Giving & receiving feedback

OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
I’m doing a an addiction recovery program called the Life Process Program. It’s online, very affordable, and sort of the antithesis to AA, which was not a good fit for me. Anyway, the crux is that building up core concepts in life is how people grow out of, or let go of addictions. There are seven core concepts and I don’t remember them all but they’re like Values, Community, Education, Health, Family, Relationships, etc.

The program is not just focused on substance addictions but also behavioral, or process addictions. One of the main points is that addiction is a normal human process that comes from an intense experience, and is a substitute for meaningful experiences like family, education, etc.

So I’m going through the exercises, defining my values and my strengths, so far so good. Coincidentally I’m also dipping my toes back into the dating world and feeling hopeful that I’ve grown enough to develop intimacy with someone other than my T.

The current exercise in the program is giving and receiving feedback. And I realize that there is a huge block inside of me about this. I have a history of codependency and people-pleasing. I was the enabling type. I’ve worked hard to reduce those tendencies and see myself as equal and worthy.

So the program outlines the “right” way to give and receive feedback. And the thought of telling someone that they harmed me in some way seems alien. Because my brain runs most slights through a maze of discounting, denying, dismissing, self-punishment, and fleeing. Such that the thought of *saying*, “When you did x I felt y,” has like a hundred leashes pulling back on it.

Then the other perspective, asking someone to tell me about a time when I hurt them, feels like willingly walking into a fiery cave. In the directions for how to do it the words, “Accept the criticism,” are there, and then after sitting with it and resolving to change, I am supposed to congratulate myself. I go to great lengths to avoid criticism and a part of that used to be criticizing myself first and worse so that no one else’s criticism could match it. I have slowly scaled back that tendency, but even just imagining someone’s criticism can send me into a spiral of shame.

*Sigh*

This almost reminds me of in the beginning of therapy when T told me to focus on gratitude and I felt like she was speaking a different language.

Maybe I need to use that “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude and just try facing this exercise in bits and pieces.

Can anyone relate? And has anyone grown the ability to give and receive feedback when they couldn’t before? I realize that this is probably a critical feature of the intimacy that I long for.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Somewhat bizarrely (as I have a difficult relationship, historically, with giving and receiving feedback myself) I have ended up doing a lot of stuff around feedback in my work. Lots of group training workshops and 1:1 work with people on this topic. Though the context is generally on workplace stuff.

Despite it somehow ending up as an area of specialism for me at work, I still find it very difficult to receive feedback (even if it's positive but especially if it's not, as I struggle not to perceive it as criticism and it brings up a lot of shame and then defensiveness in me)
I have improved over time with giving feedback though!

I'd say a few things that may help:
- starting small (so giving someone feedback on a minor hurt/irritation, rather than trying to leap straight in with a really big, painful one)
- choosing the person you are going to give feedback to carefully. Who do you think may be someone who might take it well and give you a positive experience
- possibly let that person know what you are doing and why (even if it's something vague) and perhaps sharing with them from the get go that it's something you find difficult/feel nervous about etc.
- start with which one feels easier (giving vs receiving)
- if you're asking for feedback, also choose the person very carefully. Because so many people are just not great at giving feedback (trauma history or not!) If you know/suspect someone is likely to be blunt/heavy-handed/use it as an opportunity to put you down or bring up an old thing and go over it again in a way that isn't helpful to you etc, don't ask them. Ask someone you think may be thoughtful, considered, well-intentioned and kind/compassionate. Because, even if someone is telling you about a time you have hurt them, there is a way to do that compassionately. And perhaps let them know that this is something you find difficult/anxiety-making etc before you start.
- so I think, giving or receiving, who you choose and the set up is important.
- also re: receiving...years and years ago I did a leadership course and one of the trainers said, 'the only thing you have to say if someone gives you feedback, is "thank you." ie you don't need to respond, explain, justify, defend...and you don't need to accept or agree with what they say...they are sharing their opinion....you can decide what you're going to do with it (and rejecting it is a valid choice!) It's something I've always remembered from that course!

Also - if you've been asked to give feedback to someone who has hurt you, and to ask someone for feedback on how you have hurt them...if that feels too much now, start with something else....something smaller/easier....

And that might include starting with something positive. Giving someone feedback on one thing you appreciate about them or one of their strengths or one thing you really like about them, or one thing they've done that made you feel good etc. And ask for the same back. Because, I suspect this may not feel comfortable either....but it may feel more do-able for you to do and grow some confidence before moving on to tougher stuff.

Also just wanted to say that I think it's great that you're doing this. That you are great for doing this. It sounds scary...seeking help for addiction, moving to change, signing up to a course, thinking about how to do things that feel scary to facilitate change and growth. Go you!!! Seriously!

I realize that this is probably a critical feature of the intimacy that I long for.

And this is a great insight. I think you're onto something here. I think giving/receiving feedback effectively is an aspect of communicating effectively. And setting boundaries effectively too. So, there is something in this that could help create more intimacy...even though it feels like it may damage relationships. Or that the propsect of building intimacy may feel scary, even though it's also what you're looking for...
 

Friday

Moderator
Then the other perspective, asking someone to tell me about a time when I hurt them, feels like willingly walking into a fiery cave. In the directions for how to do it the words, “Accept the criticism,” are there, and then after sitting with it and resolving to change, I am supposed to congratulate myself. I go to great lengths to avoid criticism and a part of that used to be criticizing myself first and worse so that no one else’s criticism could match it. I have slowly scaled back that tendency, but even just imagining someone’s criticism can send me into a spiral of shame.


There is an absolutely phenom thread/ great discussion on criticism, that I think you’d really (enjoy? Might not be the best word) get a lot out of… from way back when I first joined the site here >>> Criticism - is it them or you?

Can anyone relate? And has anyone grown the ability to give and receive feedback when they couldn’t before? I realize that this is probably a critical feature of the intimacy that I long for.
I can relate in a lot of different ways, some on point, some the opposite, some things I reconciled a long time ago, or have misc challenges with presently… but I’m not really in a headspace to concise any of it up.
 

OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
Thank you @barefoot. I am in a wonky headspace and your reply brought tears to my eyes. Because I feel so vulnerable right now and realizing that I have this problem is scary. I think I just feel small right now. Maybe it has nothing to do with this. My head is kind of swirly. You gave me good things to return to when I am able.

Thank you for the link @Friday.

not to perceive it as criticism
In the program I’m doing they say *to* take it as criticism. I wonder why. Maybe so that a person with addictions can develop the resilience to actually take criticism. The program is big on resilience, which I have found is not always a welcome term in the land of PTSD sufferers. As in, “f*ck you telling me to be resilient—you try dealing with xyz and tell me how resilient you are.” But I digress…. I will check out that criticism link.
 

Charbella

Confident
In the program I’m doing they say *to* take it as criticism. I wonder why. Maybe so that a person with addictions can develop the resilience to actually take criticism. The program is big on resilience, which I have found is not always a welcome term in the land of PTSD sufferers. As in, “f*ck you telling me to be resilient—you try dealing with xyz and tell me how resilient you are.” But I digress…. I will check out that criticism link.
Funny that is EXACTLY how I feel about the way the psychiatric community treats that word. It’s like they weaponized it. “You have PTSD because you aren’t resilient.” “Therapists should build their clients resilience.”

Really what leads to PTSD is a lack of support, so when bad things happen you’re not inclined to reach out and seek help which of course is because of a lack of support. Resilience is something you either get through how you grow up or you didn’t.

Perseverance, now that I can control. I persevered through a crappy childhood. I persevered through school to become something. I persevere through all the symptoms of PTSD even though what I want is to just throw in the towel.

Someone who’s gone through the same circumstances but doesn’t have PTSD is resilient, but really it’s their support system. Some of us find people to be the source of their pain, why would we reach out to them? How many times should you be bitten by a dog before you stop putting your hand out.

But back to your criticism thoughts, I pretty much hate criticism, maybe because I’m always criticizing myself, I don’t need it from the outside too.
 

OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
Got through two pages of the criticism thread. My thoughts so far…
Really big on CBT. I had CBT when my diagnosis was called OCD and it definitely made it worse. I am familiar with the concept but weak on the practice. It feels like a ramrod approach but maybe I have enough coping skills under my belt that it could feel more helpful?

Point was made that it’s not the criticism but one’s thoughts (which trigger the emotions) surrounding the criticism that a sufferer avoids (through fawning or Raging or addictions or whatever.) And further that if the criticism is wrong that there is no reason to be upset and if the criticism is right there is no reason to be upset.

My problem is probably not being able to discern when the criticism is wrong or right. So flip-flopping in my brain over whether or not it’s true. Typically immediately believing any criticism to be true (fawning) due to a belief that I have already done something wrong *to receive* the criticism. Since I go to great lengths to either do it right or hide then I’m either foolishly wrong or found out to be hiding.

That’s my immediate thought, generally speaking. I can think of some instances in the past six months at work where a co-worker known to be a curmudgeon have me feedback and I laughed in his face (in an aggressive way) because I wasn’t going to take it anymore, so even as I’m writing this I can think of exceptions to what I’m saying. But that’s took me years of watching him to understand that he was like that. And I felt accomplished in knowing that. Same for another teacher who can be a bit of a drama Queen. I recognize that I tend to dismiss her feedback when she gets petty with me. So I see that I am making progress. If I generally respect the person though I assume at first that their feedback is accurate.

But the shame reaction can flip it later in my mind to believing that I now need to hide from that person.

@Charbella I think we need a thread about resilience. I’m starting to think that it is a helpful concept but only at a certain point in recovery (like when the client develops a support system.). Interesting perspective that PTSD develops from lack of support. Makes a lot of sense!
 
the program I’m doing they say *to* take it as criticism. I wonder why. Maybe so that a person with addictions can develop the resilience to actually take criticism.
From what I know of criticism leading to shame it's from (at least for me) because of underlying feelings of defectiveness and worthlessness already present. It can also come from living an appearance or 'false self' of sorts that becomes challenged by it. Similarly shame often comes from secrets and their power, and the conclusions we draw inwardly. Most people at their core go right back to feeling as though they've disappointed their parents when they feel criticized, which isn't the first thing most of us think of.

I'm not at all perfect at it, but I found something very recently that works very well for me: If I am accused or criticized I look for the kernel of truth in it. (Lots of times that becomes an entire ear's worth (forget kernel) on self-reflection).

So I see it this way, giving negative feedback, I (hope to) think of where I do the same; I challenge if my feedback is reflective of reality or simply my perception. Most of all, I think why am I thinking negatively of this person/ happening, and not of something else, and why is it that hurtful or bothersome? And have there been the opposite or positive experiences from the same person? And is it more about my issues (always, at it's core).

Giving positive feedback is just true. Not flattery. It should be said.

Receiving negative feedback I do as I said above. It allows me to step away from being defensive. It is also easy to do if my intention is to grow, change, repair damage I have done, and understand. The message or messenger may be inappropriate/ abusive, but there still can be truth there. Sometimes not, and that's when I have to ask someone else's opinion. But even then it reveals how I process it, or what I think of the person who said it/ (why?).
For me the worst is situational: is it at work? (I am dependent on work); have I hurt someone/ caused a wound?

Receiving positive feedback without dismissing is the hardest. Also to remember it, so if I write it down and read it it serves to work on dismantling my self-loathing or reframing it with what I'm missing.

I think when all is said and done each person is the only one who can really be responsible for their own thoughts, choices and perceptions. No matter what anyone does, we always have one choice, and that is it.

Far as addictions go, there's a lot of denial to fight, just as there is with ptsd. i think the hardest thing is refining coping to healthier and healthier mechanisms. Then there is also less need for a false self or worrying about 'presenting', and it's easier to see beauty and feel gratitude and peace.
 
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Sideways

Moderator
Criticism sets off major warning bells for me. I never take it well, and when I give it, it's usually closer to "feedback" and so roundly padded with compliments that it gets missed entirely.

For me, my brain has a lot of trouble separating out normal, healthy criticism from how I learned about criticism. I spent a lot of time learning that criticism was coupled with often horrific punishment. Avoiding dissatisfaction in my caregivers was to be avoided at all costs, and criticism is evidence they're not happy and ergo I'm not safe.

That last part is thanks to my trauma history. While no one likes criticism, if you have that kind of history, it can attach a lot of survival-instinct stuff to criticism (cognitions, emotions and behaviours). Ordinarily, people without a trauma history learn that criticism isn't, in fact, a life or death situation, and that criticism can build a relationship positively (rather than just be a precursor to violence or abuse or abandonment).

I've tried (with patchy success) to tackle that by scaling it right down to reeeeeeally simple, harmless stuff (giving and receiving): when you buy me woollen socks it makes my feet a bit itchy, when you blow your nose really loudly it makes me think of how worried I am about the size of my nostrils, etc.

I can probably learn how to cope with criticism without resolving my trauma issues, but that's only likely to be even remotely possible if I stay mindful of the trauma issues attached to criticism given my history. That was then (criticism is bad, my survival is at stake), this is now (we're gonna keep this small and light and try to keep it an entirely different experience - it will actually enhance the relationship and build trust and communication).
 
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Yes @Sideways and I think criticism is very different from feedback. They might seem the same, but they are widely different to me. Criticism reminds me of 'you' are wrong, or bad or "it's your fault". Whereas feedback is honest, respectful and intended to be caring or constructive.

Part of battling it is as you said over-riding or over-writing the associations you learned, by recognizing it and deciding to think about it differently and do as best as you can differently. Take the power of the pain out, or lessen it.
 

OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
It’s been over a week and I still can’t do it. The giving and receiving feedback is blocking me. I hand wrote all the steps. But I can’t think of anyone who has done something wrong to me that I want to talk to. Either I’ve discerned they’re not worth my time, or I’ve forgotten about anything they did that hurt me, or I don’t want to talk to certain people about that because they’ll turn it into stupid drama.

And when I think about asking someone what I’ve done to hurt them… I keep hearing all the people I actually trust saying—“Nothing!” Which is mind-reading or it’s how I’ve organized my environment, collected people pleasers as friends.

I’m telling myself that if I can’t do this then I won’t skip that step, I’ll just quit. Which could be an excuse to start drinking again.
 

Friday

Moderator
I’m telling myself that if I can’t do this then I won’t skip that step, I’ll just quit.
I don’t give feedback unless I’m asked for it AND happen to agree they rate my being honest with them, it’s my job, or it’s an intermediary step between now & something I would prefer to avoid (like a physical fight, verbally ripping them a new asshole, ending the relationship, etc.).

I DO know people who walk around giving everyone their unasked opinion on how they “should” be doing things, or how they’ve been wronged by the other person; as well as bootlickers/whipping-boys/martyrs/victims/et al begging to know how they’ve wronged me. (Pretty much? Only by doing exactly that! And it’s less that they’ve wronged me, rather than have misread me as someone who will fill their “kick me!”, hurt me, use me, tell me who-and-how-to-be …role they’re so desperately trying to fill. Nope. Pass. Huh-uh. I have little to no patience or tolerance for people who misread me.)

So -by MY standards- you’re not going to be ABLE to complete this step on a whim. (IE someone is directly asking you for feedback, it’s your job to give feedback, or there’s a relationship you value enough to -potentially- save that is about to end.) You would HAVE to have this be a work in progress, as you shore up other more immediate areas of your life. As the circumstances I require to give/receive feedback? Are narrowly limited to specific situations. That are simply not always in play. If… you were me. 😉

HINT: Questions asked on THIS forum? Are people. asking. for. feedback.

Which you do, all the durn time. Very, very well. In both directions; giving & recieving.

If you’d like to try new ways of doing that? Go for it. Otherwise? You aren’t skipping this step. You’re not only actively working it, but have been since loooooong before you started this program.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
If it helps at all, I think the task you’ve been given is really hard. To just go and give someone unsolicited feedback - and to ask someone for some out the blue. For the only reason being that you’ve just been told to. And - the topic of the feedback is highly sensitive/emotive (telling someone that they’ve hurt you/asking someone how you’ve hurt them)

Asking someone for feedback on how you’ve hurt them is a very loaded question, I think. It implies that you have hurt people in a significant way. And, you know, I guess all humans do hurt others at some points and to some degree - intentionally or not - somewhere along the way. That’s just a normal part of being human and of relationships/communication/conflict. I’m not sure how valuable it is to just go randomly digging around for how you may have hurt someone at some point, if it’s never been anything they have felt they needed to let you know about.

Is it supposed to be in the context of how you drinking alcohol has hurt them?

Like you, I would really struggle to identify anyone I wanted to do this with (giving or receiving). And I wouldn’t want to feel I was forcing myself to do it just because I was doing a course (any kind of course) that had set it as an assignment.

And I know I would have similar expectations to you in that if I randomly asked a friend or family member or my partner for feedback on a time I’ve hurt them, I would imagine most if not all would say I haven’t or that they couldn’t think of a time. I don’t think that necessarily means you surround yourself with people pleasers.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a great task to be set. And I’m not sure how useful anyone who actually does it (if anyone does it!) will find it - I imagine many people are not likely to get a very positive/helpful response (to either the giving or the asking for)

I guess this is why I suggested in my previous post to sort of swerve the task and, if you want to practise giving/receiving feedback, to start very small, on safe topics, and choose the people very carefully.

But as @Friday has just pointed out, you already do that here - and very effectively. So, I very much agree with this:

If you’d like to try new ways of doing that? Go for it. Otherwise? You aren’t skipping this step. You’re not only actively working it, but have been since loooooong before you started this program.

I would feel inclined to not give the task any more thought. But, if you want to work on giving/receiving feedback, to just keep it in your radar to look for natural opportunities to practise doing it, that aren’t based on what someone else thinks the topic should be.

Apart from this task, how are you finding the programme?
 
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