The book “Embracing Your Inner Critic” by Hal and Sidra Stone is about what these authors call the Inner Critic, what Freud called the Superego, what Transactional Analysis people call the Critical Parent voice. This is the self-critical inner voice that judges and shames each of us, trying to get us to be perfect so that we won’t make mistakes or suffer negative consequences. This anxious, pushy voice usually develops in us as a young age, and it has a young, simple view of right and wrong, and good and bad. Understanding this voice is, in my opinion, a crucial issue for most people’s mental health.
Like many personal growth books, it’s a little general and abstract. The way that I read it was that I first spent a week writing down every self-criticism that came to me mind, either a real-time self-flagellation, something that I remembered getting down on myself for in the past, or something that someone else had said to me that had stung. I then sorting all the self judgements by category – body/physical health, work, money and finances, friends and communication, family, relationships/sex, etc. Then as I read the book with that list sitting next to it, with each paragraph, I would switch back and forth between my list and the text of my book, reading the generalities in the book with my list’s specifics in mind.
Doing this combined process felt had the book come alive in an emotionally and spiritually powerful way. The process felt like it created spaciousness, openness, clarity, and freedom from tight emotional constraint.
One insight that from the book that jumped out at me is that many people, when they start to learn psycho-spiritual development and concepts, start to criticize themselves all the more, and to tell themselves how unhealthy and unspiritual they are. Many people take personal growth concepts, and just widen the gap between their selves as manifest and their selves as idealized. Most people, however, if they keep on with personal growth, eventually grow out of this stage and get to a point where what they learn and they do helps them to feel less constricted and more free.