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Focusing Attunement: The Inner Critic

Rachel Alexander, Dec. 12, 2018

In this attunement we’re going to experiment with a first, deliberate interaction with our inner critic. This might sound scary so I’d like to just set the parameters that we’ll work within.

We’re not getting into a boxing ring or debating with our inner critic. We’re not even trying to spend time with our inner critic when he or she is really activated; it’s not the time for this if the critic is on the attack!

From a grounded, neutral place, you might give a gentle salutation to the inner critic and maybe approach him/her with a light touch. In a light and easy way, you model that behavior for him to interact with you. The way you would visit with an elderly relative for tea and biscuits. The way you would approach an animal that you haven’t encountered before.

Let’s see if you can bring this attitude of a bit of caution, but also a thoughtfulness and a curiosity as you endeavor to spend just a little bit of time with this inner critic.

From a steady, relaxed place, let’s take a moment here and take a few breaths together.

You might prefer to be standing up for this if that helps you feel more into your body and feel the ground beneath your feet. And just let yourself become more aware of the space around you and the solidness of your own body in space.

And take all the time you’d like. If you need some more time, you can take it right here.

You might be feeling apprehension, or even some dread, knowing that you are engaging a bit with the inner critic.

Keeping very close to your own breathing, and from within your own sense of yourself, find just the right distance between you and the critic.

…so as not to get flooded. We don’t want to get taken over.

Maybe the right distance is from behind a window, or at the other end of a hallway. Maybe you imagine yourself up on a hill looking down toward him.

So from this vantage point, you might just take a couple of moments and describe what this critical one looks like to you; this one who might think it knows what’s right or is always quick with an insult. Whether he has a kind of human form. Whether he looks like a mythical creature. Whether he looks like someone you know.

We’re not going to engage with him, or be with him. Let’s just stay this far away and have a look, and see if we can describe how he appears.

You might notice how he moves, his expressions, what he is wearing. How does he take in his surroundings? Is he grinning? Scowling? Is he determined to get somewhere?

And continue to check that you are at the right distance, so you continue to feel safe and comfortable. You might back up even more so you can get a better sense of the critic as not you.

Let’s see if you could imagine how it might be from his point of view. What might this critic want for you? Maybe seeing what he wants for you and wants to protect you from.

No need to think or answer for him — simply turn your attention towards him and listen with interest.

And you might just come back to yourself and see how you are here and how you are distinct from the inner critic.

Maybe he has a name. Maybe a particular hat. The more you can distinguish him, the more you can afford some space between your whole self-in-presence and this particular part that has one primary quality. Just notice how it is for you to engage in the softer, maybe even bemused way, with this seemingly dangerous aspect of you.

So this is enough for now. Let’s find a nice place to end. Maybe you want to give your critic a wave or nod and thank him for the visit. Let him be on his way.

In this exercise, we are practicing having an intra-relational gentleness with particular parts of ourselves — parts that can be very loud, or overwhelming, or even menacing. The parts that threaten to merge with us. A part that even seems as though they are us.

This practice is about distinguishing our whole selves from these important but un-integrated parts. In this way we can observe, engage and foster a spaciousness in our relating.

Take a few breaths. Settle in. Notice your body in space and maybe thank yourself for your willingness to do this exercise and engage a little bit differently with a part you normally try to avoid.