Quick thoughts on CRITICISM

I don’t handle criticism well. I do my best, but it just takes ages for me to ‘recover’ from being told I’m doing something wrong. I might have an immediate negative reaction, and then spend ages ruminating over it – and never actually make progress, because I’m too scared to fail again. Long live perfectionism.

Solution: Feedforward, not feedback. If you can see where I’ve made a mistake or am going wrong, don’t lecture me. Don’t reprimand me. Because having schizophrenia comes with cognitive deficits that, among other things, make it extremely difficult to ‘think forward’, we don’t – for example – learn from being punished or getting a ‘consequence’; this only hurts us and psychologically makes it even more difficult to ‘recover’ and act better in the future.

The following is not exactly a ‘punishment’, but an example of how difficult it is to bounce back from criticism: I participated in a poetry contest when I was little and at school in London. I recited my favourite poem from memory, nervously, but was so proud of myself afterwards. When it came to evaluating the recitals, the judge put me in 4th place out of 4 – and said something along the lines of, “I didn’t feel you actually understood the words you were reciting”. I didn’t hear anything else. I was so angry he had humiliated me like that in front of everyone without me having any chance to defend myself.

The mere fact that I can still remember this so clearly probably illustrates my point 😉

SO, instead: Be kind, not angry. Be helpful, not judgmental. Tell the person in question how to act in the future, but don’t make them feel like they’ve made a mistake; so maybe say how you could see why they acted like they did, but it would be more useful for them to do X instead of Y in the future. ‘Future’ works. That’s something you can work towards. Also, your tone of voice is important; even if you are irritated or impatient, don’t show it – feeling like we’ve failed to live up to certain standards is devastating. Often we schizophrenics don’t see where we’re going wrong (self-awareness is usually impaired) AND we’re especially vulnerable to criticism or negativity.

Here endeth the first lesson 😉

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