Trauma can have a profound impact on our thoughts, emotions, and overall well-being. It often creates a breeding ground for self-critical thinking patterns.
When someone experiences a traumatic event, their sense of safety, trust, and self-worth can be deeply shaken. This disruption can lead to a distorted self-perception and a constant sense of vulnerability.
Self-critical thinking in the aftermath of trauma often emerges as a survival strategy. Individuals may internalize the blame, shame, or guilt associated with the traumatic event, believing that they somehow caused or deserved it. They may engage in self-blame as a way to regain a sense of control or make sense of what happened.
Additionally, trauma can impair one’s ability to regulate emotions, leading to heightened self-criticism as a means of coping with overwhelming feelings.
Furthermore, trauma can result in negative core beliefs about oneself, such as feeling unworthy, unlovable, or fundamentally flawed. These beliefs can become deeply ingrained and perpetuate self-critical thoughts and behaviors. The critical inner voice may replay the traumatic event, berating the individual for their perceived weaknesses or failures.
In the event of on-going trauma, such as with childhood abuse or neglect, trauma resulting from poverty, racism, homophobia and other forms of oppression, self-critical thoughts and low self-worth go hand in hand.
Addressing self-critical thinking patterns stemming from trauma requires a compassionate and holistic approach. It often involves:
- building and solidifying support networks,
- regular self-care and self-regulation practices that aim to rebuild self-esteem,
- learning to effectively challenge negative beliefs,
- and fostering greater self-compassion.
By acknowledging and understanding the impact of trauma on self-critical thinking, individuals can embark on a healing journey toward self-acceptance and resilience.
Somatic Approaches to Combatting Self-Criticism
While addressing self-criticism often involves working on our thoughts and beliefs, incorporating a somatic approach can be highly effective in shifting our relationship with self-judgment.
By combining body-based practices with mindset shifts, we can combat self-criticism and cultivate self-compassion. Let’s explore strategies to help you combat self-criticism using a somatic approach:
Develop Body Awareness:
One of the first steps in combating self-criticism somatically is developing body awareness. Often, self-critical thoughts manifest as physical sensations in the body like tension, constriction, pain and/or dizziness.
- Begin by finding a quiet space and taking a few deep breaths to center yourself.
- Close your eyes and scan your body from head to toe, noticing any areas of tension or discomfort.
- Pay attention to the sensations associated with self-critical thoughts. Are there any specific physical cues that arise when you engage in self-judgment?
By bringing awareness to these bodily sensations, you can start to recognize the connection between your thoughts and how they manifest in your body.
When we are self-critical, we tend to get stuck up in our head, in the world of thoughts. Engaging our bodies through play is a great way to get connected to our bodies in a positive way.
As you engage in activities frisbee, wrestling with your friends, playing hide and seek or fun activities, pay attention to the sensations in your body that feel good and let yourself savor these sensations.
Movement not only helps you release physical tension but also promotes a greater sense of embodiment and self-acceptance.
Practice Self-Compassionate Touch:
Self-compassionate touch involves using gentle and soothing physical gestures to comfort yourself.
- Think of your hands as Conduits of Compassion, such that your hands are actively sending compassion to the places where you hold yourself.
- You can place your hands on your heart, gently cradle your face, or give yourself a comforting hug.
Engaging in these self-soothing gestures can help calm the nervous system and provide a sense of safety and reassurance. When self-critical thoughts arise, pause, and bring your attention to your body.
Use self-compassionate touch to remind yourself that you are deserving of kindness and compassion, just as you would offer to a dear friend.
Let Yourself Receive Soothing Touch or Holding from Safe People
Often, physical affection or getting held by someone you love and trust, goes a long way in dispelling our inner critic. Here are some things to try:
- Getting a hug
- Holding someone’s hand
- Getting your back rubbed
- Letting someone gently hold your face
- Or Receiving Co-regulating Touch
Challenge Negative Body Image
Self-criticism often extends to our perceptions of our physical appearance. A somatic approach can be instrumental in combatting negative body image.
- Practice body appreciation exercises to shift your focus away from perceived flaws and towards gratitude for your body’s abilities and strengths.
- Engage in activities that make you feel good in your body, whether it’s taking a relaxing bath, wearing clothes that make you feel confident, or engaging in gentle self-massage.
By intentionally focusing on positive experiences with your body, you can challenge negative body image and foster a more compassionate relationship with yourself.
As stated earlier, trauma and shame, aka as self-criticism, go together. Much of the work around healing trauma and overcoming negative self-talk relies on cultivating and embodying self-compassion. By engaging in any of the previously mentioned practices, you are actively practicing self-compassion instead of self-loathing!
If you are struggling with self-criticism and/or trauma and have tried everything, seeking out professional support can be a massive game changer. Self-criticism doesn’t have to be a fact of life. If you’re interested in scheduling a free consultation to work with any of our tremendously skilled and dedicated providers, click here now!