It’s the strangest thing that I see time and time again as a coach and as a coach supervisor. This inner critic, the ‘shitty committee’ as I once heard it referred to, that voice in your head which brings you down, says you can’t/shouldn’t/mustn’t, gives you grief for having done something or not done something. We all experience it and to different levels and at different times in our lives. Much of the time we don’t even realise where are doing it, it just plays out in how we feel emotionally or physically.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you just feel down? Often this can be as a result of the shitty committee (love that analogy) having been on in the background more insistently and more consistently for a period of time.
The other day I wasn’t feeling great and I couldn’t shake it off so I leant into exploration, I began to be curious about what might have caused this feeling. Was it mine or projected on to me? If it was mine what might have been going on in the run up to today for this feeling to emerge now?
Often when I see clients they say, “I’ve got nothing to be sad about, life is pretty good. Why do I feel low?” Sometimes this can be because the inner critic has been on in the background at a low enough level to not feel like it is impacting but at a high enough level that it is cumulative. I might then lean into exploring this with my client.
For me the other day, I became curious about what had been going on over the past week both in my life and inside myself. I noticed an emerging story. I had had a few tough cases leading to referrals for therapy, I had been putting myself under pressure to meet deadlines and there was a project that I was working on that didn’t align with my values. In a normal month one of those, or even two would have been manageable in the grand scheme of things. However, with all three playing out I noticed in hindsight that there had been an increase in the negative banter at the back of my head.
Phrases such as, “You’re not really a very good coach are you” “What’s the point?” “Do you really have a purpose?” “You’re never going to make this deadline” “What on earth made you do this?” “You don’t even like this project – why did you agree to it?” “You’re stuck with this and now you don’t know how to see it through”
When this negative banter goes unchecked, incrementally increasing in the background, we can keep going but it’s like wading through thicker and thicker water until one day we wake up and notice that we are stuck, that we can’t move. That is when we notice the negative feeling, and wonder how we got there.
So what do we do when we notice this?
It can be really helpful just noticing – stepping back from the feeling inside, noticing where we feel it in the body, notice what thoughts come with it, notice what other emotion are involved.
When I work with teens particularly, they often say there is no emotion or only one. But quite often, as with a client recently, with a little exploration they can start to name other feelings or experiences. Writing these down can really help, or, as with my client, drawing these (you don’t have to be an artist, you just have to be able to hold a pen/pencil) She scribbled down an image that reflected her feelings, she discounted the practice as pointless, then over the rest of the session kept on looking at the image and finally said, “It’s really weird, I keep looking at that drawing and it really helps to see it on paper. It’s somehow not inside me anymore, or not so much”
Emotions are like red flags – we need to notice them! They are indicators of the wellness of our whole being. If we try to push them away or ignore them, they will come back, often louder, stronger, and more emphatically.
If we notice them, and deal with them then we can have a more peaceful being.
So, my journey with the shitty committee was to notice what the emerging story was, the negative banter, the feelings that went with that. I could then deal with each one, being nurturing, compassionate and encouraging to myself. Tuning into my inner cheerleader (see my next blog) remembering my ‘why’, spending time with people who inspire me (not just digital input, but in person people who know me), and re-engaging with my faith in the universe.