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Talking to your inner critic, can it be tamed?

quirkywords
Community Champion
Community Champion

Do you have an inner critic ? Have you ever tried to talk to your inner critic. This is what happened when I tried. In my Be yourself thread people asked about how I interviewed my inner critic. So here it is.

This is adapted from a writing exercise to interview your inner critic about one's writing. As my inner critic has an opinion all aspects of my life I decided to broaden the scope of the interview.

Me: I welcome (well I don't really) this opportunity to find out why you always need to have an opinion that is always negative about me and my life.

IC: I thought this was going to be a friendly interchange of ideas but there you go with your anger and hostile remarks. I do not see myself as negative but as helping you, because you do need help.

I am here to help you why can't you see that?

Me: So when I am trying to sleep and you tell me about all my mistakes, embarrassing moments, how does that help me?

IC: I thought while you are in bed you would have time to consider some of your past behaviours. This I feel will only help you to improve.

Me: If you are so helpful why do I feel so worthless, so sad, so ignorant when you are around? Do you really know how low I can feel when you are constantly telling me all my faults?

IC: You make yourself feel that way- I am merely pointing out the truth. It is not my problem that you are so weak.

Me: Maybe this was a bad idea you are never going to listen to me or understand me.

IC: Have you ever thought that maybe you shouldn't listen to me if I upset you so much.

Me How can I ignore you when you are so loud at times.

IC: See this is what I mean you are so weak. You have the power to ignore me, to silence me but all you do is whinge and complain.

Me: I am ending this interview. Enough is enough.

What would you say to your inner critic and what do you want to hear from your inner critic? Maybe you can have a go at interviewing your inner critic.

Quirky


820 Replies 820

hello quirky,

 

A tad behind with my replies.

I smiled when I read

hello er and em

 

Figuratively speaking of course.

Working my way through each reply as I like to reply to every post that a person has taken the time to write me.

 

Ems

Hello Er (thank you quirky, saves time)and hello quirky again

 

Do we have any kind chatters in our mind?

Well, I know that I have kind thoughts. I struggle with the word kind when it comes to my talking to myself. For me it is more my being assertive with myself.   I do have a very chatty mind and tend to remember only the conversations that I do not want to remember.  For me, I feel that I am talking to myself, internally. I do talk out loud to myself at times as well.  This is a constant almost to the extent that I am either thinking or talking and listening to myself.  Very busy sessions.  I believe that it flows over from all of my years of therapy.  It is part of the human mind to think about things and also have conversations. People who have never experienced symptoms of one single episode of a mental health issue have mind chatter.

I was drawn to this conversation initially as it mentions inner critic. I had not heard of that title before. I am so tired of all of the overused labels that occur so this intrigues me.

I liked the way quirky actually questioned her chatter and carried out a conversation.

I have not yet been successful in this when my mind is doing my head in.

I think that I am so busy trying to quieten it or change the subject, distract whatever.

This is my homework.

ER and quirky I think that you are in the intermediate or advanced class.

My head is so foggy with grief that jolly well seems to be multiplying over the last year. What is it with this grief? Are 1 or 2 situations not enough? Do I attract it?

No I am not weak or feeble or not facing any of it. I talk about the subject just as openly if not more so than most people I know.

Enough.

Sorry folks it has been getting to me greatly and I haven't even been able to visit the forums.

 

So Inner critic if you have moved into my mind and brought along more grief can you just catch the next bus out!

Better still can you walk? I know that you are able to as you keep on walking into my emotions and inner conversations in my mind.

Hope that this does not sound too terse.

Please know that I would never direct my frustrations at another.

 

Ems

Dear Ems,

 

I am wondering if it would help to write out your conversations with the inner critic, just as Quirky did in her original post? Sometimes getting it out on paper changes the dynamic from it being always in our heads. It kind of puts it into a solid form by externalising it, and then maybe it is easier to dialogue with in a way that helps progress beyond the parts of the inner critic that can be debilitating at times and keep us stuck in a cycle.

 

I really empathise with the grief. I am still debilitated daily by multiples losses of the past few years and wonder if it will ever significantly ease, let alone end. I am wondering, at least in my case, if the inner critic is associated with my distress levels too. I'm pretty sure it is actually. Perhaps I should try writing out a dialogue with my inner critic in relation to persistent grief?

 

I understand what you mean about struggling with the word kind when it comes to talking to yourself. For years I could not do anything like this at all. It is just starting to happen recently in the most incremental way, and it is a slow process, but the inkling of it is there even if I easily lose touch with it a lot of the time. Like you, it is far easier for me to have kind thoughts towards others than it is towards myself.

 

It can be good to be assertive with ourselves, but I think sometimes we need gentle nurturance too. Or at least I feel that is true for me. Gentle nurturance and safety is what I lacked in childhood, whereas I experienced plenty of forcefulness and aggression from others, causing me to internalise a self-critical, self-aggressive voice. So I am gradually learning a process of letting go and relinquishing that inner criticism and forcefulness that has manifested in me feeling I have to try so hard at everything, feel responsible for everything etc. I now sometimes just lie on my bed and let go, and imagine a kind presence there who is looking after me. It actually changes the whole feeling in my body when I am able to do this and I've let go of trying to control or direct mental chatter, instead just feeling warmth, peace and safety. However, I easily get caught in the cycle of struggle again, so I know this can be a challenging thing to implement when it is a new experience which it is for me. It takes time and patience and returning again and again to just letting go and feeling kindness. Also, sometimes the grief initially bubbles to the surface in this letting go which can be painful, but it's also like a release. I'm realising I might have to go through this sort of process multiple times as I grieve multiple losses, but there is a relief that comes I think with each letting go and it feels part of healing.

 

I'm sorry things have been so hard lately Ems. You are absolutely not weak or feeble and you are being courageous in exploring these things and trying to make sense of things and find answers. Please be gentle with yourself and sending you care and support.

 

Take good care,

ER

ER gentle and assertive, self aware and empathic with others.

 

Good advice. I think being critical of ourselves because we are not being kind to ourselves is ironic. 

A lovely long reply,

ER

I shall respond soon.

Ems

Thanks to everyone who has revitalised this thread.m

Thank you for writing about such an interesting concept, Quirky.

 

This is something that I want to work at.

To be perfectly honest I am really struggling getting started which sounds ridiculous.

I am going to discuss this when and if I remember, with my therapist for some ideas.

 

Thank you

Ems

Hello ER,

Would you believe I nearly wrote hello Ems!

I have had no sleep for two nights. I decided to just get up at 3.15am this morning as my mind would not settle let alone rest. I actually took some natural sleep medication and I am convinced that with me there are occasions where medications work in the reverse. It works at keeping me awake as my eyelids feel as though they are tired. My eyelids can be closed and yet feel as though they are wide open. Possibly where the expression "held open with matchsticks" stems from. Blame it on the inner critic.  So much of what you wrote to me 2 weeks ago, ER, resonates strongly. My upbringing was not unpleasant, more a feeling of being invisible or in the way.  I tried the inner critic questionnaire and when I read over my words I felt that they had no impact. They were no match for that critic.  My not understanding the grief weighing me down so heavily for so long has now been diagnosed as trauma triggered.  I apparently have a pile of trauma that never completely diminishes. It was explained to me that if the original trauma does not have enough time to completely dissipate, another experience not necessarily as traumatic on its own is added to the pile. This pile continues to rise as each new event occurs. Each trauma on its own would not be as intense. As a growing pile the intensity of the pile grows and the experience lasts longer. This matches how I have been feeling. Sadly more loss has occurred which I knew was on the horizon at some stage. That does not lessen the shock and grief does not follow until the shock has subsided. Sometimes not even then. Usually when not expected. At the moment I do not have the energy to listen to the inner critic. I feel rattled and exhausted.  I also told my therapist about wanting to try the exercise with him and then digressed. This often happens and I find myself thinking at the end of the session that I really wanted to talk about something else as well. Sigh. Hard work. If it was not hard work mental health issues; trauma and grief would be easily resolved and there would be something else I suppose.  A kind voice in my head might be the tired one as the other ones are far louder. The other matter that I had a moment of the penny dropping was that I am still at the tale end of experiencing covid from over 4 months ago. This brings with it heavy fatigue and more fog brain.  Kind voice attempting to tell myself now, be gentle with myself. Hoping that you are all making headway with your inner conversations.

I also tried the laying down on the bed and letting go. Probably not good timing with all of the above as the mind just went haywire.  On that note I shall leave you all in peace.  Sorry folks even my humour is drained today.

Ems

and something else

Emotions 

thanks for your long and detailed post. I will read it when I am not so tired. 

Dear Ems,

 

What you write about the impact of trauma experiences accumulating if the original trauma doesn’t get a chance to dissipate makes a lot of sense. I understand too about repeated experiences of grief and the way grieving can be delayed until the shock subsides. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced more loss recently. I have found it so necessary to somehow find the time and space to recuperate from multiple trauma and grief impacts. Yet often this is difficult as society places multiple demands on us that can interfere with recovery. I feel I am having to really say no to a lot more things/demands in order to find the space to self-care.

 

 I think it is perfectly ok to put dealing with the inner critic aside for now if you do not have the energy for dealing with it. The kind voice looking to be gentle with yourself post-Covid sounds like a good thing, just focussing on that self-nurturance. Covid has some effects that seem to last quite a while afterwards. I feel incredibly fortunate that so far I have not become sick with Covid. I’m on a medication for an autoimmune condition that’s been found to be preventative against Covid, which may be why I haven’t had it yet.

 

Yes, maybe don’t pursue the laying on the bed and letting go thing if it causes a flood of overwhelming thoughts. I think for me my nervous system has always been very “on”, trying to solve things and striving all the time. So for me it’s like a practice of at least some of the time learning to not strive and to just let go and “be” instead. It’s like I have always been trying so, so hard at everything my whole life and I’m sure a lot of that is to do with my inner critic. I try now to think of kind people and absorb that kindness into my being and to really feel that. It’s quite challenging for me to learn that but I think it’s part of the letting go and feeling warmth and kindness instead of striving and struggling.

 

An alternative to the letting go is distraction. Becoming absorbed in an activity you love doing can help. For me that’s photography, from the taking of photos to sorting and editing them. Hours can go by quickly as I become so absorbed and end up going to bed late!

 

 I hope you can get some restful sleep soon! Yes, I think some people can have the opposite of the intended effect of sleep meds. I guess it’s a bit like the way some people are calmed by stimulants. I think caffeine is a bit like that for me.

 

Take care Ems and you too Quirky. Sending you both kindness and care xx