Inner critic thinking is that inner voice that spews all kinds of irrational and negative statements in our minds. It gets triggered by stress and is fueled as we feed it by adding to the negative stories it tells us. We all have an inner critic. But guess what! We all have an inner coach as well. Unfortunately, most people spend more energy feeding the critic and ignoring the coach. Our brain is like a muscle that needs to be worked out. And just like our muscles, our brain needs reinforcement and repetition to grow stronger. When we spend our time feeding into negative thoughts, we strengthen the critic. So it only makes sense that if we can learn how to reinforce and build the coach that it will get stronger. As the coach gets stronger, our irrational and critical thinking will get weaker.
Irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions are usually extreme and negative thoughts based on beliefs and ideas we get from our culture, society, family or even religions. Our brains hear and idea or belief and process it by categorizing it or organizing it in the brain. One of the ways we can organize a thought is by categorizing it into being good or bad. When we do this we distort the belief by creating rigid rules and expectations about a particular person, place, thing or situation. These rigid rules and expectations keep us stuck in our heads and can grow as we feed the storylines and make assumptions. I will give you an example from an intuitive eating workshop I did this week.
Belief or idea: “Sugar and white flour are difficult for the body to process and can trigger the brain to want more. Eating too much sugar and white flour can cause the brain to become dependent on it much like a drug addiction. “
Cognitive Distortion: “Sugar and white flour are bad. I should never eat sugar and white flour. If I do, then I will get fat.”
You can see that the belief or idea does not make one reference between white flour/sugar and fat. But our brains can distort the information into a new thought or belief otherwise known as a cognitive distortion. In turn, we label white sugar and flour as “bad” and many people feel shame and guilt when they eat it.
Intuitive Eating teaches 5 ways to reframe cognitive distortions. These 5 techniques help to build the inner coach and conquer the inner critic, reframing our irrational thoughts and re-programming our brain to process beliefs and ideas in a healthier and more rational way. These ideas come from the work of Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, authors of “Intuitive Eating”. Elyse and Evelyn use these techniques to help clients overcome irrational and negative thoughts about diets and body image.
1. Actual Experience. Challenge the distortion by reframing it with an actual experience.
Example: “I’ve eaten sugar and white flour before and did not get fat.”
2. Fact. Challenge the distortion by reframing it with a fact.
Example: “Many thin people eat sugar and white flour every day.”
3. Mindful Awareness. This technique is simply acknowledging the thought without judging it or feeding the storyline. Mindful Awareness allows for you to reframe the distortion by recognizing the fear and anxiety that is triggered by the thought and being present with those feelings without having to add anything to them.
Example: “This statement or belief makes me feel worried and anxious about eating white sugar and white flour.”
4. Gratitude. Challenge the distortion with an attitude of gratitude.
Example: “White sugar and flour tastes yummy and is in some of my favorite foods. I am so grateful they are available to me to enjoy when I feel like eating them.”
5. “For the Most Part Thinking.” Challenge the distortion by adding “for the most part” to the statement.
Example: “For the most part, sugar and white flour will not make me fat or addicted when enjoyed in small amounts. For the most part, I am free to enjoy them in my diet.
Try applying these reframing techniques to your irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions. If you would like to learn more about my work or services, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.
The techniques discussed above are from the book “Intuitive Eating” by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.