The Inner Critic and the Criticized Child

Whenever an Inner Critic part is active, there are actually two parts involved. In addition to the Critic (which is a protector), there is an exile (which I call the Criticized Child) that is receiving the Critic’s judgments, believing them, and feeling bad about itself. Or if the Critic is telling you how to behave or not behave, the Criticized Child accepts these rules and tries to live by them, no matter how constricting and harmful that is.

Here is how to access these parts using IFS. Most people access an Inner Critic part by listening to its attacking words or seeing an image of it. For example, Sarah’s Critic said that she was worthless, and she had an image of it as a huge monster.

You can also access parts through body sensations or emotions. However, when you access an Inner Critic part in this way, you might feel hurt, depressed, or hopeless—perhaps your chest is collapsed or there is a weight on your shoulders or pain in your heart. These sensations are coming from the vulnerable Criticized Child, not the Critic. If you access the Inner Critic through emotions, you might feel angry or judgmental toward yourself.

It is important to access the feelings and sensations of the Child, but don’t confuse them with those of the Critic.


Drop-In Interactive/IFS Group

Drop In IFS Interactive GroupThis drop-in group is designed to give you an idea of how Interactive/IFS Groups operate, including the Therapists Interactive/IFS Group and the regular Interactive/IFS Group.

In an Interactive/IFS Group, you can be totally honest about your feelings. Everyone is encouraged to share their moment-to-moment experience with the group. It’s a big risk but very exciting!

A small group of people meets to practice awareness, honesty, and connection. Using IFS (Internal Family Systems Therapy), we practice speaking for our parts rather than as our parts. This means being in Self (a calm, caring place) and talking about how a part of you is reacting in the moment, as opposed to dumping your feelings on other people. This helps you to communicate in a more effective manner, and it also makes the group safe for everyone.

I facilitate the group, helping you to tune into what you are experiencing and speak your truth. You may tell others honestly and directly how you are feeling toward them. We create an atmosphere of caring and trust so that this can be done in a safe, connected way. You also have a chance to get honest feedback from people on how they are responding to you.

Since this is a drop-in group, you will be mainly dealing with what you go through emotionally when you are meeting new people (though my Interactive Groups are long-term ongoing groups and much more than that happens in them).

The group meets by videoconference, so we can all see each other.

Tuesday, Sept. 12
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 eastern)
Click here for more information or to register

Click here for information about my ongoing Interactive/IFS Groups.


Dealing with Overwhelm in IFS Work


Dealing with Overwhelm in IFS

Your inner world can be a garden of riches, but at any moment it can also erupt in a chaotic confusion of intense feelings. Sometimes when a loaded issue gets triggered, instead of parts appearing one at a time, which would be more workable, they all become triggered at once, vying for control and attention, and fighting with each other.

Let’s look at an example.

You hear your lover threatening to leave, and many parts come up at the same time. You feel terrified, defensive, self-judging, angry, ashamed, and abandoned, all in one intense moment. At first, you may not be able to distinguish these individual feelings; you may just experience inner confusion, conflict, or chaos. You might feel overwhelmed and flooded with emotion.

In IFS, we want to welcome all our parts, but we don’t want to be overwhelmed by them. A good way to handle this is to slow down, take a deep breath, and feel your belly and legs. This will help to ground you. Then take your time and pay attention to one emotion (and therefore one part) at a time. Even if you are feeling them all at once, focus on just one emotion or experience at a time, just enough to recognize the part and access it.

For example, you single out the defensive feeling and hear that part say it wants to defend you against your partner’s accusations. Then you access the part that is terrified of being alone. Then you hear from the self-judging part, and so on. Give each one the microphone and let it speak. You don’t have to spend much time with each part—just enough to access it and get a sense of what it feels.

Once you have accessed all the parts, you will have an overall perspective on what is happening, and it will feel less chaotic. At this point, you can choose one target part and proceed to get to know it. If the other parts keep jumping in, listen to them but then ask them to step aside. This way you can avoid being overwhelmed and stay focused on a productive track of discovery and healing.

The Pattern System Book Now Available in Paperback

Pattern-System-Book-Jay-Earaley-PhDI am pleased to announce the publication of my first book on the Pattern System. It is now available in paperback and a Kindle version will also be available soon.

The Pattern System is a systematic approach to understanding your personality that can lead directly to psychological healing and personal growth. It also helps you to understand other people–why they respond as they do, what makes them tick. Once your have understood the Pattern System and explored yourself according to its model, you will come away with a comprehensive map of your psyche. You will be able to see your strengths and your defenses, your places of pain and how you compensate for them. You will understand the structure of your inner conflicts and see the leading edge of your growth.

The Pattern System will make clear what you need to explore next to resolve the issues that are most important to you. You will know where there is underlying pain, shame, or fear that must be healed. You will know which psychological capacities you can develop (or are already developing) to make your life happier and more productive. You will see how to ground your spiritual development in higher functioning in your life.

Therapists, coaches, and other helping professionals can use the Pattern System to understand the details of the psychological structure and dynamics of their clients. Researchers can use it as the basis for psychological studies.

The Pattern System is based on 40 years of observing my clients’ behavior, emotions, underlying psychological issues, and their origins in childhood. This has been enhanced by many years of providing supervision, training, and consultation for therapists and many discussions with colleagues. I have put this together using my background in systems thinking and computer science. It is a new way of organizing into useful form the extraordinary amount of data that psychotherapists absorb about our clients.

Click here to purchase


The Pattern System is an essential coaching asset, especially when I’m puzzled about the best tack to take or a client isn’t progressing. For one client, it led a breakthrough. For another, it helped us to gracefully disengage. Jay Earley’s system complements and extends the IFS framework by adding more awareness about different kinds of parts and how they organize. How “patterns” can evolve to “capacities” helps me and my clients generate more hope and Self-energy.  And the sections on pattern-related transference/countertransference made me much more aware of my own parts that were challenged by certain client patterns. And, better still, helped them step back so I could work more effectively. I also appreciate Jay’s courage in using himself as a case for illustration, and creating a wiki so a broad community can continue to extend the work he’s initiated.
~Mark Hurwich, MBA, IFS Coach

Over the past 40 years I have worked with people in the fields of education, psychotherapy, and spiritual counseling. Training and diagnostic manuals in these fields focus on issues from the severe disorders to the neurosis. This point of view does not do justice to the majority of my clients and students because it looks at the world of psychological health from a place of disease.

I began looking at recurring patterns, configurations and situations that did greater justice to the human and spiritual potential of my clients.  Upon reading The Pattern System I saw much of my own thinking on paper, only in a more thorough and sophisticated way. This was a treatise that I dreamed of writing!  It moves the subject of human development from a “Newtonian” to an Einsteinian point of view.

Jay Earley’s understanding of human growth and development as following certain patterns is a very necessary counterpoint to the conventional notion based on sickness.  At last someone is steering the conversation in a much more comprehensive, holistic and complementary direction.  I am so glad that The Pattern System can find a wider audience as a book and stir the debate about how to look at psychological health and human growth.
~Franz Feige, PhD

This is excellent stuff! I found The Pattern System clear and easy to understand and work with. Earley is pulling together a huge framework here, and the content is spot on. I’m a psychologist myself and meet individual clients on a daily basis, and it was easy for me to recognize most of the patterns in my clients as well as myself. I found the countertransference chapter to be the most interesting personally!
~Ronnie Grandell, Psychologist, Executive Coach

In my opinion the Pattern System is a rich body of work, a unique contribution to the field of psychology, and a much needed systems-oriented framework for the discipline. I find Earley’s writing persuasive, uncomplicated, and directly useful; most of the diagrams are informative, albeit plain. Overall, I enjoyed The Pattern System, learned much from the writing and would recommend it to anyone interested in personal development.
~David Bernard

Humanity has accumulated a vast array of valuable insights, derived from numerous schools of thought, regarding the complex dynamics involved in human psychology and behavior. There is a vital need for an integrative model that can, by organizing it, serve as a framework for understanding and a guide for useful application. With the innovative Pattern System, Jay Earley has made great strides toward this goal.

It provides an extensive map by which to systematically navigate as we identify areas of functioning in all arenas and at all levels of health or dysfunction, discover their underlying origins and psychological configurations, and strategically pursue development. It will prove helpful not only to therapists and coaches and their clients, but to people in all walks of life and in any situation. Moreover, it has implications for families, communities and society on a larger scale and is a prototype that can inspire and catalyze further innovation in the years to come.
~Howard Ditkoff, M.D., Coach & Consultant,

To learn more about the Pattern System please visit The Pattern System website.

The Pattern System for Psychotherapists, Part I

The Pattern System has been developed over 40 years of observing my clients’ behavior, emotions, underlying psychological issues, and their origins in childhood. This has been enhanced by many years of supervision, training, and consultation with therapists and trainees and many discussions with colleagues. I have put this together using my background in systems thinking and information technology science.

The Pattern System is a personality system that allows you to map a client’s psyche in detail. It is a new way of organizing into useful form the extraordinary amount of data we absorb about our clients. It provides a way for therapists to clarify the unique character structure of each client, leading to an understanding of his or her special needs, strengths, and difficulties. [Read more…]