By Jay Earley, PhD
with NVC empathic responses by Pernille Plantener.
The empathy guesses in Italics are suggestions for how to empathize with the critic itself, the exile it is protecting, and the opposite of the critic, which often enters the scene in defense when the critic is harsh.
In our study of the Inner Critic, we have identified the following seven types of Inner Critics that people are troubled by:
This critic tries to get you to do things perfectly.
It sets high standards for the things you produce and has difficulty saying something is complete and letting it go out to represent you.
It makes sure that you fit in and that you will not be judged or rejected.
Its expectations often reflect those of people who have been important to you in the past.
The exile it is protecting could be a young child who once was criticized for not being perfect.
Its opposite is the Pragmatic who wants to get on with things and not care so much about details.
“Perfectionist, are you concerned about how the client fits in? Would you like her need to belong to be
“Exile, are you hurt and longing for the freedom to be who you are? Are you longing for the courage to trust
that you are enough?”
“Pragmatic, are you impatient and longing for efficiency and achievement?”
This critic is stuck in the past, unable to forgive you for wrongs you have done or people you have hurt.
It is concerned about relationships and holds you to standards of behavior prescribed by your community, culture and family.
It tries to protect you from repeating past mistakes by making sure you never forget or feel free. This way, it prevents blame and keeps you safe.
The exile it is protecting could be the one who in innocence and trust did something that hurt someone and did not get empathetic support to digest it.
Its opposite might be Self Compassion who points out your positive intentions and encourages you to be proud.
“Guilt-Tripper, are you horrified of possible consequences of what the client did? Do you want her to feel ashamed so that ultimately she can feel acceptance in the circle of humans?”
“Exile, are you crushed to see how your actions harmed someone or disturbed the peace around you? Are you longing for support in repairing what happened? Does your heart dream of a world where people are seen for their intentions?”
“Self Compassion, are you standing up for self-care, and do you want the client to have a balanced view of herself?”
This critic tries to undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem so that you won’t take risks.
It makes direct attacks on your self-worth so that you will stay small and not take chances where you could be hurt or rejected.
It is afraid of your being too big or too visible and not being able to tolerate judgment or failure.
The exile it is protecting might be the one who expressed itself and was laughed at, or argued to silence with no follow-up warmth or connection.
Its opposite may be your Cheerleader who boosts your esteem, points out your positive qualities and how much you are liked.
“Underminer, are you meeting the client’s needs for protection by making sure nobody sees her potential shortcomings?”
“Exile, are you horrified to learn that even with good intentions, actions might hurt someone? Do you want to be seen for your innocence and care for others?
“Cheerleader, are you taking a stand against oppression? Are you celebrating the client’s right to be seen for who she really is?”
This critic makes pervasive attacks on your fundamental self worth.
It shames you and points out that you are inherently flawed and not entitled to basic understanding or respect.
This most debilitating critic, comes from early life deprivation or trauma.
It is motivated by a belief that it is safer not to exist.
The exile it is protecting has most likely experienced overwhelming horror and confusion and has resigned.
It longs for warm, safe company and acknowledgment of its pain and suffering.
Its opposite could be various parts; the Creative part that is flourishing; the Protector who loves life; the Taskmaster who criticizes the weeping; the Perfectionist who wants to keep up appearances, or another opposite.
“Destroyer, are you horrified by the dangers of this world, and do you want to just end the client’s suffering?”
“Exile, are you exhausted and hopeless, and are you so longing for eternal peace within?”
“Protector, do you love this world and want the client to enjoy a creative, productive life?”
This critic tries to get you to fit into a certain mold based on standards held by society, your culture or your family.
It wants you to be liked and admired and to protect you from being abandoned, shamed or rejected.
The Molder fears that the Rebel or the Free Spirit in you will act in ways that are unacceptable. So it keeps you from being in touch with and expressing your true nature.
Its most likely protecting an exile who has experienced humiliation or abandonment.
Its opposite is the Rebel or the Free Spirit that prioritizes self-expression over conformity.
“Molder, are you attempting to protect the client from abandonment that would inevitably be the result of him showing the world who he really is? Do you want the client to feel included and accepted?”
“Exile, are you caught in a prison of shame after showing yourself to the world? Are you longing for love and belonging?”
“Free Spirit, are you fed up with norms and ‘shoulds’? Are you desperate to express yourself fully and share your gifts with the world?”
This critic wants you to work hard and be successful.
It fears that you may be mediocre or lazy and will be judged a failure if it does not push you to keep going.
Its pushing often activates a procrastinator or a rebel that fights against its harsh dictates.
It might protect an exile who has experienced loneliness and lack of meaning in a world that seemed to not care about him.
Its opposite could be the Procrastinator who wants the client to be happy in the now and doesn’t care about tomorrow.
“Taskmaster, are you wanting the client to prove her worth so that she earns recognition and the right to belong?”
“Exile, are you longing for being welcomed just as you are – with no strings or conditions? Are you longing for human connection and care?”
“Procrastinator, are you tired and weary? Do you need rest, ease and fun?”
This critic tries to control your impulses: eating, drinking, sexual activity, etc.
It tends to be harsh and shaming in an effort to protect you from yourself.
It is motivated to make you a good person who is accepted and functions well in society.
It’s probably protecting an exile that has experienced being lost and fearful, and needing guidance.
It is polarized with the Indulger – the addict within who loves surrendering and getting out of control as a reaction to rules and threats.
“Inner Controller, are you worried that the client might lose herself and disappear if given the freedom to choose for herself, from moment to moment? Are you wanting her to have integrity and respect?”
“Exile, are you scared and lost in the midst of a jungle of opportunities? Do you long for a roadmap and a travel companion?”
“Indulger, are you desperate about the rigidity of rules the client has to comply to, and are you needing trust and freedom?”
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