Quieting Harsh Self-Talk and Inner Task-Managers

When ‘Chilling Out’ Feels Tricky: Quieting Harsh Self-Talk and Inner Task-Managers

As we kick off the unofficial start to summer this weekend here in the U.S., I’m curious: what messages do you hold about downtime?

For me, downtime can feel tricky. Especially when I am tired and in need of it!

On one hand, I know it’s neither wise nor loving to push myself to the brink of exhaustion. Yet, there’s a part of me that clings to the belief that taking time to rest is selfish and lazy. This harsh self-talk, inner task-manager means well but operates on outdated programming.

Quieting harsh self-talk

How do these conflicting internal voices come into being, and more importantly, what can we do about them?

Examining Conflicting Internal Voices

Let’s start by examining how these conflicting internal voices develop, drawing in the insights of one of our reMothering Masterclass Speakers, Dr. Lindsay Gibson.  In her book Disentangling from Emotionally Immature People, Dr. Gibson explains that depending on our personal history, we may have learned as children that self-attack was preferable to being caught off guard by an emotionally immature parent.  By saying harsh things to ourselves first, we create “less suspense and more control”.

Next, let’s take a look at a study that Dr. Robert Sapolsky references in his book Behave.  In chapter 2, page 41, he writes:  “In another study subjects waited an unknown length of time to receive a shock. This lack of predictability and control was so aversive that many chose to receive a stronger shock immediately.” 1

So, let’s pause there and take in the “of courseness” of why we’d prefer harsh self-talk over unpredictability. 

In the language of the remothering roadmap, our harsh self-talk was a wise adaptation during our formative years. It helped us navigate our early experiences and successfully led us into adulthood. However, now that we are adults, we have access to better tools and resources.  Which means, if our self-talk is harsh, that’s a clue that part of our internal system hasn’t caught up with this shift.

(For more on why this makes neurobiological sense, see Implicit Memory:  How Our Brain “Knows” a Thing)

Quieting Harsh Self-Talk

Now that we’ve explored the origins of harsh self-talk, let’s delve into how we can quiet these voices.

One path towards quieting harsh self-talk is to imagine the harsh-speaking one as a frightened young person who believes that self-harshness is actually a force-field keeping the whole system safe.

Can you picture a little one wrapping their blanket over their head to hide from thunder?  Or wanting to tuck their favorite stuffed animal in next to them as they get ready to go to sleep at night?  Our young minds are instinctually creative with our survival strategies. 

But here’s the thing: our brains hold onto these early strategies, even when they no longer serve us well.  

Remothering Moment Technique for Harsh Self-Talk

In some situations, leaning in for a remothering moment sounds like “oh sweetie, I’m here”.  However, when interacting with an inner part that believes they are a grown-up, the remothering moment might involve asking a curious question instead.

Important Tip:  it’s crucial that we check in with ourselves so our wisest self is asking the question.  If another adaptive part asks the question, our harsh one may verbally run them over.  But if our wise part asks from a centered and grounded place, we can have a more productive internal conversation.

What that would look like for me in this situation would be having a conversation with my ‘perform-for-worth’ one, and saying to her:  “I have so much respect for your work ethic.  And, at the same time, I want to invite you to notice that you know in your bones that your work benefits from downtime.  So I’m curious, if I ask you to really notice what’s happening for you in this moment, what would you say”.

These self-kind inner dialogues support us in improving our relationship between our own two ears, which includes the way we speak to ourselves. 

The Personal P.S.

This is fresh on my mind, because just last week, and had the “opportunity” for some hands-on practice with this technique.

As you may know, we recently wrapped up the 2024 reMothering Masterclass. Knowing how much energy and time goes into the event, I had planned some downtime on my calendar and took last weekend fully off (no work & no personal chores either… my days were filled with reading and napping and time with my peeps).

I also planned shorter workdays for this week. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, because I was fortunate to have exceptionally beautiful weather on Tuesday, I had some internal conflict.  When it came time to step away from my computer for my planned mid-afternoon walk, I felt the resistance.

Have you ever felt resistance when trying to take downtime? 
How did you handle it? (I’d love to hear in the comments)

In the past, I would have overridden my planned downtime.  But, one of the benefits of the remothering work is that as we deepen our inner relationship, the harsh self-talk and inner task-manager messages soften back.  The conversations become more collaborative.

So, even though those old patterns still came up, I didn’t get lost in the vortex of the thought. What I did instead was lean in for the remothering moment and got curious about the resistance. 

Kinder & More Productive Self-Talk

The internal teamwork to navigate forward strengthens self-trust and paves the way for deeper self-connection and a self-kinder mind.  Plus, it brings greater clarity, alignment, and purpose.  

Onward on the remothering journey!

May the harmony we are learning to cultivate between our own two ears ripple out into the world in positive and meaningful ways.

For more on remothering, check out:

  1. *references from Dr. Sapolsky’s book Behave
    G. Berns, “Neurobiological Substrates of Dread,” Sci 312 (2006): 754. Additional papers pertinent to the role of the human amygdala in fear: R. Adolphs et al., “Impaired Recognition of Emotion in Facial Expressions Following Bilateral Damage to the Human Amygdala,” Nat 372 (1994): 669; A. Young et al., “Face Processing Impairments After Amygdalotomy,” Brain 118 (1995): 15; J. Feinstein et al., “The Human Amygdala and the Induction and Experience of Fear,” Curr Biol 21 (2011): 34; A. Bechara et al., “Double Dissociation of Conditioning and Declarative Knowledge Relative to the Amygdala and Hippocampus in Humans,” Sci 269 (1995): 1115. ↩︎

Posted by Simona Vivi H

Simona Vivi H, globally recognized remothering expert and transformational life coach, guides adult daughters to healthier boundaries, self-kindness, and the transformative remothering journey. Trade the 'don’t be selfish' conditioning for ease, clarity, and self-alignment. Connect at CenterForRemothering.com, reMothering.org, and on Instagram @the.remothering.coach.

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2 Replies to “Quieting Harsh Self-Talk and Inner Task-Managers”

  1. Good food for thought, thank you!
    I used to not want to go to the beach just to relax…it felt pointless to me. But in the last few years, I can go to the beach with the intention of not doing anything but relaxing!


    1. Simona Vivi H May 27, 2024 at 11:16 am

      J, I’m so glad you found it to be useful food for thought. You’re welcome.

      I find it so interesting how much is packed into this comment.

      If I am getting it right (and I may not be because written communication isn’t a perfect method for complete understanding), but if I am getting it right, your inner-wisdom offered your “be productive” adaptation a task to complete:  “go to the beach with the intention of not doing anything but relax”.  And, as a result, your ‘internal community’ was better able to collaborate for the good of all.

      That’s so cool to spot the ways our system’s are wise.

      Thank you for sharing your experience.  And wishes for continued internal harmony and collaboration towards self-aligned outcomes.

      warmly and with so much care,


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