Being Mindful of The Inner Critical Voice

Most of us have an inner critical voice which diminishes our self-worth and self-esteem. This unrelenting mental commentary can be maddening at times. In the late 1970s Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families (a 12-step programme) identified this is negative voice as the “Critical Inner Parent”, and its opposite a “Loving Parent”.

In the red ACA big book, the authors write, “Many adult children can be lukewarm to the notion of a Loving Parent who lives inside of them and who is thoughtful and affirming. They can more easily identify with a Critical Parent who is harsh or who produces consistent self-doubt from within. Many of us can accept the idea of an inner Critical Parent but balk at the notion of a loving one.”  I can certainly relate to an inner Critical Parent, but thankfully I can now appreciate an internal Loving Parent too. 

As a mindfulness practitioner, I encourage all of our clients at The Recovery Hub Ipswich to be aware of their disempowering mental commentary. I ask them to be mindful of their thoughts (whether they are pleasant or unkind) and to see if they can notice the inner critical voice. 

Negative thought patterns our clients often relate to are: “I’m useless”, “I’m stupid”, “I cannot be successful”, “I’m a failure”, “Things always go wrong in my life”, and so on and so forth. Once our clients can identify the vitriol they often direct inwards, they can learn to gently observe their thoughts and begin to challenge them. Once they become conscious that there is a deeper awareness behind their thought-life, they will be literally driving new connections in their brains and therefore reprogramming their subconscious minds. 

For example, if a client has a wave of unkind thoughts towards themselves such as “I’m never going to recover from my alcoholism”, they can take a deep breath, pause and immediately challenge the negative belief head-on. They can affirm that they have the neural pathways in their brain to gradually reconstruct a successful and prosperous life in recovery. Better still, they can repeat their positive affirmation out loud charged with enthusiasm, which will be much more effective in driving connections in the brain (the subconscious mind responds to what we say rather than just thinking). 

We have an excellent team at The Recovery Hub. I’m certainly enjoying myself working for the rehab, and it’s truly wonderful to see recovering drug addicts and alcoholics repairing their lives one day at a time. 

Christopher Dines, mindfulness teacher, author of six books, and co-author of “The Kindness Habit” with Dr. Barbara Mariposa.