Imagine your friend calls you up. She’s upset because her teenage son slammed out of the house after she asked him to turn his music down – again. Here’s how the conversation goes:
“Hey, you” you say, picking up the phone, “how’s it going?”
“It’s a nightmare,” your friend sobs. ”I’ve had a massive fight with James over his loud music again and he’s stormed out the house. I can’t get hold of him”.
“Well,” you sigh, “You can hardly blame him. You’re such a misery about your tinnitus. Everyone has to tip-toe around you. They’re scared to breathe in case your tinnitus spikes. You’ve become a real killjoy since you started with it. You won’t come to any of our parties, we can’t get you anywhere near a bar or restaurant, and now you’re making your kids suffer when they just want to play music like normal teenagers. I wouldn’t want to be in the same house as you either”.
You wouldn’t say this to someone you considered a friend would you? In fact I think many of us would hesitate to say this to someone we disliked. It’s not exactly compassionate, is it?
It’s hard to be a human being. It’s especially hard when you’re a human being experiencing tinnitus. It can feel like simply existing is a struggle, never mind holding down a job, looking after family, or trying to be there for our partner and friends. Why do we then add to the challenge by talking like this to ourselves?
A bad habit
Some of us know exactly why we speak so unkindly to ourselves. We might have had caregivers in our formative years who spoke to us like this. We learned self-criticism from them. We figured we must be “useless” or “a waste of space” or “good for nothing” because the adults in our lives told us we were. So we reinforced that teaching by starting to criticize ourselves.
Others of us may have developed perfectionist tendencies to please our caregivers. The adults in our lives – parents, teachers, religious leaders etc. – may have reminded us repeatedly of their high expectations of us. After a while, they didn’t need to tell us how disappointing we were when we didn’t reach their benchmark – we started telling ourselves. Maybe we still do.
Yet more may have learnt how “downright rubbish” [British understatement!] we are from some of the partners we were unlucky enough to meet. What I’m trying to say is that there are many reasons why we might end up being highly critical of ourselves. And I am really sorry if you can tick any of the examples I have just outlined.
A habit you CAN change
The good news is our self-critical behavior is both learned and habitual. Which means we can, with some work, change how we talk to ourselves. This is an essential element of our tinnitus healing journey.
As part of the Bee Empowered course we learn how to speak kindly to ourselves, perhaps for the first time in a good long while. We practice self-compassion as part of our strategy for deactivating our fight, flight or freeze system. We start to move from a state of fear to a state of love and acceptance of ourselves, and where we are on our tinnitus journey.
For many clients their first experience of self-compassion is a revelation. Their new mindfulness practice shows them how unhelpful their criticism has been for so many years. Once aware of this they can use the self-compassion techniques I teach to replace that negative criticism with positive, nurturing self-talk. They recognize and acknowledge how challenging their journey with tinnitus is, and the wise, courageous and positive way in which they are now choosing to navigate it.
To find out how mindfulness and self-compassion can revolutionize your life with tinnitus, Click Here