I deal with lot of clients for all kinds of personal issues including self confidence, public speaking, weight management, smoking etc. Many times clients mention the torment created by their inner voice, the voice inside their mind which is consciously expressing their thoughts. Some people refer to it as an inner critic. Sometimes they don't notice it and sometimes they wish it would shut up and give them some peace. It is sad that sometimes it is saying nice things about them and they tune this out. More often than not, when this voice inside their head is stuck in a tape loop criticising, judging and recriminating them for some action or omission, they are listening to it intently and the more they listen to it, the more ammunition it fires at them, generating more and more negative thoughts which may transform into feelings of anxiety, worry, dejection or depression. What a great state to be in? All generated by the voice inside their head, robbing them of peace of mind, self confidence, making life a struggle, a torment.
And yet there is hope. It is possible to change state, so easily and effectively. I offer you some solutions.
- Firstly take 100% responsibility for the thoughts expressed by that inner voice as they occur right now. Taking responsibility is not the same as blaming yourself or even blaming others. Responsibility allows you to take back control over the way you think and realise that you are ultimately responsibly for the nature of the thoughts you think. When you take responsibility you are also in the control seat. You can decide how long more you want to suffer, for example do you want to suffer this inner torment for a few more minutes, a few more hours, a week, a year etc.? Again what is the purpose of tormenting yourself for one minute more?
- Realise that these thoughts are not facts and you are not your thoughts. Thoughts are attempts at describing whatever situation you are involved in at this moment and can never accurately describe what is actually going. As they say in NLP the map is not the territory or the menu is not the meal.
- Deciding to be proactive by taking responsibility for what you are thinking brings awareness to the present moment and as you become aware of those thoughts inside your head, just note those thoughts which are also generating emotions. Imagine you are just writing down the name of the thought or emotion in a notebook. Maybe the inner voice is angry and rehashing a story to do with that anger. Just note it, i.e., in this case 'anger'. As you breathe slowly and gently in and out, just note that word 'anger' repeatedly and at the same time drop the story line. Don't get involved in the ins and outs of the story. As you continue to breathe allow yourself to release those thoughts or emotions and the story and just let them go. Where your feelings are positive or happy, it is no harm to practice 'noting' these too and release on these emotions. Accepting the thought or feeling which exists in that moment in time, then releasing it and letting it go, takes the energy out of the negative thinking.
- You can bring awareness to the nature of the voice inside your head, it's pitch, its tone. Does it sound loud? Is it angry? Is it sad? Is it coming from the right of your head or the left or straight ahead. Does the voice reverberate through your body? Is it your own voice or the voice of someone you know? Again take back your power and use your imagination to change that voice inside your head. Why not turn the volume down to zero or make it sound like a funny voice? Making it sound squeaky or stupid diminishes its effect. Why not replace the voice with your favourite uplifting song or affirmation like 'Everyday in every way I am better and better.'
- Awareness of the present moment can also extend to bodily sensations and you can notice sensations such as being hot or cold, how you are sitting or standing and so on. You could do a very quick scan of your body from head to toe, noticing whatever sensations are there. Again just note those sensations, release them and let them go.
Taking responsibility for the way your think is such an empowering thing to do as you look at all situations as learning opportunities and you can decide to quieten your mind completely and take advantage of the natural relaxation that brings or you can decide to replace the annoying thoughts with thoughts which support and nurture you. Instead of listening to the inner voice criticising you for how you performed in a particular situation why not use the voice to identify the learning opportunities arising from that situation and then programme yourself with a success statement, i.e., how you want to think, feel and act in a particular situation.
I advise my clients to practise these mind quieting techniques at times when they are not so stressed or agitated, even at times when they are relaxed. Practice makes perfect, so that when you are in a highly stressful situation you are ready to face it.