From Inner Critic to Inner Ally


From Inner Critic to Inner Ally

Tale of the Day:
Transforming an Inner Critic

Last year I taught the “Transforming Negative Self-Talk process” from Steve Andreas’ (my father) book “More Transforming Negative Self Talk,” in this recorded webinar program available for viewing here. Below I’ve included a transcript of my demonstration with a participant volunteer during the webinar. In addition to the demonstration that I share below, the webinar includes:

1) An introduction to inner negative dialogue and discussion of many attempted solutions that don’t work that many people (including experts) mistakenly think will work.

2) A group guided exercise of a key component of the Transforming Negative Self Talk Process.

3) A handout of the process.

4) Discussion and Q & A with the group.

Participant Demonstration:

The following transcript of working with a woman volunteer is verbatim, other than small edits for clarity such as eliminating filler words such as ‘um’ and ‘uh.’

Mark: So I invite you to choose some situation, and I won’t really need any content about the situation, but I will ask you, just about the phrase—whatever the critical phrase is—for you to share that if you’re willing. And so I’d say on a scale of one to ten, choose some situation that’s maybe like a two or a three, of some time where you either criticized yourself in the present moment, or some inner dialogue reminding you of a past failure, or foretelling some future situation where you might mess up.

Toni: Oh, ok. Do you want me to tell you now?

Mark: Do you have one in mind?

Toni: Um, yes, I have one in mind. In particular a family member called me a fruit cake, so that usually triggers—oh, I’m jumping ahead.

M: Oh yeah, so let me just ask you this. Is this something that you then repeated to yourself afterwards?

T: No, I hear it in my head.

M: Ok, so you said you hear this voice in your head. Ok, wonderful.

T: Yes

M: So go ahead and close your eyes…

T: Ok.

M: …And think of one specific time when this phrase popped up inside. And you don’t have to tell us about the time, but you can just mentally step back into this experience, seeing what you saw, hearing what you heard, feeling what you felt at the time, when this phrase popped in, “You’re a fruit cake.” And notice the sound of this voice, and just listen to the sound of this voice, and it sounds like you already know whose voice this is, but notice, is it in your voice or is it this relative?

T: It’s the relative.

M: And often this is the case, even if it had been in your own voice, everything we learn we learn from somebody else. So if you had heard it in your own voice, I would have asked, “Who did you learn from to speak in this way?” But in this case you’re already aware it’s this relative. So go ahead and close your eyes again, and you can see this relative now, and add in a picture of their face so you can not only hear their voice but see their facial expressions in this communication. And you can also add in a larger scope in time and space, so you can see the context that they were in when they said this. So you can see the larger context of where they are, [Toni nods] and yeah, great. So now seeing both their facial expressions as they say this, and also the context that they’re speaking from, and the place in time, you can begin to be aware of this person’s limitations, or frustrations, their life situation that they’re speaking from. And you can realize that what they’re saying may have a whole lot to do with their situation, and very little to do with you.

T: Absolutely.

M: Ok, so that fits your experience.

T: Absolutely.

M: So just take a little time to take in this information about their limitations, their frustrations… And now that you have this added into the picture, go ahead and ask this relative, “If you were able to speak fully and honestly about all of your experience, would you like to clarify your message in any way?” And notice what response comes back.

T: You want me to tell you?

M: Yeah, did you get a clarification back?

T: Yeah, she was actually not meaning it in such a negative connotation—as something light and fun and different—but I experienced it as very negative.

M: Yeah, Ok great.

T: I had a trigger for that and I’d take it as a negative. In my past experience, I had a trigger for that and I’d take it as a negative. So when you just had me close my eyes, and do the exercise, it was quite different seeing it from her perspective.

M: Ok, great, great. So close your eyes, then, and thank her for this clarification, and invite her to see whether she wants to change the phrase or message so it really communicates that lightness and fun that she was intending to communicate.

T: Ok, yes she did want to do that.

M: And what’s the new phrase that she’s saying now?

T: Well she actually just said, “You’re very cheering and compassionate and loving, and kind.” She was saying a lot of, um, explanations.

M: Oh wow, that’s pretty…

T: It was great to hear.

M: Great.

T: I didn’t expect that!

M: Great, great, ok. Wonderful, so go ahead and close your eyes and just enjoy listening to this clarified message. And what I’ll say for the rest of the group is that this has already gone really positive. The next step in the process is to find the positive intention—well, we already have that. That’s already come out now just in clarifying the message, but it doesn’t always. Sometimes the clarified message may still sound negative or something, and then we just ask the voice, “OK, when you communicate that, what is your positive intention in saying this?” So we’d keep asking this question until it went positive. We already have that in this case, so that step’s already complete. So you can close your eyes [Toni closes her eyes] and enjoy the experience of listening to the clarified message of all these positives, that, really this is what she was intending to communicate all along. [Toni nods]

T: I love this one.

M: So this is already a big improvement to you. So go ahead and give some thanks for this clarification of the message, and the positive purpose. And go ahead and ask her whether she’d like to continue talking to you on the inside in this way, to fully communicate what she’s intending to communicate to you in a way that you can really take it in… really get it.

T: Yes, she is willing to do that.

M: Ok, great, so now what we’re going to do is just test this out. So invite her to test out speaking to you in this new way, in one of the situations where in the past she used the old way. And just find out how well it works.

T: OK. [Nodding] OK.

M: And how was that?

T: That was very good.

M: Ok, great. Go ahead and do one more in the past.

T: [nodding] Yeah, she said “crazy” but crazy is ok. Crazy is good. [smiling]

M: Ok. Great, great, yeah. As long as it works for you.

T: Crazy means fun, maybe, in our circle.

M: Yeah.

T: I took that as a good one, ha!

M: Great, that’s the important thing is that she’s able to communicate in a way where you can take it in, in the way it’s meant.

T: Yeah, wonderful.

M: So do one more where in the past it was the old phrase, and this voice can practice the new phrase now.

T: That’s very nice. [smiling] I like that one. I watched her do it, in front of other relatives she said it nicely. Instead of calling me the other fruit-cake word, she said nice things about me. In the way that I want to hear them.

M: Great, so now go ahead and close your eyes and do one more. [nodding after a minute or two.] So we practiced some in the past and you can do more from the past on your own if you like, to give this inner voice more practice talking to you in this way that really communicates this positive purpose for you. And now I want you to imagine stepping into a future situation, and invite this voice to practice speaking to you in this new way in this future situation as well, and find out how it goes.

T: Very good. Very different. Very nice. [smiling]

M: Great, yeah. I can tell. Yeah. And go ahead and do one other in the future as well.

T: Do you want me to explain these?

M: You don’t need too, yeah, thanks for asking.

T: Ok. [closing eyes again] Actually it was pretty… emotionally it was making me want to cry; it was very nice, very deep, deep work, very nice. I, I mean in a good way, good way.

M: Yeah, yeah. I get that. Great, so—and of course you can practice more future situations as much as feels useful to you on your own as well. And it looks like this is going to work really well for you. So lets just do one other thing…

T: Ok.

M: Which is to close your eyes, and just ask on the inside, “Is there any part of me that has any objection to this voice speaking in this new way on the inside in the future?”

T: No.

M: Alright. Well then you have my permission to continue to… this voice can continue to speak to you in this way and really communicate what it has been intending to all along. And one other piece that I would add too, that you might like, is that—because you’re going to be interacting with this relative again, I’m guessing?

T: Yeah.

M: And so she may—the real relative out in the real world—she may still use the old phrase.

T: Yes.

M: So go ahead and just close your eyes and ask if this voice on the inside would be willing to act as interpreter for her in the future. (This is a little piece that I thought of that isn’t in the original pattern.)

T: Oh, I love that! Yes, definitely.

M: Great.

T: That’s awesome! What a great tool. Ok.

M: Awesome, alright, well, that’s the process.

T: That’s easy, but it seems so hard when you’re in it! [laughing] This is a great process.
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