51 | Humour, Anxiety, and The Inner Critic (with Rox Alexandru and Neil Hughes)

Humour is a VERY important sense. Without it, we risk taking ourselves so seriously that we lose all perspective. Our sense of humour is a core part of gentleness (firm back, soft front) because it allows us to move through the world with greater flexibility and openness.

We all have this sense! But it takes practice to remain humourously sensitised to the world around, within, and between us.

In this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, I share a Haven Courtyard conversation I had towards the end of 2023 with Roxana Alexandru and Neil Hughes. We explored how we might use humour to befriend anxiety and the inner critic in helpful and healthy ways.

Rox helps people figure out ways to play with and change their relationship with debilitating social anxiety. She shares her experiments through Instagram and TikTok.

Neil wrote the book Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life: A Guide for Anxious Humans. It contains an inspiring ongoing meta dialogue with his inner critic throughout.

Check out Neil’s website and watch his TEDx Talk (A new plan for anxious feelings: escape the custard!)

I love how both Rox and Neil relate to the voice of their inner critics, which is why I thought it would be fun to have them both on the same call…and I was right; it was!

In our conversation, they explained why they felt drawn to use humour to engage with their inner critic and what they’ve learned.

We Discuss Humour, Anxiety, Inner Critics, and…

  • How can we work on our relationship with the inner critic in light-hearted ways?
  • When is it better to be amused than anxious?
  • Experimental ideas to take control over the process so that the fear doesn’t gain power over you.
  • How Neil’s goal was to reach a point where he no longer needed to think/talk about anxiety. We explore how engaging with inner work as a temporary process (perhaps even obsession) can lead you to a light on the other side.
  • The link between custard and anxiety and how seeing it through this metaphor can help identify and reach more solid and desirable ground.
  • Situations and environments where social anxiety increases (and how to prepare/recover to avoid feedback loops)
  • The simple power of being interested (rather than worrying about being interesting)
  • The derailing fear of being misunderstood.
  • Why we can never be prepared enough for every potential eventuality and how Neil engages with that truth in creatively humorous ways
  • How scripting can help give a set of mental tools to draw on and use during times when we most need it
  • Creating deliberate awkward moments helps the brain lean into discomfort on our terms.
  • Why are our post-situational inner narratives often worse than the situations themselves – and how do we choose more favourable (and evidenced) narratives to believe?
  • The sound of our inner critic (is it a voice? A narrative? Or a flavour?)
  • How to relate to impostor feelings (or impostor syndrome) in a helpful and humourous way
  • The stories we tell ourselves about appearances and how judgements by those around us about those around us can become internalised
  • How do we gauge and measure progress with anxiety and the inner critic? And how do we recognise ways we have grown and are growing?

Over to You

Did you relate to any of the areas we covered in this conversation? Is there something related to humour, anxiety, and the inner critic that you would like me to explore more in the future?

Leave a comment below or send me a message.

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