Recognizing that there is an inner critic is the first step to loosening the ties that bind you, and I don’t use the word “bind” lightly. When I consciously contemplate the thoughts telling me what I should do, or how I should be, I experience a closing down, and a need for external approval. I wonder, as I write, about what makes me feel alive and I notice expansion, and possibility arising …. When our aliveness hasn’t been honoured, or supported it can be difficult to recognise it as a navigational tool.
Rolling around in the donkey shit
If, like me, you have often woken up in the morning feeling like a failure even before you get up, stop and listen to the voice in your head. Maybe you’re mulling over your behaviour from the evening before, or something you’ve (not) said or done. Ask yourself if you would speak to someone else in this way? There are other signs that the inner critic is present; feelings of debilitating shame or guilt. The writer Jenny Dicksi referred to this state as “rolling around in the donkey shit …” which made me laugh. Recognition can be a help sometimes.
Perfectionism and depression
Perfectionism is another sign that there are demeaning texts going on internally. Cutting criticism arising about every sentence, drawing, utterance kept me in a dark place. Since emerging out of this place I have often wondered if the many periods of depression I have suffered were a result of this internalized degradation.
How does life become sacred again? I don’t have universal answers to that question, but I do know how to explore in a way that allows more room/spaciousness these days. Somewhere deep down I have always believed that a life has its own sacredness, and is not something to be lived by following someone else’s rules.
Reaching out and Holding
One of the saddest elements of an inner critic attack is the presence of shame. Just when you need reassurance and holding, there can be so much shame that reaching out is the last thing you feel able to do. The inner critic doesn’t just keep you small, but continues to protect you from the criticism you were unable to bear as a child. It protects the child and feeds the belief that you do not have the resources to deal with something.
It is the presence of other people in my times of despair that have helped me explore my fears and get insight into why I protected myself the way I did. They helped me see that my pain and anger are worth taking seriously. They are not emotions to be squashed or belittled but a cry for life, a cry to allow life to live through me in ways I am still discovering. It has been through relationships that heal instead of harm that I have finally learned how to value and support myself.
Exploring the forms and expressions of your inner critic can bring you in contact with your innate creative ability to deal with different situations, and help you see why some situations hold such fear for you. Exploring, curiosity and care can allow clarity or meaning-making, compassion, strength and courage to arise to assist you on your journey.
If you recognize any of these things and would like support to explore what makes you come alive, and what cramps your impulse to live please feel welcome to phone, 0657346599 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exploring the workings of the inner critic in a group can be scary to start with, and I spend time with the group discovering what will create a safe enough atmosphere. One of the benefits of group work is the recognition it can afford, and the opportunity to feel supported, sometimes just by watching and listening to others exploring their difficulties. I’ll be giving a course during 10 evenings in Utrecht. If you know anyone who you think would be interested or would benefit, please send them a link with my details. A description of the course can be found here.