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  • Writer's pictureChristina Cunningham Spinler

Embrace your inner critic

As a therapist rooted in the principles of Internal Family Systems (IFS), I often encounter clients who struggle with their inner critic. This part of ourselves, often harsh and unrelenting, can lead to significant distress. However, there's a profound truth that IFS helps us understand: your inner critic, at its core, is actually trying to protect you.

Understanding the Inner Critic

The inner critic is a familiar voice to many of us -it is for me!! It's the part that tells us we're not good enough, that we should have done better, or that we're fundamentally flawed. It can be relentless, loud, sad and demoralizing at times. But why does it exist? IFS offers a unique perspective: every part, including the critic, has a positive intention. It’s born from a place of vulnerability and fear, aiming to protect us from perceived threats, such as failure, fears, past pains and/ or rejection.

So.....Embracing, Not Erasing

OH MY! I too often see.....replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts!

The conventional approach to dealing with the inner critic often involves trying to silence or ignore it. We're told to drown it out with positive affirmations or to simply "think happy thoughts." While well-intentioned, this approach can be a form of toxic positivity. It's akin to placing a band-aid on a deep wound without addressing the underlying injury.

In IFS, we take a different route. We acknowledge and listen to the inner critic. We understand that it's an integral part of our internal family, and like a scared child, it needs attention, not isolation. Do not spray air fresher on those parts. These parts can be your best path to growth.

Leading with Self

The core of IFS therapy is the concept of 'Self-leadership'. Self is the compassionate, curious, and connected center of our being. When we lead from the Self, we can approach our inner critic with kindness and curiosity, rather than fear or hostility.

By engaging with our inner critic from a place of Self, we create a space for understanding and healing. We can explore why the critic feels the need to protect us in the way it does. Often, we find that it's acting upon old fears and outdated narratives.

A Dialogue with the Critic

The process involves a respectful dialogue with the inner critic. We ask questions: What are you afraid of? What are you trying to protect me from? This conversation helps to uncover the critic's true purpose and allows it to relax, knowing that the Self is capable of leading in a more effective and compassionate way.

To this point!

Embracing your inner critic doesn't mean letting it control you. It means recognizing its fears, understanding its intentions, and gently guiding it towards new ways of protection that are aligned with the wisdom of the Self. As we do this, we not only quiet the critic's fears but also empower our true selves to lead a more balanced, fulfilling life.

Remember, the journey to understanding and integrating your inner critic can be challenging, but it's a path towards true self-compassion and growth.


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