Hundreds of books have been written about getting rid of these voices because we all know they don’t serve any useful purpose. Even if those who spoke to us originally in this way were trying to be helpful, at this point they exist only to torture us. But I don’t know a single person who has eliminated those voices by any of the techniques in such books. That’s because such messages are deeply entrenched in our psyches—they ain’t going nowhere.

That doesn’t mean we have to be at their mercy, however. Just as we would step out of the way of a speeding car to protect ourselves, we can protect ourselves from these inner demons.

The practice is very simple. When you catch yourself at it, just say, “Thank you for sharing.” If you know who the voice is, you can add that: “Thanks for sharing, Dad.” When you do this, you don’t expend more energy trying to push away, get rid of, overpower, or reason with the voices. You just acknowledge their presence and move on, as you would if there were a crazy person in your way on the sidewalk. Sometimes I even say something like, “Yea, yea, yea, heard it all before. Boring.” That really helps take the charge out of it.

When we do this, we don’t add to the interference. We give the negative voices the minimum energy possible and are then free to make our decisions regardless of them.

Ultimately we have a choice: to continue to give the voices power over us by trying to push them away or agreeing with them, or to minimize their dominion over our lives by regarding them as mere predictable annoyances, like flies at a picnic. This practice gives us the option to turn those voices into the minor irritation of swatting flies.

Author's Bio: 

A member of Professional Thinking Partners who is recognized as a leading expert in change, M.J. Ryan specializes in coaching high performance executives, entrepreneurs, individuals, and leadership teams around the world to maximize performance and fulfillment. Her clients include Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Hewitt Associates, and Frito Lay. Her work is based on a combination of positive psychology, strengths-based coaching, the wisdom traditions, and cutting edge brain research. Her new book, titled “AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For” was recently released published by Random House’s Broadway Books. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.