Often when I am working with my clients it is clear that one of the major reasons they are experiencing suffering is because they are having an Inner Critic Attack. This part of the self has lots of names. Traditionally known as the Super Ego; it also goes by the Judge, the Gatekeeper, the Critical Parent and many other names. In other words, the Inner Critic is a part of the self that is attacking another part of the self. Now, normally we don’t walk around experiencing ourselves as having different parts. If we have a fairly healthy ego, we just experience all thoughts in our head as our own. The problem with this is that many if not MOST of our thoughts didn’t originally come from us. So it can sometimes be helpful to separate out the part of ourselves that is attacking us, and distinguish it from supportive voices that can actually help us change.
When I first notice a client’s inner critic, my client is often not able to tell that they are having an Inner Critic Attack.
So here are 5 ways you can tell that you may be having an Inner Critic Attack:
1) The Wagging Finger: One of the easiest ways to tell if you are talking to yourself from the Inner Critic is if you feel like someone is wagging a finger at you. The Inner Critic says things like “You really should have…”, “You knew better than to…”, “If you had just…”, “You are never going to get better at…” and “You are so disappointing.” The experience is that you are being lectured or admonished by someone, only that someone is you. This voice generally has a little (or a lot) of disgust and disappointment in its tone, and it is also pretty sure that you are never going to change.
2) You Feel “Bad” About Yourself: Many of my clients can’t identify the thoughts or inner voice that is attacking them, but they can tell that they feel “bad” about themselves. That is because the main feeling that the Inner Critic elicits is shame, but most people are not able to identify that they are feeling shame. If you are feeling “bad” about yourself, you are probably experiencing shame about one or many things, and under an Inner Critic attack.
3) You Feel “Not Good Enough”: Technically feeling “not good enough” is not really a feeling, but it seems like it is. That’s because when you feel shame, it often comes along with the belief or thought that you are not good enough. This is your inner critic attacking you for one or many things.
4) Your Body is Hunched Over: Many of us work with computers and sit in desks for work and have a little hunch to our shoulders. This is not what I’m talking about. What I am referring to is the way that your body collapses and hunches over when you feel bad about yourself. This is the body’s natural response to the feeling of Shame. Your eyes become downcast, your shoulders hunch over and sometimes your feet turn in. You feel the impulse in your body to hide or withdraw from people. This is a big sign that you are having an inner critic attack.
5) You are Withdrawing, or Distracting Yourself With Addictive Behavior: We withdraw from people or distract ourselves with addictive behavior for all kinds of reasons. One reason why people withdraw or engage in addictive behavior is because they are avoiding the shame that occurs for them when they are around others. This shame is often attached to an inner attack that is going on in the background of their mind when they are around other people. If you are withdrawing from others, or distracting yourself with addictive behavior, you may be having an Inner Critic Attack.
Recognizing when you are under an Inner Critic Attack is one of the first steps towards ending the attacks. In the beginning though, it can sometimes be overwhelming to recognize how much you are under attack by yourself. Make sure you don’t attack yourself for attacking yourself!!! Begin to notice and separate the attacking/judging voice from other thoughts or voices that are more helpful. Stay tuned for ways to interrupt and alleviate the inner attacks!