I HATE MY INNER CRITIC!
Everyone does! Your inner critic will say all kinds of horrible things to you. This builds obstacles along the path to recovery. In this episode I am joined again by UK psychotherapist Joshua Fletcher to examine the inner critic, where it comes from, and how to best react to it and ultimately silence it.
What Is The Inner Critic?
Many people have an “inner critic” that speaks to them in harsh, negative terms. The inner critic is a nagging inner voice or dialogue that shows up to criticize and discourage you.
Typical Inner Critic Statements
Your inner critic will say all kinds of negative and harsh things to you. Typical examples include:
“You were terrible today.”
“You fail at everything.”
“You are weak for even feeling this way.”
“You are too much for everyone.”
“You’re not smart or strong enough to recover!”
Where Does The Inner Critic Come From?
The negative beliefs about yourself that fuel the inner critic come from a process called “introjection”. We absorb and incorporate beliefs into our view of the ourselves and the world based on our experiences. Our introjected beliefs become the conditions we think we must meet in life to be “OK”. Your inner critic is the voice that tells you that you are failing to meet the conditions for “OK-ness” that your introjected beliefs have created!
(Introjection is a term used often by Carl Rogers, who was a pioneer in the area of humanistic and person-centered psychology and did tremendous work that has advanced therapy around the world. You can learn more about Carl Rogers and person-centered therapy here.)
Direct vs Indirect Introjections
Learning to relate more productively to your inner critic and ultimately silence it involves first understanding where the underlying beliefs come from. This is where being able to recognize both direct and indirect introjections can be very helpful. You may consider your past experiences using this framework, and begin to understand where some of your less helpful and incorrect beliefs about yourself were formed.
Direct introjection: When you are explicitly handed the beliefs of our parents, teachers, religious leaders, and other role models. We may absorb those beliefs into our view of yourself. For example, if your father tells you directly that you must not cry because you must be “strong”, he is handing you his belief that showing emotion is wrong and a sign of weakness or fragility that must not be displayed. Depending on frequency, your age, your existing self-beliefs at the time, and the context of the exchange, you may introject your father’s belief into the way you see yourself. You may begin to carry the idea that your emotions are a problem because they mean you are weak, incapable or broken.
Indirect introjection: Beliefs we construct and absorb through experiences and the way we interpret them. For example, a favorite teacher may excessively praise you for good grades without ever taking time to acknowledge or explain things when you. might struggle from time to time. You may interpret this as a lesson in perfectionism – that only perfect performance is permitted and worthy of recognition, praise and acceptance. This interpretation may lead to in introjected belief that you must only succeed in order to be worthy, loved, or safe.
The Inner Critic Builds Obstacles Along Your Recovery Path!
The beliefs that fuel your inner critic will embolden the inner critic to build obstacles along your path to recovery! Your inner critic will attack your self-esteem. It will tell you that being afraid means you are weak. It will tell you that being unsure makes you incapable. It will tell you that you are not even worthy of a better life. It will tell you that you are a failure and that it’s pointless to even try to recover.
These attacks on your sef-esteem and self-beliefs can trigger and magnify your threat response. They can quickly distort and magnify the negatives and totally disregard the positives. This is exactly what you do NOT need in recovery!
Your inner critic can certainly make the recovery process more difficult and laden with twists and turns, but it does not make it impossible! Along the way you can learn to recognize the lies of your inner critic when we know where they came from.
Learning to identify the mistaken lessons from your past that fuel your inner critic takes time. You must learn to be aware of when the inner critic is telling you lies, then do your best to remember that they are lies built from lessons we were taught or interpreted in our past. Being taught a lesson does not make it a correct lesson. Believing a thing does not make it a thing! You can learn to turn away from and ultimately silence your inner critic by acting in opposition to what it tells you. This can make a huge difference in your recovery but you must be patient with yourself. This, like everything else in recovery and in life, is a process that is often challenging. You can do challenging things, no matter how long it may take.
Thank you to Josh Fletcher for taking the time to be with us on this episode. You can find Josh online here:
Josh’s podcast (The Panic Pod): https://thepanicpod.com
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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)