Inner Critic

Excerpts from Stalking Your Inner Critic
A Process–Oriented Approach to Self-Criticism
by Sonja Straub


The inner critic is a dream figure which carries a negative and judgmental self- construct.  The critic is the part or figure which is practicing "critique" or "criticism" on the individual.  Critique and criticism have specific meanings here, which will be defined below.

Critique is a term which is normally applied to a rather negative, pessimistic, or even destructive comment about something or somebody.  The critic has a position or attitude which just does not accept a certain fact or achievement, but measures and compares it with other standards or rules and comes to a negative and disapproving conclusion. Critique, in everyday language, is a negative judgment and the critic is the condemning judge.

Now "criticize" originates etymologically from Greek, in which it means, "I differentiate", and also, "I decided", "separate", and "judge".  These terms give the impression, in contrast to our everyday use, that criticizing is a fair act, a purely factual procedure in which both sides receive the same chances and the critic is a competent judge.  In this sense the inner critic would be the one who has access to some objective, unbiased and perhaps absolute knowledge, and is capable of comparing conclusions on a neutral ground.


1. The inner critic has changed from the one who is confident to judge to a tyrant or dictator who gives orders at his/her own discretion.


A. "The theory one applies to view and understand the world determines what one will see.  The person who applies a causal and reductive approach and philosophy to humans is bound to see mostly sick and disturbed behavior and people."  Einstein

B. One has to appreciate these critics. If we approach the critic in this respectful manner, it may become an important messenger and ally on our path to individualization

C. Inner experiences are very individual, and we as healers should not assume we know what our clients are talking about when they use words like depression, pain, sadness, love or inner critic.  These are all blank accesses which need to be filled in, in exact detail by the individual

D. "Seeing" means knowing all of your parts and having the attitude of flexibility which allows you to switch back and forth and live your total potential

E. When talking to friends and colleagues, it is much easier and socially more acceptable to complain about headaches or relationship problems than about the inner atmosphere and drama with the inner critic.

F. Sometimes our attitude is from its very foundation, critical of people and their behavior


A. Another effective way of drawing the figure out is to interact with it either by stepping into the complementary role, having personal reactions to it, challenging it or resisting it.

B. By amplifying secondary material and following the overall positive feedback, we are unraveling hidden pieces of nature, giving it a chance to come to life and organize itself in new and exciting ways.

C. The critical figure needs a chance to express itself fully


A. People around us become parts of our own inner dream field.  When others enter our field they take the position of the most unconscious and least represented part.


A. Channels are pathways of perception and expression; ways people can send or receive information.

B. Auditory channel consists of verbal content and sound or noises.

C. Visual channel: imaginary critical onlookers.

D. Proprioceptive Channel: may appear as a general body feeling, like being heavy are feeling pushed down.

E. Movement Channel: an impatient tapping of the foot or other unconscious movement.

F. Relationship Channel: interpreting each frown or any kind of signal as proof of the critical attitude of my partner.

1. It is much harder to forget the relationship problem than an unpleasant dream and in contrast to symptoms; there are no drugs which alleviate painful relationship troubles.

G. World channel: we fear and imagine that there will be some critic out in the public. 

H. Most of us have some channels or pathways that we prefer, that is, we feel more at home in and we can more readily control and structure the incoming and out going messages.


A. A signal is a communication between two parts

B. Communication has two aspects: the content aspect and the relationship aspect.  The relationship aspect is expressed in the meta-communication of behavior, that is, the way I do or say something.

C. The monster will be pushed into the background by the primary process and therefore only leak through in small signals like a sharper tone of voice than wanted, a facial expression, body symptoms, etc.


A. The edge is responsible for excluding secondary factors.  It keeps us from identifying with secondary patterns and does not let them flow naturally in our being and behavior.

B. It is important not to get lost in an endless cycle but to recognize the edges when they come up.  Learning to follow the sometimes rocky curved road of the dream body, and having a sense of good timing to catch the edge once it appears requires a lot of patience.

C. The edge is where the most energy often lies, were critics are able to transform and where they will ask for integration.


A. Often these outer critics are related to the inner critics, behaving like internal figures.

B. Even after we have left the outer situation, the criticism goes on as an internal dialogue.

C. A large part of the pain of outer criticism comes from its ability to amplify internal criticism.


1.  What kind of dream figure is it?  What are its structural components and meaning?

2.  Are you identifying with it? I am like that.

3.  Is it a secondary figure? You do not identify with it. Oh no, I am not like that.

4.  Is it an edge figure? Does it discourage you from doing things?

5.  In which channel does it appear?

6.  What are the exact criticisms and beliefs of this dream figure?

7.  What are its ideas and opinions?

8.  What are its weak and strong points?

9.  What is its style, habits and routines?