I’d like to share with you something I’ve been practicing lately. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), as some of you may know, teaches us that we can practice challenging our negative thinking—including negative self-judgments—by pointing out to ourselves the irrationalities, over-generalizations, and incorrect assumptions in our minds that are creating and perpetuating the toxic negative thinking. Sometimes that approach works just fine. But in enough instances, I find it doesn’t work so well. For example, suppose you are mired in self-critical judgments like “I’m pretty stupid!” or “I’m fat and ugly!” or “I’m so undeserving of being loved!” These, what I call “inner bully,” harsh self-judgments can be pretty darn impenetrable to internal cognitive challenging, like what is practiced in CBT.
So, let me suggest an alternative strategy to getting control over negative self-judgments like these. The strategy involves switching the focus in your mind off of the distressing negative self-judgment you are caught up in, and onto what you are FEELING at that moment. I think it’s safe to say there are certain feelings that almost always create highly self-critical judgment—feelings like: sadness, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, hurt, or irritation.
The point is: what I’ve been preaching—and practicing—is mindfully shifting a negative self-judgment into one of those honest feelings. For example, suppose your inner bully has you saying to yourself something like “Jeez, you really are pretty stupid sometimes!” What you practice doing at those moments is switching immediately to telling yourself what you are really feeling, e.g., “I’m feeling sad right now” or “I’m feeling disappointed right now”—or anxious, or hurt, or pissed off, or jealous, or whatever. By doing this, you are replacing toxic negative self-judgment with a totally NON-judgmental, totally human feeling, one that exists in your emotional core because it belongs there at the moment.
Try it—and just see if like me, you feel like you are giving yourself a golden opportunity to bypass going cognitive with your negative self-judging; and instead, to cut right to non-judgmental honest feeling!