The Self-Care You Need 

starting with this 8-minute read! 

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM,

In many parts of the United States, Covid restrictions are either easing or have all but ended. For many, life, as we knew it prior to the arrival of Covid-19, is slowly returning. But for countless others, Covid continues to dominate every aspect of daily life. Regardless of which position you find yourself in, people everywhere are trying to achieve some semblance of “normal” or at the very least, familiar. In my neck of the woods, the world around me is opening back up. Freeways seem more crowded than ever before. People seem to be rushing about everywhere as if the past 16 months never happened. But it did happen. And many people around the world continue to suffer tremendously because of it.  What about you? What are you experiencing in your neck of the woods? 

Most would agree that the topic of mental health, including self-care, has never been more an important part of the societal conversation. You too have probably heard these buzzwords lately and agree that mental health is important. However, making the time to engage in therapy or some form of self-care may seem like a luxury that can’t be afforded. But self-care does not have to be time-consuming or even costly. In fact, the kind of self-care I am talking about doesn’t even require you to set aside a large amount of time or to go to somebody else for it. And that’s because it starts with you or rather, within you. In fact, you have all you need to begin your self-care journey right now! Alright, maybe not right this instant, but please read on!  

You may be familiar with or have at least heard of the concept of an “internal voice.” However, according to Russell Hurlburt, a psychology professor from the University of Nevada, it should be noted that some people rely more on visualization to organize and process their thoughts, rather than an internal language-based monologue. And because I am someone who relies on an internal language-based monologue to process my thoughts, much of what I will be discussing here does stem from this perspective. However, for all intents and purposes, I will call this internal voice or visual process the inner self. Sometimes we are aware of our internal processes, but most of the time we are not. The inner self is subconscious and runs on autopilot. It takes the form of automatic thoughts and ideas which guide us throughout our day, informing us about what we should and should not do. We rely on this “internal co-pilot” of sorts to help us navigate complex and nuanced situations, except it has a tendency to turn on us. At any moment, our inner self can become a bitter critic of even our best efforts. It can be relentless, even downright brutal, fueling anxiety, depressive thinking, and low self-esteem. And the worst part of it all is that it is almost impossible to notice when our inner self has done this to us. Why is that? Well for starters, our inner self is part of our psyche and has been in operation since early childhood having developed in part from our genetics, neurology, and a lifetime of experiences. In fact, the neural pathways that are used for these automatic thought processes become some of the most accessible and easiest routes for our brain’s thinking to travel along. So, what can we do when our inner self is actually turned on us? Is it possible to even notice something that occurs subconsciously?

 

Recognizing & Getting a Hold On Our Negative Inner Self

  1. Feeling anxious, upset, angry, depressed? Have you recently lost motivation? The first step in recognizing when our inner self has taken a negative turn is to try to focus our conscious attention towards these types of feelings. This sounds easy, but it can be difficult to do. Oftentimes when we feel anxious or are worrying about what we should do next, our thought processes are on autopilot, running in a million directions. This can occur in response to a situation where we have made a mistake or have fallen short of a goal or expectation. But the key here is trying to pause and notice when these thoughts are occurring vs. mindlessly going about your day while they race around in your head. Sounds easy right? Automatic thought processes tend to run wild, especially when we are not engaged in purposeful or intentional motor activities (and yes, this includes reading!)  
  2. Check for Critical Thinking: Once you take conscious notice that you are worrying or feeling anxious, check for critical thoughts. They can be elusive but may come across as a visual scene being replayed over and over or a language-based monologue such as, “Why am I constantly making mistakes?” or “I should have tried harder.” Try to notice when these types of thoughts are happening but without judgment. Oftentimes, a critical inner self fuels intense and negative feelings. S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM,
  3. Challenge Your Critical Inner Self: Once you have noticed that your inner self has turned on you, ask yourself or visualize the following question: “Is this how I would help a dear friend or loved one?” Of course not, you would show a friend or loved one kindness, understanding, and empathy under any difficult situation. Start to challenge your critical inner self by further examining and asking, “Are my thoughts productive or causing me to stay rooted in my pain?”
  4. Shift the Kind of Message You Give Yourself: What would you say to a friend, colleague, or family member who is struggling? An outsider’s perspective can be helpful, and oftentimes this is what we do for others when we are listening to a dilemma or challenge that they’re facing. With an open mind and perspective, we might help them notice just how much they have been dealing with and how well they have handled things. This kind of exchange is something that many of us would do in a heartbeat for somebody else, but not for ourselves. So, try visualizing or asking yourself: “What would I say to a dear friend who was going through this?” And then try doing exactly that for yourself instead. So for those of us who operate via an internal language-based monologue, it may sound something like: “Things have been really hard lately. I have been dealing with so many changes and challenges that I have not even been able to catch a break…No wonder I’m feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. I really have been dealing with a lot and I have handled (insert specific situation) pretty well.” When we create and practice new thought patterns, we are creating new neural pathways in our brains! In fact, these kinds of thoughts are more reflective of your own capacities to help not only others but yourself too.  

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM,

So why do we treat ourselves in these ways, especially when life is hard enough? Why are we so hard on ourselves, even critical of our own efforts and abilities? Oftentimes it’s the expectations we subscribe to. Expectations can be realistic and helpful, or they can set us up for failure. Unrealistic or impossible expectations of ourselves when we are already dealing with so many challenges is one of the best ways to trigger our negative inner self. Conscious acknowledgment and effort to shift our critical inner self takes practice. And there may be many times that you completely miss the fact that your inner self has gone rogue and is attacking you. But that’s ok because we are all dealing with a lot and doing our best to manage things! This level of self-awareness doesn’t come naturally. It takes practice and time to cultivate. And sometimes we need a little extra help to do this kind of inner work. Whether you’re neurodiverse or neurotypical, I hope that after reading this you can start to access the wealth of support and beauty that already resides deep inside your own self. And I’ll even go so far as to say that it might be a good idea to save a little bit of the wisdom and compassion that you share with others for yourself too!  

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPMDebbie’s neck of the woods is in Los Angeles, California where she hunts down and takes on her inner critical self one day at a time!

 

 

 

References

Do You Have an Inner Voice? Not Everyone Does | HowStuffWorks

https://www.psychalive.org/critical-inner-voice/

https://roberthammel.com/shut-up-quieting-the-critical-inner-voice/

 

The mission of I-ASC is to advance communication access for nonspeaking individuals globally through trainingeducationadvocacy and research I-ASC supports all forms of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with a focus on methods of spelling and typing. I-ASC currently offers Practitioner training in Spelling to Communicate (S2C) with the hope that other methods of AAC using spelling or typing will join our association.

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