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Mistakes and ‘The Critic’

You have at least, four different voices. Some of these voices include:

  • Tone of voice is related to the voice of your emotions. Emotion colors everything.
  • Your body has a voice you use every day, like oooo, sigh, moans, and groans.
  • Your mind has a voice. – logical voice and critical voice – double edged sword Your ego, or personality, is the critical voice of the mind.
  • And your spirit has a voice. This is the quiet voice with the big impact.

In today’s blog, I am sharing some insight into the mind’s voice. the mind's voice

The voice of the mind might be called the voice of the left side of the brain and the voice of inspiration might be called the voice of the right side of the brain. Ignoring or squashing one of them still leaves you with the voice of only half of your brain.

You are at your most brilliant and effective when you understand these voices and create ways for them to work together.

The voice of the mind is like a double-edged sword.

One edge of this sword has a straightforward, logical voice that is great for teaching, presenting and similar activities.

The other edge of this sword is the critical voice of the ego. This voice is usually laced with fear. It speaks only from the level of the personality and is devoid of any connection or understanding of inspiration and creativity. It’s main role it to protect you.

This is the voice we usually give free reign to in our minds. And this is the voice we attempt to silence during meditation.

Why we give such a voice free reign is beyond comprehension. This voice can destroy self-esteem, relationships, confidence and everything that we hold dear.

The mantra – know thyself – has been taught by most of the greatest teachers this planet has produced. Where this learning starts is with knowing, understanding and transforming this critical voice of the ego.

I say transforming instead of silencing. Attempting to silence this voice often leads to intensifying it. Understanding its purpose and enlisting its support can decrease errors, increase performance and literally change your life.

Oops!The critical voice is an essential part of your brain’s learning process. When you make a mistake, there is an electrical jolt from your medial-frontal cortex. Scientists call it the ‘oops’ response. And Yes, it really is called that.

Robert Reinhart and Geoffrey Woodman devised an experiment to study the role of the critical voice in learning. The results of their study were published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Study: Reinhart, R.M.G. & Woodman, G.F. (2014).   Oscillatory coupling reveals the dynamic reorganization of large-scale neural networks as cognitive demands change. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26, 175-188. PMCID: PMC3990735.
Read the article

They used a mild electrical current applied in two directions to the brain to either silence this voice or increase it. They found that in subjects who had the critical voice amplified or increased, learning was faster and there were fewer errors. In subjects who had the critical voice quieted, mistakes increased and learning was much slower.

So let’s explore some ways to enlist the support of the ‘know-it-all’ in your head who exclaims, “I told you so!” on a regular basis or worse.

Because the language of this critical voice is couched in disapproval, from mild to extreme, (you idiot! or that’s stupid! and so on) many of us get caught up in an emotional reaction towards the disapproval.

We end up focusing on the emotional reaction instead of what the learning message is that created the electrical signal in the brain in the first place.

It’s important for you to remember that this critical voice is not who you are. It is a learning mechanism hard-wired into your brain. It is essential to your survival. Whether that is a bear chasing you in the forest or you are giving a presentation at work.

Here are a few tips for transforming this voice:

  1. Gratitude:
    When the critical voice pipes up with its negative or disapproving diatribe about a mistake, thank the voice for keeping you safe and bringing to your attention something that needs to be learned. Focus on what is to be learned.
  2. The Real You:
    If this critical voice pushes emotional buttons, remember that it is NOT who you are. This voice is a learning mechanism. It uses negative or disapproving stimulation to get your attention. If you continue to dwell on and/or believe its negative diatribe, you give it importance beyond its purpose.
  3. Reframe:
    Do you find the critical voice using the words, should, would, could, a lot? These words are favorites. Instead, ask your critical voice to use phrases like “Let’s try this next time” or “let’s try it differently next time.”
  4. Kindness:
    Be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Many of us give this critical voice more credence than it deserves. Remember – it is NOT you.  It’s a Learning Mechanism!!