Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!"
--How The Grinch Stole Christmasby Dr. Suess
To varying degrees, we all have an enemy within, a part of ourselves that operates inside our heads in much the same way a malicious coach might, criticizing us and offering up bad advice. This critical inner voice represents a point of view that is alien to our real self and promotes self-limitation, self-destruction, and animosity toward other people. And its hostile, judgmental attitudes create a negative, pessimistic picture of the world we live in.
During the month of December, our critical inner voice shows up as an Inner Grinch and specifically tries to ruin our holidays. However, by understanding how the voice operates, we can get control of our Inner Grinch and save our holiday cheer.
The Inner Voice Pretends to Be Your Conscience
The critical inner voice does not represent your conscience or values. The easiest way to distinguish it from your conscience is to recognize its punishing, degrading quality. Even when what it says appears to reflect a value system, its tone is harsh and unfriendly. Instead of inspiring self-compassion and motivating you to take constructive action, it increases your self-hatred and undermines your confidence.
The critical inner voice does not represent a moral point of view. For example, it may condone and encourage self-denial. When someone asks what you want for Christmas/Hanukah/the holiday,your Inner Grinch might say: Don’t be selfish! Do her a favor and tell her ‘nothing.’ That kind of self-sacrificing behavior is hurtful, both to you and to the gift-giver. When you refuse a gift, you prevent someone from expressing loving feelings toward you and from experiencing the gratification that comes from giving. And you deny yourself the gratification that comes with receiving
The Inner Voice Pretends to be your Protector
Sometimes the critical inner voice seems to be protecting you and sounds as if it is acting on your best behalf. But don’t be fooled! Your Inner Grinch might say: Don’t meet your friends for brunch. The holidays are taking a lot out of you. Why not just stay in bed. Regardless of its enticing tone, the voice expresses a destructive point of view and promotes destructive actions. In truth, this voice has the familiar sound of an overprotective parent who cautions, directs, controls, and advises you but whose real purpose is to squelch your enthusiasm and sense of adventure.
The Inner Voice Attacks You
The critical inner voice works against your personal development, opposing your best interests and diminishing your sense of self. It tries to inhibit your ability to pursue what you really want in life and to develop a true sense of who you are. It typically quashes your excitement, and spontaneity. Your Inner Grinch might say: Don’t get so excited—you’re making a fool of yourself. Sometimes it feeds your insecurity, urging you to withdraw from others and isolate yourself. Your Inner Grinch: Don’t go to the holiday party. You’re so shy, you’ll just embarrass yourself.
It may make you feel undesirable. Your Inner Grinch might say: You aren’t the kind of person someone would want to spend the holidays with. Or it may discourage you from wanting anything at all. Your Inner Grinch: You’re stupid to think that she would think of buying you a romantic gift.
The Inner Voice Attacks Your Partner
Your critical inner voice doesn’t just attack you; it attacks the people who are significant to you. While you see your partner as lovable and have compassionate, affectionate feelings toward him or her, your critical inner voice focuses on your partner’s faults and paints your partner in unfavorable, cynical terms. For example, if your partner is struggling financially, your attitude would be, “I don’t care what he gets me for Christmas/Hanukah/the holiday party. What really makes me happy is that he loves me.” But your Inner Grinch may say: He’s such a loser! He can’t even afford to buy you a decent gift! Why are you wasting your time with this guy?
The Inner Voice Attacks Your Relationship
The critical inner voice is not content with attacking you and your partner. It attacks your relationship, too. Your Inner Grinch: All of this holiday cheer is disgusting. You’re both acting like a couple of children! Your relationship is so immature!
The Inner Voice Attacks Relationships in General
Your critical inner voice is also eager to share its generalizations about relationships. Your Inner Grinch: Go ahead and celebrate. Enjoy it while it lasts. This time next year you’ll be alone again. Relationships never last!
What to do AboutYour Inner Grinch
We all have two sides to ourselves: the alien part represented by our critical inner voice and our real self. Even Dr. Seuss [Theodor Seuss Geisel]recognized this division when, speaking of himself, he said, “So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I'd lost."In 2003, his step-daughter, Lark Dimond-Cates, stated, "I always thought the Cat... was Ted on his good days, and the Grinch was Ted on his bad days."
Even though our Inner Grinch tries to attack us, we can challenge it and maintain who we truly are. We can disagree with it and speak up for ourselves:
“It’s okay to ask for something. And I am someone who somebody would want to buy a gift for!”
“I like being social. People like my company and I like theirs.”
“I don’t make a fool out of myself when I’m enthusiastic; I’m just happy!”
“My partner and I are loving and generous toward each other. It’s not about money.”
“I’m optimistic about my relationship. It doesn’t do any good to predict gloom!”
We can take a cue from “every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,” when they defeated the Grinch with their “Who ChristmasSing.”We can resist the inner voice that encourages us to give up our interest in and excitement about love and life. And if we do, we will not only enjoy a happier holiday season but also a new year that reflects our genuine wants, aspirations, and desire for love and friendship!
Blog appeared on PsychologyToday.com
How the Grinch Stole Christmasby Dr. Seuss
Published by Random House in 1957