Do you know that nagging voice telling you you’re not good enough? That bullying companion holding you back? Or the constant reproaches bubbling up from your consciousness? The nasty ‘friend’ who censures and disapprovals, making you cry. And the rock which stops you from getting out of bed in the morning? Everyone has an inner critic. It’s something we’ve become to accept.
But why? When it’s not helpful, kind, or life-enhancing it seems bizarre to subject ourselves to a constant source of negativity and anger that we would never even consider in relation to someone else. Especially when we know how much it holds us back. Whilst watching it wreak havoc upon our lives, we listen and let it hold us back.
What if we could simply put pen to paper, and write away our inner critic?
Write off your inner critic, a two-day course at London’s City Lit facilitated by Charmaine Pollard does not promise to make that critic go away, but does introduce participants to writing tools and techniques which can help to quieten the voice, dull its impact, or even understand it.
Drawing on fifteen years of counseling experience and practice of writing and journal therapy, as well as texts from eminent researchers and tutors in the area including James Pennebaker, Victoria Field, and Kate Thompson, Charmaine led us through exercises that included visualization, letter writing, poetry reading, journaling, questioning and more to start to become curious about that debilitating voice holding us back, and finding a new way to work through the struggles it brings up.
Writing as a form of therapy
The process of articulating and letting words flow from the subconscious being is one that offers both an objective lens and a cathartic letting go. Undertaking it in a group setting could be terrifying. At the start, there is a sense of judgment from within as we all worry that our prose is not perfect. It is normal to focus on sentence construction and the craft rather than the sense of well-being that it could result in. But as the days progressed we came to be more open and honest, deepening the journey within and finding upon the page an opportunity to explore new perspectives.
There’s also something reassuring about being with individuals who seem to all intents and purposes, pretty normal. It’s not that any one of us is particularly messed up – more that everyone has things going on in their lives that could be addressed and enhanced through the process of exploring them in writing. Hearing experiences being validated by others or just knowing that someone else has empathy is an enormously rewarding experience. Allowing the space to be vulnerable and the time to go deeper is a gift so many of us do not allow ourselves, but is hugely important.
We are important
It’s this which is the most important takeaway. The sense that this is important. We are important. And worth investing that time in. If the inner critic was quiet enough through this course just to allow us to remember that and commit to a continuing practice of writing, it was certainly worth doing.
Techniques to write off your inner critic
- Ask it questions. Why are you here? What are you seeking to protect me from? What is the evidence for your judgment?
- Make a list of what would happen if you stop listening to your inner critic. Make a list of what will happen if you don’t. Use these as motivation.
- Imagine your inner critic as an animal. Give it characteristics and attributes which help you to visualize it as something real, but also powerless.
- Build a bank of evidence against its judgments by writing down one thing every day that you are grateful for.
(Last Updated: July 20, 2022)