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Critical voice – Whistle a happy tune

We all have those critical voices in our head from time to time chastising us or enumerating our wrongs. Perhaps we long for a Disney conscience like Jiminy Cricket, but the reality is that we are much harder on ourselves than any cartoon character. For many of us the thoughts in our head are helpful they provide a conscience and help us to hold to our principles and values. Yet if you are at a low point in your life or under attack when that voice becomes a critical voice it can take on a more self-destructive air.

Critical VoiceIt’s worth saying that this article is not talking about auditory hallucinations, but rather the stream of thoughts that you experience in your head, often anti-self and usually critical. When was the last time it praised you for success? Like many of our thought processes this sneering is rather like an onion so the process is happening at many levels.

The hostile judgement that comes out as fear at trying something new or anger at a failure often disguises fear of failure in the eyes of others, or a fear of acceptance. This undermines our ability to assess risk in a rational, realistic way if not kept in check, and can trigger low moods and even depression as our self-belief and self-worth is undermined.

This critical voice is not Jiminy Cricket, for a conscience has positive as well as negative elements so the critical voice with its strong bias fails in that respect. Yet by taking control over your thought processes you can put yourself back in touch with your conscience and the real you in whom you can have that real belief.

It may seem like an impossible task especially if you have lived with the criticism for an extended period of time, but with practice and effort you can come out from under its dark shadow.  You need to tackle those parts of you that tell you: You are stupid or look bad or everyone is looking at you ….

The first and perhaps the most important step is to revise that making a change of this size is likely to be hard, and like learning to ride a bike it will take time and you will fall off a few times. That doesn’t mean you won’t get there it means that you need to get on and get more practice not concentrate on the failure. Accept something went wrong and move on.

This type of change is usually easier if you have support, perhaps a friend or family or even a counsellor, to help you get started and through the difficult moments. Of course you can do it on your own but getting as much help as you can increases your chance of success.

Start a conversation with those unhelpful thoughts. What are the facts that support the sneering criticism, (Remember feelings and telepathy are not facts) what are the facts that support some other point of view. Then ask yourself if there is a more likely explanation for what is driving your thought. E.g. perhaps I worry about meeting new people and that is a problem that you can tackle.

At first challenging each though will seem cumbersome, but as time goes on you will find it almost automatic. If there is a difficult thought you really can’t shift perhaps that is the time for reinforcements in the shape of your support, or a counsellor.

The point is that like Pinocchio, you can have a Jiminy Cricket that helps rather than hinders you.