“I believe this kind of excruciating self-torture is caused by denied emotional pain leaking into consciousness as tormented thinking.” – Pete Walker
Self-torture starts with a feeling, which usually has historical significance from childhood, and turns into a heavy emotion accompanied by critical self-talk. A vicious cycle is created between the self-talk and the emotions which keep churning out negativity. This pattern spans decades of life for some people because it wasn’t stopped at its small and less damaging beginning and now it seems to big to handle.
As children we may learn to be hyper-critical of ourselves because of the way we were parented. Walker explains that we need to, “… release the part of (our) childhood pain that is an accumulation of unexpressed hostile feelings about parental injustice.”
Until we become aware of our internal dialogue – it runs our lives. A woman who hated the way her mother condescended everything she did may repeat all the negative statements in her head, against herself, as an adult. Her self-esteem will plummet with every negative cycle created. With enough practice using negative self-talk, a person’s self-esteem may have little time to resurface in between vicious cycles.
To stop self-torturing thinking we need to start healing the hurt which initiated the cycle. Healing requires purposeful and consistent mapping of our thoughts and feelings. Once we are more aware of how badly we talk to ourselves – we can substitute a fresh thought. Hopefully, we can feel all of our feelings and stop shaming some as wrong. This gives us an opportunity to use words to understand why they are there, which creates clarity instead of despair.
Jane Roberts said, “The emotions will not feel like stepchildren, with only the best dressed being admitted – they will need to cry out for expression, for they will be fully admitted as members of the the family of self.”
One Thing to Do: Give your inner parenting voice better things to say.
A List of Healthy (Self) Parenting Practices.
This list is modified from one available in, The Tao of Fully Feeling, by Pete Walker.
- Verbal Nurturance: Willing to entertain all questions. Generous amounts of praise and positive feedback. Eager participation in internal dialogue, hearing everything without shaming.
- Spiritual Nurturance: Guidance to help integrate painful aspects of life. Seeing and reflecting the essential good and loving nature. Fostering self-expression and protection of worth.
- Emotional Nurturance: Welcoming and valuing full emotional expression. Honoring crying as a way of releasing hurt. Modeling safe ways to release your anger that doesn’t hurt self or others.
- Physical Nurturance: Practice balancing rest, play, and work. Responsibility for personal health through diet, sleep, and exercise. Seeing self and being okay.
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.