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Pluralistic Methods and Tasks to Negotiate Control away from the Tough Inner Critic

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

In keeping a thoughts log, we can also detect patterns of thinking, what triggers them, and how we respond to them (increasing metacognitive awareness, eg see Dryden (ed.) 2012). For example, if a client has been raised to feel that being a high achiever is prized, they may not notice their Inner Critic is mostly triggered at specific times.  For example, where they have to make decisions or are required to sit an exam.  Some clients can be paralysed by the fear of doing the “wrong thing” and cannot work productively or make choices or decisions.  Encouraging a client to keep a “thought record” can perhaps prompt them to recognise their thought patterns and hopefully that things usually work out well.  For example:  “oh yes, during the last exam I can see from my thought records I was being so horrible to myself, motivating myself with mean words.  When I look back on this, I know I did well in that exam, so maybe I can tone down my Inner Critic”.  Just bringing awareness to the thoughts can empower clients to become aware and alter how they react to them. Of course, a client may believe that that style of thinking motivated them to achieve good grades and we may need to come up with a next step to alter this thinking.   Padesky (NICABM IC video 5; 2021; 06:13) discusses, after examining client’s negative core beliefs, to ask the client to construct a positive core belief that they would like to have about themselves, in opposition to the negative belief, which could have arisen in childhood.   For example, if an abusive parent told the client they were worthless, leading to a negative core belief about their worthlessness, they may choose to flip this and focus on “I am a worthwhile person even when I make mistakes”.  Padesky recommends client keep a “positive core belief diary”, keeping a note of daily pieces of evidence they have worth, even when they make mistakes, by noting all the worthwhile things they do. Of course, developing a whole new core belief will take time and the counsellor may need to guide the client in this. For example, posing guide questions such as “Were you honest today?” “Did you help someone else today?” “Have you had positive feedback from anyone this week?”.  As a pluralistic counsellor, you can work alongside your client to extract and examine their negative core beliefs, what has meaning for them, and begin to challenge this deep Inner Critic voice.
R. Siegel (2021) uses a CBT task of “thought labelling” to defuse thoughts (NICABM Inner Critic Module 4; 2021: 01:25).  This could take the category of e.g. “planning, remembering, judging” but you can adapt this as a pluralistic counsellor to see what fits best with your client as a way of describing the function or style of thoughts.  Then,to categorise thoughts in such a way.    Identifying is that thought you noticed planning, is it remembering or is it judging (ie. the inner critic).  Siegel’s second step is recommending a client keeps a tally of self-critical thoughts (01:57) which can help clients monitor how prevalent these negative critical thoughts have become.  And further, to note what happens emotionally every time we have a critical thought e.g. “you idiot!!” versus a positive thought such as “well done, you are doing a good job”.  When you have a negative thought, this could impact your self-esteem and might make you feel depressed. Siegel’s third step is to look at this “inner report card” to really highlight the volume of negative versus positive thoughts (03:56). Hanson (2021; NICABM Inner Critic Video 4; 05:26) notes that, thought labelling  of self-critical thoughts increases activity in the pre-frontal regions of the brain, that deal with executive functions will decrease amygdala activation.  The amygdala is inhibited by the noting technique, so it is really useful for clients to start to interact with thoughts differently.

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