Defuse Your Inner Critic With This Explosive Visualization

When I was a kid, we had a computer at home long before most people did because my father was a scientist. (Actually, I first experienced a computer that took up an entire small room in my dad’s lab. My sister and I learned to play blackjack on it as tiny girls when my mother dropped us off to hang out with Dad while she ran errands. But I digress.)

By the time we had a computer at home, I was a teenager and focused on other things, like my social life. But my little brother taught himself programming, and developed a few rudimentary games. One of them sticks in my memory, because I found it amusing. He created a program that allowed you to simulate a person you hated by choosing basic characteristics like sex and hair color. Once you’d constructed your nemesis, you could make him or her explode. That was the entire game.

Thinking about that game of my brother’s always makes me smile. It’s such a perfect illustration of an elementary school boy’s desire for emotional gratification. I remember the glee with which he demonstrated it to me, creating his schoolyard enemy and then eradicating him.

I thought about my brother’s game again today while contemplating the negative inner voices that keep so many of us from being the fully creative individuals we’re meant to be. Wouldn’t it be great if we could blow those eternal critics to smithereens once and for all? Detonate the Inner Perfectionist who tells us our creations aren’t good enough? Blast away the Mean-spirited Fault-Finder who tells us we aren’t good enough? Destroy all the voices insisting we’re not really writers and, by the way, our work stinks?

I decided to create my own version of the exploding enemy game, one that writers can visualize any time those nasty voices start their negative humming in our heads. The explosion you create in this visualization is gentler than in my brother’s game, but feel free to modify it in any way that works for you:

Close your eyes.

Relax with your hands in your lap, palms facing up.

Take three deep breaths. As you exhale, relax the muscles in your face, your neck, your shoulders. Feel the tension dripping away, all the way down your body and through the floor.

Now breathe normally and listen to the inner voice that’s telling you something negative. Really hear what he or she is saying. If there’s more than one voice or one message, just focus on the loudest one—you can go back and do the visualization again for each voice, if necessary.

As you listen to the voice and its message, imagine it as a character. Visualize how this inner critic looks and watch him as he yells, sneers or whispers his negative message. Take your time with this. The voice may come to life as a person, a monster, an object or anything else you can picture. Imagine the details of your critic’s face, body, clothes and gestures.

Once you have a clear image of your inner critic as a solid character spewing his negative message at you, imagine he’s suddenly being pulled a couple of feet up into the air by his shoulders. He’s still berating you, but his legs are moving helplessly, and it makes him look slightly comical.

Against his will, your inner critic is gradually pulled further and further up. It’s as if he’s attached to invisible marionette strings and the puppeteer is drawing him away from you.

As he floats upward, your inner critic’s voice becomes fainter and fainter…

You watch while he becomes increasingly smaller. Once he’s transformed into a tiny, ineffectual cartoon high in the air, he breaks up into a million pieces and dissolves into the sky.

Now that he’s gone, you look down again. You realize you’re standing in a beautiful meadow. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and the grass is soft underneath your bare feet. You breathe in the scent of flowers and inhale the calming tranquility of the peaceful meadow.

Now open your eyes and begin writing.

Repeat this visualization every time an inner critic appears and tries to slow down or prevent the creativity you truly deserve to express.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World,


13 Responses to “Defuse Your Inner Critic With This Explosive Visualization”

  1. 1 Cassandra Jade February 2, 2010 at 12:50 am

    Visualisation is an excellent way to get started on any project or path. It isn’t everything, but it will usually get you started. Thanks for sharing this advice.

    • 2 stranglingmymuse February 2, 2010 at 11:24 am

      You’re welcome, Cassandra! And you’re right, visualization isn’t a substitute for writing, but it can clear the way for you to be your true creative self.

  2. 3 Rochelle February 2, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Geez Sandy, I’m glad I’ve stayed on your good side…I am on your good side…right? ;-> But seriously, that anti-inner critic visualization is a great idea that I know I’ll be able to try out soon.

    • 4 stranglingmymuse February 2, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      Don’t worry, Rochelle, I never use the exploding technique on my friends…although you might want to stay on my good side in case I wake up in a REALLY bad mood some day…
      Hope the visualization helps!

  3. 5 K a b l o o e y February 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Ha! I like picturing your brother as an eeeeevil-geeeeeenius. Actually this visualization sounds like a combination of the “pocket god” game I’ve seen on iphones and the odd acting class exercise we did yesterday to learn to vanquish distracting thoughts.

  4. 6 Keith February 2, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Hi. As Sandy’s brother, and the creator of the Explode-o-matic program (patent pending for the past 25 years or so, but any day now I’m sure) I feel the need to weigh in here. As I have explained to many a therapist and parole officer, blowing up things is just not cool. Not cool at all, and not at all “creative” or “awesome” or whatever. Let’s never speak of these things again. Seriously, I mean it.

  5. 7 stranglingmymuse February 2, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    My brother’s not an evil genius. Really. Right, Keith?

    Okay, we won’t speak of these things again. Except…thanks for the inspiration to create this “blow away the inner critics” visualization all these years later!

    And Kablooey, I’ve never seen pocket god or your odd acting class exercise, but I have an inner life that’s quirky and overly dramatic enough that I tend to mentally turn ideas into characters and then dispose of them as I see fit all the time, believe it or not. You should see how I treat unwanted cold symptoms when I meet them in an imaginary back alley in my head…but perhaps that’s a story for another day…


  6. 8 Evelyn Hunter April 15, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve taken it a step further. I’ve taken an evil character and added my own traits I hate about myself. I’ve already planned how I’m going to kill that witch!

    Don’t worry about it Keith, we love you! 🙂 Cutest damn thing. Thanks for sharing that story!

    My therapist said (yeah I tried the therapist thing too, to see if I really did have a problem), and I quote:

    “You know why?” he said sternly.
    “No,” I sniffed.
    “Because you’re an adult, THAT’S why!”
    “Oh,” I replied, “thanks for noticing.”

    Too much control in my life. Ya think? Tsk!

    It’s okay, we’re adults now. Ahhh, a writer’s greatest gift — to do what we can’t do in real life, legally. LOL!

    Love the name of this blog! I’m not going to strangle my muse, she’s beautiful and I love her. She’s just unruly and uncooperative sometimes. 😉 She has her moments.

    • 9 stranglingmymuse April 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm

      I’m glad you’re not going to strangle your muse, Evelyn! And glad you have a good working relationship with her. They all like to be unruly and uncooperative at times, don’t they? I know mine does!

      Killing the evil character with your own traits you dislike sounds like a wonderful and creative way to deal with those traits. Good for you!

      Thanks for stopping by, Evelyn. I hope you come back soon!


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