Inner Critic Exercise
Overview - The purpose of this exercise is to externalize the thoughts/voices inside your head/psyche that criticize you and contribute to you feeling like you're not enough. The idea is that by externalizing the attack, you are able to zoom out and get a better sense of what's really going on.
Once you can see what's going on, you can begin to shift your reaction to the attacks - basically desensitize yourself to each attack so you don't "cave in" (e.g. go into defensiveness, believe that the attack is true and that you have to work to prove otherwise).
Once you become desensitized to a particular attack, you can see it on a sheet of paper and not have a nervous system reaction to it. If you can do this (not react to seeing it on a sheet of paper), then you'll also probably be able to hear it spoken by someone else or by your inner critic and not have a reaction to it.
I often recommend this exercise for clients when the indicated homeopathic remedy is Aurum Metallicum (self-hatred, obsessive-compulsive disorder, perfectionism, hyper-sensitivity to the criticism of others), or Baryta Carbonica (self-hatred, embarrassment, humiliation, the perception that others are laughing at you and belittling you).
The exercise goes like this....
- Make a list of all the criticisms and attacks your inner critic has launched at you over the years. Also include the criticisms and attacks of others from your past or present, whether real, implied, or imagined. As you're writing the criticisms, put them in the form of "You're too much ______." or "You're not enough _______."
For example, your list might include statements such as:
You're too much of a workaholic.
You're too lazy.
You don't save your money. You're the wrong amount of being a spendthrift.
You're too frugal.
You're too numb/unemotional.
You're too emotional.
You're too sensitive.
You're too callous.
You're too unkind.
You're too crazy.
You're too depressed.
You're too anxious.
You're problem is you don't know how to listen. You're too closed, too non-compliant.
- Try to make the list as comprehensive as possible. For most people who do this exercise, the list is usually at least four pages long.
- Then, go through the list and put a star or check mark near the criticisms that hold the most charge for you - in other words, the criticisms that trigger the most emotional upset within you. There will probably be many of these - perhaps 25 on some level, but a smaller number, perhaps three or four, on deeper levels.
- Make a contrast list for each of the criticisms that you checked. Begin the contrast statement with "I'm the right amount of ________."
So, for the above list, the contrast statements would look like the following:
I'm the right amount of a workaholic.
I'm the right amount of lazy.
I neglect to save my money just the right amount. I am the right amount of a spendthrift.
I'm the right amount of frugal.
I'm the right amount of unemotional.
I'm the right amount of sensitive.
I'm the right amount of callous.
I'm the right amount of unkind.
I'm the right amount of crazy.
I'm the right amount of depressed.
I'm the right amount of anxious.
I neglect to listen just the right amount. I'm the right amount of closed, noncompliant.
The idea with the contrast list is that by making the statement "I'm the right amount of ________", you are becoming comfortable with the word or phrase so it doesn't have power over you.
Yes, I'm foolish. I'm the right amount of foolish. I'm actually pretty good at being foolish. I love and accept the part of me that is foolish. I'm OK with being labeled as foolish. I'm the right amount of foolish. I probably do "foolish" better than most.
Often when I present this exercise to clients they say - but I don't want to be labeled as foolish. I don't like the part of myself that's foolish. I don't want think of myself as foolish.
My response is that it's OK to own the part of your psyche that is foolish (or lazy, or selfish, or whatever the attack may be) - because the attack does't define you. It's just a word or phrase and you can become comfortable with that word and still know that you are worthy and deserving of love.
And, you can know that there is a part of you that is crazy, or lazy, or foolish or selfish (whatever the attack) - and that these parts of your psyche are deserving of your love and acceptance as well. So, there's no need to be afraid of the attack. We can be called "foolish", and still know that we are worthy of love and fulfillment.
- Do not burn or destroy either list. Keep them both in a file folder and anytime in the next few days, months or years you remember another criticism or you hear a new criticism (real or implied or imagined), add it to your first list. The idea is you want make this list as comprehensive as possible because whatever is on the list eventually becomes something you're desensitized to, a comment or criticism that doesn't have power over you.