Have you ever noticed a voice in your head that criticizes you all the time?
Would you like to know more about it?
The good news is that you are not alone.
Just to give you some background: This voice was first described by Freud as the Superego. Others have given it different names, such as the Inner Judge or the Inner Critic.
In this article, I will refer to it as the Inner Critic, a structure in our psyche that manifests itself as our inner voice.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM ?
It might sound strange, but researchers in the field of depth psychology discovered that we are made of several sub-personalities and the Inner Critic is one of them.
Some observed that this judge is the internalized voice of our parents or those who took care of us while we were growing up.
During childhood, our parents had to teach us to look nice and behave appropriately to succeed in the world.
Our parents needed to make us a decent person, whatever that meant to them, so that they could feel good about themselves.
So, one of the key components of this Inner Critic is our parents’ insecurity and their fear of failure.
This voice was born early in our lives as an attempt to protect and keep us safe by avoiding shame and pain. It wants to make us acceptable to others by criticizing and correcting our behavior before other people could criticize or reject us.
The problem is that no matter how much we listen to it, how much we try to change ourselves in the way it wants, we cannot please the Inner Critic. It does not know where to stop. It does not know when enough is enough.
ARE YOU SPECIAL ENOUGH?
Something which makes the Inner Critic weightier has been introduced in our society in recent times: the “being special” element.
The need to be special adds immeasurable stress to your lives.
Television, magazines, and nowadays social media, set our standards very high. I don’t mean that we should become careless or satisfied with mediocrity but we should get off this stress of inner demand and permit ourselves to be ordinary at least in some aspects of our lives.
THE JUDGMENT TOWARDS OTHERS
In the growing-up process, we usually develop either an Inner Critic who judges us or a critic who judges the world.
These are opposite sides of the same coin.
Sometimes, parental judgments are quite subtle, and we might not even think of them as judgments that affect us. For instance, our parents might say nothing judgmental to us directly, but they might judge others in our presence.
As we grow up, we might develop a powerful critic who watches us carefully to make sure that we never become like the people our parents used to judge.
Judgment towards others and comparison with others become another form of how the Critic can manifest.
The way we judge others might also tell us a lot about ourselves.
There is a healthy form of judgment, which is called discernment. This type of judgement is vital in our lives so, it is very important that while working with the Critic we do not suppress our discernment. It is easy to confuse it with the Critic's voice.
It is very important to note that our work with the Critic helps us refine this capacity for discernment.
HOW THE INNER CRITIC AFFECT US
1. We become depressed
We don’t know what is happening, we shut down, and we became the victim of this voice and of life.
2. We counterattack by criticizing others
Instead of feeling powerless, inadequate, or depressed, we become judgmental towards other people, but at our core, we remain intensely vulnerable and self-critical.
3. We become rebellious
This is the case for those who had very judgmental parents. They rebel against the Inner Critic, and project it on authorities in the world.
An example can be when people break from a strict religious upbringing that they perceived as too judgmental. They rebel against this fundamentalist belief structure, and they often adopt the opposite values, making them believe they are free from this judge.
They might go through life hating and judging those fundamentalists and never realize that a fundamentalist self (who preach the opposite of that doctrine) has allied with the Inner Critic.
We can apply the same psychological mechanism to the extremist political groups.
4. We change according to the situation
It is still a kind of rebellion as the one described above, but we take different positions depending on the situation we are in.
We jump to the other side of what the Inner Critic wants. If, for example, it wants us to behave in a certain way, we will do the opposite.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO DISENGAGE FROM THE VOICE OF THE CRITIC?
At the moment when we receive a criticism, if we answer by justifying ourselves, debating, or explaining our point, we are engaging. We have given the right to the judge to judge us.
So, when we engage with it, we are just hoping to win the confrontation.
We need to give up the game of winning or losing with our judge.
Real disengagement requires dis-identifying from the part of ourselves that feels the need for the judge.
Disengaging from the judge will not always make us feel better.
As I already said, this judge develops as a protective mechanism to keep us away from painful and overwhelming feelings. Now that we have learned to disengage, the original feelings that our judge was protecting us from may arise
This is the biggest challenge in disengaging. We must honestly want the truth of our own experience more than we want to avoid pain.
STEPS FOR DISENGAGEMENT
1. Identify the attack or judgmental statements.
2. Learn to recognize the experience of judgment through the way it changes your energetic and somatic state.
Does it make you feel depressed? What type of sensation does it provoke in your body?
3. Acknowledge the fact that the judge was serving a purpose, but now you are an adult, and you don’t need it anymore.
4. Learn to recognize the emotional reaction you have about the judgment.
5. See and feel how judgment provokes self-rejection through internally making you feel a certain way.
When the judge is transformed, it can keep his intelligence and analyse everything without being judgmental.
At this point, it has become objective and its observation is discerning rather than condemnatory.
A great tool for becoming more aware of the Inner Critic's voice is meditation because it can help us develop an inner observer, leading to disidentification from the Inner Critic. If you would like to know more, you can read one of my articles about Meditation.