Thirty years of subpersonality theory and therapy has taught us one thing: you have got to know your various sides if you really want to flourish. This is even more true for the big kahunas that keep us blocked. The biggest of the kahunas is the Inner Critic.
Inner Critic Speaking
“Don’t”, “can’t”, “That’s just not you,” “you are not good enough”, “Who do you think you are?”, “Whoa, you’re thinking too big, get small,” etc., etc., etc. Sound familiar? Can you add more of your own? The Inner Critic, a side of your mind is right there with you to keep you stuck, fearful, angry, indecisive, and feeling “off.”
Where Did the Inner Critic Come From?
Many places. First, from your family. What became your Inner Critic were the perspectives, beliefs, fears, cautions, and traditions of your family and probably your parent’s family. This structured the world of the household and gave everyone some common experiences to share. We soaked up this structure and it came to be part of our bag of survival skills along with: “Look both ways when crossing the street” and “Don’t run with scissors.” We wanted to survive and to more or less fit into our home world. Next came another powerful place where we learned to survive—with our peers (friends, brothers and sisters, our school cohort). In fact, some argue what really defines us are our peers, not our parents. More fodder for the Inner Critic came from our peers: how to dress, what is cool, who is attractive, to name only a very few. We got the message and we took this stuff very, very seriously.
What? The Inner Critic Has a Positive Side? You’re Kidding, Right?
With our survival lessons learned, we go on with our lives, not being far from this learning. For some, every time they want to stretch themselves in their creativity or even start being creative, the Inner Critic shows up on the scene. Subpersonality therapy has made great strides by: recognizing that the Inner Critic is there for a purpose, it probably has at least a few good ideas that are still valid, it should not be banished (that doesn’t work), and it should be brought into your team (you have other subpersonalities, too). Once it is squarely on your team you can cut deals with the Inner Critic. With the right approach, your Inner Critic will back off if it feels that it has been listened to and your survival is assured. Given these conditions, the Inner Critic can at last listen to what you want (i.e. I want to step up to some new creative task). It gets what it wants (being fully listened to) and you get what you want.
Meeting and Getting Along With Your Inner Critic
1. Listen to the Inner Critic. Write down what your Critic says. Increase your skill at capturing these strong but frequently vague words/moods/body sensations.
2. Close your eyes and invite the Inner Critic to show up. That’s right, invite the Inner Critic to appear in your imagination. What does the Critic look like? Male, female, animal, other? Draw a picture or at least write down the details of your observations.
3. Ask the Inner Critic what it wants from you and ask the Critic for what you want. Keep your eyes closed and spend time really listening to the Critic. Treat the Critic like a guest into your home. Be curious. Don’t try to overrule, threaten, or do other things you wouldn’t do to a friend (or stranger). Next, ask the Inner Critic to listen to you and what you want.
4. Shake hands, say goodbye, but meet often. Sorry, but this work is not done with one visit. Accept the fact that the Inner Critic is a big kahuna and is here to stay. Be proactive, take time to meet with your Inner Critic and work that time into your prep for taking on more creative challenges. Make it one of your regular stops on the way to unstuckness.
Want to know more? Great. See the books in The Stuck Creative store on the Inner Critic.