Our inner voices. They’re incessant, subtle and ever present. Often we’re unaware of the internal dialogues that go on inside of ourselves, the self talk that plays repetitively like broken records inside our minds. Unfortunately however, this internal dialogue frequently consists of self-derisive and self-sabotaging thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities.
It’s not surprising then, that many of us feel paralyzed and exasperated when we try to self-actualize and self fulfill ourselves creatively. We can’t seem to accomplish anything without constant internal interjections of criticism, hopelessness and worry. Our days are garnished with thoughts such as “I’m useless“, “I’m not made for this“, “I could have done that better“. And consequently … we feel exhausted and defeated – by ourselves!
But we weren’t made to be our own worst enemies. Where does such doubtful and self-defeating negativity come from exactly? And how can we live more self fulfilled lives?
The Four Subpersonalities
I first discovered the idea of the Four Subpersonalities 3 years ago, in Edmund Bourne’s book about Anxiety & Phobia . At that time I was struggling to overcome what I believed was a bad case of social anxiety disorder. Since then, I have largely overcome SA by becoming mindful of my negative self-talk – and the Four Subpersonalities that exist in differing degrees in all of us. These Subpersonalities are:
- The Worrier
- The Critic
- The Victim
- The Perfectionist
The one thing these Four Subpersonalities share is the ability to induce anxiety. They voice the different kinds of negative dialogues that occur inside each one of us.
How They Cripple Us
Below is a list of each subpersonality dissected and put under a microscope. Consider this question: which one is the most predominant in you?
Main Function: Promotes anxiety and fear.
Description: This person tends to catastrophize and imagine the worst-case scenarios promoting anxiety, fear a
nd even panic attacks within themselves. They tend to always be on edge, watching for signs of trouble.
When those signs of trouble arise, the worrier tends to:
- Anticipate the worst.
- Overestimate the chances of something horrible happening.
- Fantasize about the worst possible catastrophes occurring.
Key Expressions: “What if…”
Examples: Typical dialogue includes thoughts like: “What if they hear me stutter and think I’m an idiot – and don’t give me the job?!”, “What if he doesn’t call me, and I feel distraught and shattered?”, “What if I put my work on public display and everyone laughs at me, thinking I’m a failure?”
Main Function: Promotes low self esteem.
Description: This person is extremely judgmental of themselves. They put themselves down constantly for any flaw, limitation, or failure they perceive in themselves. They fall into the mental trap of over emphasizing their weaknesses and filtering out their strengths.
Key Expressions: “Can’t you ever do anything properly?”, “Why do you always do that?”, “That was stupid!”, “Should be…”
Examples: “There are so many flaws in this novel of mine, I’m such a poor writer!”, “B+? I could have done way better!”, “I’m such a weak person compared to _____. I should be better.”
Main Function: Promotes depression.