(This blog was originally posted on January 14, 2015)
Sometimes, emotional pain or intense disappointment because something didn’t go our way can lead to self-criticism and self-recrimination (self-blame). Rather than direct our negative emotion toward the cause or source of this pain, we turn on ourselves. For example, have you ever told yourself that the reason a romantic partner ended the relationship with you was because you were unattractive and actually “unworthy” of his or her love? Have you ever scolded yourself for being unskilled and “hopeless” at your job when a relatively new, junior colleague got the pay-raise or promotion you deserved after you landed that big account? Or, have you ever blamed yourself for “doing something stupid” that resulted in an injury while playing your favorite sport or doing a maintenance project around the house? If so, you have turned against yourself, which is a form of defense mechanism.
I previously touched on this phenomenon in my blog titled Stop! Negative Self Talk. Every time we disparage ourselves we create powerful, negative subconscious messages about ourselves that undermine our self-confidence and self-esteem. Since the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between fantasy (imagination) and reality, thinking or speaking these negative beliefs in a moment of pique cause equal damage.
Like other defense mechanisms, turning against self is: 1) unconscious; 2) self-deceptive; 3) and it distorts reality through thoughts and action. According to the Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D.’s Theory of Mind, people are subconsciously motivated to maintain and/or restore a known physical and emotional status of comfort and security. Whenever someone says or does something that causes physical injury, hurts your feelings or challenges your beliefs, your mind automatically tries to compensate for this threat or “pain” by activating this or another form of defense mechanism. In this case, you turn against yourself to avoid having to experience the pain of rejection or disappointment that someone else caused you.
To help someone change this behavior, while the client is in hypnosis I desensitize him or her to the situation (and similar situations) that triggered this defense mechanism. I also employ therapeutic guided-imagery techniques to help them reframe their negative beliefs and self-recrimination to positive thoughts that are self-nurturing and promote self-love and self-confidence. Finally, I use imagery techniques to enable the individual to find solutions for those situations and visualize how they have overcome this setback and which lessons they learned from this experience have increased self-confidence and social coping skills.
Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.