Compassionate Self-Criticism, in the Third Person

When performance coach Kate Conklin was teaching me Alexander Technique via Skype a couple of weeks ago, she mentioned that she often critiqued herself in the third person when she was assessing her own actions or work. She said that it made her kinder to herself, as she is when she works with a student. I’ve been trying this technique out and find it incredibly useful, a real shift of view: I view myself with more measured, impartial and compassionate eyes, the opposite of Louis C.K.’s ruthless method of self-dissing…


…or the savage self-criticism Moncia Ramos so powerfully illustrated

Monica Ramos

Monica Ramos

Then I heard a variation of Conklin’s technique devised by friend who had recently been robbed and attacked. To help herself navigate the inevitable emotional residue from her encounter with violence, she “observes” , while still feeling, the wide variety of emotional reactions and mood changes she has been experiencing (and which is common after experiencing trauma of any kind).  She says viewing them with curiosity rather than judgment — gently exploring them — softens the impact of the emotions, and helps her more easily navigate them.

The point is to be kind in our criticisms to not split “Me from Myself” or have “Myself —assault me” as Emily Dickinson so wisely described in her astonishing poem:

Me from Myself—to banish—
Had I Art—
Impregnable my Fortress
Unto All Heart—

But since Myself—assault Me—
How have I peace
Except by subjugating

And since We’re mutual Monarch
How this be
Except by Abdication—
Me—of Me? 

Conklin’s and my friend’s shift of view is in effect a stepping back from the usual savage critical engagement, what Stephen Levine calls “soft eyes”…

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

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