Recently a client talked with me about wanting to work for the Obama campaign but found herself held back by an inner voice telling her that she couldn't because she was "not a persuasive person." As we explored this senseless yet spellbinding message, we uncovered the strategy that her oppressive voice was using in attempt to hold her back from handing out leaflets or making phone calls to encourage neighbors to get out and vote for the candidate she supported - in this case, Obama.
"Who wins here?" I asked her. "Can you see how Obama loses out if you listen to this strategy? In the final week leading up to the Pennsylvania primary, those forces that want you to back off from influencing other voters would absolutely win, and it would make them so happy to have you listen to this internal voice." It made perfect sense to her. Obama's campaign didn't need her to be persuasive, they needed her willingness to inform and remind.
Our critical inner voices function to keep us feeling bad about ourselves by diminishing our self-confidence. These voices act like oppressive governments attempting to intimidate us into submission with threats of disapproval and punishment. The Inner Critic uses baseless lies, like "weapons of mass destruction," as scare tactics to throw us into confusion, thereby limiting our power base.
Brain studies suggest that the majority of our automatic thoughts tend to be negative. If we simply sit back and listen to them we will be in big trouble. Depression, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors all stem from the power of the critical mind that masquerades as the all mighty authority. Like the current Bush administration, our Inner Critic says "you're either with me or against me" and if you're against me - you are wrong and unworthy!
Similar to how a government uses propaganda to spread fear, silence dissenting opinions and impose subordination, the Inner Critic uses rigid standards of perfectionism to point out our shortcoming, catch us in a web of self-doubt, and deter us from actions that might otherwise be empowering.
Rather than endorsing any particular candidate here, I am using this example to illustrate the cunning impact that our Inner Critic can have if we don't question it and resist its attempts to enforce capitulation. Just as we need to do in response to rigid right wing dogma, we must question authoritative messages from within our own mind and be skeptical of any voice posturing judgment and intimidation.
As we move forward in this election year, let's notice the bullying strategies used on the campaign trail and make sure that we don't employ the same tactics with ourselves.