All of us have a little voice that keeps evaluating and judging us. This voice may endorse or condemn our actions by saying, “Wow! You did a great job today” or “You are worthless” . At times, this "critic" or "room-mate" can be belittling and even humiliating. Sometimes, the inner critic will flash images from our past or show possible scenarios from the future – some good and some bad.
Some of my meditation students want techniques and methods to shut off the inner voice. People have experienced shutting off the internal chatter when they had a specific type of seizure, stroke or some hallucinogenic drugs. Some psychopathic killers seem to have a weak or no“conscience” or moral compass.
The inner critic plays a very important role in our lives. It often protects us from danger by acting as a moral compass and guiding us to do the right thing. It can be a very powerful ally to access solutions to problems, heal and grow relationships and improve our health.
I urge you to embrace your "inner" room-mate. Treat him or her like your BFF. If your inner voice is angry or hurtful, explore what makes it so. Here are the three steps you can use to harness your Inner Critic or "Room-mate" to your advantage
Awareness - Take time to write out the thoughts that come to your mind when you are happy, sad or relaxed. If you prefer, you can record them with an inexpensive digital audio recorder. Do not judge your observations at this stage. Be patient and understanding of the emotions and perspectives of your "room-mate". You will often get important insights just by being aware of these inner voices and feelings.
Acceptance - Understand that your inner voice has an important message for you. Treat that voice with compassion and kindness. Accept the pain, frustration, fears and angers reflected in your inner voice. Do the images, voices or feelings guide you in a particular direction? Do they put you down or help you grow?
Action - My favorite phrase is "Respond NOT React". Have steps to respond to specific concerns and challenges posed by your inner voice. When you go through the two steps above, you tend to get multiple perspectives of a situation or relationship. These perspectives or insights can be very helpful to find new solutions or directions. Now, replace the dis-empowering thoughts or images and encourage the empowering thoughts /images – if it is a negative voice – pretend that you are replacing a CD or audio tape or Mp3 in your head. Pretend to turn down the volume of the negative voice and replace with a positive voice or message. If it is a negative image, pretend that you are changing a DVD or VHS tape. Your imagination is a powerful ally because it can help you cope with your inner thoughts and images in an emotional and logical way. If you hear a positive message or image – encourage that message and be grateful for the support you get from your mind.
For example, if you are driving down to meet some one and you are late. Your inner voice may say – “As always, you are so late – why don’t you drive over the speed limit so you can reach in time”. Be aware of the tone and content of these thoughts. Accept that there have been cases where you have been late. Take the time to listen to your self-talk as you would listen to your best friend. As you listen, you can talk gently to yourself and counsel yourself in the best way you can. Understand that by driving faster than the speed limit, there is a chance you will be in an accident or be stopped by a police car. Counsel yourself on the importance of safe driving and reaching your destination in a calm and relaxed manner. For future appointments, ensure that you start early and satisfy the important message your inner "room-mate" is giving you.
As you perform these steps, you will find it easier to become aware of your thoughts and control them. Again, this is not about positive self-talk – this is about becoming aware of the thoughts in your mind and how they influence your moods, emotions and attitudes. Meditation and mindfulness practices help you improve these "inner voice" accepting skills.
I recommend “What to Say When You Talk to Yourself” by Shad Helmstetter. The book suggests many powerful ways to cope with negative chatter in our minds and use empowering self-talk.
a guided finger meditation
Engage your senses with soothing music, guided imagery and a labyrinth tracing activity which leverages the power of touch. Click the album cover to learn more.