Whenever you start to feel shame creep up, imagine an ideal ally and how they’d react to your shame. This worksheet helps you develop an internal concept of this ally, which you can use anytime to cope with shame.
In The Complex PTSD Workbook, Arielle Schwartz, PhD describes how flexible this exercise is: “When you choose an ally, you can think about characters from movies and books, a spiritual presence, admirable historical figures, or even animals you associate with strength.” You don’t even have to imagine a real person in your life.
Who can this internal ally worksheet help, and how?
The exercise in this worksheet is good for people who have experienced:
- Social anxiety
- Identity struggles
- Feeling broken
Whatever form your internal ally takes, you should be able to imagine character traits you associate with care and strength. Here are some examples:
- A soothing voice
- Willingness to intervene on behalf of those suffering
- A belief that everyone is worthy
- No-nonsense attitude
You should be able to say about this inner ally: “They would never be ok with how I attack myself. They would not say I deserve the shame I feel.” It should be hard to imagine this person denying you care when you’re in need.
This helps deconstruct the inner critic’s argument: “You’re not worthy of care, love, help, or protection.” It doesn’t matter if you’re worthy or not – it wouldn’t cross your inner ally’s mind to ask that in the first place. They see you as worthy the way you are.
Note that some people experience discomfort when imagining an internal ally. It can underline the feeling that you haven’t had external allies. That discomfort is worthy of your attention, too.
“The inner critic triggers our adrenaline and cortisol. So summon up your powerful inner ally. Maybe that granny who speaks to you with love and acceptance. Now you’re doing skillful self compassion.” – John McCormack
“It’s as if we have an inner-critic, picking ourselves apart for where we fall short. But this kind of negative self-talk just creates more stress and anxiety. The good news is that you can actually change the conversation in your head so that you become your own inner ally.” – Stop Breathe Think
“Your inner voice is either your greatest ally or your greatest enemy.” – Sofi Remembers
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