Before we can move forward in any area of our lives, we need to go inside so we can excavate all the obstacles that are holding us back. All the things we try to numb. All the unprocessed hurt that we store away: the rejection, the abandonment, the failure, the deep deep deep insecurity. It’s all buried down there.
If only we could magically make it go away. If only we could wake up tomorrow and be completely clear, powerful, energised and transformed.
Here’s the thing. We can. It just takes some dedicated self-love and awareness.
As we grow up, our buried pain transforms into our inner victim and our inner critic. Carl Jung called these universal patterns of thought and behaviour ‘archetypes.’ Understanding our victim and critic archetypes is a primary step in moving forward into conscious living. If we are not aware of the way that the victim and critic take over our lives, we will be controlled by them. It’s like being in the back seat of a moving car (your life) and the car is being driven by your inner critic, with your inner victim in the front seat. See them a little bit like a dysfunctional couple, with their routine yet toxic ways of doing things.
The Inner Critic
The inner critic is terrified of vulnerability and will do almost anything to avoid it. To avoid vulnerability, the inner critic will sabotage any attempt you make to ‘put yourself out there.’ Putting yourself out there can look like a lot of things that involve taking you out of your comfort zone: acquiring new skills, changing your life in any way, looking different, meeting new people, performing, being spontaneous, laughing out loud, crying, travelling etc.
Sounds a lot like life, right?
The Inner Victim
The inner victim is terrified of pain and will do almost anything to avoid it. To avoid pain, the inner victim will provide a million excuses as to why you can’t move forward in your life. Moving forward can look like a lot of things that involve varying degrees of risk and unpredictability: new relationships, commitments, babies, jobs, lifestyle changes, new forms of eating and exercise etc.
Sounds a lot like happiness, right?
The first stage of healing your inner critic and victim is to recognise them. The trick is noticing them and being curious about them, without identifying with them. You are not the unhappy voices of self-sabotage. You are something higher. You are the awareness that can observe them without becoming attached to their fears.
Recognising the Critic: A Journalling Exercise
With a pen and paper, answer the following questions:
1. What situations mostly trigger your vulnerability?
2. What does your inner critic sound like? Is your critic a man, a woman, or a teenager? How old are they? What are they wearing?
In the moment of sabotage, the inner critic can be the most persuasive voice on the planet. They are incisive and perceptive. They sound logical and rational, while you, the freak, can feel pathetic, emotional, ill-equipped and crazy. They generally have the last word.
What tools does your critic use to control you? Does your inner critic compare yourself to someone else, with you as the loser? Does your inner critic insult you? How does your inner critic silence you and keep you small?
Generally, our inner critic sounds a lot like…
the way our parents did when they were angry or disappointed in us. We internalise this pattern of behaviour until we learn to heal it.
Recognising the Victim: A Journalling Exercise
1. The victim is like a child, whether that child is anxious, dependent, powerless, weak, incapable, sad or lonely. What situations make you feel like a child, or less than others?
2. The victim is also alive in the areas we constantly complain about. What do you complain about? When do you feel like no one supports you or understands you? Are you victimised by a lack of money, your work, relationships, parenthood, education, your gender/age/race, or your body? What excuses do you use to keep yourself from reaching your highest potential?
Generally, our inner victim is a lot like…
the unhealed inner victims of our parents. Parents pass on their unlived dreams and unhealed fears to their children and children unknowingly absorb these dreams and fears.
Spend some time thinking about the patterns of victimisation in your family and community. We often internalise patterns of staying small so that we will continue to be accepted by our tribe.
The final stage of healing your inner critic is to love them & talk to them everyday.
If you find it hard to love your inner critic and victim, remember, you initially created these parts of you as a form of protection. They helped you navigate and avoid the uncertain world: the bullies in the playground, the toxic friendships, the abusive relationships, and the threats to your safety. These are the parts you consult when you get on a motorbike, have sex or accept a new job. They are your inner counsel, so you want them on your side.
The problem for most of us is our inner critic and inner victim became so good at assessing risks that they started telling us why we should avoid everything and just protect ourselves. This led to nights at home on the couch instead of nights out, or commitments to things that felt comfortable and easy rather than things that made us feel alive.
When we realise that our inner critic and victim are actually there to help us rather than harm us, we can transform them.
When our inner voices become alarmist or fearful, we need to step in as the mature adult and say,
‘Thank you for your concern- I know that this road won’t be easy. But I also know that it will be worth it.’
Then, we open a dialogue with our critic and our victim. Once they are loved, appreciated and acknowledged, they are free to transform into lighter parts: the critic can become the visionary or the magician or even your executive assistant, complete with clipboard, pen and smartphone! The victim can become the lover, the artist, or the mystic. It may even take on the purity, innocence and fun of the child.
We need to develop a ritual of acknowledging our inner critic and victim on a daily basis. Call them forth in your mind. Ask them,
‘How are you feeling today? Is there anything you would like to bring to my attention? Are you feeling triggered by anything?’
This inner dialogue will take five minutes, but may be the most powerful step we can take each day in the direction of our highest life. When we have this inner dialogue, we are less likely to project our fears on to other people, or numb or fears with externals.
Illuminating all of our inner parts is the key to transformation and self-love.