top of page
concept, angel and demon. portrait of surprised girl.jpg

Pluralistic Methods and Tasks for Externalising and Befriending your Tough Inner Critic: Some Examples

Narrative Therapy

Narrative Therapy, where the client is not seen as the problem, but "the problem is the problem" (in this case, the tough inner critic) lends itself to this externalising process. Payne (2006) notes "[In counselling], when encouraging the person to expand her initial narrative, the therapist invites her to give a specific name or names to the problem, perhaps a single word or short phrase. If the person cannot think of a name the therapist floats possibilities... until a name is provisionally agreed. This name is then used, unless further description by the person suggests that a different, more precise name might be appropriate, when another name is chosen. Naming encourages focus and precision, enables the person to feel more in control of the problem and gives a precise definition for externalization of the problem" (p. 16).

 Externalising and befriending this "part" of the client's self or ego state and writing about it.  The client may wish to write about the critic with much rich detail, as a way of understanding where it came from for the individual client, and recognising what is the aim or function.  What is its name? What does it look like? Where was it born (or triggered, if we accept neurobiologically speaking it evolved in humans over centuries) and what is its back story? Does it take on anyone else’s voice?  We can support clients to write the story of their Inner Critic, name it, become familiar with it, which is an important part of counselling.  It is the first step in recognising this voice as some people do not even realise how toxic this Inner Critic has become, and do not recognise the need to externalise this problem to try and reduce it. To rewrite their own narrative, as it were.

Creative Therapies

Creative therapies may support pluralistic practitioners and clients to externalise and befriend the inner critic.  This could lead to deeper understanding of the motivations of, or  define the role of, the Inner Critic.  Clients can be empowered to choose their medium, to draw, paint, mould, sketch, place, identify the critic.  We can use creative therapies to pinpoint the issues the inner critic may be causing, for example, in our relationships with ourselves and others, and as a way of drawing attention to it, getting to know its fears or motivation or history.  We may explore such things as, where about in your body are they living?  What is their opinion of other people in your life? How big a role does it play day to day?  Creative therapies can be useful as a tool to reframe the negative Inner Voice.  For example, the traditional image depicting the Inner Critic on one shoulder as the Devil, and on the other shoulder, the Angel is self-compassion or inner nurturing can gently draw attention to the inner critic, perhaps normalising it in a playful way, addressing unhelpful thinking habits and perspectives in a meaningful way for the client.  The section on metaphors also explores the Inner Critic in a creative way.  There are many ways to expose the Inner Critic and find out what it is attempting to achieve, and allow clients to feel more in control or reframe how they feel about it.  Tackling this creatively can be so therapeutic, empowering, making meaning to the individual client.

bottom of page