5 Ways to Help Children Silence Negative Self-Talk – Shrinking The ‘Critical Critter’ (by Dr Hazel Harrison)
I am a little ambivalent about this article. On the one hand, it has several good approaches. It does help to see these voices in us as voices or subpersonalities or even beings. It does help to dialog with it.
And yet, in this particular approach, the voice remains a problem, an “other”, or even a subtle enemy. Something to keep at a distance. Something to be vigilant about. Something where we can’t really let down our guard. And that’s tiring and doesn’t lead to any real sense of resolution.
For me, the next step is befriending this part of me. Getting to know it. Listen to what it wishes to tell me. Find it’s deepest wish for me. And through that, perhaps see that it’s on my side. It may be here to protect me. It may be here out of kindness and love. It may wish to help but not really know how.
It just knows the harsh approach, which it may have learned from parents, teachers, and society in general. So through befriending, getting to know it, patience, respect, listening, and dialog, it may learn a different approach. I learn how to relate to it differently. And through that, there is an invitation for it to relate to me differently.
These parts of me want what I want. They want to be met, heard, loved, respected. They want to be understood. They want their deepest and real motivation heard and understood. They want space to be as they are, and change their approach on their own time.
So with children, the five approaches mentioned in the article may be a good start. And then, we can help children to get to know and befriend these part of themselves. They can see them as scared and frightened animals that wishes to be met with kindness, understanding, and love. Animals that over time will learn to relate to us differently, if we relate to them with kindness and patience.
In this way, we move from a kind of zero-sum approach where we learn to passify the voice (which, at best, is a temporary solution), to a win-win approach where we both get what we deep-down really want.
How would we do this practically? I assume we would have to experiment and see what works best, and also find different approaches for different children. Here are some possibilities:
How does the critical critter (cc) look? Can you make a drawing of it?
When the critical critter comes up, where do you feel it in your body? Can you feel those sensations? Rest with them? Let them be there as they are? And if there is fear of doing that, how does that feel?
How would it be if you made friends with it? How would it react? What would it do? Would it change?
What does the cc really want? Perhaps it wants your best but doesn’t know how? Perhaps it wants you to do better? For you to act so your teachers and parents approve?
Can you ask it if what it really wants is for you to do better? For people in your life to approve of you?
Can you ask it what it wants for you? What does it want you to know? If it could speak, what would it say?
Can you ask it how it can help you better? How would it change so it helps you better? Is it willing to try that?
Not having worked with children in this way, I don’t know exactly what would work the best but these are some things to try out.
Note: The next step would be to notice that all content of mind is mind itself (consciousness, awakeness). I suspect that would be for a few especially interested, although I could be wrong.