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Conquer your critical inner voice with tips from PsychAlive

Many people have extremely negative thoughts about their self worth. This is a critical inner voice and the voice can be very destructive. Here are some expert tips for conquering this voice and taking back your life.

BY Heather Warlick Modified: August 25, 2013 at 12:33 am •  Published: August 26, 2013

Everybody has one — an inner voice that advises us, congratulates us on accomplishments and sometimes scolds us for failures.

For most people, that voice provides reasonable and kind guidance and can lead to important life changes and lessons.

But for some, that...
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What are the five steps?

Robert Firestone created Voice Therapy, a five-step process for conquering your critical inner voice. From, the steps are:

Identifying what your critical inner voice is telling you

In order to challenge their negative attacks, people must first become aware of what their critical inner voice is telling them. They can do this by identifying an area of their lives where they are especially critical of themselves and then pay attention to what the criticisms are. As a person discovers what the self-attacks are, it is valuable to articulate them as “you” statements. For example, instead of saying “I feel so lazy and useless,” a person would say “You are so lazy. You’re useless.” When people utilize this format, they are encouraged to express their critical thoughts as they hear them, and this often leads to them accessing the hostility that underlies this self-attacking system.

Recognizing where your voices come from

After people verbalize their critical inner voices in this manner, they often feel deeply, and they have insight into the source of their voice attacks. They have unusual clarity, as they begin to recognize that the content and tone of their voice attacks is old and familiar; their voices are expressing attitudes that were directed toward them as children. They will often say things like, “That’s what my father used to say” or “That’s the feeling I got from my mother,” or “That was the atmosphere in my home.” Recognizing where their voices originated helps people develop compassion for themselves.

Responding to your critical inner voice

In the third step of voice therapy, an individual answers back to the voice attacks. People who have thoughts like, “You’re so stupid. No one wants to hear what you are thinking. Just sit in the background and keep your mouth shut!” may respond with statements like, “I am not stupid! What I have to say is valuable and worthwhile. A lot of people are interested in me and care about what I think.” After responding, it is important for people to make rational statements about how they really are, how other people really are, and what is true about his or her social world. They may say something like, “The world isn’t a place where everyone else is brilliant and I’m the only stupid person. I’m not in elementary school anymore; no one is grading us. The truth is that people aren’t all that smart, and I’m not stupid. We are basically the same: Interesting people who have interesting things to say about what they are thinking and experiencing.”

Understanding how your voices influence your behavior

After expressing and responding to their voices, people are naturally curious and eager to understand how these patterns of self-defeating thoughts have influenced their past and impact their present-day behaviors. For example, the person with the voice that says he or she is stupid may recognize times when he or she acted less capable or confident as a result of having heard that self-attack. Having this understanding of how the critical inner voice has affected their actions is helpful when people want to change specific self-limiting behaviors.

Changing your self-limiting behaviors

Once people have identified the areas in which they limit themselves, they can begin to change themselves. They can do this by taking two actions: not to engage in the self-destructive behavior that is being encouraged by the critical inner voice and to increase the positive behaviors that go against the recommendations of the voice. For example, a person who is shy can stop avoiding social interactions and can make a point of striking up conversations with people.


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