I am writing a programme for entrepreneurs that looks at the inner critic: all the different voices and personalities that we have inside of us. A key principle for the program is to adopt a more friendly position towards our inner demons. Instead of aggressively trying to banish and overcome the inner critical voices, we take a more collaborative, gentle approach and enter into a dialogue with that part of ourselves.
When we go straight into banishing the inner critic, we are really missing a very important opportunity to find out why that part exists. If you don’t get to the underlying emotions, to why you have this inner critic, then you will never get to the root of the problem. You may banish it in one guise but I absolutely promise you it will pop up in another area of your life. Let’s unpack what I mean about the inner critic and why it is so important that we think about adopting a longer-term, more in-depth approach.
1) What is the inner critic?
We think of the inner critic as a sub-personality. You can think of it as a version of yourself. We have lots of versions of ourselves. We don’t behave the same way in every situation. It is a bit like having different outfits that we wear for different occasions. So, for example, the Kirsty that sits in front of the TV in her pyjamas is not the same Kirsty that goes for a business meeting. The version of you that goes to pick the kids up from school may not be the same version of you that goes for a night out with friends. So, we have all of these different sub-personalities and the inner critic is one of those. All of your sub-personalities have a function and serve a purpose.
2) How do we experience the inner critic?
We experience the inner critic as a voice or dialogue that is usually pretty negative. It is often telling us things like:
“You are not good.”
“You are bad.”
“You are ugly.”
“People don’t like you.”
“You got that wrong.”
“You should feel ashamed of that.”
“That’s not good enough.”
Our inner critic tends to have a script and repeats the same things on a loop. Sometimes the voice is very loud and distinct. Some clients even have a clear idea of where the voice has come from; for example, a parent or a teacher. Other times, the voice is quieter, in the background. Some clients have become so used to it that they no longer notice that it is there. It just becomes their normal way of thinking.
3) What effect does this inner critic have on us?
How does this inner critic make us feel? Unsurprisingly, not great. It makes you doubt yourself. It eats away at your self-confidence and self-esteem. It eats away at any belief that you have in yourself. You may be left with a crippling feeling of guilt. It can be very debilitating. Interestingly, whether your inner critic is being really loud or quite subtle, the debilitating effects are the same. It can stop you from grabbing opportunities like going for a promotion, launching a new product, reaching out to make friends, going on a date, and is debilitating in relationships and in the workplace. It can impact all areas of your life.
4) What is the purpose of the inner critic?
Why would we have this horrible thing inside us? What on earth could that achieve, other than to make us feel really awful? The inner critic develops in childhood in response to negative experiences that we have had or in response to the dynamic of the relationships that we were exposed to. We hold onto the negative stuff because when we are children we are utterly dependant on the adults around us. We need them to look after us. The way that we ensure that they look after us is this very primal, inbuilt need to be loved and have their approval. Without that, if they don’t love you or are not approving of what you do, then you are not going to make it and survive. It is as essential to us as air to breathe and food to eat.
Adults, maybe Mum, Dad or teachers, quite often deliberately, other times out of ignorance, say things that are critical and negative and we hold onto that information way more than we hold onto positive information. The script is written and will be played out continually in the inner mind. We hold onto it because our mind believes that blaming ourselves, thinking it's our fault, is a way of protecting us from the even more catastrophic feeling of rejection.
The purpose that the inner critic serves is to protect us from this much deeper feeling. The feeling of abandonment and rejection. That feeling of abandonment is absolutely terrifying to a child. You could say it is life-threatening to a child. They have no way of managing that feeling. The only thing that they can do is protect themselves by using this self-criticism, blame and guilt. It becomes like a protective layer over these much deeper, more painful and threatening feelings. Feeling guilty, blaming yourself, believing that you are not a very nice person, is a slightly better option than feeling the pain of rejection and abandonment. We cannot tolerate that feeling as a child and it is even difficult for adults to tolerate that feeling. When people are processing that in therapy, they have really got to the nub of things. It is difficult for them to do and they realise that there is no way they could have coped with feeling this as a child.
So, that is what your inner critic is protecting you from. The problem is that it does not realise that that danger and reliance on the adults around you is no longer true. As an adult, you will never need people in the way that you needed your parents and adults when you were a child. The mind doesn’t know that that danger has passed, it doesn't realise that you are able to feel and release these feelings now. So, it just keeps serving its function.
5) What do we do about our inner critic?
In Analytical Hypnotherapy, the way that I approach it with my clients is that we use the hypnosis to access the subconscious, to access that part of their psyche, their mind, the sub-personality, the critical voice, alongside their intellectual mind, and we get curious and investigate. What is this voice? What does it look like? What is its personality? We start exploring it and we enter into a dialogue with it. We find out what its function was. Why is it there? What is its purpose? We keep asking and looking. Often, your mind is not able to go straight to the answer or feelings. It is a bit like the Russian dolls, where we are just opening up a doll and finding another one inside. But we keep going until we get to the very core. At the core will be the feelings that the inner critic has been protecting you from. When we get to those feelings we have an amazing opportunity to then release those feelings and in releasing them you are basically doing the inner critic out of a job. The reason that the inner critic existed is no longer there because you have been able to discharge the emotions that it was protecting you from.
Then we use the creative part of the mind and imagination and maybe some clients decide that they do want to banish this inner critic. They may smash them into pieces, send them off into the universe or stick them on a bonfire. However, others will feel compassionate and loving and almost thankful to that part of themselves. A lovely dialogue takes place between what were disparate parts of themselves. The client experiences a sense of harmony and unity as if a lovely healing has taken place.
When you resolve your emotions and issues, like the inner critic, at this very deep level, that is when the magic happens. That is when miracles happen. That is when real, long-lasting transformation takes place.
If you have any questions, if this has brought anything up then please do get in touch. You can book a FREE consultation here. You can also find lots of information on the website www.kirstywick.co.uk.
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