In this article and webinar, we will consider using logic to tame your inner critic or saboteur when cutting down your drinking. There are important skills you can develop to help you reach your goals.
We have trained our inner critic to take the path of least resistance – it may even have affected our behaviour with other people. Like picking fights to justify drowning our sorrows.
As drinkers, we continually create convenient excuses for our drinking that normalise and justify our behaviour to counter the niggling feelings from underneath that you really should not be doing this:
“I am stressed”
“I have had an argument”
“Things did not go to plan”
“I am sad”
“I am meant to be enjoying myself.”
These emotional and ‘reasonable’ justifications get used more and more often – becoming habits in themselves but also drowning out the bit of us that is saying ‘hey, maybe this is not so good’. In effect we have amplified and given power to our critic to justify our drinking – drowning the logical and clever us.
It is why, as clever people that should know better, we are able to hoodwink ourselves and let alcohol take more and more control over our lives than it should.
All the reasoning and logic we use is freely available and commonly accepted as reasons to drink, making it harder for us to challenge our own behaviour.
From advertising that suggests alcohol makes us more confident, to the idea that because we ‘know about wine’ this is a hobby, we are a connoisseur, not a drunk! Or that only a drunk night out is a good night out.
Society makes it easy to normalise such “reasons” for drinking, allowing our inner critic to see drinking as normal and, not wanting to drink as abnormal.
Even now, many of us wish we could be “normal drinkers”, and that in itself damages our commitment to our goals.
Changing and challenging our inner voice is part of the journey of changing our drinking.
We have to accept responsibility for having programmed our inner critic in a specific way as part of our drinking habit!
All of this shows us how powerful our inner voice is – in fact a quarter of our conscious awake moments consist of our inner dialogue, and it feels very real. It makes us aware of our existence and of who we are. We use it to monitor our own cognitive performance, whether we are achieving our goals, whether we are focusing. It helps us create verbal memories.
The sound of our own voice is also very powerful – in fact scientifically shown to be the sound of voice we are most attracted to.
And if it is always nagging us and sending us negativity it us hard to ignore. Which is why we need to pay it some attention when we are changing our habits.
Because when we are trying to change a habit and not take the path of least resistance our inner critic goes nuts!
Our inner critic can attack us for a wide variety of alleged “crimes,” most viciously for the idea that we are somehow a failure or a loser. In some people, the inner critic is an absolute tyrant that causes much of their unhappiness and suffering.
Not only does it have the habitual hardwiring – ‘you are stressed’, ‘you are lonely’, but unconsciously, we give credence to these allegations. Because we are doing something hard, it is also working overtime to try and get you to have a drink and will pull on other insecurities to make you do what it wants:
“You are a lost cause”
“It is too hard”
“You are feeling bad today, giving drinking up is not working.”
1. Acknowledge it
You may not really have noticed it before and how influential it is. It is normal to have an inner voice, but rather than letting it nag away stop and take some action. Acknowledge that this thought process is separate from your real point of view. It is not a reflection of reality.
2. Challenge it
This is a skill that you can develop. Stopping and noticing when your inner critic is urging you to drink or creating a craving, thinking about it and challenging it before acting upon it. How to do that?
Ask: What am I feeling right now?
Ask: How strong is my craving on a scale of 1-100?
Ask: What am I thinking right now? Are they thoughts, self-talk, internal debates?
Challenge negative thoughts: Look for evidence, logic and helpfulness of the thought.
Develop more logical and helpful thoughts and repeat them to yourself.
Review how strong your craving is now? Again on a scale of 1-100.
3. Counteract it with positive logic
Use your own voice – it is powerful – and say positive “I” statements out loud. “I can do this”. “I am not a failure”. “I have stopped before, I can do it again”. Remind yourself why you are doing this, and what is the outcome you are hoping for.
For instance, if you notice your internal critic saying: “Oh, I’m just eating more now I’m not drinking – either way I’m fat. What’s the point?” There are many ways you can challenge this thought:
4. Give your inner critic a personality and a voice that you would never trust
Alcohol Mastery suggests this and I really like it. Rather than it being your own voice nagging you, make it sound less aggressive, like someone you don’t trust.
5. Prove it wrong
Not only remind it of your success so far, but also dust off that that belligerent you – the one that always wanted a drink. Put that power to better use and prove your inner critic wrong!
6. Remember it is a thought and not a command
Remind yourself it is just a thought and not a command. You don’t have to act on it. It is just a discomfort you have to ride.
7. Make a plan
Once you know about your inner critic’s strong points, the ones that may trigger you the most, you can make an IF/THEN plan in your WOOP:
I WISH to not let my inner critic derail me.
If I manage this the OUTCOME will be “I am more likely to stick to my drinking goals and feel much happier”.
My particular OBSTACLES are when my critic niggles at my weight/eating habits telling me this is worse.
When this happens my PLAN is to remind myself I am doing something hard and I can deal with food later and cut myself some slack. Reward myself with some healthy snacks I will keep at hand. Give my inner critic the big finger!
Your new skills require less effort and become more automatic the more you practice them!