I’m delight to have Tina Tessina, Ph.D. back as my guest. Her articles always bring a great response as she has such a great take on life’s ups and downs. Tina is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in California. She is the author of
MANY books. Tina also writes the “Dr. Romance” column on Yahoo! Personals and MUCH more! Today she talks about how to recognize where the criticism in your head comes from so you can build better relationships with others, and yourself.
by Tina Tessina, Ph.D
Most of us put a lot of emphasis on our relationships: family, friends and significant others. But, did you know that the relationship you have with everyone else is based on your relationship with you? That’s right, the closer you get to other people, the more you treat them the way you treat yourself. That makes your relationship with you your primary relationship.
Growing up in less than perfect families, most of us have learned dysfunctional relating to some degree. We treat ourselves as we were treated within the family, in school, in church, and by peers. We relate to ourselves as we learned to relate to the people around us. For example, if someone had frightening emotional explosions, and my whole family was afraid, then I am liable to be afraid of my own feelings today. In this way, the atmosphere of early childhood is carried forward into adult life.
The key to solving the problem lies in creating a functional system. I believe that healing begins within the self.
The first step is to correct our internal dysfunction; to learn to deal with ourselves directly and honestly, face our internal truth. The human mind is very beautiful, very complex–nothing short of a miracle. Our thinking is so complex, that it is possible to have several “voices” inside, each holding different opinions simultaneously!
Most of the clients who come to me have a virtual battle going on inside. Blaming, defending, making excuses, resisting, are all going on at once within a single person’s mind. All of these “voices”, these varying levels of thought and opinion, must be sorted out. They each need to be heard individually–so you can find out what the fight is about. Then you can act as a mediator for them, getting each “voice” to be a part of the whole, so that all your varying opinions of what must be done are working together. If your internal struggle is too intense as a result of abuse or addiction you may need the help of a therapist or a support group to work through it.
As you do this, you’ll recognize the source of some of the “voices.” Example–”Oh yeah, that’s my Mom, criticizing everything I do, never satisfied. Wow, I didn’t realize I was doing that to myself! She’s been dead 10 years!” Understanding that the running commentary in your head is not actually your Mom, just your learned imitation of her, is very important.
Once you realize the source, the “voice” needs to be corrected. It’s necessary to have a self-examining voice, it will keep you growing and learning. However, the voice doesn’t need to be hostile, demanding, or relentless. It can be kind, encouraging and supportive. For example: “I did a good job at work today. I’m getting better and better at sales. When I talk to Joe next time, though, I’m going to be a little more low key, ask him about his family, I think I overwhelmed him by coming on too strong.”
The goal is to create a functional “committee” out of the mental struggle. When this is achieved, it is then possible to feel upset about something, sympathize with the part of your mind that’s upset, and still be thinking calmly about the solution to the problem. Amazing!
Knowing how to talk to yourself about your problems is a true blessing. How often have each of us wished for “someone to talk to” about something? How often have we been willing to be that “someone” for another person? Just as an experiment, try getting your capacity to listen and support together with your need to be heard and supported. You’ll find out it works!
I know, it sounds, well, weird. That’s the dysfunction in the society talking. It’s not weird , it’s healthy. Knowing I can and will ‘be there’ for myself is at the heart of self-esteem. As you understand how to respond to yourself, you’ll create a role model for healthy relationships with others: friends, family, lovers, and colleagues. You’ll also recognize the others who are willing to relate to you in a healthy manner, and be capable of relating to them in the same way.
As you become totally honest with yourself, you’ll learn to catch many of the nasty relationship surprises before they happen. You’ll instinctively know when you’re being lied to, and it won’t work on you. You’ll clearly see the difference between love and dependency, and choose to love and be loved. You’ll be able to recognize and stay out of relationship drama, because you’ll know that healthy people can be honest, ask for what they want, and accept “no” for an answer.
The more self-supporting and functional you become, the less you lean too heavily on anyone else. Relationships become mutual, with a balance between supporting yourself and others. No one needs to avoid you because you do not demand what others are not prepared to give. You can get what you need from yourself, and enjoy what others want to freely give.
Does it sound good? To create this change, begin by rebuilding the critical, negative voice in your head, until it is giving you the kind of support you always wanted, like a friend who loves and supports you. Take other people off the hook, and you’ll be free to have a new kind of relationships. As you see others more objectively, and less from the perspective of your needs, you’ll see them differently, and love and forgiveness will become available, for yourself and for them.
Adapted from It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction © 2004 Tina B. Tessina
Take the self-love challenge and get my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways for free at http://howdoiloveme.com. And you can post your loving acts HERE to reinforce your intention to love yourself.
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