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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

A Serving of Criticism? Or Kindness?

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week : Hands On

In her fascinating book, Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist's Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain's Healing Power, Dr. Kelly Lambert describes how her research lead her to conclude that if:

(a) you do something with your hands

(b) that you enjoy

(c) and that is productive in some way,

(d) it will help you feel better.

Better, as in less stressed and depressed, and more positive. Activities like cooking, gardening, art, music, home improvements, even cleaning house. (Which some people actually enjoy!) I have found it really works. And there's research and brain science to prove it.

A Serving of Criticism? Or Kindness?

A few months ago I had a dream about my dad, who died in 2007. He was talking on the phone with two rather hateful and verbally abusive people. Bogged down in the beginnings of dementia (that did, in fact, plague him at the end of his life), he was trying to argue with them and defend himself. Instead he got totally sucked in, and ended up angry and distraught.

Attempting to get him to hang up, I wrote a couple of notes that said things like, "Stop talking to them" or "You can't change them." He pretty much ignored the notes and kept right on interacting.

So I started trying to talk to him. He would put down the phone, turn and listen for a bit, then then go right back to that dreadful conversation. Finally I was able to distract him with a vacuum cleaner that was nearby. (Hey, dementia is strange, and dreams are strange, so why not?) Later I convinced him to take a walk with me--it was a lovely day.

My dad in that dream? I think he was a stand-in for me, because I listen to those abusive inner voices way too often. Sometimes I try to argue with them but I almost always just get more stressed and crazy.

I know you know about this--the terrible things you say to yourself that you would never say to a friend. Those voices that are so persistent and convincing at 2:00 am when it is oh so dark and you are oh so alone.

Those voices constantly squall and harangue. They can't really think, they just react. They might even be trying to protect me but kindness is not something they understand--abuse is the only language they know. They have no ability to be subtle or to deal with nuances and paradoxes. For them, every danger is the same size--HUGE! And they react with huge negativity. Towards me. Bleah!

A friend suggested I might write out a longer list of things I could have said to my dad to help him (me) get out from under all that toxic criticism.

So this Thanksgiving I offer the following cornucopia of things I might say to myself--or you might say to yourself--when those nasty belittling voices start in. A serving of kindness instead of criticism. There are some similarities and repetitions--so it becomes a kind of litany. That's because I often need to hear the same thing many times before I can truly take it in.

- This is not helpful to you.

- Put the phone down.

- Hang up--it's okay to hang up.

- You don't have to talk with them.

- You don't have to listen to them.

- Come away.

- Come outside with me.

- Lets go for a walk.

- Put this aside for now.

- Stop listening to them.

- This is not helpful.

- This is not good for you.

- Say, "thanks for sharing," and hang up.

- Let go.

- Don't engage.

- They are being abusive.

- You can't change them.

- They don't understand mercy.

- They can't be kind.

- Arguing doesn't work.

- Put the phone down.

- Stop listening.

- Arguing makes it worse.

- They are not good for you.

- They are hurting you.

- They are not helpful to you.

- They don't do you any good.

- Let it go.

- Let them go.

- Hang up.

I expect you could add a few of your own.

Here's hoping that we offer ourselves kind, not critical voices in this season of thanksgiving. Offering it to ourselves, we'll be better able to offer it to others.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Cooking hands, Kevin McCutcheon, unSplash

Telephone, Debby Hudson, unSplash

Making a list, anonymous

Walking, Anton Vinogradeov, unSplash

Family, Nathan Anderson, unSplash



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