The ego-mind is a great employee but a horrible boss. When it is an employee, it can assist in an inner critique of your soul, heart, mind and body. When it is the boss, it becomes the dreaded inner critic.
We all have an inner critic. It is one of our survival tools; the part of our mind designed to keep us alive and in the tribe. In a group survival situation, the inner critic is absolutely essential. It uses projection, comparison and assumption to discourage selfish or risky behavior, protect hierarchies and order, and encourages customs and operating procedures.
And therein lies the problem. Most of us are not in a group survival situation. So almost all of that projecting, comparing and assuming is spent on applying attention to perceived threats, slights, disappointments et al. Despite being intelligent beings, the inner critic is just not that smart. It struggles to discern between drama and trauma. It swings wildly between delusion and despair. As such, it is frequently and consistently wrong. Pause to ponder this: when was the last time your inner critic was right?
In the language of Internal Family Systems (IFS), this inner critic is an extension of one or more of our parts. One of the many reasons I’m an advocate of IFS/parts therapy is that this approach shows us that: a) no matter how ham-handed, your parts genuinely want to help and protect you and b) once operating from your core self, parts can be given new roles.
For me, this effort is to shift my inner critic to inner critique. This process of re-assigning new roles is a “Big Dig” for me. It is expensive and risky and it takes a long ass time. But the pay-off is worth it.
It is important to note that we are not trying to chase away or deny the existence of our inner critic. This is why I’ve learned to simply acknowledge it. I often compare it to a barking dog or a screeching monkey. It is afraid, triggered, alert — and it is letting me know. I then examine what caused it to sound the alarm. 99% of the time it is nothing. It usually means that I’m fatigued and/or hungry. Or my ego self is being threatened by someone or something. I then try to assign it something to do. More on that below. A handy reminder of this sequence: Acknowledge, assess, assign.