Women and Power 2: Meeting the Inner Critic and beyond

Facilitator: Alexandra Pope Translation: Laura Tonello

The menstrual cycle is your unique guide to a more fulfilled and successful life. With awareness and time you can open doors to a deeper creative and spiritual life.

Following on from Women and Power Part 1, this workshop will go deeper into the powers of the menstrual cycle by focussing on the premenstrual and menstrual phases and in particular the vital role of the Inner Critic.

 

Your Inner Critic is the part of you that is condemnatory, putting you down at every turn and not believing in you. It enjoys pointing out what you have failed to achieve rather than acknowledging your successes. When it is not faced, it can undermine your success at work, in relationships and even your health. But when understood the Inner Critic can be a powerful ally to build your inner authority and capacity to achieve in the world.

Transform your experience of yourself as a woman. Join Alexandra Pope for this exciting workshop.


Inner Critic - Friend or Foe?
(taken from Newsletter no 10 of Voice Dialogue UK, written by John Kent 28 sept 2012)

Our Inner Critic develops early on in our lives. Its job is to act as a kind of internal policeman. It enforces the rules of the dominant or "primary" parts of our personality that are responsible for running our lives and keeping us safe in the world.

These primary selves help us adapt to the particular family and social system we are born into. We learn very quickly which behaviours are acceptable to the adults around us and which will incur their disapproval and judgement. For example, if we grow up in a family where we are expected to be good little boys or girls all the time and put the needs of other people first, the chances are that we will develop a strong Pleaser self. Its rule is "always be nice to others." It will try its hardest to make sure we behave appropriately. It knows that if we do not, our parents or teachers will be upset with us and may even punish us. This will make us feel very vulnerable.

The underlying anxiety of our Inner Critic

Our Inner Critic remembers the pain and shame of having the adults around us withdraw their approval and affection. Its underlying anxiety is that we will be judged and rejected. It fears we will be alone, unliked and unloved and so it tries everything in its power to have us follow the rules of our primary selves and tow the line. Its aim is to ensure that our core vulnerability is protected.

If we even think about defying the rules of our Pleaser and putting our own needs first it will shout in our heads that we are being "selfish!" If we have a strong Pusher self that wants us to work hard and pass our exams to please our parents, it will tell us that we are "lazy!" when we kick back and relax too much. The negatives of our Inner Critic very often mirror those of our actual parents and teachers when they judge us for not following their rules. "You should be more tidy", "You should be on time", "You should show more respect." It is easy to see why "should" is one of our Inner Critic's favourite words - sometimes whispered sotto voce, sometimes bellowed full force.

As we grow older, more and more pressures are brought to bear on us about how we "should" behave. Adverts set the standard for how we should look, what we should wear, how we should smell, what we should eat, how we should relax. Films show us the perfect male and female physiques, the perfect way to kiss and make love, the perfect romantic relationship we should have. Personal development programmes exhort us to be more sensitive, more assertive, more sensual, more aware. The standards are set so high and there are so many rules to follow, it's little wonder that our Inner Critics are in a constant state of anxiety and becoming ever more powerful.

At its most powerful, the voice of the Inner Critic can seem like the voice of God. When out of control it can wreak havoc with our feelings of self-confidence. It can make us feel inferior, incapable and inadequate. In the worst case its nagging voice can lead to despair, depression and even suicide.

How our Inner Critic tries to protect us

The voice of our Inner Critic can sometimes feel like a continual hammering in our heads. At other times, it can be so quiet - like a background hum - that we hardly notice it. One technique it often uses is to have us obsess about a perceived mistake we have made. It will run and rerun a video in our heads of the actions that we have or haven't done, or words that we have or haven't said, and make us squirm internally with embarrassment. Our mistakes will be put under the microscope and magnified out of all proportion. Remember, the purpose of this is to make sure we always behave in ways that will keep us safe. Our Inner Critic will do whatever is necessary to get us to follow the rules of our primary protecting selves, no matter how painful that might seem to us.

To be self-critical is felt to be less painful than being criticised by someone else. It is a form of self-defence, a kind of pre-emptive strike. If we can say "I'm so stupid!" or, "Oh I know how bad I was," or, "I am hopeless at doing that," it helps to shield us against the external slings and arrows of those who would judge us.

Building a working relationship with our Inner Critic

Since we can never get rid of our Inner Critic (drinking, drugs or other distracting behaviours only offer temporarily respite) the best way to proceed is to build a working relationship with it. There are four steps:

1. Become aware of it as a separate voice, noting the tone and content of its injunctions. It can be helpful to write down the exact words on a piece of paper so that we can see them more objectively.

2. Determine the rules it is trying so desperately to have us follow. Write them down as a list of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts".

3. Identify the particular primary selves responsible for making these rules. Is it our Pleaser, or Pusher, or Perfectionist, etc.?

4. Get in touch with the underlying anxiety of those primary selves that are driving our Inner Critic. What are their fears and worst-case scenarios - disapproval? judgement? shame? rejection? abandonment? loneliness? What is the core vulnerability that their rules are trying to protect?

For example, our Inner Critic might be telling us that we are too fat and that we should go on a diet, join a gym and lose weight. In this case it is attempting to enforce the rules of the part of us that thinks we should always look slim and fit - the Physical Perfectionist. The anxiety behind this is that if we get too fat, people won't like us and might even ignore or ridicule us. This would touch those parts of us that feel inadequate and insecure - something our Inner Critic wants to avoid at all costs!

Loving ourselves

It is impossible to love ourselves until we can unhook from our Inner Critic. Separating from our Inner Critic enables us to listen to it objectively, understand its concerns and choose whether or not to act on its imperatives. The more we can embrace and care for the vulnerable parts of our personality that our Inner Critic is trying its best to help protect, the less it will be driven to do this for us.

As we take more conscious charge of our vulnerability we can begin to view our Inner Critic with compassion, respect the job it has been trying to do, and even be thankful for the light it has shone on aspects of our personalities that hitherto we might have been unaware of.

As this happens, its voice becomes less strident and absolute. Instead of our foe, our Inner Critic can transform into a trusted adviser and friend

- an intelligent, perceptive and supportive partner in our lives.

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Contacts

Laura Tonello
348 9212552
latonello@gmail.com