A Story of the Underminer Pattern

Jeanette had a bad case of low self-esteem. Even when she was a child, all her teachers were puzzled by this. She was smart and musically gifted but had absolutely no confidence. She never auditioned for the orchestra or for school plays even when she was encouraged to do so. As she got older and this pattern continued, she ended up holding minimal jobs that didn’t come close to tapping her native talents. She just assumed that she wouldn’t amount to anything. Every time she had an inclination to reach out and try something challenging, she experienced a sinking feeling in her chest and a gray cloud descended on her, so she gave up on the idea.

One afternoon Jeanette’s friend Lynn was having a very bad day; she complained to Jeanette of heaviness in her heart. Lynn was talking about a critical voice that she heard inside of her. Suddenly something clicked with Jeanette; she realized that she recognized the voice her friend was describing. It lived inside her, too!

This was Jeannette’s Underminer Inner Critic. It was saying critical things like: “You aren’t any good. You can’t do it. Don’t even try.” She had always just assumed that this was the truth about her. She had never viewed these harmful messages as coming from a separate part of her psyche. She recalled how she longed to try out for high school musicals but this other voice spoke so forcefully that she didn’t dare.

Since she hadn’t been consciously aware of it until that moment, she’d had no way to communicate with it. She hadn’t seen any way to confront the source of her negative beliefs about herself. Now, however, she had a lever to begin to work with it. She knew that if she were to live the life she wanted, she needed to know more about this self-depreciating pattern of thinking, and that this exploration would require stronger feelings of courage than she had at that moment.

Jeanette asked herself what to do and how to begin.  She took a deep breath and started by becoming still.  In the calmness she found inside, the place called Self, Jeanette asked if there were parts of her inside that had the courage to explore the Underminer part.  She also asked to hear from any part that might sound like peace and strength, rather than negative judgment. Then she was quiet and listened.

To her surprise, Jeanette heard from a number of such parts, and listening closely to each of them, she began to see that the Underminer part was only one part of her among many. 

When Jeanette was in touch with her courageous, peaceful, and strong parts, she was able to create a dialogue with the Underminer part. 

From her place of Self, she understood that the Underminer part’s intention was actually to keep her safe from failure and negative public exposure. Jeanette felt grateful to the Underminer part for its intention and thanked it for caring about her welfare. 

She told the Underminer part that she was now in contact with other parts of her that could be even more helpful in keeping her safe and that also could allow her to create the life she truly wanted.  She told the Underminer part it could relax. I will continue with Jeannette’s story in a future email.

Self-Therapy Journey  has a module for the Underminer Pattern and the Courage Capacity that transforms it.