I am writing this post while on holiday and trying to keep away from my business to-do’s. So far, it has been successful I have combined hiking with trips with my wife. Travelling further is, given Covid, complicated at present despite being fully vaccinated. There is always that odd day when the weather is not good (more often than not in Northern Europe this year) and I am sometimes at a loss at what to do.
The temptation then is to get back in the home office and catch up on things that I do not find the time to do when doing sessions and this is often driven by a concept aptly named the Inner Dictator. It is a series of thoughts that we heed in order to escape from something else and often gives us the easy way out. Just what I am escaping from is clear. Relaxing and downtime do not go with a mindset that I often have of being constantly productive.
I have tried over the years to see leisure time and relaxation as also productive in the sense of regeneration of energy and to overcome tiredness but those tasks don’t do themselves so there is always that nagging thought at the back of my mind about when I will do them, especially as some are time sensitive. These thoughts are driven by the Inner Dictator and they can be overpowering.
The Inner Dictator is a concept from a therapy called ACT (Commitment and Acceptance) and sees one thinking concept with many voices. While similar to Internal Family Systems therapy, the key difference is that the latter views the thinking concepts as individual “parts”. No matter the angle on this, the effect is the same.
Going about our daily lives, we encounter and see many things. Some of these things mean nothing to us and thoughts about these are just fleeting, just observations of our environment. We notice them and they are like ships in the night, here and gone quickly. However, sometimes we come across a situation that gives us a reason to think a little longer about something, something is expected of us, we have to make a choice, a decision or go further than we are comfortable in that moment. That is when the Inner Dictator crops up.
The Inner Dictator (ID from now on) is our protective mindset and will choose avoidance above everything else. It is made up of our protection measures, fears and experiences often gathered in childhood and used to stop us facing our biggest fears. It is our mind’s way of limiting our exposure to these fears.
It does this by taking the “fleeting” thoughts we have about our environment, making them judgments and ultimately a problem that needs a solution. Before we know it, we are in problem solving mode and making life a series of problems. Continue this mindset and life becomes a problem and we miss the joy of living. This scanning and judgment of any situation we find ourselves in is to protect us and it affects our relationships, work and personal view of ourselves and our world. We mustn’t forget that this started from an assumption of a problem that might not even exist. It is just us, trying to avoid our feelings of shame, not being good enough or unlovable.
These strong feelings about ourselves need to be faced and dealt with by staying firmly in the moment and assessing what is truly happening. This can be done by standing back and asking basic questions of ourselves:
“What is truly happening here?”
“What are these thoughts trying to protect me from?”
“What fears am I avoiding by believing these thoughts?”
“What do I need in this moment?”
Controlling and influencing thoughts and judgments is key to releasing yourself from the trauma of the past.