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Day 2. Inner Critic - Backing Track, Scene Music, Pesky Earworm

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The Inner Critic is a pattern. It’s a mishmash of ‘noise’ that’s been putting together from a lifetime of various experiences and it appears as if it’s this really conscious voice that in effect means that it ‘must’ be the real you and what you really think but it’s quite clever: it’s mostly old noise that snatches a bit of what is happening now or does a spot of quick batch processing and uses associations to choose a snippet of noise from your collection that matches the occasion.

Your inner critic is based on old situations, old habits, old thinking, old emotions, old memories.

Us humans are creatures of habits. If we had to think out every last thing we have to do each day, we’d be bloody exhausted. Our heads would pop off with the stress of it all, so instead we have developed a chunk of automated sequences (habits) to help us auto process and manage big chunks of our day, leaving us with space, time and energy to be consciously involved in the other stuff.

Unfortunately, best laid plans and all that jazz means that sometimes, we use too much pattern in our lives. We repeat the wrong things too much and then assume based on the repetition, that what we’re inferring from it or the fact that we’re still repeating it, must be true. This is what happens when we’re not living consciously and so responding on autopilot and living more based on the past and on assumption than we are on the present and being mindful. When we do this, it’s highly likely that some of our habits are based on flawed reasoning. This will be a mix of beliefs that we’ve gotten into the habit of using to explain things we don’t like and that don’t make sense to use, e.g. I’m not good enough, as well as associations we’ve made, which are the mental connections we make between things, e.g. words, smell, sounds, feelings, memories, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, expectations.

When your inner critic’s noise brings up feelings and thoughts that you associate with something and someone else who are painful from your past (or present), it’s easy to reach the conclusion that if you don’t heed it, that you’re going to experience the same pain again.

This means that after a while we don’t think too deeply about the content and whether the assumptions and links are true - we just snatch the message and respond. This affects what we think, how we feel and what we do next.

Your inner critic is like a backing track or radio station that you have playing in the background but you’re not consciously listening to. You snatch bits of ‘songs’ and these are affecting your mentality, feelings and behaviour without you even realising. It’s like when you hear the the first couple of seconds of a song or the intro and instantly know what the song is or assume you know what it is.

Sometimes your inner critic is like one of those dodgy sex tapes that scammers used to make where it’s a mix of real footage with fake footage including a superimposed head. Your inner critic is so convincing because it’s gotten used to bring up old sh*t and showing up at inopportune moments, that it can present you with an irrational fear and even though you actually know that what it’s saying isn’t true or that it’s certainly exaggerated, you doubt yourself or forget the truth entirely.

Your inner critic uses direct messages, e.g. Are you mad? You will be a disaster if you try to present to 100 people, but sometimes it’s just monotone background music that you’ve now gotten so used to that you’re not really picking up on the words but the meaning you infer and the way you feel as a result (down) is the same.

When you’re watching a television show or film, music is used to add tension to a scene or to convey other emotions such as joy or relief. You have gotten so used to the pattern and noise of your inner critic that when it strikes up, the association you have with that pattern is an autopilot reaction.

Think of when you get a song stuck in your head and for a period of time you can’t seem to get rid of it? These are ‘earworms’. When you’re feeling stressed (even though you might not realise it) and your inner critic thinks that there’s too much change or whatever, that earworm inner critic will do a damn good job of being catchy for the wrong reason.

The key is to become aware not just of what is playing in the background but also the way in which you’re responding. Awareness is absolutely vital in breaking any pattern and changing a habit.

The TAKEAWAY

  • Your inner critic is noise and chatter. Half the time you don’t even hear what it has to say because you judge the feelings that come up and the subsequent thoughts without figuring out if the message is true or relevant.
  • Inner Critic: think backing track, earworm, dodgy recording.
  • You might be hearing but are you discerning what you’re listening to? Don’t just assume that whatever comes out of the critic’s mouth is factual or even relevant.
  • Sometimes your inner critic’s ‘scene music’ is the wrong track for that moment…
  • These patterns will continue until you get conscious, aware and present enough to interrupt them— don’t let your inner critic just put whatever it wants out there without vigorously inspecting and challenging the validity of it.
  • Your inner critic has too much airtime because you’re not (as in your true self), inwardly and outwardly being the voice that’s driving you. This can and will change though.
  • It’s time to become aware of what you’re feeding the noise with.

TASK: Try this out. Get conscious about and interrupt the negativity and passive commentary by using this popular method. Grab a hairband / elastic band  - put one on your wrist and each time that feeling or thought pops up, or you do something that doesn't represent treating you with love, care, trust and respect, ping it. My wrist was red but I was super aware of how I spent the bulk of my day being very critical! Each ping also gave me an opportunity to be more mindful and to choose my next responses. Note your discoveries in your Feelings Diary.

 

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