How to Silence Your Inner-Critic

Here’s how to dial-down negative thinking, challenge ingrained habits, and give your inner-critic a break: all are overworked and need some TLC! -BB

Cohabitating

Pulling a packed car up to your college dormitory. Turning the key to a shared apartment in a new city. Posting your spare bedroom on social media: at some point in our lives, most of us have entered into relationships with roommates.

The process can be an emotional crapshoot. Even if we know and like a friend or colleague, moving in, setting up, and then living with them adds a litany of new considerations.

We may learn to:

  • Politely close the bedroom door behind us if they become too familiar, too fast.
  • Call a meeting to stipulate ground rules if s/he bangs around the apartment at all hours.
  • Tune them out if they spew unsolicited beliefs about anything and everything.

Managing the realities of cohabitation offers trial-and-error rites of passage. It also provides opportunities to formulate pivotal life insights about how to best treat the one roommate that you’ll never move on from – You.

The Roommate Within

Psychologists and Psychotherapists have many terms for the narrative voice inside each of us: Ego, Introject, Shadow Self, Automatic Thinking (among others…).

During therapy, I often refer to this internal chatter as “the roommate” because it helps clients recall the skills they’ve adopted and polished through the process of sharing space with another. Ironically, clients usually consider past relationships more fairly and appropriately than the interactions they have with themselves.

They’re not alone: Because our internal thoughts become habitual, many of us never question our limiting self-judgment or appropriately manage our negative self-talk.

Taming the Roommate Within

As clients conjure and address their negative internal dialog, it becomes evident that these messages are not mutterings from twisted monsters looking to overtake their sanity. Instead, these missives are most often the frightened echoes of the children they once were. 

As adults, we’ve hopefully had enough real-world trial-and-error to reach a level of maturity that no longer requires parental supervision. However, when we don’t actively update our thinking patterns, we perpetuate old perspectives that no longer work for who we’ve become – and this takes its emotional toll.

Perhaps a teacher once remarked that you were stupid, so you still avoid intricate conversations. Maybe your parents raised you under enormous expectations, so you’re chronically unfulfilled – suffering from anxiety and dissatisfaction.

Just as you wouldn’t demand an eight-year-old take hold of a steering wheel and drive you around town, giving your inner-child the keys to your adult life is equally reckless.

Therapy is about identifying your ingrained habits, and then updating your brain’s software so that you can appropriately tackle your adult life using time-honored mature perspectives.

Be The Better Roommate

The next time you find yourself overwhelmed, fearful, or frustrated, instead of scrutinizing the perceived issue, focus on managing your emotions around the issue.

Step back and call attention to the real source of the conflict. Realize that wrestling with tantrum-like thoughts is akin to child abuse. Instead, hug the cranky kid in your head, and then send him to bed (he’s probably super-tired from overuse).

Credit yourself with the knowledge you’ve collected over the years and act from this maturity and understanding. Enjoy the benefits of feeling right at home – in a place you’ve created with experience.

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