As Christmas is upon us, the classic Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol comes to mind where the miserable, cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge was isolated from people - but do we all have an “inner Scrooge” we’re battling with?
Well, according to schema therapist Richard Brouillette from Psychology Today, we do. He said our “inner Scrooge” can be described as a “voice who puts you down, criticizes you, always expects more, makes you feel deprived, bad, and even like an emotionless object.”
While you might not say “Bah, Humbug!” to any Christmas-related like Scrooge, Brouillette describes him as a caricature of the critical thoughts inside our head which can impact our everyday life - especially if we feel like we’re not up to scratch. This is especially exacerbated during the festive period where we’re surrounded by family and friends.
Luckily for us, Dickens provides the answers in his book on how to combat the critical voices that play in his mind.
“Scrooge lost contact with his core emotional needs a long time ago, giving in to coping skills that made him mean and unapproachable: his inner critic,” Brouilette said, before adding how “His [Scrooge’s] experience with the ghosts (therapeutically) helped him re-connect with his need for love and open up to others.”
And following these three steps can help you do the same:
“Ask yourself how much your inner critic may have taken the joy out of your life and driven you away from others. If you think this is a major theme in your life, consider when you developed this inner critic,” Brouillette said noting whether this was to compensate for insecurity or loss.
“Then focus on the role your inner critic played this year, and finally, think about how the inner critic affects you every day,” he added.
The next step is to “do a reality check on yourself in your present daily life.”
So, look within yourself to question if your inner critic is impacting your relationships and causing distance.
“Imagine what would the people in your life would say about you when you aren’t present to hear them. What feelings does this bring up?”
Christmas Yet to Come
After establishing the source of your inner critic and the impact it has on your life currently, Brouillette notes how looking towards the future, like Scrooge did, understand what life will be like if you continued listening to the critics.
“What would your future look like? Will you be the person you hope to be? How much may the inner critic interfere with your ability to do the things you long to do?” are some of the questions Brouillette asked.
He then advises people to think about three changes they can make to quieten down the critical voice in order to “get closer to your own self-acceptance, your real desires, and your loved ones.”
If Ebenezer Scrooge can make this transformation - sure he’s fictional - but it can be achieved by following these steps laid out by Dickens in the book and Brouillette’s psychology analysis.