Negative thinking and 'that' inner critic
As we have grown up we have all developed an inner world and in that world, it is you who is central, although we may lose this sense of centrality along the way. In that world, you are in a constant dialogue with yourself and indeed with others too. There is often a drama going on in one's mind and body. You may find yourself saying things like: "it will never work, did I do that right"? "Does he or she really like me"?
We have in us an 'inner critic', call it what you will. It is highly likely this is born out of our experience with self and others and our emotional and cognitive responses to them. This 'inner critic' can happily take charge of ourselves and affect our lives and our sense of who we are in any given moment and in situations we are a part of in our lives.
This inner critic which may at times help us be cautious in certain situations. Can become detrimental to our daily living. It's influence having a voice in all corners or aspects of our lives. Eating away at our self-esteem, self-image and our relational endeavours with others.
Counselling work provides an explorative opportunity which benefits our self-development, self-awareness and self-understanding. Journaling, keeping a diary helps in that over time you may come to recognise patterns to your negative thinking, triggers and the emotions that are a consequence of thinking this way.
Working creatively it may help to write about these thoughts, you inner critic. It may help that you are invited to imagine your inner critic, to draw it, does it have a particular shape or form, is it big or small? Does it leave you feeling big or small? Does it have a name? What feelings does it leave you with and how strong on a scale of 1-10 are these. You may feel working with a sand tray can help too. What kind of dialogue do you have with this inner critic, what does it say and what would you say back to it? It may be useful to ask that you argue back at it. Helpful too to notice how you feel having given it what for.
"You're never good at anything"
"I know I am good at.."
This approach can help dispel its voice. With all of the above in mind, it may be worthwhile thinking about the types of negative thinking you have acquired as there are different categories, naming these can be a useful part in you taking steps to taking charge of your own voice.
- Catastrophisation: "because of that failure then I am definitely going to fail now"
- Minimisation: "everybody does that"
- Expectations: "it won't work, because.."
- Self Blame: "it's me, I'm just not good at it"
Another useful tenet of counselling work is that counselling provides a safe and supportive environment in which you are able to explore what you may feel are some of the roots of your negative thinking. It is said negative thinking is often a learned habit. Being criticised and shamed as a child has an impact. Can you remember when it started? Or indeed a time when you felt most criticised and undervalued. What was that like, how does it inform you now? How have you introjected certain beliefs and attitudes towards yourself, what experiences have helped increase this?
Counselling provides us with the opportunity to explore in a safe and supportive environment our experiences of negative thinking. It can help in validating our thoughts and feelings. It can help in our recognition, personal development, self-understanding and self-awareness. It is an explorative opportunity to uncover the roots of negative habits and thoughts. Being heard can be extremely beneficial.
Working creatively with negative thinking through the mediums of journaling, art and dialoging are all opportunities which help us to find our own authority and voice. An approach that looks at the triggers and feelings behind such thoughts is useful. Providing a reparative opportunity with yourself and learning to be empathic and compassionate with you all go some way in moving forward and taking charge of your thoughts and sense of self, whilst building upon your self-esteem.
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About Justin Lee Slaughter
I have a background in counselling and psychotherapy, social science and in healthcare with a broad range of experience in both adult and adolescent mental health. I manage a small private practice, I currently volunteer as part of a counselling team at THT Brighton and Hove, as well as working in community mental health support services.