Suppose a group of people followed you all day, every day, reminding you of your faults and failures. In addition, they delighted in telling you how few people respected you—and even fewer liked you. From time to time they would criticize what you were doing at the moment, invariably heaping disgust on your “inadequate and clumsy” performance. When you attempted to protest these judgments or defend yourself, they laughed in your face and mocked you.
Of course, no one would actually endure people who would be so rude as to speak this way. This voice of criticism comes from our subconscious. It is the enemy within. It will not shut up, except for very brief periods, and it never apologizes or goes way—at least not voluntarily. It is ours to own and fix, if we know how!
This type of harassment is frequent among those who have an overactive inner critic which heaps insults and verbal abuse on them. It is especially common in perfectionists who have a heightened sense of responsibility. This voice of criticism may begin at an early age, but it usually does not get up to full speed until we begin to have adult expectations and experiences.
Naturally, we do not invite this criticism, nor do we ask it to take up residence in our mind. Unfortunately, this department of harsh criticism operates all by itself just beyond the full rule of our conscious self and common sense. Thus it responds automatically and rapidly to add more critical judgment about any new failures or unpleasant memories we might recall.
Welcome to the power of personal sabotage. It is the chief agent of psychic self-destruction.
The voice of criticism comes from a corner of our subconscious that assumes the right to heap negative judgments on us at any time. If we challenge this voice of nastiness to calm down and be more constructive, it usually claims that it already is helping, by reminding us of past mistakes—mistakes we might repeat. The alleged intent is to assist us in avoiding possible new disasters in what we say and do.
As they say, with friends like this, we do not need any enemies.
Some “lucky” people do not have this inner voice of criticism. They have something far worse. The “voice of doom” follows them everywhere and injects hostility and paranoia into their views and attitudes. This department of our subconscious likes to keep an account of all the injustice, insults, and perceived abuse we have ever suffered and use it as the basis for how to view all new experiences. Thus, when we make new acquaintances, we are nudged to presume that this one will probably be just like everyone on our long list of those who have mistreated us, lied to us, or otherwise harmed us. Distrust will be the order of the day—at least until he or she can prove worthy of our trust.
This voice insists that we are not being judgmental. We are merely being “cautious” because we have been hurt by so many and so often. We are convinced that human nature has a powerful nasty streak in it. So why be naïve? Why subject ourself to anymore abuse? Let others show some sign of affection, kindness and trustworthiness before we let down our guard.
Such cynical attitudes are common in the subconsciouses of people who make too much of their hurt feelings and allow their emotions to curdle into bitterness and alienation. The result is a huge department of grumpiness and hostility that colors their view and opinion of most people and all their experiences- past, present, and future. As a result, the emotional wounds of their past dominate what they expect from the people they know—and all new experiences they will have.
Much psychic self-destruction is created by these projections of hostile attitudes. Like most self-sabotaging habits, this one is exceptionally likely to be self-sustaining and capable of growing stronger. A hostile approach to relationships and other experiences projects a negative force of repulsion that poisons relationships and often provokes an unpleasant response from others. If we broadcast distrust and unfriendliness in our silent attitudes and body language, other people will respond to this signal with caution and annoyance.
This is how we create “misery multipliers.” When we are in a state of resentment, anxiety, or deep disappointment, we are not just altering our own mood, we also project this mood to others near us—even those we care little about. Most people sense this hostility or fear or gloom, at least at the subconscious level, where it has an impact on their perception of us and choice of response. And thus the games begin. Our hostility provokes more irritation and annoyance. Distrust stimulates more distrust. Anxiety stirs up more restlessness and hesitation. Gloom breeds more pessimism.
Misery multipliers are a great ally of psychic self-destruction. They make it possible for a brief moment of resentment and hostile comments to become a life-long pattern of distrust and alienation in a relationship. The persistent mood of disappointment and pessimism can lead to the rejection of wonderful opportunities, ruin friendships, and lead to persistent, heavy depression. A fear of taking risks and making commitments can prevent us from acting wisely, creating permanent losses and genuine failures that may result in years of regret.
Psychic self-destruction can take many forms. We need to recognize that we often harm ourself without realizing that we are doing it. We find it easy to justify every instance of self-criticism, every fault about ourself or others, and every doubt we entertain. The voice of reason and common sense may tell us we are overdoing it, yet we insist there is a kernel of truth in our dark suspicions. And this is enough to continue being anxious, doubtful, depressed, and resentful.
When good experiences and genuine successes come into our life, most of us can set aside the negative part of our life—at least for moments at a time. We can also try to force a mood of cheerfulness and optimism, but the poison in our hearts and minds will likely wait quietly until this passes and then, in a moment of disappointment or annoyance, seize control once more and continue to spread gloom, anxiety, hostility, and guilt.
Until we master the full process and habits of defeating psychic self-destruction and repairing the damage it inflicts, it will continue its stranglehold on our capacity for creativity, joy, and assertiveness.