Our critical voice stems from our amygdala (also called the lizard brain). This part of our brains plays a key role in identifying dangers and keeping us safe. Unfortunately, it has not managed to evolve enough to function properly in the 21st Century and instead of keeping an eye out for predators and such it turns it’s attention inwards and tells us all the ways we are inadequate, how we will fail and make fools of ourselves.
It can be tempting to try to shout down that critical voice, but what happens is that you end up in a battle with yourself and that self criticism tends to get louder and more critical.
Instead, try sitting down with a cup of tea and a note book and give that critical voice a name and describe it’s character. You can even draw a little picture if you are so inclined. My lizard brain is called Joe and is a green dragon who apparently only has three legs.
You obviously don’t need to draw anything, it’s just something I enjoy for stress relief (I know another psychologist who calls her’s Princess and another who has one called Frank).
For one thing, when you give that voice an identity separate to your own you can start to distance yourself from it. Also, as mentioned, battling with the lizard brain fuels it, so it can be helpful to just take a moment to say things like “thank you for your concern, but I’ve got this” or something along those lines. It’s a tactic that many use when they face things like stage fright but I know many people (including myself) that feel it works just as well on lizard brains that are preoccupied with what we eat and how we look.
Another, tactic is to first is to acknowledge the negative thought, but to reword it by placing the statement “my mind is having the thought that…” in front of whatever it is your critical voice said.
This also allows us to step back from that critical voice and acknowledge that it is indeed just a thought. It is not, as many of us forget, reality. In most cases our critical voice is absolutely full of it!
Another way to think of it is as your inner child who is afraid and lashing out. You wouldn’t shout at a frightened child, but calmly reassure them that everything is going to be okay because you are going to handle the situation. It can be helpful to try to quiet that critical voice in the same way.
These tips are obviously in addition to the great advice that Jonathan gave in 5.17.16 Ignite Family Coaching Call* about ensuring that our expectations are based in reality and that our ‘success’ is measured against objective data.
* You must be full member of SANE Ignite to view this call. If you are, there will be a link named ‘Coaching Calls’ at the bottom of the main program window that you can click on. Once you are there, you will be able to navigate to the Coaching Call Recording referenced in this article.
– by Rebecca Sjövold, Qualified Psychologist, Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach