Article: Ways to help children with the “critical critter”

 

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.

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Finding love for what’s here

 

Some things that come to mind about finding love for what’s here:

It’s about finding love for my experience, as it is here and now. For sensations, images, words, sounds and more.

When it’s resisted, it resists back. It wants to be seen, loved, met, recognized for what it really is. If it’s not met and loved it will ask for my attention, in whatever ways it can. And when it asks for my attention, there is often synchronicities at play (it seems), outer circumstances tend to play along inviting me to meet and find love for my experience. It will even, at times, “run the show” with an invitation for me to meet it, understand it, and find love for it.

When it’s met and loved, it relaxes. Softens. It joins the team. It doesn’t run the show as it may have before.

How can I find love for it? I can…..

Use loving kindness towards these parts of me and my experience. I wish you ease. I wish you love.

Do the same using tonglen, ho’oponopono, any other similar practices.

Dialog with it. Get to know how it experiences me and the world. See how it’s there to protect (the imagined) me. See how it’s coming from love. (Even when it takes a form that, at first, may not seem loving.) When I see it comes from love for me, it’s natural for me to find love for it.

Why would I find love for it? I would find love for it because……

It’s awareness. It’s already love. It is part of what I already am. It is not “other”. (What I am.)

It wishes to protect me (the imagined me). It comes from love. (Who I am.)

It feels good. There is a softening. A deepening. A maturing. An alignment with who and what I really am. It helps me live a life less or not run by a disowned part of me. (Pragmatic.)

And if a part of me wants to find love for it for a reason, as a strategy to get something, that too is very understandable. That too comes from love, and I can find love for that too.

This is an all-inclusive practice or exploration or way of life. Nothing is left out.

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Inquiry from the perspective of a subpersonality

 

When a belief is far from my conscious view, I find it’s sometimes easier to identify and inquire into it from the perspective of the subpersonality holding it.

So I notice something in me that’s perhaps disturbing and appears foreign – an impulse, tendency, action, feeling or certain thoughts. I realize it belongs to a subpersonality – an aspect of my psyche or a voice.

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Dialog with a part that wishes the best for me, and has used the strategy of taking stories as true

 

When I ask myself what do I hope to get out of taking this story as true?  what’s the innocent wish behind it? I often find it’s a wish for safety.

A part of me take stories as true with the hope that it will keep me safe.

The result is of course the exact opposite. Taking stories as true creates tension, trauma, a sense of precariousness, a viewpoint to defend and so on. It even creates identification as something or someone that can be hurt and die.

It’s helpful to see and get a feel of this process. I get more attuned to the symptoms – some of which are mentioned above. I know it’s all innocent and it’s from a genuine wish for for keeping me safe and for my well being. I see and get a feel for how the consequences are often the reverse of this sincere wish. And there is another way.

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Knot of loneliness

 

I woke up at 3am last night noticing a bottomless sense of loneliness. It was quite faint, but very clear. And in my imagination, it was very small, almost like a pin head, and infinite in its loneliness.

I brought attention to this sense of loneliness and stayed with it for a while. Being with it, with kindness.

It felt primeval. It seemed to go back to my earliest days, fueled by a basic sense of separation, of never quite connecting with myself, others, life as fully as what I sense is possible. Sometimes deepened by times in my life I experienced loss – of people, situations, or dreams and hopes. It felt like a point where all experience of loneliness is stored.

This primeval sense of loneliness comes from the equally primeval sense of separation, created when the story of I is identified with. Recognizing this is healing in itself, especially as the sense of separation softens and dissolves. And yet, it is good to explore this further. For instance through voice dialog.

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Movies and voice dialog

 

I watched Pale Rider tonight, and found myself doing voice dialog with the Preacher a few times. It was very helpful, and gave me some added insight into some long-standing patterns in my life. So this is of course one of the ways of working with movies: Use the characters in voice dialog. Hear what they have to say. Take in their insights. Listen to their advice to you and perhaps some of the other voices.

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Anatomy of voices

 

We all shift into different views and identities throughout the day, fluidly, depending on the situation. We may not always like it, and sometimes we do, but it happens anyway.

We shift into different voices or subpersonalities, taking on their perspectives, seeing and feeling the world from their viewpoints, relating to the world from their place.

And that is why we can shift in this way on command (or invitation) as well, sometimes with surprising ease, for instance in the context of voice dialog or the Big Mind process.

But what are those voices? Are they little men, women, animals, creatures, living in us, pulling our strings?

Here is a quick summary of what comes up for me when I look…

  • Each voice (subpersonality) is created from a story or combination of stories.
    • The story of separation creates fear.
    • The story of need creates wants.
    • The story of an identity gives flavor to attractions and aversions.
    • The story of loss creates sadness.
    • The story of wrong creates anger.
    • The story of lack creates seeking.
    • The story of fullness creates non-seeking.
  • Each voice has its own perspective, viewpoint, and filters the world in a particular way.
  • There are story, emotional and action components to each voice, all following from the initial story.
  • Voices can be identified with, disowned, or owned, familiar and free to function yet not taken as an “I”.
    • When voices are closely identified with, there is a belief in the stories creating them. (This tends to lead to a disowning of the polar opposite voices, and the validity of the reversals of the story.)
    • When voices are disowned, the validity of the stories creating them is also disowned.
    • When voices and their polar opposites are all familiar and owned, there is a fluidity among them. Each one is free to function when needed, and none of them are taken as an “I”.
  • These voices and stories can be identified with or not.
    • We are identified with a voice when we disown its polar opposites, just as we believe in a story when we deny the validity of its reversals. The voices and stories are taken as an I, we get caught up in the drama of it, and it all seems very real.
    • Identification is released out of a voice when we embrace, own and become familiar with it and all of its opposites, just a belief is released when we find the validity of its reversals. In this case, there is a fluidity among them, each one available to come out when the situation calls for it. From a voice appearing as “I” and a story as the absolute truth, they are revealed as simply tools for this human self to operate in the world.

So in the Big Mind process, we explore all the different voices, the gestalts of stories, emotions and behaviors created from an initial, often quite simple, story. We gradually disidentify with those we are overly identified with. We become familiar with and own those that were previously disowned. We find a larger space holding voices at each end of the polarities and find a new fluidity among them. Our identity expands to hold and be comfortable with more and more voices.

In The Work, there is a quite similar process. We find a belief and question it, finding what is already more true for us. Our identification releases out of the initial story and expands to embrace the validity of all of its reversals as well. We find a new fluidity among and within this initial story and each of its reversals.

And each of those stories have its own gestalt. They each have associated emotions and behaviors. So we (are invited to) find a new familiarity and fluidity with these as well, in our daily life.

Each of these gestalts, these voices, are more familiar, owned, part of the active repertoire of our human self. There is more of a fluidity among them in daily life. And less identification with them.

They just happen. Living their own life, on their own schedule. There is no “I” there, anywhere.

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Relating to effects of beliefs

 

A portion of what we think of as being human are effects of beliefs. It is the portion that has to do with a rigid view, reactive emotions and behaviors, and a more closed heart.

How do we relate to this part of our humanness?

Often, we defend it. We find reasons why it is right and even good. Or we may be ashamed, unable to change it much even as we see it unfold. We may blindly be in the grips of it, experiencing it and also living it out in ways we sometimes regret afterwards. We may distract ourselves from it as much as possible. We may try to stuff it, holding it back, resisting the experience or living from it.

Or we may work with it more consciously.

We can allow these parts their voice and insights, through Process Work, Voice Dialog or the Big Mind process. We can step into their perspective, and see what they have to say to our human self, what they ask of us, what their contributions are, what gifts they offer, and how our human self can relate to them in a more constructive way, and how they can help our human self in a more constructive way.

We can allow the experience fully. We can fully allow the anger, sadness, pain, frustration, or whatever it may be. Just by releasing identification with the resistance to it, a lot changes. There is a release of identification with the dynamic as a whole (whatever arises and the resistance to it), which gives a sense of freedom from it, and even an opportunity of a more conscious choice in how to relate to it and express it.

We can use it as a pointer or invitation to explore more in detail what is going on. For instance, what is the belief behind the reactiveness? Is it true? What happens when I believe that thought? Who would I be without it? What are the grain of truths in its turnarounds?

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Bringing all of us in

 

Many traditions have ways of bringing all of us into transformative processes.

In Tibetan Buddhism, it is done – among other ways – through visualizing all beings taking refuge with us, during the first of the four ngondro practices, each done a hundred thousand times. In Shamanic traditions, by inviting in the protectors from the six directions. In Christianity, through the Christ meditation where Christ is visualized in the six directions and the heart. In many traditions, through prayer or well-wishing for all beings, including our enemies and those in the hell realms. And so on.

In each of these apart from the Christ meditation, there is an intention and visualization of all beings aligned… in taking refuge in Buddha nature, in participating in sacred space, being included in healing and awakening. And even the Christ meditation has a sense of completeness and absolute inclusion in it, by visualizing Christ in all directions and in the heart.

And each of these is a way of inviting all of us to participate, and to align all parts of us. Using voice dialog language, each subpersonality or voice is invited to join and align in the same overall purpose of healing and awakening of the mind and heart.

In addition, it helps us see all beings in the same boat in different ways. All beings are taking part in this sacred process of life. All have the potential for awakening, and all have Buddha nature. We can learn to see beyond the surface ripples of contraction, and see how we each seek happiness and freedom from suffering, and all are awakeness.