When we do something that later we wished we hadn’t, we rarely give ourselves the level of forgiveness and understanding that we give to others. If we evaluate ourselves and subsequently change our behaviors due to negative emotions–shame, embarrassment or fear, to name only a few–we are feeding self-hatred.
We are our own worst critic.
In effective communication we talk about the importance of giving and receiving information without criticizing, judging or blaming. The last eight articles have dealt with our communication with others. Today, let’s focus on how we talk and listen to ourselves, or our intrapersonal communication.
Our self-evaluations full of judging, criticizing and blaming are expressions of unmet needs. Remember, negative feelings are a wake-up call for us to recognize an unmet need.
When we find ourselves in a position where we’ve done something we wished we hadn’t, we need to stop and listen to ourselves.
We need to try and understand our own observations, feelings, needs and requests, as seriously as if we were trying to understand someone we cared about deeply.
We need to take the time to understand and connect our feelings with unmet needs, so we can step of out the cycle of self-blame.
Once we understand the connections between our feelings and needs, the next step for our inner communication is to ask:
What need of mine was I trying to meet when I behaved in the way I regret?
From this question we will have information vital in knowing how we can grow in a direction that will enrich our lives and the lives of others.
With the answer to this question we can act from a place of self-compassion and love that will contribute more to life than feelings of fear and guilt, shame, duty or obligation. Remember, we always have a choice about how we will act, how we will feel and what we need.
When the words I have to pop into your thinking, take the time to consider how the actions you feel you have to do connect to what you want or need.
Acknowledge the fact that you have the power to choose what you feel you have to do by writing, I choose to ________ because I want ________. For example, instead of, I have to cook dinner, write, I choose to cook dinner because I want my family to be healthy.
As you think about the life-alienating chores you feel you have to do, and you realize that you choose those behaviors to fulfill a need or desire, be wary of the following wants that you might uncover: the motivation or desire for money, for approval, to escape punishment, to avoid shame or guilt and to fulfill a sense of duty. These wants can rob us of our joy in life, until we can connect desires to life-affirming needs.
The importance of effective intrapersonal communication I think is highlighted by this tale, of which I’ve heard several versions.
A Cherokee grandfather tells his grandson that every person has two wolves trying to live inside of him. One wolf is full of anger, rage, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other wolf is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, truth, compassion and faith.
“The wolves battle inside of you to take control of your life,” the grandfather said.
“But which one will win?” the grandson said.
“The wolf you feed.”
Listen to yourself compassionately.
Ask yourself questions that will help you connect your feelings with your needs.
Choose to feed the wolf that will bring joy into your life and the lives of others.
Your children will win. We all will win.