Tag Archives: inner critic

A Pandemic of Inner Critics

by Agnieszka Olszewska–Kaczmarek

The Covid-19 virus is still raging all over the world.  We are waiting for the moment when we can all breathe a sigh of relief and feel safe.  However, there is another virus that most of us will struggle with all our lives.

“I can’t.  I’m not that skillful.  I’m too fat.  I screwed up again.  I’m too old.  don’t have enough energy,” etc.

This is the inner critic virus (IC) that clips our wings, usurps our energy and deteriorates our quality of life. 

The IC may impact our ability to pursue our full potential, or even prevent us meeting everyday obligations.

The IC is spread around the world, flooding it with waves of negativity and harmful behaviors or hate crimes.  Internet forums are filled with poisonous comments, politicians compete with nasty epithets, many TV programs build their popularity on the public humiliation of participants in various competitions, and bullying is a huge problem in schools.  And, as with Covid-19, for some the encounter with the IC ends tragically.

In the struggle with the IC, supplementation with positive affirmations is often
not enough.  Even though we praise ourselves and repeat it like a self-love mantra, the IC often spreads throughout the body and attacks other organs.  It challenges us to a
mythic battle where our health or survival allows us to be free from the infection that
awaits us down the road.  Along with the defeated disease, we immunize ourselves to life’s
challenges and learn to persist along our life path.

Process Work (whose methods I use in my daily therapeutic work with clients) approaches
the topic of self-criticism through many dimensions.  So, let’s look at the IC different angles.

How to fight the IC?

The first step is to notice there is an infection within us.

When I hear my clients talk about themselves negatively, I say out loud, “Oh! I hear there’s a critic here with us!”

Most often there is an initial moment of surprise.  The IC part responsible for the harmful narrative is separate from our awareness.  The IC is brought to light and we can finally look at it consciously.

Who is the IC?

What does this person say?  With what voice and with what energy?  Does the voice have a gender?  Is it one person or many?  Is this the voice of someone in our family?  Or maybe it’s the voice of the spirit of the times, culture or religion?

Nobody knows their critic as well as the person who comes to therapy.  Therefore, during the therapeutic session, they have the opportunity to play the IC role and present all its voices and views.

Most of the content conveyed by the IC is general.  However, several specific types of IC can be picked out;

The Critical Coach

Contrary to initial appearances, sometimes the IC has something valuable to tell us.  It is best then to force this figure to be as precise as possible.  Starting with an objective or
blatant example of how you are lazy, or whatever the general criticism is.

After applying a series of questions, it may turn out that the IC sees our potential and demands we live up to it. They may even have very precise advice for us and in this way become a priceless coach.

The Empathetic Critic

Sometimes there’s an IC who loves us and cares about our lives, but is like an awkward parent who is unable to compliment or constructively suggest a course of action. This type of inner critic may be completely unaware of their devastating influence.  Then we have to educate this part of ourselves to communicate in a way that gives us wings.  Revealing our deep feelings can work miracles.  When such an IC sees how hurtful their words are then they sometimes experience a shock.  Empathy can be activated and potentially a client may see an increase in awareness of how words can have a healing or damaging influence.

The Brutal Critic

The last category is an IC who only seeks to demean and destroy the person.  It is most often a result of abuse.  In such a case, it is necessary to set a very clear line, or even to symbolically kill the IC.  One of my clients decided that whenever she hears a hateful voice in her head, she would punch the air, imagining throwing the critic out of her mind.

After repeating such a gesture for several weeks, this critical voice stopped.  This type of struggle can be a particular challenge for people who associate the use of force with violence.  You must first disassociate such a connection to be able to give yourself the right to self-defense.

Taking over the critic’s energy

Regardless of what kind of IC we are dealing with, it is beneficial for us to
seize its energy.  After all, it is our own strength that can work for our good.  Acting out a
criticism, shy people suddenly turn into passionate preachers, quiet mice into resolute
leaders or managers, and the undecided are able to hit on concrete details like in a
boxing ring.  The broken record of negativity shows us what layers of persistence lie dormant in us.  In this way, we begin to have access to a new quality of inner awareness and strength.

IC Pandemic Reduction

Self-criticism forces us to track it in our thoughts and persistently examine our emotions.  If the inner monologue is dragging us down, it is worth tracing the source of the IC.  In such a way, by consciously examining our internal and external communications, we contribute to reducing the global epidemic of criticism.


By Agnieszka–Kaczmarek, MA, MAPOF

Agnieszka Olszewska–Kaczmarek is a psychologist and psychotherapist.  She completed
her master’s in Processwork at the Process Work Institute in 2020.  She lives in Poland
and works in a psychiatric hospital for children and teenagers, as well as at the Center For Womens Rights, and in private practice.

Agnieszka is also a singer-songwriter, performing under her stage name, Back To The Ocean.

Find more about Agnieszka’s work and music :


Image credit: John Hain

Engaging the Inner Critic; Toward a Fluid Inner Ecology

by Rhea Shapiro

All of us with an abuse or trauma background, especially in early childhood, live with the remnants of these parts of our lives in different ways.  A common result is an inner voice that is anything but kind or supportive.  This voice echoes the tyrant or “ism” that we lived with and endured with no power to stop them.  If we have survived into adulthood we have that tyrannical and critical voice inside us.  It doesn’t stop.  We have to work it.  We have to work against it and with it.

This is a mythic challenge represented by the “wrathful deity” of Tibetan Buddhism.  We can learn to interact, wrestle, kill, re-educate, change and finally even love this inner part of ourselves.  I recall Pogo, the comic strip character’s famous quip: “ I have met the enemy and it is me!” which is completely applicable here.

Hayagriva is a fierce emanation of Amitabha (infinite light) Buddha, from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

How do we notice, work with, and transform these voices, including the habits and repeating loops we develop?  After all, these critics usually have all the secondary powers our primary identities are searching for.

The process of creating a more fluid inner ecology takes time; working back and forth, up and down, in and out, repeating, forgetting, re-repeating and slowly our inner atmospheres can shift.

Noticing Comes First

For many, this voice actually hides in its everyday form.  We are so used to an inner climate of negativity that we don’t question it.  We are hypnotized by the normality in our inner world; not expecting to do well or to be liked or loved; actually expecting to fail or be rejected; never doing well enough to satisfy this voice.

Where once this voice might have kept us safe from an abusive adult that frightened or negated us – we learned not to speak out, disagree or rock the boat – now it is just this old familiar loop that no longer serves us.  It keeps us from actualizing our full potentials and enjoying a life that a human being is meant to live.

Pulling back our projections is also noticing.  A good rule of thumb (because we internalize oppression); if it is happening outside, it is also happening inside.

Creating Relationship: Wrestling
The inner critic usually operates in the inner auditory channel, through our often unconscious ideas and thoughts about ourselves.  Creating a new relationship with this inner role means engaging this voice and practicing inner relationship work.  This includes standing up, fighting with that critic and recruiting allies, real and imagined.  We use our creativity and all perceptual channels here:  movement, sound, language, art and feelings – both body and emotion – as we create a more fluid relationship with this spirit.

These critical voices are not used to being challenged and can be quite rigid and mean.  Up to this point, it has been top dog in an open field with little resistance.  Keep going.

The critic is an inner role that can shift.  With time and work, you can create a new relationship with it, and a more fluid and sustainable atmosphere inside yourself.  Remember, as a 4 year old once announced to me:  “I am the boss of myself!”

Going Deeper

After challenging – and challenging and challenging – the inner critic, we can begin to dialogue with it.  We find out what exactly it is saying, thinking and feeling.  Critics are often too general, and when really challenged they get to the edge of their known world.

Working at that edge to create more specificity brings change, and power can shift.   To do this one must learn to really enter the critic’s role and walk in their shoes.  This is phase three of Arnold Mindell’s Four Phases of Conflict.

We are working to embody the energy of the critic, not the Consensus Reality figure from our past.  We explore the characteristics of the critic as a path to that energy.

Re-educating the Critic

As we begin to allow ourselves to embody the outer aspects of the critic, – masks and theater are helpful here – we may get to know the stories and feelings behind its meanness and small mindedness.

Critics hold our suffering in a different way than our primary identities, which usually identify as victims of the abuse.  Inner critics have internalized the power of the abuser.

Just as the victim can practice fluidity and begin to more consciously use the power of the abuser, so can the inner critic shift, develop and change.  This fluidity needs to be imagined as a possibility.  Then, in fits and starts, it can be introduced into the inner relationship between the victim and critic.  This is a good example of a “Path Made by Walking”, which is also the title of a great introductory book about Processwork, by Julie Diamond and Lee Spark Jones (now Caroline Jones).

As it says in the I-Ching; Perseverance Furthers!

You will be rewarded as this critical inner figure slowly develops into a critical awareness that works with you, supporting you to process your life experiences.

Practicing with the Essence Level

This is the inner elder who uses Big Mind and Great Compassion – phase four of conflict – to create more spaciousness and friendliness inside.  Working with the essence level tunnels underneath the polarity created by the critic.  There you find its essence, and you can use that to work with the critic itself.

There can be relief from the critic’s meanness when you dance the energies in the victim/critic polarity, and move into your nature spot and out into a universe dance.  (See Arnold Mindell’s The Universe Dance.)

The World Channel

Work in the world helps to integrate our newfound powers, as we use our critical awareness to process world problems and energies.

We all have the power to shift and grow this inner figure and develop a more fluid inner ecology.  May the force be with you!  And may you realize this great journey to yourself.


By Rhea Shapiro, Dipl. PW

Rhea is a longtime processworker living in Portland, Oregon.  Processing is her life’s continual joy and challenge.  Rhea’s favorite quotes from Arny Mindell are; “Oh boy, we’re in a mess now!”  and;  “Each of us is a full-time group-process.”  These quotes remind her to  remember process when working with clients and herself.  They bring an overall engagement, patience, compassion and even a sense of humor when working with so much life experience.

contact Rhea

Image credit:  Sergey Noskov, Fine Art America