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Useful and accessible
on 15 March 2010
Many books of this type are so packed with unexplained jargon that I do not finish the book. Embracing your Inner Critic is an exception.
The underlying assumption of the book is that we all have an inner voice which develops in early childhood with the aim of looking after us.
For a child brought up under ideal conditions this inner voice (the inner critic) will be helpful in reminding us that certain behaviours are wise and appropriate while others are dangerous or inappropriate. The role of the voice is to look after us!
Sadly most of us are not brought up in ideal conditions and the inner critic can develop in a manner that is destructive and even crippling. For example if a child has been brought up in an environment of criticism or denigration, the inner voice may become very strong and aggressive, repeating the negative comments made (such as "you're no good" "you'll never be any good" etc).
Initially the voice seems to develop in this way as a protective mechanism - if a child faces a severe beating if she fails to wash, this leads to anxiety and a voice speaking excessively about cleanliness; the hope being that the child washes and avoids the punishment for failure.
The inner voice seems very easily to run out of control, leading to poor self esteem and depression and even a heightened risk of suicide. Individuals may find that they escape a negative environment expecting their depression to lift when they are free from external negative influences, only to find that they can't escape the inner critic - which can become the harshest judge of all.
What causes the mal-formation of the Critic?
It seems that there are several factors but the main ones relate to the upbringing of the child in terms of:
* Consistent negative and denigrating comments
* Excessive unfavourable comparison with others
* Excessive emphasis on achievement
What is the solution?
The authors outline a method of voice dialogue in which the critic is befriended. The individual becomes aware of various forces at work within, and is able to talk with the critic and listen to it in a positive way and give it the reassurance that it needs. This approach is based on the fundamental purpose of the internal critic - which is to look after the person (child).
This approach incorporates the fact that we all as individuals need to grow up and not simply be run by the forces within us, but develop our own personalities. We need to become self aware! We are then more able to make decisions based on the information around and within.
Parents (and others who care for children) should be aware of the dangers of excessive critisism of the children in their care.
We have many personalities which we express - and may well have choked off the opposites. This can result in a person who is slim and careful with what they eat being extremely judgmental towards individuals who are overweight.
Many religious people seem to suffer from an over active critic. This is perhaps for 2 reasons
* The stakes are higher - if the child is scared of going to Hell this will lead to anxiety and a stronger critic
* Much religious practice is based on keeping detailed rules and failure to keep to those rules gives the critic endless ammunition
It is interesting to note that the religious person who is motivated by a deep love of God and a knowledge of their own value to Him, have much less problem with the overactive critic.