anxious parts

Healing Your Wounded Parts

Recently, I’ve been reading through some of my old journals, exploring who I was so many years ago. I used my journals to record events but they were also a place where I wrote about my fears, desires, frustrations and all of my feelings.

When I’m reading about those long ago experiences, I find myself feeling as if I’m still there—as if I’m 15 or 19 or 25 again. I’m right back there with all the emotions. My journals give me some perspective on my younger wounded parts, but at times I can feel myself judging those younger selves for not behaving in more socially acceptable ways, for pushing hard against boundaries or for not meeting others’ expectations.

In those moments, when the judgmental part shows up, my anxiety begins to rise. Most often it’s a burning feeling in my chest and throat, but the anxiety can show up as an upset stomach or a tightening in my throat that makes it hard to eat and digest anything.

I’ve worked hard to manage my anxiety. When it does show up, it can be very frustrating. I begin to feel like a fraud, because my critical part starts questioning my abilities. “How can you help others when you can’t even help yourself!”

The 15-Year-Old Rebel

teen girls

My 15-year-old self has been making herself known to me lately. In my journal, she recounts all the parties she went to or wants to go to, all the boys she has crushes on or kissed, the distress she feels when she’s alone, her feelings of loneliness (although she seems to have so many friends), her constant need of stimulation, either through substance use or business.

As I read through page after page of my journals, I find that a part of me wants that 15-year-old to behave better, to be more in control, to be less reckless, to stop pushing back so hard. She makes me uncomfortable, and her wildness scares me a little. I want see her clearly. I want to feel compassion and acceptance for her and all that she went through, and yet I don’t want feel her pain or see her vulnerability and loneliness.

But she keeps showing up and she wants to be seen.

Rethinking and Ruminating

If you’ve experienced childhood trauma or childhood emotional neglect, there’s a good chance you also have some younger parts that feel wounded. They show up in our lives because they’re tired of hurting and they want us to help them heal. They show up in our dreams, they show up when we feel triggered, and they show up in our relationships.

When we shame our younger parts with expectations that they couldn’t live up to then and certainly can’t live up to now, we retraumatize them again and again. If we approach our wounded parts with judgment and we shame them with our present-day expectations, we’re sending negative messages: they’re not enough, they need to change to be loved, they need to get over the hurt. These messages are probably pretty similar to those they heard when they were struggling.

Our parts feel wounded when we judge them instead of seeing them with compassion and love.

Healing Old Wounds

We can’t change the past but we can heal. The healing happens when we can show our wounded parts unconditional love and acceptance. There are many ways to explore all of your parts. Here are a few suggestions:

Journaling.jpg
  • Individual or group trauma herapy

  • Journaling

  • Artwork 

  • Dance or  movement

It’s important to remember that when we’re exploring our wounded parts, we want start with an intention to bring an attitude of curiosity, compassion and caring to that part. The goal is to accept and love all of our parts in an open and non-judgmental way.

I recognize that I sometimes find myself wishing that my 15-year-old part had behaved in more socially acceptable ways. But when I hear the judgment or fear in my approach, I try instead to welcome her with curiosity, kindness and caring.  She reminds me how hard she was struggling. She had a lot of changes and upheavals in her life. I can see now that she was surviving the only way she knew how.

She’s not going anywhere and she wants me to know that. She’s a part of me. She’s my fighter, my boundary pusher, my resilience, my strength, my princess. I’ll continue to work on being with her without any expectations other than her just being one part of me.

For more insights…

If you’d like to know more about recognizing and challenging some of the expectations we put on ourselves and society puts on us, you can listen to my conversation with Dr. Agnes Wainman on the Woman Worriers podcast.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

 

 

Horses As Healers: Personal Experience with Equine-Assisted Therapy

Me and Clyde.JPG

A little over a year ago I joined some colleagues on an Equine-Assisted Daring Way retreat hosted by Laura Reagan, LCSW-C, and Charlotte Hiler Easley, LCSW. It was a magical, healing experience. Until then, I hadn’t spent much time around horses. After this day-long retreat with two beautiful horses, I was hooked.

This week on the Woman Worriers podcast, Charlotte and I talk about why horses are particularly gifted at picking up what’s happening in the moment. They might be picking up the herd’s experience, an individual horse’s experience, or that of the human in the arena with them. They are very attuned to what’s happening in relationship to others.

Charlotte explained that a well-cared-for horse is present minded and grounded, and it picks up on whether or not we’re also grounded and safe. At the retreat I attended, I noticed that at times when other people weren’t comfortable, the horses were calm and quiet. With others, they could be very playful. For example, I was feeling very comfortable in the arena the horses. Clyde, the horse I worked with was very playful. He nudged me, bared his teeth in a smile (horses have very big teeth). At one point as I sat with the group on the other side of the fence, he came and stood very close to me, with his head near on my shoulder and his face next to mine.

When the horses are grounded and present, it’s much easier for us to be in that experience with them, and that can ease our anxiety and stress.

Feeling so connected to a huge animal I’d met for the first time, and being able to share the experience with like-minded people, opened up something deep inside me. It made me feel more connected to the universe in a way I hadn’t felt before.

Setting aside time for your own personal growth, whether it’s doing an equine-assisted therapy workshop, going on a retreat or reading a self-help book, can be a powerful, self-affirming experience. I highly recommend it.

I hope you’ll tune into this week’s episode to find out more about Equine Assisted Therapy with Charlotte Easley.


  If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

 

 

Making Friends With Your Inner Critic Can Ease Your Anxiety

When you make a mistake, are you overly critical? Do you blame yourself for even the smallest mistakes? That’s your Inner Critic talking. It’s the part of you that wants to point out your faults, to warn you about your potential mistakes in the future and remind you of all your mistakes in the past. It’s the part that expects perfection and won’t accept anything less. It’s the part that believes it can read other people’s minds to know what they’re thinking and feeling about you. Focusing all your attention on your Inner Critic can make you feel really terrible.

Why Do We Believe Our Inner Critic?

On this week’s Woman Worriers podcast, I spoke with Michelle Richardson about Internal Family Systems (IFS), or “parts,” model of therapy. She explained that IFS is based on the idea that each of us has many different parts inside us and they all serve a purpose, although sometimes it’s difficult to figure out just what that purpose is. 

Why do we bully ourselves?

Why do we bully ourselves?

So, why are some parts of us so mean and unforgiving? We all have an Inner Critic, but for some of us that critical part is much louder and meaner than it is for others. A loud Inner Critic can make you feel anxious or depressed by telling you that you aren’t living up to others’ expectations. I doubt you would ever be that hard on a friend or family member—or anyone other than yourself. 

Many people believe that without their Inner Critic, they’d never get anything done. It’s the part that always reminds them of the things they didn’t do. The reality is, bullying doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, research shows that bullying in the workplace lowers productivity and increases depressive symptoms. Research has also shown that self-criticism goes hand in hand with social phobias and depression. Self-criticism also seems to increase the severity of combat-related post traumatic stress disorder  (PTSD), eating disorders and body image issues.

What’s The Purpose Of Our Inner Critic?

So, if our Inner Critic leaves us feeling bad about ourselves and increases the risk of some mental health disorders, can we learn anything from listening to that part of ourselves? Is it possible that the critical part of you come from a place of good intent?

If you approach the Inner Critic from the IFS model, you begin to understand that your critical part is working really hard to protect you from harm. It says all those mean things with the best intentions. It truly believes that it’s helping you.

So how do we get the Inner Critic to quiet down? To be less critical?

Tune In, Get Curious, And Be Compassionate

Tune in. The first step is to really tune into the Inner Critic. Try to draw a mental image of, or actually draw, that part of you. How old does it feel? What does it look like? Does it sound familiar—like a person from your past, a parent or an ex-partner—or like someone currently in your life?

Get curious. As you begin to have a clearer picture of that critical part, the next step is to start noticing, without judgment, how often it shows up. Does it chime in when you make mistakes or when it worries about being judged? Does it tell you to avoid new places and situations? How often is it present? Does it show up once in awhile, or is it a constant stream of negativity?

Ask some questions. You might notice that the critical part hangs around a lot, especially if you’re feeling anxious or depressed. The next time you hear your Inner Critic, here are some questions you can ask to help find out more about it:

  •   “What does my Inner Critic need me to know?”

  • “What is my Inner Critic afraid might happen?”

  • “Is there another part that’s showing up?”

You can also explore your parts with creativity too. In episode 55 of the Woman Worriers podcast I talked with Jennifer Wolfe-Hagstrom about using SoulCollage® to explore all of your parts.

Love all your parts

Love all your parts

Use compassion and curiosity. As you take time to listen, see if you can be compassionate, present and curious. Would you like to ask that part some other questions? Each time your critical part answers a question, let your Inner Critic know that you heard what it said.

You’ll probably learn that your critical part is reacting from deep-seated fears. It’s trying to protect you from future harm. It wants to keep you safe. It wants to protect other parts of you from getting hurt. When you learn that the critical part wants to protect you and your wounded parts, you may feel less likely to tell it to shut up and leave you alone. You might even begin to feel some compassion for the critical part because it’s always responding from fear, and it works really hard.

Listen and respond. As you become more familiar with when and how your critical parts show up, you can start responding differently. You can take a deep breath and say something like, “I hear you. I know you’re worried that I’ll make a mistake or get hurt by others. Thank you for worrying about me. Can you step aside while I decide what I’m going to do?” You’re telling that part that you hear it. With compassion, your more grounded self is asking your critical part to trust you to take care of it and all your other parts.

Talking to your Inner Critic takes a lot of practice. I bet that part has had your ear for a long, long time. With practice, you’ll find it’s easier to notice when it shows up and easier to get it to calm down as you try new things and maybe even have fun doing them!


 If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .