We all have moments where we beat ourselves up. We make mistakes and do or say things we shouldn’t have done or didn’t really want to do. This can lead us to be hard on ourselves, to be judgmental internally. We say things like “I am a terrible person” or “I can’t believe I did that again!” Such internal conversations come from a lifetime of ideals and values that we have for ourselves, either ones we develop or that others instilled into us early on. Self-flagellation creates a negativity within us that is stressful, and under duress stress hormones wreak havoc with our bodies and minds. If you take the time to catalog and reflect on the self-abuse that is present from day-to-day, you can begin to work on it. What you don’t notice persists unconsciously. What we need to be able to do is to spot these trouble areas and stop the stress; this is within our control.
Self-abuse has a value however, to let us know that we aren’t acting in accordance to how we think we should or want to act. If you are a parent you know this well. Not many parents would say “I love yelling at my kid”. It may be safe to say that most parents have a value or ideal that they want to be a kind, compassionate and supportive parent, and yelling doesn’t really fit this picture. But, parenting can produce negative feelings that lead us to yell. It may be safe to say too that when you yell, the aftermath of that has you feeling like crap about yourself and beating yourself up to some degree. Yelling is an action we take to try to control our environment, sometimes which leads to the illusion of success. Maybe the child listens, but more out of fear than respect. And does anyone want their child to be scared of them? Not likely. So this cycle of negative trigger, negative action and negative self-abuse can be brought out into the daylight by putting awareness to it. And as we become aware of this energy inside of us, let us not beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up!
Here’s What we need to do. As you feel a negative trigger/feeling from something that has happened that isn’t ideal, say missing a deadline at work, see if you can calm your negative emotion down by breathing deeply into your belly. Just calm yourself down sufficiently so you can think about how to proceed. You could beat yourself up and follow that route of energy drainage, or you can think about what action might support a positive feeling and outcome. In the missed deadline example learning what happened to enact the breech could be a positive action, that is chalk it up to learning. Or maybe some communication with others involved needs to happen so it doesn’t happen in the future. Or maybe a better system for time management is needed. Self-abuse doesn’t have to happen and hinders our ability to solve the problem at hand or to instill learning, which is necessary for future positive outcomes. In the case of parenting, instead of yelling you can come up with other strategies to get the need you have to have your child listen better (1,2,3 counting method, etc.). It is completely amazing when you can stop the negative self-abuse train by calming down a trigger and engaging your rational mind instead of your fight or flight emotional mind. You can remember the values you have of being a competent worker or compassionate parent and let those values and ideals guide your behavior. So next time you are triggered, just stop and breath, calm down and think about what you really want and what you value and see if an action can flow from that instead of an automatic knee-jerk reaction that can lead to self-abuse.e