Transcription from the Her Temple Podcast with Kaity Rose Holsapple, Episode 8: Overcoming Self Criticism, Self Hatred, & Overthinking.
Today, I am really excited to bring a very important conversation that is extremely near and dear to my heart on how to overcome overthinking overanalyzing, how do we get out of our heads and back into our beloved bodies? That is the topic for this episode, and we’ll be discussing to begin some of the perspectives as to why and how we can get caught up in such mental knots and in these cycles of being very hard on ourselves, critical or hateful toward our own psyches, toward our own bodies, our own hearts. We’ll talk about some perspectives from the realm of somatics and the nervous system. We’ll talk about the perspective from parts work and internal family systems, and we will talk about a perspective more from an energetic, ancestral and lineage route. As we dive in, I just recommend that if you know of anybody in your life who’s struggling with a lot of critical thoughts, just being really hard or judgmental toward themselves, give them a gift and send them this episode because we are going to cover some really impactful material that has personally changed my life and my relationship with my, and liberated me from these patterns and cycles of being so overly hard on myself and getting so stuck and bound up.
While I have worked with different levels of trauma healing and healing from mental illness and mental health imbalances for many years from a holistic perspective, I continue to experience waves of self-criticism, headiness, and frozenness in the nervous system. Last night I was sitting on the couch with my amazing partner, Cody, who does similar work in the realm of masculinity and mindfulness. His work is more oriented most of the time toward men and psychology and counseling.
I was sitting on the couch with him and just kind of sharing and checking in with how I’d been feeling, which to be honest was pretty out of it that day. I’ve had some waves the past couple of weeks or month or so of just feeling like my inner critical part and the voice inside my mind that can get really intense and mean has been loud lately, and I was feeling kind of shut down and hopeless. I can also get into a bit of an existential space when my inner critic comes up, I’m like, oh, what’s the point of my life? Why am I even here? Why am I alive and can enter more of an existential depressive state, which is where I was and how I was feeling last night? And my partner so beautifully reminded me:
“You are doing this thing called being human in a beautiful way, that there’s no right or wrong way to exist, no right or wrong way to be human, to move through this amazingly strange experience that we call human life on this planet earth.”
He reminded me that you can’t think your way out of an overthinking space. It’s not helpful, it just ties you up in even deeper knots. I’m thankful for that reminder from him because we all sometimes need someone outside of ourselves to say, “Hey, I think you’re kind of overthinking things right now.” So I had this epiphany of this realization yesterday. I was like, oh, I’ve been really in my mind lately and it’s time to come back to my breath, to my body, to my heart. So in today’s episode, we’ll talk about some of the tools that I use to help with doing just that. I share this story because it inspired me to share this with you all and I also think sometimes there can be a false perception or idea that people who are providing this sort of work, this healing work for trauma, for the nervous system and yoga and meditation, that we are somehow exempt from the issues or pains of being human. And that’s simply not the case.
Every single human on this planet goes through experiences of pain, and that’s part of what the human experience brings is experiences of pain and limitation and stuckness. And so we have a lot of tools that can be helpful in this journey of being human. And also a reminder to you, to me, to everyone, that there is no right way to do this thing called human life. And sometimes we just need to hear from someone outside of ourselves, “you are doing a good job,” “you are good enough” and “you are doing good enough.” That’s a little reminder.
We can’t think our way out of an overthinking space.
So on that note, let’s dive in and talk about the somatic and nervous system perspective of where self-criticism, self-hatred, and overthinking come from. Surprisingly, it’s not actually from the mind; this sort of pattern comes from being stuck in a frozen nervous system state.
One of the telltale signs that your nervous system is frozen is if you are having a lot of critical energy, a lot of self-hatred or self-harm, energy directed inward, that is a key sign that you are in freeze, that you are disassociated, that your nervous system to some degree is in a frozen place.
Every single time we are in freeze, it is because underneath that freeze is a whole lot of sympathetic survival energy. So underneath the depression, stagnation, and self-criticism, usually there is a lot of survival energy that might be rooted in anger and fear. When our systems are nervous, our systems discern unconsciously. So we can experience aress, to release in the moment and now has become shut down and turned in on the self.
Freeze is really qualified by the thoughts and feelings of “I can’t.”
Whenever you say “I can’t do this,” “I’m not doing this right,” “I’m not good enough” and “I can’t, I just can’t,” that is a sign that you are in freeze and all of the survival energy that typically when we’re in a different sort of scenario could be externalized. Not all that energy is driven inward at your own self. So the fight energy, flight energy, anxiety that typically we can discharge through different means, we’ll talk about that later on, starts to become internalized as anger and aggression toward the self. And we get me get all sort of tensed up, holding patterns, tension in the body, pain patterns start to arrive, but then also we start to store hyper-critical energy toward ourselves. And so a big relationship here with self-criticism is oftentimes internalized or repressed anger, internalized or repressed fear. And so from that nervous system perspective, when we are in freeze, it’s because the level of anger or fear felt too great for us to express, to release in the moment and now has become shut down and turned in on the self.
It can feel like an internal war, like having the gas pedal on and the break on at the same time. It can be very draining and depleting for energy. You can’t think your way out of a frozen nervous system state. That means affirmations are not going to be super successful. That means journaling is not going to be super successful.That means even talking about your story and the sort of mental processing, it’s not going to be successful long term. So we’ll just take a breath without information and extend a bit of compassion toward ourselves and our systems.
I find with this information in particular, it can give a whole lot of permission just like, oh, there’s just something happening in my nervous system and my physiology, and we can work with this. So sometimes just this information can provide a little bit of hope when oftentimes that frozen space can feel very, very hopeless. And we will talk about some of the ways to start to get unstuck here in a couple of minutes.
Internal Family Systems and Partswork
Another perspective to explore is that of internal family systems and parts work, which is part of the background of my personal healing and parts work does definitely inform the Somatic Yoga Therapy process that I do with people. For those of you who aren’t aware of what parts work is, it’s based on a philosophy that you do not have just one personality. You are not just one person. You are made of multiple parts and different parts of you behave in different ways, have different desires, take on different roles. So for example, I have the part of me which is more of my teacher part talking right now, and this part is less active when I am at home at night with my honey and we’re watching TV or snuggling that then more of my inner lover comes out or my inner child might come out. And so we have different parts of us that show up in different areas of our lives. And for many people with this sort of wounding, if you have a lot of self-criticism and self hatred and overthinking, it’s likely that you have a mental part of you that has taken on the role or the job of the critical one or judge or the one who gets very analytical.
And from the IFS perspective, internal family systems by Richard Schwartz, none of our parts are inherently bad. None of our parts are bad. Some parts take on behaviors that feel harmful, that don’t feel super supportive. For example, the part of me that takes on the role of criticism, other parts of me get very angry at that part and struggle with it because it can cause harm and feel really hurtful. But from this perspective, actually none of our parts are inherently bad. None of our parts are inherently harmful, though they might take on behaviors that create harm long term at the core of each part is a deep desire to preserve your life and your connection. And so oftentimes with a self-critical part, we need to pause and think about consider what is this criticism trying to protect me from? If I wasn’t taking on this energy of criticizing myself right now, what would I be worried about feeling or experiencing?
For many people, we take on the role or a part of us takes on the role of the critic in order to actually criticize yourself before the outside world or other people can criticize you. So I can be really hard on myself. I can help change and adapt who I am so that then I don’t get made fun of at school or then my boss can never point out all of the things that I’m doing wrong if I’m so on it. If I’m so hyper critical, then no one else can kind of beat me to that and I don’t have to worry so much about feeling rejected by other people.
This becomes usually a part that takes on interjects and beliefs from the outside world that may not actually be in alignment with your soul, with who you are at your core, such as I’m not good enough or the different beliefs I have to be perfect in order to be loved. And this creates an intern dynamic of internalized depression and internalized abuse. And oftentimes we take this in from different behaviors in our family system when we’re young, but also culturally with how our culture operates around race, sexuality, gender and so on. There can be a lot of internalized oppression and trying to shame or change the core essence of who we are in order to fit it. That is partially what can be happening when we have a whole lot of critical energy on board.
And when we start to get curious about these different behaviors and parts of us, like the inner critic for example, an approach that energy not from a place of shaming, blaming of creating more of an internal battle with ourselves, we get curious and wonder how is this part trying to protect and serve me? There can be a bit of more space that opens up in creating a new relationship with these mental parts. Now there’s also the energetic perspective of what is happening when we hold a whole lot of critical energy, and again, coming back to our culture, our world more patriarchal, wounding or wounding based on different forms of oppression that we see in our culture and society.
There can be a huge value in our world given to mental intellectual energy, kind of like the colonized mind. And this kind of drive toward analyzing, toward the intellect, toward thinking has created an over-inflated mental body in our culture and an under-inflated emotional or feeling body. And so energetically part of our work here and now, and part of what we are doing as a collective of humans who are moving more toward healing for healing is rebalancing these energies of the mind and the heart in our culture. It’s bringing more energy into the feeling self and also balancing out the mental body so that it’s less about analyzing, criticizing and comparing. And we can hold more energies in the mental side around awareness, non-judgment, witnessing, but it’s also about bringing more energy into the feeling self into the heart. And this is not the habitual way of being for most people on this planet right now.
Most of us default to our mind and to the mental gymnastics of trying to think our way through life. And quite literally, if you feel in your body where your center of gravity is in this moment, we’re having kind of an intellectual conversation at this moment. You might actually just feel more energy in your head in these times and spaces. And so part of the energetic work that we’re doing is to drop the center of gravity from your mind and your head back down into your body so that your mind, your beautiful mind can be used as an ally for thinking and processing and making meaning. But it’s not any longer this villain or oppressive force in your life keeping you back from who you really are. Another energetic perspective that’s important to name here is that for many of us, this over criticism, shame, self-hatred, doesn’t really start with you.
It’s in the air we breathe, it’s in the water we drink, it’s in our family systems and it’s in our lineage. And so it’s likely that there’s also some ancestral based trauma or wounding connected with this energy in your psyche that maybe generations are more old. And so having a lot of compassion for yourself as a lineage healer, as someone who is breaking patterns that are really ancient and really old is so important in this conversation. And just recognizing that this behavior likely didn’t start with you, it was inherited most likely from one of your caregivers or parents and from your grandparents and so on. And it’s also important to include that in the healing process because, and this is something I’ve realized for myself a lot recently, especially around self-critical energy. We can work it and work it and work it in relationship with our ownselves, but if there’s an ancestral or a lineage based piece that we’re not fully recognizing or bringing in, you’re only going to get so far. And so this is another important piece to name here in this topic, is that there can be a big ancestral and intergenerational component to how these burdens are carried forward from generation to generation, the family tree.
10 Practices to move out of the mind and into the body
So how do we heal these tendencies to be self-critical hard on ourselves to overthink, to overanalyze? How do we actually get out of the head and into the heart and into the body? Well, I’m going to give you about 10 different practices that are some of my go-tos in order to do just that and work on these habituated ways of thinking and ways of being.
#1 – Awareness
The very first step here is to simply notice when you’re being overly heady and when you’re being hard on yourself, you have to first notice – you might say “oh, there’s a part of me right now that’s really activated in self-criticism or self judgment, self-hatred,” whatever words resonate for you in the moment. Of course, first we have to actually notice that that’s happening, which you have already probably done if you’re listening to this podcast episode.
#2 – Redirect your awareness and energy away from the thoughts
This is a process of not feeding your mind and your thoughts and actually putting your mind on something else. This could be as simple as feeling the hands connect and rub against one another. This could be as simple as taking a breath, as putting on a song, something that will take you out of that heady space and redirect your focus on something else, preferably something outside of yourself. Getting your awareness, externals and self-criticism can be so internally focused, can be really helpful to do practices that are going to connect you more outward with your environment. This is really important because if we continue to just feed the thoughts and feed into that mental mental energy, again, it becomes like mental gymnastics and we can tie ourselves into even deeper and deeper knots. So this is that step where we remind ourselves, “oh, I can’t think my way out of this, so I’m going to take a moment and connect with something in my environment or redirect my attention for a moment.” This process might even be to read a book, watch something funny on YouTube, go outside, shake your body, whatever it is to you. That just is that moment of who we’re going to actually redirect the energy here. And for some people, what actually can work really well is when you’re noticing the hypercritical energy coming up inside is to actually see an image inside a big red stop sign, just letting the mind see that image, letting the thought loop come to a stop and then bring your awareness somewhere outside of yourself externalized into the space or the environment around you.
#3 – Question your thoughts: Ask “Is this thought true?”
Now, sometimes we do this and thoughts can be very tricky. They can be very pervasive, they can be very seductive. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing what we think, where in reality our thoughts and beliefs are kind of on repeat. It’s very rare to have a completely new thought or new belief come to you. Typically, our thoughts are always playing on repeat, and most of our thoughts are based on past experiences, either from your life, from your lineage, from the world that they’re based on interjects from society and culture rather than based on your soul’s truth. So if you’re noticing your thoughts are being very sticky, very loud, very pervasive, you can also take a moment and just question your beliefs around your thoughts asking, is this thought really true? Most of us automatically believe our thoughts is true, and it’s so powerful to get into the pattern of just pausing and reflecting, is this thought actually true? Is this thought actually true? And most of the times they’ll be like, oh no, this thought isn’t actually true. Especially these thoughts that get very hyper critical. They can really not be based in reality at all. And so that’s a great moment just to kind of disconnect and also redirect the energy away from believing and feeding into the thoughts. This is based in Byron Katie’s work called The Work. For many people it’s extremely transformative just to get into this practice of questioning your thoughts and doing that as a practice daily and multiple times throughout the day.
#4 – Connect to Your Breath
The fourth is your breath and breathing. And this is another way that we can redirect the energy out of the mind. It’s also a way that we naturally shift physiological states. And oftentimes a single breath is enough to create a deep reset inside a single deep conscious breath and you might need to do those resets often. When you’re noticing a lot of mental energy, take a breath and allow the energy to settle back down into the body.
**If you suffer from panic attacks or any issues around breath and breathing that actually make taking a deep breath feel challenging or harder, sometimes we’re in a space where taking a deep breath is nearly impossible. Don’t worry about this so much. There will be another tool we’ll talk about in a moment that will be really, really useful, more around panic attacks and that sort of energy that can happen when we’re spiraling into a self-critical space.**
#5 – Move Your Body
Moving your body is another way to redirect energy. By now, we are starting to move some of the sympathetic energy that gets stuck underneath the freeze response. This helps to reset your physiology to redirect and create a natural stop mechanism for the part of you that’s really clinging onto a self-critica, self-sabotaging, or self-harm space.It could be as simple as going on a walk or run, putting music on and dancing, shaking your body.
If you feel so frozen that any form of movement feels impossible, really hard, really far away, try something small like setting a timer for one minute and swaying your body from side to side. It doesn’t have to be big in order to be powerful. if you’re not really feeling like you can get up and move, tapping is another great way to start moving energy, just tapping one spot on your body. Just notice if your movement can gradually become a bit larger. It might eventually lead you into being able to take bigger action down the line, whether that be 10 minutes from now or a day or a week, just start with the movements that do feel accessible for you in the moment.
#6 – Sensual Pleasure Practice: Connect with your 5 Senses
Connecting with your 5 senses is really great for those of you who have a hard time with breath and breathing or who struggle with panic attacks. Another natural way that we redirect energy away from our thoughts and into the present moment is through the feeling realm. Notice consciously what you see around you. One practice I love is looking around the room and seeing if you can find every single item that is the color blue. Just taking a minute or so with that. You can also do this practice with hearing, noticing all of the sounds you hear. Explore touch by noticing textures that you feel maybe even actually playing around with. Connecting with different forms of texture can be powerful. Try holding an ice cube for a moment and then pet a soft, fluffy pillow. Smell is another good one if you have essential oils or a candle or any aromas that you enjoy. Explore taste and have a sip of water, noticing the taste, having a blueberry, letting the flavor wash over your taste buds. This is another way to start to get out of the mental energy into the felt sense.
#7 – Connect with the felt sense inside your body
Enter the feeling realm to tune into the sensations in the body and find a place inside that feels good or or perhaps the opposite of the mental energy. So if the mental energy feels very critical and self hateful, where in your body do you feel the degree of love and ease? It might be the soles of your feet, it might be your ear lobe. The tip of a finger doesn’t have to be necessarily a huge space in the body, but finding a space in the body, a resource in the body that feels neutral, good or pleasurable, and allowing yourself to feel into that space, to breathe into that space, to move from that space.
This is really powerful practice and it can also start to tap you into more of the emotions that might be underneath that mental energy. So at this time, you might also start to feel a bit of a release. There might be tears, there might be sounds that want to come out. There might be more intuitive movements that start to come forth, but also it could just be that quality of feeling, the sensation of the body, knowing that this is oftentimes also going to bring up emotional qualities.
#8 – Release
And that leads us into number eight, which is release. And this is getting in tune with the emotions, whether that be crying and releasing the sadness, whether that be needing to push against a wall to discharge anger or yell into a pillow that be shaking to release some fear from the body.
**If you have a pattern of deep trauma or PTSD, it can be really helpful to work through these stages with a practitioner rather than solely on your own, especially as we get into the release stage. There can be such thing as releasing too much too soon, too quickly. So doing this in a way that feels titrated and slow enough for your system to actually integrate is really important. Having someone outside of you, who can help hold space for you can be helpful.**
This is the moment where you get to move some of the charge that is stuck underneath all of that frozen energy, all the energy that you’ve internalized toward yourself as self-hatred. Now we’re directing that external so that it can move and release out of the body. It’s not that we’re directing it external to attack another person, it’s just that we’re letting it move out of you rather than stay stuck inside of you.
#9 – Lineage Healing
We have many ancestral practices available on our Her temple Network that can help you start to do more lineage-based healing practices. The Her Temple network is our online space with our community. We have a bunch of resources like yoga classes, movements, meditations, nervous system resources to help you through some of these stages. So that can be a really, really great resource for those of you interested in it – and it’s all free! We do have a paid online course there that is more foundational Somatic Yoga Therapy that you could look into as well. But you can also just join the course and get access to join the network and get access to all of the resources. So I’ll be sure to add that into the show notes as well, so you can go ahead and get yourself into our amazing community online.
#10 – Loving Kindness Practice
Self-compassion and loving kindness are the opposite of critical energy, so accessing them can feel really, really far away for many people. There is a little trick that I found in loving kindness practices that can help to increase a sense of self-love toward your own system. And that is to think of someone that you love, preferably an animal or a baby or like a space in nature, your favorite tree or a river, something that brings warmth and expansion into your heart. That’s not a complicated relationship. So preferably not a relationship with another adult who you know there are mixed feelings toward. Pick something that just brings up that pure sense of love. You’ll bring an image of that person into your mind and notice and feel what comes up in your body and then direct that same energy, dropping the image toward your own self, sending that energy toward your mind and your body and your heart. Anytime you feel like you lose that sense of love, you can just bring that image of the baby, the animal, the person back into your mind to re-spark the feeling inside, and then channeling and directing the energy of that feeling toward you.
I hope that you found at least one new tool that you can carry forward with you to help with your own relationship to your mind, your mental body. If this peaks your interest, if you want to gather with us in person and dive even deeper into this powerful, powerful work, please join us in the Embodiment Retreat. We have about eight spaces remaining and would absolutely love to have you. It’s going to be such a powerful and amazing experience. I am so excited for it. You can also join the Her Temple Network for a bunch of our free resources, including breath work, meditations, movements and some ritual practices for lineage healing.
I hope that you have a beautiful rest of your day wherever it takes you. Remember to love yourself deeply and that you are doing this thing called human life beautifully. It’s not meant to be neat to be tidy. It’s not meant to look one certain way. It’s meant to be a bit messy. It’s meant to have ups and downs. You’re meant to feel an experienced pain as well as love and beauty, and you are doing a great job being human. Thanks so much for listening. If you love this episode, please leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcasts and share with a friend. It’s really helpful for me as I start to grow this platform to have your assistance in spreading the word and sharing the love. Thank you so much!
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