This is the official thread for Section 3.8 of the TMS Recovery Program donated by Alan Gordon of the Pain Psychology Center (PPC). This section is entitled "Stand Up to the Inner Bully." Neither Alan nor the PPC necessarily endorses this thread or any of the viewpoints presented in it. Please keep these official threads on topic and put your best thoughts down, as these threads will be read by many people. All posts in this thread should all relate to section 3.8 of the TMS Recovery Program: http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Recovery_Program#Stand_Up_to_the_Inner_Bully In section 3.8, Alan writes the following: Stand Up to the Inner Bully When you’ve developed the self-compassion to care about how you’re treated, and you have the capacity to feel anger, it’s a lot easier to stand up to the mom, dad, older brother, or high school bully in your head. When you hear this internal bully criticizing, pressuring, or terrifying you, let yourself feel the justified anger that such mistreatment warrants. “How dare you!” “Get the hell out of here!” Or imagine yourself punching the bully in the face. Choose your own words or imagined actions. They don’t matter as much as the feeling behind them. You’re being bullied, terrified, pushed around. Imagine if you had a child in kindergarten who was being bullied on the playground by a second grader. The rage would come naturally, you wouldn’t have to force it or fake it. When you truly care about yourself, you can respond to this internal abuse in the same way. Let’s link this back to your symptoms. As I mentioned in Part I, the purpose of the pain in most cases is to scare you. Your inner bully is using this pain as ammunition to abuse you. So how are you going to react? Will you cower? Pile on even more? Fall at the mercy of the fear? Or will you stand up for yourself? As I mentioned earlier, it’s not about preventing the pain from coming on, but changing the way you respond when it does. The following clip is from a TMS supervision teleconference I did last year. In it I discuss a TMS symptom that arose in me just moments before, the way I responded, and the subsequent result. It’s a great example of the inner bully attempting to use pain as a vessel for fear. Click here to download the mp3 audio When you first change the way you respond to the onset of pain, don’t expect it to go away as quickly as it did in my example. It takes time, patience, and repetition, but once you overcome the fear of the symptom, you can often eliminate the pain pretty quickly when it comes up. If you stand up to this inner bully with a desired outcome in mind (e.g. getting rid of your pain), it’s inauthentic and just a subtle form of pressure. If you generate anger because you’re genuinely upset that you’re being treated cruelly, that’s when you’re on the right track. Here’s an exercise that may help you explore and express feelings of anger toward this inner bully: Inner Bully Exercise Alan Gordon and other TMS practitioners have a variety of suggestions on how to stand up to the inner bully in our head that causes us anxiety, fear, worry, and other forms of physical and emotional stress. He suggests that it’s okay and even good to yell at it or punch it. It’s good to be really mad at our inner bully for giving us pain. Once the fear of the symptom is overcome, we can often eliminate the pain quickly when it comes up. It’s very important to generate anger from our inner bully in order to gain control over it. Create your own mantra to speak to or even yell at your inner bully. Such as: “You again! No! That makes no sense. You’re a poison. Go away and let me think clearly and positively about this situation.” Then go do that, instead of obediently and automatically complying with it. Or memorize a short mantra such as “Stop this nonsense!” Or, “This is poison, so stop it!” Whatever works for you and allows you to take control over your inner bully. The following are ten steps to take in fighting our inner bully: 1. Confront your inner bully directly. 2. Disregard, that is see right through your inner bully. 3. Set concrete goals, little and big, and work hard to reach them. 4. Give yourself sincere, meaningful credit for what you do right, such as reaching your goals, big or small. 5. Remind yourself each day of the things you like about yourself as a person, so as to boost your self-esteem, since low self-esteem is one of the major causes of our inner bullying. 6. If you feel you have really hurt someone you care about, be easy on yourself; forgive yourself. 7. Challenge your inner bully by asking it, “So what? So what if you think that about me. That doesn’t mean it’s true.” 8. Ask yourself, “Who cares?” Tell your inner bully: “You think your judgments mean something to me? They don’t!” 9. “Big deal!” Tell your inner bully: “Oh, really? Big deal, big damn deal!” 10. “Why not?” Ask your inner bully: “You’re telling me I shouldn’t do this, or that I can’t. Well, I’m going to keep doing this anyway, because I can. No matter what you say, I’m just going to keep working on it, doing it.” Remember, the inner bully criticizing you thinks it’s helping you, making you avoid or recognize things so as to keep you from shocks and hurts and disappointments. So don’t’ think of it as a toxic monster. Rather, think that it’s pretty stupid, or silly, such as confused, irrational, distorted. An unhelpful bossy pest. Most importantly, remember that your inner bully is not actually you. Decide whether to obey it, argue with or yell at it, ignore it, or just laugh at it (not at yourself, but at it.) You might even use the trick of wearing a loose rubber band around your wrist, and snap it slightly each time you notice your inner critic. It can create a great psychological association for rejecting inner bully thoughts. With the above practices, we can learn to turn off our inner bully and neutralize it. We can learn to take away its power over us that upsets us. We can replace our inner bully with our own voice of calm. Since a major reason our inner bully torments us is low self-esteem, from any number of causes such as physical or emotional abuse at any age but often when we are children or teenagers, it is important to like ourselves more. We need to treat ourselves more compassionately right now. Self compassion is both an attitude and skill that we can learn. We can train our minds to bring greater compassion to all of our thoughts and feelings. Think good about yourself, and give yourself a mental hug, gently massage your temples, or stroke yourself on the arm or hand in a soothing, comforting way. Physical soothing gives messages to your brain that can help alleviate the harshness of your inner words. New research shows that increasing our self compassion is even much better for our psychological health than focusing on self-esteem. Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading self-compassion researcher, defines self compassion as having three main components: self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindfulness (living in the present moment). Mindfulness is about being able to focus on the present moment without judgment, in an attitude of acceptance. We need to recognize that we are flawed human beings, just like everyone else, which helps us to treat ourselves kindly. Need more suggestions on how to stand up to your inner bully? I like these thoughts from Oprah Winfrey: Every time you suppress some part of yourself or allow others to play you small, you are in essence ignoring the owner's manual your creator gave you and destroying your design. I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you. All these years I've been feeling like I was growing into myself. Finally, I feel grown. Let your light shine. Shine within you so that it can shine on someone else. Let your light shine. It is confidence in our bodies, minds and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures, new directions to grow in, and new lessons to learn - which is what life is all about. As you become more clear about who you really are, you'll be better able to decide what is best for you - the first time around. I am a person in process. I'm just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience, and learn from it. Life is never dull. If you want to accomplish the goals of your life, you have to begin with the spirit. It isn't until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are - not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within - that you can begin to take control. In every aspect of our lives, we are always asking ourselves, How am I of value? What is my worth? Yet I believe that worthiness is our birthright. Every time you state what you want or believe, you're the first to hear it. It's a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don't put a ceiling on yourself. Alan also emphasizes how important standing up to our inner bully is in healing from TMS symptoms. “Often, we neglect ourselves on a psychological level,” he says in his TMS Recovery Program. “Many times throughout the day you’ll have a rise in anxiety, and more often than not, you power through it without even realizing it.” He likens our inner bully to a crying baby. “Your internal state is like an infant. When you hear your baby crying, you attend to him. And when you attend to him, it calms him. It is the same with your internal state. A slight rise in internal anxiety is like your body letting you know, ‘I need to be attended to.’ When you attend to it, it calms down. When you don’t, much like a baby, its cries will get louder. “A low level of anxiety might escalate to a moderate level of anxiety, which can turn into a slight headache, and then back pain. But if you attend to it early, you can bring it back down and prevent your symptoms from escalating. This is a learned skill. “I can’t overstate the importance of attending to your internal state. Throughout the day when you pressure yourself or scare yourself, it doesn’t just have an impact on your mind, it affects your body as well; like little fight-or-flight jabs. Checking in throughout the day, recognizing increases in anxiety, and calming your system down can go a long way toward reducing your symptoms and improving self-care.” Alan suggests we give ourselves unconditional love to stand up to our inner bully. “Unconditional love is just what it sounds like: love, untainted by conditions such as accomplishments, achievements, or physical features. If you weren’t given this as child, if you came to believe that you were unworthy or undeserving in some way, you may not look at yourself through a lens of unconditional love. “When you truly have love for yourself, everything we’ve talked about: standing up to the inner bully, soothing yourself, and validating your emotions, comes naturally. Treating yourself nicely isn’t work when you have self-love. Self-love is a learnable skill. It may take patience, discipline, and repetition, but it is wholly attainable.” Alan adds these final thoughts on how standing up to our inner bully can bring us to TMS good health, both physically and emotionally: “The development of self-compassion, self-love, an internal protector, the ability to self-soothe, and the capacity to attend to your emotions is an ongoing process. Be patient with yourself in this venture. Your symptoms have the potential to scare you, knock you down, render you hopeless. Stay the course though, you can beat this thing. Trust me, I’ve been there.” I’ve been there, too. My inner bully bugs me all the time, even after I’ve forgiven my parents and others and myself for long-ago grievances. I forgive, but my inner bully can’t seem to be able to forget. I yell at it, laugh at it, journal about it, but it keeps nagging me. I think it’s one of the hardest things about TMS to free myself from. I like some of the suggestions on standing up to our inner bully that were posted by members of the TMSWiki community regarding the parts of Alan's recovery program addressing the inner bully. Honeybear wrote: I am judging myself too harshly for the feelings I have had about my parents. A part of me knows that feelings simply are feelings...they are neither good nor bad...they are what make us human. Then another part says how could a good daughter/person/sister have feelings like this about her family? And then I hear in my mind something I heard frequently as a child, "You should be ashamed of yourself." Colly replied: Honeybear, ease up on yourself! We all have shame. Having shame is good, because it increases our self-awareness and helps us to learn from our mistakes. Don’t dwell on and judge your thoughts, just observe them, and be aware of why you had them. What matters is where you’re at now with your parents, not the past. If you need to build bridges with them, then get out there and start building. Take the initiative; it’s never too late. Littleme posted: The reparenting bits are very helpful and I understand the subconscious anger, because I have actually had dreams where I have my mother by the throat and am screaming obscenities at her. But directing that anger at my Inner Bully just doesn't feel right. The Inner Bully doesn't feel like something separate from me. It feels like that little kid who can't "get" something and says out loud, "I'm so stupid!" Would I feel angry toward that child if she were my own? Would I even chastise her for not being able to "get" it or for feeling frustrated? How can it be healthy, or even helpful, to direct the anger I feel toward my parents for not loving the real me toward the part of me that just parrots what I heard as a child? I have been telling her that hard things feel hard and that's OK, but she doesn't need to feel anxious and afraid, because she's still going to be just fine, however it turns out. So if I can't direct the anger toward something inside me, where can I direct it? Or do I need to do anything beyond acknowledging it? Herbie replied to littleme: Hi littleme, I love that name. Direct your anger toward a journal if need be. I would send love to the bully if you wish. That doesn't mean you have to listen to the bully or the critic any longer though as you know. I really think knowing you have the inner child has made you concerned for this part of you. I think sending emotional love is a great thing to do. You already feel it as a part of you that needs compassion so go with your heart. I would advise that this is exactly what IFS therapy is for. How to talk to your parts like the bully so you two can come to an agreement and then everyone is satisfied and complete. This helps relieve your tension and stress too. Forest posted: For the majority of people with TMS, simply acknowledging our emotions is enough to get better. We have spent so long repressing these feelings, that all we need is to recognize they do exist and do not make us horrible people. As for the Inner Bully, it is more important to stand up to it, then to get angry with. You need to soothe yourself, and let yourself know that it is okay to make a mistake. I would add though, that when you direct your anger at your inner bully, you are actually directing it at your parents and not actually at yourself. You are becoming angry at how your past has developed these harmful traits in you. When I get angry at my own inner bully, there is a feeling that I am not actually angry at myself, but at the way in which I was raised. This does seem to help me reduce my perfectionism and anxiety. Keep in mind though, that we are all different, so if something seems forced to you, it may be a good idea to find another way to accomplish the task, such as becoming more soothing. TMSTom posted: I doubt myself in most all possible ways. Am I good looking enough? Do I impress the people I talk to? Do they think I'm interesting? Am I cool in the eyes of them? Even as I write this I'm yelling at myself that this isn't good enough. I hate this part of me. I feel at war with my own self, you know? This controlling inner bully knows all my weaknesses, all my thought patterns that will get me down. He’s a tyrant that always knows what things will hurt me. I'm scared, I feel alone and I'm angry at how things have developed. I need a change. And this site is helping me change for the best. I can logically see why I ended up here with my back pain ( oh yeah, I have back pain, forgot to mention that). I'm a people pleaser that functions on approval, I'm a worrier and an obsessor. I beat myself up constantly and view myself from a third person point of view, criticizing my every thought and responses. But it all has to change for I have two options that I can see: lay down, cry, let the inner bully jump up and down on me, never work again and let my life collapse and live in pain forever! Or, I can punch that bully’s face in and let me be me for once. I can succeed, do the things I want to do with my time and show that tyrant in my mind that I don't need the pain or anxiety/depression anymore. Know that I'm aloud to experience my emotions and that hiding myself isn't necessary. I choose the later ! Wish me luck. Ellen replied: Would this mean you have two inner bullies at war with each other? I, too, have an inner bully that is really hard on me. I'm trying to take a different approach, and treating the inner bully like that unwanted, annoying house guest that just won't leave. I'm mostly ignoring it and going about my life, hoping it will leave since it's not being fed with my attention. TMSTom replied to Ellen: More that my bully has his own personality and levels of emotion. I'm just fed up with him. I imagine my hero being me and very strong. Just being able to dominate the bully quickly. Your approach sounds good too and I hope it works for you! Blake replied: I like your energy, TMStom! I too have a busy inner bully, pushing me around at every turn. Realizing just how pervasive and persistent this voice is and all the negative ways it affects my life (neck pain and feeling stuck in my life for the last 5 years) actually helps. I don't know if this is the case for you, but for me, I find that the awareness itself leads to some much needed mental loosening up. I'm slowly starting to get what self-compassion is all about. If I don't take care of myself, I get all out of sorts and this gives me pain. On the other hand, when I'm clear about what I want and express to others in the best way possible, I might feel a little guilty at first, but then I can return to a state of calm. I figured out that I can only maintain that sense of calm if I am nice to myself. I know this might sound really obvious to many people, but for me it's now just starting to sink in. It's tough to go in and fight back huh? Once I've started and have seen the improvements like you mentioned I'm becoming more confident at controlling what I think. Those negative thoughts can be so subtle and quick that they almost go unnoticed. Though I'm stopping them as I do, acknowledging them and processing them. Herbie posted: Be aware of your inner reactions. This will help you generate awareness. Then when you can get to the point that your aware of your inner thoughts of anger and distress. Then you can catch them like a fish and reframe the thought. Then later if that thought arises it wont be so hard to reframe if you have to and also if it even comes back up. Also another reason for being aware of our inner reactions is just that, most reactions we have are negative. If you can react in a joyful way and break that negative reaction then you're well on your way to understanding this concept and how powerful it really is. Another reason for being aware of your inner reactions is we often say things that when thought of later we wish we would have never looked at it like that. By being aware of the words or thoughts we're about to have about an event or anything really, we can turn that distress into rest knowing that we're walking in the law of attraction. Bruce also posted about his inner bully: I know I also react to negative emotions, by beginning a inner dialog with an imaginary enemy (inner bully) who's usually the persona of someone who's criticized me in a public space where I couldn't fight back. Instead, I was polite and internalized my anger (rage!). Really easy for me to get suckered in to such a dialog, trying for hours to fight back and contradict their criticism. Whacko! Really hard for me to defuse one of these dialogs once it starts. Really good sign that something's bothering me emotionally. Seems like these mental conflicts grow out of the times my late father used to sit and criticize and belittle me. Funny, I know how this stuff works, but find it really hard to defuse and stop once it starts. My question? How do you stop this kind of stupid non-productive inner mental warfare and switch to something positive and productive? Hint: Yesterday I had a real good road bike ride following a cold and was surprised how well I did. So today, no inner negative voices. I guess I feel "consummated" or some word like that. Sure seems like that sort of crap goes away when you're engaged in some kind of group interaction with friends you feel comfortable with. You don't need to confess your problems to them, because you're simply not having any problems really. I know that this morning I'm going to attempt to correct some deficiencies in a paint job I did on a repair on my Z3's bumper. Working alone on some perfectionist project like that is a perfect breeding ground for an inner mental fight! Wish me good luck. Have to stay disciplined! Think I'll do some meditation and chill out first though. I can see from the many posts from others that a lot of us have trouble dealing with the inner bully. I’d like to know how you stand up to your inner bully. What do you do, and does it work? When my inner bully talks negative to me, I talk back positive, loud and clear. It drives away worry and fear.