Attorney Wellness, 072021 MEBJ, 36 MEBJ, Pg. 98

PositionVol. 36 2 Pg. 98


No. Vol. 36 No. 2 Pg. 98

Maine Bar Journal

July, 2021


WILLIAM C. NUGENT, ESQ. is director of the Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers & Judges. Bill can be reached at


…to ourselves…with kindness

We all have had conversations with that dreadful voice that resides in our head. They are mostly one-sided, invariably critical, and too often we give them credence. The voice loudly and emphatically says such things as: “I can’t believe you did (or didn’t) do that! You are a complete idiot!” or “You’ve known for a month that memo was due today! You always leave things until the last minute! When are you ever going to learn? What a loser!” These conversations are exceedingly personal, and frequently painful.

Of course, another voice in our heads speaks to us as well. That one conveys messages of praise, reassurance and confidence. The two voices frequently compete for our attention. Unfortunately, the scold often prevails. That internal critic can be persistent. For many of us it possesses a strange quality: we understand that we are talking to ourselves; however, the disparaging voice seems to emanate from a completely different person. It feels as though we are being chastised by an unforgiving parent whom we cannot contradict. The voice seems to have a mind of its own. Perhaps that is why so many of us come to believe that whatever it says, however outrageous, is true.

The messages that play in our mind help to frame our outlook on life. They can have a profound effect on how we perceive the world: whether it seems dark and intimidating or bright and promising. The critical voice erodes optimism while the positive voice enhances it.

People with depression are all too familiar with the critical voice. At times it can be unrelenting, undermining self-confidence, sapping energy, fostering indecisiveness and casting a pall over life. Ruminating on the negative is a hallmark of depression. However, it is not just those with clinical depression who encounter difficulty when the disparaging voice overwhelms the positive. From time to time, most everyone finds the inner critic to be problematic.

The first step in taming the mental faultfinder involves paying attention to the frequency and quality of its messages. For some, those messages have persisted for so long they have almost become subconscious...

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