SOME THOUGHTS ON THE INNER CRITIC
Hal and Sidra Stone
The Inner Critic is the voice in us that tells us bad things about ourselves. The Inner Judge is that voice in us that feels critical of, or who criticizes, other people.
The Inner Critic is born very early in life, when we first integrate rules about how we should feel, think, or behave. The moment that we have a rule with which we identify, that is the moment that the Inner Critic develops; its job is to enforce that rule.
How do these rules develop in us? They begin to emerge in our very earliest years in response to both verbal and non-verbal cues that we get from our surroundings as we grow up.
Let us say that you grow up in a family where you learn that it is important to be nice. You are rewarded with love, attention, and perhaps even praise when you are nice. You are punished by the withdrawal of affection, or actual verbal or physical punishment, when you are not nice. “Being nice” becomes one of your basic rules of living. It becomes the foundation of how you relate to others. Being nice helps you to avoid pain and humiliation; it earns you love. You don’t know that it is a rule because it is so natural to you. Your experience is simply that this is the way you are.
As you identify with this rule or requirement for living, your Inner Critic steps in to perform its job. The Inner Critic’s job is to enforce the rule. If you behave badly or have a bad thought, then the job of the Inner Critic is to criticize you for that behavior so that you will be good. It punishes you for deviating from any of the rules that you have adopted as your own – rules that you have learned from your parents, extended family, secular and religious teachers, friends, and any other people or teachings that impacted you in growing up.
Why does the Critic punish you in this way? This is the really strange part. The Inner Critic punishes you with its criticism in order to protect you and keep you safe. In your family you were punished and shamed when you were ‘bad’ This is very painful to a young child. The Inner Critic remembers that pain. It stands very close to the sensitivity and pain of your Inner Child. By criticizing you for bad behavior or bad thoughts, it is trying to help you avoid the pain that it knows will come to you if you act against these primary rules.
You might think of the Inner Critic as a policeman who stops you when you are violating ‘the law’ The more rules or laws, the stronger the Inner Critic or “the police”. The deeper, the more black and white, the more unconscious the rules, the stronger the Inner Critic.
The lesson for all of us here is to commit ourselves to what we feel is the number one job of consciousness work ú the discovery of the rules/laws/primary selves that control our lives without our knowledge. As we discover these rules and learn to balance them with whatever self or group of selves that are are on the other side, then the Inner Critic goes on a weight loss regime that is more effective than any diet on the market today.
One of the greatest rewards for doing the work of learning about our own rules, separating from our primary selves, and evolving a more Aware Ego is this mastery over the Inner Critic.
Hal and Sidra Stone