By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
“What an idiot,” I complained out loud to myself while cooking for my family. “Luckily I am also charming, loving and willing to experiment with a new dish.”
All of this came out of my mouth automatically. I was not interested in having anyone else hear this monologue but me. You see, I have been attempting to change an old habit, an organized behavior. There is a voice in my head that admonishes, criticizes and belittles me when I make a mistake. Too often I listen to this voice that is putting me down and practicing one of the deadly habits that destroys relationships. The plan I’m not trying to cultivate instead has me shifting to my own out loud voice that encourages my efforts, complimenting me no matter the results!
Do you know whose voice is in your head? You know the one I mean, the one that tells you “Be careful!” or “How selfish” or “That won’t work out.” This isn’t the voice that might be categorized as a hallucination. No, this is the voice that Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis, described as critical parent. Berne stated that we maintained different ego states, including critical parent. (TA is a type of therapy that has lost favor in the current psychological circles Berne’s work was an updated and more modern version of Freudian theory of ego states.)
The voice and words that you hear in your head are most likely the statements you heard as a child spoken by your parents, older siblings, teachers, coaches and other carers. Your parents may not have said or meant what the voice in your head is saying and meaning. But remember, you absorbed and incorporated these statements as a child, with a child’s comprehension and understanding. And that is what still sticks as the cautionary, criticizing, or admonishing voice in your head.
Yet, these are only thoughts and stories that you tell yourself. This is GREAT NEWS! You have the ability and chance to change these thoughts and stories! You have the power to switch the voice from critical, scolding, or belittling to supportive, encouraging and loving.
Before you can make the switch though, you first need to hear this voice and these statements. You may be attempting to avoid the pain of criticism by pushing the voice down, pretending to yourself that you don’t hear it. However, if this is a strategy you’re using you know you still hear the scolding even though you’re trying very hard to ignore it.
For your Mental Health & Happiness try a different, more effective strategy. As soon as you hear that cautioning or belittling voice say out loud, “I may be clumsy AND I’m beautiful and courageous as I step out into the world.” Obviously this particular statement won’t fit every situation. But take that voice out of your head, say the words out loud, then say other encouraging words that offer love, encouragement and support!
The more you practice, the more successful you will become. Amazingly what you may discover is that the voice in your head speaks less and less frequently. The loving, encouraging, praising voice begins to take over.
You have the ability to eliminate the deadly habits that are interfering with the relationship you have with yourself. Begin consistently practicing the connecting habits improving your self-esteem and self-love.