Blaming patterns during insomnia
My dear friend,
Have you felt at some point of your journey the injustice of the situation or deep frustration from yourself? Like there are tons of external and internal things that prevent you from sleeping well and if not for them you would be already sleeping great.
I did feel that a lot so this letter I dedicate to the topic of blame and self-blame during the insomnia journey.
I will try to take this phenomena and look at it from different angles so that we know what we are dealing with. I will also share my thoughts on how to break that (self-)blaming pattern.
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Blaming outwards and inwards
Blaming is like a pendulum. On one side it swings towards blaming the external world for holding us back and on the other – blaming ourselves for sabotaging our journeys.
It’s not hard to guess that either side of that pendulum is not helping us.
Here are some examples of very common outward blaming patterns:
My spouse is snoring, how am I supposed to recover if they are doing this to me?
My boyfriend or girlfriend decided to go to bed too early and I’m not sleepy anymore because I feel pressure now.
Why does she need to walk so loudly when she goes to the bathroom at night? I finally had a good night's sleep, and now it's been ruined.
That damn neighbours’ dog!
Alina said something in one of her videos that I didn’t expect or like and now I’m anxious because of her! (True story, btw)
I checked that insomnia forum yesterday and one comment really upset me. Why would they say it? Now I can’t stop thinking about it.
Outward blaming can definitely bring short-term relief because it may create an illusion of control, or the impression that if not for that one thing we would be doing already so much better.
But let’s be honest: even if we had all the perfect conditions met – no one would make a sound at night, no one would say anything upsetting – would that resolve the fear of being awake?
Often, in practice we observe the opposite: despite having perfect conditions we begin to feel more anxious. Which is logical, considering that insomnia is striving on pressure. The less things there are to disrupt our sleep, the more pressured we feel to sleep well.
Plus, there is another aspect: we can’t control the external world. Of course we can ask the partner to be quiet, start wearing earplugs or stop reading anything that may trigger us (and I’m not judging any of those steps, some one them might be actually helpful!), but we can’t ensure that outside things will never disrupt our sleep or bring some emotional discomfort.
A partner might still snore unintentionally, or have to get up to the bathroom. The dog might still bark at night. A random commenter on the internet can still say something that might awaken fear in us.
Even my content – as much as I try to make it helpful, encouraging and informative – may still evoke some reactions in certain people. For example, when I write that no one can force themselves to sleep – one person takes it as a relief (“Good that it’s not my fault, and no one can do that at will anyway!“) another might get scared (“What are you saying? I will never be able to fall asleep whenever I want??“). Once I will dedicate a letter to such reactions. (Spoiler: if a strong emotion arises from such things, that is often a good pointer where to dig to accelerate the progress!)
The blaming pendulum can eventually swing to the opposite side – towards blaming ourselves.
For example, when a person realizes that it was not the other person or the event that created suffering in them, but their own interpretations, they may get stuck in the self-blaming pattern. “Why is this so upsetting for me? Why do I always have to make such a big deal out of everything?” – such a narrative can also hold a person back.
Similar to the external world, we also have a very limited control when it comes to emotions and thoughts. We can’t forbid ourselves from feeling emotions or think anxious thoughts, in fact suppressing them ends up with the reversed outcome.
So blaming ourselves for experiencing different emotional reactions is like blaming a child for being scared of a monster after watching a horror movie.
Our anxious emotions and thoughts are automatic and the fact that something has brought a fearful reaction doesn’t mean that we chose to feel that.
When no one is to blame, what shall we do then?
Blaming inwards or outwards only adds friction and solves nothing, but we can use it as a cue to start a change.
The moment we feel the urge to judge something or someone, including ourselves, we can take it as a signal for us to deploy compassion.
Yes, good-old (self)compassion. :)
Whether it is someone else we want to put the blame on for causing a rough night or blaming ourselves directly, turn your kindness and compassion towards yourself first. We really need it in such moments, even though we might not fully realize it.
We can use a kind self-talk here. We can tell ourselves (out loud, in mind or in a written form) how sorry we are that things have been tough for us, how it is not our fault that there is anxiety, sadness and frustration, how brave we are for going through all this experience. We can acknowledge that we are doing a very hard and important job, that we are doing our best and that we are proud of ourselves for coming a long way. Try to soothe yourself as if you would soothe your loved one in tough moments. You deserve it.
At the same time remind yourself that you allow others to be themselves, just like you allow yourself to be yourself. That no one is really after you and your sleep – life just happens – sometimes things do disrupt our sleep unintentionally. And instead of asking “how can I prevent this?“ try “how can I respond to this if it happens? How can I be there for myself when I hit a rough patch?“ – these are the questions that point us in the right direction.
Self-compassion removes a lot of pressure: it removes pressure from trying to make the world perfect and it removes pressure from trying to make ourselves be perfect. And that’s the place where magical moments happen.
Let me know if this letter resonated <3
Wishing you a lovely day!
Thank you Alina for reminding about the unpredicted life events and their so called affect on our sleep! Love your newsletter and look forward to it every Tuesday!