How Loud is Your Critical Voice?

Everyone has a critical voice. It’s that nagging voice inside our mind that comments on our behaviours, feelings, and thoughts. Your critical voice may be manageable—you may be able to consider what it is saying, but then evaluate whether it’s useful for you. Or, it may be unmanageable and a large contributing factor to feeling depressed, incompetent, and less worthy. If the latter is true, it’s important to do some work on your critical voice. Two types of self-criticism seem to be most prevalent: dismissive and punitive. If our critical voice is dismissive, any time we have an emotional response, we tell ourselves “don’t feel that way” or “get over it.” We downplay our feelings and tend not to consider them valid. We have these unacknowledged feelings inside of us that are suppressed. This suppression can lead to depression and feeling disconnected. It can also cause an inappropriate delayed reaction or erupt out of context. If our critical voice is punitive, we place excessive demands on ourselves, and find it difficult to allow for any mistakes. This type of voice is very harsh and often tells us, “you should have done better,” or “you failed.” The critical voice leaves us feeling incompetent and worthless. It’s important to become more aware of your critical voice. Start observing how often it tells you that your emotions are not valid or criticises your every move. Notice how you feel after your critical voice has been very loud or punitive. Do you feel lethargic? Irritated? Overwhelmed? The critical voice is often related to other significant messages that we heard when we were younger....

Is Marriage Counselling Enough?

Couple counselling alone is not the cure for an ailing relationship. Many couples go to marriage counselling in hopes that the therapist can “cure” their marriage problems. This belief can create false expectations of what a therapist is actually capable of doing. When couples come into therapy for their relationship, they need to understand that it takes a lot of work–not just in the one-hour session, but also at home. For every one hour session in the therapist’s office, couples need to work on their relationship for 5 hours at home. What does it mean to work on your relationship at home? Most importantly, you have to spend quality time together. This includes going on regular dates or taking 15 -30 minutes in your day to discuss what is happening in your life. Listen to, empathize with, and reflect your partner’s experiences. It helps your partner to feel that you are on his/her side. If you are having a hard time finding the positive qualities in your partner, you have to actively start thinking about your partner differently. If you enter into discussions  expecting the the worst, you will find proof for it. Meet your partner with an open mind, believing that he/she is not out to make you upset, but rather wants to listen, support and be there for you. Listen closely to what your partner is saying and ask him/her to clarify if it doesn’t sit well with you. Many arguments begin with a small misunderstanding in communication and a belief that the intentions of our partner are negative. When we ask our partner to clarify the...

It's Christmas… ready, set, go!!

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. We give presents to family and friends and usually receive some in return. We give our time to others by baking cookies for school or hosting Christmas dinner at our house. But how much do you give to yourself? We often get caught up in the hectic pace of Christmas. We end up feeling that we MUST buy presents for this person and that person. We take on too much responsibility because we believe family and friends expect it of us. In the end, we feel exhausted and lose the “true” spirit of Christmas. What would happen if you didn’t do it at all? What would happen if you slowed down a bit and took the time to “be” rather than constantly “do”? What would happen if you said “no” this time instead of taking on one more thing? People often cite that they are afraid of the consequence of saying “no”. Someone might be disappointed in them if they don’t fulfill an expectation. Before committing to something, take some time to think about this expectation that is being set for you. First, is this a real demand or a perceived demand? Sometimes we believe that other people expect something of us, but often it is just a perception rather than reality. Second, what would be the outcome if you didn’t fulfill it? Someone may be disappointed. Is it your responsibility to make sure other people live without disappointment? Sometimes we do things so that other people don’t feel let down. But is this disappointment valid? Should we do things just...

Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail?

January is New Year’s Resolution season. Many people chose to begin the New Year with a new goal—be it to lose weight, eat healthier, or find a better job. Unfortunately, we often give up on our goal in the first month and then feel that we have failed. Why do we give up on our New Year’s resolution? Part of the reason may be our critical self-talk. Each of us has a critical voice. Once we expose the critical voice, my clients often tell me that their personal critical voice is much harsher than what they would ever say to anyone else. Our critical voice may call us a failure, tell us we’re worthless, and constantly inform us of what we “should” be doing. We don’t speak to other people this way, but we chose to berate ourselves for every mistake. And then what happens inside? We often feel deflated, exhausted, and feel like giving up. Let’s transfer this process to the New Year’s resolution experience. If we are trying to change a long-standing habit, e.g. eating differently, there will be times that our efforts fall short. At this point, the critical voice often kicks in and begins beating us up for our mistake: “You can’t do this.” “You failed.” “You should be able to do this, but you can’t.” Inside, we feel disappointed and defeated. We feel like a failure. This feeling then weighs heavy on us and exhausts us, and we use up our resources to fight it. We may feel overwhelmed by our inability to make progress. Because our resources are depleted, we then find it...

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