We all need to handle our own inner voice carefully
We are familiar with the experience of silently speaking to ourselves. When we do something stupid, forget to do something very important, or say something inappropriate or out of context, we are likely to follow up with scathing self-criticism. This common phenomenon is what psychologists call the “inner voice,” and they have been studying it for a long time.
For some, this voice speaks up occasionally. For others, the inner voice comes more frequently. Also known as internal monologue, it is a verbal stream of consciousness – thinking in words.
It also refers to the nearly incessant banter one has with oneself. Much of what people consciously describe as “thinking about” may be thought of as an internal monologue, a conversation with oneself. The inner voice is completely natural and healthy. It is a mixture of our positive, negative, and neutral thoughts. This internal dialogue can influence our feelings and behaviour. When our internal voice is negative, harsh, or self-criticizing, we can expect it to exacerbate our stress.
In silent self-talk, we are our own judge and jury. Many times, it amounts to a kind of mental torture. Most often, the quality of our inner voice is influenced by our parents, friends, and others. It often happens that we argue with ourselves on contentious issues, analyzing them from different angles, evaluating the choice we made or are going to make. Take a small example.
A person ‘A’ has quit smoking 2 days back. He has been resisting the temptation of re-starting smoking for few days. Now today he has called some very close friends for dinner. He is badly stuck whether he should smoke with his friends today or not.
His inner voice says, nothing doing don’t smoke, it’s injurious for health, so resist the smoking. However, another part of ‘I’ argues, it doesn’t matter if he smokes for a few days more. For the last few hours, he is speaking to himself on this contentious issue. He is a speaker, listener, observer and critique, at the same time.
Likewise, when we have to take some decision whether bigger or small one, we keep on speaking to ourselves, analysing various options. The conflict often arises, whether we take decisions from our heart (emotional aspect) or mind (based on logic and rationale). No doubt, decisions based on logic are always preferable but sometimes emotions overpower us.
All such issues are handled by our inner voice. Similarly, we experience another conflict between our ‘inner self and the ego part of Self. It’s a major area of inner conflict and contradictions, whether we listen to our inner conscience or the egoic sense of Self.
Our inner voice is also our strong critic. When we make any mistake, it is our inner voice or the critic that not only show us the mirror but also very often criticize us. This becomes a highly destructive feature of our inner voice when we become highly critical of ourselves. Our inner critic also encourages us to see the world through a negative filter. The critical inner voice, a concept generated by clinical psychologist and author Robert Firestone, is developed early in life, especially after stressful and traumatic events.
According to Dr Firestone’s daughter, Dr Lisa Firestone explains that “Destructive thought processes influence us to make decisions that are against our interests and to take actions that negatively impact our lives. Unfortunately, our critical inner voice is so well integrated into our thinking that it not only affects how we act but also how we are treated by others.
If we shut ourselves up and refuse to be social, people may perceive us as timid or unfriendly. These actions not only influence us but help shape our relationships.”
Our inner voice not only include negative thoughts but also our beliefs and attitudes that affect our self-esteem. It sometimes encourages and strongly promotes self-defeating and self-destructive behaviours.
This judgmental advisor also warns us about other people, facilitates cynical attitudes toward others, and is likely to paint a negative picture of the world. At times, we may recognize what our critical inner voice is telling us, while on other occasions we may be unclear about our negative thinking and simply accept it as being true.
This doesn’t mean the inner voice is always negative and judgemental in the sense that we criticize ourselves on our decisions, behaviour, or choices we make. There is a positive side to the inner voice too. Through inner dialogues, we analyze and evaluate the situation by speaking to ourselves. The obvious benefit that we can see is that in the future, we will not recommit our blunder, regardless of circumstances. We learn lessons, and through the inner voice, we reinforce our resolve.
Most people do invoke inner dialogue quite often for positive purposes. The problem, however, is when we become too critical and negative about ourselves. Sometimes this tendency increases and may get out of hand if we continue to indulge in such inner dialogues repetitively.
We are often unaware of the negative impact of such destructive thoughts on our emotions, actions, and the overall quality of our lives. To challenge this mental process, we have all the power to recognize and analyze our own critical inner voice, especially when destructive thoughts come to mind.
Recognizing this voice helps us to trace the origin of the negative aspect of the inner voice. We should also learn to discern how and when these voices are triggered and resist the temptation to get caught in a stream of negative thoughts.
Whenever we are caught by the critical voice, we should immediately become aware. Awareness is a prerequisite to handling any problem. Those who are carried away by their negative inner voice is only because of lack of or limited self-awareness. They are, in a sense, not aware of themselves deeply. We need to live consciously, fully aware and mindfully to control our own inner world. Once we’re fully aware of a situation, dilution of our negative voice will begin. The weakening of those thoughts automatically begins.
Increased self-awareness can refine and broaden our sense of self, outshining this internal critic. The better we know ourselves, the better we are able to make conscious choices and decisions about our lives. We can reshape our self-perception and understand who we really are and what we really want in our lives.
For more articles – Click here