Life does not always go as planned. From time to time, we all do things that with hindsight we wish we had not. This is natural and normal, and provides us with the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to do something differently next time.
Sometimes though, instead of being able to integrate the learning needed and to change approach, people can get stuck in a cycle of self-criticism and blame that entrenches them. When this happens, you may begin to identify with the critical self-talk and believe that you yourself are inadequate, wrong or defective. You identify with what you did at a deep level, as if it is who you are, rather than perceiving it as something that you did, or something that happened.
These beliefs can then become self-reinforcing, causing you to filter information to notice when you do things that fit with them, and not to notice evidence that undermines them. When this keeps happening over a long period beliefs can become fixed and limiting.
A key part of recovery is to begin to notice the stories that you have running in your head, the things you tell yourself and believe about yourself. If you listen impartially, you may notice a plethora of rules, assumptions and negative ideas that are somehow defining and restricting you.
Sometimes just bringing these into the light can be sufficient to loosen their grip and to move on. Cultivating compassion for yourself is a big help, looking with loving eyes and noticing your ways of acting as attempts to cope and do your best, perhaps in difficult circumstances.
Sometimes a little more intervention is needed, for example active reflection and thought challenging. Sometimes deeper therapeutic approaches may be helpful, assisting you in re-scripting your current story of yourself and letting go of distress about past events that still affects you now.
If you find yourself blaming yourself for past events and labelling yourself as a result, why not take that first step and listen in to your thoughts? Imagine you are a fly on the wall, and notice what patterns come up again and again.
If you find you would benefit from support to explore what is happening and find ways forward then check out psychotherapists in your local area, or if you're local to Durham, get in touch with me.