“I am a cool guy. Happy go lucky sort..”“People have never judged me fairly. It is their loss. Who cares?”“I am two people living in one. My private self, is not known even to my wife. And there is a happy public self- laughing and joking all the time. These two selfs dont get along too well. I am having difficulties now- being one..”“I am a fighter. I never give up. I had to fight for every thing in life. But it has made me strong..”“I am alone but never lonely. I dont care for human company. I would rather spend time with a good book..”
Now, where has this predominantly negative image come from? One main source is the off-hand comments from people around us- family, teachers, friends, colleagues; their chance reactions. Stereotypes in media (stories, movies, plays, folk-tales etc.) also strengthen such negative ideas. Later, we too start passing severe judgments on ourselves- often in the form of critical self talk : I dont deserve it. It is sheer chance. This good luck may not continue for long. Something bad is bound to happen to me. etc.
When a job interview has gone bad and you return home, what kind of thoughts pass through your head? What kind of things you say to yourself? THAT is a good example of obsessive negative self-talk, which only worsens the problem.
Once we develop a particular image of ourselves (stammerer/ unsuccessful/ unsocial/ socially inept/ unlucky/ martyr), we maintain this self-image by selectively interpreting what we 'hear', read, believe, understand, remember, recall, do etc. It becomes part of our long term memory and perpetuates itself. In other words, we may go through hundreds of new experiences, meet hundreds of new people, BUT it only strengthens our pre-conceived image of ourselves. Can any therapy or self-effort succeed in the face of such beliefs? Self image is also known as self-schema, because it is a collection of many strands of thoughts. Here is a definition:
“This high-speed mental "highway" that takes us rapidly through life may appear to be externally generated and perpetuated (i.e., by the fast-paced society in which we live). However, if we were to examine it more closely, we would find that it is constructed primarily of habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that uniquely characterize each of us as individuals. Psychologists refer to the underlying structure of these habitual patterns as 'self-schemas.' (from http://info.med.yale.edu/psych/3s/3S_overview.html)
If we recall Sheehan, his theory of stuttering Iceberg is pointing to these difficulties only. This explains why relapse is so common and why many therapies dont succeed in the first place. Now, what do we do? Here are two, among many, practical approaches to know ourselves more deeply and consciously - and then work on it.
Take a test
1. My glass is always half-empty, not half-full.
2. I'm always apologizing for things.
3. I'm always telling myself I "should" be doing this or that.
4. I constantly criticize myself.
5. What other people think about me dictates how I feel about myself.
6. I am critical of my mistakes and relive them over and over.
7. I always let the people who care about me down.
8. I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.
9. A partial failure is as bad as a complete failure.
10. I bend over backwards to please others.
11. I am not sure I have done a good job unless someone else points it out.
12. It's hard for me to forgive and forget.
13. I have to work harder than others for relationships and am afraid that the relationships I have will fail.
14. If I don't do as well as others, it means that I am not as good as them.
15. If I can't do something well, there is no point in doing it at all.
Give yourself 1 point for each question you answered with a "true".
0 - 4: You have a generally positive way of thinking and should feel good about yourself. Keep it up!5 - 8: You may be struggling with some negative emotions. Take time to review your good qualities.9 or more: You can be very critical of yourself. Challenge yourself to change your way of thinking!
- 1. Public Self (what is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others)2. Blind Self (what is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know)3. Hidden Self (what the person knows about him/herself that others do not know)4. Unknown Self (what is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others)