Well, who ain’t plagued by big, bad, and nasty Inner Critics with their superpowers of making us feel super bad about ourselves and all that we want to do in our lives. We want them to just shut up and go away.
But I’m here to tell you that we can’t, and shouldn’t, make them shut up and punt them onto a departing boat for the Arctic.
Nope, I’m here to tell you that in order to get them to calm down and back off, you’ll have to talk to them, find out what they want, and give it to them.
WHAT? I have to give in to my Inner Critics and do what they want? But they’re HORRIBLE!!!
Yes, yes they are. But not for reasons that you might think. So, firstly, what are Inner Critics?
You Aren’t Really Just You
You are not YOU. “You”, essentially, are a collection of internal mechanisms that all have very specific functions. Let’s call them Inner Parts. You know the Critics, of course. Maybe you’ve either embraced or rejected the idea of the “Inner Child”. Perhaps you’ve already been able to identify some of these Parts that hijack your behaviors at times. Or you think the whole thing is bunk. But no matter where you stand on the idea of a bunch of often chaotic internal bits running around inside you, guess what… you have a bunch of often chaotic internal bits running around inside you.
They show up in all forms: as Critics, as Resistors and Rejectors, your Parents, the Worriers, as Allies and Supporters, Rebellious Teens, Managers, the Little Kids, Defenders, and on and on.
They work with, fight with, hide from, hijack, and overall, protect each other and the sort of “core” “Self” Part that we’d like to think is “me”. And since they all have their specific functions, they take their jobs very seriously. Super seriously.
And they will do whatever it takes to do that job, which often translates into the rather harsh methods the Parts that manifest as our Critics (the more outwardly obviously, and often nasty), or our quieter parts like our Resistors (much more subtle parts that are very good at hijacking behaviors) employ.
Allies, Managers, and Calming, Oh My!
I know this makes it sound like we’re just a mad chaotic messy jumble of dis-integrated parts. And well, that’s kinda partly true. As humans, we are pretty chaotic and messy with a crazy jumble of Parts, and without good direction and management, we can be quite dis-integrated.
And the good news is that we do have Ally parts, more supportive parts whose methods are far softer. And although they seem to be more buried, these particular Parts do actually exist, I promise. And also, our more bonkers Parts can be moderated and even calmed. They won’t give up their jobs, but they can learn to back off or change their methods.
And this brings me back to the beginning. We can both bring forth our supportive Ally parts and help our Critics by exploring ourselves and identifying as many of our Inner Parts as we can. When we do that, then we can dialogue and work with them to find out their roles and functions, because that then allows us to bring forward what I call the Manager/Director Part. The Manager/Director is the one who can help organize all those roles and functions, harmonizing what otherwise is a cacophonous gaggle of Parts.
Get Ready For Dump Trucks of Work
This isn’t as easy as just telling them what to do. Parts Work is a lot of work. It’s digging down deep, often into places different parts of us really don’t want to go. These parts, because they don’t (and can’t) hold the interests of our whole self in mind (and that’s the job of the Manager), will then work against the interest of our whole system. In essence, understandably, they really don’t want to die, which is what they think happens if they are not in control. So, they perceive our trying to suss them out as threatening. Or, they may see the clarification of our whole self as dangerous, and therefore are working to keep us in the dark for our very real protection.
Again, Parts Work is a lot of work. There’s a lot of cats to wrangle, and guards to convince to stand down.
As Part One of this article, I’m just giving a very simplified overview of Inner Parts. Hopefully, I’m conveying the basic understanding that we are all dealing with a whole family dinner table seating all these Inner Bits, and that the solution to dealing with them isn’t so simple either, but that it is definitely possible to manage them better and get them to shift their methods, especially the super nasty ones.
More to come in Part Two!
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