The life you’d like more of – where you love deeply and experience an ongoing contentment comes naturally to your Essential Self but often feels out of reach to other parts of you.
The Inner Critic is one of the chief parts standing in the way. It calls out your mistakes and assumes the worst at every turn. I want to continue exploring the Inner Critic through the Internal Family Systems model as a way you can gain more access to your Essential Self.
IFS isn’t alone in recognizing that we all have parts with different needs and motivations but it has developed a profound way of working with them. When you say ‘a part of me wants to run from this relationship’ you’re feeling this dynamic that we call the multiplicity of self. The idea is that we each have a wise and compassionate Self at our core that becomes obscured by parts of ourselves like the Inner Critic and the feelings of unworth it’s covering.
The critical voices may sound different in each of us but they’re all trying to protect us albeit in a limited way. IFS’s effectiveness stems from you building a relationship with difficult parts like the Inner Critic instead of trying to subdue them. In this model you’d ask the Inner Critic a question like “What are you afraid would happen if you stopped criticizing me?” You’ll often hear a response like, “If I stop pointing out your faults you’ll mess up and then the world will see just how bad you are… and you’ll be all alone.”
IFS founder Dr. Richard Schwarz points out that we’re oriented to survive by being accepted by the tribe and feelings of unworth threaten that acceptance. “There’s a terror that comes with being shamed – a survival terror.” Our Inner Critic ensures our survival by making sure we don’t make mistakes and shames us so that the tribe won’t have to.
When you really get to know your Inner Critic it’s almost always protecting a part of you who feels unworthy. When you can feel compassion for the role the critic has been playing while making room in your heart for this unworthy part something profound happens. The Inner Critic becomes willing to step back and not wreak such havoc in your life, not because you vanquished or bypassed it but because you related to it.
The entire system is waiting for you to embrace your parts with compassion and curiosity. You don’t have to be healed to experience more of your Essential Self. You only have to begin a relationship with your parts and watch what happens.