Tag Archives: learning how to listen

Listening to Yourself

When you tune into your self talk, who’s doing all the talking?


Who’s in there behind your eyes making all that noise?

Do you ever really tune in and listen to your own inner chatter as if what was going on in there was worth listening to?

And, if and when you do tune-in, do you find you get caught up in the content?

  • Maybe you hear a belief “You’re a mess!
  • Which gets trumped by a judgment “At your age you really ought to have your act together.
  • Which is met with a comparison “In fact, look at X. She’s gone and really made something of her life.”
  • Which elicits a hopelessness “Go on then, just finish the cookies, get yourself into something baggy and just show up and sit at the back.
  • Which generates some anger “Damn it – you said you’d have this eating habit fixed after last year’s reunion and here you are again – what is with you?”
  • Which evokes some pity “Yea well, you’ve had it tough. Not everyone had to deal with everything you went through this last year so lighten up already”
  • Which engenders some sadness and the “conversation” moves from all this head chatter and suddenly your body feels heavy, deeply exhausted and deflated.

Sure, you can focus on the content, but where does that get you?

You probably get a bit lulled into the status quo of the familiar scripts and figure it’s just how folks talk to themselves. No big deal…nothing to be done.

But what if you could listen to yourself in such a way that you’d:

  • Recognize and get to know distinct inner Parts of yourself
  • Understand and appreciate how your Parts drive your behavior
  • Harness your judgment and criticism of others to transform your relationship with yourself
  • Release negative beliefs and cultivate self-compassion

Would you be interested?

OK – here’s how.

Recognize and get to know distinct inner Parts of yourself

Going back to the sample self-talk above, a simple shift in how you listen to yourself will deliver dramatically different results.

Instead of focusing on the content alone, note the content but say to yourself:

“I have a Part who . . .

  • Believes I’m a mess
  • Judges me for not having my act together
  • Compares me with others
  • Notices a hopelessness and just wants me to eat the cookies already
  • Gets angry that I don’t keep my promises to myself
  • Feels sorry for me, and reminds me it’s been one hell of a year
  • Drops into sadness so my whole body feels heavy, deeply exhausted and deflated.


Because it’s a divide and conquer thing.

If you tune into your inner chatter and back away from the static concluding it’s “just my old familiar monolithic negative self with a touch of self-pity and sadness” you’ll see no reason to grow from this. It’s too big and there’s no entry point.

If however, you decide to listen as if each of these Parts had a message for you, you can get curious and learn from the message.

There are 3 important rules for listening and learning from inner parts though.

  1. All Parts are trying to help. Their message might feel negative as in  “You’re a mess”, but the intent behind this could be, “Life’s tough when you’re a mess. I want to keep reminding you of this so you’ll be motivated to be a Not Mess.”
  2. The best attitude to have as you tune in to yourself is CURIOSITY. As soon as you detect something other than curiosity, you’re probably hearing from another Part…you’re not listening with an open heart any more.
  3. It helps to try and find out when this Part took on this message or belief. See if you can be present enough to that Part and his or her message and see what age you were when this Part first started talking to you.

OK – now you’re cultivating a relationship with Parts of you. This is way cool!

Understand and appreciate how your Parts drive your behavior

Building on the work you’ve done in the step above…once you’ve met a Part and come to get a feel for what it’s worried about and how old or young it is, you’ll probably start recognizing it in other areas of your life.

Take the hopeless Part in the above example.

I can relate!

I have a Part who gives up easily. She’s pretty quickly prone to hopelessness and she can drive my behavior if I’m not careful.

Screen shot 2015-05-13 at 3.39.31 PMIn fact, a trip to IKEA can bring her right out.

I stand looking at a wonderful cupboard with shelves and doors.

As soon as I see  “Tools and instructions included” my hopeless Part pops right up with ~

You’ll never make this! You’ll screw the wrong x into the wrong Y, break it and throw a tantrum. Move on!”

What’s just happened?

I’ve let a young hopeless Part drive my decision-making!

But I know this Part now. I can be the one who watches the inner drama unfold. I can love up my young hopeless one and let her know I can call a friend, I can slow down, I’m no longer 8 years old facing an incomprehensible math test (which is where my hopeless one got started). So, she does not have to drive my IKEA purchases any more!

Harness your judgment and criticism of others to transform your relationship with yourself

This is terrific – but it’s a heavy lifter and takes a degree of self-knowledge and a ton of self-compassion.

You tune in and you notice for example, you have a Part who feels super critical toward someone you know. Listen in. What all does this Part say?

In my case, I felt very judgmental about someone I did not know very well. Here’s the gist

  • She’s so uptight
  • She won’t let me get close to her
  • She’s not doing any of her own emotional homework
  • And so on.

OK now the heavy lifting.

I looked at one judgment at a time and asked myself ~

  • To what extent do I get uptight?
  • To what extent do I not let people get close to me?
  • To what extent do I avoid my own emotional homework?


If you let yourself sit with the enormity of how this “You spot it you got it” paradox, a powerful self-awareness and self/other compassion can burst through. Now those very people we most dislike can become helpful mirrors toward our own emotional and spiritual development.

Release negative beliefs and cultivate self-compassion

The key to all this inner listening is that with the recognition and witnessing can blossom loving self-acceptance.

These steps build one upon the other.

  1. First, you simply listen for Parts,
  2. Then, appreciate how they are powerful enough to drive behavior
  3. And also insightful enough to prod our journey of self-development
  4. So, we can get to the place were we can maybe invite some Parts to let go of negative beliefs and behaviors.

Have a go.

If this is working for you, I’m thrilled, and would love to hear about it.

If you get bogged down or stuck, that’s a good time for a little help. IFS therapists are particularly ready and equipped to help you.

OK – until next week.


FIRST TIME HERE? This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.

Click the box for the full list.  Top 12 Relationship Skills

If you are interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.



SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

 SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity


SKILL FOUR ~ Master the Art of Conversation

SKILL FIVE ~ Learn How To Listen With Your Whole Self