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Your Life Perspective
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Are you generally hard on yourself and perhaps feel as if you aren't living up to your potential? Are you aware of the part of you that is criticizing? If so, what is your relationship with that part of you?

We are neither the one or is criticizing nor the one who is being criticized. Most often the part of us that is critical is supporting what might be called our primary personality and being critical of the parts of us whom we have disowned. Richard Swartz, who developed the internal family systems model, calls these our exiles. Others refer to them as our shadow selves.

Learning to change our relationship with our inner critic starts with the practice of being what Ann Weiser Cornell calls "Self in Presence." Listening to the various parts of ourselves from the observer Self, or our Higher Self, means we can hear their messages without judgement or any need to change them. We simply hold space for all of who we are with compassion and loving kindness.

In her course, Radical Gentleness: Transforming Your Experience of Inner Criticism to One of Inner Acceptance, Ann Cornell suggests we might ask the part of us that is criticizing, "What might you be worried about?”

This question has incredible power to help us feel compassion instead of frustration and anger. I tried this recently when I was preparing for a talk and made the decision not to script it out but to speak from the heart. As a communications major and previous public speaking professor, this decision did not sit well with the part of me that believed a speech should be perfectly written, timed and practiced!

So, I closed my eyes and did the focusing exercise from the course. The most amazing transformation took place when I asked "what might you be worried about?"

I expected a response such as, "I'm worried you're going to forget what you have to say and look like an idiot," or "You'll just ramble and make no sense." However, the response that came to me was not verbal.

Instead, I received an image. In it, I was a very lonely, poor, old lady.

I cannot describe the power of this moment when I thought, “Oh! No wonder! Oh my goodness! No wonder you are so hard on me. You are terrified that I am going to become this poor, lonely, desolate old lady.” I literally got tears in my eyes.

It made so much sense to me. Just the week before, my mother (who is naturally concerned with my decision to follow my dream of being a writer and speaker rather than get another corporate job) made a comment about how I wasn't contributing to my 401(k). Clearly, she is worried that my decision will result in this outcome: Poor, lonely, old lady.

Some part of me had taken that belief on and so felt if I didn't have my speech written out and failed, then I wasn't going to make it as a speaker - and then I would end up as this image. I felt incredible compassion. There was so much peace and resolution in just being able to receive that message; to be able to stop and say “wow, okay. I got it. I understand your concern.”

Now, I didn’t necessarily engage in a conversation with the part of me that was worried about that, but I let it know that I understood it's concern. Rather than pushing that part of me away, I heard the message and felt warmth and tenderness.

This turned out to be a beautiful example of a true transformation and embracing of my inner critic.

If you are not familiar with Internal Family Systems and the Focusing process, I encourage you to check them out. Let me know if this information is useful to you!

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Until next time, SHINE ON! ;-)

Shannon Crane

Your Life Perspective Newsletter 002 June 7, 2015