Best drug to silence 'inner critic'?
July 13, 2008 11:46 AM   Subscribe

What drug most effectively silences your 'inner critic'? I don't mean drugs that make you think that every little thing you do/say/create is great but something that allows you to 'postpone judgement' for a few hours while you're working. For the purpose of this question I don't care whether these drugs are legal/illegal or healthy/unhealthy. Personal experiences/anecdotes (positive AND negative) from (song)writers, designers, artists etc. are most welcome...
posted by dinkyday to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Before I started taking anti-depressants I was nearly crippled with self-doubt. I'm on 75 mg of Effexor each day and it helps tremendously. (I don't think the drug needs to be Effexor -- I am sure many other anti-depressants have been similarly helpful to others.)
posted by kate blank at 12:01 PM on July 13, 2008

Your chemical brain does not distinguish between "good thoughts" and "bad thoughts", so a drug cannot exactly pinpoint a certain kind of thought and act upon it. Certain drugs, such as anti-depressants can change your brain chemistry and mood, thus lessening your feelings of self criticism. Illegal drugs obviously are not regulated, so it can be hard to predict the exact effect you will receive from a given dose or drug.
One option that requires no drugs whatsoever, is practicing meditative techniques. Some forms of meditation ask that you let your thoughts pass through your mind without focusing on them. If you practice this technique then you can learn to have greater control on which thoughts you choose to focus on and which you can just let go.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 12:08 PM on July 13, 2008

Butterfingers, so I guess this means sugar (and a cup of joe to go with it). On a decent sugar rush I can go nuts without worrying too much about how good it is, all I'm thinking is "energy energy, get energy in the lines!"
posted by dabitch at 12:17 PM on July 13, 2008

(i crash and burn and/or rip up the work as soon as the sugar wears off though)
posted by dabitch at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2008

posted by delmoi at 12:19 PM on July 13, 2008

Stimulants like ritalin and cocaine can put users in to a state of near-manic self-confidence.
posted by phrontist at 12:26 PM on July 13, 2008

Alcohol, cocaine, cognitive behavioural therapy or a combination of all three.
posted by fire&wings at 12:33 PM on July 13, 2008

To get work done in my former career (writer/editor) the best voice-silencer was a deadline. I did my best (only, really) writing/creative work when under a time crunch, because there wasn't time for self-doubt.

The problem with being too deadline-oriented though, is you get addicted to the adrenalin/cortisol rushes, & stress becomes a part of everyday life instead of the once-in-a-while danger indicator it's designed to be.

I don't write for a living anymore but I started breaking the stress habit with meditation while I was still doing it. Works wonders.
posted by headnsouth at 12:35 PM on July 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

Seconding deadlines! At times, it seems like anything is possible so long as I have a deadline. My creativity flows like crazy, and I usually do my very best work. Only one problem: I haven't been able to give myself artificial deadlines, but that techniques definitely works for some.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:56 PM on July 13, 2008

I agree with everything that has been said about deadlines.

With that said, pharmaceutical stimulants (dexys, ritalin, etc) are pretty much deadlines in a bottle, and will likely give you what you're looking for.
posted by Jairus at 1:18 PM on July 13, 2008

Music does it for me... in particular highly rhythmic, low lyric stuff like techno
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2008

To get work done in my former career (writer/editor) the best voice-silencer was a deadline. I did my best (only, really) writing/creative work when under a time crunch, because there wasn't time for self-doubt.

Very true. I was on my university's student newspaper staff in college, and had an interesting conversation once with an editor for my city's daily newspaper. We both had stories about completely trivial articles, on subjects we didn't care about, dashed off under a tight deadline, that struck us as some of our best writing.
posted by jayder at 1:29 PM on July 13, 2008

I have no personal experience, but I've heard good things about beta blockers.
posted by knowles at 1:38 PM on July 13, 2008

Booze makes me ten feet tall and bulletproof. And immune to criticism. Until I take that tipple too far, and become a whingeing bag of neuroses. YMMV.

Pot makes me have wonderfully complicated ideas that dissolve as soon as I reach for a pen.

Cocaine is for suckers.

I recommend deadlines, practice, and never editing anything without first letting it sit untouched for a week.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:53 PM on July 13, 2008

Ativan for brains that won't shut up.
posted by idiotfactory at 2:10 PM on July 13, 2008

Heroin will silence that 'inner critic' like nothing else. You'll probably be too content sitting there, rubbing your face and scratching your balls, to get much work done though.

Stimulants are OK. They don't shut it up completely but the surplus of energy can make you very task focused. Too much, if it moves towards anxiety, can be considerably worse than too little.

Modafinil is a good combination of steady and focused. It won't stop you from criticizing, but if you're focused on a task you can stay on it without distraction from excess self-consciousness.
posted by BigSky at 2:22 PM on July 13, 2008

"Inner critic": Do you experience/hear internal dialogue? Do you see a disapproving person? Are you having an internal argument that will ultimately lead to your validation?

Next time you experience your inner critic, notice if its a collection of "Things to hear and say". If so, pay attention to two things: your breathing and your your jaw muscles. Maybe arguing back will help. Maybe lovingly snickering will help. Maybe listening and then doing something you haven't done yet might help. Maybe saying something comforting to it might help. Maybe verbalizing four reasons (out loud) you agree with Teh Internal Critic will help. ("Agree" is contextual: four contexts in which your internal critic's comments are fairly useful.)

Maybe relaxing your mandibles and putting the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth will help (while "feeling" a sensation of something dropping past your heart and into your bowels).

Let's just say for a moment that your "inner critic" is actually a RESPONSE TO SOMETHING ELSE YOU'RE NOT YET AWARE OF. If you pay enough attention to the intention of this "something else", you might learn something radtacular.

Participate with your inner critic in five specifically different ways.

I posit that there's a relationship between THC, the masseter, and internal dialog.
posted by Moistener at 2:34 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Booze makes me ten feet tall and bulletproof. And immune to criticism. Until I take that tipple too far, and become a whingeing bag of neuroses. YMMV.

My highway mileage is about the same, but the city mileage - all that start and stop drinking - is where booze really shines.
posted by three blind mice at 2:36 PM on July 13, 2008

Recent steroid doc Bigger Stronger Faster had lots of interesting tidbits about various performance enhancing drugs, and as the link knowles posted indicates, beta blockers are very popular with musicians.
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:41 PM on July 13, 2008

GHB made me feel just like me only without the nattering anxiety that sort of followed me around. I haven't done the stuff in a long long time, but just feeling/knowing that there was a "me" that was somehow underneath all the fretting and overthinking has made grappling with the fretting and overthinking that much easier. I don't recommend it as a recreational drug generally though, for other reasons.
posted by jessamyn at 2:53 PM on July 13, 2008

I felt like I was the best version of myself when I took ecstasy.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:52 PM on July 13, 2008

To steal from George Carline, drugs just make you feel like taking more drugs.

The best "drug" you can take for what you describe are endorphins and adrenalin. Go exercise and do exciting things. Preferably both at the same time.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:56 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

George Carline

Carlin, dammit! Carlin!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:57 PM on July 13, 2008

I occasionally use alcohol to self-medicate my anxiety, usually just for handling social situations but it's been known to silence my self doubt in the past as well. It's effective (for me, anyway, YMMV), legal, easy to get and there are little to no risky side effects as long as you don't abuse it.
posted by saraswati at 4:39 PM on July 13, 2008

Cut out the caffeine.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:29 PM on July 13, 2008

Exercise, music and meditation are the only three drugs that will fix things without making them worse in the long run.
posted by storybored at 5:30 PM on July 13, 2008

Opiates will do this, even codeine. It's hard to be critical of yourself when everything feels so very nice. Of course you need to not be addicted or have a significant tolerance for this to work. But if you're relatively opiate naive it'll get rid of all your negative thoughts for a few hours. The first couple of times I took large doses of codeine I probably wouldn't have been able to work very effectively, but like any drug, you become better able to get stuff done while enjoying its effects as you gain more experience with it.

Opium and opiates have a long history of use by artists and writers, which I'd guess is partly attributable to this effect. I'm not promoting their use, but if all opiates are bad to abuse, codeine is one of the least bad because it's self-limiting. The codeine molecule has little effect on the body. Your body metabolises it into morphine, but can only do so much at once. So using codeine alone, it's impossible to have an addiction that spirals endlessly upwards. When I was using it, I certainly had no difficulty keeping my use occasional and at a stable low-ish dose.

Opiates are probably more effective anxiolytics than the benzodiazepines, though they're rarely used for this because of the addiction potential (though that's a problem with benzodiazepines too). Opiates have certainly better for me than alcohol has ever been. I've done plenty of things I regret while drunk, but all I've done while on any opiate is feel beautifully relaxed (though sometimes a bit itchy).
posted by xchmp at 5:42 PM on July 13, 2008

Try kava. It's not something you can take like a drug that lasts for hours, but while you're under the influence, your inner critic is often wonderfully silenced. Relaxing and fun.

You could also try taking extract capsules, but I don't think they work as well as the freshly made kava root.

For my own experience drinking at a kava bar in Hawaii, you suddenly wonder what in the heck you were so worried about. Life seems totally real and comfortable. That lasts about half an hour, maybe less.

The stuff tastes like pond water too, so there's no attraction there. But the relaxation is great.
posted by diode at 7:45 PM on July 13, 2008

cocaine. hands down.
posted by amandarose at 9:56 PM on July 13, 2008

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