Catching your inner critic and the importance of psychotherapy
The thing I found the hardest about my inner critic is that she's a crafty mean beast. Her judgement is ruthless and mostly inaudible. Her opinions are harsh and when I manage to listen they don't align with my true feelings. How to slow down and catch your inner critic taking charge? How to tune in and follow our inner wisdom and instinct? Where does this inner critic come from? I'm going to tell you something that happened to me this past week. It's focused on Motherhood but can be applied to any other area of life. For some time I've been aware of feeling foremost awe, later followed by uncomfortable frustration every time I've been in the company of other mothers who talk to their babies and/or toddler in a certain way; they narrate moments to their non-verbal offspring. Like reading a book they set the scene for them, including them and assuming, or trusting they will understand. I found myself admiring these interactions. I started copying them, trying to incorporate this into my relationship with my daughter. Soon to realise I find it really hard to keep up. I dip in and out of it. I need to remind myself constantly as this doesn't come natural to me. My frustration mounting slowly every time I notice my difficulties following this through. What I ignored were the words, beliefs, judgements that accompany my frustration. Herein lies the tricky part. How to stop and tune in. Giving yourself time to really slow down and get in touch with that frustration. (This process is not easy to do on our own, and this is one the great benefits of going to therapy. Having someone guiding and supporting you to untangle these integrated false beliefs. After all, many of them started to settle when we were pre-verbal). 1) giving voice to the frustration. It is common to feel the frustration and believe the unkind inner critique's voice that immediately tends to follow, so ingrained it is very hard to see it as separate from us. Frustration is the sign of having an unmet need. Ask yourself what am I frustrated about? What am I wishing for? So in my case I was frustrated I wasn't able to talk to my daughter in that inclusive, narrator - like manner. I found it very hard to do.
2) now you've managed to contact that frustration and give it voice, try to allow it a little longer. Stay with it, check what feelings, sensations and thoughts you become aware of. Here is where the inner critic comes in. ~I became aware of my sadness and started giving voice to my thoughts "what else am I not able to give to my daughter?" "if this is so difficult maybe I'm not being a good mother", "I am not doing this right", "there is something wrong with me, it doesn't come to me naturally". "other mothers enjoy their children more than I do" ~ 3) challenge these thoughts. It is important to switch this inner process from monologue to a dialogue. These judgements are always external, from parental expectations to societies impositions. Therefore they are easily integrated as we have grown up hearing them, defining us and believing them. Ingrained as part of who we are their voice is subtle and really hard to separate from. ~ I thought about the things I do with my daughter. What do I do instead of narrating the world to her. Concentrating in one or two moments within the last few days. What do I do with her? How do I communicate? What does she like? How do I know what she is enjoying? It is important to slow down, regulate your breath and stay in touch with the emotions that arise. Ground yourself by breathing deeply and planting your feet on the ground. This helps us to tune in. From this place I talked back and answered the judgemental thoughts I had earlier.
~I felt the joy of being with her, touched by my emotion remembering the way she looks at me. An indescribable moving feeling as I no one ever looked at me that way. I started talking back to the judgemental voice saying I am new to motherhood and some things will take longer to learn. I also said I do connect and enjoy my daughter tremendously, doing it in a different way does not make me a bad mother.~
This helped me to realise how I adhered to our culture's imposition that there is only one correct way of mothering. My way was automatically wrong. By talking back stating how I relate to my daughter I became aware communication is beyond verbal. I reminded myself how I enjoy her company and most importantly; That I am new to motherhood. I am finding out my way of mothering, not the 'correct way'. I am 20 months into this new mother identity and every phase has new challenges. It is about finding my way of mothering. Aligning and tuning in with my inner wisdom. Navigating the transition into motherhood called Matrescence.
Applying this method of creating a dialogue instead of the monologue allows us to challenge those false beliefs, swallowed whole growing up. By grounding ourselves and tuning into our instincts we get in touch with our true selves, starting the process of chewing up those whole mouthfuls, keeping the parts that taste good and actually digesting them, making them ours....AND most importantly throwing up/spitting the parts that don't agree with us.
Becoming a mother can be a very challenging process for many of us. The hardships are often hidden and repressed as women tend to be expected to know what to do instinctually. Motherhood is a transition, a process women step into mostly with no preparation, and left unattended by society, as the focus is first the birth and later the baby. Focusing on Matrescence and the experience of women will have an invaluable beneficial impact on perinatal mental health. As part of my journey to debunk those myths and societies imposition on women I started a project called Unfiltered Motherhood, offering different services directed to perinatal well-being. Enrolment for the Motherhood Circle Sessions is now open. This is an 8 week program in which we will explore motherhood, focusing on the women's experience. Tuning into our own inner wisdom, finding our own meaning and learning to navigate Matrescence. You can find all the details in the following link https://www.mariagarciapsychotherapy.com/motherhood-circle-sessions