May 15, 2014
Your inner-critic Harriet's final accusation is perhaps her most lethal: #6 Everybody knows what you're hiding.
It's lethal because--as far as you're concerned--you're now hearing her harsh critical voice come through the mouths of others. People talk, and you hear what they're saying as a personal criticism--even if it isn't.
This can apply to everyone from your spouse to a co-worker to the girl at the grocery checkout.
Here's an example:
Every Hanukah, Jane and Mark would visit Mark's mother. And every year, Mark's mother would ask Jane the same question: "What did you do with your hair?"
Jane would shrug off the question but also feel bad and insecure about her hair for the rest of the evening. Last year, Jane vowed that she would not let this happen again.
When she walked into the house, sure enough, Jane's mother-in-law said, "What did you do with your hair?" Jane took a deep breath, paused, and asked, "Why do you ask?" Her mother-in-law responded, "Because it looks so lovely."
For years Jane had been assuming that her mother-in-law was asking about her hair because there was something wrong with it. Last year was indeed different. Jane didn't feel bad about herself all night, and the family had a lovely dinner. And this year, Jane is actually looking forward to seeing her mother-in-law for the holiday.
Swinging at a Ghost
Hearing Harriet's voice in others results in two possible reactions on your part:
1. Appease them to minimize their attack on you.
2. Fight back and label them dead wrong and yourself dead right.
The problem with these is that you're fighting a battle that isn't really there. You're either swinging at a ghost or blocking one. Both of which become a surefire path to losing or alienating friends, ruining intimacy with your significant other and generally becoming an isolated and misunderstood person. And these only end up leaving you even more vulnerable to your inner-critics other attacks.
Employing your intelligent-mind is one of the central themes we work on in the Shrink Yourself program and is exactly what's required here. Taking that all important moment to pause, think, then talk back to your inner critic using the facts will quickly render Harriet silent.
Here's how Jane's inner-dialog with Harriet could've gone all along:
Harriet: Everyone knows what you're hiding, Jane, especially your mother-in-law.
Jane: I see you out there, Harriet, and I'm not going to talk to you when you're in that disguise.
Harriet: Your mother-in-law thinks you're awful and you're not good enough for her son.
Jane: She's never said that.
Harriet: But she thinks it. You know it. I know it. Mark knows it. Everyone knows it.
Jane: I'm not listening to you anymore. I'm simply going to ask her myself.
And, as we saw, Jane did ask her mother-in-law why she always asked about her hair and discovered it was because of how much she liked it.
Way to go, Harriet. Keep up the lies.
Identifying when you are hearing Harriet's voice in others (then challenging and silencing her) allows for you to have genuine relationships with others. By filtering Harriet's noise, you hear the other person's true voice, and they hear yours, instead of the quick-to-please or quick-to-attack scripts you've used up to this point.
It's a process that starts with being aware. Not only of being aware that it's Harriet talking and not the other person, but aware that you're entitled to better in the first place. Better relationships, better intimacy and being better understood.
Harriet will have a problem with that, no doubt. But, you've now got the most important tool under your belt to handle her: knowledge.