01/30/2015 10:01 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why We Can't (Always) Trust Ourselves


Trusting ourselves and our feelings is a complicated matter that deserves lifelong attention.

Like road signs, feelings guide us but are also capable of leading us down blind alleys. For example, we do well to sort out the internal voice of the judge from the internal voice of the critic.

The voice of the judge condemns, punishes, berates delivering negative messages such as:

You're a bad person.
You're not worthy.
You're a loser.
You can't get it right.
There's no hope.

The internal voice of the judge depletes our energy, diminishes our self-esteem, contributes to hopelessness, and distracts us from taking positive steps.

Since he has retired, Mr. D. says he doesn't see the point in getting out of bed and taking care of his apartment. The internal judge tells him his life is pointless.

Indulging in his feelings of hopelessness, worsens his predicament.

On the other hand, the internal voice of the critic assesses with a realistic eye, to guide us to improve and make progress.

Here are messages of the voice of the internal critic:

There is a solution.
There is hope.
You can do it.
You can learn from mistakes.
You can try a different way/alter your plan.
You can find the windows of opportunity.

The voice of the critic helped Ms. W. face her fear that she could become a bag lady, and motivated her to earn an advanced degree to secure a better job.

Writing blocks stem from giving power to the internal voice of the judge. The "unblocked" writer has learned to distinguish the voice of the condemning judge from the encouraging critic.

As writer Graham Greene wrote in The Ministry of Fear, "It is impossible to go through life without trust: That is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself."

Conclusion: In brief, distrust the internal voice of the judge. Trust the internal voice of the critic, and learn to distinguish one from the other.