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The Inner Critic Slideshow


I simply can’t get away from it. There’s a screen that’s probably about 20 yards x 20 yards in front of my face and I’m in a seat in a dark room. You probably figured out right now I’m at a movie theater. I’m with my son and we’re watching what he would call a thriller and what I would call a horror movie. I have to say it’s not a terrible flick, but its entire purpose for everyone in this audience is to create fear, uncertainty, and anxiety, and I’m telling you they’re doing a hell of a job! As we’re walking out of the theater, my son asks me what I thought of the movie. I know he loved it. I tell him I cannot argue that it was a well-crafted movie, and if it’s all purpose was to give me fear and anxiety for two hours then it hit the mark.

I think about how much of the dialogue I actually remember. Not much. But the visuals? My brain could probably replay 80% of that movie and tell you all the different scenes that happened that scared the ever-living crap out of me. You see, I didn’t ask my brain to do this… This comes hardwired with my brain–the ability to remember catastrophic events, things that scare me. In fact, my brain can even create visualizations that could scare me off from doing things that might be not so good for me, even when that thing might be something I really want to do. In fact…all our brains come hardwired with this ability to visualize or hold images of scary or intimidating events or things that ‘could’ or ‘might’ happen. 

If you’ve read my blogs before, you know that I’ve referred to a voice that’s often running in our minds warning us of all danger, real or possible. It’s called our inner critic. I think one of the assumptions that we all make is that our inner critic is strictly a voice. That it’s filled with words and adjectives and nouns. Basically it’s a script on how we can feel bad about ourselves. No evil mustache twisting, just a built-in protective mechanism in our brains. This is a script that our brain uses to try and save our lives.However, most of the time even the smallest amount of anxiety or uncomfortable situation causes our brain to think we are in a life-threatening situation. 

But neuroscience has a different idea about our inner critic. One that’s actually based on fact. The idea is simply this: we do not think in words, we usually think in pictures. They found that we are all born with the innate ability to create amazing visualizations. The only problem with this? We are creating visualizations that we believe or at least our mind believes in order to keep us safe. But what it is really doing is creating an enormous amount of anxiety and fear. Worse, it often stops us from entering into challenging situations that could help us thrive. 

In other words we do not need help using our mind’s projector. We do not need a tutorial on how to use the brain’s slideshow. What we really need is to learn how to create a better slideshow that will give us the emotions we’re looking for, those of courage and success, rather than anxiety and fear. We need a slideshow that helps us create that energy in motion (emotions) within us that will help us achieve our goals instead of keeping us on the bench.

No matter how old you are (ok, maybe not if you’re an infant), you have a library of your life‘s memories and images that you can use. These images are at your disposal at any given time to create the most powerful, beautiful, life-changing energy to do whatever it is you want to do. 

So, how do you create this visual slideshow for yourself? In the case of a movie, the images are put on the screen before us, live and in high definition. Well there is no more vivid screen with greater definition than our mind. After you finish this blog, take a moment, close your eyes (somewhere safe, where you aren’t operating heavy machinery) and think back on something in your recent past, something that was good. Maybe it was funny, or full of excitement, or just solidly good energy. Perhaps it was finishing a hard run or race that made you feel strong and proud. Maybe you caught up with an old friend and had the best conversation catching up on lost time. Perhaps you played in the backyard with your child and they opened up to you about something and you had a great connection.

Close your eyes, pick some memory that is full of the kinds of emotions and energy that you want right now. Visualize that memory. Think about the setting you were in, really see the colors around you, visualize the textures of what you may have been touching (your friends handshake and pat on your shoulder, or the basketball in your hand as you passed it to your child). Use all of your 5 senses to recreate that image in your mind. Pull into your minds the sounds that went with it, the dialogue with your friend or a fellow runner, the birds chirping or rain on the roof… Really see, hear, feel, smell, and taste everything as if it were happening right now. Once you have it, really see it in your mind, open your eyes. 

How do you feel? 

Can you feel the excitement you felt as you finished that race? Do you feel the heat in your face, smell the sweat of your buddy as they congratulate you, or your wife’s shampoo as she gives you a hug? Can you feel the pride and connection as you visualize your friend or child? Visualize how those emotions feel in your body just as you did in the moment. Hold those close. Those emotions are just as real to your mind now as the anxiety of your boss possibly being upset about you being late to that meeting at work. The difference is, these emotions can propel you forward. They can help you get up off the couch to go for that run, or help you enter the house after a tough day at work and make a good connection with your family.

Try practicing this every day. As you practice, you’ll find that this will become more automatic. Then, when you truly need the encouragement, the motivation, or the mental/emotional support to get up off the couch, step through the doors at the office, or make that tough phone call, you’ll have this tool readily in your mind. Just show those slides that will encourage you to create the kind of emotion and energy that will lead you to take the actions you want to take. You’ll be amazed at the surprise ending to your personal movie reel!

If you would like to learn tools and skills to help you improve your emotional aptitude, reduce your emotional isolation, lessen your avoidance of shame, fear, and anxiety, and enable you to reach your goals, break old habits, or create new ones, I can help. We can meet virtually or in person at my office in Waterbury, Vermont.  Just click the button or the link below for a free consultation and let’s talk. 

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