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Where Does the Inner Critic Come From?

Do you ever wonder where the inner critic comes from? Mark shares a reflection on the power of our early childhood experiences.

Hello, it's Mark Coleman here. I've been asked to answer the question, where does the inner critic come from? This is a really important and interesting question. And perhaps one you've asked yourselves many times as I have. Why do we have this inner critic, this judgmental mind, this habit of beating ourselves up, putting ourselves down, shaming ourselves, criticizing everything that we do or say, or how we act? And for myself, I've looked at this long and hard. Where does this habit come from? Sometimes we can look back at our history and we can hear in the voice of the critic, very clearly an authority figure or a parental figure from the past.

Perhaps you had a critical father or mother or you were very influenced by the judgments of a sibling or the messages from society or an institution, of the church, or something like that. Often, it's not really clear where exactly this critical voice originated. What we can know from psychology is that there is a part of the mind, part of the ego structure, which Freud referred to as the super ego, which is a structure in the mind that develops very early on in infancy. It's the part of the mind that's concerned with helping us to fit in. We all come into families and cultures and societies that have a lot of norms and values and ways of doing things and right and wrong.

And so as a very young, vulnerable infant, we need to learn very quickly how to fit in, how to optimize a sense of love and connection and acceptance and approval from loved ones, caregivers, family, because to lose that love and affection is tragic and deeply painful. So the super ego, this critical part of the mind, learns how to manage that young person's behavior, feelings, impulses, actions. Unfortunately it mostly employs a sense of shaming to stop us, to inhibit us from doing what's perceived as the wrong thing. To do the wrong thing in that instance is to be vulnerable, to be vulnerable to losing love, to being criticized, to being rejected. And so you can see from this early stage in life, that basically the critic is trying to protect us from vulnerability, trying to protect us from doing the wrong thing, so we don't risk the disapproval or the rejection of loved ones and people we care about.

You can see this in the example of you're going to work, you're driving and you're heading to an important meeting with your team and your boss. And unfortunately you've left things a little last minute, so you're driving and you're late to the meeting. And quite naturally, or habitually, the critic, your judging mind, has a lot of things to say about that. Like, why didn't you leave earlier? You're always late for meetings. You're putting a job at risk.

Your boss is going to be there. What are they going to think? You're going to be seen as irresponsible. And then of course, the critic, rather than just calmly assess, Oh, you're late for the meeting. Let's see what you can do. Maybe you can call ahead.

Maybe you can make some kind of proviso plan. No, the critic seems hell bent on judging you, criticizing you, shaming you, making you feel bad, in the hopes that you will not do that again, in the hopes that you will do better next time. Of course, the problem with that is we just feel bad about ourselves. But you can see looking underneath that scenario, that the intention perhaps of the critic is perceiving that moment of vulnerability, oh, you're going to be late for meeting/ your boss is going to be there. It's going to affect your performance review.

It's going to perhaps affect how you're assessed. And so based on that perceived vulnerability, the critic tries to give you advice, usually in the form of criticism and shaming. And so we can see there how the origin of the critic developing to protect us from vulnerability keeps continuing. Sometimes we can listen to the critic and we very clearly hear, Oh, that's my mother. That's my dad's voice.

That's the way that they talk to me or criticize me as a kid. Sometimes we can hear in the critic's voice, oh, that's how my parents talk to themselves. They were very harsh and judgmental to themselves. And as children being sponges, we soak it up and we copy what our parents do, or we copy what our parents say to us. And then over time, that voice, that story, that judgment, that criticism gets entrenched.

So it becomes very deeply rooted. And so often we lose track of the origin of how the critic started, but we're left with a very painful, habitual, judging mind. So it can be helpful, and I find this really helpful, to recognize, Oh, that's the, that's the voice of my dad telling me how I should be, what I should do. That's the voice of my mum. That's the voice of the church.

And so when we get clear about the origin, it can help us take the critical voice a little less personally. We can see that it's an outmoded habit trying to help us, misguided. And with that mindful awareness we can learn to unhook a little. So thank you for this question. Thank you for your practice of working with the critic.

And I hope this question helps you understand or begin to look, where does the origins of the critic happen for you? Maybe it's from particularly critical sibling or wherever it may come from. So continue looking with awareness, with kindness. And thank you for all of the practice that you're doing here.

Talk

4.4

Where Does the Inner Critic Come From?

Do you ever wonder where the inner critic comes from? Mark shares a reflection on the power of our early childhood experiences.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Hello, it's Mark Coleman here. I've been asked to answer the question, where does the inner critic come from? This is a really important and interesting question. And perhaps one you've asked yourselves many times as I have. Why do we have this inner critic, this judgmental mind, this habit of beating ourselves up, putting ourselves down, shaming ourselves, criticizing everything that we do or say, or how we act? And for myself, I've looked at this long and hard. Where does this habit come from? Sometimes we can look back at our history and we can hear in the voice of the critic, very clearly an authority figure or a parental figure from the past.

Perhaps you had a critical father or mother or you were very influenced by the judgments of a sibling or the messages from society or an institution, of the church, or something like that. Often, it's not really clear where exactly this critical voice originated. What we can know from psychology is that there is a part of the mind, part of the ego structure, which Freud referred to as the super ego, which is a structure in the mind that develops very early on in infancy. It's the part of the mind that's concerned with helping us to fit in. We all come into families and cultures and societies that have a lot of norms and values and ways of doing things and right and wrong.

And so as a very young, vulnerable infant, we need to learn very quickly how to fit in, how to optimize a sense of love and connection and acceptance and approval from loved ones, caregivers, family, because to lose that love and affection is tragic and deeply painful. So the super ego, this critical part of the mind, learns how to manage that young person's behavior, feelings, impulses, actions. Unfortunately it mostly employs a sense of shaming to stop us, to inhibit us from doing what's perceived as the wrong thing. To do the wrong thing in that instance is to be vulnerable, to be vulnerable to losing love, to being criticized, to being rejected. And so you can see from this early stage in life, that basically the critic is trying to protect us from vulnerability, trying to protect us from doing the wrong thing, so we don't risk the disapproval or the rejection of loved ones and people we care about.

You can see this in the example of you're going to work, you're driving and you're heading to an important meeting with your team and your boss. And unfortunately you've left things a little last minute, so you're driving and you're late to the meeting. And quite naturally, or habitually, the critic, your judging mind, has a lot of things to say about that. Like, why didn't you leave earlier? You're always late for meetings. You're putting a job at risk.

Your boss is going to be there. What are they going to think? You're going to be seen as irresponsible. And then of course, the critic, rather than just calmly assess, Oh, you're late for the meeting. Let's see what you can do. Maybe you can call ahead.

Maybe you can make some kind of proviso plan. No, the critic seems hell bent on judging you, criticizing you, shaming you, making you feel bad, in the hopes that you will not do that again, in the hopes that you will do better next time. Of course, the problem with that is we just feel bad about ourselves. But you can see looking underneath that scenario, that the intention perhaps of the critic is perceiving that moment of vulnerability, oh, you're going to be late for meeting/ your boss is going to be there. It's going to affect your performance review.

It's going to perhaps affect how you're assessed. And so based on that perceived vulnerability, the critic tries to give you advice, usually in the form of criticism and shaming. And so we can see there how the origin of the critic developing to protect us from vulnerability keeps continuing. Sometimes we can listen to the critic and we very clearly hear, Oh, that's my mother. That's my dad's voice.

That's the way that they talk to me or criticize me as a kid. Sometimes we can hear in the critic's voice, oh, that's how my parents talk to themselves. They were very harsh and judgmental to themselves. And as children being sponges, we soak it up and we copy what our parents do, or we copy what our parents say to us. And then over time, that voice, that story, that judgment, that criticism gets entrenched.

So it becomes very deeply rooted. And so often we lose track of the origin of how the critic started, but we're left with a very painful, habitual, judging mind. So it can be helpful, and I find this really helpful, to recognize, Oh, that's the, that's the voice of my dad telling me how I should be, what I should do. That's the voice of my mum. That's the voice of the church.

And so when we get clear about the origin, it can help us take the critical voice a little less personally. We can see that it's an outmoded habit trying to help us, misguided. And with that mindful awareness we can learn to unhook a little. So thank you for this question. Thank you for your practice of working with the critic.

And I hope this question helps you understand or begin to look, where does the origins of the critic happen for you? Maybe it's from particularly critical sibling or wherever it may come from. So continue looking with awareness, with kindness. And thank you for all of the practice that you're doing here.

Talk

4.4

Duration

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Included in

Q&A on Negative Thinking null Playlist · 5 tracks

Q&A on Negative Thinking

Playlist · 5 tracks4.9

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