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Seven ways to get your critical voice to shut up

Any one of these can work.  Experiment with them until you find one or two (or more) that work for you.

  1. Imagine Elmer Fudd or Bugs Bunny saying the same words you are hearing in your head.  Imagine any comic figure, cartoon figure that you find ridiculous saying those words.  It works because your critical voice is ridiculous.  It just sounds ominous, so change it.
  2. Use a mantra—the Jesus Prayer, a Hindu mantra, an affirmation like “I enjoy writing and I’m good at it” will work.   If you say it over and over again, it will become a habit.  It will blot out the negative voice(s) and you might reach enlightenment, too.
  3. Ask yourself “Whose voice is this?”  You will be surprised to find out that the voice is an old teacher, one of your difficult parents, an old school chum being nasty, the result of something you told yourself after you got a bad grade on a composition, or a comment on the composition.  It’s worth spending some time tracking this down and realizing it has nothing to do with what’s going on now.  You no longer have the take the criticism seriously.
  4. Use EMDR—Rapid Eye Therapy—to eliminate the painful feelings aroused by listening to these voices.  Francine Shapiro, Ph.D, discovered the technique and she has at least two excellent books on the subject. 
  5. Write as quickly as you can for 15 minutes, then take a break and try it again.  It’s hard to keep it up for a long period of time, and when you get tired you might find the voice gets louder.
  6. Another technique is to ask yourself “What need is not being met that the voice is revealing?”  You may be hungry, lonely or tired. You may need to nap, eat or call a friend. You may need a hug or cup of tea, or a walk around the block. Even if you can’t find a way to fill the need, just knowing what it is can bring relief.
  7. Finally, pay attention to the feelings that are aroused when you listen to the voice.  You may feel helpless, ashamed, angry, lonely.  Try to stay with the feeling and see what memories it brings up.  It probably is the way you felt a lot of the time when you were a child.  In a way, you are experiencing a flashback.  Knowing this can alleviate the voice.  Otherwise revisiting the memories and realizing you may have drawn a wrong conclusion (“I can’t do anything right”) from an incident where you parent was critical because of a migraine.