneself. Doing chair work where the critical side is enacted can sometimes begin to elicit the emotional reactions of shame, hurt, helplessness, or sadness that are created by a harsh way of being with oneself. At this stage it's often useful to support the client in developing a sense for the harm being created by self-criticism. This handout I created (adapted from emotion-focused therapy) can help clients to explore this in their daily life. It guides them to pause, feel, and explore the impact of self-criticism as it occurs in their life.
This exercise is most appropriate to use when the client begins to recognize their own critical voice, but needs help contacting the impact of the self-criticism. The handout itself contains additional instructions to both therapist and client.
This exercise targets several ACT processes:
Willingness/acceptance to feel the impact of self-criticism
Present moment awareness of self-criticism and associated feelings
Values identification - "What does this feeling tell you about what you need or what is important to you?
If you use this, I'd love to hear how it goes.
You can access the handout mentioned in this post along with other homework exercises here.
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