Bringing Compassion to your Self-Critic - Script

So now that we’ve explored more about the self-critic – its functions, and also what its image looks like

Once we’ve done this, it’s useful to then think about how we can bring compassion to engage in the self-critic

Before engaging in this exercise it’s worthwhile having already become familiar with your compassionate self. You can do this here and here. A little like if you were going to run a marathon, it would be helpful to have done the appropriate amount of running and training beforehand, it’s similar when engaging the critic – because this part is linked to the threat system and can be very powerful, we want to have the right resources to work with it

Engaging the Critic with your Compassionate Self

Using our compassionate self to work with self-criticism

In this exercise you’re going to see how by using your compassionate self, you can begin to engage and work with your self-critic.

 

To start with, find a place to sit in an upright but comfortable position. Bring your awareness in to the here-and-now, connecting with your soothing breathing rhythm and friendly facial expression. Allow your breathing rhythm to slow down a little, with a sense of groundedness and stability in the body as you breathe out. (60 seconds)

 

Now, take some time to bring to mind the qualities of your compassionate self – wisdom, strength and commitment. (30 seconds). Like an actor stepping in to a role, see if you can step into the shoes of your compassionate self (15 secs). See if you can imagine what your compassionate facial expression, voice tone and body posture would be like, as this compassionate version of yourself (15 secs).

 

When you feel connected with this part of you, imagine that you can see the image of your self-critic in front of you – the image that you developed in the previous session (15 secs). Find a distance between your compassionate self and the self-critic that feels ok to you.

 

Now, let’s focus on how the qualities of your compassionate self will help you to work with your self critic.

 

 

Strength, confidence and groundedness – in the presence of our self-critics, we can sometimes feel on edge, anxious or overwhelmed. To help with this, take a moment to focus on the strength and groundedness of your compassionate self. (10 secs) Notice your upright confident body posture in the chair, and your soothing breathing rhythm, and how these help your compassionate self tolerate distress (15 secs). Like a tree with deep roots, or a mountain, imagine that your compassionate self can remain solid and stable in the presence of your self-critic (15 secs).

 

Wisdom and understanding – once you feel able to be in the presence of your self-critic, it’s helpful to focus on seeing if you can bring your wisdom and understanding towards it. When you look at your self-critic, what can you understand about it? What is it trying to do for you? Can you see what concerns or fears that sit behind it, that makes it respond in the critical way it does to try and protect you? (20 secs). Sometimes when we look behind it, we can see that the critic is actually feeling quite threatened or afraid of something else. If you notice this, see what it’s like to validate this concern, and even direct empathy and compassion to the critic for this (20 secs). Notice how the critic reacts as you do this.

 

Caring-motivation – holding on to the desire your compassionate self has to be caring and supportive, how might you communicate this to your self-critic? (20 seconds). What would you say? (10 secs). Hold on to your friendly voice tone as you imagine speaking to your self-critic. (10 seconds). As your compassionate self, what would you like to for your self-critic? Given your understanding about what sits behind it, try to focus the desire that your compassionate self has for this to cease. Focus on your with that:

the critic would no longer be so concerned about these fears

that it would no longer be distressed

that it could find peace.

 

Is there a way your compassionate self could help the critic with its concerns?

 

As you hold your compassionate focus towards the critic, you may become aware of how hard it’s been for the critic over the years, trying to prevent bad things from happening in your life. You may feel a sense of compassion towards it, for how hard it’s been trying to work for you, for how tired it is, even if it has been causing you distress in the way it’s been going about it’s job. (30 secs)

 

If you feel you’re getting overwhelmed or anxious in trying to work with the critic this way, or feel yourself getting angry and aggressive with it, this is likely to be a sign that you’re moving more in to your threat system. If this is the case, try to ground yourself again in your upright, confident body posture in the chair (5 secs) – your soothing breathing and slowing down in the body with the out breath (5 secs) – and the sense of groundedness of your compassionate self. Try to refocus on your intention to be supportive and helpful, and in particular, remember that the self-critic is doing what it does to protect you, even if the way it does this is unpleasant, painful or full of threat.

 

When you feel ready, begin to allow this imagery to fade from your mind. Tune back in to your upright, confident body posture ( 5 secs), soothing rhythm breathing (5 secs) and friendly facial expression (5 secs). When you feel ready, open your eyes and finish the exercise.

Engaging the Critic with your Compassionate Other

To start with, find a place to sit in an upright but comfortable position. Bring your awareness in to the here-and-now, connecting with your soothing breathing rhythm and friendly facial expression. Allow your breathing rhythm to slow down a little, with a sense of groundedness and stability in the body as you breathe out. (60 seconds)

 

Now, take some time to bring to mind the image of your compassionate other that you developed in session * – that person, being, animal or piece of nature that is wise, strong and committed to be caring to you. (30 seconds). Allow the image to emerge in front of you (10 secs). Notice its friendly facial expression and compassionate voice tone. (15 secs).  Take some time to tune in to its caring intention for you, its desire to be helpful and supportive of you. (15 secs). Now rather than it being directly in front of you, imagine that instead its next to you, shoulder to shoulder, or even with an arm around your shoulder (20 secs).

 

Now, connected to your compassionate other, let’s imagine that you can share in its qualities. Let’s take these one at a time.

 

Wisdom:

Your compassionate other is wise – it understands that we have tricky brains, and have been shaped by things in life that we often didn’t choose. (15 secs). It understands that whilst self-critics can often leave us feeling distressed, they often have concerns they are trying to protect us from.  (15 secs).

 

Strength:

Like a tree with deep roots, or a mountain, your compassionate other is gounded, strong and solid. It can be in the prescence of your self critic and tolerate any distress that emerges. (15 secs). Imagine that you are drawing strength from standing alongside your compassionate other – that you’re sharing in it’s confidence and stability.

 

Caring:

Your compassionate other has a deep desire to care for you – it wants the best for you, and also wants to support your self-critic so that it doesn’t have to get caught up in the cycle of hostility and frustration that it does any more. (20 secs). Imagine that you can share this caring motivation of yoru compassionate other, that together you might be able to bring a wise, strong compassion towards your self-critic (15 secs).

 

Now, standing alongside your compassionate other, sharing in it’s qualities, imagine now that you can see the image of your self-critic in front of you. (10 secs). Along with your compassionat other, being to see what it’s like to direct compassion towards this image of your self critic. (15 secons)

 

When you look at your self-critic, what can you understand about it? What is it trying to do for you? Can you see what concerns or fears that sit behind it, that makes it respond in the critical way it does to try and protect you? (20 secs). Sometimes when we look behind it, we can see that the critic is actually feeling quite threatened or afraid of something else. If you notice this, see what it’s like to validate this concern, and even direct empathy and compassion to the critic for this (20 secs). Notice how the critic reacts as you do this.

 

How might you and your compassionate other communicate your care and compassion to your self-critic? (20 seconds). What would you say? (10 secs). Hold on to your friendly voice tone as you imagine speaking to your self-critic. (10 seconds). Given your understanding about what sits behind it, try to focus on how you and your compassionate other have a desire for these fears or concerns to cease. Focus on your with that:

the critic would no longer be so concerned about these fears

that it would no longer be distressed

that it could find peace.

 

Is there a way that you and your compassionate other could help the critic with its concerns?

 

As you hold your compassionate focus towards the critic, you may become aware of how hard it’s been for the critic over the years, trying to prevent bad things from happening in your life. You may feel a sense of compassion towards it, for how hard it’s been trying to work for you, for how tired it is, even if it has been causing you distress in the way it’s been going about it’s job. (30 secs)

 

If you feel you’re getting overwhelmed or anxious in trying to work with the critic this way, or feel yourself getting angry and aggressive with it, this is likely to be a sign that you’re moving more in to your threat system. If this is the case, try to ground yourself again in your upright, confident body posture in the chair (5 secs) – your soothing breathing and slowing down in the body with the out breath (5 secs). Tune back in to your compassionate other – it’s wisdom, it’s strength, it’s commitment – and re-imagine standing shoulder to shoulder with it, gaining it’s support and sharing in it’s compassionate qualities.  Remember that the self-critic is doing what it does to protect you, even if the way it does this is unpleasant, painful or full of threat.

 

When you feel ready, begin to allow this imagery to fade from your mind. Tune back in to your upright, confident body posture ( 5 secs), soothing rhythm breathing (5 secs) and friendly facial expression (5 secs). When you feel ready, open your eyes and finish the exercise.