I know it happens to you, too. A thought pops up out of nowhere, sounding like the commentary by one of those hyper-critical puppets from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K for short). This internal sarcastic commentator can be quite funny at times, helping us to survive particularly tedious moments such as waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. But most of the time we’re not stuck in the DMV line, nor are we, like Joel Robinson in MST3K, trapped in an orbiting satellite by a mad scientist who forces us to watch B movies.
And as though life is a B movie that we’re stuck watching, our internal commentator feigns to entertain us silently (or not) by making fun of the people we pass on the street, ride with in an elevator or sit next to in a meeting. Cultivating our very own internal MST3K puppet may be funny and stress relieving at first, but it comes with risks.
Who’s the Fairest of Them All?
When you cultivate your own internal commentator, your sarcastic puppet can turn downright caustic in a hurry. Without warning, you may find that everything you do is narrated by a cynical critic with a dismal view of people and the world. With this cynical puppet living in your head, it won’t be long before the bulk of the puppet’s criticism is directed right back at you. It’s not much fun to live with the feeling that someone is relentlessly cutting you down at every turn. And often this happens so smoothly and with such subtlety that you’re not even aware of the abuse your internal critic is dishing out. But others notice it in your walk and your talk. Eventually you are undermined by your own mind.
The Divide and Conquer Strategy
Before your internal critic starts aiming for you, however, it will first take caustic aim at anyone around you that has the potential to be a good friend. This helps separate you from potential allies who might not agree with your internal critic and thus diminish the puppet’s power. This can happen in a number of ways, for example:
- Your internal critic may quietly convince you that this potential friend is just too “uncool”, “incompetent”, “worthless”, or fill-in-the-blank to be seen with.
- Your internal critic may convince you that this person is secretly critical of everything you do and doesn’t think you’re worthy of true friendship.
- Your internal critic may make you believe that this person is actively out to get you, hiding it until the moment they can humiliate you or cut you down.
In all three cases, the result is the same: Your internal puppet wins control over your self-esteem and convinces you to isolate yourself from supportive friends. Eventually it’s just you and your puppet. Or you may even attract “friends” with equally powerful internal puppets who are actually criticizing you every step of the way.
But what would happen if we could go through just one day without a single critical thought? What if we lock the puppet in the closet for the day and ignore its feeble attempts at demeaning humor? What if you live for one day believing that life is not a B movie – that it’s a Best Picture instead.