Sue and Ann Explore Self Criticism and Internal Scripts (Ep.169)

by | Feb 16, 2022 | Attachment, Episodes, modern attachment regulation spectrum, Narcissism, Personal Growth, Therapy | 0 comments

Show Notes

Self-criticism is such a practiced skill it could be an Olympic sport – style points, consistency, creativity.  Learn more about this common practice and what it may mean about your internal working script.

Hearing yourself criticized impacts your nervous system no matter if the voice is your own or someone else's.

self attack can be brutal

Self-criticism, unfortunately, is something that most individuals can deeply identify with. Not only does it affect our own self-esteem, but it also can take a heavy toll on our relationships and the ways in which we navigate the world. But can self-criticism look different for different attachment styles? What outer influences contribute to our critical tendencies? You will want to tune in this week, as Ann and Sue answer these (and many more) questions, by taking a deep dive into self-criticism as it relates to different attachment styles. Learn more about the detrimental role our cultures and societal pressures play in our thoughts, and how we can help build healthier patterns through secure attachment priming.

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Time Stamps

19:28 – Explanation of how self-criticism can activate a threat response

20:31 –  How avoidant attachment/dismissive styles can differ in self-criticism

23:42 – Pleasure and soothing and the roles they can play in self-criticism

28:50 – Preoccupied self-criticism

29:24 – Society & culture's role in criticism

37:10 – Explanation of secure attachment priming


Attachment Styles Modulate Neural Markers of Threat and Imagery when Engaging in Self-criticism” Article

“Music, Emotion, and Therapy – Interview with Bob Schneider” – Therapist Uncensored, Episode 45

Ann Kelley: Hey, Sue Marriott. I am happy to be back in the studio with you.

Sue Marriott: Absolutely. It's so nice to actually be recording together. We've been doing so many crazy things separately and yeah, it's fun. So let's do this,

Ann Kelley: let's do some announcements. You know how we've been talking about how important it is at Therapist Uncensored that we build community, right?

We are really excited. We've been hinting at this suggesting it, but we're going to do it. We're going to have a live meetup here in Austin, Texas, and we are going to encourage live meetups, wherever Therapist Uncensored reaches.

Sue Marriott: Yeah. So if you're a listener on April 22nd, this is all going to happen simultaneously.

We've already had a couple of people sign up to host in their local community. So wherever you're hearing this from our idea here is. We're going to be announcing like, so somebody wants to host in Boise, Idaho, or in Calcutta or in Sydney, Australia, wherever you're listening from, you just raise your hand, let us know. And we will announce it. Basically, all you would have to do is find a location. COVID, you know, friendly location for people to gather and, you know, everybody will pay for themselves. Things like that. No big deal. But. There's probably, there may be other listeners of this podcast near you. And especially if you're in a Metro area, New York, you guys are one of our highest listeners, Los Angeles, of course, the big hubs.

So if somebody will just raise their hand and say, Hey, let's meet at you know, sour duck, uh, you know, and, uh, and you just need a big patio or something. Then the notion is that anybody that's also listening to the podcast, that's maybe a neighbor of yours. You guys already have a ton in common, right?

Ann Kelley: Like not everybody listens to a neuro nerd kind of podcast. That's for sure. So if you are interested in this, you have some commonalities. That's what we assumed. So even if you just have one other person in your community, that's enough. It doesn't have to be a huge one. We want everybody in the same day to gather and talk amongst yourself, get to know you have the community have connections. So we're going to do it in Austin, Texas on April 22nd at four o'clock. And um, we have few, I know we have a host volunteer in Milwaukee. We have several host, volunteers already,

Sue Marriott: Bozeman, Montana.

Ann Kelley: Oh, that's true. And I think one in Australia. And so I'm not sure which city yet, but I think what we are going to do if you volunteered to be a host, you're not gonna have to pay for anything. But I think we are going to send you a Therapist Uncensored t-shirt, so when people get to your location, they'll know where to find you.

Sue Marriott: And just a thank you.

Ann Kelley: And just to thank you for doing it. So all you have to do to host again, is send us your name. You could do that at and just say, Hey, I'd love to be a host and we will. start coordinating that altogether.

Sue Marriott: That's right. And so if you're interested in attending, if there's one in your area and you want to attend, we're going to be funneling you to our Facebook group, and we'll have an event on the Facebook group that will be about this. And so in the chatter, under the event, you'll, you know, you can say, Hey, is there anybody in the, this region in the Southeast or wherever? So, um, yeah, we'll see how it goes. It might be that zero people show up, but that's cool. That's fine.

Ann Kelley: That's fine. But hopefully in Austin, Texas, we will. I think right now we have one location. You mentioned sourdough Sour Duck. I think that's going to be the location.

Sue Marriott: Let me tell y'all a side story. Ann is really wanting to like spend the next couple of weeks, like going to different event, going to different locations and checking out the vibe and seeing how nice the people are. And you know what I mean, like having it be an event, like a scouting event to find the perfect location.

Ann Kelley: We call that me circling my blankets. So we could actually, you could say we do, we always talk about sort of our different dynamics on the podcast. So who do you imagine wants to be decisive? We went to a place. This is it. This is fine. Let's name it. And I'm like, let's circle the blankets. Let's ride our bikes all over the city. It's just also an excuse to play around. Right. And find the location that is just right. So right now it may end up being Sour Duck, but we'll get back to you. But there are so many people out there that are not in Austin, Texas. But if you're out there and you have a location in mind. Awesome. we think it'll be fun. We're going to want you. If you get there, even if it's just one person that shows up when you're there that day on April 22nd, we want you to take a picture of you or your group and send it in.

Sue Marriott: We might be doing some live FaceTime and stuff like that. So that'll be fun. But wait, in my defense about the sour duck. It is really a great place. And my notion was to already have the location, then it's, as we announce it, everybody knows where to go versus I do love the scouting and the journey and the, all of those things too. So we'll see how it actually lands, but if it lands at the sour duck, it doesn't mean that it's a sour decision.

Ann Kelley: It means it was the right decision.

Sue Marriott: It just means I already knew that was good.

Ann Kelley: You do have good instincts it's true. And I do have a tendency to have to circle a blanket and see all my options.

Sue Marriott: Oh my gosh. That's so true.

Ann Kelley: So true. Well, let's jump into today's episode.

Sue Marriott: Absolutely. And one way to do that. One of the things that we do here at Therapist Uncensored is we provide this incredible content. I wouldn't say that the first five minutes has been that incredible of content. However, we normally provide really, we have an archive of incredible really, really good, solid content that we provide for free. And we are able to do that two ways. One is with our community of neuro nerds. Thank you all for supporting us. You can join in and get all kinds of access to learning opportunities and cool things like that at, but also we especially really want to give a moment here to our sponsors Simple Practice.

Ann Kelley: Yes. Simple Practice is a online management system for anyone that works with clients, especially therapists. Sue and I both use simple practice. That's the reason we reached out to them as a sponsor because we want to only support things that we really feel some positivity towards. And it's really helped in being able to manage our system, being able to do billing.

It's an all-in-one HIPAA compliant practice management system. Our listeners out there get two months free. So if you go to, and check it out. And by the way, just checking it out really helps us a lot and help sponsors the program.

Sue Marriott: That's right. And just to say a little bit more about simple practice, honestly is we both didn't use any kind of software before. We had our own ways that we handled it. And I have to say, if I've ever seen you as a client, you know, that I'm terrible at details and billing and things like that. So since then, I've gotten on simple practice. It was a little tiny bit of a learning curve, like a three out of a 10. That's how hard it was, but within probably an hour, it was already ready to roll. And now basically it's, you know, most of my clients are preset, so I really probably spend 30 minutes a month max making sure that it's all correct.

Other than that, the bills go out automatically to the clients. Some of them already have their credit card in and it's all done automatically. They don't have to deal with it. We don't have to deal with, I don't have to deal with it. And there's an accounting at any minute. Anybody can log on and figure out what's going on. So. It's not lightly that we say that if you're not sure, or if you have hired someone, that's great. But if you're thinking of doing something more efficient that can be ongoing, then we really recommend that. And again, two months free.

Okay. This is gonna be an interesting episode..

Ann Kelley: It is. You know, we've been talking a lot about kind of different ways that we can tell when we're in our, like more defensive protective system and when we're in more our connective and open system. Right. And one of the things we've been thinking about is what are the things that you can, how you can tell when you're in one in the other. And one of the big ones is self-criticism. And self-criticism can be a huge problem for so many of us, right?

Sue Marriott: Oh yeah. I mean, I would be surprised if there, well, actually there is a category of when it comes to attachment of folks who are less consciously self-critical, so we'll get to that. But what's interesting about this as we get into the science around it is that first of all, everybody has a voice.

So don't feel bad if, when we say self criticism and you're like, eh, I'm going to raise my hand. I felt guilty, which is already a little self critical. Isn't it?

Ann Kelley: Exactly. You're prepping your own self critical self.

Sue Marriott: Exactly. But what is, so it's not that unique to have a voice that is being critical of yourself, but when we can listen to the way that we criticize ourselves, then it becomes interesting.

Ann Kelley: Absolutely. Absolutely. And because, I mean, we talk to ourselves all the time, like you said, we have an internal voice, we have a Metta voice going on more than we ever even realize. Right. So how do we recognize it when it's just being observational? Right. Like I spill my ice tea and I'm like, ah, you know, versus it's hopping over to that place where it becomes kind of a critical analysis of your own self.

Sue Marriott: Totally. And I imagine as you're listening, like if we were doing a big world group therapy right now, and, and everybody could speak up and say like this, this is my words that I say to myself, and this is my words. We're not saying the same things. Everybody's saying something particularly unique and it probably has a theme. And so it just becomes kind of interesting. It's like, even right now, just reflect, like when you really get going against yourself, what does it sound like? Like what's the thing, like, is it that you're stupid? Is it that you're ugly. Like these are painful things to think about, but the reason that we're pointing you to them is because we're going to decode them and update them, so that our self-talk is going to, so you know, jumping to the end, we want one of the cool things about security and is basically that you have a secure script. Those of you who have been following for a while, know about internal working models. So. We might kind of just try on the idea that your self-talk might hint towards your unconscious script, your internal working model.

Ann Kelley: So one of the things to think about, you just asked everybody kind of slowly think about it for themselves. What would just take another moment again? What would be your most common moments of self critic? And what would the theme be? I like how you're saying that. And I know for me, my self criticism often comes when I've realized I've procrastinated too much. And then I'm up against a deadline. That is brutal. If I have distracted myself and postponed, and then I'm about to maybe jump on an interview or something, and I haven't done my sufficient prep, I can feel that self criticism.

Sue Marriott: What does it sound like?

Ann Kelley: I think mine centers more around expectations of work ethic. It's not so much how smart I am, how I look. Mine is have I done the work ethic, and I will get really rough on myself if I feel like I've lingered and I haven't shown a strong work ethic. That's kind of how it sounds like I go, why did you not, you know better. Mine would be, you know better. Why did you do that? You know, like that would be my theme. What about you?

Sue Marriott: Well, do you have any idea of why work ethic is achilles.

Ann Kelley: Ah, absolutely. I think growing up work ethic was really promoted. I think having a strong work ethic in my mom and the identity of how hard she had to work for us, for one, and the anxiety that I would get if I wasn't doing, I can still remember.

Sue Marriott: Lucille Ball.

Ann Kelley: Oh, it is. I have. It's so funny to remember that. I'm sure I've talked about that before, but still. And my daughter's Sydney loves the Lucille ball show, but still when I hear that music, my stomach gets a little like anxious because I knew my mother was going to be home, I guess, it was like 25 minutes from the start of that program.

And if we hadn't done the work that we needed to do and started dinner, et cetera it would make me a little anxious, mainly for her being upset, but also disappointed cause I knew she was working so hard, so there's like this strong work ethic. So my self-criticism probably centers a lot on my working model around what that holds for me.

Sue Marriott: Yeah. That's interesting. I'm glad that you said more about that.

Ann Kelley: So what about you?

Sue Marriott: Oh, I think mine's a lot worse. I think you're just healthier or something. I don't know. No, I think my, what a couple of things I've noticed. One is. When I'm more dysregulated, when I'm not in a good place, my self-criticism is brutal.

You said yours was brutal, everybody, you know, I guess it's all relative, but I'm definitely much more. The other thing is it doesn't necessarily come in the form of words. It's more of a feeling and it's, and it just cuts. Right? It's not like work ethic. It's like more of like, worth. My worth, my goodness, badness like that I'm actually bad or that my badness will be revealed. It's definitely more like core value of self.

Ann Kelley: And that's what self criticism can be. It's an embodied experience, isn't it? It's not, it's not. The research really shows that it's not a cognitive thought, stop having that thought it really can envelop the body and it's a bodied embodied experience. So you're really describing it in such an articulate way that it can just have a wave of feeling incompetent or unworthy. And it's a sense you can't even articulate the words that come with it at times.

Sue Marriott: Right. Well, and you know, if I am thinking in words, it's actually, if we think of the nervous system, you know, the lower down than I am, the more it's embodied As I come up, right, you have my higher thinking on, then there may be words. So there's some interesting things about this. So one is that, if I'm not dysregulated and there's, you know, we should talk about that paper and the research. So if I'm not dysregulated and I'm in a pretty good place, say that I'm feeling self-critical. One of the great things about that is that like, I don't know. I just don't, it doesn't go to that worth place. It's just more of like, dammit, you know, it's, it's a little bit more reality-based

Ann Kelley: What you're saying is that when we're in our more secure way of relating and we're not activated, we can be self critical. We can go, oh, you should have prepared. Or you can, but it doesn't hit you on this core level, and we're able to self-reflect about it. We're able to mentalize. You know what, true enough I should have started earlier. Right? Like, so there's a way to be self-critical that isn't devastating to you and leaves a mentalization process where we can look at ourselves.

Sue Marriott: So Ann, do you have the reference for that paper. So if you'll find that and I'm going to just share a little bit about. It was really interesting and the reason we love this particular paper is it has to do with mental scripts. And so one of the findings is just what I'm saying right now, and it's ringing really true for me. Which is that, when you're in an FMRI machine and if you're being self-critical and let's say that you score a s securely attached, it shows another part of your brain that I'm going to forget because I'm not a neuroscientist, but I probably should have, see, I could be critical of myself right now, but there's basically it has to do with the visual cortex.

So if you're secure and then you're being self critical, the visual cortex lights up. And what the interpretation of that is, is that it's like, you're examining the thought you are kicking it around. It's like, you might can defend yourself even from your own self attack that like. In other words, it's a more complex Damn, I shouldn't have done that thing. Yeah. But they didn't give me the information in time. There's a working it.

Ann Kelley: Right. There's a way of, I guess the language that we've used a lot is it's a way to mentalize around it. You can see yourself from outside. I think what you're. Okay. What you're talking about is the lingual gyrus.

Sue Marriott: Thank you.

Ann Kelley: So, but the article that you're speaking of is it's attachment styles, modulating neural markers of threat and imagery when engaging in self criticism. And it's in Scientific Reports 2020. So it's a recent article. You can see how Sue I spend our fun time. And we seriously do read this stuff for fun. That's a whole nother conversation, but it was really fascinating to see the things that we see in our office, we see in ourselves, but to really have it manifest in a way that we can describe it through brain functioning.

Sue Marriott: Right. So if your score is secure on this, I don't remember. Here's an interesting thing about research though y'all is that there's so many measures of attachment and what Ann and I typically talk about is developmental attachment with the strange situation, AAI, the adult attachment inventory, and the adult attachment projective, those kinds of things. But, but, so when you're looking at an article, it's interesting to see how they measured it. We're writing a book and in our appendix of all the attachment measures, there's a zillion.

But anyway, so that, that, you know, as a parenthesis, right, that, that basically that there is this activation with self self-criticism with securely attached where that it's, I like how you said it. It's basically, there's more mentalization happening with this Lingus gyrus.

Ann Kelley: But one of the reasons why it's so important is that self criticism in general can activate a sense of a threat response. Right. And so that's when we were started off the whole conversation with how do we know we're in our defense? Well, when we start to self criticize or we're criticized by others, there is a sense of threat. There's a threat to our identity or self. Are we going to be rejected? Are we going to reject ourselves? So there's a threat response in our amygdala. And, and, and it goes through our limbic system. Those with secure attachment in an internal working model that says that being criticized, first of all, that their body likely is not as programmed towards self criticism. If you end up developing a secure attachment, you likely were not raised with highly self-critical parents or a critical of you. And so that with the amygdala response, it's like, we do feel a little threatened when you're in a secure place, but with that threat, it doesn't overwhelm the nervous system. It doesn't overwhelm our coping strategies. So, but it was really different when they looked at avoidant attachments, individuals more dismissing styles.

Sue Marriott: Yeah. So basically one of the findings there is that there's not that activation of the, I'm making it,

Ann Kelley: the lingual gyrus activation that they have an amygdala response, but there's not as much response to the lingual gyrus activation. And they speculate that in some ways that it overwhelms the coping system, that there's not this way of, they suppress basically the ability to mentalize. It's like, it moves very quickly out. It's kind of a way to dissociate if you will.

Sue Marriott: It's dismissing state of mind.

Ann Kelley: Right. It's dismissing one's own experience. When we talk about being in a dismissing state of mind, we often are dismissing our own emotions as well as others.

Sue Marriott: Which includes self criticism.

Ann Kelley: Absolutely includes the feelings of threat around self-criticism as too much so that it gets almost dissociated or suppressed.

Sue Marriott: Right. And so the experience might be as someone who is recovering from dismissing, that side of things, for sure. The experience I think is more, it's going to be more critical of the other person. Like, I'm fine, but who is this crazy person out there, but notice that the self. So in other words, I'm not threatened by self attack. I'm more threatened by other people. And I want to talk about something about pleasure in just a minute, but were going to say something.

Ann Kelley: Yeah. I think it's an interesting way to kind of think about it because we often talk about, or we have talked about one of the states that is threatening to this dismissing individual, or when we're in that state is the threat to an identity. Right. And so to be self-critical and to question yourself would really be activating because one leans towards dismissing because you had to rely on yourself. This isn't a negative. Remember this is not a negative state. This is not a personality disorder to land on dismissing. It's like we had a really, when you're there and you grow into an internal working model of dismissing is because you've had to rely on yourself. So you had to really learn to overvalue yourself because you didn't trust others. So, if you think about it, the idea of self-criticism and doubting yourself really would feel threatening.

Sue Marriott: It would feel threatening, but it doesn't feel threatening because it's already suppressed. It happens so quickly.

Ann Kelley: Right? And that's the one reason why we've talked about doing a whole episode on this, and maybe we will, because we've got an episode coming up specifically around the amygdala, but that's one reason we want to point out the difference between feeling threat and feeling fear. Like for somebody with dismissing attachment, you're not necessarily going to feel, oh, I'm afraid to be self-critical, you're going to bypass that experience altogether through the suppression and the act on the threat. And that's where dissociating that feeling comes out. And like, I don't have self criticism. In fact, I feel pretty damn good about myself. Although underneath we know that even in insecure attachment, including dismissing, there's a lot of self doubt. That's really hidden and suppressed.

Sue Marriott: It's absolutely true. So basically your protective system, your defense system is active. And so you're a little amygdala, amygdala squirted some, you know, threat neurochemicals, and you've got a little cortisol. So if you put a Monitor on your finger to measure threat. It would actually be there, but you wouldn't be perceiving the threat.

Ann Kelley: Right. You would have pushed it away and it kind of leans towards why criticism of others comes out. Because if somebody else is being self-critical, that is actually really hard often on somebody with dismissing attachment is to listen to somebody else be self-critical. They want to stop it.

Sue Marriott: Or, to be critical to them.

Ann Kelley: Oh, a good point. I was actually leaning there and I forgot that point. Thank you for bringing it back. And that is that the, the identity threat. So somebody being threatened, we often say that somebody with dismissing attachment will lean on how could you say that about me? Right. So you being critical of them is very, very disruptive. So while they don't incorporate self-criticism, they really, we really can become very defensive around criticism from other people, which then leads to wanting to cut it off, wanting to either eye roll, shut it down, move away, withdraw, leave. All of those signs are like, I have to get away. This is too much.

Sue Marriott: So earlier, I had mentioned this idea of pleasure, and this goes exactly with what you're saying Ann, which is if we just very quickly go back. So here's this dismissing adult, but in childhood, what that means if they're dismissing adult, is that, that was adaptive for their environment, which I really appreciate you saying that earlier.

That was just, we can't emphasize that enough. It's not a pathology. It was adaptive early on, but less if we break that down just a little bit more, what happens if you have a good environment, good enough environment, then you're distressed. Your little brain is distressed because we can't calm ourselves down. Right. Then the bigger brain is responsive and takes care of us. And guess what happens is we feel relief because we come back to homeostasis and that gets patterned. And then pretty soon we're going to feel relief when the caregivers even nearby 'cause there's a, there's a feeling of pleasure. So it works basically.

Ann Kelley: That makes sense. Yeah.

Sue Marriott: And so then we want to be near the caregiver, and their presence is soothing just in and of itself.

Ann Kelley: Another way to look as rewarding.

Sue Marriott: It's rewarding. Now, when you have had to, as you're saying depend on yourself, then that's great, but your what's missing is you're not getting the pleasure of the success of being soothed.

As a matter of fact, What can then eventually happen is that it might not be pleasure, but your, your homeostasis has to do with being on your own. So then when you have someone near where, okay, now we're grown back up and we have a partner. That can actually evoke the threat system. Rather than oxytocin and all the good stuff that we really want to be happening when it's, when you're in a really dismissing state and the, and, and being alone can give you the feeling of relief

Ann Kelley: because you're not warding off that sense of threat.

Sue Marriott: That's exactly right. So I thought that was, that was one of my, like, ahas about some of this and reading more. And it also really emphasizes what Ann and I talk all the time about, about this being a morally neutral stance and it can, it can cause us problems for sure, but we don't want to approach it that the person's just being an asshole.

Ann Kelley: That is so important Sue, and if you think about it, what often happens in relationships. Let's say. Uh, you're in a conflict and somebody being critical of the other person, which happens in conflict. But you have some criticalness coming. And you know if we continue the conversation about being in a dismissing state and you want to move away, you're hearing criticism and that's activating.

If the individual doesn't accept, self-criticism very much guess what's happening? Your criticism while they're activated is not actually going in as insight. There's not a light bulb going on. Oh my God. You're right. I'm an ass like that. That happens less for somebody who lives in dismissing attachment because it's overwhelming. So then what can happen is that person leaves withdraws, walks away. It goes into their office, shuts the door, puts on a gaming device. And what can happen is that can really piss somebody else off. So then guess what happens? Yeah, they get approached with more criticism. I can't believe you withdrew, you walked away. How dare you? When really they're doing what their body's

Sue Marriott: self soothing.

Ann Kelley: They're self soothing. And doesn't mean it feels good. I'm not saying it's right, but they're self soothing. So when that other person comes in and is now more mad because you've withdrawn, you could see how the cycle, the pattern really, really gets very entrenched. And so one of the points of this is like self-criticism and criticisms from another person, other criticism I guess, is, is like really impactful on the nervous system and our sense of felt wellbeing.

Sue Marriott: It does definitely it evokes the stress response for sure.

Ann Kelley: And to be able to move out of that, we have to really, we noted that with we're in a secure place, we have the ability to mentalize. So that's one reason why we want to wait to really talk about these difficult things. When you're upset, instead of pointing out the criticism while activated on either side, it's just not productive. We don't have the mental capacity to mentalize, to reflect, kind of take that in and how important that is. Because it's important. When we mentalize, we actually then integrate that criticism

Sue Marriott: We can learn. If we're in the window of tolerance, then our hippocampus is active. The hippocampus is the part that can begin to form memory, autobiographical memory. And it's like, oh, when this happens, I've learned this and this and this. Versus when we're more dysregulated, we can't learn that. Like you're saying, there's no uptake of information that is like, oh, oops. You know, I'm going to change this. Now again, remember we're moving towards again we're listening to our self criticism and we're playing with what's the script that we've internalized, which is our internal working model. And we're still aiming towards a more secure script, which we're going to name some of what that sounds like in just a minute, but probably we should go on over to the red side and talk about preoccupied, self criticism.

Ann Kelley: Yeah. But preoccupied, self criticism, often centers on criticism related to relationships.

It's not necessarily related to achievement, et cetera. It's often of course, any of us can, no matter where we fall can have self criticism about any of it on achievement or looks or anything based on our internal working model.

Sue Marriott: Can I say something? It's not just individual. It is not just because of our internal working model. Part of why we attack ourselves is because we live in culture that attacks us. And that makes us, I mean, what marketing is about is making you feel deficit and then the product will make you feel better, whether it's your pimples or your belly fat or whatever it is.

Ann Kelley: That's a great, great point. Cause we're talking about something, this to ourselves, we talk about self-criticism as if we walk around only, only responsible in our childhood, only responsible for what happens in our head. And we all know that that is absolutely not true. It's a really great point.

Sue Marriott: As a matter of fact, when you talk cross-culturally and thank you, shout out to all the folks that listen from all over the world. We are so blessed to have a following in over 200 countries. So in some cultures, they don't struggle as much with self-criticism and shame is not the go-to. And for our culture, shame is, you know, Brene Brown, like shame. It's a thing. And so many of us can identify with it. But in some cultures that's not true. So I just, the point being that the bigger picture, the culture, our context really does also impact this.

Ann Kelley: No, that's a, that's a great point. Actually, let's take just one moment out to thank our sponsor for today. Before we jump in and talk about red, which we will or talk about anxious attachment, just want to do a shout out for our sponsor today. And that is simple practice. As we mentioned before, Sue and I both use simple practice to run our management system, and you are able to do HIPAA compliant billing. You can even actually do a video on simple practice video.

Sue Marriott: We can send reminder notices. Basically, one-stop shopping all in one. So we really recommend that. We asked you to go to simple backslash therapist, uncensored, and poke around .It can't hurt anything. It's two months free just for our listeners. Two full months free. So check it out. And now what about red?

So in talking about, self-criticism, when we're in a preoccupied state of mind, or if we live more in a preoccupied, internal working model, we likely struggle with self-criticism more than any other internal working model. Because the core of that is that we haven't really learned to trust ourselves. And sothere's a frequent experience, not only of self doubt, but that we are causing those around us to push away. And it's often very centered on any idea of social rejection. What did we do that could lead to somebody pushing away, judging us or being critical of us?

How many people like after an interaction and you're driving home, or what have you walking home later in the middle of the. You're going over it and going over it, and you can remember and visualize the person's face. Not quite catching what you said. Oops. Maybe you made a mistake like that sort of stuff. That those are all signs of that preoccupation. And with criticism, once we're in a more activated red preoccupied state, that could go either way. It can be. Self-attack. Or we can project that out into the world. And a lot of times when we do project it out into the world, we're imagining the self attack, but it's coming from someone else. Which also it's critical of that person. Like, oh, they're just I really mean and they just think I'm so stupid and you know, it's still critical of that person, but we, we project our own insecurity into other people and then feel it as if it's coming towards us.

Ann Kelley: So the statement we often use to describe that as how could you do this to me? And it's a feeling of. I've done something you're rejecting me. How could you reject me? But underneath it, there is this self-incrimination.

Sue Marriott: Right. Like I'm rejectable.

Ann Kelley: when we were in a red state or anxious attachment state that we have an heightened amygdala response. That is certainly the experience in the brain of a highly sensitive amygdala response, which also means that we walk around ready to feel threat. So Sue and I often talk about wearing sunglasses as a distortion, so. When you're in a red or avoidant state,

Sue Marriott: basically when you're dysregulated, not in the green state, either, either direction, dysregulated up up the nervous system, sympathetic or dysregulated down the nervous system. Parasympathetic, go ahead.

Ann Kelley: We're talking up right now. You have sunglasses on that says you're able, you're more likely to interpret things out there as threatening and misinterpret them as negative. And here's the other thing misinterpret that the cues you're picking up are about you. Right?

Sue Marriott: My pimple is gigantic, and everybody is looking!

Ann Kelley: So that that's a really hard part. And to, to deal with that, if you have, and it's not unlikely to ruminate and to have an experience of a lot of negative self attack. And then what we can do to ourselves is then self attack ourselves for having all this negative rumination, which really sucks.

And we really want to point out how important that this is not a cognitive processes. This is not something to just stop doing. You know, and, and that, you know, we were just speaking about what can happen when a blue person shuts down and leaves with somebody is in highly anxious state. And self-critical, it's very tempting to try to just tell them to stop acting that way or thinking that way

Sue Marriott: that you want to push away. That's a sign actually that you're with someone that's a little bit moving into the red is typically, they're leaning in, even with their words and their pace and their urgency. Basically, if you could imagine, like they're leaning in and it causes us typically to begin to pull back. And so if you're feeling that pull back feeling, you know, like the wide-eyed pullback feeling, probably they're in an activated red state,

Ann Kelley: that's a really good way to put it. And what they talk about in some of the brain studies. That the areas that are actually elevated during that state and the now, should we try it? The dorsal anterior cingulate and the interior insular regions, all of these regions are actually associated in our brain with rejection related distress. And in those areas, they actually become more activated, which is also really interesting because avoidant attachments tend to get less activated in these regions. Related to rejection, when they do studies that involve social exclusion, that somebody in a red state is much more likely to have this heightened activity in areas while somebody in a blue state is going to be lower activated.

Sue Marriott: So, part of what that means is if you know that you tend towards that red, more activated preoccupied state, it's not that you can't trust yourself. It's that you need to learn that your equipment tends to lean in a certain direction. So it's like, if I'm feeling like they're all talking about me or that my, you know what I mean? That. That they're still thinking about this. I can sort of, self-correct a few degrees back around probably they're not thinking about this. Like in other words, this is all using our higher thinking and it assumes that we're in the window of tolerance, but it is actually a skill too. It's a learnable skill. So this gets into what script we want people to hear.

Ann Kelley: Yeah, but you know, this weekend, since we've been kind of research focused, let's throw in the part of how sometimes they activate different attachment experiences in the moment in research is by doing attack, what they call secure attachment priming, and it's an amazing impact. And that basically means that we prime our bodies in a more secure way. And that can be even showing individuals images of secure, relating, two people hugging like social relationships that are getting along really well,

Sue Marriott: soft eyes, soft space,

Ann Kelley: it also helps to have individuals imagine secure relating through past relationships.

But the point of this is not try to induce some research activity out there. The point of it is, is that priming our bodies for positive social support in any way calms these regions of our minds and our brains that we're talking about that get activated and pull us more into our secure way of relating where we aren't pushing all of our self-critical buttons or other critical. So as well as being able to help each other. So being able to say I'm really upset, but I'm here for you. You know, being able to soften your eyes, being able to lower your voice and imagine, or if you're on your own, imagine somebody coming towards you in a caring, loving way could really activate your body.

Sue Marriott: Right. And we're primarily talking about secure relationship with self, and we want to build secure relationship with self because basically you can hear what the self criticism it's not there, not a very secure base in there when we're actively criticizing ourselves. So even that movement, just you saying those words Ann, I could already actually feel a physiological response about people hugging like, or real smiles, like, like not fake smiles, people lying together, relaxed, a mother holding a baby and gazing. These are some of the primes that can evoke the right neurochemicals in our body. Again, this is a moral meaning, it's not if I'm preoccupied and I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm just being difficult because my that's the neurochemical soup that's active . I mean, I'm literally responding to my body.

Ann Kelley: Right. Due to your intensified amygdala response, inability to mentalize as we were talking about it.

Sue Marriott: And then what happens on that side is I'm more focused on what you and like it's, and I don't believe I consumed myself. I believe I need you. I need you to understand me and give me what I want. You have to give me this feeling or else I'm not going to be okay. Right. That's a preoccupied script. So rather than running the script of, I need you to understand me right now, or, you know, I need to have this feeling or else I can't let go. Right. What we're wanting to help you move towards and help ourselves move towards is, this doesn't have to end perfectly. I'm going to be okay. this person that I'm upset with is good enough. And I'm going to be okay. Like it's moving back towards the secure sense and it's not perfect. It's not like, oh, I'm wrong. And really everything's okay. It's more of this is hard. So when you're in a secure state, you can handle things. So it's like, I can handle hardship. That will be okay. I can feel feelings and be okay.

Ann Kelley: And just the idea of being able to, listening to her voice to just very calming me down. But it it's a way of I'm going to be okay is the sense of generated a sense of security, even though your threat is feeling like, oh my gosh, you're reminding your body. And I guess we could bring that in, especially if we tend to be self-critical. And like, I'm so stupid. I'm like, you know, to say, wait, no, no, no, no. I tend to say that I tend to be really hard on myself and that's okay.

Sue Marriott: Self compassion

Ann Kelley: Self compassion.

Sue Marriott: Right. So, so secure scripts sound like things like it's okay for them to need me. I might fail sometimes, but I'm going to be able to help this person.

Ann Kelley: It's okay that I lost my temper and I was way activated. It's okay. It's because my body did that. I'm okay.

Sue Marriott: And not only am I okay, but I trust that this other person's going to be okay. I haven't broken them and if they need help, they're going to get the help they need. Or maybe they'll turn to me and I can help them be okay. It's okay for me to need something. I get to need things. Sometimes I get to ask for help. I don't have to be perfect.

Ann Kelley: And even if I think a big one is again with the criticisms, like I realized I did this really dumb thing, but I'm okay. I did this thing, but I'm not the thing.

Sue Marriott: Oh my God. Say that again.

Ann Kelley: Well, I did this, but I'm not this. I let myself down because I wasn't prepared, but I am generally a really good person. I, you know, I'm really worthy. I screwed this thing up, but I am worthy.

Sue Marriott: And I'm going to get a second chance

Ann Kelley: and I'm going to get a chance and nobody is going to, sometimes you have to really think if you you've really heard of friend's feelings and you just are horrified. You have to just then imagine the secure ending, instead of being preoccupied with a negative ending. Imagine things will be okay. I will be alright..

Sue Marriott: That's a really, actually super important. When they do prompts with photos and things like that. And you make up a story. Secure when we're in a secure state of mind, or if you happen to come by natural attachment security, the story that you tell is both you're capable, there's help available. And you know, a lot of times the prompt will be, and then what happens next? And always the, what happens next is, oh, and then the friend comes her in, like, so that's like, basically we're introducing the idea of the future. We're not always going to feel this terrible a minute ago when you said the thing about, yeah, I did this bad thing, but I'm not bad. Something like that. It reminded me of an old episode when I was interviewing Bob Schneider. And he's a musician here in Austin. Side story, but one of the things he had said was something about the, in the depth of his therapy.

That has fear always. So I'm not identifying him as whatever level he is, you know, as far as what kind of attachment. But what it made me think of is cause I wanted to go back to the avoidant for a minute. Cause we've been talking a lot about the self criticism and the activation. So on the avoidance side, it's like, we can't quite let ourselves feel it, but if we did it's really bad. And so he had made some comments that what he couldn't let himself think about, but really thought was that he was this raging narcissistic asshole. And through the therapy, he came to that, he's a narcissist. Interesting. Right. And he's okay. Like he struggles with this thing. It was some version of that. Know that I'm bungling it, but it really reminded me of like, I struggle with these or this thing, and I'm not a monster.

Ann Kelley: And his ability to actually mentally rise that and tolerate that and let that in means he just moved in the spectrum away from narcissism. He's still can be narcissistic.

Sue Marriott: Right. If a narcissist is worrying and thinking about their narcissism, we're in pretty good shape,

Ann Kelley: you know, I'm glad you brought that up because another interesting thing about the dismissing not really coping with self-criticism often they have been raised with self-criticism. In fact, individuals who end up reporting that their parents were highly critical often landed insecure attachment on both sides, but a dismissing individual who doesn't actually let themselves metabolize self-criticism often are more likely to be critical parents.

Sue Marriott: Oh yeah. They act it out.

Ann Kelley: They act it out because here's the interesting thing, you know, we said that they're not mentalizing it. So one speculation is that the can't then let themselves feel the effect of self-criticism. Right. If we're in a secure place of living. Even in an activated anxious, we feel so sensitive to criticism that we're aware to be able to mentalize its impact on other people. Right? So that, that helps us. That's one reason why, when we're really activated and pissed off, we can be more critical. But when we're calm, we can mentalize the impact. If an individual was raised with a lot of self-criticism and they have to push that away. Cause it's just too much. So be criticizing, especially throughout childhood is overwhelming for that child's nervous system, but they're more likely to be critical parents because they dissociated the impact so they can criticize without imagine impact on their children without holding that. But we will tell you that is having a devastating effect on kids. Criticizing children on a frequent basis is really, really a negative powerful indicator.

Sue Marriott: Yeah. The way that I think of it is, you know, I've had to be tough. I, you know, pull myself up by my bootstraps. So if I, if I push my kid a little bit, Then I'm like be tough. Don't bid, don't cry about that. What are you, what are you crying about?

Ann Kelley: That's often how they feel to say that's how I was raised, when you try to do parenting coaching. That's how I was raised. My dad talked to me and look at me. And so maybe they're very effectively achievement oriented. So they're saying, look, I'm so successful. And I was raised this way, but what they don't realize is how close are they in their intimate relationships and how close are they to their child? Because. Your child is feeling it. You may not be now, but fortunately, if you're lucky, your child's still feeling your criticism, because if your child's no longer feeling your criticism, that's not a good sign. And that's really what, what happens eventually. You just tune it out.

Sue Marriott: I love what you just said there. We need to highlight that statement in our show notes because the whole thing of like once I stopped criticizing, you know, or once I stopped feeling it, that there's a, what that means is my nervous system has been so impacted by it that I have to shut it down, which is by the way, the definition of trauma, that is a bad things can happen to us, but if we have the resources to handle it, it's not trauma. What trauma is, is when our, it effects our physiology and it goes in a new way. So basically what you're saying is once they stop feeling it, it means they've had to shut down a big part of their affective world..

Ann Kelley: In fact, it's probably a good way to start wrapping this because what we want to end with is we're all trying to find a way that our body can lean more towards secure relating whether we were brought up that way or were earned in our security. And to know that if you're in the more secure place we're busting through those myths, that. Get through it and not feel it is actually a positive outcome. Nope. What we're shooting for is I can feel it. I can really experience it in my body, but I also can do it at a way that I can still mentalize and keep my thinking online.

Sue Marriott: And when I lose my shit and I see, I no longer keep my thinking on. That's still okay.

Ann Kelley: Because I'm aware that I'm doing this,

Sue Marriott: or even I'm not aware of doing it, but like, again, self-compassion, it's like, there's nothing, shame does not help us in any form get more related or connected or honestly more effective at whatever we're trying to do.

Ann Kelley: That's true. So if we lose it, we lose it,

Sue Marriott: we lose it and then you just, you know, then there's another beat and then there's another beat. And on that third or fifth or 20th, We get to stand back up and hold her head up and make repair and do what we need to do to handle that. But it, but not coming from a place of you are a bad person

Ann Kelley: I love us ending on the concept of repair. That's what it's all about. It's all about being able to repair with ourselves and being to repair with others when we have lost it. And once we repair our body, we have to have repair. That's what, that's what true parenting and true connection and true relationships about. It's not getting it right. Is being able to say I screwed up. I'm sorry. We're there.

Sue Marriott: Yeah. So, so secure priming as we end ,so imagine a person that you feel unconditionally. And that would be there for you no matter what, even if you haven't seen them in a long time. So just sort of visualize that person, those of you that have worked with ideal parent stuff. See if you can imagine like a perfectly responsive, contingent attuned reaction. And we want to just hang out in this place of just imagining the soft eyes. And the soft face. What other kind of secure imagery do we want?

Ann Kelley: Well, all of a sudden I had the secure imagery of puppies,

Sue Marriott: Oh my gosh, yes. Oxytocin

Ann Kelley: Things that can actually if we can activate the, the oxytocin in one another, that is what can be the secure relating.

Even listening to a voice that's calming and caring. It really can warm the system.

Sue Marriott: That's right. Art, certain music, tuning into music that gives you that feeling, nature. There's somebody that I know that likes to in the middle of the night, go out and, and, you know, work on their garden and like pick the caterpillars off their plants. And you know what I mean? Like basically really immerse in nature and look at the sky, the dark sky and the, you know, perspective, those kinds of things evoke this ease. And this low stakes place of like, everything's going to be okay. That's the way that we want to kind of end this and really invite you to just, we want to grow that part of you, that that can find your safe place and your safe people inside of you. Because remember, this is about growing security in yourself.

Ann Kelley: Perfect way to wrap this. All right, you all speaking of secure relating. I want to do a big shout out to our, those who that are patrons out there for us. And if you are out there and you're able, cause not everyone is able and you're able to support our programming to be able to get this kind of information out far and wide for our goal of deepening security one episode at a time, we ask you to join us and you can do it at So, not only would you get ad free feed, but you would be helping us build security for you and those around you and across the world.

Sue Marriott: That's right. And we also do deep dive, like extra episodes. we do a lot of community building and which speaking of you don't have to be a patron to come to the meetup. April 22nd. Jump on, like, if you're willing to host an event, contact us, or go to the Facebook page probably by the time this publishes we'll have the event page set up and let's do it. It'll be fun.

Ann Kelley: It will be fun. All right. Thanks for joining us. And we'll see you around the bend.

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