How to defeat the Inner Critic with the ‘Good and Bad Angel’
Do you have a nagging voice inside your head that tells you that you can’t succeed?
If you do, then you have an ‘inner critic’. This might also be called the ‘inner enemy’ or ‘inner opponent’. However, whatever you call it the ‘inner critic’ has only one purpose – to stop you from doing what you want to do with your goals. (Tweet this!)
So, in this post I’m going to talk a little about this infuriating little obstacle and the things that you can do to try and undermine it (including a great programme from my writing mentor, Jurgen Wolff, that can really help in defeating the ‘inner critic.’)
So, what is the inner critic about?
If you have a similar state of mind to me, then you probably have a very powerful inner critic. Now, I’m a keen writer (and if you have been following this blog recently – and my personal blog ‘nicholas-davies.com‘ – you’ll know that I’m currently doing a 30-day challenge to write at least 500 words a day.) Now, us writers can be particularly prone to the inner critic because – let’s face it – what we write is never good enough. There is always something we feel isn’t quite right about what we have written and we are really good at beating ourselves up for not having produced a piece of work that meets our exacting standards.
The fact of the matter, however, is that anybody who has a creative flair (which is what you need to succeed) is likely to have a powerful inner critic. This can apply to any field where creativity is required and it is very difficult to combat when it appears. In fact, sometimes, the effects can be crippling. For instance, ever heard of ‘writer’s block’? This can be as a result of the inner critic.
However, the good news is that it is not impossible and there are solutions. Recently, a writing associate – Dee – made a comment on this post on my personal blog about stopping the inner critic from editing every word she wrote as she went along.
This is actually a common problem for writers as a whole. This occured when working on my novel, as I found when writing each chapter that I was sorely tempted to edit it before I had even come to the end. Jurgen’s advice in this situation is purely not succumb to temptation. Instead, you should condition yourself to just write and keep going until you reach the end. After having taken a suitable break, you should then come back to your work with fresh eyes and then start editing. You can then do as many edits as you like.
Again, this can apply to any project you’re working on. The main point is that we should not expect perfection straight away. Like all these things, you need to put some graft in before its right. This certainly links in with the ELC concept which was featured in this previous post.
Having said that, it’s probably likely that the majority of us will be tempted to review everything we do as we are going along anyway. To be honest, its human nature to want to get things right. So if you are the sort of person who allows the inner critic to over-analyse every minute detail of what you are doing, here’s a technique which I’ve used to negate this problem.
Have you ever seen those cartoons where a protagonist has to make a decision about something – usually in the context of a moral dilemma? When this happens, a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ angel (or ‘devil’) version of the protagonist usually appears in the ether above them in a thought bubble. These rivals then start vying for the attention of the protagonist in order to influence him or her to make the decision from their point of view.
In the context of goal-achievement, you could view the ‘bad angel’ as your inner critic who tries to undermine your every action. Conversely, your ‘good angel’ could be your inner guide whose job is offer as much praise and support as possible.
Let’s use the example of writing to illustrate this.
Say you have written a paragraph of a short story. As you come to the end of the paragraph, you succumb to the temptation to go back over what you have just written due to the unruly influence of the inner critic. So back you go, and as you start reading through the paragraph the inner critic begins picking everything apart. They start saying things like: ‘Oh, that’s not very good, is it? You could put that a better way! Why can’t you think of anything better? You really are wasting your time with this!’
How can you switch this voice off?
You can help this by visualising your ‘inner critic’ as a ‘bad angel’ or’devil’ (complete with horns and pitchfork) appearing above you as it talks and noting how it looks, acts, speaks and behaves. It certainly helps if you can make this character as ridiculous, absurd and comical as you like. Making it look stupid and idiotic is a great way of disassociating yourself from the critic, causing it to lessen its hold over you and become more irrelevant. Notice where it is – is it next to you, above you, to the front or behind?
As it is pontificating and holding forth, imagine a ‘good angel’ appearing next to the ‘bad angel’ and visualise it bumping the bad one out of the way, so much so that it causes it to shrink or even ‘buzz off’ (just like a a balloon where the open neck has been released letting all the air out and making a ‘raspberry’ type noise.) View the ‘good angel’ as being the most perfect, beautiful and angelic being that you have ever seen (it can be male or female or whatever!)
Imagine it speaking to you about what you have written and hear it providing you with nothing but praise for what you have done. Imagine it finding really good things to say about your work and pointing them out quite clearly. Maybe it could even make suggestions as to how to improve by saying things like: ‘That’s really good and works well, but maybe this might work even better if…’ Make it’s feedback as positive as possible! As you work along, visualise the ‘good angel’ constantly re-appearing to replace the ‘bad one’ each time the inner critic re-appears.
By doing this, you are visualising the removal of the inner critic and its replacement by a more helpful inner guide. Repeat this enough times, and calling upon your inner guide (the ‘good angel’) will be come an automatic action. Over a period of time, your default position will be for the inner guide to appear and speak to you, as opposed to the inner critic that wants to undermine you all the way.
Of course, should the inner critic re-appear again if you happen to be working on something in future (which, invariably, it does when you least expect it), simply summon the ‘good angel’ again to displace it.
Practice the ‘bad angel/good angel’ technique every time the inner critic starts intervening, as described above. Keep practicing this over and over again, remembering to summon the ‘good angel’ each time the ‘bad angel’ manifests itself.
However, if you want to make use of a great guided-visualisation programme that can help you eliminate the inner critic for good, then I couldn’t recommend more the ‘Tame Your Inner Critic‘ programme created by Jurgen Wolff.
As a qualified NLP practitioner and life-long devotee of the creative arts, Jurgen fully understands how undermining the ‘inner critic’ can be for people who are looking to achieve success.
As a result of this, he created ‘TYIC‘ as a three part set of audio MP3s. The first two MP3s basically provide you with an audio over-view of how the inner critic works and how you can release yourself from its influence. The second is all about getting in touch with the inner critic and understanding it as your ‘enemy’ (just like the classic Sun Tzu quote, ‘Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself’!) As well as the audios, you receive PDF transcripts so you can review the material at any time you wish without having to listen to the entire thing.
The final MP3 is a guided-visualisation, where Jurgen takes you through a process similar to the one outlined above. Here, Jurgen provides you with the means to confront the inner critic head on and transform it into a wonderful inner guide which can help you positively improve and grow. Jurgen also supplies a further 30 MP3s which you can listen to each day as a way of further boosting your taming of the inner critic. (I particularly like the latter, as this is effectively a 30-day challenge – all you need to be able to effectively form a habit!)
There are two versions of the programme: the Silver edition, which includes all of the above features, or the Gold edition, which also includes some bonuses such as Jurgen’s excellent ‘Power Trances’ CD.
I have used this programme myself and have found it incredibly useful as a way of over-riding the inner critic. As a long-time fan of audio-based guided visualisations, this one is particularly well structured with some great additional resources that can really help you to get to grips with the whole ‘inner critic’ problem. The only thing I would say is that you need tobe dedicated to it to make it work. That means you need to use the three main Mp3s regularly and also make sure that you listen to Jurgen’s 30 day MP3 consecutively. Otherwise, it is unlikely you will see any results. Like all these programmes, you need to repeat them frequently in order for you to feel any positive effect.
What do you think of this? I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below to tell me what you think.
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