Santa Monica Counseling, Therapist in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and Culver City, CA, California - Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

The Power of Self-Talk

Positive Self-TalkAre you aware that you talk to yourself all the time? We all do. Our self-talk makes a huge difference in our lives for better or for worse. The question to ask yourself is whether your inner voice is your friend or foe.

Our unconscious is impacted by the words we say in the same way that it is when other people talk to us. Thus, how we speak to ourselves can be a powerful tool. Self-talk is the most underutilized available resource to master our minds and improve our lives. Our thoughts influence our feelings, choices, and actions. Positive thinkers are more optimistic, confident, and successful. Their effect is contagious and uplifts friends, coworkers, and loved ones.

Our Role Models

Starting in childhood, our self-talk develops over time. If you’ve ever watched young children play, you’ve overheard them talk to themselves, their dolls, action figures, and their friends in words and tone similar to what they’ve heard from influential adults, especially their parents. How parents talk to them and also how they talk to themselves and each other provide role models. Gradually, children internalize that voice.

This is a positive development that helps children master tasks, comfort themselves, and learn to interact with peers. Patient teachers and parents teach children patience with themselves, but undermining, critical, or angry role models teach children to talk to themselves with doubt, frustration, and scorn.

Codependents grow up in dysfunctional families where parents generally provide ineffective role models, ranging from neglect, emotional reactivity, over-control, disapproval, or blatant verbal abuse. Even when well-meaning parents tell their children they shouldn’t feel ashamed or sad, parents are inadvertently shaming their children’s authentic feelings. This can lead to internalized shame, which can have a major deleterious effect on adult functioning. (See “7 Parenting Essentials.”)

The “Tyrannical Trio:” The Critic, Perfectionist, and Pusher

In Codependency for Dummies, I describe the “Tyrannical Trio” comprised of three inner voices: The Critic, Perfectionist, and Pusher. They work in tandem reinforcing one another and can make life hell. The Perfectionist sets up idealistic standards, the Pusher pushes us to achieve them, and the Critic faults us for never succeeding.

The Perfectionist expects us to be superhuman, ensuring that we’ll fail to meet its unattainable standards; the Pusher is a relentless taskmaster, depriving us of enjoyment of life and pleasure; and the Critic tells us we’re never good enough. The Pusher and Perfectionist can help us achieve our goals if we have positive perfectionism. But of all three, the Critic does the most damage and can significantly undermine our self-esteem. Moreover, trying something new and making decisions can be near impossible because of anxiety that things won’t turn out well. In actuality, we’re afraid of our own inner Critic. The Critic is also the essential difference between positive and negative perfectionism. The trio create anxiety, depression, and inertia. (See “I’m Not Perfect, I’m Only Human”– How to Beat Perfectionism.)

Most people aren’t even aware of the extent to which they accuse, blame, and deny themselves. Many people live with the “tyranny of the should’s.” They order themselves around and second-guess themselves after the fact. There are those individuals who believe that they must push and punish themselves to improve or achieve anything; otherwise, they’re afraid that they’ll end up as lumps on the couch. Never mind that they’re pushing and reproaching themselves into depression by creating greater unhappiness and dissatisfaction in their lives and those of their families.

Our self-talk can swamp us with anxiety and rumination and overpower us with shame attacks and painful emotions. It can offer comfort and encouragement or make us feel anxious and inadequate. It can provide self-discipline and organization or make us feel overwhelmed and defeated. It can ruin our lives, job opportunities, and relationships, or it can be harnessed to raise our self-esteem, achieve our goals, and uplift our outlook and enjoyment of life.

Changing Our Self-Talk

Although we’ve grown accustomed these inner voices, they can be changed. It first requires our becoming more aware of them and developing mindfulness about our self-talk. There are a number of steps to reform these voices that include gaining an understanding of their motives and standards and learning to modify and counteract them. 10 Steps to Self-Esteem: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Self-Criticism is designed to succinctly lay out specific steps and exercises to do just that. (Learn more about raising self-esteem in the webinar, How to Raise Your Self-Esteem. Watch a Youtube excerpt.) There are several things you can begin doing immediately.

Mindfulness

Until you’re acutely aware of your inner voices, you can’t change them. Write down your negative self-talk on a daily basis. (Watch this Youtube.) Writing down your negative self-talk, including all the “should” and “shouldn’t’s,” will make them more conscious and provide you with choices.

Self-Distancing

Practice positive self-talk by addressing yourself in the third-person. This has the effect of “self-distancing” by shifting the focus away from the self.

Research has shown that by calling yourself by name, you begin to talk to yourself as you would a third person. It helps you regulate your emotions, because you’re less emotionally involved and acquire a larger perspective. In effect, your emotional brain is less triggered, and you become wiser. This small change has a profound positive impact in reducing shame, anxiety, and depression. It provides you with increased clarity and better judgment in dealing with work  and relationships.

Affirmations

Build positive thinking habits. Spend time each day and throughout the day repeating positive self-talk. If you say a prayer each morning, but negate yourself the rest of the day, which words do you think will have more impact? Try to make your positive self-talk outweigh any negative self-talk. This way you can develop an improved outlook and attitudes, which can lead to better health and decisions and greater success in your relationships and work. There are tips and guidelines for creating affirmations discussed in 10 Steps to Self-Esteem.

©Darlene Lancer 2017

Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

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Our mother is our first love. She’s our introduction to life and to ourselves. She’s our lifeline to security. We initially learn about ourselves and our world through interactions with her. We naturally long for her physical and emotional sustenance, her touch, her smile, and her protection. Her empathetic reflection of our feelings, wants, and needs informs us who we are and that we have value. A narcissistic mother who cannot empathize damages her children’s healthy psychological development. Like Narcissus in the Greek myth, she sees only a reflection of herself. There is no boundary of separateness between her and her children, whom she cannot see as unique individuals worthy of love. Symptoms of narcissism that make up narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) vary in severity, but they inevitably compromise a narcissist’s ability to parent. more

Trauma and Codependency

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A father is threatening his little boy with a fingerYou can make significant strides in overcoming codependency by developing new attitudes, skills, and behavior. But deeper recovery may involve healing trauma, usually that began in childhood. Trauma can be emotional, physical, or environmental, and can range from experiencing a fire to emotional neglect. Childhood events had a greater impact on you then than they would today, because you didn’t have coping skills that an adult would have. As a consequence of growing up in a dysfunctional family environment, codependents often suffer further trauma due to relationships with other people who may be abandoning, abusive, addicted or have mental illness. more

The Power of Personal Boundaries

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futureLove can’t exist without boundaries, even with your children. It’s easy to understand external boundaries as your bottom line. Think of rules and principles you live by when you say what you will or won’t do or allow. If you have difficulty saying no, override your needs to please others, or are bothered by someone who is demanding, controlling, criticizing, pushy, abusive, invasive, pleading, or even smothering you with kindness, it’s your responsibility to speak-up. Boundaries also are also internal, discussed below. more

Narcissistic Relationships

Since writing Codependency for Dummies, countless people contact me about their unhappiness and difficulties in dealing with a difficult loved one, frequently a narcissistic partner or parent who is uncNarcissistic boyfriend, narcissistic menooperative, selfish, cold, and often abusive. Partners of narcissists feel torn between their love and their pain, between staying and leaving, but they can’t seem to do either. They feel ignored, uncared about, and unimportant. As the narcissist’s criticism, demands, and emotional unavailability increase, their confidence and self-esteem decrease. Despite their pleas and efforts, the narcissist appears to lack consideration for their feelings and needs. Over time, they become deeply hurt and frustrated.  When the narcissist is a parent, by the time their children reach adulthood, the emotional abandonment, control, and criticism that they experienced growing up has negatively affected their self-esteem and capacity for achieving success or sustaining loving, intimate relationships. more

Self-Esteem Makes or Breaks Relationships

couple-FrommResearch has well-established the link between good self-esteem and relationship satisfaction. Self-esteem not only affects how we think about ourselves, but also how much love we’re able to receive and how we treat others, especially in intimate relationships.

A person’s initial level of self-esteem prior to the relationship predicts partners’ common relationship satisfaction. More specifically, although happiness generally declines slightly over time, this isn’t true for people who enter a relationship with higher levels of self-esteem. But the steepest decline is for people whose self-esteem was lower to begin with.[1] Frequently, those relationships don’t last. Even though communication skills, emotionality, and stress all influence a relationship, a person’s past experience and personality traits affect how these issues are managed and therefore have the greatest bearing on its outcome.[2] more

Sons of Narcissistic Fathers

Sad boy, lonely boySons of narcissistic fathers are driven by lack of confidence. Raised by a self-centered, competitive, arrogant father, they feel like they can never measure up or are enough to garner their father’s approval. Their father may be absent or critical and controlling. He may belittle and shame his son’s mistakes, vulnerability, failures, or limitations, yet brag about him to his friends. He may boast about inflated versions of his achievements, while disparaging those of his son. A narcissistic father may ruthlessly bully or compete with his son in games, even when the boy is a less-capable child. Similarly, he may be jealous of his wife’s attention to the boy, compete with him, and flirt with his girlfriends or later wife.

Lack of empathy is typical of narcissists. Many narcissistic fathers are authoritarian and rigid about how things should be done, the correctness of their opinions, and getting their way, portrayed by Robert Duval in the movie The Great Santini. (Pratt & Carlino, 1979)  Franz Kakfa articulately describes a literary example of such an imposing intolerance in Letter to His Father: more

Can You Love Too Much?

Detach with LovesmConventional belief is that we can never love too much, but that isn’t always true. Sometimes, love can blind us so that we deny painful truths. We might believe broken promises and continue to excuse someone’s abuse or rejection. We may empathize with them but not enough with ourselves. If we grew up in a troubled environment, we might confuse our pain with love. Although relationships have disappointments and conflicts, love isn’t supposed to be painful and hurt so much. By not having boundaries, we harm ourselves and the relationship. We might also confuse love with being someone’s caretaker. more

The Perfectionist’s Trap

perfect smPerfectionism is an addiction, meaning we’re repeatedly unable to stop our perfectionist behaviors. Like other addictions, perfectionism varies in severity, from positive or “adaptive” perfectionism that builds self-confidence to negative, “maladaptive” perfectionism, which and can have serious, negative consequences. It harms our self-esteem, make us unable to accept other people’s differences and their mistakes and flaws, and it can rob us of time with them. We require that things look or are done in a specific, “correct” way in accordance with our perfectionist standards. Some perfectionists attempt to perfect their bodies with repeated surgeries or pursue athleticism to the point of injury. Severe perfectionism has also been linked to anorexia, depression, and even suicide.

Perfectionism is an illusion existing only in the mind. Telling perfectionists they look fine or that their home or project is excellent is useless. Their image of how things should be bears little correlation to reality. They will continue to find flaws and have difficulty find pleasure in compliments or satisfaction from their efforts. more

10 Tips to Self-Love and Compassion

self-compassionThe idea of self-love and self-nurturing baffles most people, especially codependents, who by and large, received inadequate parenting. The word “nurture” comes from the Latin nutritus, meaning to suckle and nourish. It also means to protect and foster growth. For young children, this usually falls to the mother, however, the father’s role is equally important. Both parents need to nurture children. Healthy parenting helps the grown child be his or her own best mother and father. more

7 Parenting Essentials

How can you avoid codependent parenting? Research shows that codependency is learned in families and passed on generationally. It prevents the development of healthy, independently functioning individuals. When parents are codependent, codependency gets transmitted, unless they’re self-aware and consciously make an effort to respond to their children in healthy ways that counteract their codependent patterning. But because codependency is learned, it can be prevented and unlearned.

The problem is, like addiction, codependency is characterized by denial. This means you may not even be aware that you’re codependent and are unwittingly teaching it to your children, despite your best intentions. The most preventative steps you can take are to improve your self-esteem and communication. Some of the main symptoms of codependency are:

  • Being overly focused on someone or something
  • Low self-esteem
  • Nonassertive communication
  • Denying or devaluing needs, feelings, and wants
  • Poor boundaries
  • A need for control more

Do’s and Don’ts of Divorce

divorce HodanMany divorces go along smoothly, but when problems occur, they usually reflect the dynamics that didn’t work in the marriage – only made worse, because divorce is one of the biggest crises you may go through. Emotions, especially fear and anger, are at their peak.There are definite pitfalls to avoid, and positive steps that can save your sanity and help you move on. All divorces are unique and vary depending on: 1. The marital relationship; 2. The reasons for the divorce; 3. Whether children are involved; and 4. Who initiated the divorce. Yet there are some common issues, largely based on mistaken beliefs and strong emotions.

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Is Your Family Dysfunctional?

All_in_the_Family_cast_1976Probably, and you’re in the majority. The term “dysfunctional family,” once used only by professionals, has become popular jargon in America where dysfunctional families are the norm due to cultural values, a high divorce rate, and widespread addictions – from prescription drugs to exercising, working, and shopping.

A healthy family is a safe haven – a place of sustenance and nurturing – that has an air of openness, spontaneity, and playfulness, and allows for freedom of expression.  There may be occasional arguments and expressions of anger, but peace returns and individuals feel loved and respected. It functions smoothly like a well-run company. The executives – the parents – make and agree upon rules, which are consistent and reasonable.

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric transformed a company that had a closed, inward focused mentality, an unresponsive bureaucracy, and uncommunicative employees. more