Core Understanding to Overcoming Barriers and Achieve Wellbeing

The Role of the Inner Voice in Overcoming Barriers and Achieving Wellbeing

We all have an inner voice providing the voice-under commentary of our moment-by-moment experience of life, narrating our stream of consciousness. It’s part of the package of being human and conscious.

At this point we need to apply two simple questions (as set by Eckhart Tolle in his book ‘New Earth’):

  • Am I the voice (thoughts) that are going through my head?
  • Or, am I the one who is aware that these thoughts are going through my head? 

If you believe you are the voice in your head, you will, unquestioningly, follow its instruction and comply with its interpretation of events.

If you believe that you are the one who is aware of the voice (i.e. ‘you’ are something greater that can observe and examine the voice) then you have the power to follow it, veto it or retrain it or even silence it.

Without being consciously aware of that distinction, we could easily abdicate our power to the inner voice without realising that we are far more than our inner voice.

We only listen to those thoughts because they come from within. We not only listen to them, we agree with them, no matter how unreasonable they are.” – Martin Seligman

The Nature Of The Inner Voice

The voice means well because it is highly protective. It seeks to keep us safe from pain and uses fear (of the unknown, ridicule and failure) to keep us withdrawn, cossetted within our comfort zone.

Research has shown that 75% of our thoughts are negative. This means our default setting for thought is set to deficit – a pre-occupation with what’s wrong. What’s wrong in the world, in others but most especially with oneself.

Therefore, rather than the neutral descriptor of ‘Inner Voice’, it is more accurate to call it our Inner Critic.

If untrained, it’s way is bullying or subterfuge.

It will say whatever it needs to, to keep us small; when we try to do something new, the voice tells us that we’re going to fail.

When we suffer a setback, the voice tells us that we’ll never amount to anything.

And when we do our best, the voice tells us that our best will never be good enough. It keeps us second-guessing ourselves, eroding self-trust, self-belief and acceptance.

Uncontested, it can cause a myriad of problems, including performance fear, procrastination (giving in to creative avoidance), self-doubt, guilt, worry, and more.

One example is its role in generating unhealthy stress levels.

Unhealthy stress is the overstimulation of our sympathetic nervous system, the system that triggers our fight / flight / freeze response.

While this system is useful for survival, it was not designed for the over activation of ‘Watch out! Get away – impending pain’ signals from a hyper-active inner critic.

Repeat those alert signals several times a day, and it would leave us emotionally exhausted, unable to learn, powerless.

On the journey toward wellbeing, the Inner Critic is definitely one of the internal barriers to address.

The first step towards wellbeing then is an awareness of the subversive nature of the inner critic. The second is to recognise you do not have to be subject to it. The third is taking deliberate action.

That deliberate action would be to retrain or silence the Inner Critic.

Options for retraining from Inner Critic to Inner Coach:

  • Words and affirmations
  • Reframing

Options for silencing the Inner Critic:

  • Detachment
  • Mindful relaxation

Retraining our Inner Critic

Words and Affirmations

The good news is that just as we have a physiological immune system (soldiers that stand guard of our physical wellbeing, white blood corpuscles) we also have a psychological immune system.

Its function is to fight off unhappiness; the soldiers here are the words we use in conscious self-talk.

Words are pockets of potency. The question is, what words carry the greatest potency for you? They are the words, that when you say them, you feel energized, stronger, clearer, more yourself and empowered.

A colleague of him has identified one such adjective for himself: ‘powerfully’. He likes to 'speak powerfully', 'connect powerfully', 'live powerfully'.

Imagine knowing and using these words on a regular basis, especially as we speak to ourselves. Positive statements from self to self are known as affirmations.

Affirmations are short, powerful statements supporting a preferred state you seek. They are conscious thoughts and help make us more conscious of our thoughts.

Perhaps the most famous affirmation is, “Every day, in every way, my life is getting better and better.”

However if you include your words of potency within affirmations, that phrase is potentiated. E.g. “Each day, I strike such a mighty blow on the anvil of Life that I use, to the utmost, all that I am” – Talbot Mundy

If repeated often, this conscious thought replaces the degrading effects of unconscious thought, our inner critic.

Reframing

Life is the story we have told ourselves about the events within life. How we ‘frame’ (or interpret) a series of events is the meaning we give them. But we can also chose to view the same events from a different perspective – this is called reframing.

The same action could be seen as heroic or idiotic or cowardly depending on the perspective (frame). By changing how we view something (reframing) we can take a significantly different meaning and thus response to it.

The more often we apply this conscious thinking, we retrain the Inner Voice towards what we want, more on our side than its side.

Silencing our Inner Critic

Thoughts have weight. When a stressed person says, “I have a lot on my mind” they have a lot of thinking going on, and those thoughts are weighing them down.

Some thoughts are definitely ‘heavier’ than others – thoughts of anxiety, analysis, self-doubt… and most thoughts from the Inner Critic.

And there is this intriguing insight, ‘We’re at our best when we have less on our mind, than more.’ With less thinking, we are more in a state of ‘being’ – free to be in the moment and ‘be with’ whatever / whoever we are with, as opposed to pre-occupied with thought.

Detachment & Being in the Moment

This brings us to detachment. The ability to let go, in particular, let go of thought.

Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth) recommends this exercise to develop this ability.

Pay attention to the gap between your thoughts—when one thought subsides and before another arises. In this way, you draw consciousness away from mind activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking.

When these gaps occur, you dis-identify from your mind and feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. This is the essence of meditation. 

Tolle draws our attention to the ‘spacious awareness’ realm of no thought. This place feels empty (yet full), open and warm. It is the calm, quiet place of wellbeing.

Mindful Relaxation

Co-incidentally this state of relaxed alertness is the state that mindful relaxation or hypnosis takes us to. Slowing down our thinking to the point where conscious brain (inner voice) is silent and the unconscious can be accessed.

Conclusion

Our Inner Voice can impede our progress or accelerate it. The untrained Inner Voice is our most raucous critic and will sabotage our efforts. Whereas the trained Inner Voice can become our strongest support structure, our Inner Coach.