The language of our defense systems and the well-integrated pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others is what we call our critical inner voice.
Our critical inner voice is typically formed in childhood, particularly during traumatic, stressful, or negative events. These early life experiences usually create our critical inner voice as we internalize and incorporate them into the ways we think about ourselves. According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. who has studied the roots of the critical inner voice for over 30 years, many of these negative voices we experience come from our parents or primary caretakers.
Our critical inner voice is experienced as self-limiting thoughts and attitudes that encourage us to see the world through a negative filter. Our inner critic separates us from others because it encourages us to cut off our feelings, to not be vulnerable, and to not let others close as well.
This voice may be one reason you believe you are unlovable as it criticizes and degrades you in order to guarantee you still believe so.
We may not even be aware that our critical inner voice is this self-destructive way of thinking that fosters distrust, self-criticism, self-denial, and limitation. We may have lived with this voice for so long that we accept our beliefs as an accurate view of who we are, and don’t notice that it is operating to destroy the romantic relationships in our lives.
According to Dr. Sonila Sejdaras, “relationships challenge core feelings we have about ourselves and evict us from long-lived-in comfort zones. They tend to turn up the volume of our inner voice and reopen unresolved wounds from our past.”
Your critical inner voice will only encourage anything that it agrees with and will, therefore, attack anything threatening it.
When in a relationship, your critical inner voice may attack you to the point that your self-consciousness causes you to withdraw from your partner. This inner voice will not only attack you, but it will undermine your feelings for your partner as well. As stated by Carolyn Joyce, a writer for PsychAlive and The Glendon Association, a mental health research organization, your critical inner voice will exaggerate your partner’s flaws and focus on their shortcomings. It may also attack your partner for being positive and showing you love since this threatens your critical inner voice. Once again, you may begin to pull away from your partner as the negative thoughts and criticisms persist. You may even behave in ways that cause your partner to negatively respond and distance themselves.
Our critical inner voices can even create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A self-fulfilling prophecy is usually a false belief or expectation that you hold and that eventually results in you acting in ways that confirm the belief.
Your critical inner voice can make you believe that you are not worthy of love or that you are going to fail at your attempts to find a romantic partner. This can result in you acting out of your insecurities, pushing your partner away, and sabotaging your relationship, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In order to overcome this critical inner voice and self-sabotaging negative thoughts, there are a couple of steps and exercises you can follow.
An important step to take is noticing when this voice arises, labeling it, and identifying what it is telling you. When we begin to understand our thoughts and increase awareness, we can start to make sense of our behaviors. This step will help us recognize when our voice arises and how it is operating against us and our relationships.
Another step to take is to identify triggers of the voice. Since our critical inner voice is typically formed in our early life experiences, we must acknowledge what defenses we formed during childhood that now negatively influence our lives and contribute to our destructive patterns.
After labeling our inner critic and identifying its triggers, we must make an effort to reject or go against the self-limiting action it pushes us to take. Increasing the positive behaviors that go against the recommendations of the voice helps us reconnect with who we truly are.
An exercise you can complete to try to break these patterns of self-sabotage is voice therapy, developed by Dr. Robert Firestone. This exercise consists of three steps:
State your thoughts in the second person, as though another person was imparting this information on you.
After allowing time to fully express these thoughts, ask yourself where you think these thoughts have originated. Whose point of view is this?
Then answer back to that voice - reveal your real point of view
As stated by Lisa Firestone in PsychAlive, “When we aren't mindful of the voices that are influencing us to relive old patterns, we tend to select people who fit in with our old identity, and we relate to them in ways that recreate a comfortable negativity from our past.”
By increasing awareness of your critical inner voice and breaking your destructive patterns, you give yourself the opportunity to find the person who fits with who you are today and truly fall and stay in love.