Self - Esteem & Confidence With Self - Compassion Hypnotherapy
Our self-esteem can hit peaks and troughs throughout our week, even though the one thing that we all need, is to be a supportive friend to our selves. One minute, we may feel confident, calm and content, the next we may feel insecure, anxious and uneasy.
Although unsettling, this is not uncommon.
In the hypnotherapy practice I have noticed that regardless of how successful we are, our self-perception is often based on a negative internal distortion known as our “critical inner voice.”
Our critical inner voice, is a learned pattern of negative thoughts regarding ourselves and others.
This critical inner voice can be shaped by our upbringing, our life experiences and relationships that have been important to us and devastatingly, without our awareness.
We experience this “voice” as an array of critical, and self-limiting thoughts, attitudes, conclusions and feelings that we can believe to be accurate because they come from within the depths of ourselves. After all, if we say it, feel it or experience a perception in some way, it must be true? This is where hypnotherapy can help you to adjust our inner perceptions.
Even when we are incredibly successful, we can still feel like a failure and yes, even whilst experiencing our success.
Our inner critic, originally shaped and internalised from early life experiences influence our sense of identity. Just as positive experiences of love, warmth, and security help shape our positive sense of self, negative life experiences construct and confirm our inner critic.
Chemically laid down as a reference point, our minds draw conclusions about who we are and how people perceive us from these early experiences.
Destructive attitudes we experience from our primary caregivers, painful interactions with peers, siblings, or influential adults, all add shape to the understanding of our self, our critical inner voice.
A rejecting or dismissive adult relationship may leave us feeling unimportant, as if our needs are too much trouble. An intrusive and judgmental relationship may help us to feel that we are flawed and not good enough.
We go on to live independent lives as adults harbouring these absorbed perceptions of self, that we then view the world through, like a pair of self perception glasses. We have internalised that destructive relationship, as if it were our own view of ourselves and those in our world.
The deception is complete, we rarely identify these perceptions as others views coloring our unrealistic point of view, instead we see our critical inner voice as our real point of view.
How does this voice affect us in our present lives?
Our critical inner voice or perception, fills our heads and hearts with self-doubt, spiteful commentary, and scathing assessments of everything from how we look to how we behave, from who we are to what we deserve, but it can also seem almost self-soothing. At this point the deception is complete, we now have internalised negative relationships to the level of self belief, now anything else feels wrong, we doubt others that like us and we can rarely accept a compliment but intensely hear a criticism.
The confusing aspect of our critical inner perception is that we distort ourselves in both directions. Because our self-image feels flawed and fragile, we experience ourselves and others through the whim of a sadistic thought and feelings process, we have a tendency to both put ourselves down and defend ourselves at the same time.
For example, if our partner tells us something that bothers them about how we acted, or a boss gives us constructive criticism, we may feel exaggeratedly threatened and become defensive. The minute we feel attacked, we may argue like our entire self-image depends on it because our inner critic makes us feel like it does.
We can be sensitive to criticism that confirms the pre-existing critical inner perceptions of self. This may at first appear counter-intuitive, should we not simply agree with such criticism, well, yes and no. When we’re already feeling vulnerable and insecure about an aspect of ourselves, having this self concept confirmed is incredibly painful.
Being hypercritical toward ourselves, we can be highly defensive about having our perceived weaknesses pointed out, especially openly. As our critical inner perception is confirmed, we add fuel to the fire, which burns brighter, as if for all to see.
Our pained over-reaction is a result of being emotionally reminded through feelings of the circumstances that created the critical inner voice or learned perception, in the first place.
Where a parental other or adult relationship was unable to meet our needs, we may be especially sensitive to people who perceive us as being demanding. Conversely, we may feel overpowered and confused when our needs are met within a relationship. Here, the emotions being evoked are so deeply tied to our past that we can overreact. We may even exaggerate or misinterpret what a partner, friend, coworker, etc, is saying to make comments fit with an existing hurtful sense of self identity.
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This process is largely unconscious, which is why we often believe our misconceptions and feelings. We aren’t aware of the reason for our primal feelings being triggered any more than we’re aware of the aetiology of our critical inner voice. Instead, we are defending ourselves, whilst attacking the other person and perhaps, attacking ourselves again. Our critical inner perception can perpetuate a vicious cycle, but the good news is, it is a cycle we can break.
The first way to do this is to embrace compassion. Self-compassion unlike self-esteem, focuses on being kind to ourselves rather than evaluating our worth, this approach offers a lack of judgment. Once we are able to experience self compassion we become less judgmental with important others and our feelings can change toward those in our lives.
This kindness includes being mindful of the fact that we are often listening to a harsh, internal mentor that does not serve us constructively.
To overcome this inner critic, we must identify when it arises, understand where it comes from, separate out the errant teachers views and behaviours from our own and finally, challenge the painful behaviour it perpetuates. As we do this, we turn to self-compassion for support. You can read more regarding turning off that destructive critical inner voice and know when to use self-compassion by following this link.
According to self-compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion involves “being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, nonjudgmental attitude toward one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognising that one’s experience is part of the common human experience.” Self-compassion allows us to meet our inner critic with empathy. It allows us to extend this empathy to others, who are also living largely at the whim of their critical inner voice. Peeling back the overbearing layers of this inner critic and embracing self-compassion are at the heart of truly knowing ourselves and becoming who we want to be.
This can be a difficult process if you are in a relationship however, if you are lucky enough to share the company of others that think enough of you and themselves, it can be a bonding life journey.
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