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March's Tip of the Month

This months tip comes to us from Tara Brach, PHD.

Self Judgement Can Sabotage Our Close Relationships

In her book Radical Acceptance,  Dr. Brach teaches us why self judgment can sabotage our close relationships.  Her research helps us to understand, that core beliefs such as when we feel insufficient or “I am not enough” we develop a sense of unworthiness.  Self judgement undermines our ability to connect.  It is impossible to feel self critical and make an open hearted connection.

What is a core belief?  Core beliefs are often based on our earliest and most potent fears.  We construct our strongest assumptions and conclusions about life from them.  Formation of core beliefs is a primal survival mechanism.  We are designed to anticipate the future from the events of the past.  Our brains are also wired to encode most strongly, the memories associated with experiences of endangerment, and to be more dismissive of the positive events.

Over time, we likely have forgotten about the events, but our brains have encoded the message of shame, fear, guilt.  Those core beliefs will determine how we act in the world, and with the people around us. For example, if a core belief is that “people are out to hurt me”, then you will behave defensively, perhaps angrily, and push people away. If a core belief is that “I am needy and people don’t enjoy spending time with me” you will not want to reach out to create relationships, and suffer from loneliness.    

Armed with this research, Dr. Brach has developed three steps to stop being at war with yourself, and learn to rewire your brain to challenge those core beliefs and allow self acceptance. The steps are as follows:

1.)  Observe your own thoughts. 
2.)  Mindfully sense your feelings.
3.)  Offer a gesture of compassion.

Observe your own thoughts

Dr. Brach encourages us to recognize that we are not our thoughts.  Thoughts come and go, and they are not necessarily true, they are just thoughts.  When the thought is one of self judgement or self hate, it activates the primitive brain, or limbic system to respond with fight, flight or a freeze response. Those reactions are not tied to higher brain activity.

Mindfully, sense your feelings

Notice how your body feels.  What are the sensations you are experiencing, and where is that in your body?  Notice that the emotions roll in like waves.  They may crash in but they will eventually roll away.  If you don’t belief that, just think of the last time you were happy and said “I want to feel this way forever.”  As soon as you make that statement, the feeling starts to dissipate. Noticing, and labeling the emotions brings the higher brain, the frontal cortex on board.  Just this simple action, takes us out of our primitive response and allows us to observe differently, and therefore react and respond differently.  You can remind yourself that it is OK to feel this, as you breathe deeply, and slowly, reminding yourself that having the emotion is “OK”, lessens the power of the emotional brain.  Breathing, and letting the emotions move through us helps set the stage for self compassion. 

Self Compassion

Our core beliefs about ourselves, and the world around us, give rise to the very situations and events that confirm them.  Self compassion recognizes the suffering that can occur because of these deeply wired beliefs. Self compassion is a turning towards self in a caring way.  It is sending words of care to the hurting part of yourself.  Dr. Brach recommends placing your hand on your heart as you send words of compassion and love to yourself.  Say to yourself when these core beliefs arise that “these are just fear thoughts.”  That puts distance between you and the thought. It takes regular practice to rewire the brain, but being able to connect to yourself and others in a meaningful way is worth the effort.


I am a licensed LPC-Supervisor.

I supervise LPC interns as they achieve their 3000 hours necessary to qualify for their LPC license.

Board Certified PTSD Clinician

Certified Relationship Counselor

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Self Judgement Can Sabotage