If we all sit in a circle and confess our sins, we would laugh at each other for our lack of originality.
- Kahil Gibran
Over the past two decades, I have spent thousands of hours tackling what I consider to be one of the most rampant crises in modern society - contagious and parasitic inner critics who latch onto our subtle energy bodies and drain us from the inside out.
It doesn't seem to matter if they remain behind the scenes or end up front and center on our life's main stage. Either way, most inner critics run -- and often ruin -- "the show," working around the clock at this goal even when we're asleep. Because they never tire or sleep, they do far more damage to our entire system than we realize or would normally put up with.
Why is that? Why do we so complacently accept being tormented by our inner critics and call this the "human condition"? Would you live with roommates who are constantly bickering and talk yourself into tolerating it because this is what is means to be human and real?
Or would you want them to get to the bottom of the issue and insist that deeper resolution is possible, provided that they are willing to get a bit more vulnerable and possibly spiritual. It requires archeological digging into our souls to unearth what's really bothering us.
What's blocking us from doing the same when our inner critics are in heated conflict with our usual self? They are essentially split off parts of our true self that are constantly bickering with one another and need some help taking it a layer deeper.
We give our inner critics tremendous benefit of the doubt, even when they're screaming in our face. A little bit of scratching under the surface reveals the reasons why. These tireless whip crackers are often able to convince us that they're "helping" us shape up and adapt to our external circumstances, often reminding us of the reprimands and patterns that were cracked on our psyches and skin by the time we were ten, some of us much younger. We learned to uphold all these old contracts with our inner critics, handing over big bucks -- sometimes our entire "life savings"-- to these suckers that are posing as our bodyguards.
1. Detect and Unmask the Inner Critic
If there is an adamant part of your self that relentlessly advocates for your "best" interests, yet repeatedly censors and imprisons you into a cramped cell? That's most likely your inner critic holding you hostage. By taking a hard look at our emotional and mental states and patters, we can detect and unmask the different faces and sly tactics of these pesky gremlins, bullies, demons, know-it-alls, monsters, leeches, introjects, snobs, creeps, shadow parts, and black holes, which are just a few of the many endearing names that clients have called the inner critic in my practice.
Despite studying their moves for years, it's still nearly impossible for me to sum up in a one-size-fits-all formula how to disarm these con-artists and moving targets. But there is one thing I'm pretty sure of. Inner critics have perpetuated, perhaps even started, our current epidemic of soul loss, the common denominator beneath a bleak outlook on life, a distorted sense of self, high reactivity to others and situations, and everyday anxiety and depression. They justify the full range of our "normal" narcissistic delusions, and produce the blaring voices underneath more severe episodes of "mental illness."
The more helpless we appear on the outside, the more monstrous, plump, and well-fed our inner critics are on the inside.
2. Identify your Vulnerabilities and Buy-ins
What kinds of hosts do inner critics love to invade? One who is alive and kicking, but not clear, cohesive, and strong enough to unravel and dissolve the dis-ease causing agent that creates havoc within. The more unaware and/or intentionally (or unintentionally) invested we are in remaining helpless victims of our minds, emotions, bodies, traumatic past, and circumstances, the more likely that we remain foggy, numb, split, powerless, and unconscious of our true nature and potential. And the deeper and wider the opening that appeals to an inner critic becomes.
Our suffering isn't permission to sit back and wait for a rescue team to lift us up and transport us to higher ground. Our suffering is an invitation to identify our core needs and deepest longings, practice spiritual grit, and learn to trust and work alongside others as we continue to dig our way out of our own dark pits.
Why do we need to work that hard when we are already exhausted, beaten down? Because our inner critics are trapping us into a hologram of horror, and trying to bait our rescuers with our desperate, painful pleas. We need to consciously and intentionally support any rescue effort, or the whole operation will avalanche, especially when working with inner critics engaged in psychic battles that are epic, involving a big soul purpose and a lot of buried potential. The lighter the light, the darker the dark, Jung once said. We are being tested to stretch and transcend the duality.
3. Practice Fierce Compassion and Set Firm Boundaries
Clarity and compassion for the inner critic's shadow function and purpose are essential to effectively transform it into an inner Mystic and Co-Creator. Our job is to shepherd it with a bright torch out of darkness.
Understanding that our inner critics are savvy, smart badasses, bootcamped and hazed by our rational ego-minds has helped me to work with some of the most facetious and slippery inner critics around. These inner critics tend to balk at intuitive and spiritual wisdom, and believe that airy-fairy sweet talk only spins flimsy safety nets out of cotton-candy. Candid and astute, they have their index and middle fingers on the pulse of the "real" world of business, economics, career/financial success, sex appeal, and politics, and are driven by facts and hard data that produce results and positive output. They have the chops, looks, and muscles to outwit the sophisticated and psychological dangers of modern society, and they are as up-to-date and upgraded as our latest hand-held device.
They are heralded as heroes for rearing their daring, confident heads in today's brutal and competitive arenas, and therefore are utterly convinced that they, and only they, have our backs. They know exactly how to help us succeed and remain safe in modern life. If they are into esoteric wisdom, they broadcast it from their high-horse. They wouldn't fathom getting down to feel what it's really like to walk in our shoes, because that would only deter their lofty mission in helping us to become the invincible (and out of touch) superhuman that they hope that we become.
They keep us in line, move us from Point A to Point B, and prevent us from embracing unnecessary detours by thinking of them as pilgrimages. No no no. Their most important job is to prevent us from ever wasting our precious T-I-M-E on soul yearnings that have no value in contemporary society, scouting and strategizing our path at least a dozen steps ahead for us.
Who wouldn't want that kind of valiant protector and competent go-getter by their side, you may be thinking until you realize that, wow, that sounds like my father, my mother, my boss, my adviser, my [fill in the blank]. Most of the time, our inner critic sounds like some kind of authority figure(s) or "system" in our life with misguided solutions and promises to absolve the looming existential angst that gnaws at us in the far corners of barren institutions and in the achy, spiritual voids of modern-day society. This existential angst has been gnawing at our entrails and soul ever since we were born, heck, long before we were born, gnawing through our ancestral lines, our legacy as women, and gnawing through the collective conscious and unconscious energy that recycles through each of us.
Many, if not most of our wounds -- inherited from real, virtual, and mythical battles still raging all around us -- are accompanied by clever remedies (the coping strategies of the inner critic) to cover up the hurt, disposability, desecration of life, and neglect that still fester in them like pus. It's important to realize that until we say "no" to our inner critic and mean it. we give it free reign to operate in whatever way it pleases.
4. Boost your Immunity and Protective Vitality
The energy of an inner critic can spread like an airborne virus. We can end up collecting an entire posse of them, requiring just as big of an army of spiritual guides to dismantle them and reveal our hidden light.
Our inner critics are super sophisticated and brilliant in their dodging abilities. They hate feeling vulnerable and squishy, and when that's the case, some of us focus all of our critique on others to give ourselves a break from their constant interrogations. Our inner critics are masters in pointing out the flaws in others (even if we don't share this info) to remind ourselves of all the ways in which we are okay and better than the rest. That way, we don't risk revealing our heart and soul to others, nor need to face how much we have twisted and contorted around our deepest pain.
Especially if we're leaders, it's imperative to understand our impact on others and attempt to break this insidious cycle. If not for ourselves, for the greater good. None of us are immune to catching this bug that can only be expelled with conscious and intentional practice.
We can throw a wrench into our private hamster wheel at any time, even in one as big as a black hole. By defiantly reclaiming and planting our two feet back on the ground, we give our soul a chance to settle in and root back into the earth and our true nature, which is love and peace. Strengthening and feeding ourselves with this soul food enhances our vitality and boosts our immunity, making us less likely to create an inner environment in which the inner critic thrives.
5. Reconnect to the Mysterious Healing Powers of Nature
Rooting back into the earth reconnects us to the indigenous part of ourselves that mixes our blood and bone marrow with red, sticky mud. This soulful connection is impossible to eradicate and sedate with all of our modern-day drugs and seductive addictions. This is the powerful part of our self that often got us in trouble to begin with and resisted external pressures from our collective inner critics portray by modern society as a while.
Our critical preoccupation with ourselves begins to fade when we demote our inner know-it-all, who is literally railing against ilfe, the universe, God, the galactic center, our inner wisdom and source for having done it all wrong. We spiritually grow up if we allow ourselves to pull back and sink into our natural growth instincts. Many of us spontaneously outgrew our fear of the dark, and instead began to notice the magical dance between the sun, moon, stars, and the earth while they softly hushed all the creatures and tree fairies to sleep at night so that they can resume their mighty tasks the next day.
While our inner bully rests on the ground, we similarly realize that there has never ever been a day in the history of our solar system when darkness wasn't followed by light (unless you are lucky enough to live in Alaska, where there are exceptions to every rule). It starts to dawn on us that our hatred for all that we imagine is wrong with us, with others, our situation, and the world, are motivated by ego-mind attempts to tamper with and change timeless laws of nature and paradoxical wholeness. They will begin to fizzle and dissolve in a growing humility and awe when we accept defeat and make room for something much grander and more mysterious than our limited conceptual minds.
Then one fine morning, after diligent practice in remaining at least one degree more grounded in the here and now, we gracefully get swept up and woven back into a warm, sacred tapestry, and do it so naturally, it appears as if we've done this our whole lives.
And then what? How do we survive in this freaking world, this world full of freaks. Are we not to ever criticize? To get upset and resist what's wrong, to fight for what's right? Of course not. The key is to extract the harmful judgment out of our observations and discern with fierce compassion and equanimity what is really going on without activating our own inner criticism. This is what differentiates us from the "freaks" who scare us - our ability to remain in control of our inner climate.
6. Empower the Wise Voice of your Inner Mystic
We can cure our own "freakishness" even when others haven't extracted all their inner demons out of their systems yet. We can gracefully twirl around our inner bull or whisper into the ears of our inner wild horse until we've tamed them. Our souls are coded with the answers implanted in our psyches like time-released capsules, unmanifested gifts of guidance waiting for our signal. Wholeheartedly embracing our unique inner criticism and reaching out for help is the key that unlocks and activates our hidden power.
Practicing equanimity builds our tolerance muscles so that we can intuitively and accurately read a self-administered X-ray or MRI assessment of our own energetic body. By embracing and embodying the truth of who we are in this moment through the help of mindful walks, meditation, contemplation, prayer, genuine connection with others, journaling, journeying, yoga, and the like, we momentarily stop splitting ourselves, our wounded parts, and our reality into good and bad, and stop begging our inner critic to come to our rescue.
In time, our judgment of ourselves and others, our need to compare and compete, and constantly feed our narcissistic superior and inferior selves with yo-yo thoughts will lose its appeal, indicating that our fierce compassion muscle has gotten stronger and the raw, infected wound buried deep in our psyche is healing.
Celebrate yourself when this moment arrives. Give yourself space for creative expression, lather yourself with validation, bask in authentic intimacy so that you too will no longer pass that wounded, stunted buck along, with inner critic and all.
Offering ourselves this TLC while undergoing this comprehensive ICU™ (Inner Critic Uprooting) healing will help ignite a renewed sense of integrity, the shining Light of our inner mystic and co-Creator that catalyzes and reveals our calling and path in actualizing what truly is in our best interest - our dynamic wholeness.
Sharing our unique success stories in uprooting the inner critic will loosen its chokehold on us as a society, and can subtly activate and support this same ICU™ (inner critic uprooting) process toward dynamic wholeness in our loved ones, our communities, the planet, and the cosmos through an invisible web of sacred life that we can never ever not be a part of.
Loraine Van Tuyl, PdH, CHT, is a holistic psychologist, shamanic practitioner, dynamic speaker, and award-winning author of Amazon Wisdom Keeper: a Psychologist’s Memoir of Spiritual Awakening.
She is devoted to empowering rebels, wellness warriors and soulpreneurs with lifetime skills and trust in their power, clarity, and purpose to create dream lives in service of their mission, our Earth Mother, and all of our relatives.
Through her busy private practice, online communities, Be (a) Well guest posts, and daily gratitude log, she reaches thousands of visionaries and mindful leaders with her Be 1 Degree More Present in Wholeness than Wounding revolution, which aims to reverse the mental illness epidemic by popularizing prevention and intervention programs that are grounded in 7 daily soul essentials.