Where do inner voices come from? An inner voice always used to be an outer voice. We’ve absorbed the tone of a harassed or angry parent; the menacing threats of an elder sibling keen to put us down; the words of a schoolyard bully or a teacher who seemed impossible to please. We internalised the unhelpful voices because at certain key moments in the past they sounded compelling. The authority figures repeated their messages over and over until they got lodged in our own way of thinking.
To change our inner voices we need to encounter equally convincing and confident, but also helpful and constructive varieties of voices over long periods. We need to hear them often enough and around tricky enough issues that they come to feel normal and natural responses – so that, eventually, they come to feel like things we are saying to ourselves; they become our own thoughts.