Day 15. Distinguishing Between Internal Versus External Fear
As you’ve become so used to the backing track of your inner critic, homing in not just on irrational fears that have too much sway but also learning to distinguish between what is internally driven versus externally driven, is highly beneficial for getting a sense of perspective that you can use as a springboard for healing work but also for disarming the impact of your inner critic when it kicks in.
I’ve found that when my inner critic has been most effective, it’s almost as if I’m in a trance until I snap out of it by getting grounded in reality. Once I realised that there was a big difference between inner critical chatter and what was actually happening on the outside, plus the fact that the inner critic was often ‘playing’ stuff that bore little or no relevance or resemblance not just to the actuality but even the possibilities, I started to realise that my inner critic had a lot less power over me and that I could change that.
Distinguishing between internal and external fear means recognising where you’re feeling afraid based on your own internal dialogue and narrative and where you’re feeling afraid based on external evidence that corroborates your perception of the existence of a threat.
Distinguishing between internal and external lets you know where it’s imagination, insecurity (mostly inner critic backing track) at work and also forces you to acknowledge reasons and knowledge. It teaches you to be boundaried.
When we have concerns and we typically tend to doubt ourselves and ignore real threats, it’s also vital to ask whether it’s fear or knowledge? If it’s fear, it hasn’t happened yet and we’re worrying about what might happen or projecting past experiences into the present and the future, and then forecasting doom.
Your fear feeling is prompted by a narrative or, your intuition is alerting you to something.
If you’re afraid and there isn’t external evidence to support your concerns, you can examine which insecurities are playing on repeat and also look at where you’re supporting your fears by feeding them with worry and imagined scenarios. When you tend to show up afraid regardless of the circumstances, this is confusing to your senses, which is why you need to challenge your beliefs and relieve your anxieties by intervening on your imagination and that tape.
When your intuition is trying to tell you something but it’s struggling to get through the noise, which may include the narrative and imagined scenarios, there will be external evidence of the ‘threat’ whether you’re aware of it or not.
It’s important to note that your intuition isn’t working effectively because of the inner critic’s chatter dominating over your inner voice in general or because in certain types of situation where you’re stretching yourself, it’s noise triggers doubt - depending on what flavour of inner critic you have, you might find that you’re OK with certain types of decisions and actions but not others and with the worst of the critics like The Shamer and The Chopper, most if not all decisions and actions will have a level of stress attached to them.
When your intuition tries to help you, you might on some level intuitively recognise that you’re repeating a toxic pattern but struggle to connect the dots with the external evidence. There’s often an element of not seeing the wood for the trees, similar to when we date variations of the same partner but think they’re all different when they’re not. In this instance, we will have our misgivings but the inner critic chatter would rather be ‘right’ and keep us in an uncomfortable comfort zone than run the risk of us stretching ourselves.
Here is what the inner critic cannot do: It does one thing and one thing only (criticise) so it cannot be used as a substitute for the knowledge and reasoning you stand to gain from tuning into your inner voice.
Fear is being prompted by evidence outside of you, i.e there is a real threat. Something is happening; knowledge exists or is out there to be gained. Something has been said, something has been done, or there are cues that indicate a threat that you need to become conscious of.
You could be walking along a road tomorrow and in your own little world and then you feel afraid. You may sense a threat before you are fully aware of the threat. You would look around you or you may become more aware of sounds, maybe facial expressions or movements of others and so forth. These are cues that you pick up without being cognitively aware of the actual chain of events that is occurring including the threat.
External evidence communicates that something’s up. It’s stop, look, listen, and don’t proceed until it’s safe to do so, or proceed with caution. It’s take stock time and assess the threat level time.
Here is what the inner critic cannot do: It does one thing and one thing only (criticise) so what you cannot do is use it to discern knowledge and reasoning, especially because a lot of its noise is old.
One of the ‘tricks’ of the inner critic backing track is that its chatter triggers feelings like anxiety and then the potential for threat (real or imagined or exaggerated) is used to feed even more thoughts and feelings, so you live on the sense of what could have happened rather than reality. It’s like being traumatised by having a near miss and then treating it as an actual ‘hit’ but then not gaining the perspective to recognise that it’s no longer a near miss.
If you’re afraid and there is external evidence, this is a call to listen to you and be self-aware. What you might
By getting in touch with your fears (to know your fear and be discerning about them is to disarm their effect), it makes it easier to not under or over-react when you know or sense that there’s external evidence - inner critics love to jump on evidence and exaggerate the hell out of it with big generalisations.
- Fear is just a feeling which you can give as much or as little weight to in your life.
- By recognising that some fears are internally prompted and some are external, you stop treating fears as facts which mean you stop treating your inner critic as factual.
- The more that you allow your mind and subsequent fear-based actions to run the show, is the greater sense of fear you have and the more you recognise the noise for what it is, is the more you can recognise whether there is any real connection between what's going on inside and what's outside.
- If you don't feel afraid (so keep feeding the fear) then the inner critic cannot work as effectively as it has been.
- How much fear-based behaviour you have depends on how much thinking you feed the feeling with so if you can parse the feelings and thoughts, you can get conscious about whether you’re making critic or inner voice-led choices.
- Remember that you have a choice about what you feed to inner critic noise - stop offering it up evidence!
- Distinguish between emotion, thinking and behaviour - you are doing things today for emotional reasons from long ago that do not bear real relevance to what is happening right now or your potential.
- Examine which thinking (emotional reasons) is influencing the feeling because if you reduce the thinking with reasoning and knowledge (introduce some logic) instead of increasing it with imagining various scenarios, obeying the inner critic and thinking and doing stuff that feeds unhealthy beliefs and leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy, you will have greater access to your inner voice and more command over you.
- Inner critics remind me of those people who behave badly and when you call them out on it, they claim that [what you say] can’t be true because they have a job or they think that they get on with someone else. What’s that got to do with the price of milk?! Anything you've been and done before is not a permanent statement of the future. Your inner critic doesn't get to rule you with fear just because it can pull a story or theory to try to strengthen their argument.
JOURNALING: You’ve gained insight into the eight different types of critic including why they might be there, the irrational fears that drive them and habits you’ve developed in order to cope and in order to protect you. Choose the inner critics that have the most influence and impact in your life (you might find that you have a team of three for instance like The Pusher, The Perfectionist and The Guilter) and going one at a time, think back to the last time they were piping up (it could be mere minutes ago haha) and write about 1) what was happening at the time when the chatter started (where you were, what you were doing, who was there, what you were thinking about doing etc), 2) which fears came up - what they were specifically about, 3) what represents internal and what represents external concerns and 4) what the inner critic does with internal and external concerns - does it goad you or latch on to the evidence? Become aware of the tactics it has gotten used to employing.