This week on the podcast, I’m answering 3 of your questions!
All of these questions relate to dealing with our parents as adults:
1. How do I cope with an internal critical voice that came from a parent?
2. What is the next step after recognizing that my parents were narcissistic?
3. Am I disrespecting my parents when I set boundaries with them as an adult?
- What is an inner critic?
- How do we retrain an internal critical voice?
- What beliefs do we take in when raised by narcissistic parents?
- What is trauma-informed therapy?
- God’s heart for healing
- Boundaries 101 principles as an adult with your parents
Stay tuned for next week’s new series: Psychology Buzzwords Round 2 - Listener’s Choice Edition
It might feel hard at first to take that spotlight you’ve learned to shine on everyone around you and let it shine on you. But it’s worth it. You are worth it.
God is a God of healing. The word “save” that we see in Scripture means “to heal.” God came to heal. And I believe that healing starts now.
There’s a new path you’ve got to walk down. You’ve walked down the path of helping everybody else, of being faithful to everybody else. It’s time to go down your own path of healing.
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
- Boundaries for Your Soul, by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller (includes a 5-step process for retraining an inner critic)
- Trauma Informed Therapy
- Find an EMDR therapist
- Find a Christian IFS therapist
- Find an IFS therapist (Jenna Riemersma)
- More on inner critics and healing from trauma: Try Softer, by Aundi Kolber
- More on healing from trauma and boundaries: The Best of You: Break Free From Painful Patterns, Mend Your Past, and Discover Your True Self in God
- 7 Ways to Increase Your Support
- Resources for support
- Episode Transcript
- More Episodes
Episode Thirteen: Q&A The Best of You Podcast 28th July 2022
With Dr. Alison Cook
[00:00:00] < Intro >
Alison: Hey everyone. I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God.
I can wait to get started. As we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone. Welcome to today's special Q&A episode. I'm so excited to answer real-life questions from you. Thank you, for your patience with me while I figured out the technology. I hope to do more of these.
Before we get started, I have a quick announcement. I am hosting a new two-part webinar called Five Toxic Behaviors and How to Respond to Protect Yourself. So part one is on August 11th, it's live via Zoom. The recordings will be emailed to you. So if you can't attend live you'll still get them. This is one of my bonus resources for you when you pre-order my new book, The Best of You.
I've been busy working on a bunch of resources and webinars as part of this book launch campaign, and they really came out of your questions. Many of you asked me related to some of these buzzwords we did in our last series.
"How do you respond when you're dealing with situations like these?" You wanted to go deeper.
So that's what we're going to do in this webinar. We'll go more into strategies. I'll identify more what these behaviors look like, how they show up, and how you can respond to protect yourself.
This is also an opportunity for us to interact. You'll be able to ask me questions on the live Zoom. I'm really excited about these live events. So head over to my website, dralisoncook.com/book, where you'll find everything you need to sign up.
All right, here is today's first question.
Kristin: Hi, my name is Kristin. I listen to your awesome podcast on Self-Love and how it can come from a critical upbringing. My question is how do you cope with the voice that still continues to be critical when you are trying to learn self-love? It seems as if, no matter what, I still hear my mother's voice as I am trying to learn to love myself. Thanks so much.
Alison: Okay, Kristin, I am so glad you called in with this question. I imagine almost every listener can relate to what you're saying. We all have an inner critic. It's something most of us come by naturally. But when a parent criticized us over, and over, and over, it magnifies the volume and the tone of that inner critic exponentially.
So it's a really great question. I want to start by saying what is an inner critic? Well, do you ever notice thoughts like these running through your mind—
"You should be better at this."
"You should be more like they are."
"You deserve this bad thing that's happened."
"You'll never be as good as other people."
"You'll never get it right?"
"You can't do this."
"They'll never accept you."
These are just a few of the ways an inner critic shows up in our minds, and sometimes we're not even aware of it. Some of these messages operate beneath our conscious awareness. Here is the thing, you wouldn't say these things to your worst enemy. But, somehow, a voice inside your head has picked up a habit of beating you up in a way that you would never speak to another person.
Here is the thing, we all do it on some level. Some of us have extremely shaming inner critics that have been amplified by our parents, as in your case. Some of our inner critics are more subtle or maybe slightly less toxic. But everybody has this naysayer inside.
It often goes after our vulnerabilities. It picks up on our insecurities, maybe even our limitations, our struggles, and parades them in front of us in cruel and ultimately unproductive ways. Oftentimes these inner critics are adept at comparing us negatively to other people.
So what might surprise you is this, at its best an inner critic is trying to help. It thinks it's motivating you. It thinks that if it stops telling you all the ways you're messing up or how much better you could be doing, that you'd become mediocre, lazy, a failure, or unlovable. These inner critics are these really maladaptive ways that we learn to drive ourselves.
So one of the things that you asked is, "How long should I cope with that voice?" And here's how I would reframe that you've already been coping with it. You've already, probably, been doing a masterful job of coping.
What if you could heal it?
What if you could train it?
Now that's a lofty goal, but I think it's a goal that we can reach. It may take a long time, but I think we can learn to train these inner critic voices inside our minds. It starts with this number one, Notice it. It's so great that you're aware of it, awareness is the first step toward change. Often, an inner critic shows up when we feel down on ourselves, defeated, or sad. If that happens, start to notice what are the messages going through your mind.
When you focus on that message, on that critical voice, you differentiate from it. Now, psychologists call this intrapsychic differentiation. It's differentiation inside of ourselves. Now, if you think about it, we all have to differentiate from other people. That's interpersonal differentiation. "That person is different from me."
We realize, "Oh, their thought is not my thought."
"Their belief doesn't have to be my belief."
"Their feeling doesn't have to be my feeling."
This is an incredibly tricky skill to learn, this idea of differentiating from another person. Especially if someone has played a very loud role in our lives, such as a parent or a spouse. But we also do this inside of ourselves. Intrapsychic or internal differentiation is when we differentiate from a thought that we're having.
It's so powerful because when we do it, we realize, "Oh, this is a thought I'm having. It's not, necessarily, true. It's not, necessarily, coming from the best of who I am. It's not, necessarily, representative of all of who I am. This is a thought that I'm experiencing." And when you differentiate from that thought you start to have power over it.
Instead of the thought operating subconsciously inside of you, outside of your conscious awareness. You're now bringing it into the light where you can examine it and decide how you want to try to retrain that thought. Whether or not you want to keep it, change it, or reject it.
So, for me, I often have a tenacious voice that kicks in when I'm feeling vulnerable. And it sounds something like this, "Why bother?" And it's linked, and I'll get into this, to a long tail memory back to childhood that no matter how hard you try things might not go your way. So it kind of has this tone of "Why bother?"
So I know, now, this voice. I know what it feels like. I know the thought, I know the message, and when I begin to notice it I then have a choice. It's still there, but then I get to choose how I want to respond to it. Whether or not I want to let it drive me or whether or not I can figure out how to reframe that message.
Is it true?
Is it helpful to me?
The thought no longer has to have control when we differentiate from it. Often these critical voices go way back. They have what I call a long tail back to childhood. It might go back to what your mom used to say to you or what a parent used to say to you.
"You can never do it well enough for me."
"You'll never amount to anything."
Sometimes they attach to messages about who we are, our identity.
"You're so bossy."
"You talk back all the time."
"You are so messy."
Even, sometimes, the most well-intended parent can insert these messages into our minds, that we carry with us into adulthood. Now, as a child you think, "Well, they must be right, I must believe this. This is my mom, this is my parent, this has to be true."
But when you get to the root of that message you, as an adult, get to decide—
"Is this true?"
"Is this how I've come to experience myself?"
"Why would my mom say those things to me?"
"Was this perhaps more about her than it was about me?"
"What does that little girl, inside of me, need to hear?" Maybe she needs to hear, "What if you can get it right?"
"What if you can do this hard thing?"
"What if it's time to be brave?"
"What if I can help you get the skills you need to do this thing you so long to do?"
"What if you're not alone?"
"What if I'll be with you?"
"What if this quality is an asset not a liability?"
You start to get a sense of what if this younger part of you, this younger version of you, need to hear that she didn't get, and you start to give her this message. You start to insert this new message into the narrative, and you retrain yourself to absorb a different message.
This goes a little bit to 2 Corinthians 10:5, where Paul talks about "Taking captive every thought."
This is a practice of compassion, primarily, it's a practice of curiosity.
"Where is this message coming from?"
"Did someone tell me this?"
"Is it true?"
"Is this what God thinks?"
"What do I really need to hear in this situation?"
So this is really the topic of my book with Kimberly Miller, Boundaries for Your Soul, where we walk you through a five-step process of differentiating from thoughts and feeling. So that you can lead them from that place inside where the Holy Spirit lives inside of you.
You're leading yourself with wisdom and the steps go like this, it's kind of what we've already talked about. But number one is To Focus. You start to focus on that critical voice so that you can differentiate from it. You see it, you name it, you recognize it's only one part of who you are.
Second, you Befriend It, which means you get curious about it with compassion, get to know it. Where did it come from? Did it come from a parent? If it came from a parent that is really hard because parents have a lot of authority in our lives as young children. So you're trying to understand, with compassion, how you can work with this message that you've internalized so deeply inside.
Step three, you Invite God into the Process. With all the wisdom of God and of your Holy Spirit-led self, use your imagination. What does this part of you long to hear? And you might consider, "How would I parent my own child through this?"
"What would I say to a friend or a child who is struggling with this?"
"What messages would I want them to hear?" And then see if you can apply those messages to your own internal world.
And then number four is to Unburden. Because here's the thing, when someone tells you something, at a young age, you take on a burden and you believe that this thing is true. Because as a child that's what you're supposed to do. And, so, it's a process of helping yourself unburden the weight of that message.
And there can be some grief with that because you realize, "Oh, my goodness, this thing that was told to me, my whole life, isn't true. I was told I could never do that and it wasn't true."
Or "I was told that this aspect of my personality is bad and it's not."
And there can be some grief that comes with that process of unburdening. And then number five, you Integrate a newer, truer, more beautiful message into your internal world. Now, it's not going to take that inner critic away, altogether, but you will grow skills to retrain that inner critic. So that when it appears you're more quickly able to go, "Oh, wait a minute, there's that old voice, what's the new message that I, actually, need to absorb."
And you gently begin to set a boundary with that old critical message and replace it with a truer, more God-driven, more constructive, helpful message, instead. It's a process of retraining your mind. Great question.
Let's go to question number two.
Corey: Hi Dr. Alison. My name is Corey from New Zealand. I use encourage and inspire on Instagram, usually. I'm wondering what now?
What happens after we've discovered that both my parents were narcissistic?
What happens now that my dad is, finally, blown it and forced me into counselling?
What happens now that we know that I've never known anything other than trauma? I'm in my early 50s, I have no experience of not being traumatized?
I have no experience of, actually, feeling totally connected with God. I am very faithful, very loyal, but I'm in this wasteland now. Trying to care for kids, trying to care for elderly parents on both sides, just like what now? I don't know how to word it better than that, what now?
Alison: Corey, thank you for this question. I hear so much in that, what now?
That What Now? You've survived.
You've been caring for others, your kids, even your parents, you've been loyal, you've been faithful. And I love that some part of you is looking around going, what now? And I hear so much in that, "What now?" Sort of, is this all there is?
Could there be more?
If there is more, what is it?
I've done all this work to care for everybody else. Is it possible that there's something now for me? And I want to answer, with every fiber of my being, yes. What's next? It's your time to heal. And I know so many of you, listening, feel this way. You've coped, you've survived, you didn't get much coming in. You raised children of your own, and now you're looking around going, "What now?
And you genuinely don't know what it would look like to start taking steps to bravely heal your own soul, and claim your own life. And that's a path you've got to go down, it's a brave path. But I believe it's a path that God wants for you.
I believe that it's a path that God wants you to take because your soul, your wellbeing, your health, your life, matters, and it's never too late. It's never too late to start. In fact, I think we have to start now. We have to start now. I don't think we wait until the next life to start healing the parts of us that need our care, I think we start now.
So the fact that you're asking, "What now?" Is a beautiful trailhead, a beautiful cue to start going down the path of turning toward your own healing. This will be a process and I wouldn't do it alone, especially, when you've had significant trauma. Especially when you haven't been parented well.
The first thing I would do is get a trauma-informed counselor. Now, what does that mean? Well, in episode four of this podcast, we talked about healing from trauma. And I use the metaphor of walking down a path. This idea of a trailhead, and your "What now" question, to me, feels like a trailhead.
It's a signpost of a trail to walk down and that trail is unknown. It's scary. It might even feel a little dangerous, and I want you to treat that with the reverence it deserves. You don't want to walk down that trail alone. You want a guide. You want someone to walk with you. You're going to unpack some things.
There are some wounds in your soul that need to be unpacked, need to be healed, and you want someone to walk you down that trail. To help you pace yourself through that process, and that's what a trauma-informed therapist understands how to do.
They're trained in evidence-based modalities, such as EMDR, IFS, I'll link to these in the show notes, that help you pace your body. Pace, your process of healing as you walk down that trail of healing.
So your job is to look at that signpost, see it as a trailhead and go, "Huh, there's a new path I've got to walk down now. It's a new one. I've walked down the path of helping everybody else, of being faithful to everybody else, it's time to go down my own path of healing."
And it's okay to feel a little scared, a little uncertain, a little skeptical, a little confused about that. But I would find a guide, and I'll link to some ideas in the show notes. Because this is a process of going deeper into your own soul.
Where you carefully, delicately, gently, unearth some areas where you need a safe, loving, presence to help you begin to see parts of your story that were never told. That never got healed, that never had a witness, a loving presence to come alongside of you, and help you understand your own story, your own soul. And to tell those stories, we can't do it alone, we need someone to walk with us.
Because you'll bump into some of the narratives. Again, to get back to the other question that get lodged in this soul, when we're raised by parents who are narcissistic, who don't parent us, who don't love us, parts of us pick up beliefs like—
"I was never worth more."
"No one could love me."
"If I were worthy of love, why didn't anyone see me?"
These are deep wounds that children pick up when they're raised in homes where they're not seen. Where they're neglected. Where they're not heard, and these wounds need a safe, loving presence, in order for them to begin to get the care that they need.
So find a trauma-informed therapist who can help you walk that journey in a safe, contained way. That can help you peel back the layers slowly at the right pace. So that you can find the healing and freedom you deserve and that God made you to have.
Change takes time but you can learn. You could heal. We can heal parts of us that have been stuck in the past. It's amazing, our bodies are designed to heal. But don't do it alone, get the help that you need.
So here are my tips for you—
* It's not too late.
* Pay attention to the trailhead- What now?
* Find someone to walk with you, find a trauma-informed therapist.
And then as you walk with that guide, you will become aware of the next steps that you need to take. It might feel hard, at first, to take that spotlight you've learned to shine on everyone around you, and let it shine on you, but it's worth it. You are worth it.
God is a God of healing. The word saved that we see in Scripture, sozo, is often means to heal. God came to heal, and I believe that healing starts now. Thank you so much for your question. I am praying for you and just so excited for all of you, who are embarking on this journey toward healing.
All right, question three, we're going to just touch on briefly. This is a question I'm going to read, it's from Sue and she transcribed her question instead of speaking it, here it is.
"Hi, Dr. Alison. I have a boundaries question. I'm getting some pushback from my parents. They're really upset with me because I won't let my sons spend the night with them at their house. I have some concerns about some questionable decisions they make that put my children's safety at risk.
I let them visit during the day, without supervision, but they can't stay overnight. My parents think I'm disrespecting them and their choices, I don't know what to do. Am I disrespecting my parents or do I have the right to decide what to do with my kids, and what I feel comfortable with?"
All right, Sue, great question. I'm sure there are many listeners who can relate. Yes, you are setting a very simple boundary. This is Boundaries 101. You do have the right to keep your own children safe, even when your parents don't like it. Your first responsibility is to your own children.
You're not being disrespectful to your parents to state a clear boundary. You're not trying to change them. What you're trying to do, what I hear in your question is you're trying to say, "Here is what they choose to do, in response to their choice here is what I need to do."
"Here is the decision I see you making and in response to that, here is the decision I will be making." That's a healthy boundary. That is your right, as a parent, you get to decide. Now they may not like it, so here are a couple of tips to help you communicate.
Remember, you're not trying to punish them, control them, shame them, or change them, that's not your job. So be very clean on your side of the street. You just want to say very clearly, "Here is what I'm going to do for my kids."
Tell them the yes, that you're saying, "They can stay with you during the day. I love for them to spend time with you, but they're not allowed to stay at your house overnight, full stop." You don't know them an explanation.
You are providing a way for your kids to see their grandparents within certain boundaries. They may not like it. They may talk back. They may try to get you to concede. Stand firm in your confidence, you're taking care of your own children.
It's not your job to change your parents. It's not your job to get them to agree, to get them to like it, to get them to understand. It's your job to make wise decisions on behalf of your children. All right, so a little boundaries talk there.
Thank you so much for these questions and join me here next week, where we're going to do another round of psychology buzzwords Listeners Choice Edition. You guys gave me a whole bunch of great words and I can't wait to dive into them with you, see you soon. And in the meantime, make sure you're paying attention to what brings out the best of you.[00:24:48] < Music >
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out. I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are you honor God, you heal others and you stay true to your God-given self.