4 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking
Having a critical voice is helpful—knowing how to block it out is even more helpful
December 3, 2022
“Humans, and our brains, have evolved such that we are capable of language, something no other mammals have,” explains McLean’s Lisa W. Coyne, PhD.
“Our ability to speak, think abstractly, and reason gives us the ability to plan, problem solve, collaborate in groups, and learn indirectly, in the absence of our direct experience. For example, you might have learned not to touch a hot stove because your parents told you ‘Don’t touch, it’s hot!’”
Moreover, Coyne states, “Everyone has a mind that ‘talks’ to them. We think of this as our verbal mind or our ‘advisor.’ It’s the part of you that is linked to your languaging brain, whose function is to serve as your threat detector.”
Having a threat detector or “critical voice” is a good thing. It points out things that could be dangerous to us, including things that might happen in the future and missteps from the past.
The function of the critical voice is to help us to avoid making the same mistakes so that we are physically and existentially safe.
Keep Reading To Learn
- The benefits and harms of listening to our critical voice
- Treatments and strategies for managing negative thoughts
How We Experience Our Critical Voice
People “do not hear voices, per se,” Coyne explains. “But we do notice critical thoughts popping up as we go through our days.”
She shares that “we have evolved to experience our thoughts as literal truths. It’s what allows us to learn indirectly by listening to what other people say, rather than only directly through our own experience.”
Our inner voice, Coyne states, “is always on, and it’s overinclusive in its estimation of what is threatening.” These are “features, not bugs” of our critical voice, she says.
“It wouldn’t be a great threat detector if you could turn it off at will, and it wouldn’t be a great threat detector if it somehow underestimated threats, right?”