“Shame on you! You’re such a loser. I mean, let’s face it, you can’t do anything right. And I don’t see how that’ll ever change. Seriously, why do you bother anymore?”
Ouch! Well, that was certainly harsh. And if you’re one who spends countless hours pondering what to do about depression and/or the causes of anxiety, that load of self-speak may have sounded familiar. That’s right, yet another selection in your automatic thought repertoire.
Come on, am I right?
But what if I submitted that your brutal and self-sabotaging expressions aren’t truly coming from you? “What?!” Enter the Inner Critic (we’ll call it the IC). And here’s how yours may have been installed…
Okay, let’s turn back the clock to your childhood years. Perhaps you endured stunning disappointments when it came to getting the love, attention, and approval you wanted – needed – from that targeted adult authority figure. It could have been one or both parents, or another major contributor to your emotional/mental development. Who knows? Maybe some form, and degree, of abuse was involved.
Had this been the case, you likely did all you could to secure that love, attention, and approval – all of it meaning the very world to you. But, somehow, you were never able to pull it off. Can you see how absolutely devastating that would be to a kid? Heck, it’s devastating to an adult!
So when a youngin’ isn’t consistently getting what s/he so desperately needs, what do you suppose they do? Well, when bonding and attachment are perceived to be unattainable, most kids turn to perfectionism. (By the way, are you a perfectionist?)
Why perfectionism? Fact is, it’s the most natural of defenses because it’s impossible to achieve. And that means the child never has to quit the quest. But there’s more. Though it’s false and temporary, perfectionism provides a sense of meaning and direction for the powerless/unsupported-feeling little one.
So now to the birth – actually installation – of the IC. When a child turns to perfectionism over and over again, and time and again it doesn’t produce the desired bonding and attachment results, the IC takes its first breath.
It’s important to understand that the IC connects the shame and self-hate that accompany imperfection (remember all those failed attempts) to fear of abandonment. Boiled down, it’s all about the relationship between perfectionism and endangerment.
Ah, but were that the end of it. See things get more complicated because the more the child fails in securing the bonding and attachment for which they long, the more hostile and dominant the IC becomes. And out come self-targeted tirades like the one I presented at the beginning of the piece.
No doubt, they’re out-and-out falsehoods that explain to the child how s/he has alienated the target of their longings. The ultimate goal? To invent ways – past, present, and future – s/he is either “too much” or “not enough.”
And then it goes expressively first person: “I’m so pathetic!” “God, I’m ugly!” “I’m worthless!” “I’m just plain stupid!”
Realize the child is now believing normal needs, preferences, feelings, and boundaries are just more toxic imperfections. And things become very ugly on an ongoing basis because it makes sense to the child that punishment and/or abandonment are justified.
Newsflash! Imperfection has become synonymous with shame and fear.
So how’s that for a load of psychobabble? Were you able to grab a sense of how powerful the IC is? But what’s even more important – do you understand how vital it is in the immediate to gain insight into the IC and its impact upon your everyday life?
If you’re nodding your head in the affirmative, you’ll become more comfortable with the fact that the IC isn’t of you. Rather, it’s the installed persona of that adult(s) who let you down all those years ago.
Isn’t it freeing to know it isn’t really you expressing the disdain and disgust?
Do you ponder the causes of anxiety? Do you spend hours upon hours wondering what to do about depression? Do yourself a large favor and consider the concept of the Inner Critic – that installed and insidious voice from the past.
And do yourself another favor by checking back with Chipur, as we’ll be discussing just how to give the Inner Critic the heave-ho.
(Cheers to Pete Walker for the resource material.)
Be sure to read The Inner Critic|10 Ways to Peacefully Coexist!
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Thank you Bill for once again helping bring peace into the troubled waters. I’ve worked so hard to be perfect and your article is so clearly and beautifully written. There is so much potential freedom not to blame myself because I was/am not good enough due to the messages of the Installers. It is refreshing to see them as the liars and failures THEY were instead of seeing myself as the chronic loser or the one who must carry the shame. I look forward to your additional articles and always appreciate the work you put into research and education.
Aw, Patricia – thank YOU for your kind remarks. Man, anything I can do to speak the truth and aid in lifting burdens is a pleasure. You know, perspective is a good thing, especially when it makes a whole lot of sense. None of us have to live with shame, fear, guilt – you name it. It’s just not the natural order of things. What say we shed it all, okay? I really appreciate your continued visits and participation…