6-Layers of the Inner Critic

December 11, 2019



Put your hand up if you believe that you would not have anything to gain by attending a course on the inner critic.


I know before researching our course I believed I had already put mine to pasture. The truth of the matter is that my inner critic ran rampant all over the place. Sometimes it was easy to identify, for example when it told me that I sucked. But other times it was way more subtle. Any decision that I’ve been paralysed by or have avoided has been attributable to my inner critic. It kept me in intimate relationships for longer than was healthy (i.e. “You won't do any better.”) and it stopped me from sharing my creativity (i.e. “You don’t know enough.”) I even experienced as a barrier to me spiralling into the deepest levels of intimacy in my relationships.


You may well ask: given the smoke-and-mirrors nature of the inner critic, how is it possible to truly identify and measure it? Fortunately, affective neurobiologist Sarah Peyton, identified six possible layers of the inner critic.


1.     The first layer of the Inner Critic: Self-dismissal: There are three tiers to self-dismissal.


a.     The first tier of self-dismissal is dismissive that there is any need to even look into the inner critic and its impact. Often people in this layer judge people who do this sort of work as overly sensitive and carry the judgement that such sensitivity is a form of weakness. People should just get on with life and harden up. Such people may also view themselves as having a normal childhood in which nothing adverse happened. At this level people are unable to comprehend how bad things really are. This is a form of self-dismissal.


People need to move through their self-dismissal before they can begin their healing journey. Listen for the inner voice that says things like “What are you complaining about? There are lots of people who have it tougher than you!” The task is to challenge this voice! Shift to warm curiosity and find out what memories, pain, disappointments and longings sit underneath these comments.


b.     The second tier of self-dismissal shows up in the belief that we are never enough. What would satisfy the inner voice? Is it only satisfied by academy award, number 1 hit single, multi-million-dollar empire, New York Times best seller, six-pack abs and ‘perfect’ relationship levels of achievement? A person can spend their lifetime trying to win the approval of this robotic voice and find themselves always coming up short.


c.     The third tier of self-dismissal occurs when people have no idea that things are happening to them. Even though they are physically reacting to the world, they may not know that they are being affected by life. This has been shown in 2016 research in which people have their blood pressure and pulse monitored whilst they are shown disturbing images.[1] Even though they may say that they are unaffected, their vital signs show  clear responses. As a result, when people have no consciousness of their body and emotions, they live without knowledge of the emotional consequences of their actions. Such people may respond to the question “What’s wrong?” by replying “Nothing” even though they may be showing clear signs that they are having a hard time. Sometimes this is because they are not aware of their feeling state, or it could be from a  lack of language to express their feelings. Such people may also be prone to explosive outbursts of anger, depression or sadness as the pressure builds to bursting point.


2.     The second layer of the Inner Critic compares and evaluates the self: “Look at Bartholomew. He was able to get himself a good job in six weeks after we finished studying. What’s wrong with me for not being able to get a job after six months?!”


3.     The third layer of the Inner Critic can be almost invisible, a shame, a disassociation, or shrinking that happens in response to the words of the inner critic, such as ‘Imposter Syndrome’: “I shouldn’t be here! I don’t know enough! I wish I was dead!”


4.     The fourth layer of the Inner Critic can be a voice of blame, attacking the self for shrinking and disappearing: “What kind of loser are you for judging yourself!”


5.     The fifth layer of the Inner Critic tries to soften the attacks of the inner critic by admitting fault, a constant inner dialogue of “I’m so stupid, I’m so stupid…” like a guilty criminal trying to stop a painful interrogation.

6.     And the sixth layer of the Inner Critic becomes apparent once a person starts to do some healing work and they blame themselves for not being further down the path of healing.


So there you have it. The inner critic can be everywhere and nowhere. 


If you feel ready to step into the next level of freedom, come and join in on the four-week course that @Sandy and I have put together that works on the inner critic and saboteur. Our goal was to produce a course that worked for us by supporting the natural 3-step pathway for long-term transformation: experience, integrate and evolve.


We will be running this course as live and interactive online webinars from Wednesday January 8-January 29, 2020 from 7-9-9:30pm (Australian Eastern Summer Time). 4 sessions, two facilitators and a maximum of 12-participants.


If you are interested in joining us, please DM either Sandy or myself so we can share more information with you. We have levels of support with this course; people can opt to attend only the webinars, or can package the webinars with four individual sessions to embed the work with a 20% discount.


This course could also make for a brilliant Christmas/ birthday/ ‘Just Because’ gift as well. Just sayin’.




[1] Peasley-Miklus, C.E., Panayiou, G., & Vrana, S.R. (2016) “Alexithymia predicts arousal-based processing deficits and discordance between emotion response systems during emotional imagery” Emotion, 16(2) 164-174.


Sarah Peyton (2017) Your Resonant Self, Norton, New York.


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