A World in Transition: Insights from Transition Hub - Coach vs Critic
The human is the only species that developed a prefrontal cortex, which has meant that not only can we analyse the world around us, but we can imagine a completely different one and also communicate it through language.
We use language to name things and ascribe meaning. Shakespeare’s Juliet posited that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, but it’s not just the flower or its scent that we think of when we consider a rose. It’s a colour, a symbol of love, religious piety, or politics. Roses even have thorns, signifying an interlaced and symbiotic relationship between the fragile and beautiful, the strong and harsh.
Our minds create a whole story laden with meaning. Meaning is everything.
How we determine the meaning of any given thing is influenced largely by our conditioning, but thankfully we don’t have to be stuck with that hardwired definition. Neuroscience demonstrates that our brains are pliable and that by creating new synapses and neural pathways we can change the way we think and potentially the being we are. So, in this way, we are the creators of an inner environment that can be reflected to an external reality. In essence, what happens in our heads becomes critically important.
If we allow self-talk that only berates, blames and belittles we will end up with a highly toxic inner world that distorts meaning to fit its image.
We often refer to the voice of that self-talk as our inner critic and it sounds like ‘you’re not good enough to pull that off’, ‘you’re an idiot’ or ‘nobody likes you, loser’. It operates in a way that is designed to protect us from harm, believe it or not. These overblown identity statements are designed to attack our weak spots and undermine our desire to step into the new and unknown or what it perceives as a potential threat.
To adjust the pH, we need an alternative voice to counterbalance the fear-laden critic so we can survive and grow. Just as we choose to preserve our physical health by avoiding contact with a contagious virus, we need to do the same for our mental health.
The question then is what kind of internal environment will allow us to flourish? And how do we cultivate it?
The most sustainable growth environments are those diverse enough to offer something valuable at regular intervals while capitalising on existing strengths. Identify what is already working and nurture it. Create a kind and fertile environment by focusing attention on what’s uplifting, what makes our hearts sing and allows us to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.
Swap the endless trolling on social media or the next conspiracy theory or politician to blame for what’s wrong and instead reach out to those who are alone, afraid and in need of connection.
Share stories of those who have overcome desolation and destruction and come out the other side. Notice the beauty around us and be thankful for the sun, the sky, and the small things that provide pleasure.
We can’t control all the thoughts that pop into our minds, particularly in times of stress, but we can decide which ones we allow to linger and what we focus on. It’s natural to feel many different emotions when going through change and the voice of fear wants to be heard when we approach something unfamiliar.
We can acknowledge all of that with understanding and then let it go and move on, adjusting the climate of our minds so we can flourish.
Frances Loughrey is a Transition Hub Wellbeing Coach, and believes we need to manage life transitions proactively. She brings her extensive experience as a writer and facilitator of concepts including gratitude and emotional regulation.