Criticism Is Not Problem Solving


Inner Critic © by anthom

Much has been written about criticism and the inner critic.

So why another article?

It seems to me that we take criticism for granted as an OK thing to do.

Perhaps it is our consumer culture run amok. Isn’t complaining how you get something done?

Maybe to some but I think we need a rethink about this topic.

Does Criticism Really Solve Problems?

I don’t think so.

Criticism is not problem solving. Criticism often feels intense, but criticism can be deceptive because it feels as if we are doing something when we are criticizing someone or something. However, more often than not we are not really doing anything when we criticize except putting our displeasure on someone else.

I am not suggesting that all criticism is a mistake – far from it. Without displeasure and criticism we could not improve and progress.

However, all criticism is not equal. In our consumer culture, convenience is an expectation and the absence of it often treated as a problem. This is one  kind of criticism that deserves questioning. Were we promised a convenient world?

Criticism And The Need To Be Right

Criticism can often feel strange or a little bit unreal. After all, the sun does not rise and judge us. The wind does not criticize us. A red light will not mouth off at us when we are driving through it. So criticism is our personal expression of some sort of disharmony, dissonance or displeasure.

Implicit in any criticism or judgment is the thinking that there is a right way to think, be, or do something. This is another form of criticism that deserves questioning.

One of the biggest difficulties people have in relinquishing their critical views is that they may feel that their point of view is perfectly reasonable – and they may be right. However, the result of being right and reasonable creates an obstacle to problem solving. Instead of seeking solutions to problems by opening themselves to ideas, many people turn others into the “problem” and are off and running trying to fix their identified “problem”.

Curiosity: The Missing Link

So what is wrong with this picture?  For starters, something is missing.

One thing that is missing is curiosity. Curiosity is a wonderful way to find a bridge between perceptual differences. Curiosity is about possibility whereas criticism is often about lack.  Curiosity can help us see better when we are willing to learn.

Curiosity takes a fixed position and opens it up to new ideas. It enables an individual to engage a conflict with beginners mind and find a solution to whatever the problem is. Being curious softens self righteous and entrenched positions.

Criticism often comes from a fixed perspective because it assumes that a “right” answer in advance so most differences will be seen as wrong.

A fixed position is often outcome oriented so an individual with a fixed perspective will have more difficulty understanding an unexpected result than someone who recognizes the fluid nature of processes and the potential and likelihood of different outcomes.

HSP’s And Criticism

Highly sensitive people are frequently faced with many critics because of their different perceptions, talents, and processing capabilities.  They will often be misunderstood.  By trying to shift the interpersonal ground from criticism to problem solving  by inviting curiosity they have a greater chance of improved outcomes for themselves and others.

For Additional Information:

Toxic Criticism

Toxic Criticism and Developing Creativity


How To Conquer The Stress Epidemic


Stress © by Alan Cleaver


Do you ever feel like stress is conquering you?

Do you ever feel hounded by one stressful situation after another?

Does stress take over your life and make you feel out of control?

Unfortunately, this is the situation for most of us most of the time.

We can conquer this problem but we have to understand some of the primal drive behind it.

What Are The Causes Of Stress?

There are several causes of stress:

  1. the environment we live in.  This types of stress includes weather, daily life challenges and relationships.
  2. the cultural conditions we live in and the expectations we are expected to meet, realistic or not.
  3. our own minds and how we process our environmental issues and cultural challenges.
  4. how we feel about ourselves by how well we are able to handle and cope with the above.
So basically when we want to find the source of stress, it can be in our physical environment, our cultural environment and our position within it and our own egos.

What Causes The Causes Of Stress?

This is the million dollar question:

  • there is the metaphysical answer, that our sense of ourselves as separate creates a lot of our pain and it is true. however, no matter how aware you are of the metaphysical truth, you still need to deal with the realities of daily life.
  • there is the evolutional answer. We evolved from an animal past where survival was fragile and uncertain and so we learned to see the world and others as a threat, which in many ways was true.  Our brain and memories bear the marks of our past.
  • there is the cultural answer. As we evolved the prefrontal cortex of our brains developed and with it more complex reasoning and social structures.  Unfortunately those social structures have often been power and status driven rather than well-being driven.  They have created class and economic structures that have resulted in many people not having their basic needs met.

The Stress Management Challenge

All of the human living models to date have been ego driven.
Ego driven structures deal with the temporal world.  They tend to be short-sighted and survival oriented.
Spiritually driven structures tend to be long sighted, have a universal point of view which allows all to be embraced.
Our current societal models have demanded that an individual develop a sizable ego to survive and thrive – many times that success has come at the expense of someone else.  Living in an environment where people succeed at the expense of others is stressful and threatening. The more predatory the environment the more stress you will experience.

How To Manage Stress Better

I do not believe in formulas for managing stress.  I think the trick to managing stress better is to come to terms with current human ways of life and combine it with a more spiritual approach.

It looks like this:

  1. embrace your limitations.  The ego is insatiable, not only yours but everyone else’s as well.  You can give up satisfying it and gain not only a measure of freedom but also feel more kindly toward your fellow humans when you do not have to please other egos.
  2. identify your real needs.  Knowing what you really need rather than your egos needs which are not the same will help you get control over your life.
  3. identify your important necessary commitments and let go of all others. When you do this you are able not only to take better care of yourself but also give more to your commitments which creates improvements in your life.
  4. start taking very good care of yourself. Great self care is a wonderful way to improve your mood and enjoy life more.
  5. be as gracious as you can to others suffering from stress without doing unnecessary harm to yourself.
  6. take time to discover what is really important to you. When you spend time on what you really care about you are naturally happier and more giving.  Everyone benefits. It is not good to prop yourself up with all sorts of material rewards because you are living in a way that does not suit you.  You are just piling stress upon stress.
  7. make gradual changes in the direction of your greatest happiness.

The more you get a handle on your necessities and real obligations the more you will be able to reduce stress in your life.

The world will be here when we are gone. Enjoy it more while you are here.

Stress, Addiction And Weight

stress eating © by ginnerobot

Scientists have been researching the link between stress, cortisol and weight. Because addiction and stress are related, scientists have been wondering if a similar relationship exists between stress and food.

The research is showing that people use drugs and food to self medicate when they are living in situations which pose an extreme threat to the self.The 2007 paper, Stress, eating and the reward system  by Tanja C. Adam, Elissa S. Epel of the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Psychiatry found that not all stressful situations create the conditions that induce an individual to eat or take drugs.

Chronic anxiety of the kind that is perceived as a direct threat to the self including situations of embarrassment and social rejection have the greatest potential to result in addiction or stress disorders.

Because we all have limits to the amount of pain we can handle and because we cannot be in severe pain and still function, any individual in a situation of chronic extreme stress will seek a way to survive and function. If a change of scenery is not possible, that individual will look for alternatives.

If there is so way to change the situation, the individual suffering from severe anxiety will often turn to a substance to handle their pain. In effect they are medicating their distress.

Once the individual successfully medicates the anxiety of a negative situation, a feedback loop is activated that reinforces the activity, paving the way to a food or substance addiction. Essentially a reward system has been activated; it effectively anesthetizes the suffering individual and reinforces a negative habit to relieve a negative situation.

Highly sensitive people are particularly susceptible to addiction and eating disorders because they are so sensitive to pain both in themselves and others. Their natural empathy makes it more difficult for them to handle chronic, extreme situations. Because long term highly negative stress creates changes to the feedback loops that regulate the body, highly sensitive people may have a number of biological imbalances that need to be corrected.

The disturbed feedback loops caused by chronic, severe anxiety destabilize the bodies’ internal balancing mechanisms including cortisol and insulin regulation. When an individual attempts to correct their behavior they are faced with a double whammy. If the individual is overweight and starts a diet, not only do they lose the substance that provided comfort and incur physical discomfort but they also have higher levels of the anxiety they were avoiding. So they have to deal with the lifestyle change and its discomfort as well as the return of the internal and external stressors that were creating the problem in the first place.

In some situations, that can seem like an overwhelming problem to deal with. An individual who is fully aware of the situation has a greater chance of developing successful strategies to handle their anxiety and maintain a healthy eating regimen than someone who tackles the undesired weight without realizing the causes of the problem. This is true of any stress-related addiction.

For highly sensitive people, having effective anxiety minimization strategies can make it possible for them to be successful in eliminating the unhealthy substances used for self medication.  There are numerous herbs and effective health practices that can help, as well as medication for severe stress and anxiety disorders. All of these alternatives offer HSP’s more relief than substances that can endanger one’s life.