Do you notice times when your inner voice is being overly critical? Do you have irrational thoughts? Does it cause action paralysis?
Whilst our inner critic plays an important role in recognising when something has gone wrong and what we need to do about it, sometimes it can drown out our other important nurturing voice. In this post, I explore some techniques for quietening an overly critical inner voice and adopting more of a nurturing, coaching inner voice.
Irrational v Rational Thinking
This is the tendency to draw extreme conclusions, especially negative ones, from events. Psychoanalyst Albert Ellis defined irrational beliefs as illogical, extreme, damaging and self-sabotaging as they cause unhealthy emotional consequences. Whereas rational thinking creates the opposite effect as it is balanced and allows for optimism and possibilities; it is rooted in a belief of positive human potential. You can change your thinking through changing your behaviour, and change your behaviour through changing your thinking. Changing your thinking requires recognising irrational beliefs and challenging them with rational thoughts.
I recently read an article about ‘Why your most important relationship is with your inner voice’. The interviewee was Ethan Kross, an experimental psychologist and neuroscientist. He refers to ‘distanced self-talk’ (talking to yourself in the second or third person) which is a way of gaining emotional perspective, the benefits of which are inducing calm, reframing impossibilities, making a better impression and improving performance. When faced with anxiety, one of his techniques is to employ temporal distancing, a mental Tardis, whereby you ask yourself how you will feel about the difficult experience in say 6 months time, a year, etc. This immediately helps your troubles feel more temporary and provides a feeling of hope.
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)
These techniques are similar to some used in NLP coaching. When working with negative emotions or anxiety, Time Line Therapy is used to either revisit (akin to a mental Tardis) significant events but from a dissociated perspective in order to gather positive learnings for future events which may not be consciously present due to emotional triggers attached to the event. Dissociation allows the unconscious mind to bring forth more positive and resourceful learnings. The technique is also used to get into a more resourceful state about future events that may be causing anxiety.
How does self-criticism operate inside of you?
Explore how your self-critical attitudes developed. What influenced them? Is it time to change your 'script' if there is an imbalance?
Notice when your inner voice is being overly critical & apply some nurturing; be kind to yourself.
Can you see yourself the way others see you? Maybe you could develop some affirmations that reflect your strengths and repeat these daily or at times when you need to adopt more of a nurturing inner voice.
The aforementioned article also referred to Dr. Rick Hanson's Tedx Talk on Hardwiring Happiness. He talks about our need to overcome negativity bias, e.g. we are good at learning from bad experiences but bad at learning from good experiences. The more we are able to take in the good, we can weave those good experiences into the fabric of our brains for better thoughts and feelings. Our inner strengths are built from positive experiences and by taking in more good experiences, we will still see the bad experiences but be more likely to do something about them. Try using Dr. Rick's 'HEAL yourself' model for encoding good experiences (for better thoughts and feelings):
Have a good experience - enjoy it and really relish it
Enrich it - increase it's intensity, help it to last, install it
Absorb it - this encodes new experiences (processing of sensory information into memory)
Link the positive experience with something negative - stay strong with the positive whilst easing into the negative, it will ease the negative
I love this Buddhist quote from Dr. Rick's Tedx Talk - 'Think not lightly of good, saying, "It will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.'
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