What drags you down? I'll share what does it for me.

My negative thoughts can attack me on even the best of days. They are so persistent and so effective that I have come to call them The Undercurrent.

The Undercurrent is a quiet, unseen, and vicious tug that is always running just beneath the surface of seemingly tranquil waters. It has a nightmarish component: In the river of my thoughts, there is a monstrous force that reaches up from underneath to grab my neck and drown me.

Whenever I want to do something I deem noteworthy, this negative "stop her now" energy lurks about, waiting to spiral me downwards to my untimely death.

There's hope, however! And just in time!

I've identified this B Horror movie drama as the scalding disapproval that comes from my inner critics. I have a whole bunch of them, and they are like guerrilla warriors, ready to ambush me when I least expect it!

That's why I have to pay attention. It's either that, or have my hopes and dreams slain by those tricky little soldiers.

Today, I won. I followed my dreams despite The Undercurrent. I didn't drown; in fact, I've made small steps towards accomplishing my goals. Lately, I've been winning more often. I'll share how.

Two Steps: Name Them and Fire Them

Name your critics, and then let them go. That's pretty straightforward, right? This does require honesty, humor, and a willingness to make peace with both your real and fictional critics.

A word of caution: Naming the committee is harder than it sounds. Naming requires listening to the voices first, then deciding who they are. Sometimes the critics are real. More often, the critics are entirely fictional, because although they may be based on real events, they are interpretations of the events and the stories created around them to perpetuate an ongoing saga.

Step One: Name Them

My wins as of late have come largely from identifying key players in the undercurrent. If you, too, are often attacked by inner critics, your committee will be different, but I assure you, the committee will be there.

I'll illustrate here with what some of my committee members are like. We've no time to name all of the participants in my extensive Undercurrent Committee, so I've profiled the three ringleaders:

1. Uber Academic Lady: This old bag is the biggest pill of all. She sits at the head of the committee, and she has called this meeting to order. Stiff and proper in her brown, tweed suit, she looks at me over her green plastic bifocal readers in utter disdain. My thoughts are never good enough, and they aren't supported by the nineteen peer-reviewed articles I was supposed to have read early this morning, before coffee. To Uber Academic Lady, I will never be good enough. I could be a multi-billionaire and Oprah's most trusted consultant, and she'll still be shaking her head at me in erudite disapproval.

2. Cool Guy: Enter Junior High School Style Horror, stage left. In comes Cool Guy, late to the committee meeting, but no one is annoyed. In fact, things really start when he arrives. Uber Academic Lady tries to look a little less frumpy when she sees him, and she swoons involuntarily, letting out little chirping noises. Cool Guy had never even noticed me until recently because I had on some sort of nerdy invisibility outfit, complete with matching invisibility shoes. Lately, however, since I've stuck my neck out a bit and started publishing stuff, he does notice, and he doesn't like what he sees. This makes Uber Academic Lady giggle like a schoolgirl.

Incidentally, I'm not sure how Cool Guy and Uber Academic Lady ever managed to communicate long enough to start working together. Cool Guy isn't that smart. He is cool, though, and ruggedly handsome. Regardless of why they're a duo, however, Cool Guy and Uber Academic Lady have teamed up on numerous occasions to toss me mercilessly into the waters of continual disapproval. They've had their feet on my head and torso, trying to drown me.

Somehow, however, I've managed to survive Uber Academic Lady and Cool Guy. There is a third character worth mentioning, however. This one's formidable presence causes the other two to turn tail and run upon her arrival.

3. Grandma: Grandma is an independent contractor, and she wouldn't waste her time colluding with those other two clowns. I love my dearly departed Grandma with all my heart, and a 1930s picture of her youthful, spunky image is hanging on the wall of my home office. Grandma passed away long ago, but the memory of her disapproval of me lingers. The details of her scorn are based on real mistakes I've made; thus, the criticism she still capriciously throws my way carries a bit more weight when it arrives. She can come up from the depths of my mind and pull me down just by grabbing on one of my toes and tugging lightly. In fact, I do not dare to say much about her, lest her spirit arrive and clobber me.

Step Two: Fire Them

I hire my critics, however unconsciously. There is that unspoken employment contract that I offer to those who will keep me down. This is all done without my knowing, of course. That quiet saboteur part of my personality likes to leave little emotional landmines on my path to success.

The solution to this is as follows: I fire the critics.

This can be challenging, because this committee of critics consists of employees who are difficult to dismiss. They seem to like their jobs, and they want to stick around, regardless of the lousy pay. Thus, I issue this caveat: Firings must occasionally be repeated. The critics can and probably will come back, even after you've imagined you have shamed them into submission.

As far as my committee goes, Uber Academic Lady and Cool Guy can leave my life forever. I won't miss them a bit. If they return, I'll just coolly send them packing again. I'll keep and cherish Grandma's memory, though. I might just have to ask her to be quiet now and then.


The Undercurrent is a dangerous place. It is fraught with numerous, frightful ways to prevent any form of forward moving thought from daring to even go near the water. The committee that keeps this scary place thriving is a fraudulent one, however. The good news is that I can analyze my thoughts, reshape them, and put them at my service. I'm going to keep doing more of this, more often, starting now. If you see me walking down the street one day shouting "You're fired!" to imaginary people, please don't lock me up. Just smile and know that I'm busy downsizing.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Debra Payne is a certified coach with a wealth of experience in coaching and mentoring people. More importantly, she gets it and she cares. Deb has experienced divorce and complete disillusionment, and she knows how to turn this around and make life fun and new again!

Find Debra at www.happilymovingon.com