2015 – it’s time to ditch your “inner critic”

 

 

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Have you got an inner critic that keeps putting you down? That little voice that undermines you at every opportunity?

Self-critical thoughts, or, for want of a more apt description, “stinking thinking” has the potential to undermine all good feelings, lower self-esteem and chip away at self-worth. This inner critic can get in the way of close relationships and achieving life goals. Negative self-evaluations such as, “I’m not as good as others,” or “I couldn’t possibly do that,” very often limit the things we try, because we do not feel good enough and expect to fail. In my work as a therapist I see many people with deep insecurity stemming from childhood, perhaps, driven to overcompensate with a need to succeed in order to placate the inner critic. The voice that constantly tells them they are not good enough or need to do better.drives them to strive for perfectionism, an impossible task which will ultimately see them fail. In so doing, reinforcing the belief that they are not quite up to it or should try harder.Many are deeply unhappy, knowing that life could be so much better if only they could cast this critical inner voice aside.

The roots of self-criticism very often go back to childhood, perhaps we were subjected to a critical parent or overly harsh teacher, maybe we were told we were not good enough or had strong moral or religious teaching that shaped our outlook. Wherever the seeds were sown, you can bet that self -critical thoughts surface when you don’t want them, probably when you are feeling vulnerable, low in mood or insecure.

So how can you overcome self-critical thinking? Well, it won’t happen overnight, firstly you need to be more compassionate towards yourself, more accepting. Then with a detached non-judgemental stance begin to listen for themes and identify the messages. Ask yourself, “Who do these voices or statements remind me of?” Respond and quietly challenge, for example saying, “Its OK to make mistakes, that’s how people learn.” Resist all temptation to chastise yourself, don’t say things like, “Don’t be stupid.” Try to understand how such messages shape your behaviour and then try to change self-limiting behaviours. Learn to ignore the negative inner voice, just let it chatter away as if it was an advert on a radio station in between songs, just let it go.

Most psychotherapists can help with self-criticism and low self-esteem. Contact the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies – babcp.com for details of CBT practitioners in your area or you can contact us on – stevecliffordcbt.com

Here are ten tips to help you to overcome self-criticism:

  1. Never, never, put yourself down. Instead talk to yourself with compassion as you would to a child.
  2. Ask yourself, “Have I had similar thoughts before? What happened then? Is there anything different this time? What can I learn from previous occasions?”
  3. Try to focus on your strengths not your shortcomings.
  4. Build your self-esteem and worth by reading books on positive thinking daily.
  5. Don’t mock yourself, don’t ever call yourself “stupid” or similar again. Mocking this way will erode your self-esteem and worth.
  6. Look for evidence that disproves your thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is there an alternative explanation. Are there facts that I am overlooking?”
  7. Ask yourself, “If my best friend had this thought what would they do?”
  8. Forgive yourself, you are human after all. Being human means that you will make mistakes. Celebrate your the fact that you are human and embrace your mistakes for mistakes are part of the human condition and it is only through them that we learn.
  9. Free yourself from “should’s, musts and ought’s,” replace them with “could, might and maybe.”
  10. When you hear that critical inner voice, say to yourself, “There is that voice again, I don’t have to listen to you, you are the voice of yesterday, not today.”

Until next time, Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

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Thought-Flipping

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All day long our minds are filled with constant chitter chatter. Most of it benign, some of it worry-some, and some of it down right troublesome.

Research suggests we have somewhere in the region of 65,000 thoughts every day and that on average our mental dialogue is in the region of 50 to 300 words per minute.

Much of this is self-talk, inwardly directed and a good deal of it is unhelpful. Because of the way it makes us feel, it is capable of raising our stress levels and bringing down our mood. In CBT circles we talk of NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts) or ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts).

Such thoughts are:

AUTOMATIC              They just seem to come into your mind without any concious effort.

DISTORTED               They are not always supported by the things you know to be true.

UNHELPFUL             They are nearly always negative and make it difficult to change.

PLAUSIBLE               You accept them as facts without questioning them.

INVOLUNTARY         You do not choose to have them and they appear difficult to stop.

One of the problems is that we tend to be so identified with our thoughts that we often cannot see them for what they are…just thoughts. Instead, somehow we see them as us, and we feel we have no power over them. Often we give them power, believing them and that we are somehow at the mercy of them. Racing thoughts, obsessive ruminations and irrational fears take over.

How then can we learn to step back and take control? Well, let me introduce you to “thought flipping.”

I would like you to imagine that you are now going to install a “negative thought alarm.” As soon as a negative thought crosses your mind a silent alarm sounds. You then step in with absolute authority, grab hold of the thought and flip it on its head, by thinking the exact opposite.

Yes, expect a little battle at first, when your rational programmed mind tells you that such a practice is ridiculous and could not possibly be true. But like the Master you are, you use your authority and power to respond back in a direct and commanding way. The mind is reminded that it’s former thought was, at the very least, as lousy and ridiculous as the new flipped one. As you are the Master you will choose what is true.

Here is an example of thought flipping where we rewrite the negative mental script.
You find your mood dipping and you notice you are feeling angry with yourself. Your thoughts are as follows: “I am useless and have no sticking power, I missed an entire week at the gym.” By flipping the thought we create a different perspective and this can halt the negative mood slide. “I have been kind and listened
to my body and taken a break from the gym, so I am going to have a really good workout today, because I am truly committed to my goal of feeling good and honouring my mind and body.”

What you need to do is change the wording, in other words rewrite them. Which one do you want to be true? You choose?

It can be really helpful at first to get into the habit of writing down any serial negative thoughts that continue to pop into your mind. Do this when you notice the drain on your emotions and you start to feel down, depressed or anxious:

Write down your thoughts on paper and take a good look at it.

Do you know this thought is a fact, is it true?

Is this a helpful thought, does it serve you?

Write down a counter thought that opposes the negative thought

Change the wording of the thought to something more positive

Now each time the negative thought wants to dominate your thinking, assertively replace it with the new positive alternative.

So here we have it, thought flipping, tackling negative thoughts by re-creating positive alternatives with deliberate intent. Planting positive thoughts this way ensures that we take back control and create the reality we want.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.

 

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

 

Adapted from: “Thought-Flipping: A guide for Taking Charge of Your Mind-Stuff,” by Leigh Donovan, 30/06/12, Spirit-full, a personal transformational blog.

Ref: “Negative Automatic Thoughts,”  Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS TRust, Clinical Psychology, 2002

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Eleven tips to boost self-esteem.

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Low self-esteem can really affect your emotional well-being and it can underpin some common mental health problems and lead to poor self-confidence and shyness.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the way that you think about yourself. If your self-esteem is low, the thoughts you have about yourself are likely to be negative and you are likely to focus on what you think are your weaknesses.

As a therapist I see many people with low-self esteem and this can often be at the root of problems such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety and phobias. While shyness and insecurity is often at the heart of low self-esteem, childhood factors such as bullying, abuse or neglect often leave the individual feeling less than good about themselves.

Having low self-esteem can affect a very area of life including work, personal relationships and your ability to socialise. Tackling low self-esteem and boosting positive thinking can really improve your sense of wellbeing and your mental health.

Here are some useful tips to help you boost your self-esteem.

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. You will nearly always home in on their strengths and that will make you feel worse about yourself.

2. Stop putting yourself down. Avoid self-deprecating comments such as, “you silly fool” or “your useless.” Every time you say something like this it erodes your self-esteem.

3. Listen out for compliments, learn to accept them and say “thank you.”

4. Find an affirmation, a statement such as, “I am confident and competent,” write it down and read it every day.

5. Read everything you can about self-esteem, devour books, blogs, websites, attend workshops and really make improving your self-esteem your mission in life.

6. Avoid people who are negative and put you down, instead mix with people who are positive, confident and supportive. Their positive self-esteem will rub off on you.

7. What do you like about yourself, however small. What qualities do you possess, for example, kindness, friendly, reliable, etc. note these down even if less than 100% perfect.

8. Make a list of your past successes, however small, like learning to ride a bicycle or play a musical instrument. Write these down.

9. What do other people value or compliment you on. Note these down too.

10. Try to do more of the things you love, rather than the things you think you ought to do.

11. Finally, be true to yourself. Respect yourself, live your life, not a life dictated to you by others.

Begin to make these positive changes today – Good luck.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.

 

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

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Massage and Emotional Wellbeing

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When we are physically well and our body is in good shape the impact of the stress upon us will be far less than it would if we were unfit.  With a well-tuned body we are better able to handle the demands of life, express ourselves and project our personality and needs.  Indeed, it could be said that the body is a barometer, measuring the degree to which we are functioning effectively.  When we are unfit this not only makes it more difficult to cope with the many pressures upon us, but it also adds to the levels of stress we experience.

When we hold onto external stress, whether physical or psychological, it is manifested as “tension” in the body.  Its impact upon us may be imperceptible.  We may not even be aware that we are holding on to stress at all.  Sometimes, the first sign that indicates an accumulation of internalised stress is a noticeable increase in clumsiness and poor           co-ordination.  At a more subtle level, rigidity is present and the free flow of movement is inhibited.  Energy levels, too, may be noticeably impeded, as we may feel lethargic (slowed) or agitated (hyper-arousal).

If we are unable to release the build up of internalised tension this can result in headaches, tightness (often neck and shoulders), aches and pains (commonly stomach or lower back), the immune system can become deficient and we are more susceptible to colds and illness.  Likewise, even symptoms such as dry hair, skin rashes and poor sleep patterns frequently result from internalised stress and tension.

Stress is such a common feature of everyday life as to be regarded as “normal” and while this is true to some extent, stress levels are definitely up and the demands on us now are far greater than ever before in human history.  Most of us can adapt to moderate levels of stress, particularly short-term, but so often though, the result is ill-health.  Anything from colds and flu, to Angina, heart attack, conditions like depression, even cancer, has been linked to stress.

Underpinning the symptoms of stress can be unresolved trauma, or sudden shock, and similarly there may have been a build up or accumulation of stress over a long period.  Stress can arise as the result of internalised emotion such as anger, guilt or worry.  Whatever the cause, the important thing to do is to listen to the body and identify causative factors and then work to release the excess stress which gives rise to muscular tension.  The body can then begin to return to a more harmonious and balanced state.

Touch is something which is often absent from many peoples lives and it can be very healing. We actively need to be touched for our emotional health. This need is more than   simply a desire. It is a physiological necessity that, if unsatisfied can have profound            psychological effects. Research has shown that even a 30 minute neck and back massage can reduce depression. It can lower levels of stress related hormones and make people more alert, less restless and able to enjoy deeper, more  restful sleep.

The mode of body therapy that I practise is known as pulsing. In my opinion it is particularly well suited to promoting emotional well-being.  It is a very effective and gentle mode of bodywork with its emphasis on listening to the body and working directly with the natural rhythms and movement; assisting the free flow of energy and working to restore the natural resting state which occurs when the body is at ease.  Pulsing utilises gentle, rhythmic rocking movements to facilitate the release of stress, either on the physical, psychological or emotional level.  Amid continual rhythmic rocking the client is transported to a place of blissful peace and tranquillity, reminiscent, perhaps, of the womb or being rocked in a parent’s arms.  The ebb and flow of the breath is mirrored in purposeful movements, sometimes subtle and barely perceptible, other times lively and bold.  With no strain whatsoever, the body is moved gently through natural pathways, promoting mobility and encouraging relaxation and openness.  The wave-like movements bring about very deep relaxation as muscular tension is eased.

Clients learn how to recognise physical tension and how to let it go.  Often in so doing, emotional pain will be released and equilibrium will be restored along with a deepened sense of vitality and peace.  At the hands of an experienced practitioner, the gentle rhythmic movement can leave you feeling like you are dancing on a cushion or air.  As you learn to let go of bodily stress you will be better prepared to move forward and face life’s challenges.

For more information or to book a taster session please contact us.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve.

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com

Steve Clifford, Psychotherapist and body worker.

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com

Ask us your mental health questions anytime @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Tweet us @ cbt4you

References:

Alexander J. (2001) Mind, Body ,Spirit, Carlton Books, London.

Kirsta A. (1987) The book of stress survival,  Gaia Books Ltd, London.

Remember the Positives – Beat #Depression

50Tips

Tip 6 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s very easy when you are feeling down to lose sight of the positives.  One facet of depression is the way the depressed outlook shapes thinking.  The depressed person tends to ruminate on the negative things people say, and hears only critical comments. This is called “filtering out” and is a particular type of unhelpful thinking trait that often goes hand in hand with depression.  Instead of noticing things in a balanced way, we only notice things that “fit” our negative mind-set and we dismiss the positives. This in turn serves to reinforce low self-esteem and a negative outlook.

One way to turn this around is to create a positive book (see tip 25).  Buy a small exercise book, and if you are creative, cover it with a bright paper cover or positive images from magazines.  Use this book to jot down positive things that happen, positive things people say and positive things that you have achieved during the day.  Slowly you will begin to notice more and more positives as you learn to hear them and not dismiss them from your radar.

Consultant Psychologist Rick Norris, in his excellent book, “The Promised Land,” recommends compiling a list of 20 positive memories.  He acknowledges that this can be somewhat overwhelming, as depressed people get out of the habit of playing memories that make them happy, because their mental filter tends to screen these out of their conscious mind.  He suggests recalling three positive memories each day for a week. He tells us the benefit of doing this exercise last thing at night is because it can be a pleasant way to drop off to sleep and also that we tend to be more in tune with our sub-conscious mind during sleep, perhaps  leading to sweeter dreams!

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                                                                               Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you

Make a Comfort Box – Beat #Depression

50Tips 

Tip 3 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s often hard to remember the good things in life when you are feeling low in mood.  At such times happiness and positive memories can seem far away.  Stimulating positive memories and associations can be invaluable in helping to keep us grounded in the real world and help lift the spirit.  Creating a “capsule” containing mementoes from the past can help to evoke feelings of comfort, warmth and personal security during difficult times.

A shoebox, biscuit tin or similar can be used to house objects to inspire hope.  I have a comfort box and mine includes a variety of objects: photographs and even “thank you cards” which I can use as “evidence” to support my being a worthwhile person.  I recommend any of the following:

CD, LP, MP3 of favourite music, chill-out, relaxation, etc.

DVD of favourite film with uplifting, or feel good theme, etc.

Photograph of a loved one or of something or somewhere of importance

Memento of a holiday, postcard, seashell, souvenir, foreign money, flight ticket stubs, booklet or programme from places visited

A note, card or letter from a loved one or write a letter to yourself when feeling well, offering encouragement and re-assurance that you will come through this difficult time

A favourite poem, statement, prayer or article that inspires hope

A favourite book, magazine or colourful picture

A favourite object, i.e. a small stone, crystal, lucky charm or something that is tactile

A sketchpad with crayons or watercolour paints

Aromatic oils for massage, scented candles, bath bombs or bath oils/salts

Herbal teas such as Chamomile, known for its calming properties

Favourite item of clothing, warm jumper or a blanket

A hot water bottle

Vouchers for a massage or beauty treatment

A list of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses of family or friends to whom you can turn for support (try to look for support from more than one person).

A list of national help lines e.g. Samaritans, Sane, MIND, etc. .

Any object associated with feeling happy and well.

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                                                                                Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime at: www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you

It’s good to talk

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Sometimes life can seem very overwhelming,  especially if you’re suffering with a mental health problem. For years I have suffered with anxiety and depression. It has affected every aspect of my life from my relationships with partners, friends and family, to my work and even my physical health. My chronic low self esteem has led me to walk with my head down for so many years that my neck and back have slowly deformed and I now have a small hunch. It’s just one more thing to hate about myself, and another reason why I felt I couldn’t live anymore, why I felt I didn’t deserve life.
When I planned my suicide the first time I was at an all time low, but strangely I didn’t recognise that. I felt calm and in control. I made meticulous plans and took my time stockpiling prescription and over the counter drugs. I cheerfully strolled into the supermarket and purchased alcohol. The checkout girl could be forgiven for thinking I was having a party, because in my head I was. I was finally going to be free of all the agonising feelings, the torturous thoughts and the confused state my mind was in. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks and had all my affairs in order. I went home, made sure I left the door unlocked, fed my cat, put on my favourite album and poured myself a large glass.
When I woke up in hospital initially I was devastated, how could it have gone wrong? But as I looked around at the tear stained worried faces I began to realise that maybe people did care about me. Maybe their lack of warmth and comfort towards me was really lack of knowledge and understanding. The question I was continually asked was “why didn’t you tell us that you felt so bad?” Well I thought it was obvious! But apparently it’s not obvious.
When you suffer from depression for a long time you can get very good at keeping your brave face on in public and the inner turmoil you’re feeling may not show on the outside. It’s only once you express that turmoil that people can begin to understand and maybe even help.
Unfortunately this revelation was not the end of my depression and I did wake up in hospital on another 3 occasions. However it did start my journey onto talking, writing and expressing the pent up feelings I had inside of me, which helped other people understand more. I am still suffering with my mental health but I am on the road to recovery. Letting the thoughts and feelings out rather than keeping them hidden in my head has taken the weight off and I feel a little freer of my illness every day.

Thank you anonymous

With all good wishes

Steve

Please email your submission posts to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime at: www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                        Tweet us @ cbt4you

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