Managing the Monsters in Your Head
We all hear voices in our head, don’t we?
Or, maybe it doesn’t seem like a voice but nevertheless you have ideas, words, thoughts in there. You may have been thinking all of these voices are yours. After all there’s no-one else in there is there?
Or is there?
Well Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big, tells us there is someone else in there and she names those other entities your inner critics. It serves us to separate these internal speakers otherwise we end up confused at best and at worst depressed. You might be interested to know that ‘talking back’, as we can call it has been used to calm the mind since the 4th Century! This technique not only gives you relief in the moment, it also build up permanent improvement for the future.
Here’s how that works…. it has been noted that certain functions of the brain take place in different regions. And further to that if one of those functions ceases to happen then the regions nearby will take over the territory. So if all you are doing is allowing that over-thinking or those inner critics to have voice then you are allowing them to rule the roost. Every time you talk back it forms a new synapse. And every further time you talk back it digs that pathway even deeper. Eventually you will have redressed the balance and taken back your territory.
Here’s what happened to me some time ago.
Having started my first business I soon ran into difficulties. I would plan to do something and yet time and time again i would fail to follow through. It would not get done.
Because when it came time to do it I just didn’t feel like it! You might say, well who does feel like doing stuff, all the time? I know. But this was EVERY time. Once I discovered about the monsters in my head I began to take control. Whenever my ‘overwhelmed child’ – which was what I called her – began to panic and make me want to put it off I would say this to her….
“It’s ok, darling. It’s all ok. Let’s just sit down and look at what has to be done. That’s all. Just for a few minutes.”
Once I had got over that hurdle she would have gone and I was free to continue with the task.
Recognise your inner critic by the following signs….
This voice is always negative, never speaking joy or praise.
Another time I’ll show you how to find your inner cheerleader.
It’s also the voice of persistent doubt and disbelief.
Doubt is not the same as caution and discernment. You can tell the difference.
It speaks harshly, in a way you would never speak to someone else.
You’ll notice impatience and intolerance.
It invades your thinking rather than seeming to speak your thoughts.
Rocking up when you didn’t even ask for an opinion!
The inner critic repeats itself, like a broken record.
You’ll recognise the same accusations, same criticisms.
And then it attacks us for having the thoughts it’s just put in there!
Says you can’t do this and then tells you you’re useless for not even trying.
It may sound like someone who did criticise you in life, your mother, a teacher etc.
It may even sound like your own voice. This is still your inner critic, not you.
Sometimes the voices don’t sound so bad or much like a monster. Like the one I spoke of in my story. It was only saying ‘I don’t feel like it’. What’s wrong with that? Well let me tell you…If I saw that as my own, reasonable thought every time I heard it I would long ago have been living in a cardboard box in Bournemouth Square! I would be broke. Totally.
I have recognised that voice as one of my inner critics because of past experience. If I put off that task I notice there is never a time when I DO feel like it and, in fact, not doing it does not make me happy. And, when I’ve chosen to procrastinate, it follows up immediately with an accusation of laziness, never failing to point out I will never get anywhere at this rate! It’s also accompanied by a foggy feeling in my mind that I’m very familiar with. You will soon be able to separate the clarity of your own thoughts and choices from the confusion of your inner critic.
You’ll find some help finding your own inner critic here
So how does this help?
Tara Mohr gives us some powerful suggestions here….
- Analyse your inner critics. As you pay attention to their murmurings you will be able to identify their traits – is it a people pleaser, a bully, a harsh critic, anxious, fearful, a trickster. Just spend some time noticing these things and then it will be helpful to write them down.
- Give some of these entities a name. Tara calls one of hers Disastra and another Perfectionista. 😀 That gives you an idea of how you can play with this. This is an important step. The name you choose needs to cut it down to size. To show you as soon as you see who it is that it is not the voice of truth. So Perfectionista would remind you that nobody is perfect and it’s ridiculous to expect that from a human being. Straight away Perfectionista has lost credibility. Professor Catastrophe would help you to reframe the situation and get a different perspective just by saying, “Oh Professor Catastrophe has turned up.”
- You can also give them names that sound like characters from a book. Mr Grumpy pants, The wicked witch, Professor Sceptical. Be light-hearted in this to bring the correct perspective to bear. These voices are simply different versions of yourself. You don’t want to start a fight with yourself. Civil war is not helpful. If you begin to see them as your enemy this would lead to future problems around self-respect and self love. So you always speak respectfully to them. You can read more about this in section 7.
- Remove the critic from the scene. You can send Disastra to the kitchen to make tea. Watch Ms Misery diminish when you put her back to bed to get some sleep and wake up in a better mood. I love this part. It’s fun to think what would stop them in their tracks. It’s not punishment, you’ll notice, it’s just breaking the pattern of your thoughts. Pattern interrupt will always change things.
6. You can give them a funny voice, like the chipmunks or a silly walk. You want to do anything that can snap you out of the belief that these voices have some truth to share. It simply isn’t true. Over-thinking is far from the truth, relying mostly on worst case and catastrophising. Statistically neither of those will represent truth.
7. You’ll remember I spoke kindly to mine the other day. It’s important to understand and feel compassion for the part of you that is manifesting these doubts, fears and concerns. Attacking would be a mistake. So sometimes the way to take back control is to say, ‘Thank you for your input but I won’t be needing your advice today.’ Or, ‘Yes, I know you think I’m never going to amount to anything and I’m so sorry you think that because you are totally wrong. Please step aside and I’ll show you, right now’.
Another way of answering that’s useful is to give a soft denial to whatever the critic said. So if it was “You are not going to manage this. You’re not good enough.” A suitable reply would be “But what if I were good enough?” Your critic is most likely to stop responding at that point. What else could it say? Your aim is to stop your critic in its tracks. Keep on responding until it has no more to say.
It’s important to remember you do not have to convince your critic to think differently. There’s no need to argue or even debate. All you want is for that voice to stop!
Go to Q&A for more help
Now you’re in control
This is something that helps you manage the turmoil that goes on in your head. I hope you are delighted to discover they are not all just you, speaking truth! And that you will practise this advice and gain some control that you’ve previously not had. When you’ve been doing this for a while you notice your inner critic starts to fade in some of its guises, fails to show up so often. You have less work to do. You have re-programmed your mind!
If you need any help to understand any of the steps just message me at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you are having sessions with me let’s talk about it then. When you see some improvements make sure you don’t give up. Keep going. This will be a new practise that you keep on doing for the rest of your life. It will become a useful habit, if you choose it to be.
I’d love to hear your feedback and am waiting here to help if you have any queries or feel confused by anything.
“This has totally changed my life. I used to wake in the night with panic attacks. It would begin with these voices just like in your examples making me feel bad, making me worry. Now that’s all stopped.” Dee Russell