There was an animated movie that came out years ago called, “Inside Out.” The entire movie took place inside the brain of a young girl, and all the different aspects of her awareness were jockeying for control over her thoughts and her mood. It was a fascinating subject for a kids’ movie as it actually captured how it can feel sometimes, that we are not just one being but that there are different voices in our head vying to be heard and heeded. One of the more troublesome voices is the inner critic. Whether we internalized the overly critical voices of our parents when we were younger, or it developed in another way, a relentless and overzealous inner critic can be a real hindrance to our baseline experience, and can be very difficult to reign in. Here’s a few thoughts on how to temper its influence on your mind.
When you start hearing that familiar voice start badgering you, the first step is merely to witness it. Be placing the seat of your awareness at the level of the inner witness, it gives us space to perceive the voice as separate. Once we have space between ourselves and the voice, it is possible to examine the content of what its saying and have a choice in how to respond as opposed to the voice fully embodying us and taking over our behavior.
Don’t feed it attention
Once you’ve put some distance between the seat of your awareness and the voice, you have the power to starve it of attention. Soma, the Sanskrit term for the flow of consciousness, is what feeds any aspect of our awareness. If your inner voice is being abusive to you, just as with anyone who is abusive to you, it’s best to back away.
Divert attention to the inner cheerleader
While it may be traditionally overpowered, there is another voice which is your inner cheerleader. It’s the voice that is always positive, always encouraging, always comforting. Give the mic to that voice and it will grow stronger.
Use your intellect to see the flaws in its logic
The inner critic will often use reason to tell you why you should have done something or why you’re messing up or why you will never amount to anything. In a weird way, it’s trying to protect you, but it’s logic is flawed. You’ll notice, no matter what you do, it’s negative. For example, say there’s a job you’re interested in. If you apply, it will tell you how you’ll never be hired, that it’s too difficult, etc. and if you don’t apply, it will tell you how you’re a coward for not applying and it was probably your one chance for happiness. It’s always coming from a place of fear, or lacking, and from our practice we know that the truth never comes from that place.
In a quiet moment, ask it what it has to say
These pockets of distorted consciousness within us have a bit of an identity of their own. It’s an interesting exercise to ask those aspects of yourself, why they are as they are. Many times underneath all that vitriol is a scared or lonely being of sorts.
As always, keep meditating. You consciousness will continue to expand to the point where your inner critic is just a dot on the giant map of your awareness. Don’t be surprised if it fights back a bit as all aspects of consciousness will fight back if they sense they are highlighted for deletion. But eventually, the voice will slowly lose its power. It may continue to rant, but you’ll hardly notice as most of your awareness is elsewhere.