Identifying the Critical Inner Voice

Identifying the critical inner voice

The critical inner voice is the nagging, negative, debilitating little squeak that appears when we are learning and in the mood for experiencing something new. Examples:

  • "You'll never be able to do this."
  • "Seriously? Why are you trying so hard? You know you'll fail."
  • "You'll lose interest sooner or later. Good luck."
  • "Why bother? Just give up."

If you have this voice in your head, chances are that it's wreaking havoc on your enjoyment of guitar. Obviously, we can't let that little dork of a voice win, so we're going to make it obey us and stop being the disgusting little know-it-all that it thinks it is.

Where does this voice come from?

The first thing to consider is that the critical inner voice may not necessarily come from you. Many psychologists and therapists would call that voice the introject. I like to think of introjects as the voice that isn't really a part of the genuine self. Rather, I think it is something that was installed by either well-intentioned (or perhaps ill-meaning) parents, teachers, or authority figures. It was done to keep people in line, but it no longer serves the purpose. 

Regardless of where the voice comes from, it's acts as an authority that keeps a person from enjoying the journey of learning. It talks and judges incessantly whenever there is something new to explore, like, "That looks so stupid. Why do it? It'll be a waste of your time." This voice of reason, as it would like to remind you, thinks it's responsible for your well-being. It might have been at one time or another, but now it's just messing with your enjoyment of guitar. 

Teachers often install the nastiest inner critical voices

Often the critical inner voice in your head is from someone who stilted your imagination when you were younger, when you didn't know any better. Teachers often do this unwittingly. 

You might have had teachers who made it difficult on you to do what you really wished to do when you were growing up. Taking an inventory of these people and the damage they've done requires courage. Confronting old teachers, or any authority figure from days past, might cause you some pain or difficulty. Take heart: The power that any authority figure once had over you is now greatly diminished (if you are no longer in contact, of course).

I think it's well-worth the pain to confront this voice on your termsand I know from personal experience that it can be done. 

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

By far, there is no better book for working on and challenging the critical inner voice than The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I've personally done the program at least a half a dozen times.

If you want a concrete way to challenge the critical inner voice, get this book and do what it suggests. You will be smugly rewarded for the effort with an excellent guitar experience, free from the noise and mayhem that it brings. 

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