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Who is this Inner Critic and how'd it get into my head?

The Inner Critic, the Censor, the Committee, the Judge, Monkey Mind - these are just a few of the names for that voice in our heads that decides to speak up just when we are about to embark on a new challenge. It judges our work, our new projects and ideas, and provides a running commentary or critique on most every action we take. And the worst part of it all, is that this chatter seems to pop up at the most inopportune moments!

You know this voice. When you sit down to write, it will tell you that you can't even spell. Or when you start a new job it tells you that you made a mistake to take the job in the first place. Or it may tell you that you are way out of your league at this job. Or when you are giving a presentation, everyone in the room seems to be smarter, richer and better than you are. Or it suggests that you just don't have the skills to take on that new project. It loves to remind you that true artists are born with a gift, and somehow you managed to be absent from the school of life the day they handed out this special gift.

In Buddhist texts, Monkey Mind is described as a self-criticizing aspect of our mind that swings us from doubt, to worry, and back to doubt. This chatter gets loudest when we threaten to change the status quo - even if the status quo is something we long to leave behind. This voice is concerned with survival, logic, solving problems and being sensible.

There are ways to live in peace with this part of us:

  • we can notice the inner chatter and do the task at hand anyway,
  • we can step away from logic for a moment and try a different approach,
  • we can free up the energy we use listening to this voice by choosing to focus on our dreams and goals,
  • we can re-program the way we think about this part of our brain.

Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way has a variety of exercises that deal with the Censor. And Maria Nemeth in The Energy of Money has extensive information and exercises for the Monkey Mind. The most important action we can take in making peace with this side of ourselves is: recognize that this voice is not who you are. It doesn't come from your inner core or true self.

A way to re-program our thinking about this part of our brain is to accept that it does serve a function. Survival and problem solving are part of its' job. In A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, Roger Von Oech states that there are four roles to the creative process:

  • Your Explorer is your role for searching for new information and resources;
  • Your Artist is your role for turning these resources into new ideas;
  • Your Judge is your role for evaluating the merits of an idea and deciding what to do with it; and
  • Your Warrior is your role for carrying your idea into action.

The creative process breaks down when we use a role at the wrong time. Like using the Judge to explore for information (this is the Artist's job) or your Artist to implement an idea (this is the Warrior's job). (p.172-173) Let this part of your brain do it's job, but don't invite it in before it is time for it to do its' work.

The Inner Critic, the Censor, the Committee, the Monkey Mind, the Judge can be helpful to you, but definitely not when you are about to embark on a new experience or are staring at a blank canvas or a blank sheet of paper. Maria Nemeth says it beautifully in her book: "You can devote your energy to changing Monkey Mind, or you can use that energy to infuse your dreams. Your choice is to dance with your Monkey Mind or dance with your goals and dreams. Pick one." (p. 154) Accepting that this part of the brain serves a function and knowing when to use it, is one strategy that will clear a path for you as you move towards your dreams.

by Lea Tolub Brandenburg

Lea Tolub Brandenburg is a Personal and Business Coach. She is a success partner for people who want to grow professionally and personally. She is also a professional actress with 20 years of experience of taking the word "no" and changing the spelling to "how". She writes a free monthly e-zine on the topics of creativity, inner wisdom and communication. To find out more about her coaching services or to subscribe to her newsletter visit: www.creatingstrategies.com