In Search Of A Real Conversation

I like a real conversation.

I do not like a faux conversation.

I do not like pretend conversations.

I do not like manipulative conversations.

It can be quiet around me.

What Is A Real Conversation, Anyway?

It probably sounds silly and perhaps a little whiney – but what is a real conversation?

It may be easier to talk about what it is not.

I have no trouble with people being pleasant with each other except when it becomes so rigid that real issues and problems cannot be discussed.

A real conversation talks about what is and needs to be.

When I see conversations that are stiffly pleasant, I often think people are talking to what they want life to be like rather than what is.

I don’t want conversations that feel like some sort of weird dream. I prefer a conversation that feels robust and timely. It should be present.

A real conversation is present.

A real conversation doesn’t nee to manipulate.

I have enough going on, I don’t really have the time.

A real conversation does not demand a big acting job on the part of others. There is nothing to gain or lose. There is just the getting on with it.

Real Conversation Is Slow

Real conversation is slow. It starts but does not necessarily end at the same time. I like the kind of conversations that feel like a kind of weaving of information, thoughts and feelings.

The results are not the primary concern, the exchange is.

It makes the conversation less about an agenda or result and more about groundedness.

Conversation can be a way to ground.

A real conversation does not have winners or losers.

A real conversation doesn’t have rules or authority. What is is the authority.

A Real Conversation Is Lighter

A real conversation is lighter because it doesn’t need rules, roles, poses, and agendas.

It is grounded in the present and stays there. There is no place to go. Just a place to be.

It’s also a place here anyone can be. There is no exclusion because we are all here in this present.

So a real conversation can make life easier and more enjoyable.

I also think it makes life more companionable, since there is no competition.

A real conversation is a place for friends.

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How To Get Your Inner Critic Under Control

Are you familiar with your inner critic? I’m talking about that little mean voice that can just show up unannounced and uninvited.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I’m sure you are already very familiar. You may even be well versed in some of your critic’s favorite go-to lines.

Your inner critic can show up just about any time. It could be at a party among friends. You’re meeting someone new. Suddenly you’re in your headspace thinking and worrying. What does she think? Do I look OK? Am I saying the right things?

Or you’re putting on your bathing suit and heading for the beach. But wait a minute. Somebody’s got something to say…“You’re not going to actually wear that, are you?”

Or, my favorite, when you actually create other people’s thoughts for them, and those thoughts always just happen to be a negative mess. What’s up with this? And where is this stuff coming from?

HSP, Social Anxiety And The Inner Critic

As an HSP, you probably can relate. We feel things more intensely. We pick up on other’s emotions. We become easily overwhelmed. All of this sets the stage for a “preparing for the worst” state of being. It’s when we are in this place that we hear the little voice telling us it’s safer to not shine too brightly. It’s just too risky to live life to the fullest. And it’s really unsafe to be crazy in love with your life…and especially happy and at peace with who you are.

I took this inner critical voice seriously for a long time and am still recovering from it. It’s exhausting, right?

Are You Taking Your Inner Critic Too Seriously?

If you start hearing your inner critic trying to get your attention, start to question it. Who is that? It’s not you. And, dare I say, it’s not true. It might be a voice you heard over the years. Maybe it came from a family member, a classmate, a colleague, an ex-lover, the list goes on.

Start paying attention to where it comes from…then start to QUESTION IT. Talk back to it. Get sassy with it. Then say to yourself–as many times as it takes: “I am enough, I’m gorgeous, I’m everything.” Because you are.

What if you started to question that voice every time it came up? What if you changed the inner dialogue? “I’m not enough” becomes “I’m more than enough.”

It’s a practice. And it’s important to start today. Now. I invite you to knuckle down and give this practice an honest shot. It’s worth the effort. Even if it feels weird at first. Even if it feels risky and you’re not sure if it’s true. Talk back to that voice and take back your power, your beauty, your lovely self.

Criticism Is Not Problem Solving

Criticism

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


Causes Of Social Phobia

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Creative Commons License photo credit: CMMooney

It is useful for highly sensitive people to understand the causes of social phobia which often result in the crippling self consciousness and which can contribute to the HSP tendency to have an introverted personality.

Social Phobia is sometimes referred to either as Generalized Social Phobia, which NIMH states is the most common anxiety disorder, or Social Anxiety Disorder.

In 2008, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) released the results of a study: Social Phobia Patients Have Heightened Reactions to Negative Comments. The researchers used functional brain imaging tools, fMRI, to map brain reactions to a variety of negative verbal expressions.  It was found that those people with social phobia had heightened brain responses only to negative comments about themselves.

The study made evident that people with social phobia are extremely afraid of being judged by other people.  The researchers were able to observe that two different sections of the brain became activated when negative comments were made to people with social phobia: the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) which is involved in the sense and evaluation of self and the amygdala which is central to emotional processing.  According to the Free Library, “the medial prefrontal cortex is involved in imagining, thinking about yourself and “theory of mind,” which encompasses the ability to figure out what others think, feel or believe and to recognize that other people have different thoughts, feelings and beliefs from you.”

This would suggest a connection between criticism and fear in the person with social phobia.  In this research, the concern in the patient was raised by criticism, but only criticism towards themselves generated a brain reaction.  It raises a question about criticism that is worth exploring: why would one person be afraid of criticism and another would not be afraid?

As we learn more and more about our brains, it is becoming apparent that one way our brains develop is through social interaction.  The social group has been the cornerstone of our survival and our education from the earliest days of human history. When we are young we need  the support of our families and social group, and therefore must get along with them for our survival.  Rejection by our families is a serious matter, and in a child, will be perceived as a matter of life and death.

Therefore in families where criticism is perceived also as a rejection, a child will have a different experience and reaction than a child who grows up in a family that accepts him/her and criticism is not a sign of rejection.  In other words, when the child experiences affection in spite of a criticism they can have a different experience than the child who has the experience of criticism which is delivered in a rejecting or abusive way.

Since the medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala areas of the brain are activated when social phobes are criticized, the implication is that criticism implies a serious imminent threat.  Many people with social phobia are HSP’s, which means they are different. For them, criticism may be seen as threatening because being different raises the potential of rejection by the group and therefore jeopardize their survival.

Perhaps being different for many highly sensitive people has meant the experience of significant early rejection or a significant fear of rejection that causes their brains respond to all criticism with concern.  Highly sensitive people can reduce their phobia if they can accept their uniqueness and find a way to make their uniqueness a valuable contribution to their social groups.

Class and Superiority

Kindness Meter Creative Commons License photo credit: m.gifford

Why are class and superiority important subjects for highly sensitive people?

Social anxiety is a serious problem for highly sensitive people, since HSP’s values are different from those of the dominant culture –  a culture that pursues competition above quality of life.  Finding a way to be in and live in the culture without losing yourself is important challenge for HSP’s.  Giving some thought to the difference between class and superiority and how each concept affects social relationships, provides a highly sensitive person with a good starting point for developing an effective social strategy.

A competitive culture values superiority and winning.  Social and other forms of superiority promote the triumph of one person or species over another.  It is adversarial, often darwinian, and low in regard for human and other life.  It is the survival of the fittest model.

Superiority is an attitude.  In reality, no one person knows it all.  In reality, we are all finite, and “in this” together.  Therefore, superiority is really an illusion.  Class is not an attitude, class is a quality.  Class is the result of approaching all tasks and people with regard.  It is essentially humble, willing and caring.  Class recognizes that each life and each life form has value.

  • Superiority is about separateness; class is about coexistence.
  • Superiority is about conquest;  class is about consideration.
  • Superiority is about prizes; class is about prizing.
  • Superiority is about disregard; class is about regard.
  • Superiority is about winning; class is about sharing.
  • Superiority is territorial and exclusive; class is inclusive.
  • Superiority is adversarial; class is collaborative and problem solving.
  • Superiority is about toughness; class is about kindness.

It can be easy to oversimplify, after all not all choices and options are equal or helpful. Superiority and class are more about the spirit that defines our approach to life than the actual choice itself.  Healthier motivations make for easier and better decision making – all other things being equal.

It is the natural tendency of highly sensitive people to be inclusive which has the potential to create an atmosphere of good will around them. Inclusivity is a valuable social quality to have.  Too often, highly sensitive people are considered weak when their natural kindness is exactly what our world most needs. Class has more than social benefits.  It is the basis for effective mediation and problem solving; important skills for a healthy society.