Hearing Criticism from Others
"I'm rubber, you're glue whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!"
Do you remember this defensive playground taunt?
When name-calling or criticism come you're way and some part of you literally believes their true, they stick and, of course, they hurt. When no part of you believes the criticism, they bounce off and you can hear that what the person is saying is really about their own feelings and needs.
At first when you receive an incoming jackal that sticks, you likely find yourself reacting. Either you turn your jackal ears in and agree about how bad or wrong you are or you turn your jackal ears out and say how bad or wrong the other person is.
Most people flip their ears in and out, feeling alternately, depressed - angry, depressed - angry, . . .
When you have any reaction (by reaction I mean a sudden clenching of the body, heart, and mind) at all to what someone is saying, the first thing to do is ask, "What am I telling myself? What am I making this mean?" Reactivity lets you know that a jackal show has begun in your mind. If you can get front row seats to this show, your chances of intervening are much higher.
Take the time to stop and watch your show rather than moving on to the next distraction, or even worse, starting to speak from your reactivity. Whether you are at work or at home, take a timeout. Bathrooms are great places for timeouts.
During this timeout you call on your calm and nurturing inner parent to dialogue with your jackals. Here's an example of a dialogue I recently had with a jackal of mine that was stimulated by a conversation with someone I respect.
Jackal: You're worthless.
My inner parent: I'm guessing you're scared jackal.
Jackal: Yes. (already with this single line of empathy I could feel my body start to relax).
My inner parent: I'm guessing you think it will somehow be helpful if I believe what you say. How do you think it will be helpful?
Jackal: If you believe me, then you will shut down, get depressed, and not take any risks and then we will be safe.
My inner parent: Yea, so you want to be safe from hurt.
Jackal: That's right.
My inner parent: Jackal, what we both know is that depression is actually more painful than any hurt I could experience in my relationships. Do you remember all the pain we've experienced in the past with depression?
I want you to know I am committed to keeping us safe. I do this by paying attention to our inner experience through mindfulness, meditation, journaling, and talking with others.
And I consistently take the time to care for it like I am doing right now with you. I am meeting a need for safety by taking a time-out when I hear something hurts so that I can respond to it in a way that works.
This dialogue effectively dissolved this jackal. This was the alpha jackal of a pack that showed up together. So I had several dialogues of this sort, one after the other, addressing each jackal in turn.
Let's sum up the key elements in responding to jackals that stick.
Notice when you're reacting.
- Know the signs and symptoms of reaction in your body - Anger and shut down are the most common indicators
- Choose to take a timeout from the interaction.
- Get front row seats at your jackal show (Ask: "What am I telling myself?").
- Access your calm and nurturing inner parent.
Engage the jackals in a dialogue one by one. This dialogue includes:
- Guess the feelings and needs of your jackals
- Ground your jackals in what you know is true, (eg. depression won't make us safe from hurt).
- Let your jackals know the concrete strategies you are engaging in to meet the needs they are concerned about.
This week give yourself at least one timeout when you notice reactivity. During the timeout, follow the steps outlined above.