Why is this? Why do we constantly fail to be compassionate with ourselves even when we seem to be able to offer it to others? Why do we find it so hard to find a compassionate voice amongst our emotional traffic? Why do we consider ourselves not good enough, unlovable, unworthy?
What does your inner monologue sound like when you are trying something new, breaking up something dysfunctional or struggling? Are you hard on yourself? Judgmental? Or negative in ways that you could never be with others?
All good questions and most people asked would recognize the thought patterns described above at times in their lives. Curiously, we are often most critical of ourselves when we are at our most vulnerable and wounded, when we are struggling to move outside our safe comfort zone and when we are trying to improve our lot. In these moments, our inner dictator tries to protects us by setting high standards, being perfectionist and judging our actions. If we listen and believe it, we will avoid the very thing we wanted to do out of fear and this is how we stay stuck. The inner dictator is doing its job. Picking up on our thoughts and protecting us.
There are many reasons why we might be so self-critical. We may have internalized the powerful shaming voices of our caregivers, absorbed dysfunctional ideals presented to us as children or internalized messages through racism, stereotyping or abuse. In my experience, it is often the unchallenged messages coming from parents that shape our world and sometimes tell us that we are not deserving. We go through long periods of believing that there is something inherently wrong with us. One of the major factors in this process is the formation of an inner dictator. The inner dictator is often formed when childhood situations and interaction with caregivers lead to our inner child being wounded and replaced by the inner critic values.
Criticism or judgement by parents or caregivers, especially when given in a harsh manner can turn an innocent child into one who believes that they are wrong, inadequate and worthless. If this is accompanied by physical or verbal abuse, then the Inner Child becomes traumatized. All parents set behaviour standards for their children such as performing a certain level, not showing emotion, behaving “properly” or in their interaction with others. If love and affection are only given when these standards are met, or even worse withdrawn when not, it has a devastating impact on the inner child. Parents often become frustrated when unrealistic tasks and expectations are not met, this is seen by the child as judgment. Criticism is often used as a motivation to do better as is comparison with more successful peers. Sometimes success is not recognised and mistakes emphasised as a “lesson” and praise is not given appropriately. These actions repeatedly used can wound the inner child and promote feelings of low self-esteem and toxic shame, the main drivers of codependency.
Try this exercise to get to know your inner dialogue:
- Write about your inner dialogue. In what ways does it show up in your life? What Does it say? What did it say to you when you were younger?
- Think of something you are struggling with right now. What is your inner dialogue saying to you about your struggle?
- Imagine your inner dictator is in front of you right now? What would you say to it? How would it answer if you asked these questions? Why are you here? What are you protecting me from? What do you need from me in order to let go?
- Try the Fork in the Road exercise under meditation. After doing this, think of the benefits of making choices for you.
- Monitor your inner dialogue over the next week and recognize patterns of thought.
For more details concerning our inner dialogue, fools this link: The Formation of an Inner Critic.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.