I was talking with a close friend of mine. He was much older than me and had been through a lot in his life. He let me know that he had depression and he had helped a few other through their depression episodes. He described one of the symptoms as a tape recorder that plays the same thing over and over again in your head. That description resonated with me. At times a single critical statement or sentiment plays over and over. Another friend, a therapist, described it as the inner critic.
This voice is never encouraging. It is always trying to pull me down. One of the common things it tells me is that “I am an idiot and can’t do anything right.” Harsh. It is something that I have had to learn how to fight off.
One of the exercises that I have found to be effective with myself and with my daughter is what I call “It’s a lie.”
Take a piece of paper and write down one of the things the inner critic is telling you. Sometimes this is hard. As I did this with my daughter she let her emotion spill out with her tears. It is sometimes hard to admit what that voice keeps telling you.
Then after you write it down look at it and verbally, loudly, say “That is a lie!”
You may feel silly saying that out loud, but is is vital. When you think your mental processes follow one path. You come to different conclusions when you think through things. When you speak those mental processes follow different paths and you can come to different conclusions. That is why when we tell someone a problem we often come up with a solution without them saying anything to us. It is the same reason that we need to speak “that is a lie”. It takes those words through different processes in your brain and you can see things differently. This practice also brought my daughter to tears.
Then, after you tell it what it truly is, you put a line under it and write down all the reasons that is a lie. For example, for me I can write that I have learned JS and have been able to teach, train, and manage other developers. This isn’t something that an idiot could do. I could also write down accomplishments that I have had, times that I have done things right. For example, yesterday I rode bikes with my kids. They were happy and I was too, this was something I did right.
This breaks the rut of “never” and “always.” If you can think of just one time then that voice is lieing. And there is nothing that is never or always.
In asking my daughter how she felt after she went through this exercise she exhaled with a smile on her face and said “better…It was mentally hard to do it, but after I felt much better.”