There was once a dreadfully wicked hobgoblin. One day he had a simply marvelous idea! He was going to make a looking-glass which would reflect everything that was good and beautiful in such a way that it would look dreadful or, at least, not very important. When you looked in it, you would not be able to see any of the good or the beautiful in yourself or in the world. In contrast, this looking glass would reflect everything that was bad or ugly quite clearly and make it look very important. The most beautiful landscapes would look like heaps of garbage, and the best people would look repulsive or would seem stupid. People's faces would be so changed that they could not be recognized, and if there was anything that a person was ashamed of or wanted to hide, you could be sure that this would be just the thing that the looking glass emphasized.
The hobgoblin set about making this looking glass and, when he was finished, was delighted with what he had done. Anyone who looked into it could only see the bad and the ugly and all that was good and beautiful in the world was distorted beyond recognition.
One day the hobgoblin's assistants decided to carry the looking glass up to the heavens so that even the angels would look into it and see themselves as ugly and stupid. They hoped that perhaps even God, himself, would look into it! But, as they reached the heavens, a great invisible force stopped them and they dropped the dreadful looking glass. And as it fell, it broke into millions and billions of pieces.
And now came the greatest misfortune of all. Each of the pieces was hardly as large as a grain of sand, and they flew about all over the world. If anyone got a bit of glass in his eye there it stayed, and then he would see everything as ugly, or else could only see the bad sides of a case. Everything good would look stupid. For every tiny splinter of the glass possessed the same power that the whole glass had!
Some people got a splinter in their hearts, and that was dreadful, too, for then their hearts would turn into a lump of ice and could no longer feel love.
The hobgoblin watched all this and he laughed til his sides ached. And still the tiny bits of glass flew about.
And now we will hear all about it..............
Adapted from "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Anderson
The Inner Critic is like that bit of mirror. It is that inner voice or part of ourselves that criticizes us and speaks about us in a disparaging way. It makes everything look ugly. Most of us are not even aware that it is a voice or a self speaking inside of us because its constant judgments have been with us since early childhood and its running critical commentary feels like a natural part of ourselves. It develops early in our lives, absorbing the judgments of the people around us and the expectations of the society in which we live. When we talk about this critical voice, please keep in mind that this Inner Critic is the voice within us that criticizes us, whereas the Judge is the self within us that criticizes other people.
The Inner Critic as a Citizen of the World
As we travelled around the world, and worked with people from many different cultures, we were amazed at the power and universality of the Inner Critic. It might wear a different costume, but it was easily recognizable! Whether we were teaching in Europe, Israel, Australia, or the United States or working with people from Japan, China or Southeast Asia, we found that it was always present. The content of its criticisms, however, varied according to the value system of each particular culture. We have been particularly fascinated by these variations.
For example, in America your Critic is likely to criticize you if you are not special enough or if you are not superior to others. Your Critic does not want you to disappear in the crowd, to be ordinary. Australian Critics take the opposite view. In Australia they have a saying that goes something like this: "Don't be a tall poppy because tall poppys get their heads cut off." You are not supposed to stand out, to be special, or to do anything that will draw special attention to you. Holland, and other Northern European countries that have a strong Calvinist background, have a similar value structure and there, too, it is important not to stand out, even if you have done something special. In these countries, the Inner Critics are quite judgmental towards people who stand out too much or who try to be special.
The great similarity we have noted amongst all the Inner Critics of the world is their ability to cripple people and to keep them unhappy and ineffective. Although it is interesting to think of what life would be like without this critical voice, in reality we can never "get rid of" it, nor would we want to. As we shall see in the course of this book, the Critic can become our ally once we learn to recognize it and to handle it. However, as long as it remains unconscious it requires us to constantly appease it.
You Cannot Please Your Inner Critic
No matter how much you try, you cannot please your Inner Critic. No matter how much you listen to it and try to change yourself in the way that it wants, it follows you and grows stronger. It is exactly like a parent who has been critical of you. It is also like the dragon in fairy tales that keeps growing more heads so long as you do not deal with it. Nothing that you do is okay. Not only that, but the harder you try to change yourself, the stronger it gets. The more you try to please it, the stronger it gets. The answer is to learn how to not play the game and that is what this book is about -- learning to not play the critic game.
Radio Station KRAZY
The Inner Critic has been with us since we were small children. It was born early in our lives in an attempt to protect us and keep us safe. What is important for us to realize here is that the Inner Critic has been broadcasting like a radio station since we were small children, announcing all the things that are wrong with us. We call this station KRAZY. Since it has been broadcasting for decades, the vast majority of us no longer hear it, for it is like background music and we do not even know that it is playing anymore.
It often happens that when people become aware of the Inner Critic and finally begin to catch hold of Station KRAZY, they will say to us: "You know, I've heard that voice all my life. I just thought it was me!" We say to you unequivocally that it is not you! It is a voice in you that has developed for specific reasons. It is not a voice that has to run your life forever!
The Inner Critic Has Super Star Billing
As we shall see, there are many different selves that make up who we are as individuals. The reason that we give the Inner Critic super star billing is that it is the one voice in us that has the ability to stop our process of personal growth totally, or at least to stunt it severely. It blocks our ability to live a creative life. How does this happen?
Let us say that it is midnight and you have gone to the kitchen and eaten two delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Once you have finished eating, the Inner Critic really starts to tear you down. It tells you how terrible you are, what a slob you are. It tells you that you have no self -control and never will have any self-control. It tells you that you are a blimp and that it hates you, that it is disgusted by you. The litany of your sins can go on endlessly and soon the act of eating two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches has become a major crime against humanity.
This kind of voice stops all growth. It is almost impossible to work on the issue of food and what it means to us when this voice has made our midnight party into a crime against humanity. It makes us feel so bad about the sandwichs, it so humiliates and shames us, that the Critic, itself, becomes the major problem. The issue is no longer the meaning of food in our lives and how we use it and need it to handle stress and anxiety. The issue now is how to handle the attack of an out of control critical voice that has turned eating into a major disease entity. Once the Inner Critic has reached this level of authority, it is not uncommom for people to be required to eat, smoke, drink, or use drugs, sex or exercise in a compulsive way in order to cover up the bad feelings that come from these "Critic attacks" The original issue is lost and the Critic is now the problem.
Once you understand that this is the voice of your Inner Critic, that radio station KRAZY, is playing, then you have choices and it is possible to begin to take some greater control over this area of your life. You can learn to turn down the volume or turn off the radio. You can learn to change to another station. Eventually, you can even learn to change the nature of the programming on this station. You can learn to change the behavior and attitude of this Inner Critic. First, however, you must learn to hear the music.
Where Did Your Inner Critic Come From?
In considering this question, always keep in mind that the Inner Critic's original function is to spare us shame and pain. This will help to keep things clear as we explore the development of the Critic and its purpose in our lives. In the growing up process your parents have to teach you to look good and to behave appropriately in order to succeed in the world, both at home and in the workplace. After all, who would be to blame if you turned out badly? So your parents look at you, try their best to figure out what is wrong with you, and then do what they can to fix it. The same is true of relatives, teachers, religous leaders, work related people and general acquaintances. Being fixed, and trying to fix others, is a very major part of human interactions.
Mothers usually notice that you do not look quite right, and try to correct the "problems" they think they see. They let you know their concerns about your looks and they discuss how to improve matters. They tell you to bathe, or to wash your hair, or to stand up straight in order to improve your appearance. They put you on a diet either to make you thinner or to make you fatter. They curl your hair or they straighten your hair. They tell you what is wrong with the way you dress or, perhaps, how much better someone else dresses or how much better someone else looks.
Some mothers are more indirect about the way they try to fix you, pointing out what is wrong with the way other people dress or act so that you will know what you should not do. Some mothers do not say anything. They just look at you with a worried expression and you have to guess what is wrong with you!
Your father observes that you are not careful enough when you help him with the chores, or when you do your homework, so he points out what you are doing wrong, or tells you that you are clumsy or careless. He wants you to be disciplined, careful, and clever. He wants you to be able to figure things out and to solve problems. As you listen to him, you begin to feel pretty stupid. Parents need to succeed in making you a proper person - whatever that means to them - in order to feel good about themselves. Underneath all this is their own insecurity, and their own fear of failure as parents.
There are also some aspects of your behavior that that make your parents pretty uncomfortable. They do not like it when you interrupt them, when you are noisy, when you are angry, or when you cannot sit still. Your curiousity and your sexuality may embarrass them. When you do not obey them, they get annoyed. When they want you to sleep, they want you to sleep whether or not you are sleepy. They want you to eat what they want you to eat, and they do not necessarily take your taste into consideration. You must eat what is good for you and at the times that are convenient for them. There are lots of things about you that your parents want to change just because they are who they are!
No matter what their motivation, the basic message you receive from your parents in all of this is:"There is something wrong with you". The implication is that if only you would improve yourself all would go well for you.
In order to protect ourselves from the pain and the shame of always being found "less than" we should be, a voice develops within us that echoes the concerns of our parents, our church, or of other people who were important to us in our early years. We literally develop a "self", a separate subpersonality, that criticizes us before our parents - or anyone else, for that matter - can!
The Inner Critic is a self (or subpersonality) that develops to protect us from being shamed or hurt. It is extremely anxious, almost desperate, for us to succeed in the world and to be accepted and liked by others. It is not the only self that lives within us. You can read in detail about our many selves, how they develop, and how they operate in relationships in our books, Embracing Our Selves and Embracing Each Other.
What Does this Inner Critic Sound LIke?
The Inner Critic is remarkable in a number of different ways. It seems to operate with heightened awareness in all areas. It can see, hear and feel what is wrong with us as though it had the most advanced technology at its disposal. It has the intelligence of a genius, an uncanny intuition, an ability to analyze our feelings and motivations, a sweeping gaze that notices the tiniest of details, and, in general, an unerring ability to see and to magnify all our faults and shortcomings. It seems to be a lot more intelligent and perceptive than we ordinary mortals are.
If you listen carefully, you can hear it whispering in your ears at most any time. Here are some of its favorite statements:
"The trouble with you is..."
"You're basically ugly. Nothing you ever do will help."
"You're not really loveable." or "Nobody really likes you."
"You're basically flawed."
"You look dreadful."
"You're too short. Nobody takes short people seriously."
"You're getting old."
"That outfit is all wrong. You look ridiculous."
"You have no talent."
"You shouldn't have said that."
"If you didn't work twice as hard as everyone else, you'd never make it."
"You need to have your nose done."
"You may have fooled them into thinking you're smart, but wait until they find out the truth about how little you really know."
"You are really a fake underneath it all."
This is just a small taste of Inner Critic statements. In addition to all this, the Inner Critic has woven its way into our language structure in a way that is very powerful and that impacts us quite negatively. One its favorite words is "mistake. " It dearly loves this word. "That was a mistake. I should not have gone to lunch. I should not have sent that letter. I should not have eaten that sandwich. I should have said 'yes' to that invitation." Behind all these "should nots" and "shoulds" is the basic assumption that we erred, that we made a mistake. A mistake is unacceptable and we feel miserable whenever we think we have made one.
In looking at the Critic's use of language, we must not forget the word symptom and other related ways of describing things. Extra weight becomes a symptom. Having too much to eat becomes a symptom.. A headache becomes a symptom.. Too much coffee becomes an addiction.. A strong attachment to another person becomes addictive behavior. The need for others, which is universal, becomes "co-dependency," a new diagnostic category. It is not that there is no merit in some of these terms. They have proven very helpful to people who are combatting certain kinds of behavior. The problem is that the Inner Critic picks these terms up and uses them as weapons against our growth.
Imagine that someone becomes ill and a New Age friend says to that person: "You created your illness and you are responsible for your health." Think of someone with cancer or some serious illness and just imagine what the Inner Critic does with that. Tuning into the Inner Critic is an amazing experience as we begin to hear how powerful and all pervasive are the judgmental voices that surround us and feed the Critic in our society.
What Does Your Critic Really Want and How Does It Actually Affect You?
It really wants you to be OK. It really wants you to make it in the world, to have a good job, to make enough money. It really wants you to be loved, to be successful, to be accepted, to have a family. It developed in your early years to protect your vulnerability by helping you to adapt to the world around you and to meet its requirements, whatever they might be. In order to do its job properly, it needed to curb your natural inclinations and to make you acceptable to others by criticizing and correcting your behavior before other people could criticize or reject you. In this way, it reasoned, it could earn love and protection for you as well as save you much shame and hurt.
However, the Inner Critic often does not know when to stop. It does not know when enough is enough. It has a tendency to grow until it is out of control and begins to undermine us and to do real damage. Its original intent gets lost in the sands of time. Like a well-trained CIA agent, the Inner Critic has learned how to infiltrate every portion of your life, checking you out in minute detail for weakness and imperfections. Since its main job is to protect you from being too vulnerable in the world, it must know everything about you that might be open to attack from the outside.
But, like a renegade CIA agent, at some point the Critic oversteps its bounds, takes matters into its own hands and begins to operate on its own agenda. The information, which was originally supposed to be for your overall defense and to promote your general wellbeing, is now being used against you, the very person it was meant to protect. With the Critic's original aims and purposes forgotten, all that is left for it is the excitement of the chase and the wonderfully triumphant feeling of conquest, as it operates secretly and independently of any outside control.
When the Critic starts to outgrow its initial usefulness in this way, there is real trouble. At this point, the Inner Critic makes you feel dreadful about yourself. With your Inner Critic watching your every move, you become self-conscious, awkward and ever more fearful about making a mistake. You may even stop trying because the Critic tells you that you are going about things all wrong and will undoubtedly fail. Although, underneath all of this, the Critic may want you to be so perfect that you will not fail, its effect is to block any attempts you might make.
The Inner Critic kills your creativity. How can you possibly try anything new or different when you know that you will do something wrong?
The Inner Critic, on an inner level, is the source of low self-esteem. How can you possibly feel good about yourself when you have a voice inside of you that is telling you non-stop, what is wrong with you?
The Inner Critic is a source of shame. It is constantly telling you about what is wrong with you. It finds every aspect of the natural "you" unsatisfactory, and it is relentlessly trying to change everything. There is no part of you that can avoid its piercing gaze - even the depths of your feelings, dreams and impulses that you might be able to hide from the outside world.
The Inner Critic can make you depressed. If your Critic is running your life without any balance coming in from elsewhere, its constant barrage of criticism can be extremely debilitating and discouraging. This can lead to physical and psychological exhaustion and depression.
The Inner Critic and the Inner Family of Selves
The Inner Critic is not alone. It is only one of a number of primary selves that make up our personality and define who we are in the world.
Each of us is born into this world a unique human being. We are born with a genetic make-up that will determine our physical appearance and will, to some extent, effect our behavior. In addition to this, we are born with our own "psychic fingerprint" a unique and indefinable but clear quality that identifies us and makes us different from everyone else. It is this quality that you think of when you think of a particular person. It has nothing to do with physical appearance or behavior - it is far more subtle. This "psychic fingerprint" is carried by our initial self, the Vulnerable Child who will be with us throughout our lives. Last, but not least, we are born with the inherent capacity to develop any number of "selves". These selves are the building blocks of the personality we will have as we grow older.
As infants, we are extremely sensitive and quite open to everything that happens around us and to us. We are totally dependent upon others for the love and the care that we need to survive. We are in a state of complete vulnerability. Without proper caretaking, we will not live to grow up.
What can we do to ensure that we survive? What can we do to be sure that others do not hurt us and that they take care of us? To meet these needs, we develop a personality that both protects us and makes us attractive to others. This personality is made up of a group of sub-personalities, or selves, that helps us to fit into our environment. These selves are called "primary selves" because they are primary in our lives - they determine who we are and how we act.
As we develop these primary selves, we move away from our initial psychic fingerprint and we adapt to the world around us. Imagine an infant in the crib. It wants to feel good, to be smiled at, picked up, and hugged. There is someone, a mother, looking down at it. The infant discovers that when it smiles, this mother smiles back. She is warm and happy and she picks up the child and holds it. She makes sweet loving sounds. Life is good.
Our infant, although it may truly feel like smiling much of the time, soon learns that smiling is an important act. Life is much better when it smiles. Thus, one of the earliest primary selves is born, the Pleaser. This Pleaser begins to override the natural tendency to smile and makes the child smile more frequently than it would ordinarily without the Pleaser's instructions. This way, the mother will be happy. This makes the infant safe and the world feels a good deal nicer. With the Pleaser as a primary self, we make others happy and they, in turn, make us happy. In this way, our vulnerability is protected.
Now that the Pleaser has become a primary self, there are opposite energies (or selves) that exist that must be kept away so that the Pleaser can do its job properly. The infant learns that when it is unhappy or angry and it cries loud, it will be ignored or, perhaps, spanked. At best, its mother will try to stop its crying, but she is not the same happy loving mother that responds to the Pleaser. The crying makes her tense and irritable and the world just does not feel as good as it did when the Pleaser was in charge. So our infant learns that crying is bad and Anger becomes what we call a disowned self. The disowned self is a self that is pushed away and not allowed into our conscious lives. It is equal and opposite to the primary self that makes up our personality. We may know that it is there underneath, but we try our best to keep it down. The infant may know that it wants to cry, but it stifles this reaction. If this continues long enough, and if the Pleaser gets strong enough, the young child may not even be aware that the anger or the tears are there at all.
This gives you a picture of the way our personalities develop. As we have said, our personalities are made up of a group of primary selves that determine who we are and how we behave. They make our decisions for us automatically. We have no choice so long as we are not aware of them. If the Pleaser is one of my primary selves, I must be nice to you and accomodate myself to your wishes, I actually have no choice in the matter. It is not that I am being dishonest or manipulating you. It is simply that I, or actually my Pleaser, must put your needs before mine.
It is ironic that the Vulnerable Child, whose protection is the aim of the primary selves, gets lost in all this. We must develop a personality, a set of primary selves, to protect this Vulnerable Child or we will not survive. However, in protecting it, we bury it.
As we become aware of these selves inside of us, it changes the way in which the primary selves operate in our lives. It gives birth to an Aware Ego which we will describe at the end of this chapter. This Aware Ego is then in a position to take over gently from the primary selves that have cared for us over the years, and to assure them that it can keep us safe. The development of this awareness and of an Aware Ego to replace the Ego that has been operating, is an extremely important aspect of "Inner Child work".
The Rule Maker
We have talked a bit about the development of the Pleaser and the disowning of anger. Now let us show you how some of the other primary selves develop because these all work closely with the Inner Critic. Each of us has a Rule Maker who makes up the rules about what kind of person we should be and what kinds of characteristics are unacceptable. This part of us develops early in life to protect our vulnerability. It looks around us, sees what is rewarded and what is punished, and it develops a set of rules for us to live by that will keep us safe.
For instance, if you grow up in a normal middle class American family, your Rule Maker would probably want you to be sensible, successful, hardworking, honest, dependable, an achiever, fairly well-behaved, cheerful, outgoing, self-assured, attractively dressed, and neatly groomed. These qualities will be reflected in your primary selves. Your Rule Maker will probably not want you to be lazy, sloppy, angry, too sexual, too emotional, loud, inappropriate, shy, unattractive, dishonest, selfish, etc., etc. These equal and opposite qualities will become your disowned selves.
Your Critic works hand in glove with this Rule Maker. It is your Critic's job to help you to live up to the standards set by your Rulemaker who, generally speaking, sounds like the voices of parents and society blended together on an inner level. Your Critic will keep a close eye on you to be sure that you do not fall below the standard that has been set. Needless to say, the standard is impossible for anyone but Superman to attain, but it is there, nonetheless. This relationship beteween the Inner Critic and Rule Maker is essential to understand because the Critic's job is to uphold the rules that have been established.
To learn to handle the Inner Critic means that we also must learn to separate from the Rule Maker. For instance, if the Rule Maker wants us to be competent and self-assured, the Critic will review our behavior and find any signs, either overt or covert, of lack of competence or insecurity. Even if any objective observer would think that we had done a great job, our Inner Critic, knowing what was going on inside of us, is able to find the flaws in either our performance or our inner attitude.
The Pusher is another major primary self in many of us and a great teammate of the Inner Critic. It usually develops to help us do well at school. The Pusher's job is to get us to achieve, to meet goals, to keep moving forward in life. It helps us to get ahead in the world. This Pusher, whom you may have met in our other books, is never satisfied. We can always do more, or do it faster, or better. It sets ever-changing requirements for us. Just as we reach the goal line, wherever it may be, the Pusher runs out ahead of us and moves the goal a bit farther on, so that it is again out of reach. With a strongly developed Pusher, we are like racing dogs running after an artificial rabbit that we can never catch.
Your Pusher has developed as a primary self to gain recognition for you and to assure your success in the world. In our culture, we admire the person who does the most, who sets the records. Our parents try very hard to get us to be hard workers and, it is to be admitted, that most of us would not accomplish much without the aid of a Pusher. But the Pushers of the world do have a tendency to be a bit too ambitious.
We have noticed that New Age Pushers absolutely love bookstores. We would certainly estimate that a large percentage of books are purchased by the Pushers of the world, especially the New Age Pushers. Once we have the books that the Pusher buys, the Critic joins the team and criticizes us for not reading them, for not reading them carefully enough, for forgetting what we have read, or for not underlining properly.
The Critic works with the Pusher to get us to move, move, move! At any sign that we are getting too lazy, that we might possibly fall behind, that we might be less than the next person, the Critic will point out our failing to us and the Pusher will start to push. The Critic's cry, when it is teamed up with the Pusher, is: "You are just not making it. Everyone is out there ahead of you."
The Perfectionist is another common primary self that develops to help us to succeed in the world. It wants us to look perfect, act perfect, and be perfect in all that we do. It will not tolerate a shoddy job and will drive us to distraction, redoing and redoing everything until it is just right. Nothing is less important than anything else. It is just as important to play perfectly during a friendly tennis volley as in the final match in a tournement. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing perfectly. And that is all there is to that. Perfect is perfect. If our goal is perfection, then whose job is it to find the imperfections?
You've guessed it, it is our friend, the Inner Critic! If the Perfectionist sets the standard of perfection, then the Critic will help us to achieve the goal, no matter how unrealistic or inappropriate it may be. There is no question about priorities, everything is equally important and everything must be just right. The Critic with its eagle eye and its superior intelligence will find every mistake, awkwardness, or problem, and point it out to us with glee.
So, as you can see from these examples, our Inner Critic is not alone, but will play ball with any of the primary selves that dominate our lives.
If These Are All Selves, Then Who Are We?
Before we discover that we are made up of selves, we think that our primary selves are who we are. We think that the set of primary selves, the personality, that we have developed to protect us truly represents us. If I have a strong Perfectionist and a strong Pusher as two of my primary selves, I just assume that I am a perfectionistic and hardworking person, and that perhaps I'm even a bit driven.
Although this may be a surprise to you, we actually do lead lives run by our Rule Makers, Inner Critics, Pushers, Perfectionists, Pleasers, Responsible Parents, and other selves. Because of this, we have no real choices available to us. We must continue to live our lives by their rules. We call this collection of primary selves our Operating Ego. When this Operating Ego is in charge, we are not driving our own psychological cars. Instead, they are driven by whichever of our primary selves is the strongest at the moment. Our disowned selves, such as our Boundary Setters, our Fun Lovers, our Daydreamers, our Self Indulgent Princesses, our Warriors, our Incompetent Oafs, and our Irresponsible Children, are locked securely in the trunk.
Introducing the Aware Ego
Once we become aware of our primary selves, we are able to begin to separate from them and to pick up the information and the feelings of the disowned selves on the opposite side. Or, to use the analogy of the car, we take over control of the car from the primary selves, rescue the disowned selves from the trunk, and drive our own psychological car with all of these selves as passengers. This is the position of an Aware Ego. It is only from an Aware Ego, when we have access to the opposites within us, that we have real choice about what we do in life. Then, and only then, are we in a position to truly care for ourselves.
The separation from your primary selves is the first step in developing an Aware Ego. This Aware Ego is not a self. It is a "you" that is not dominated by any self or set of selves. It is able to contain all the opposites that you are, to accept and to honor them appropriately. It moves you beyond duality. It is a process, not a goal. Your Aware Ego will not remain with you at all times because it disappears each time your primary selves take over. Your primary selves will automatically take over to protect you when you are vulnerable. You can think of them as providing a much needed safety net.
The Aware Ego gives you the ability to discover the complexity of your feelings and the richness of the many selves that inhabit your psyche. It also enables you to move in closer and closer to your own psychic fingerprint and to reclaim the unique human being that you were born to be. If you wish, you can read more about the Aware Ego in our previous writings.
In reading this book, you are doing a very important piece of work. You are separating from your Inner Critic, one of your primary selves, and developing an Aware Ego in relation to that particular self. As you do so, you no longer need to be the victim of your Inner Critic and you are able to operate from an Aware Ego in one very important aspect of your life - in evaluating yourself and your behavior.
Stones' Warning: Trying to live life from an Aware Ego gives the Inner Critic the best food of all! Inner Critics simply love to accuse us of not having an Aware Ego. We all do the best that we can and each of us is in process. If you try too hard to live your life from an Aware Ego, it is a sure sign that your Pusher and/or Perfectionist have taken over again. This will allow your Inner Critic to grow even fatter as it tries to help you to reach this new, and unattainable, goal.
Getting to Know Your Inner Critic
The following are some questions for you to consider and exercises for you to do. We have included questions or exercises in this book in order to help you to experience, within yourself, the material covered in that specific chapter. They are also intended to help you become aware of, and to separate from, your own Inner Critic. These exercises may be helpful to you, but they are certainly not essential requirements for getting the most out of this book. Take a look at them and see if you wish to consider them.
If you do decide to work on these exercises, you may wish to work with one or more other people. We have found that it can be very helpful, and often amusing, to hear how the Critic works in others. In addition, when one has a strong Critic, one's awareness and one's power to deal with the Critic is strengthened by the presence of other people who are doing the same work. If working on these exercises upsets you, please stop the work. You might even consider the possibility of professional help with this material if you find that your own Inner Critic has too much power in your life.
There are three sets of exercises that we have prepared for this first chapter and "Getting to know your Inner Critic" is the topic for the first set. We are going to try and help you learn how to tune in to Radio Station KRAZY so that you begin to hear what your own Critic is saying to you. As we have said, this is the first step in recognizing your Critic's voice and separating from it.
Getting to Know Your Inner Critic
1. Tuning In To Station KRAZY
Over a one to three day period of time, pay attention to the critical things you say or feel about yourself. For example, you might be looking in the mirror, as you do every morning, and suddenly you become aware of how much time you spend looking disapprovingly at your face. Notice what you don't like about it. Pay attention to the things you say or feel about yourself that you take for granted. "I'm way too fat -- I can't stand my hair -- My nose is just too big!" When someone says that they can't stand something about themselves, it is not the person who is speaking. Rather, it is the Inner Critic that is speaking.
Later in the day, listen for your Critic when you are driving your car, waiting for an appointment, going to bed at night, waking up during the night, or waking up in the morning. Your Critic is there talking in your head all the time. Catch hold of it and listen to what it is saying. What does it think is wrong with you? What were the mistakes you made during the day? Where could you have done better? What have you overlooked? What should you have done differently?
The things that make you dissatisfied with yourself reflect the judgments of your Inner Critic. We have found that many people have an easier time catching hold of the Critic if they record its comments in a notebook. In this way, you begin to tune in to Station KRAZY. Congratulations! It has been playing for years. You are now beginning to hear it clearly.
2. Compare your Station KRAZY with others'
Now compare notes with other people. What are some of the similarities and differences between the comments of your Critic and the Critics of other people? Talk to as many people as you possibly can because comparing your Inner Critic to others' begins to take the sting out of your own Inner Critic's comments which, up until this time, have seemed accurate and specific to you, alone. You will be surprised to find that others' Critics tell them the same things that yours tells you. You can easily see the exaggeration and inaccuracies of other people's Critics. This gives you additional power and objectivity. After all, you are not the only one who has these worries about yourself.
In getting together with others and sharing your Critics' comments - perhaps having a Critic Party - you have an opportunity to support one another in the process of separation from the Inner Critic. This can be much more fun than doing it alone. These sharings can even get hilarious, because Critics do have a way of getting pretty outrageous.
3. What does your Critic look like?
Now that you have heard what your Inner Critic sounds like, we would like you to see what it looks like. This following exercise gives you a way to objectify your Inner Critic, to make it concrete and to start to see it as a physical reality outside of yourself.
Take a piece of paper and draw a picture of your Inner Critic. If you prefer, make a clay model of it, or if you have no clay, perhaps you would like to use Play-Doh or some other material that appeals to you. Use your imagination and remember that this is not a test of your artistic ability. Relax and have fun. There are no rules. Some Critics look like mothers or fathers or siblings. Some look like animals or dragons. Some look fierce, some do not. Some carry books in which to record your shortcomings. Each Inner Critic is unique. What does yours look like?
Now, if it is appropriate to you, give it a name. You may find that this name is the name of someone near and dear to you whom your Critic resembles - like one of your parents, or a teacher. Or it may have a name that is all its own. Giving the Critic a name is a further step in the process of making it more objective.
Where Did Your Critic Come From?
In the following exercises you will have the opportunity to uncover the roots of your very own Critic. It did not originate in the heavens above, but it grew in the fertile soil provided by the judgments of the people around you. As you see the origin of your Inner Critic's favorite judgments, your Aware Ego grows in strength and objectivity.
4. In the first exercise, you already have recorded a number of statements made by your Inner Critic. Take each statement separately and ask yourself the following questions:
a. Does this statement sound like somebody I know? For example, if the statement is "You are too bossy" this might be something your mother used to say to you. Pay particular attention to your parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts, teachers, and religious leaders.
b. When do I first remember being concerned about this issue? This may be difficult, but sometimes a particular incident or period in life was so painful the the Critic jumped in quite suddenly to "help."
5. Write down your mother's favorite judgmental comments about you. If she did not say these out loud, what was it about you that you knew displeased her?
6. Think of the ways in which your mother judged other people. Write down some of her favorite judgments about others.
7. Write down some judgmental comments that your father made about you when he criticized you. (If he did not say these out loud, what was it about you that you knew displeased him?)
8. Think of the ways in which your father judged other people. Write down his favorite judgments of others.
9. What were the worst characteristics that a person could have - according to your grade school classmates?
10. What were the worst characteristics that a person could have - according to your high school classmates?
11. What were the worst characteristics that a person could have - according to your college classmates?
12. What are the worst characteristics that a person could have - according to your current friends?
Now you can see the origin of some of the most popular scripts used on your special station KRAZY. You are beginning to gain some separation from your Inner Critic.