Silencing the Inner Critic: Alcohol, Drugs, Porn, and Problematic Sex

silencing your inner criticChances are if you’re reading this blog post, you know exactly what an “inner critic” is. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’re intimately familiar with what that inner critic sounds like.

 

You also know all too well what if feels like to be on the receiving end of his or her withering, ruthless self-criticisms and attacks.

 

I certainly do. As I’ve gotten better over the years at listening to how I talk to myself, I’ve noticed that I am my own worst critic. It’s a cliche for a reason as being harder on oneself than anyone else is a very common experience.

 

Let’s look at this inner critic and what it has to do with problematic drug use or sexual behaviors.

 

Listening to the Inner Critic

When I was drinking, although I didn’t know it at the time, while I did lack control over my alcohol use, the bigger issue with my drinking was that I was using it to quiet my relentless inner critic. You know, the inner critic in us that spouts shit like:

  • You’re not good enough.
  • Who do you think you are?
  • You’re a failure.
  • I can’t believe you’re drinking again. You’re so weak.
  • You’re worthless.
  • I can’t believe you did that.
  • It’s your fault. You’re to blame.

 

Take a moment to consider what you’re feeling in your body as you read that list. What do you notice? What are you feeling? How do you feel that in your body? Pause for a moment, if you need to, and take care of yourself.

 

I’m sure you could add your own bullet points to the list based on what your inner critic says. These shaming messages can feel crushing, and often those who experience these feelings are desperate to find a way out of them.

 

Cue the alcohol, drugs, or sexual behaviors. . . .

 

Silencing the Inner Critic with Drugs, Porn, or Sex

Often people who struggle with problematic use of drugs, alcohol, or sexual behaviors are trying to change the way they feel. In other words, they’re self-medicating, trying to help themselves feel better or, in many cases, feel less

 

They turn to drugs, alcohol, porn, or other sexual behaviors as a means to take a break from their own inner critic. They’re trying desperately to shut him or her up for a while, even though the critic may come back with a vengeance the next morning, after they come down, or after they’re done acting out sexually.

 

Alcohol, certain drugs, and certain sexual behaviors are great at providing a much-needed release from the inner critic. It’s a mini-vacation, a break from the overbearing control of one’s own superego.

 

Learning to Deal with Your Inner Critic

Maybe you’re reading this because using substances or sexual behaviors to shut up your inner critic has worked well for a while. But the costs are starting to outweigh the benefits and you’re thinking about a change. What are the first steps?

 

First, just in reading this post and resonating with it, you’re identifying an important function that your drinking, using, or acting out sexually is doing for you. Realizing that is helpful for a few reasons:

  • It can clue you in to the feelings you need help dealing with, so that when you feel those feelings, you know you need to find other ways of coping with these feelings.
  • It can help you understand and heal, with the help of a therapist or a sponsor, those hurts that you’re using drinking, using, or acting out to cope with.

 

Second (and this is the part that sucks), you’re going to need to find ways of talking about your inner critic and the feelings it brings up with someone safe that you trust. As Brene Brown is fond of saying, this kind of vulnerability is the antidote to the shame-based messages; shame can’t live in the presence of vulnerability. So, it’s critical (no pun intended) to give your inner critic light and air, because what has thrived in darkness will fade when brought into the light.

 

If that sounds too woo-woo, give it a try. I guarantee that when you risk being vulnerable about the shitty messages that you tell yourself, over time you won’t need to silence your inner critic. It’ll have gone the way of the dodo.

 

Live near Ventura, Camarillo, or Oxnard, CA?

I’d love to connect.

Contact me today to get started.

 

Jeremy Mast
jeremy@jeremymast.com

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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