I used to have an inner dialogue akin to a mix of Hitler/Mao/Stalin, or that’s how I remember it, anyway. I don’t anymore. The voices of dictators inside myself, is a thing of the past. I can’t pinpoint an exact time when they stopped, but gradually, over these past 10 years or so, their once overpowering and loud voices got more quiet, less frequent, and nowadays, I basically don’t hear them, at all.

I know the moment where I realized I didn’t have to believe them, didn’t have to act out their orders. It’s probably 9 years ago, by now. Coming for a session with my therapist, I didn’t have cash with me, to pay for the session. I berated myself, prostrated myself, viciously whipped myself with verbal lashes. So ashamed of myself, stuck in the feeling that I was disrespectful to my therapist. She looked at me, astonished at what she saw. Asked “Why are you so hard on yourself?” and I gasped “You don’t have to be?“. “No“, she said, continuing, “I would have just said ‘I didn’t bring cash today, I’ll bring it next time“.

Flabbergasted, my only respons was “You can do that? You don’t have to whip yourself into submission for failing to live up to your own standards?“.

That was a pivotal moment in me, discovering myself.

Since then, I’ve come such a long way that the dictators rarely, if ever, let their voice reverberate within my head.

I quite often recount this story with coach clients, because I’ve found most people recognize this. All but one client, actually. And I’ve had coaching conversation with hundreds of people by now.




Of those I’ve brought this up with, recognize this in themselves. harshnessThat has led to me to the conclusion that there is a raging epidemic, spread across the globe, across the human population. At least within the Western hemisphere. An epidemic of inner harshness. A harshness that makes us behave internally in a manner we would never want to expose another living being to.

And the problem with this epidemic is that it’s all but invisible. Because when I see someone that I really admire, I compare my inside (my inner climate) with someone else’s outside. Having no clue. Absolutely none, as to what that person’s inner dialogue sounds like. He/She might look like he/she has it all together, on the outside – but what goes on within?


First published on my blog on March 10th, 2016: https://helenaroth.com/an-epidemic-of-harshness/

Audio production: Caspian Almerud

Photography: Anders Roos http://www.andersroos.nu/

Soundtrack: Olof Jennfors Ljudtjänst http://jennforsljud.se/