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Book Review - Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice
Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice
by Lisa Firestone and Joyce Catlett
New Harbinger, 2002
Review by Diana Pederson
Jul 31st 2003

Do you hear a constant inner voice saying things like, "Don't try that.  You won't succeed."  Many people struggle against this "inner voice" while others don't even recognize it.  This inner voice often develops as a result of childhood trauma (both physical and emotional).  The authors state:

The characteristic that most distinguishes the inner voice from a conscience is its degrading, punishing quality.  Its demeaning tone tends to increase our feelings of self-hatred instead of motivating us to change undesirable actions in a constructive manner.  These destructive thoughts are contradictory; first they influence us to act in self-defeating ways, and then they condemn us for those very actions.  In addition, the voice often turns our natural desires, wants, and goals—the things we would like to accomplish in life-into "shoulds"—that is, we "should" do this or that in order to be a good person.  When we fail to live up to these "shoulds," the voice ridicules and berates us for our failure.

Organization of Book.  There are three parts to this book.  The first part, consisting of Chapters 1-2, help you learn to recognize this critical inner voice and the resulting shame and low self-esteem it may cause for you.  As the quote above indicates, the first thing is to learn to distinguish between your conscience and the critical inner voice. 

Part two (Chapters 3-8) discusses the effects this inner voice has on your life.  It is important to recognize that self-criticism (inner voice) may limit your career choices, influence your relationships with your own children and with other adults.  It affects your attitudes towards sex, may lead you into addictive behaviors such as eating disorders, drug abuse and alcoholism, and can cause depression.  The last chapter in this section discusses how to select a therapist to help you overcome the problems caused by this critical inner voice.  Many exercises are presented throughout the book to help you overcome problems caused by this critical inner voice. 

  I had to smile a bit at the contents of Part three because it tries to tell you how to live the "good life."  The activities included in this section help parents deal in a more positive way to their child's misbehavior.

Reaction to Book.  I have a very mixed reaction to this book.  It was easy to understand.  The authors explained their points carefully and provided exercises to help the reader solve problems caused by the critical inner voice.  It is an outstanding workbook to be used in combination with a therapist.  On the surface, it looks like a program that would help many people who are extremely self-critical.

I have strong negative reactions to this book because it doesn't acknowledge the spiritual aspect of our lives.  For me, this is missing something extremely important in how people perceive themselves and relate to people and the world around them.  Therefore, I believe this "… Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free from Imagined Limitations" is destined to failure.  I am not convinced people can talk themselves into feeling a different way about past events. 


© 2003 Diana Pederson


Diana Pederson lives in Lansing, Michigan.