Opening possibility in self-talk 4: disarming the ‘inner critic’

submodalities self talkFor some people, internal dialogue often takes the form of an ‘inner critic’, ‘chatterbox’ or ‘gremlin’ which scolds or undermines them (if you never get this, then you can just smile and be grateful – it’s still worth reading the article though because it will give you a way to help other people who do suffer with it).

If your emotional response to this inner criticism is to get upset, it can have a paralysing effect; it’s hard to take action if you are feeling shame or guilt, for example.

The biggest determining factor in how upset you get over critical internal dialogue is not what the ‘critic’ says, but the way it says it. Tone of voice will carry a much stronger emotional charge than words.

In the previous post I said I was going to write an article about how to play with the tone of voice of the inner critic so you don’t have to take it so seriously, using an NLP idea called “submodalities”. It turns out I’ve already written the article, a couple of years back, in a series on how to develop your confidence! So click on the link to read how to switch submodalities on your inner critic.

In NLP we work from the presupposition that ‘every behaviour has a positive intention behind it’. We’re not saying that principle is definitely true, but we are saying it’s a useful assumption if you want to be able to change that behaviour to something more useful.

This principle separates the results of the behaviour from the intention behind it. It’s a very powerful idea, if you can get your head around it. So even if the effect of what your inner critic says is to make you feel worthless or powerless, it’s trying to achieve something positive for you in the best way it knows how.

The next article will give you a way of separating the intention from the behaviour of the inner critic, to open up possibilities for getting better (and kinder) results.

The definitive and accessible introduction to using submodalities – not just for defusing the inner critic, but also enhancing images of goals, taking the sting out of bad memories, and fine-tuning feelings, is ‘An Insider’s Guide to Submodalities‘ by Richard Bandler and Will MacDonald – recommended for both coaches and therapists and for self-help!

© 2011, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.


  1. Kate Gladstone

    My “inner critic” claims she doesn’t HAVE any positive intentions regarding me.

    NOW what?

  2. Andy Smith

    It wouldn’t necessarily recognise its intention as positive, at least for you. So rather than asking “What’s your positive intention?’, you could ask what it wants to achieve by acting as it does, or what’s its purpose.

    Whatever answer you get (and again it may not sound positive), you can then ask “And what’s the purpose of that?”, or “And when you have , what does that get you that’s even more important?”

    Eventually this line of questioning should get up to a purpose that’s more recognisably positive or well intentioned. That would open a way to a dialogue so that maybe the ‘critic’ can get what it wants in some other way (since whatever it’s been doing hasn’t achieved its aim) that would be perhaps more effective in achieving whatever its ultimate purpose is, and less damaging to you.

    I can recommend the book ‘Core Transformation’ by Connirae and Tamara Andreas as a good guide to dealing with ‘parts’ of oneself that seem unacceptable, whether these show up as inner critics, or damaging habits or behaviours:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.