The Inner Critic with a Legacy Burden

 

Jay Earley, PhD, and Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

The following is an excerpt from Freedom from Your Inner Critic.

In doing IFS work with Inner Critic parts, you discover that they are actually trying to do something positive for you, even as they cause pain and hardship. However, there is another aspect to many Inner Critics. They are often modeled after a parent or other significant person from childhood.

Therefore, sometimes it isn’t enough to discover a Critic’s positive intent and heal the exile it is protecting. In order to help your Critic to fully let go of its attacks, you may also have to deal with how the Critic learned to attack.

In IFS, this is called a legacy burden. The protective role that a Critic has adopted is called its burden in IFS. When a Critic is playing a role (carrying a burden) that it modeled after a parent, this is called a legacy burden. If your father pushed you to work very hard and criticized you when you didn’t, you may develop an Inner Critic that does the same thing. It has taken on this legacy from your father. If your mother always compared you negatively to your sister or friends, you may develop a Critic that does the same thing.

Often a Critic models its style of criticism on a parent even though it may criticize you about different issues. For example, Joan’s mother criticized her for being sloppy and judged her for not keeping herself as neat, clean, and organized as her mother wanted. She did this by calling Joan names-e.g. “slob,” “lazy girl.” Joan has long since disavowed her mother’s extreme focus on neatness, so her Inner Critic doesn’t judge her about that. But Joan does have a Critic that judges her for not being attractive enough to men. And guess what, that Critic attacks Joan by calling her names, except that now the names are related to the attractiveness issue-“loser,” “ugly girl,” and so on. Same style, different content.

A legacy burden might not only come from a parent, but from an entire ancestral line. Maybe your father pushed and judged you about working hard, and maybe his father did the same to him, and perhaps his father’s father and the entire line of male ancestors were burdened by this extreme need to overwork. Of course, each of these men probably had different life circumstances and motivations for their overworking. An ancestral burden like this can have a profound effect on you without your being aware of it.

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