Inner Critic as Multiple Personae

I talked yesterday about a habit-breaking habit of practicing inner-criticism when no one else is around. Asking yourself questions like “Why do I believe what I believe” can help clarify your thought processes and enable a more tangible visualization. As I use this approach for different situations, I tend to develop different perspectives.

One way I model the different aspects of myself is to establish different characters for different lines of thought. It is not just 1 inner critic entity, but multiple personae with different habits and mindsets. I find this approach useful (and fun) for a variety of purposes.

Consider 3 different mindsets (optimist, apathist, pessimist) over 3 different time-frames (past, present, future), where each mindset is combined with each time-frame. Each combination represents a different persona with a general mindset and expectations as shown in the following table:

(Mindset) \ (Time-frame)

Past

Present

Future

Optimist

“Things were good”

“Things are good”

“Things will be better”

Apathist

“Things were okay”

“Things are okay”

“Things will be okay”

Pessimist

“Things were bad”

“Things are bad”

“Things will be worse”

For example, let’s say that I am thinking about my physical health. I may think that I was pretty healthy when I was younger, being able to pick up any sport and able to run long distances with relative ease. Currently I may think that I am not as healthy as before, but I am not necessarily unhealthy. I may not be doing much physical exercise now, but I feel like I could if I really wanted to or needed to. I may think that things will be better in the future once I put more effort back towards improving my physical health. In this example, I would characterize this thinking as a Past Optimist, Present Apathist, Future Optimist.

Once I have settled on my thoughts, I remind myself that my actions should be aligned with my thoughts. This discussion between multiple personae is witnessed by an outside observer, a Final Actor, who has to pick and decide what action to take. An aligned action for this example would be to start jogging in the morning, or start eating more vegetables and less candy. In order for things to be better (Future Optimist), I can contribute certain things toward that goal (Final Actor).

However, sometimes the Final Actor takes actions which are not aligned with the personae. I may think I will become more physically healthy, but I might end up doing nothing to help accomplish that, or even choosing to be even less physically active or eat more unbalanced meals. What, then, is the reason for my Future Optimist winning out? Is that justified? Maybe I need to reconsider why I am that optimistic? Or maybe, I need to reconsider why my Final Actor is doing what it is doing? Should I change my thoughts? Should I change my actions? Or how can I explain and accept the inconsistency?

As a single player, I rely first on myself to enact the change I want to occur. I focus on what I am doing that is helping me to win the way I expect to win for a given situation. Each situation is different, and at a given time I may see different win conditions. My expectations of the situation may sometimes be misaligned with my actions, and in cases like that, I either should change my action, revisit my expectations, or accept that I will not win the way I expected to win.

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