Is Your Critical Self Talk Ruining Your Life?

Here is another devil interview, but this one is by a young lady who is nineteen, rather than a thirteen year-old.  The issues addressed here are not about school or disappointment, but about fears of independence and out-of-control physical symptoms. These interviews point to similar causes in both instances: unexamined, unconfronted negative self-talk.

Luna is a nineteen year old singer and dancer who is finishing her second year of her Abitur in Germany, which is similar to high school advanced placement classes or to the curriculum in the first year or two of American colleges. She is intelligent, personable, and disciplined, but afraid for her future and her health. Here is a summary of her interview followed by comments and then the actual interview:

We learn a lot when we look at our fears. We generally find that they are wake-up calls that can take us to our next level of growth. Luna’s devil is always out of sight, behind her, but telling her things that make her anxious and afraid, like how she is going to live on her own and what she’ll do if her physical symptoms don’t get better.   We can all relate to this as our own interior “critical parent” or “scared natural child.” With the critical parent we are telling ourselves we should or ought to be different. We are guilt-tripping ourselves! With our scared natural child we are blowing our fears out of proportion in order to anticipate and protect ourselves from bad stuff that might – but probably won’t – happen. This devil says it is the personification of Luna’s feelings of anxiety, but it is high in self confidence, self-acceptance, inner peace, witnessing, and above average in wisdom.  Boy, I would like to have more devils in my life that score like that! Most of my “friends” don’t! However, this devil has no compassion or acceptance of Luna.  This indicates that Luna is not compassionate toward herself.  In fact, she is so critical of herself that her devil thinks it’s stupid for her to be compassionate toward herself! So while this devil has some important strengths that Luna lacks it has deficits that hold her back as well.

What makes it difficult for Luna to accept this high scoring, self-confident part of herself is that she sees it as selfish and lacking in any compassion.  She does not see how she can be both self-confident and compassionate.  Given the choice, she would rather be compassionate – at least toward others, while continuing to relentlessly hammer herself.

While Luna has issues with independence and loneliness, her devil is a part of herself that does not.  If she incorporates it, or learns to accept and become this devil, the implication is that she can go a long way toward overcoming her dependency and loneliness.  This is because this devil  is detached from Luna’s mental preoccupation with her physical health and what it means for her.  Instead, it recommends she focus on having a good time and entertaining herself.

This devil thinks Luna is stupid to allow herself to be scared by it.  It sees her proper response to it as self-confidence and to give up playing the victim. It wants Luna to stand up to it and stop letting it intimidate her! This devil makes clear that it represents her own highly self-critical self-talk that makes her wrong and scared.  It recommends that she just ignore her self-critical self-talk.  If she does, this devil predicts that it will go away!

This would represent a major change, a major improvement for Luna or for anybody. But notice that it is empirically verifiable. Luna does not have to take what the Devil says on faith. Instead, she can follow its recommendation, become aware of her self-critical self-talk, ignore it, and see if it gets worse, stays the same, or gets better.

Notice how universal Luna’s themes are.  Her devil personifies the useless, stupid, self-defeating worries, fears, and anxieties that fill our self-talk and which cause fear and contribute to illness.

The more that we understand these patterns, how they work, and how we maintain them, the more likely we are to be able to develop the self-confidence and the compassion toward ourselves to stand up to them and end them, once and for all.

Here is Luna’s interview with her devil:

What fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?

1 What am I going to do when I’m living on my own and my mom isn’t around to help me?

2 Something is possessing my body and it’s not me!

Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?

The fear of living with my condition by myself and having to handle my life.

If those feelings had a color (or colors), what would it be?


Imagine that color filling the space in front of you so that it has depth, height, width, and aliveness.

Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What?

A little devil!

Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Devil, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I’m behind Luna.  I’m always walking behind her.  I don’t want her to see me.  She knows I’m here, so she doesn’t have to see me.  I prefer to stay out of sight because sometimes she’s around other people that are in front of her or beside her.  I have horns and a long tail.  Sometimes I have a pitchfork!

What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

I like annoying Luna!  I make her scared and think about things that she didn’t used to think about, like her symptoms.

Did you cause this physical problem for her so she would have to think about it, Devil?

I don’t know.  Maybe.  Sometimes!

What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

No.  I don’t have any weaknesses.

Devil, you are in Luna’s life experience, correct?  She/he created you, right? What aspect of Luna do you represent or most closely personify?

Her feelings of anxiety.

Devil, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?

I don’t want to change….

(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

(Character), how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing?  Why?

Confidence: 10 I like what I’m doing! Sometimes when she’s alone I make her think about the worst things.. I scare her!  I like to scare her!

Compassion:   0

Wisdom:   7

Acceptance: 10  I accept myself  0 – I don’t accept Luna.  I don’t like her!  She scares herself, and that’s stupid!  She’s stupid enough to listen to me and allow me to scare her!!!

Inner Peace:   9 I like myself!

Witnessing:   8

Devil, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?

I would accept Luna and I would be compassionate toward her, so I couldn’t do what I like to do.  So I’m not going to change that!!!!

How would Luna’s life be different if she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

She would be a mean person!  She would like herself but she wouldn’t be able to be nice to other people and show feelings.

If you could live Luna’s life for her, how would you live it differently?

I would love to be mean to other people in addition to Luna!  If I focus only on her I can be as mean as I want to be.  If I focus on a lot of people it’s hard for me to stay as mean as I am to her right now.

If you could live Luna’s waking life for her today, would you handle Luna’s three life issues differently?  If so, how?

1 What am I going to do when I’m living on my own and my mom isn’t around to help me?  It wouldn’t bother me!  I don’t get lonely.  I don’t need people because I’m so confident.

2 Something is possessing my body and it’s not me! If I were Luna I wouldn’t think about that!  It’s not MY problem!!!!

What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Luna’s life?

I would focus on myself.  I would focus on having a good time and entertaining myself!

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Luna to imagine that she is you and act as you would?

She should be confident sometimes when she’s scared.  I never think I’m stupid!  She shouldn’t allow me to scare her!  I wouldn’t!

Why do you think that you are in Luna’s life?

She’s in a life situation right now where she is scared and I like scaring people! So…she makes a good victim!

How is Luna most likely to ignore what you are saying to her?

It’s hard for her to ignore everything I do.  She should….I make nasty thoughts in her mind.  I tell her she’s stupid or she won’t be able to make it on her own.

What would you recommend that she do about that?

I would just ignore it because if she does then I will let go, stop…

Luna, what have you heard yourself say?

I should be more confident in situations where I get scared.

If this experience were a wake-up call from the most central part of yourself, what do you think it would be saying to you?

I should stop scaring myself and being like Chicken Little!  I can get more information and work toward a solution.


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