Voices :: Quieting The Harsh Inner Critic

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“What will others think of me?” While some voices are kinder than others, we are most often hijacked by the messages received during the developmental years. The lingering voices, that harsh critic in our head, and the demands of other peoples' expectations prevents us from leading an authentic, fulfilling and heart-centered life. As a therapist trained to help clients “dig a little deeper,” we frequently bump up against the internalized messages, as well as the projections and expectations of other people. We are, all of us, an integration of human and experiential influences, the sum of our experiences contributes to the creation of self. But we can become fuller and more enlivened by learning to differentiate between “voices of the past” and the desires (and reality) of “now” and our true essence, before we collided with all the noise.

When trying to move forward or make important decisions, we often make choices that are weighed heavily by the needs and expectations of others—it is a familiar and reflexive process, and happens without our full awareness.  We confuse these voices as our own. They may come from a parent who says “you can’t,” “you shouldn’t” or “who do you think you are?” The harsh critic may once have had a purpose, keeping us safe for instance, but is now, no longer necessary. The voice that once warned you not to upset a parent or teacher remains as that lingering message… you “aren’t enough,” you “don’t matter” and “don’t deserve” what you desire. You may have even foreclosed on your dreams long ago, or never felt that discovery and imagining yourself in the future was even an option. I regularly observe adult clients saying, “but my wife won’t let me” as an example of how this model gets recreated with significant others in the here and now. Since it may not be possible to confront those voices taking up precious space in your head from the past directly (because you were young and it wasn’t safe), you can now begin to challenge them by giving yourself permission to differentiate between then and now, and dis-identify with those lingering messages from the past, and begin connecting to, and awakening your own will. Maybe “I can do this” is your new reality, and you can re-write your script.

The voices and foreclosure keep you paralyzed and stuck in the past and unable to change or move forward. You may feel adrift and lost. You may live with regret or the sense that choices made are now not your own. You may not know what’s driving you, which means that you’re not living fully or consciously. Feeling “stuck” is scary but you don’t have to go it alone. Finding someone to explore your strengths and interests, and how to turn them into work or passions is available to you. If you aren’t yet ready to find a therapist, coach or mentor, sometimes it’s helpful to start backwards: Identify what you don’t like, what’s not working in your life, practice tuning-in to a “felt sense” or knowing and even sensations in your body as a guide to what’s off and not serving you. This takes some practice because you’re likely good at hiding things from yourself. What is standing in your way? Ask yourself how you hold yourself back or prevent yourself from getting what you want. Is the obstacle really out there, or is it inside?