Customer Reviews: Embracing Your Inner Critic: Turning Self-Criticism into a Creative Asset
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on January 16, 2002
I had just finshed Martin Seligman's Learned Optimism and was finally having some success dealing with my depression and anxiety when my wife gave me a copy of Embracing Your Inner Critic. She'd picked the book up a year or two earlier and lost track of it in the "to read" piles. This book really grabbed me. I've never really been comfortable with the various "inner child" labels I come across in therapy, but the term "inner critic" really resonated with me. I was all teed up and ready for this book by the optimism I was discovering within myself and starting to develop thanks to Seligman's book.
I think I wore out a couple of highlighters going through Embracing Your Inner Critic. My first thoughts were "How do these people know ME so well?" but I came to realize that I am not alone. That there are lots of us blaming ourselves in order to "protect" ourselves from outside criticism. I'm learning that beating my imagined critics to the punch by criticising myself sooner and harder than anyone else would is not really helping myself but rather pushing me deeper into the muck of depression.
I realized my inner critic was a pretty good ventroliquist. I had been blaming everyone else for saying all the negative stuff I was actually saying about myself. The book helped me to start moving away from adversarial relationships with my critics, both real and imagined. Now I'm learning to listen to my inner critic as kind of distant early warning system, a helpful "heads up" rather than a broadside of self-loathing. For the first time I'm seeing a world full of potential allies rather than adversaries. The Voice Dialogue technique is a lot like cognitve therapy and like cognitive therapy it requires regular practice for full benefit. But the rewards of the techniques I'm learning from these two books have provided me with strong motivation to stick with it.
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on November 16, 2000
If you are suffering from low self esteem, if your days are filled with destructive and incessant attacks from your Inner Critic, read this. It's an easy read that unfolds logically and intuitively - half way through you'll begin to anticipate where the authors are going because what they are saying makes so much sense. This book will open your eyes to the various "voices" we harbor and will help you understand the productive role the Critic was meant to play. It will show you how to get your Critic back on your side, helping you, instead of attacking you and making you feel like your life is a failure.
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on June 26, 2006
Hal and Sidra Stone are pioneers in this field of inner voice dialogue. Think evolution from Freud's id, ego, super ego...through Transactional Analysis (Parent, Child, Adult) through Bradshaw's Inner child inner voice dialogue. They have video's books and workshops and have trained numerous professionals in this technique. The result is a genuinely effective technique that gives us a viable framework to understand why we often have opposing thoughts and feelings and the tools to move us in a direction of acting from a more "adult" place. My partner and I used these techniques from their book "Embracing Ourselves" to great effect in the mid 90's as she worked through abuse survivor issues. Not only did it provide a method of healing for her, I was able to use it effectively in my own journey and it was an exceptional tool for us as a couple.

Now we are using and recommending this book (Inner Critic) to friends as we see in ourselves and in others, the overriding power the inner critic has on our lives. The book explains where the critic and other sub-personalities come from, the concept of disowned selves and how instead of trying to "choke" our critic into silence, we can actually take a more lasting approach to understanding it and the related subpersonalities, hold the primary subs and the disowned selves together and work toward balance and the achievement of a strong aware ego. Don't be scared off by the lingo here, it is very understandable and usable information.
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on March 15, 2004
This is a good book loaded with many great ideas on how to overcome your inner critic. Read it and apply it today!
Zev Saftlas, Author of Motivation That Works
PS here is a great story that is in the begining of this book:
What Is Your Inner Critic and Where Did It Come From?
On the journey of self-discovery, let us stop looking for what is wrong with us. Let us discover, instead, who we are and how we work! Let us put our judgment aside as we explore the amazing system Of selves within us and learn to live with ever-increasing honesty, choice, and freedom.
There was once a dreadfully wicked hobgoblin. One day he had a simply marvelous idea. He was going to make a looking glass that would reflect everything that was good and beautiful in such a way that it would look dreadful or at least not very important. When you looked in it, you would not be able to see any of the good or the beautiful in yourself or in the world. Instead, this looking glass would reflect everything that was bad or ugly and make it look very important. The most beautiful landscapes would look like heaps of garbage, and the best people would look repulsive or would seem stupid. People's faces would be so changed that they could not be recognized, and if there was anything that a person was ashamed of or wanted to hide, you could be sure that this would be just the thing that the looking glass emphasized.
The hobgoblin set about making this looking glass, and when he was finished, he was delighted with what he had done. Anyone who looked into it could only see the bad and the ugly, and all that was good and beautiful in the world was distorted beyond recognition.
One day the hobgoblin's assistants decided to carry the looking glass up to the heavens so that even the angels would look into it and see themselves as ugly and stupid. They hoped that perhaps even God himself would look into it! But, as they reached the heavens, a great invisible force stopped them and they dropped the dreadful looking glass. And as it fell, it broke into millions of pieces.
And now came the greatest misfortune of all. Each of the pieces was hardly as large as a grain of sand, and they flew about all over the world. If anyone got a bit of glass in his eye there it stayed, and then he would see everything as ugly or distressing. Everything good would look stupid. For every tiny splinter of the glass possessed the same power that the whole glass had!
Some people got a splinter in their hearts, and that was dreadful, too, for then their hearts turned into lumps of ice and could no longer feel love.
The hobgoblin watched all this and he laughed until his sides ached. And still the tiny bits of glass flew about, And now we will hear all about it....
Adapted from "The Snow Queen,"by Hans Christian Andersen
The Inner Critic is like the bit of mirror that makes us see a distorted picture. It is that inner voice that criticizes us and speaks about us in a disparaging way. It makes everything look ugly. Most of us are not even aware that it is a voice or a self speaking inside of us because its constant judgments have been with us since early childhood and its running critical commentary feels like a natural part of ourselves. It develops early in our lives, absorbing the judgments of the people around us and the expectations of the society in which we live. When we talk about this critical voice, please keep in mind that this Inner Critic is the voice within us that criticizes us, whereas the Judge is the self within us that criticizes other people.
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on December 5, 2010
I've read many books on personal development which has helped me build an awareness on how my thinking affects my mood and my life. This book however, has given me a new perspective on this awareness. If you're willing to do the work over a number of days or weeks, this book will help you. I simply got a notebook and pen and just started writing for days. after a while you get creative and find your own ways to get your point accross to your inner critic. After 6 months of writing in my notebook, I must say I feel a different person. I've put in a alot of work but believe me it's so worth it. I've still got a long way to go but I'm confident, by continuing what I'm doing, things can only get better. Your inner critic will keep nagging you trying to make you believe you're worthless and no good, but with time, by doing the exercises in this book, you will begin to believe otherwise...
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on July 8, 2013
This book is an easy read, but that doesn't make it any less enlightening. Spouses and clinical psychologists Hal and Sidra Stone define our inner selves, in particular our Inner Critic, and explain how the Critic is so negative and overbearing that it squelches our other inner selves. The Stones don't ask their readers to extinguish the Critic. Instead they suggest we negotiate with it; ask it what it wants; what it's afraid of. Once we know its fears, we can allay them and allow our more playful selves to come out. If you follow the authors' advice, it could change the way you think. It has for me.
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on May 1, 2014
Of all the books I've read to help me understand why I was not happy...this one was the one that finally helped me understand how, what, why and when! A must read if you are trying to get out of depression, insomnia, frustration, unhappiness, etc.
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on January 16, 2014
Truly one of the best psychology/self-help books I have ever read. After years of research, Hal Stone has compiled a treasure trove of insights and practical advice on recognizing and accepting what we thought was the worst in us. We then discover the freedom that arises from embracing the whole "family" within, and using that energy for good.
Thanks Hal!
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on June 15, 2013
I like reading books on self-improvement but am often very critic of their content when reading their titles. Didn't like the title of this book much, but it's content captivated me after only a few pages thanks to the way the author describes situations and emotions. Enjoyed it a lot.
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on June 29, 2016
*********SHORT REVIEW*******************************************************************
This is an amazing book as it helps you understand through simple language and concepts about what really is wrong if you are experiencing a constant nagging and wondering if the chronic thinking of the mind will ever stop. You might not have to read more self-help books as you will realize that you were probably reading them to fix yourself or improve yourself to satisfy the over powerful Inner Critic. Your focus will shift to disempowering the Inner Critic. It is a great way to discuss your problem with your loved ones and include the concepts shared here in your day to day diction to improve your communication and relationships. However, the techniques shared here in my opinion and long experience with self-help books are difficult to get them to work for you because of a fundamental flaw in the approach of a weak mind trying to train itself to fix itself. I have had much better experience with the self-enquiry technique taught by non-duality spiritual teachers to achieve what this book aims at helping us achieve. If spirituality and changing your perspective of the world is not your thing, mindfulness is a great alternative as it does not involve that fundamental flaw. Good luck !

*********LONG REVIEW (A spiritual perspective to this great book)******************************

---The Last self-help book for most suffering from Inner Critic---
This is an amazing book which helped me understand clearly for the first ever time in simple language and concepts what the hell was going on with my mind, the chronic thinking and the poor quality of experience of life. I have often wondered, especially during severe Inner Critic attacks followed by some kind of failure, if I can ever get my stupid mind to stop. The concept of different selves in this book resonated very well (especially the dance between the perfectionist self and the shift to a helpless vulnerable inner child in my case) and the idea of building an Aware Ego sounded perfect. I have to admit that I had read several Self Help books in the previous 20 years with the intention to fix my mind or to improve myself to satisfy my Inner Critic. This one was the last Self Help book I read about three years ago as I realized that there was nothing there to fix or improve upon.

---Best Benefits of this book---
The biggest benefit of this book has been how it dramatically helped improve the communication with my wife. Whenever I am under a Critic attack and I behave weirdly (withdraw or behave rudely), I say I'm under a Critic attack today and she simply understands. I do not have to say that I did not mean what I said or own up and continue saying more unpleasant things to defend what I said. She does not get too worried about having to live with this generally dormant unwanted self for the rest of her life and this keeps her unwanted dormant self from getting triggered and surfacing to pick up a fight to defend itself or offend me to even out. Also, it is a lot easier for me to apologize for the doings of the temporarily emerging dormant self under the influence of the Inner Critic than accepting myself as a bad person who is capable of being rude and insensitive. If I'm lucky I even get away on some days with a rude remark blaming the source of the conditioning of that self :) Another benefit was to easily forgive the significant people in my life after understanding how their selves would have shaped up (conditioned) kind of unconsciously just like mine from the environment they grew up in.

Thank you so much Hal and Sidra for this great work ! :)

---Why the techniques in this book are not so effective to use by yourself---
Interestingly, the first self-help book I read was "I'm ok, you're ok" which was a much simplistic version of this book with the Child and Parent representing only two selves and the Adult representing the Aware Ego. We are habituated to look and perceive as most things around us as objects or individual or packaged entities, so no wonder the concept of selves residing inside us resonates so well with our mind. No wonder even kids liked the movie Inside Out movie which has emotions as individuals and thoughts and memories as objects. However, unfortunately, I never could figure out how to make these techniques in the books work for me by myself. The problem is that it is not so easy for an already weak mind or ego to change its habits (unlearn and relearn) by itself. Imagine yourself feeling depressed, withdrawn and probably wanting to sulk and at the same time trying to gather yourself up and do some journal writing or role play. Imagine your mind trying to become the parent of the Inner Critic during a Critic attack when actually you have shifted into a vulnerable helpless Inner Child state. Imagine trying to be compassionate towards the sensitive Inner Child when your mind would rather continue to go in loops with the criticism. Would you not further slip deeper into a quicksand by trying to change the course of your mind with your mind after the critic attack triggers anxiety. If you have some guilt and shame going on as part of your minds repertoire, would you not then feel more of that when you are not able to make this work for you ? Imagine trying to keep yourself motivated to practice doing work on yourself on good days when there is no Critic attack or several weeks when the stimulus of the Critic does not surface. It's not so easy and that's perhaps good news for the self-help industry.

---Recommendation about the book-----------------------------------
If you have been affected by anything like the Inner Critic, certainly do buy the book and read it. Try to use the techniques provided and if they don't work try the self-enquiry or mindfulness techniques, it might work better for you. Continue reading to learn more about these alternative techniques to find peace in your life. Don't believe what I am saying here, but just try it out.

---Introduction to the self-enquiry technique-----------------------
I am making great progress in building the Aware Ego (or actually the absence of an Ego which can be called Awareness :) ), using the simple self-enquiry technique (abiding in the I sense) taught by most of the non-duality spiritual teachers like Robert Adams, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Rupert Spira and Ramana Maharshi. So instead of training the mind, this technique is about silencing it and in turn silencing the Inner Critic. It is not required to be a believer or be physically involved in any group or get initiated by a Guru or go crazy reading books or listening to tapes or watching videos on non-duality or go for retreat sessions or renounce everything, turn into an ascetic and go to the Himalayas, but just earnestly following this simple technique helps. The best part is that the technique is so simple, you can do this anywhere and almost anytime all by yourself. Though not necessary to do, it can be fun if you get genuinely interested in the mind and body and start making observations about what they do. With this self-enquiry technique you will not have to navigate through several concepts in your mind and do more mental work when all you would rather care for is for some silence of the mind. You will not have to try giving birth to more selves like the Parent of Inner Critic or the Aware Ego and live the rest of your life trying to be a traffic cop controlling the noisy clutter of these different conceptual selves inside you.

---Things to remember to get self-enquiry technique to work for you----------
It will be very important to make this self-enquiry thing your highest priority though, using every little leisure time you get throughout the day, to get it to work. Also being part of FB students groups for these teachers helps a great deal to get a daily dose to stay motivated for the mind to be convinced to yield. It will be important to spend more time on playing around with the technique rather than on trying to become an pundit or expert on non-duality and intellectualizing on it and engage in comparing teachers. The results and progress will not appear logical but just mysterious. Believe it or not, the 'mindfulness' and the 'present moment awareness' come on their own as a side effect very much like a free offer with the package of self-enquiry. :) It is also very important to not follow this technique to seek God or a spiritual awakening eventually, but follow it simply to find peace every day. Setting on a mission to seeking an end result will keep your Inner Critic in control and active by guiding and criticizing you on the journey and out goes your peace. If you are learning a new sport or a new musical instrument as a hobby, you can learn it and play it for recreation and take it easy when you are busy. If you are trying to stay fit, you can develop some good habits to stay healthy like exercising regularly, but you can still keep exercising a lower priority over other things. But when we are talking about self-enquiry and improving your quality of experience of life all waking and possibly also dreaming hours during sleep, you will have to work towards becoming the expert sportsman or virtuoso musician or the fitness freak, to get it to work for you.

---The outcome of the self-enquiry technique----------------------------
As you make progress on this path, you will soon realize that the different selves and the ego and the Inner Critic are all just linguistic concepts to help explain a plain stream of thoughts (thoughts, memories, perceptions, judgments which we call mind) in association with sensations in the body (or feelings) appearing to be a person, all happening outside of the real You (the Awareness or the Self or the pure consciousness). This happening is simply the unfolding of the past conditioning of body-mind with which the real You has associated with a little too much all your life. The more You pay attention to it, the stronger it becomes. There is no point in trying to control or change this stream of thoughts and the sensations. As you start abiding in the I more and more, all linguistic concepts will start falling apart and the stream of thoughts (mind) surprisingly starts weakening on its own and will leave you alone to experience life as it is.

---Why self-enquiry technique is more effective than other psychotherapy based techniques---
The self-enquiry technique apparently is more effective as this works right at the root of the problem which is our over association with the body-mind. It is very hard to try to tame the mind or selectively believe one thing (or thought) and not the other from the same source (the mind). It makes a lot more sense if the Self does not believe the source (mind) itself completely or in other words has an intelligent understanding that whatever is happening is just happening as an unfolding of the past conditioning or an execution of a previously coded software program. There is nothing right or wrong with one thing as compared to another. It's all the same, just the awareness of a thought or a sensation happening. It works like cleaning up pile of dust (accumulated impressions) off the lens through which we look at ourselves and the world. The technique keeps us off engaging too much with the unfolding and also helps with stopping the further conditioning process. Instead of fixing the mind, you are trying to create a small space in between your mind and yourself.

---Invitation to explore the self-enquiry technique---
This can be fun, so give it a fair chance. If you are an introvert like me I think you might be a better candidate as you are already looking inwards and all you have to do is shift where you are looking with some intelligent understanding. If a cigarette seller, a police inspector and a potter have done it while doing what they are doing and turned into great teachers and inspiration for others, that should give a lot of hope for the rest of us to give it a shot. This technique is also not very easy but only until you go through the initial trial and error to get on the right track and until you to start enjoying the ride. Good luck with your journey friends !

---Use Mindfulness technique as another good alternative-------------------
If this is too much for you, mindfulness is a great alternative mainly because it does not involve the faulty approach of training the mind to fix itself. It was just more consistent work-out discipline and less fun to keep me motivated. The self-enquiry is just shifting the perspective and a way of experiencing everything all day which does not require specific hours of work out. Sounds contradictory but if you start enjoying you will know what I am saying. Self-enquiry is like watching everything from the point of view of an infant and yet relying on the conditioning of the body-mind to take you through the day doing whatever it has to do (just like this long review just happened on its own)

---The real You (Awareness) vs Aware Ego demystified-----------------------
Awareness is the real you. Imagine you have a severe pain in your leg and you are observing only that pain and the sensation in the body, with no thoughts. In that moment you are simply being aware, and that is the real You. It is a different matter that it is very hard to continue noticing the pain without any thought. You can also notice thoughts coming and going away. Since you are this observer, the one who notices these events, you cannot be the thought itself which being noticed or the body which is being noticed. So Awareness or the pure consciousness or Self are just other names of You which is devoid of the body-mind. This is more obvious when you are just waking up from sleep, the thing that notices the transition from being not aware of anything to being aware of body and slowly the thoughts. It is also obvious when you get drunk, it is the thing that is noticing the contrast between the mind and body which sounds insane as opposed to normal state.

If a nagging thought comes up and says, "you better get yourself to a doctor and get this checked up or what your boss and colleagues will think when they see you limping around", that is your Inner Critic. It is just a thought. It is not you. You, the Awareness, are the one who is noticing this thought come and go.

If in response to this thought, you experience some nervous bodily sensation like a little child under a threat of being rediculed or feeling pushed around by an adult and a thought comes up and says "Oh God!, I don't want to feel embarrased again". That combination of the thought and the nervous sensation is the Inner Child.

If by virtue of reading this book, if another thought comes up and says "This pain does not look so bad and it is probably just my Inner Critic trying to push me around" and you feel a little better under your nerves. This is the Aware Ego. It is a wise thought, but it is still a thought and some bodily sensation.

So interestingly looking deeper beyond the concepts, there is only You (Awareness) who is noticing, but always present in each event, and there are the thoughts and the bodily sensations which are coming and going.

Now you would agree that the Inner Critic stuff is something that is happening "outside" of your control and does not stop even if you wish for it to stop. In other words You are not doing it, and You are probably not the creator of thoughts and they just come to you. It is a very unfortunate truth to come to terms with, because everything that we pride ourselves with, the small witty remarks to our magnificent accomplishments all start with a thought.

You (Self) are probably just allowing thoughts happen by paying attention to them. So the more You pay attention and believe in their existence, the more you reinforce their conditioning, the stronger they will become and will continue to happen. That is how this Inner Critic become so strong.

---Self-enquiry technique explained with a simple story--------------------
Let us try to understand self-enquiry technique through this simple fictitious story in the same lines of this book, but stretching it further. Assume that a dozen significant well-wishing people in your early life who helped shaped you (or conditioned the different prominent selves in you) like your parents, grand-parents, siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins, teachers, friends have been with you in your house for the past several years. This includes one really good friend named John who is your close confidant and really understands you well and he also happened to have a house in the neighborhood. They all showed a lot of love and concern for you. Every time you accomplish something, they all kiss you, praise you and have a small party to celebrate. So you have come to kind of love them and almost think you can't live without them. However the problem is that they are always advising you, cautioning you and warning you almost about everything so that you never make any mistakes and are always successful at every little thing you do. Now you are feeling like these guys are almost running your life, driving you mad and it is very frustrating. You have always found it hard to ignore them and since everything sounds in your best interest, you also pay attention to them. So the noisy chatter of advises and warnings and threats of possible consequences has been growing bigger and bigger. You have almost lost the distinction between yourself and these well wishers. You and John have discussed this problem over several times. You and John have tried several things like pleading to them, trying to discuss this over with them, yell and shout at them, but nothing has worked.
Whenever you have a date at your house, you screw up things because you are behaving awkwardly under the influence of all these well wishers trying to correct every move you make. One such day, on a date at your house, all these well wishers started nosily pouncing upon you with advise and suddenly John out of sheer frustration shouted out "Guys.. please, who is the boss here?" It had been so many years, nobody ever thought about that question. So everybody started thinking and there was total silence. Even John who had felt a higher ownership of the house because he was closest to you started thinking about the question himself. You also had a surprising feeling of importance for the first time in years. This kind of silence was not seen in years. You and John look at each other and smiled. You enjoyed the few moments of silence with your date. Nobody answered the question, but everybody looked in your direction. However after some time the chatter slowly started again. You looked at John and winked. John took the clue and shouted again "Who is the boss here?" Once again it worked. There was total silence as everybody started thinking about the question. You and John had discovered the magic words. He did it several times that evening and you enjoyed all that silence.

You and John started using this almost every day when you wanted a quite moment to relax and enjoy. You started enjoying the silence and started feeling that after a long you time you have got your life back. So you and John started doing it several times in a day and secretly also were having fun with doing it. After a few months, the inmates of the house started getting bored of living in your house and one by one they stared going back to live in their own houses. You had enough of them and you realized you can certainly live without them and let them go. So finally a day came when everybody had left and John decided to leave as well. Since he was in the neighborhood, you let him go. You lived blissfully ever after in the silence of your house.

This is kind of how self-enquiry works. All these well-wishers in your head who pose as your Inner Critic is just a stream of thoughts and John is also just a stream of wise thoughts. You just have to say 'who am I?' or follow every thought to its source like 'who is this thought coming to?'.

Mindfulness is similar, where you stare all the well wishers whoever opens their mouth to speak every morning and evening for 30 minutes. All the well wishers start becoming conscious and start learning to shut up more and more. You also start doing the staring whenever you remember. The well wishers continue to live with you and will only be quite if you start at them.
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