Everyone has an inner critic who beats up on your mental health. And the worse your trauma is, the harsher your critic becomes.
But everyone approaches this problem backwards:
They think criticizing their inner critic will scare it away. But this only makes your inner critic double down and create more agony for you.
In this episode, you’ll discover why accepting your inner critic will actually lift its control over your mental health.
Show highlights include:
- Why celebrating your inner rebel when it pops into your psyche skyrockets your happiness (1:56)
- 3 simple ways to detect your inner critic before it sabotages your mental health (3:42)
- Why criticizing yourself into the best version of yourself only creates more mental anguish and anxiety (4:26)
- How acting like a toddler fast tracks your healing process (4:54)
- The insidious “Legacy Burdens” your parents passed down to you and you’ll pass onto your children if you don’t heal from your trauma in time (6:18)
- The simple “No Wonder” trick for accepting your inner critic and jumpstarting the healing process (7:07)
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host.
In the past two episodes, we’ve been looking at the life-coaching lie in the self-help trap, and how important and necessary the concept of accepting and understanding, and integrating the concept of radical acceptance is to long-term and consistent happiness, fulfillment, and success. Without radical acceptance, any success you get without radical acceptance is actually going to be unsustainable in the long run.
If you keep at it long enough, it will lead to burnout and is ultimately, in the long term, unhealthy and, of course, toxic as a result. The amount of repression and suppression inside that’s needed to succeed without acceptance, without radical acceptance, is poisonous and eats away at you from the inside. [01:12.8]
In the previous episode, and this is really a two-parter, this episode and the last one, we looked at the two paths to the transformation of fixing and allowing, and we used the inner critic as a case study, and we’re going to continue to do that and looking at the issue of polarization of suppressed or repressed parts, and then the parts that are trying to fix them or get rid of them; and how to go about the process of radical accept with regards to a polarization, and noticing that there is a middle position between being blended and being dissociate. That middle position is where you will find your higher self. We ended with looking at our inner rebels, our inner resistance, which are always there when success requires a lot of willpower. [02:06.0]
Okay, I’ve been drawing from a great book that I wanted to mention last time, but, anyway, I forgot, so I’m going to mention it this time, which is The Radical Acceptance of Everything: Living a Focusing Life. This is a book by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin. The Radical Accept of Everything. You can find this online and I highly recommend it, and it’s very consonant with IFS therapy, but Focusing therapy is itself a modality, which is a great one, so I highly recommend Focusing as well.
I’m going to start this off now with a quote from one of the founders of Focusing, Gene Gendlin: “The client and I, we are going to keep it, in there, company. As you would keep a scared child company. You would not push on it, or argue with it, or pick it up, because it is too sore, too scared or tense. You would just sit there, quietly … If you will go there with your awareness and stay there or return there, that is all this part needs; it will do all the rest for you.” [03:16.0]
It’s a beautiful quote by Gene Gendlin. You may not understand what that means, and if you don’t yet listen up in this episode and the last one, this is the second parter of what we started in the last one, so we’re going to pick up again with the inner critic.
The inner critic believes that you or another part of you has to change in order to be okay or to be good enough or worthy. You’ll notice this when you hear inside yourself, the self-talk, the kind of dialogue you pick up inside your mind, pejorative language, like stupid or wimpy, or inadequate or weak. You can also detect the inner critic through use of normative language in your mind, like shoulds or ought to’s or need to in any of their negatives, like you should not or shouldn’t. [04:10.6]
You can also detect the inner critic whenever you feel the need to change yourself or to change a part of you, especially with the assumption that the change has to happen for you to be good enough or to be okay or worthy. In fact, personal growth and transformation starts most effectively and naturally from self-acceptance and not self-criticism, but our culture, our societies are achievers and strivers.
They’ve bought into the lie that transformation has to come through criticism, through willpower and discipline. But there is a completely different way that young children already knew about, but that got conditioned out of them, out of the fears and anxieties of the adults that were in charge of them or influenced them. [05:05.2]
Now, I also want to mention the trap of criticizing the critic. You might notice that there might pop up a kind of self-help critic or a therapy critic, like a therapist critic, and this is also another trap once you get started on this path of radical acceptance. The therapeutic process requires the presence of your higher self to be with any experience, any inner experience, with interested curiosity and without judgment.
If you criticize the critic, all you’re doing is feeding the flames. Making the critic wrong for being as it is means becoming its critic. While the inner critic may sound angry or mean, or stubborn or confident, it’s actually just really afraid. It’s doing this out of fear that it won’t be good enough or worthy or okay, unless it applies this pressure and change happens. The more sure and authoritarian our inner critics sound, the greater the fear that they are carrying. [06:05.6]
This is true not just for our inner critics, but for the outer critics, and this may be a step that you will come to terms with in your therapy and it may be too much right now, but for those who are further along, you’ll notice that when you can understand your parents or the harsh teachers, or whoever it was whose critical voices you’ve internalized, when you get to understand them deeper, you’ll find that they had the same thing happen to them and they’re just passing this down. The fear of not being good enough is being projected onto you as a child and that gets internalized in you, and you end up naturally passing it down each generation.
It actually takes effort, which is what we’re doing right now, to shift gears and stop that passage of these legacy burdens from prior generations or from outside yourself, to stop that from getting passed down naturally as shifting years is what we’re doing here. [06:59.0]
The criticizing comes from a perceived need to control out of fear, concern or worry, so what the thing to do is to come into empathy with the inner critic sphere, not to just become a critic of the critic, but to enter into understanding of the inner critic’s fear. You can start that with, as you approach the inner-critic parts, begin with “No wonder.”
“No wonder you have been doing this. No wonder you feel this way, if you believe that XYZ, if you believe that you need to be this way or to be perfect, or to not make any mistakes, etc., etc., in order to be accepted, okay, worthy or good enough. No wonder … if you believe …” is a great structure to approach any of our parts, but especially our inner critic parts.
Okay, so there’s a six-step process to coming to radical acceptance and healing of our parts, and I’ll just discuss this in terms of our inner-critic parts. [08:04.4]
The first step is becoming aware, first, just becoming aware of, in this case, the inner-critic part, becoming aware. The second is acknowledging, acknowledging that it’s there.
Actually, it looks like there are seven steps. Let me revise this to seven steps.
The third step after acknowledging is then accepting all aspects of experiencing it. The acknowledging step, Step 2, is a kind of “Hello. There you are,” right? Then Step 3 is accepting, coming into an acceptance of the parts or parts.
Step 4 is noticing how, in this case, the inner critic or the target part that you’re focusing on, noticing how the inner critic or the target part feels in your body or how it presents itself in terms of its voice through words or phrases that you hear, or through any images or visuals, moving images that it presents to you in your mind’s eye, just noticing these things that it’s presenting to you, how it presents itself. That’s Step 4. [09:08.0]
Step 5 is sensing its feelings, if it might be afraid or have some worry or concern, getting to the fears, the root of the matter.
Then Step 6 is to invite it to let you know what it’s not wanting to have happen, and then Step 7, the final step, is to invite it to let you know what it is wanting for you to experience or feel, or what it wants to experience or feel.
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These seven steps of becoming aware bit to then acknowledge it, to then accept all aspects of experiencing it, to then noticing how it presents itself as feelings in the body or as words or phrases, or as images in your mind’s eye, and then to sensing its fears and what it’s actually afraid or worried or concerned would happen if it were to stop doing its job; and then to inviting it to let you know what it does not want to have happen, and then finally inviting it to let you know what it does want to have happen.
Now let’s turn from the inner critic to the part being criticized. The part being criticized often has three possibilities, three ways of being, and those are collapsing or rebelling or escaping, and you can first notice which of these three it shows or maybe a combination of them, or maybe it has tried out a whole bunch of them or maybe it has a fourth option. [11:14.7]
Now let me run through the three most common. The first is collapsing and this is the energy or attitude of “You’re right. I am that bad and I feel so bad about it,” and just wallowing in the shame.
The second of rebelling is “No, I’m not,” or “I won’t, and you can’t make me,” and this is pushing against.
The third, which seems very common among young people these days, is escaping, because there are so many ways to escape now, and experientially, this could just be simply going blank or forgetting, or getting confused or falling asleep, or it could be watching TV, endlessly streaming stuff, playing video games too much, or mindlessly scrolling through the internet or your phone or social media, or overusing porn or mindlessly eating snacks, or overindulging in any of things. These are all ways, common ways of escaping, and these are the reactions or responses of the parts being criticized. [12:20.0]
Now, there is a continuum of criticism when overwhelmingly frightening or painful events occur. When we, especially as children, don’t have enough resources or inner strength or experience to handle them, to handle the trauma, the emotional process becomes frozen and unprocessed, concentrated in parts of ourselves that then get exiled from our awareness.
The less severe trauma activates a less severe protective critic, but more severe trauma activates a harsher critic, a harsher critic driven by a profound fear of what painful feelings would erupt if it didn’t do its protective job. The inner criticism leads to feeling bad about ourselves, our identity, who we are, and this results in toxic shame. [13:09.3]
All of this inner criticism leading to toxic shame is different from simply receiving information or taking in feedback or constructive criticism, constructive critique, and then just making the changes, and you can notice a difference if there’s an effortlessness to it, if it’s a kind of there’s no painful emotion about it. There isn’t even really any emotion. You take the criticism and you make the changes.
But if you notice that there is emotion around the criticism, both the giving of the criticism and the receiving of it, all happening inside you, then this is a sign of trauma, and the more severe and harsh the criticism, then the more severe the trauma. [13:50.2]
No matter what, I highly recommend that if any of this interests you, radical acceptance, healing within, working with polarizations, being with those parts of us that are resisting, and being with and to help the parts of us that are working so hard and are tired and exhausted in their critical jobs, helping them find lightness and ease of being in life, and most importantly, happiness and fulfillment, and love and joy, and connection and so on.
I highly recommend that you find a good therapist and commit to a course of therapy to help you and guide you to be with these parts of yourself, because you’re really working against decades of going in the wrong direction, of decades of getting stuck in a certain pattern.
What life coaching, again, not all life coaching, but most of it, almost all self-help and the old styles of kind of directive therapy and almost all psychiatric approaches, take a kind of directive way of fixing you and that just adds on to the neurotic ineffective pattern of dealing with our exiled parts or our polarizations within that feel like it makes sense. It makes intuitive sense. [15:09.8]
It resonates with us because it mimics or is similar to how we’ve already been doing it, the fixing approach. There is this whole other way that begins with acceptance, so if this is something you’re interested in, I highly recommend you go on the IFS Therapy Directory, find a good therapist.
I would recommend that you first email several therapists in your time zone or in your area. Almost all of this, this can all be done over Zoom or over online video calling. The sky is the limit. I mean, you can contact anyone in your time zone or adjacent time zones. I work with people literally all around the world from almost every continent at the moment, and you can email them, just sort of copy and paste the same sort of query email, and give them all a shot and see how it goes. [16:00.0]
If you want to kind of ease your way into it or if you want to supplement the weekly therapy that you’re already doing, I have plenty of courses that are therapeutic in this way that will help you to come to acceptance, to help you to come to awareness, which is the first step, and acknowledgement of your parts and your polarizations, and especially your inner-child parts that are holding the pain, etc. These courses are like “Freedom U”, “Lifestyle Mastery”, and “Rock Solid Relationships”. You can get access to all of these courses through the “Platinum Partnership”.
If that’s something you’re interested in, go to DavidTianPhD.com, go to the top menu navigation and just look around. I have online courses. What do you call that thing? On the tab? You go to, I think it’s “Coaching”, and the dropdown tab has “Online Courses”. Click on that and it will give you a menu of the different courses. If you get “Platinum”, it gives you all of them, access to all of that to simplify it for you. That’s how it is currently. Our website might change in the future, but that’s how it is currently. [17:01.5]
Okay, just to recap, for the past two episodes, we’ve been going over what radical acceptance really is. In the episode before that, I went over, just kind of setting the stage for the life-coaching lie, informing of the life-coaching lie and the self-help trap, to set the stage for radical acceptance.
This episode and the past episode had been about the actual radical acceptance and the fixing approach versus the accepting approach. We looked at the middle position between being overwhelmed or blended or identified versus being dissociated or detached—this middle position of being able to hold all of the parts that are in conflict or polarized at the same time, to feel them all equally and to be with them, and then be able to go into their perspectives and see things from their points of view and still be able to hold it all at the same time.
I looked at the case studies, taking case studies of the inner critic, the criticized parts, and then we looked at the parts being criticized, the criticized parts, but also the ones that are rebelling actively to the inner rebels and we looked at the resistance of the inner rebel. [18:08.8]
Okay, so we’ve gone through quite a lot here and I actually don’t recommend that you do this on your own. This is more of just showing you what it’s all about, but I highly recommend that you find a professional guide to take you through this. You can go through IFS therapy and they have a directory on there. Google IFS Therapy Directory. You can search by location and by levels and all that.
You can also find a Focusing therapist there. I think there are a few of them and I’m not sure about the directory, but you can google it. I’m pretty sure they have a directory. You can also find therapists that can work with parts. There are many IFS-informed therapists, and if you can’t find an actual IFS therapist, you can find an IFS-informed one. They’re a lot more of those.
I highly recommend that you take this seriously and that you get off that bandwagon, the wrong tracks, in my opinion, that add just more toxic repression into your system, which is no wonder you’re exhausted and tired, and you’ve got this. It’s sort of like you’ve got a slave driver, an inner slave driver whipping you to move forward and you can never rest. [19:13.2]
This isn’t the only way. In fact, that way is toxic and you may not notice this, and it would be tragic if you only came to see this in your sixties or later, which is the case with plenty of achievers. I work with people in their sixties, who are still coming to terms with it now, so this is really important for you to recognize now. Again, I’ve gone through all of this myself, the hard way of making all of these different mistakes, so I really hope that you don’t make these mistakes.
This turns out to be a shorter episode than usual and it’s a two-parter. Actually, it’s a three-parter because the first episode set the scene and that was much longer, so I think we’re all balancing it out now. But I’m going to leave you with a shorter episode here and I’d love to hear from you any comments that you have, any feedback. [20:06.3]
Thank you so much for listening and thank you so much for the feedback you’ve given already. If you like this, give it a thumbs up or give it a good rating on Apple Podcasts. That always helps, and share it with anyone you think would benefit from it.
Thank you so much for listening and for your engagement and I hope to hear from you soon and I hope to see you in the next episode. Until then David
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