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Parts Therapy Silencing the Inner Critic through Self-Compassion

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Becca, Aug 19, 2014.

  1. Becca

    Becca Well known member

    I came across this article the other day about silencing the inner critic by developing compassion for it. As I've stated before, this focus on self-compassion is to me at least one of the most important aspects of IFS, and what makes it so incredibly powerful.

    Hating the inner critic just adds fuel to the fire. You just can't win. But finding ways to understand it and give those parts new and positive purpose seems so much healthier, doesn't it?

    Anyway, here's the article (http://tinybuddha.com/blog/silencing-inner-critic-dont-need-torture-yourself-to-grow/). Enjoy folks :happy:

    Silencing Your Inner Critic: You Don’t Need to Torture Yourself to Grow
    By Banu Sekendur

    “You yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

    I was tortured by self-hatred for most of my life.

    There were aspects of myself that I had a hard time loving. I didn’t like that I am competitive, that I was not a blonde with blue eyes, that I am not good at math or managing money.

    I did everything I could to hide these things. I was over-caring, over-helping, and over-accommodating others.

    I think I did a pretty good job of not being myself. This created additional psychic pain in me. I felt like Picasso who was not allowed to paint or Mozart who was banned from approaching another musical instrument again.

    The funny thing is, I was the one doing it to myself. I was no longer a child under the mercy of my critical, perfectionist parents (who were in pain and unconscious themselves). I had become my parents! I had become my worst critic.

    I wondered, “Why am I so mean to myself? What could I have done in a past life or in this lifetime that could warrant such self-torture?”

    Interestingly enough, even when I tried to conjure up the filthiest, sickest scenario, I had a hard time hating that imaginary person doing the crime.

    I had worked with criminals in a prison. I knew their stories and what they went through. It doesn’t condone their behavior, but I could see the chain of pain and lack of love that was passed on to them, and then from them. I just couldn’t hate them.

    If I couldn’t hate these criminals, why did I hate myself so much? It seemed so illogical.

    Then I remembered reading about the inner critic. I looked into it further and started getting to know this beast. In addition to my inner critic, there were many parts of myself that had helped me survive.

    I had an inner protector, a hermit, a social butterfly, a flirt, and many other parts that served a purpose.

    For example, “The Flirt” was helping me make friends and gain clients and extract the juice out of my relationships by being playful. “The Hermit” knew when I needed to recharge my mental, emotional, and physical bodies. “The Social Butterfly” helped me find and attract communities that met my different needs.

    They all had a job to do, but they needed to be in balance.

    Some of these selves were created out of necessity when I was young and didn’t have enough safety and kindness in my life. But I was no longer that little girl. Some of these selves were such loyal servants that they never left me all my life. I recognized this with gratitude that came out of nowhere.

    Suddenly, instead of hating my inner critic, I felt a sense of compassion for how hard she had been working to keep me safe from rejection, ridicule, abandonment, and many other rational and irrational fears. I decided that I didn’t want her to work so hard anymore. She had done a great job.

    Maybe I was selfish, lazy, negative, arrogant, and bitter. So what? Aren’t all these parts of me and personality traits so human? How many people do I know and love who have some unpleasant or unbalanced qualities or habits? Many. Their qualities do not make me not love them. Those are their quirks.

    So then came the self-inventory.

    Do I make a genuine effort to call myself out on my stuff when I am conscious enough to see it? Yes.

    Do I make an effort to make amends with people I have hurt? Yes.

    Am I someone who genuinely wants to be a balanced individual who serves others? Yes.

    Then what is the problem?

    Does this mean that I was going to let it all go and be a mean, bitter, selfish, codependent woman?


    How about if I cut myself some slack? How about I practice being gentle with myself and give this poor inner critic a break?

    “I no longer need to torture myself to grow.”

    Oh, that felt good to say it to myself. I took another deep breath to let this new reality/belief set in. I felt freer, and more loving toward all of life.

    I knew that I had to work at sustaining and integrating this new belief. I had, in the past, had big revelations but had taken the wisdom for granted. Then I would slip back to my old behavioral and thought patterns.

    Back then I didn’t understand that our brain needs to integrate new concepts in the same way we learn a new language.

    So I immediately made a plan. It didn’t have to be a perfect plan, but had to be something I could stick to, since I knew that our brain learns by repetition.

    I wrote down affirmations that felt right to my heart. I started a running “What I love about myself” list. I started writing down things I was even shy about. “I love my hair. I love my toes. I love my sense of humor. I love my fragile, sensitive heart.”

    I was finally on paper. And it didn’t look so bad. I started reading it out loud to myself every day, and adding to it.

    My neediness toward people started decreasing. When I made plans to hang out with them, I noticed that my secret need was no longer to be comforted, approved, or supported by them. I was just open to every encounter for what the exchange would bring for everyone involved.

    The shift wasn’t overnight, but I kept at it. The more love I felt for myself and the less I gave my full attention to my inner critic, the happier I became.

    My energy shifted. People were attracted to me as clients and friends. After three months of isolation, I was being invited to parties, camping trips, and concerts. I picked where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be around. I listened to my inner child and followed her nudges.

    These are the steps I followed in learning to love myself:

    1. Get to know your inner critic, its voice, and its intentions.
    Activate your observer self and listen to what it is saying as if you are hearing it on the radio. Recognize that this is an old tape repeating the criticism of society and the people who raised you to ensure your emotional and physical safety. It is running on autopilot.

    2. Take some time to yourself; go deep inside.
    Explore what you could have done to deserve this much self-hate/criticism. Look for an example of a person or situation where you can’t hate someone who’s made a mistake, even if you wanted to.

    Let your brain help you find proof that you don’t deserve your self-criticism. When you find it, you will create a crack in that thought pattern. But that alone is not enough to break it open and get it to release.

    3. Make a realistic plan.
    List three things you can do to raise your self-esteem. These can be as simple as: “I will say ‘I love you’ to myself ten times a day,” or “I will look at myself in the mirror and identify things I like about myself every morning before leaving the house.”

    The trick is that they need to feel doable to you. This is your plan. You are in charge of what you want to do. Make it a joyful and fun one.

    4. Stick with the program.
    I find that I get the best results when I keep track of it. Seeing a day or two of missing my exercises or meditation bothers me and motivates me to get back into it.

    5. Start hanging out with people who make you feel good.
    These are the people who see and experience you as who you really are. Let people who love you reflect the real you back to you. Start hanging out with people who could use cheering up. Reflect back to them how you see them. Practice the balance of receiving and giving.

    6. Know that you have the power to take the reins from this inner critic.
    It has been doing a great job, but it doesn’t need to drive the car anymore. Once you decide this, the rest is pretty much practice and patience.

    My inner critic was so harsh that it was hard for friends to watch me hurt myself that way, but I’ve learned to love myself. You can do it too.
    Seraphina, yb44, Ellen and 1 other person like this.
  2. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Lovely, Becca. I also had a vicious inner critic but one result of years of work was that now I would say we are good friends. I gradually developed the strength to listen to her. Before, I couldn't. I felt so bad about myself that any more criticism (true or not didn't really matter) was unbearable. That changed as I began to notice my strengths, appreciate my talents, and developed quite a healthy self-esteem. Then I needed the balancing voice of the inner critic! Still do, of course. Now I am happy to listen to her most of the time.

    The method outlined is a good one, I think. Thanks for posting.
    yb44 likes this.
  3. blake

    blake Well known member

    Really enjoyed that article. Thank you for sharing it, Becca. I especially liked the part about having to practise the new beliefs. I'm starting to see how true that really is. When I do the affirmations and the relaxation I start to feel more space inside. When I skip these things, I go right back to feeling overwhelmed, disconnected and just listening to what my inner critic of saying without even being aware of it.

    Njoy, you,ve given me something to look forward to (healthier self-esteem) once I build a better relationship with my inner critic. Thank you for that.
  4. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    You are so welcome, blake. It's amazing how the knottiest problems vanish when we find the right method and apply it. I would never have believed that healthy self esteem was a possibility for me. Yet, one step at a time, here I am.

    Still, after a brief respite another challenge appears. Instead of focusing on "When will this ever end?" I am starting to say, "Hey, that worked. I wonder what's next?" I mean, really, what's the alternative? Quitting is not an option so might as well learn to enjoy, not fear, the process. Nirvana, it seems, can't be rushed!
  5. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hi njoy,
    Indeed there are always more things that pop up once one thing is solved. Today I was reflecting on the progress I have made so far and just how wonderful it feels to know that despite all the traumatic life experiences I have been through, joy, peace and happiness are still available to me. It's nice to know that people have been where I am now and have made it through.

    Warm thoughts,
    Becca likes this.
  6. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    I had an interesting experience, a few days ago, in an IFS session. What followed sounds strange so please be warned! This is not your usual talking to parts.

    We had previous identified an exile I named "5-monh fetus" who (as they often do) turned out to be a protector. "5 month fetus" seems to have taken on his job (responded to my need) when my parents had a screaming fight which I could clearly hear through the thin walls of the womb. Not surprisingly, fetuses react to such events (one fetus, recorded on ultrasound, jumped and twisted violently when its parents fought) and a protector was clearly needed. So, "5 month fetus" took on the job of protecting fetus (me) with a rudimentary idea that "there's evil out there and I have to fight it". As it happened, this perspective allowed me, once born, to fit into my family who very much agree with that perspective. It also allowed fetus to remain hidden (exiled from consciousness) while "5 month fetus" took on the conscious job of living.

    During the IFS session, we (my therapist and I) were able to connect with fetus who thanked her protector (saying it had allowed her to keep her joy despite the outer circumstances of our life) but that she felt that with Self's help she didn't need all that negativity to protect her any longer. "5 month fetus" was happy enough to let go of the job he'd held for so long but chose to hang around "watching" what developed. Fetus also chose to stay close, deciding to live in my head (not my heart, as others have done).

    So, what has been the result of all this? Well, despite all my current troubles, I am very aware of a joy that I have never felt before. In two weeks, I have had only two or three short periods (a few minutes to about an hour, in one case) when I did not feel actively joyful. This is an amazing change. I have never been conscious of joy more than a couple of times in my whole life! Now I feel it almost all the time even when life is difficult.
    Becca likes this.
  7. blake

    blake Well known member

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Very interesting indeed. I love the part that since the session you have felt more joyful than ever. How inspiring is that! In the end, it's all about self acceptance at every level.
    It encourages me to keep at it and have faith that I too can become joy-filled and pain free. I'm on my way. I'm feeling light-hearted and full of hope today, despite the pain. That's progress, right?
  8. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Yes, progress for sure. It's a matter of patience and perseverance, I think. Also, focusing on the good stuff, as much as possible.

    Alan Gordon just responded to an "ask a therapist" question from me. He said, "When the thing your anxious about is a higher priority to you than the fact that you're anxious about it, the anxiety will persist. When the fact that you're living in a constant state of fight or flight becomes more distressing to you than the thing you're anxious about, that's when change occurs."

    In a way, it's a matter of deciding what we are willing to put up with.

    Also, like a lot of tms-ers, I strive for control so it makes sense to ask, "What do I really have control over in this world?" The answer is myself. Still quite a challenge but easier than changing everything around me that I don't like. :)
    blake likes this.

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