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Pluralistic Tasks for Befriending your Tough Inner Critic: Some Examples

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT encourages us to take note of the negative thoughts expressed by the Inner Critic, perhaps in a log or journal, developing meta-cognitive awareness and altering our relationship with the Inner Critic (e.g Dryden, 2012: Chapter 6).  Some clients may not even be aware of how negative their internal world has become. To address this from a CBT perspective allows greater awareness, identifies negative automatic thoughts, triggers, and creates the space to identify unhelpful thinking styles and allows for cognitive defusion.  For example, “This is not me, that is my Inner Critic being negative again, this is an unhelpful thinking habit and I can let it go”.  Examining how certain thoughts can lead to negative feelings and inhibitive behaviours.  However, thoughts are just thoughts, they may feel accurate, realistic but perhaps with the help of the pluralistic counsellor, they can be challenged and reframed.  Again the emphasis is on befriending  the critic, and so can be performed in a gentle, compassionate way.  It may help us understand how long the Inner critic has been around, when and why it was born, helping us work out the function for the individual client, if any, or if we can slowly negotiate control away and inject more self-compassion into the client's internal world.

There are multiple CBT workbooks on the market presently (e.g. Fennell; 2006: workbook two). And many free online resources such as,  Paid for CBT resources are available too, such as

Photo of Thought Log: credit to Melanie Fennell (2006) Overcoming Low Self Esteem: Self  Help Course Part 2 Robinson London

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

ACT lends itself to the task of normalising, accepting and befriending our tough Inner Critic.  Hayes (2016) notes “ACT takes the view that trying to change difficult thoughts and feelings as a means of coping can be counter productive, but new, powerful alternatives are available, including acceptance, mindfulness, cognitive defusion, values, and committed action”. (p. 11) Accepting the part of us we define as the Inner Critic, normalising it as a means of reducing shame but working to defuse it and take the power and control away may be an effective task. I have looked at ACT values alongside clients to ascertain if the client is living in line with their values.  Sometimes an inner critic can become toxic if the client is aware they are not living  by a parent's set of values, and once discovered the pluralistic counsellor and client can work to bring compassion and acceptance to this.  Using the ACT workability sheet to consider if using a harsh inner voice is beneficial may be useful.  Additionally, ACT's metaphor "Bozo's on the Bus" may highlight the human plight, the need to appear perfect, as a normal psychological function but perhaps can create a little room for the client to accept being less-than-perfect and to allow for being human, or being a "Bozo on the bus".

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