OUR CRITICAL INNER VOICE, AKA THE BULLY
Have you noticed that you have a critical inner voice that is always talking? I don’t mean a “you’re not mentally stable” kind of inner voice; just the normal “everybody has one” kind of inner voice. Don’t believe me? Just get quiet for a moment and you’ll hear it …
Yup, there it is.
What is the voice usually saying? Chances are, it is saying awful, hate-filled things. About you. It’s like a having the world’s worst motivational speaker, or worse, more like a cruel bully, perched on your shoulder, cackling in your ear pretty much 24/7.
The voice is diabolical, mean and nasty, and I like to refer to this awful voice as The Bully. The Bully makes a habit of pointing out all the awful things that you are doing, or being, or saying, and all the bad things that have either happened already or are heading your way.
Here’s just a smattering of the things my Bully says to me: “you are disgusting,” they’re just being nice, they don’t really like you,” and “you are the size of a barn.” It just told me that “I’m crazy if I think that people will get something out of this blog post.” Damn, so mean!
The worst part about this is, if you remain unaware of The Bully you actually walk around believing everything it says. How does a person function authentically with someone yelling at them all day and night?
This is hateful, crazy making at it’s best.
BECOME AWARE OF THE BULLY
The good news is that one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to learn how to become aware of The Bully.
- FIND YOUR BREATH: Take a moment to find your breath. We are often so busy that we don’t realize we are breathing. Simply notice your breath.
- BEGIN TO NOTICE YOUR THOUGHTS: Within seconds, you will notice thoughts drifting into your mind. I’m cold. I need to make dinner tonight. I wonder what he meant when my boss said that thing earlier. The thoughts will creep in. The idea is to simply observe them and refrain from engaging. When your mind wanders, because that’s what minds do, no problem. Simply notice your thoughts, and let them go.
- NOW, BEGIN TO “LABEL” YOUR THOUGHTS: You can do this by saying the words to yourself, visualizing it written, or whatever feels comfortable to you. Labeling your thoughts does two things: it raises your awareness of the kinds of things you think about, which is especially helpful if you are trying to notice your habitual thought patterns so you can decide what thoughts are helpful and which are not. It also gives your mind something to do while still maintaining detachment.
- LABEL IN ONE OF TWO WAYS: Label your thoughts by their type or, more simply, if they are useful to you or not useful.
- TYPES OF THOUGHTS: Classify your thoughts according to their function. Thoughts that can be labeled as “judging,” “planning,” “fear,” and “remembering,” for example, may drift into your awareness. Label them, and let them go.
- USEFUL / NOT USEFUL: Simply label whether a thought is constructive or not. This is a very simple distinction that can cover virtually all thoughts. Just label them “useful” or “not useful,” and let them go.
PRACTICE CALLING THE BULLY OUT
Noticing and labeling The Bully is just like anything you want to get good at: it takes practice! If you were learning the piano, in the beginning you spend a lot of time practicing the scales.
You can practice this all through the day: in the morning while you have your coffee, at night with your head on the pillow, whenever you check Instagram/FB, or see a bird out your window or stop at a red light.
This practice of noticing and labeling your thoughts and calling The Bully out is especially helpful if you are hoping to someday be in an emotionally fulfilling relationship. Why? Because, otherwise, The Bully will endlessly torture you by saying that you are hideous, no one will ever want you, and you will die alone. Nice, huh? And, without awareness, it’s all true!
THE BULLY IS NOT THE BOSS OF YOU
Our behavior is influenced when we believe what our critical inner voice tells us … why go out and be with friends, if The Bully is telling you you’re always the loser who’s single?
Why ask for what you need in a relationship, if The Bully is tormenting you with detailed descriptions of your pathetic neediness?
Why take the risk of asking for someone’s number if The Bully is telling you that women should never initiate?
A lot of things can change if you are making choices from your center, based on your thoughts and your values. Not on the thoughts and values of The Bully.
LIFE AFTER THE BULLY
When you get better at identifying your critical inner voice, a couple of good things happen:
ONE, you can decide for yourself how you want things to be, what choices you want to make, and what thought is useful to you.
TWO, you can enjoy some time away from the ongoing abuse.
Because, after all, this is your damn life, not the Bully’s!
Jen is a therapist in Minneapolis MN, and helps women who mostly have their shit together but can’t figure our the relationship thing. She loves doing the deep work that actually makes a difference! Click here to make an appointment firstname.lastname@example.org