August 17, 2013 Pamela Hale Trachta

Managing Those Inner Critics

Do you hear voices?

In case you think that's an accusation, everyone I know does. I mean right now I hear a voice saying I really should not be writing this in my nightie, since it's 11am and that is unseemly, or something like that. Lazy. Irresponsible. Hear that inner critic?

The good thing is that right now, I'm just not listening.  I'm listening to another voice inside that is asking me to focus on what you as a reader might need right now, and how to approach today's topic.

"Good for you,"  you might be saying to me. "But what if I can't stop listening to the critical voice?"

That would be one of the most important questions you could ask. Especially if you suffer from an eating disorder. Because I know that learning how to manage those inner critical voices is a key to your recovery.

You probably have developed very articulate inner critics who tell you that you don't look right and don't have control over yourself. Then these voices shame you for objecting to what they're saying, and then tell you how messed up you must be because you're listening. And on and on.

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite authors, says this is like being tuned into station KFUK.

So how do you change the station?

Here are some simple but powerful tips to put you back in control with your hand on that radio dial:

1. When you hear a voice criticizing you, ask it who is speaking. Ask how old it is.

2. If the voice is the voice of a younger you, treat her as you would a treasured child. Give her a hug and tell her you're in charge now and you will keep her safe.

3. If you can't hear anything but static, simply STOP and breathe. See if you can quiet your body and listen. The hardest thing is to just sit with the feeling and remember it is just a feeling.

4. Ask inside to hear the 'voice' of an energy inside you that is positive and loving. They're there. We all have an archetypal Great Mother inside, a Queen, and a Heroine. See if you can find those.

5. Simply change the frequency. Get up and do a yoga pose or jumping jacks. Put on some music. Call a friend. Ignore the tyrant.

6.  Get some help with the voices. There are so many wonderful therapies for this uniquely human problem. (When was the last time you heard a lion criticize itself?)

7.  Congratulate yourself every time you practice one of these interventions.

8. Mostly, don't feel crazy or alone. We all have critical voices and they are part of human suffering, and definitely part of eating disorders. But we can learn to manage what we listen to. We can learn to change our thoughts. We can learn to believe that we're all right, exactly as we are.

Honestly, it's just a matter of practice.