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Approaching the Inner Critic from the Seat of Consciousness

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Lentz Letters! I fondly recall the time I spent at grandma’s house as a child. I still remember the green paisley print on the upholstered chairs that my grandma had in her cozy living room. This was the go-to room that we would gather every evening. My brothers and I kept Grandma busy with puzzles, games, crafts, musical instruments and more. Grandma would try and take time for herself each day. I can still picture her sitting in one of these comfy chairs long enough to read her daily devotional, enjoy a letter from an old friend or to prepare for her Sunday school lesson. My grandma had many qualities:

· Confidence and Courage abounding: evident with consenting to care for 3 small high energy, attention hungry children for several weeks each summer while my mother went to school.

· Caring for others: not only for her grandchildren, but many members, large and small, at her local church.

· Creativity: she shared in the craft activity of the day that always peaked my interests.

· Compassion: when my brother got shocked after putting a metal key into the light socket (true story).

· Wisdom and clarity when we came to her with our problems.

· Always calm even in the chaos that we brought into her house.

· Inspiring curiosity about the smallest of creatures in her fish tank to the largest in museums and books.

· Connection: within the living room and beyond the walls to others.

These 8 C’s helped me to begin to imagine and build my capacity for each of these traits both within myself and my surrounding. Yes, grandma’s comfortable green chair is more than a chair to me. It represents the place in which I aspire to consciously live my life. This seat of consciousness is like when I am my best self and nothing gets in the way.

Admittedly, we all have parts of our personality that get in the way of our best selves. Difficult people and circumstances cloud our vision for how we want to show up in our world. Relating to others may come from a reactive place. Can you relate? What about times when you feel bad about yourself and your inner critic shows up? Perhaps as a child you were told you were bad and worthless. You believed and trusted in your caregiver or parent. You start to question yourself. “That is my dad! He can’t be the source of the problem. He must be saying these ugly insults and degrading comments because I deserve them, right?” This is a story of how a part of our personality starts to gain control over the best traits that fuel us and bring out the best in us. The qualities of self that my grandmother displayed (courage, caring, creativity, compassion, clarity, curiosity, connection, and calm) are available to us all. They can help us to look inward and bring loving kindness to the more troubled parts of ourselves. So, what can you do when you feel that you are hijacked by negative feelings and beliefs? For example, when your inner critic has taken control in the seat of consciousness as opposed to your best self and you begin to give into to sadness and shame. Know that there is a way to rid yourself of these dominating feelings and take back control of your life. Often inner critics result when there has been verbal abuse during childhood. The child feels helpless, fearful, and alone in their fruitless efforts to cope. With no power or perspective, the child grasps for any means of coping, even if it is negative. The caregiver is caught in the judgmental role. Only a 3rd party can intervene and change things. This 3rd person is you as an adult, assuming you are not taking on the role of the criticized child or critical parent! As an adult self you can approach this situation from a place of consciousness that is separate from the critical or criticized. As the adult self you can approach this situation with curiosity and a sense of calmness so that you don’t get sucked into the dysfunction of these other parts of your personality. The adult self can separate from the words of the critic by knowing that they are not based on truth.

1. If we learn to approach the inner critic part with curiosity and compassion, then we will realize that is trying to help you and protect you from pain.

2. Notice if another part shows up, the inner defender, ready to defend you against the inner critic and able to leap small buildings with a single bound! (Just put that last part in to see if you were paying attention). The inner defender shows up with the judgement and anger towards the critic. It is trying to defend the good adult self. Make sure and acknowledge each of these parts for their good efforts. It is important to reassure the inner defender that you got this, and the critic won’t be allowed to take over.

3. Have the criticized inner child go into a safe place with a nurturing part of the adult self if the negative beliefs and feelings from the critic seem to feel overwhelming.

4. Adult self’s role is to communicate and discover what each part is attempting to accomplish. Then, connect with each part with respect without accepting the judgment or attacks.

5. The goal in therapy is to help with this process and help each of these parts work towards a common goal of healing. It could mean that the parts may decide to choose a new role if they want to do so.

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