Lack and Attack

Women with their hands over ears

“Change the voices in your head

Make them like you instead”

–Pink, “F**king Perfect”

So much of our suffering is invented. The Buddhists will tell you that pain (those crappy things in life and our emotional reactions to them) is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Suffering occurs in the ways that we attack ourselves on top of our pain.

Man rushingFor example, I am late for a meeting (pain). Already I have to deal with the fact I will walk in late and my plan to be on time did not work and I will have to explain myself and maybe rebuild trust. Then on top of all of that, all the way to the meeting, I say to myself, “You are so stupid; you are late again; you never change; what is wrong with you?”

Steering by Starlight bookThere is a wonderful coaching book that we read in our coach training program ( It is called “Steering by Starlight,”Martha Beck.

In it she calls this the voice of Lack and Attack.


  • I am going to mess up my kids and they will do drugs or need therapy because of me
  • I am going to end up homeless on the street
  • I am going to get fired
  • I am bad at relationships and will always be alone
  • And on
  • And on


  • That was stupid
  • I am stupid
  • I’ll never get anywhere being so clumsy or so lazy or unreliable
  • I can never do anything right
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

Lack tells you all the things you will lose if you are not very very careful. Attack tells you how bad and dumb you are.

(If you are interested in the science, this is the voice of the limbic brain, the reptile brain that is there for your survival. The problem is that this brain sees so many things as threats to your survival that are not actual threats.)

My first question is, do you hear it? Where are you telling yourself that you will lose it all (lack)? The voice of lack tends to be fairly dramatic – catastrophic. The women in my lawyers group called it “homeless and bankrupt.”

Where are you telling yourself that you are bad, inadequate, going to fail, inept, and my personal favorite, not as good as “other people?” (Attack) Here’s a message from me to you: any voice that ever tells you anything MEAN about yourself is WRONG. You may need to improve in certain areas. You may be objectively lacking in certain competencies. You may have made a mistake, even a really big one. But any conversation in your head that calls you stupid or unable or “never gonna make it” is absolutely unequivocally 100% incorrect.

My second question is, will you stop it? It’s pretty simple, though it may not be easy all the time. You must (MUST) intervene. Stop it! Hear it and interrupt it. There is a fairly good chance it will not go away. So learn to hear what it is saying and interrupt in whatever way works:

  • Simply turn your attention away
  • Say “stop it!”
  • Say, “thanks for sharing; I got this.”
  • Say, “thanks for trying to protect me; I will be careful”

Say something. Do something. Do not allow this to go on. Because if you do intervene, you are going to get more of the things you want in your life. And your life will feel better to you.

Stop hand

Join us for our workshop in October: The Sabotaging Voice Tickets, Tue, Oct 11, 2022 at 8:30 AM | Eventbrite

We will cover all the tools to recognize it and interrupt it. Meanwhile, here is a wonderful example of intervening with that crazy voice:

Bob Newhart-Stop It – YouTube

About the Author

Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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