Thursday, 10 May 2012

Knocking the parrot off its perch.

There are some days when that nagging voice in your head - the one that tells you in a thousand different ways that you're no good - just goes on and on, demanding to be heard.

Based on an idea from psychologist Kristina Ivings, here's a way of thinking about that voice that can help you silence it, or at least reduce the amount of attention you give it.

Imagine you are given a bad parrot. It can speak but only like a tape recorder. It doesn't understand what it's saying, it just repeats what it says 'parrot fashion'.  Its small brain contains no wisdom, knowledge or insight. It just says words. That's its party trick. In fact, it's been specially trained to say only poisonous and negative things, to be unhelpful to you, continuously commenting on you and your life, putting you down.

It travels with you wherever you go. When your mobile runs out of power, it says. 'You idiot. If you'd only thought about it, this wouldn't have occurred. Just imagine all the problems it's going to cause. 'Your parrot is with you when you break your resolution to eat more healthily. 'You really are a waste of space. No grit at all. Pathetic.'

What would you do with a parrot like this? How long before you'd strangle it, or at least put a cloth over the cage. Not very long. And yet we often put up with the taunting voice of our own internal critic without much protest. There is a way to silence it.

The trick is to (a) notice that it's the parrot talking ('There's goes that bad parrot again'), (b) recognise that you have a choice ('I don't have to listen to it.'), (c) Direct your attention elsewhere by focusing on a task or some other line of thinking.

In time, you'll find that your poisonous parrot will tire of being kept in the dark, tire of you not responding. You'll notice it less and less. Eventually, it will leave its cage and fly away.