(You can read “Part 1 – What Are They?” and “Part 2 – Who Are They?” here.)
In the previous installments of this series, I mentioned what & who Inner Critics are, but not really how to start interacting with them.
Well, okay, I did mention the first step – identifying and “making” a character out of them. So, let’s quickly review that because this is an extremely important step.
You can often find the loudmouthed Critics first since they are usually the ones up in your grill with the negativity, and they definitely aren’t shy about being seen or heard. That isn’t to say there are Critics who lurk about in the depths hiding away, but those usually take some digging. And to start learning to do this, you need at least one identifiable and “easy” one.
After identifying that one, then you work to create or form a character for this Critic (or again, any other Part that might make itself known). Sometimes they show you what they look like, how they sound, what they do, or at other times you are associating or attaching characteristics to them. Get super detailed, as much as possible. (You can refer back to Part 2 for this)
Once you have that one part clearly described (and don’t worry if this changes over time, it’s natural for things to clarify or fall away), it’s time to begin working on opening up a dialogue. After all, it’s hard to find out what these guys want without being able to talk to them about it.
There are many ways to engage in dialogue with our Inner Parts. We can start exploring them; we can simply talk to them either about them, with them or as them (I will get to this); we can sit in meditation with them; and we can work artistic, creative processes about them, with them or as them (and I will get to this too).
If you’ve started the process of making your Part into a character, you’ve already started exploring that Part, and this often alerts that Part to an interest it holds. Now, this can work in a way you don’t want it to, in that sometimes that Part flees for deeper realms. However, this doesn’t mean that you abandon it, but, rather, you maybe mark it down in a document to add to as things come up. I use a MindMap type software to keep track, because eventually you’ll start seeing how your Parts connect to each other as well as to you. But use whatever system you’d like—whatever works.
You could find a professional (someone like me!) to guide you in more specific detail. They can do this by guiding you to explore your Parts more deeply (by talking about them), in speaking directly to the Parts through a variety of methods, or you can become those Parts, like taking that character you “created” and slipping into it like a skin, and having the professional dialogue directly with them. This latter method can be very illuminating and super helpful.
The variety of methods and techniques mentioned above include meditative type processes, like the “Empty Chair,” as well as a modified “Big Mind” process, and also different creative techniques.
Empty Chair is exactly what it sounds like. You get an empty chair and “project” your characterized Part into it and ask it open and curious questions, and then allow it to answer you. It might seem a little strange…but it does work. Big Mind meditation, by Genpo Roshi (link), is a whole process in of itself and worth checking out. For Parts work though, it is similar to an Empty Chair inside your own head, wherein you split yourself with one space as “yourself” and the other as your Part. Then, as with the Empty Chair, you can ask questions and allow the answers to arise. The difference is one does tend to feel more “external” (Empty Chair) versus more “internal” (“Big Mind”).
The creative methods can be the most fun and you’re able to use whatever your own skills and interests you might have. As with the other methods, you can do all of these about, with, or as the Part. Since we all have different ways of learning or processing information, using our personal skills can allow for the best portals. For example, if you are a verbal learner/processor, you can write a story about or as your Part, or switch back and forth to do a “with” version. If you are a visual learner/processor, painting or other visual arts; perhaps a kinesthetic learner would use dance or physical engagement; or music or singing for auditory learners.
This is more of an overview of these different ways of exploring and engaging our Inner Critics and other Parts, as each direction could be deeply detailed. But the most important takeaway is the encouragement to find some avenue into initiating dialogue with your Inner Critics and other Parts to find out what they want. Once we find these root functions, we can essentially begin the process of helping them to back off.