Appeasing the Inner Critic

Yesterday I wrote about keeping the horizon close, or managing to find joy despite suffering the symptoms of major depression. Today I’m going to reflect – for my own benefit, as much as anything else! – on handling the inner critic as you do so.

Here’s a sample of the delights my inner critic has offered up this week:

Inner Critic

On one hand, when I hear these phrases, it’s a matter of “ho, hum; here she goes again” but there’s also an element of sting to them – because my inner critic really knows how to hit home.

The trick to keeping the horizon close is not just in focussing on the present moment, but in doing to to the exclusion of the inner critic’s voice. There’s no point fighting her; that just adds power to her hurtful words. Instead, I find it better to acknowledge what she’s saying in a cursory way, and then focus all my attention on what I’m doing right now. Treated this way, she eventually recedes muttering into the nasty, dank corner of my  mind where she hides out.

She’s got no choice, really. Because I’ve acknowledged her, she can’t get all huffy and shout louder and louder for my attention: I’ve thrown her a bone – “yes, you may be right, but I’m concentrating on something else right now” – and completely taken the wind out of her sails. At the same time, though, I’ve not engaged with her emotionally. No wonder she turns her back on me in a snit: she doesn’t have cause to complain, but she’s not getting any attention, either!

How do you deal with your inner critic?

26 Comments

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26 responses to “Appeasing the Inner Critic

  1. I remind myself that I’m insane and then I remember compliments and comments from my friends and family. Most of them are NOT insane, so they’re more trustworthy in their assessment of me than my Bipolarity.

    H&J

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    • Ho, ho! Yes, a good old rational exorcism can be helpful 🙂 Sometimes, though, my crafty inner critic finds ways to argue back. (She’s had years of practice, after all.) So instead I just let her do her thing and go about my day. That’s the goal, anyway! Of course, I manage to do this 100% of the time, without any slip ups 😉

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  2. I think that my talk therapy has helped me to realise that I have been fighting a significant illness and that I’m not the same person as before who could take on a lot. Things are harder now to do. I reassure myself that it’s ok to have more downtime. Baby steps!

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  3. I am fan of the saying to myself and others “you can’t un-ring that bell”. Mistakes are made and sometimes you have to acknowledge that and move on.

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  4. The only one I’ve effectively been able to silence is the “used to” voice. I just tell the voice that I’m a different person now than I was then. The others can take their toll sometimes.

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    • The “used to” voice is among my hardest, too. *sigh* We’ll get there. Every time we disempower the “used to” voice, it gets a teensy weensy bit weaker … or, at least, that’s what I tell myself!

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  5. Sadly, these days my inner critic is taking advantage of “open mic” night in my head. Meaning that it’s constant and I’ve lost some of my newly developed ability to recognize it for what it is.

    That being said, I think I need to revisit your horizon idea and I like the idea of acknowledging the critic, and then dismissing her. On my list to try tomorrow! 🙂

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    • Good on you! And good luck XX
      I was just saying to my therapist today how some lessons I have to re-learn over and over … it’s as though sometimes, in my psychological life, I’m dancing to and fro across a developmental stage: crossed over one day!!! … and back the next.
      Each time, though, cements the lesson more firmly, if only a bit. Stay encouraged, my friend!

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      • I agree completely with the idea of the back and forth learning/re-learning of various lessons. It frustrates me beyond belief but I think it’s ultimately a part of the bigger picture of life as a journey and not a destination. Again, one of those things that sounds wonderful on a plaque but is so hard to live by.

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      • It would be just *so* wonderful if even one aspect of all this stuff were easy, wouldn’t it?!

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    • Cal

      I just spent ten minutes googling to find this blog post, and yay! I found it! It’s by my all-time favourite blogger, Captain Awkward, and some of the advice in the post about dealing with your jerkbrain is just like what you were saying DB.

      http://captainawkward.com/2013/02/16/450-how-to-tighten-up-your-game-at-work-when-youre-depressed/

      Excerpt:

      “Or, sometimes I sarcastically agree with everything the Jerkbrain is telling me.

      Jerkbrain: “Oh Jennifer, you are so terrible and lazy. If anyone knew how horrible you really are, they would all flee from you! Go ahead and knit your shame into a giant lumpy turtleneck of horror…oh wait, you were too stupid to learn how to knit! Remember the time you couldn’t even knit a scarf? So you gave up on it, like you gave up on playing the flute and the guitar and the piano (insert litany of every failure or defeat ever experienced here)…like you GIVE UP ON EVERYTHING. You’re just good at fooling people so they don’t think you’re a failure, but soon your luck will run out and everyone will know what a failure you are.“

      Me: “You’re right, I am pretty horrible. Guess I better be horrible and put on some shoes and go to work.”

      *

      I LOVE THIS LADY AND HER SASSY SARCASTIC HUMOUR! Also it’s quite good advice, and I caught myself doing it just before. I’d swept up some of the leaves on the street outside our house, like my mum asked me to, and found I was suddenly exhausted. Off went the jerkbrain, telling me I was unfit and lazy and would never be able to function like a real adult, to which I replied, ‘Yep! That might be true! But I’m really tired right now so I’m going to go back inside and sit on the sofa and check my facebook and my wordpress.”

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      • I will be ever grateful that you introduced me to Captain Awkward! I hadn’t read this post, but it does gel so nicely with what I was writing about. How thrilling!

        And I’m really glad you were able to put your jerkbrain so firmly and promptly in its place 🙂 Rockin’ it!

        xx

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      • I love this idea!! Will have to check out the blog, too.

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      • I suspect you’ll love it 😉

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      • Cal

        Oh, definitely do. She gives amazing advice, and the reader community is really supportive. Sometimes the comments are more helpful than the post! They also have real life meet-ups, which I’ve been to in London and Melbourne 🙂 it’s just generally a cool corner of the internet!

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  6. Jay

    Thanks for sharing your tactic! It sounds like something which just might work in my life.

    My therapist asked an interesting question a while back and it sounds so simple but offers a lot of insight. He asked who my voice sounded like, or rather, if the tone was familiar. It made me realise I have internalised a lot of my mother’s criticism but also her insecurities about herself. Sometimes my inner critic sounds like me but has my mom’s harsh or cutting tone, if that makes sense.

    Digging a bit deeper like this certainly doesn’t resolve the problem but it does offer an opportunity to work out how the voices got there in the first place. More than that, by identifying who is speaking, it creates the space for me to be empathetic to my worst critics.

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    • We have *so* much in common, Jay! 🙂

      I, too, like to hear “who” the inner critic “is” – of course, it’s me, but as you say it’s interesting to hear where that particular voice may have come from, and so forth. I really like what you say about being able to find empathy for the critics. It reminds me of something Nich Than Hahn writes about in “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames”, about making friends with your anger and comforting it as you would a child. Great stuff! (But not easy to do, lol!)

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  8. jimstump22

    DB

    I am learning much from your blog and appreciating the wisdom and the information you and your followers are presenting. I will refer people to your website.

    I suspect that what you are doing is helping MANY folks.

    Blessings

    Jim

    On Thu, May 29, 2014 at 4:45 PM, In & Out, Up & Down: Dysthymia Bree’s

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