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You Can’t Bully Yourself Better

Spam Filter For Your Brain - Episode 84


A problem that I've noticed for lots of people is that when we have an emotion that we don't like, something that feels uncomfortable, or something that doesn't agree with our politics, or what we think about other people, we can tell ourselves that we're wrong, or it is wrong, or that we're not doing good enough. And quite often, when we judge ourselves for emotions that arise, it's a sort of instinctive reaction that we have to try and get rid of as quickly as possible. And for many, many people, I see the way that they choose to respond to this, and I say choose with some hesitancy because I don't think you're going to like this. I think the way that we choose to respond to it quite often is to bully ourselves about it, is to be really judgmental, is to tell ourselves we shouldn't be feeling this, we know better. This isn't the way things are. We're not that kind of person. This isn't right.


And all this does is create a huge amount of shame for the emotion that is coming up for us. And we have this idea, many of us, that we can kind of bully our way out of feeling horrible. That if we're just strict and stern enough, then we can just snap out of it and plough on with something else. And occasionally, it works. But I think that's pretty rare. I think quite often that's a sort of militant bullying that quite a lot of us experienced at school, that we should just be more hardy and get on with things and not really feel our feelings or feel our emotions, that actually maybe a different approach could be possible.


And I don't think that many of us think that a different approach is possible because I think that we believe that if we are kind to ourselves when we have an emotion that we don't like, or we're doing something we don't like, or we're responding in a way that we're not particularly proud of. We think if we're kind to ourselves under those circumstances, we're condoning it, and if we relax for a single second, we're going to do it a whole load more.

And we can't allow ourselves any kind of ease when there's discomfort around. We must punish ourselves better.


And we can't bully ourselves into healing shit. Doesn't work like that. Your brain doesn't work like that. Human emotions don't work like that. When someone's attacking you, you curl up tight, like, even my shoulders just raised when I'm just speaking to you about it right now. You become a little armadillo. You want to defend yourself when someone's attacking you. You can't tell yourself that what you're doing is stupid and you shouldn't be doing it and then expect it to go away. It's literally you're going to end up with your emotions, yourself, and all of your cells curling up into a little ball to protect you from you. I think this idea that we can bully ourselves better is simply a symptom of the capitalist hustle culture that we have that tells us that we should do things to get away from things. The more we do, the better we are. We are more worthy, we will be better people the more actions that we take, the more we produce.


And sometimes, I don't know that we can try to escape this stuff in order to get rid of it. We can take an awful lot of actions to numb ourselves out from emotions, that's for sure. But it doesn't mean that the emotions disappear just because you might not be feeling them in that moment. Quite often, it means that we're just papering over the cracks or squashing them down until some really inappropriate moment where they're going to come reeling backround again just when you don't want them.


Because if this emotion is there for you, it is as a direct result of a thought that's brewing under the surface, or maybe a thought that is very clear and obvious to you quite often under the surface. And if we don't investigate what that thought is in itself, then that thought is going to pop up again when a similar situation comes up, or something reminds you, or, I don't know, maybe a smell triggers something. If we leave the thought unchecked, the emotion pops up to the surface.


And I rarely find that this happens at appropriate moments or opportune times where you have time to sit down and go, I wonder what this means about me. It's normally like, "oh, my God. And another thing I have to deal with, it's this old thing that's been coming up quite a lot for a long time".


So I find that when these uncomfortable emotions come up, if I'm able to find that space to just pause and go, what's really going on here? It saves me a lot of heartache in the future. One of the ways that I try and do this is to just really identify what's going on for me on a really basic level, noticing what emotion it is. Notice I'm feeling emotion rather than this is just the actual truth. Notice that I'm feeling an emotion, trying to name what that emotion is and then try and describe it. Maybe in physical terms, maybe in how it is making me feel rather than it is because of this or they did that, or I did this and it is this way. How does it feel? What is coming up that makes me know that this emotion is there.


And then sitting there and trying to process some of this stuff. And that's bigger than I can teach in a little short podcast. I do try and keep these podcasts quite short. I do have a course on it over at SelfCareSchool which used to be called the emotional resilience toolkit and I renamed to be How to Feel your Feelings without Feeling like Shit because I thought it was more appropriate. And I do teach how to process some of this stuff through your body there. You are very welcome to come to any of the calls or the courses and just see how it lands with you. But even if you don't want to do any of that stuff, just noticing it, naming it, describing it can be a really useful way to just kind of stop and pause and sit with it for a minute rather than trying to push it down until the next time it wants to rear its head and come disrupting your days. I hope some of this stuff is useful in dealing with those big feelings that life can bring and I look forward to speaking to you next week.

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