Return to Essential Skills
the Self-punishing Inner Voice
the inner perpetrator
As you go through your
journey towards a healthier lifestyle you may sometimes discover that you fall
back into old habits. In your efforts to learn new lifestyle skills you might
make mistakes and discover that you are not as skilled as you hoped that you
You may find that you have internalized an inner self-punishing (inner
perpetrator) voice that attempts to motivate you through harsh and demanding
messages. Have you noticed that? I did for myself. Have you perhaps noticed that beating
yourself up doesn't seem to help you make effective changes?
During my journey of
change, I found that I had internalized just such a punishing inner voice (from
messages that I received during my childhood). I also
had developed the habit of trying to be perfect (a perfectionist) and had
unreasonably high standards (which I could not keep).
The Unholy Trio
expectations (being a perfectionist)
causes me to set impossibly high standards. I should be Mother Theresa--I
should be like her.
The pusher part
of me whose job it is to implement what the perfectionist wants and
dreams up. It generates an endless "to do list"...that I can't possibly
follow though on or complete.
critic" looks at the standards of the perfectionist and at the demands
of the pusher and judges that I've failed and have NOT done enough!! I've
not measured up...SO, get with it! Hallmarks of a robust inner critic:
It speaks with absolute
It cannot be pleased no matter
what you do. It gets you coming or going!
You cannot feel successful
when the inner critic is out of control.
It can find something to
criticize any time, any place, and about any person.
Loving-Kindness: Learn to Befriend Ourselves and
It always plays a part in
depressed or angry emotions.
It almost equally criticizes
you (inner states) and everything else you do (outer world).
It can become an internal
killer OR be transformed to discerning wisdom (see links below for
Awareness is the first most
essential tool in working with an out-of-control critic.
Mindful attention to the
present moment makes the inner critic vanish and can bring clear
discernment in it's place.
Take time to connect with the
Eternal Wisdom that is deep within you.
I went to
counseling to help me notice these messages (and inner voices or parts of
myself) when they arose and I began to
unravel and change them. Here are some insights that my counselor helped me
learn. Explore the ACE Study:
Champion Your Inner Child!
to understand how our childhood experiences dramatically influence our present
relationship that we have with ourselves and the way way we talk to
asked me: Would I consider releasing the need to punish myself when I
can't do it perfectly? He suggested that I notice the inner conditioning
that prods me "No matter what I do, I should have done it better or
differently, and then the consequences would have turned out right." Notice
that I'm ready to invalidate everything I've done.
self-critical voice takes over I'm ready to overthrow everything I've
attempted. I feel "there is basically something wrong with me...or my life
would work out better. My life is proving to me I'm a failure. It
proves I'm not worth anything--that I should be dead and I shouldn't
have been born"--the voice says. It is helpful for me to watch how that
voice terrorizes me and judges me and promotes fear in myself. The more I
listen to this voice, the more paralyzed and frozen I become.
The voice says,
"There must be something wrong with me or else the things I try to do
wouldn't fail. I've failed or I'm at fault because the outcome
is so different from what I had imagined it to be." When I fail, then I tend to punish myself unmercifully. I'm
playing God and judge. My counselor suggested that I watch my perfectionism
and notice that it does not serve my well being. Perhaps ask myself:
Did I learn something from the experience? Can I take another step from it? What can I
me and beating me up (the perfectionistic side). Just notice the judging
mind. Don't fight against it nor follow that path of thinking. Watch trying
to be perfect. Celebrate the path of failure! Experience whatever is right
Be with whatever emotions are present. Be
in the moment. The emotions are the path. Be with them. Don't
reject them. Perhaps ask yourself, "What do I need to learn? What do I need
Practice letting go of all effort.
My counselor also
suggested that I don't torture myself with intense discipline so that my
body feels like a prison. I was encouraged to practice kind discipline (see
article link below).
My job is to
free up judgments that cause me to condemn myself. I can't change the
pattern of experiments that I do during my life. I'm willing to grow and
learn and have new experiences. Because of that, as I'm learning a new skill
I will make mistakes. It is very
valuable to remember that mistakes are practice!
They are only steps towards a
goal and do not prove that "I'm a mistake," just that I'm
learning new things. I will become more proficient over time. That process
is how everyone learns.
when things go wrong that I can get out the whip and start to beat up on
myself and torture myself. Ask myself: "How can I help myself to
intervene when in the process of self-torture?" This voice is an internal
thing...a part of me that abuses myself. Notice that I've so internalized
the perpetrator (the spiritual Gestapo with high spiritual ideals) that it becomes an automatic
response. Ask myself: "Am I acting as if I'm the perpetrator? To me?"
"Is this attitude or feeling feeding the self-punishing part of me? Am I
taking sides with the perpetrator against my inner child (inner emotional
self)?" Would I consider taking the strait jacket off of me? How about
practicing unconditional kindness for me? Remember that the perpetrator part
of me wants my total self-destruction. Consider the value of releasing this
old conditioning, letting it go...as I practice new ways of responding.
My counselor also
suggested that I reflect on giving up the hero role and to stop trying to
fix circumstances that I can't overcome. Explore
Thoughts On Healing and Helping Yourself and Others.
you experience a self-punishing inner voice, an inner perpetrator?
What are the typical messages that you notice?
Consider below ways to explore and transform them.
Additional Article Links to Nurture a Friendly and Supportive Inner Voice
Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline
(Paperback) by Cheri Huber (Author) Explores the inner voice that we all have,
and how to change it.
This is a very insightful and
Please visit Cheri's own website for access to her many other wonderful books: