Control Your Inner Critic: The power of a name

Naming things gives you power over them. Years ago, my father got sick. His illness progressed from a persistent cough to weakness to dementia-like symptoms. He lost weight, got easily confused and forgetful, and fell asleep all the time, sometimes in mid-sentence. He had to stop driving, stop working, stop exercising, stop socializing. Doctor after doctor saw him but no one could name the disease. We were certain we were going to lose him. Finally, my mother dragged him to the ER in the middle of the night when his fever spiked yet again, and a young doctor there said, “You need to see Infectious Diseases right now” and called in the specialist. The diagnosis: strep infection in his heart valve.

The name gave us power. We, and the doctors, finally knew what to do. Thanks to that name, he is with us today, still running in 5Ks and playing tennis with his buddies.

My anxiety therapist told me that some people use the technique of naming their anxiety. Giving their anxiety a persona—a name—allows them to have control over it. Just as you can argue with another person, resist another person’s advances, they can push back against their anxiety persona. It also helps to remind them that their anxiety does not define them—it is only a part of them. And by thinking of their anxiety as something outside themselves, they can sometimes push it away, hang up on it, and slam the door in its face, at least for a while.

I never named my anxiety, but I wonder if I should name my inner critic–that little voice that tells me how bad my writing is and how I’ll never get ahead. You know the one I mean. You have one too. Don’t pretend you don’t, all writers have one. It came with your “I Am A Writer” starter kit.

Would naming your inner critic help you control him? Perhaps being able to call your critic by name would make him think twice about messing with you. After all, some demons can only be banished when you know their true names. By isolating the inner critic from your essential self, you are able to give yourself distance—and distance enables you to hear the lies he often tells.

I think my inner critic’s name is Shut Up. At least, that’s what I hear in my head. “Shut Up, I’m not listening!”  “Shut Up, I’m trying to think!” “Shut Up, I don’t need this right now!”

So what would you name your inner critic?

Comments

  1. Carolee Pastorius says:

    Very good, Kerry! My inner critic’s name is “Shut up and sing”!
    It seems like all artists have that barrier that holds them back from
    just letting it all go.

  2. Kerry Gans, thanks a lot for the article post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

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