Working with Clients Who Feel “Never Good Enough”

People constantly compare themselves against messages they receive from friends, family, media, and our culture.

And those messages often contribute to feelings of “never good enough”:

Not attractive enough. Not intelligent enough. Not thin enough. Not successful enough.

For many of our clients, they’ve encountered these types of messages from a very young age, and often from the people they looked to most for love and encouragement.

In the video below you’ll get seven powerful insights, from some of the top experts in our field, about how they counter feelings of “never good enough” in their work with clients.

Take a look – it’s about 4 1/2 minutes.

This video was taken from the Next Level Practitioner training program where members receive a daily video full of practical insights from one of the top 25 experts in our field. That program is not open for new members right now, but if you want to be on a waiting list in case it opens up, please click here.

How have you worked with clients who felt they were “never good enough?”

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86 Comments

  1. Thank you. I resonate with an approach of accessing both conscious and non-conscious beliefs to get at the source (energy psychology very helpful), then ultimately mirroring love and positive regard. I’ve seen this work well.

  2. Susan Mosher says:

    I purchased what I thought was a course in “Not good enough” and received confirmation of payment. I have heard nothing more and don’t know when it starts and have received no materials. I found this video, the first I’ve seen, by accident in my promotions file. Please tell me what needs to be done.

  3. How do I access this Course.

  4. Anita says:

    By continually reflecting areas in which they have shown, or proven to themselves, that they were good enough client’s can begin to recognize these things in themselves. Once they can recognize things they’ve done well, in the moment or later, they can begin to overcome the “never” good enough complex.

  5. Brenda Isen says:

    I have purchased this but have not received any materials.

  6. JJ Rogers, LMFT says:

    As a first year intern I was introduced to Integrative Body Psychotherapy. For the last ten years it has been the basis of the work I do with the majority of my clients. This modality utilizes of an understanding of the client’s negative self perspective as a ‘basic fault’; a lie they told themselves to compensate for the loving attunement their parents, through no fault of their own, could not provide. These almost always are revealed as “I’m not good enough,” “I’ve done something wrong,” or “I’m bad”. Helping the client recognize the physical sensations and thoughts that go with the basic fault, and then interrupting these provides a profound healing experience.

    • Nancy S says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am going to look into the Sensorimotor psychotherapy techniques to learn to reduce my conditioned responses to external aggressions that can be the cause of so much stimulations. I find your adds-on very helpful to see the family dynamics here.

    • Mikki says:

      Thank you .

  7. Siri discussing the points that what you shared by the experts is useful and in the end it seems necessary for many people to address both the cognitive and often associated issues which are stored as as Dr. Vanderkolk has often said. So I find outside cognitive work plus inside emotional pain relief at the dissociated level works well together to resolve these kinds of issues. Only working at the cognitive level simply doesn’t provide the curative possibilities that deep relaxation work with specific recipes does in relieving pain, emotional pain from the system and thus providing for the release of symptoms such as anxiety and depression and not good enough. I actually found the experts to be very limited in their scope and expression and had hoped for more clear pathways to reading the not enough voice inside.

    • Sam says:

      Thank you. Very helpful.

  8. Christine Field says:

    I purchased this course but do not know how to gain access to it! Thank you for your reply. Christine Field, LMFT

  9. Lynna Tupica says:

    I just purchased this training and received receipt of purchase. I am uncertain how the training is forwarded. Is it sent electronically or is it sent via mail in CD/DVD form?

  10. Mary says:

    All the comments are so helpful and they will be great help for my clients. Thank you.

  11. Chloe nahshon says:

    In my experience as a creative therapist, The never good enough tends to go back to childhood experiences usually insecure attachment.On a bigger scale this is reinforced by societal standards but it seems to start with the lack of nurturing in early experiences. Not having their early emotional needs met. The inner wounded child. Working with the inner persecutor and the neglected child. Impicit memory Creating visuals of these parts of self and creating dialogue. Having the grown up part of self give their inner child love and nurturing. Its a working canvas.

  12. Patricia Musselwhite-Weaver, LMHC says:

    Re: Negative Self Talk/Evaluation of self I ask them if they would ever say to someone else what they just said to themselves and they vehemently deny they would.

  13. Leanne McWaters, MfT says:

    I have my clients actually feel what it is like to make the harsh judgment against themselves that they are not enough–where in the body do you feel it (so somatic) and what is the visceral experience. Most of the time they have gone into defense or shame or some other emotion and not stayed with the self-harming they are doing. When they go into their own heart, they have a different experience then going into their head (where is this from/true, etc.) When they experience the level of self-hatred hidden below the “not good enough” story, they are often willing to treat themselves better and let that old story go. And I ask them to experience their own self-love at that point which is palpable when they have truly felt their own self-despise and released it. I might use some NLP to cement in that new experience at that point. I ask them to notice this new feeling during the week as homework.

  14. I have used a “combo platter” of the above–what’s the evidence/how did you develop that belief/feelings aren’t evidence, how do you feel/hold this in your body, do you ever feel differently in your body; re-look at whether your religious beliefs reinforce “not good enough, gotta be better”

  15. Susan Smith says:

    It is painful to watch clients struggle. I, myself, have struggled with eating disorders. Love. Acceptance. Allowing one to feel safe. Find ways to express those feelings.

    • Beth says:

      It is so true especially when the pain is deep and embedded that has raised from the developmental perspective and social as well. Thanks to writing.

  16. Larisa Kompelmakher says:

    I love all comments a lot…. I did found the the joy and peace in faith of salvation from shading blood of Christ… Bible is my book of TRUTH…and it is come from deep level of TRUST and FAITH of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE of OUR FATHER GOD! To change and find my new identity as a child of GOD was crucial for my restoration and t transformation…..Spirit of of GOD always waiting and wanting to find HIS KIDS, just keep searching and knocking….

  17. Jo-Anne Sutherland says:

    Helping clients to gain an understanding of how their core beliefs contribute to their feelings of low self-worth. Looking at where these core beliefs originate and working on developing new beliefs about themselves. I used to help them with being aware of their thought processes, being mindful of the messages they give themselves on a daily basis and to work on replacing negative thoughts with more realistic, positive ones. Positive affirmations can be helpful and this is something I have used myself.

  18. Lu Lasson says:

    People hold onto beliefs because they serve(d) them. Somehow, it is safer to believe “I’m not good enough”, than another belief. So if you can access that part of them that holds that belief (for me, IFS does this beautifully) and WHY that belief was/is so important, and show that it’s no longer necessary to hold onto that belief, then it can shift. This is not insight-based, but experiential and deep.

    • Jemima says:

      How do I access the part of me that believes that I am not good enough? I think it comes from high expectations that my father had for education. Achieving was everything though little clue was given on how to get there I struggle with knowing how to take small steps my low self esteem and negative self talk and AVOIDANCE run riot. My mother was always self depreciating and now my self depreciation is automatic when I speak to people it annoys people including myself. I would get the stick and cold baths if I was ‘naughty’ and was reduced to a quivering wreck often. Now I shake and over react at conflict and have been diagnosed with adhd as a 50 year old. I am a mature student and despite initial good grades I convinced myself I would fail and avoided work until I did fail year 2 at uni from non submission of work. I am going back but want to access the part that believes I am not good enough.I struggle with relationships and find people competitive. I feel very trapped.

  19. Joe Schwartaz Phd says:

    thank you…the therapy for me was a solid 12 step program….steady repetition that I am OK
    plus I push “feelings aren’t facts”…..feelings are based on the moment and moments change

  20. Marta Luzim says:

    In my experience as a practitioner “telling” clients or questioning clients about the lie of not good enough, or to find evidence that it is true, helps to bring awareness, but not necessarily heal it in the emotional, cellular body.

    Somatic work, creative expression, movement, mindfulness and digging deeply into the emotional branding/beliefs/stories and thoughts” and emotional energetics and eipgentics of generational shame and trauma are a process of feeling, expressing and receiving ….it is a layered, peeling and practice

    The damage to trust around love and the heartbreak of being betrayed is a slow, fierce and compassionate journey into the heart and soul. There is a grief process involved in this shame and not good enough healing.

    Yes, starting off with the cognitive fact, fiction, and teaching the difference is a beginning, but there is so much more to the healing of not good enough In addition as a client as well as a therapist of trauma, I know this process in a deeply personal way. My personal journey I discovered the non verbal and non verbal practices that take me into my body: writing, painting any type of creative process and having a huge amount of love and compassion that I have found in my life along with my continuous recovery and helping others is never endling.. Learning to love oneself and forgive oneself and learn the difference between the victim child and the victim adult is a very subtle and mandatory understanding of the patterning and feelings around trauma. I am not good enough is a symptom of trauma. There are so a myriad of symptoms. Trauma is an octopus . The isn’t one answer or theory or approach that works. It is very individual process. And healing does not mean curing. Trauma and the symptoms of trauma is a life time recovery process Thank you Anne for you sharing. I agree

    • J. Dragon says:

      I so agree with you. I use ThetaHealing to help connect the body and beliefs through this lifetime, genetics, group consciousness and even the soul.

  21. Ruth Greenthal, Ph.D. says:

    I explore and surface negative stories my clients tell themselves,
    and find inaccuracies or state my disagreements – and explain
    their humanity and innocence – like Jack Kornfield talked about.
    Also talk about how I see feelings fitting into the world, as an
    important part of life but not to be confused with objective facts.
    Basically doing reality testing. And looking at small positive changes
    in our work since often their depressive lens is overtaking. Plus tune
    into their body and how they think and feel and cope – and intercede
    using my rapport and relationship. Sometimes I use art or drawings
    to summarize parts of our work as we go.

  22. Vanessa Chant says:

    The times you did feel good enough, what was different?
    Exceptions: Tell me at least one time you did feel good enough?
    What would be different if you did feel good enough?
    Lets imagine someone waved a wand and you felt you were good enough, just for one day, what would be different?

  23. Woody says:

    Responding to the never feeling good enough. I think there are subtle differences that may be attributed to geographical location. I generally start this process with active listening skills. This simple step allows the client to to be an active participant in explaining how it affects them and what their thoughts are. I’m validating their importance in this world and I’m by using reflective listening and paraphrasing they know I understand or I don’t and they will correct me. After this initial time I attempt to universalize the concept with most if not all people have felt or still feel that if others really knew them they wouldn’t like them. Each person comes with their own matrix as to how this belief was planted and nourished. This is all mostly client centered approach. Then its moving into solution focused or RET where we break down old thought and feelings, those old tapes and where the client remembers how they come into play and how these beliefs or attitudes affects them today. Sometimes we do RSA’s to look at what’s rational or in their own best interest and what’s not. This I’m not good enough in most cases was years in the making and effective and lasting change is also generally a process that takes a little time. This belief is so destructive and entrenched in our core essence that giving a person hope that life can be different is critical.

  24. Anne Brinkley says:

    Although I do have a BA in psychology and at one time wanted to be a therapist, I am not a therapist but a client. I have a long history of childhood developmental trauma and complex adult trauma. I began seeking help as a freshman in college after a very disturbing incident involving my bipolar mother and my alcoholic stepfather. I have been in many forms of therapy over the years, not only because of my bipolar mother and therapies associated with her, and for both adopted sons, but most of all for myself. I cannot count the number of mental health practitioners – psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, licensed marriage and family counselors, et al. – that I have been to over a 50-year period, nor can I count the types of therapies I have experienced. “Never good enough” was deeply ingrained in me at an early age, and has often plagued me ever since. No amount of understanding, logic or reasoning has dissipated this feeling. The only professional therapies that have helped me have been ones applied with true love and acceptance on the part of the therapist, and therapies which work with my body and my emotions. These include breath work, heart-centered hypnotherapy, EMDR, and Brain-spotting. They include, also, practices which I instinctively sought – theater, yoga, and massages, long before I discovered “The Body Keeps the Score”. I am a big fan of Bessel Van der Kolk! I have not tried it yet, but I suspect Somatic Experiencing would be very beneficial. I am also intrigued by and drawn to by Internal Family Systems.

    • Marta says:

      Yes, thanks for going out of your comfort zone. i have seen Bessel Van de Kohl at a presentation and like him too. My fourteen years of training before having an MS in counseling has taught me that our brain change from childhood to adulthood as our life experiences enriched it or damage it, depending how much care we give to it. What i love the mist about this work is being “there for” the person. I have an only child but have been an “helicopters” parent because i work and go to school. So i see the role of caregivers as very important.

    • carole says:

      Your story will help me to not give up on healing. Thank you. I too have had years of different therapies by many different professionals. Psychiatry, EMDR, CBT, talk therapy… I have a very high ACE score, The thing is- I feel not good enough, because I have had years of therapy and still live with the negative critic in my head daily. I feel bad for not healing with the help of all these people and the time, money, and effort I have given it. Anyhow, good words and the comments, also.

    • Abbie says:

      I’m also a client, with a similar background and experience in various types of treatment and therapy. Much Love on your journey!

      • Anne Brinkley says:

        Thank you. Same to you!

      • Paula says:

        “I can not count how many….””The only I have …” could show that Anne may feeldiscouraged.But yes, you have been very persistent. Keep it up.

        • Anne Brinkley says:

          I have gone through times of depression and discouragement, but I have continued to grow, and have been very helped and encouraged by more recent forms of therapy which involve the body. Usually, I am a happy person who enjoys life. I have many friends and good relationships, and many activities which bring me joy. I do, however, get triggered by some core issues, One of these is needing to be perfect, or another way of saying this, is that I am not good enough. Actually, it is usually that my actions are not good enough, even when I have put forth a superhuman effort and have gone above and beyond expectations. My mind knows that I have done my best, but if I have failed in my purpose, the rest of me often does not listen to that. It feels like I have failed. I have made progress, thankfully, and I’m still moving forward .Thank you.

    • Mitski says:

      Sometimes less is more, one of my Weight Watcher said. Have you tried Art therapy as something to use other than CBT or the classics? Or some form of self-help? A rational portion that our coach present in a plate has been a good help for me to quantify my eating compulsion habits or sometimes starving for else. The least I would get into is th 12steps for this problem that you have.

      • debbie says:

        Hi Anne, well done to you for your commitment to healing. Also wonderful that you know which have helped you. You obviously have awareness so i am surprised by Mitski and Paulas replys. Didnt read anywhere where you were asking for advise.
        All the best for the rest of your journey.

        • Anne Brinkley says:

          Thank you for your affirmations and. My intention in posting was to share my outlook and experience as one who had participated in many many forms of therapy as a client, and could comment from that point of view. I could have all of the insight in the world, but talking did not help me change my patterns or feelings. In fact, analyzing and intellectualizing have been one of my defense mechanisms! The analytical part of the brain, for me anyway, plays a very small part in healing.

      • Paula Peireira says:

        I haven’t dived into the twelve steps program. But because your dad struggles with addiction this could be helpful though.

        • Anne Brinkley says:

          Thanks, but my stepdad was not in my life much, and he has been dead for 24 years…There have been other alcoholics in my family, though, and both sons had alcohol/drug issues which led my husband and I to begin going to AlAnon16 years ago. I have gotten much support and benefit from AlAnon, and would recommend it or other 12-step programs. They do not, however, replace good therapy and therapists.

  25. Leslie says:

    One of the ways “never good enough” manifests is in the constant desire to win, or avoid loss. When loss becomes inevitable as part of the course of a person’s life, the experience of defeat is terrifying. The recognition of the layered patterns of striving for achievements, fame and power at the cost of engaging in unethical actions, often comes first. Underneath this is this feeling of defeat which is very unpleasant. The shoulders up is the defensive striving. The physical, mental and emotional collapse of defeat can be met in it’s many layers and held with awareness and deep compassion. This process takes many years in some cases where there were many experiences in early life of the experience of defeat of our healthy and normal need for positive attachment expereiences.
    Often people who have this pattern, despite many achievements, will be attracted to situations where they are not winning and put a lot of attention into trying to avoid the experience of loss or defeat. One way to imagine getting out of this cycle is to allow oneself to surrender to defeat. The beautiful states of the mind that arise when one surrenders, will support further healing of the pattern that has been driving decades of behaviors.

  26. Marianne, psychotherapist and trauma therapist says:

    Yes, so true what Pat Odgen is saying that if the body and the body posture isn`t changing we can work our heads off and nothing changes. I myself experienced that as I was finishing my first training in trauma therapy. then I had a car accident and all the triggers were back and nothing seemed to help me – but then I got to know Somatic Experiencing!

  27. Thank you.

  28. srisht says:

    sadly with Trauma of ACE or boundary violations including rape or incest , particularly,there is Self Loathing and not just feeling of ‘never good enough’ . Idea of
    Radical acceptance and practice of self compassion ( repeated briefly and often during the day) are essential for healing that deep wounding.
    Group therapy works better under such circumstances .

  29. Being a Career Counselor, I have clients write “stories” about things they’ve done that they feel good about. (Some clients need coaching to come up with the stories) Then we tease out the skills, qualities they have that allowed them to accomplish these things. This often helps to validate that they are good enough.

  30. Gina Orlando says:

    I use EFT – Emotional Freedom Techniques, guided imagery/hypnosis, talking about spirituality and help to support them in this vital area of their life, helping to heal trauma through a variety of means including Belleruth Naparstek’s “Healing Trauma” brilliant guided imagery work with healthjourneys.com, referring them to “Radical Self-Acceptance” by Tara Brach, PhD to bring in a Buddhist perspective (along with some Kornfield articles), old-fashioned recovery work with a resource like “Language of Letting Go” by Melody Beattie, and a good dose of humor. What is ENOUGH??!!

  31. Gwen Pasin says:

    I normally challenge unhelpful thinking patterns. I loved the way Marsha Linehan said move away from feelings and focus on the facts – do a reality check.

  32. P. Lyndon says:

    My clients are in their twenties and usually have cognitive conditions that really make it tough for them to come to clarity about what is going on until doing and talking about it all. Some have a very distasteful idea about being seeing a therapist. So this discussion about identity and being stuck in space and time is definitely helpful. Thank you,

  33. Melissa Epple says:

    I listen for and address with my clients feelings, judgements as belief based which leads to resistance of who you are. Once the story of that identity is faced, the client either decides to continue which changes nothing or acknowledge, accept and welcome their decision to end their relationship to that story/ identity, and then can decide they create who they are, not some imprint that was tied to their false identity. I agree with Pat Ogden the body is a valuable resource as are the emotional and mental.

  34. Patricia Kapphahn, Atlanta says:

    Thank you, Ruth, for sharing these helpful perspectives. So much of the work I do is helping clients find that acceptance and self love within themselves and to let go the old self limiting beliefs that so many still carry .

    • Patricia Kapphahn, Atlanta says:

      Thank you, Ruth, for sharing these helpful perspectives. So much of the work I do with clients is helping them find that acceptable and self love within themselves and let go the old self limiting beliefs.

  35. Steve E. says:

    In my work at The Addiction Recovery Center, a boutique medical detox unit in Oklahoma City, the guests are at a very low pint and are dealing with a lot of Shame from what they have done and the choices they have made. What I do, is start at the beginning when they were born and ask them to describe how they were then. Usually pure. Blameless. Beautiful. Then we review the Adverse Childhood experiences. The average number is 7. To add perspective, I use the adverse outcomes of having a high ACE score. When I show them the ACA Red Book and read a little about the common traits, tears usually follow with comments like “You mean I am not alone? There are others like me out here?” Yes, there are millions of people but most don’t understand why they can’t find contentment. Now you know, it’s not you. You are still that pure beautiful baby but you have picked up a lot of dust along the way. Many think they came from a worthy house. Others know their house was really unhealthy. But few make the link that they developed the 14 Laundry List traits because of where and how they were raised.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Very helpful, thank you.

  36. Margaret says:

    I believe that shame is a factor in not feeling good enough. I find that clients appreciate and long for the safe validation of the origin of their shame and the idea of sharing their experience and emotions around it. Often it’s the first time they have done this and feel vulnerable and are afraid of being hurt and abandoned now that they have exposed themselves. After the revelation, knowing that the therapist can help them hold their emotions, feeling safe, many clients like to simply stay with their feelings, which are profound. Not giving them up entirely, to love and appreciate them as signals, guardians, and protectors, spirit guides, a beautiful aspect of who the client is. So we spend time in considering what the emotions hold in mind, body and spirit until the shame has softened. Often it’s a matter of the client understanding that they are not their emotions so we spend time in broadening out to the other beautiful aspects of themselves.

    • Paula says:

      It is a lengthy process for the client to be able to trust and to open to being vulnerable is the contrary to this belief of “not good enough”. Being resistant to change means to the client the fear to let go and to feel “less than” . But in fact the strength appears to the client only when she/he becomes aware that there is light at the end. This may repeat what you say but thank you for sharing.

      • Paula says:

        I think I am a little bit upset when a person say or make another person “not good enough” I don’t know the reason for doing so when validating goes much more a long way. It must be in the making throughout many years of wrong purpose. It is hard to believe this is also happening in my own family. So when I see it happening it does stir some emotions in me. What I found good when helping a client is to see what their goals are. It has helped me a lot.

  37. As a psychodramatist, I ask “What is your earliest ,memory of feeling this way ?” (If they cannot recall a specific memory, I ask,”How old do you feel when you feel ‘not good enough’?) Then using the Therapeutic Spiral Model of psychodrama to create safety and bring in strengths, I go back with them to that scene and create a scene of developmental repair to replace the “not good enough scene” . This includes a scene where the current adult self affirms the innate worth and unconditionally loved “inner child” . I have done this many times – always moving and transformative because in role the protagonist gets to both say and hear ( and feel) thru role reversals the reparative messages.

    • Thanks Linda. I am a psychodramatist in New Zealand and I have directed a lot of psychodramas where social atom repair takes place in which the group member gets to feel the feelings of the little child and using role reversal they can nurture themselves the way they wished it had been. Psychodrama enables both feelings to be expressed and cognitive insights from the adult self to be had.

  38. Tiffany Kernutt says:

    Thank you this was very helpful. I too tend to utilize a little of most of what was mentioned individualized to the clients.
    I start where ever the not good message was reported from (body,thought, feeling) I ask fro evidence that their thought or feeling is fact and break that down with them. Always love love love, and for motivation I find out what might be an item they could successfully safely complete to feel good bout themselves. Lots of encouraging kind words and pointing out all the strengths they have!!
    Always breaking down defeating thoughts by shining truth onto them. Again I really appreciate this discussion! Refreshes my work and love
    Tiffany K

  39. Patricia says:

    Yes, thank you for sharing these beautiful approaches as I agree with and use all of them. Because I am a Christ-centered counsellor I also often enquire about how my clients’ allow their faith to inform their image of self. I like to inquire if their faith is based on a relationship with Christ or if its more dutiful amd mechanical. I do this to determine if they see God as judgemental and condemning with a long list of do’s and don’ts or as loving and merciful God who is in their corner and wants them to see themselves as he sees them: ‘my precious and beloved son or daughter’
    These two realities can be so opposing for people who strive to live their Christian faith. So much so that the opposing forces can prevent healing and growth to take place and it can cause them to try to control and use God as a way to manitupute and control others. I believe the deeper the shame the more distorted their image of self and God becomes. Their attempts to reconcile these differences often prevent an authentic relationship with God, self and others, I have witnessed so many people whose thoughts are so tortured as they wrestle with their desire to be seen as ‘good enough’ in God’s eyes and those around them that they live in fear of being ‘exposed’ for who (at a deep level) they believe they are. I call on the grace of God to enter into this distored image and I create opportunities for directed imagery meditation as a way to create a path for them to journey out of the darkness and into the light. All this may sound corny to unbelievers but the power of the grace of God has helped me help others in profound and exciting ways. Thank you for allowing me to share.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Very helpful, thank you.

      • Gay says:

        Thanks Patricia. I agree! Our identity isn’t so much about what WE have done/not done, but what HE did for us out of a heart of compassionate love and grace for every one of His children.

  40. I so appreciate what your leading experts say about “not good enough”. For me it is applying a combination of all the strengths of these modalities mentioned depending on the client and their experience…noticing body experiences, compassion, being vs. doing, the need for attachment, and so on. As a counsellor utilizing the best of many different counselling approaches and inclusive of the whole person, I find my clients respond well with the neuroscience/psych metacognition of what their brain is doing when responding to experiences (triggers) in a negative way. From this place, they can learn to apply compassion, reduce self-blame and judgement, and with rational (CBT type) approaches better understand what is going on for them (and others) with a kind heart. I have this mapped on a diagram created from CBT, neuroscience, and Satir. The visuals are very effective…they are encouraged to put a copy on their fridge at home as a reminder.

    Thank you for asking.

    • ronda hain says:

      can you share the diagram you referenced as it sounds interesting…

  41. Sandy Lillie says:

    In my experience, countering negative feelings about the self with contrary “facts” or arguments only softens the very top of the top layer of these deeply held experiences. The most powerful intervention is love…seeing the beauty in them, connecting with that beauty so that they can begin to notice and feel it too, and being gentle/forgiving with the part of them that is stuck in self rejection. And of course, facilitating them finding loving connection with people in their regular lives, outside of therapy, is what’s really wanted to sustain these positive feelings.

    • Anne Brinkley says:

      I agree! Thanks.

  42. I call the inner critic the “protector” or the “body guard.” We look at what happenend in childhood and how their bodyguard came to help them to survive. And that the problem in preswnt time is that the body senses a threat and the bodyguard comes and does her job of protecting. But in present time, this method of protecting is mo longer needed. So we thank the bodyguard, possibly give her something else to guard, and then consciously choose how they want to respond to the present say “yhreat.”
    Inalao do inner child work. I have a lovely photo of a mama deer licking a newborn deer. I encourage clients to be the mama deer tending to their internal baby deer. We look at how the baby deer gets scared and fears for its life, and that they can be the mama deer and have compassion for the baby deer but not let its panic determine their behaviors.
    In this way, we gently and compassionately hold bothe the scared part and the defensive part and choose the wise present day part to “drive the car”. My use of imagery and metaphor and sumbol are very effective in addressing the traumatic responses without shame.

    • Satya says:

      With sight I see that most people have three inner criticss. It pays to address each for a lasting outcome.

    • Anne Brinkley says:

      I really like the Internal Family Systems model, or variation of it, that you apparently use. Just knowing about protectors, has already helped me personally. I also love the deer imagery and metaphor. Thank you.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Great reframe, thank you.

    • Sukie says:

      those descriptive practices and images are very helpful — I will use them. Thank you so much.
      Sukie Stanley

  43. Wendy Tuck says:

    Very interesting book, The Obsidian Mirror, an incest survivors story of healing that gives a fascinatingly different view of the inner critic- as valued. Also Dr. Ruth Lanius presentation at the Annual Trauma Conference in Boston this year spoke of listening to, appreciating, and valuing the role of the inner critic and bringing its strengths online in the present. I find that when clients are already defensive, shamed based, and feel they are doing everything wrong, the more we can see how they are doing things that make sense, and appreciate whatever pretzels they had to squeeze into to survive, the more they warm up, open up, and can get more freedom from things that restrict them.

    • Anne Brinkley says:

      Amen!… and I have gone to two Boston Trauma Center summer institutes, and find them inspiring, exhilarating, amazing, and fun, even!

  44. Wendy Tuck says:

    I have gained much insight from Dr. Keith Ablow about facing the truth of what happened to us as kids- the messages we got from how we were treated and seen. The necessity of facing that truth and the authentic strength that comes from that- also Dr.Gabor Mate’s research and experience that so many things- obesity, addictions, shame, etc are the result of coping mechanisms children develop to maintain attachment to the important/vital caregiver/parent. These coping mechanisms- suppressing anger, becoming invisible, quiet suffering, defiance, being super nice or super good- become ways we live as adults. He too says it’s essential to see what underlies the symptoms- I have found once people see they didn’t “just become” like that for no reason, but they had to be that way to survive, and are still living life that way, then the body-based relief and cognitive changing of beliefs can be helpful. I have found that when I’ve been critical of beliefs or even feelings that clients have, or that they should do it differently, it inadvertently reinforces their feelings of “I’m not doing it right, I’m not good enough”. When I validate whatever feeling or belief system the person has and holds on to for dear life, and get curious in a very non-judgmental way, the door opens for the client to be curious too- and they may ask themselves, I wonder why I do that?” Then I see exploration and growth.

    • Anne Brinkley says:

      Spot on!

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Love this… “I wonder why I do that?” Helpful thank you.

    • Martha says:

      For me, it seems like social comparison is in cause. Thanks so much.

  45. Lin Peyton says:

    Hello Ruth,

    I find your posts very helpful. And I have taken Tara Brach’s course on Mindfulness earlier this year which was fabulous and hope to take some more courses in the future as my schedule allows.

    I was wondering though, if you and your team at Nicabm have ever done a program or a talk on loneliness.
    I am an Episcopal priest (for 37 yrs) and see many people from all walks of life; and loneliness comes up a lot as something with which people are struggling. (Certainly are tech age contributes to this immensely as we no longer communicate by phone with our own voices or pen letters with our own hand writing, etc etc)

    In Gratitude,
    Lin Peyton

  46. Kit McDermott says:

    I also use the “what’s your evidence?” approach to help folks put into perspective that what they’ve learned and internalized from the wounds they’ve received from relationship which distorted the profound truth they are far more than they imagine. People who grasp and gradually internalize their uniqueness and potential gradually re-interpret emotional and psychological wounds come home to peace with themselves and with others.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      So good, thank you.

  47. I ask my client to name 3 people he/she regards highly and care most about, to name the things s/he likes about them. And then I ask my client to tell me what these people would say about him/her, if I had to ask them what they like about my client.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      I’m going to try your technique, thank you.

  48. Olivia Wilson says:

    I believe it is through the experience of being attuned to, resonated with, mirrored and compassionately responded to in a way that our experiences are made sense of in the context of our relational pasts, that self compassion grows. Depending on the degree of self disorder, the time it will take to build scaffolding around dysregulated and often disavowed affect states of shame will vary. I often work with parts to help to understand how the inner tyrant or inner critic does it’s job and how it came to exist out of family, social and cultural contexts. We look at how the inner critic may have a job that it’s doing that has really helped us to survive. This way we build detachment and distance from the inner critic. We get to identify when it’s operating so we can remove ourselves slowly from its clutches. We look at where it is held in the body and find new ways of being both through therapeutic touch and postural exploration (depending on client characteristics). We explore how shame and self loathing live in the body, what experiences they stem from. All this work is done in the loving and holding presence and interest of the therapist. I believe the therapist’s attunement and intention not to unwittingly re-shame or humiliate the client in the name of “fixing” the client is the potent corrective experience that slowly transforms shame into self love and acceptance. We can’t feel self love if we haven’t received it in an experiential way from an Other. The integration of the affects of shame and self loathing (underlying the belief of “not good enoughness”) into a well rounded personality can only occur in an affirming and attuned relationship. My framework is Setf Psychology, a contemporary Psychoanalytic framework with which I integrate a body oriented somatic approach.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Thank you for the clarity.

  49. Dr Ali Bates says:

    continuum work, perfectionist pitfalls, thoughts not being our friend

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