What is the Underminer Pattern?

The Underminer is a type of Inner Critic Pattern in the Pattern System.

Your Underminer is a part of you that tries to undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem so you won’t take risks that it thinks are dangerous or so you won’t try new activities and fail. It tells you that you can’t be successful and throws doubts on anything you might want to try.

Your Underminer might make direct attacks on your self-worth in an attempt to tear you down so you will stay small and safe and won’t run the risk of falling from the greater height of being large and known. It may tell you that you are worthless or inadequate. It may call you stupid or incompetent. All these attacks are aimed at undermining your confidence so you won’t do anything that might not be safe.

Your Underminer may be afraid of your becoming too big or powerful or visible because it is afraid that you will be attacked or rejected for that. It might be afraid of your showing a certain quality, such as strength, intelligence, aggression, or self-esteem, because it fears that you will be ostracized or attacked for this.

As a result of attacks from your Underminer, you are likely to end up feeling inadequate, powerless, and timid. You may approach the world from a passive, helpless place and not take steps to make your life what you want it to be. This is all part of the Underminer Pattern, too.

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

The book Freedom From Your Inner Critic shows how to transform this pattern using Internal Family Systems Therapy. Click here for information on this book and to purchase it.

The book Activating Your Inner Champion Instead of Your Inner Critic shows how to transform this pattern. Click here for information on this book and to purchase it.

Pattern System Posters

A number of people have asked me to produce posters of the three different dimension charts in the Pattern System®. They wanted large versions of these charts to put on their walls. Here is the interpersonal chart as an example.

A poster of the interpersonal dimension group that is part of the Pattern System











I am curious if there would be enough people interested in purchasing posters like this. If you would like to get some, please email me at earley.jay@gmail.com and let me know which of the three you want—Interpersonal, Inner Critic, and Personal Dimension Groups.

You can see all three charts at http://thepatternsystem.wikispaces.com/

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.

Click here to learn more about Freedom from Your Inner Critic or purchase it.


The Destroyer Pattern: Volunteers Needed for Testing Application

The Destroyer Inner Critic

The Destroyer makes pervasive attacks on your fundamental self-worth. It shames you in such a deep way that you feel intrinsically flawed. You believe you cannot be redeemed. The Destroyer launches very primitive attacks on you that may not even have much content. Your Destroyer may not communicate in words but rather in body feelings of shame and depression.

Your Destroyer may make you feel that you don’t deserve to exist. It may try to destroy or annihilate you. It may cause you to feel very depressed and hopeless about yourself and your life.

The Destroyer is the most harmful and debilitating of all the types of Inner Critics. It usually originates very early in your life, often from the first year or two when you didn’t have much in the way of words available.

Destroyer Testers Needed for Self-Therapy Journey

For the last three years, I have been developing a web application, Self-Therapy Journey, where people can get help in transforming psychological problems. It is like an interactive self-help book, based on the Pattern System and IFS*. It should be ready to launch by Nov.

We would like to try out the application with people who are willing to use it and give us feedback afterward. We want to get feedback on how it works for you and what needs to be fixed or improved.

Soon people will be able to use the application to work on a wide variety of different psychological issues. However, right now we are looking for people who have a very specific issue to volunteer in trying it out. We are looking for people who have a Destroyer Inner Critic. See the article above for more information on this pattern. (Later we will be looking for volunteers on other issues.)

You will be able to learn about your Destroyer Critic, its underlying motivation, and where it comes from in your past. You will get a customized report about all these things based on what you enter in the application, which means that you can also use this application for guided journaling. You will also be able to set up a life practice to work on aliveness and feeling good about yourself. The application will provide you with online support in carrying out the practice.

This usually takes between 3 and 8 hours, spread out over a number of sessions, and we want you to do the testing pretty soon, since we hope to launch the application in November.

If you are interested in volunteering, email me at  earley.jay@gmail.com. Let me know the following information: (1) your phone number and (2) what time zone you are in. We want to try out the application on a variety of different people, so please also let me know (3) if you are a therapist and (4) whether you are familiar with IFS*.

We may have more volunteers than we can use, so you may not hear from us for a while, but we nonetheless appreciate your volunteering.

Please visit http://PatternSystem.com for more information about The Pattern System, a systematic approach to understanding your personality that can lead directly to psychological healing and personal growth.


*IFS (Internal Family Systems Therapy) was developed by Richard Schwartz, PhD. For more information, go to www.selfleadership.org.


Freedom from Your Inner Critic Now Published

Freedom From Your Inner CriticWe are excited to announce the publication of a greatly expanded version of our book Self-Therapy for Your Inner Critic, with a new name and publisher.

The Inner Critic is the part of you that judges you, demeans you, and tells you who you should be. It undermines your self-confidence and makes you feel bad about yourself. Freedom from Your Inner Critic shows how to convert your Inner Critic into an ally using Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS). We identify seven types of Inner Critics and how to work with each one. You also learn how to evoke your Inner Champion, which is a magic bullet for dealing with the effects of Inner Critic attacks.

The new book has new chapters on perfectionism, addictions, the protected Child vs. the Criticized Child, the Inner Critic as a parental legacy, and stories about each of the seven types of Critics.

The book is now available on Amazon and other online retailers, and it should be on sale in our store in a week or two.

Inner Critics: Should vs. Should Not

Some types of Inner Critics mainly tell you who you should be–the Perfectionist, the Taskmaster, and the Molder. They try to make you be a certain way in large segments of your life–perfect, hard working, or fitting a certain mold. Other types mainly tell you what you shouldn’t do or feel–the Inner Controller, the Underminer, and the Guilt Tripper. These tend to be more specific. They prohibit certain types of feeling or action–impulsive, addictive behavior, courageous risk taking, actions that harm others. It’s less clear where the Destroyer fits in. It tries to keep you from being alive and here, but it’s prohibitions aren’t so specific; they affect most of your life.

I wonder if there is something important about this distinction among types of Inner Critics. Any thoughts?

Unblending from an Inner Critic

At any given moment, you are either in Self or you blended with a part—a protector or exile. When you are judging yourself, you are blended with an Inner Critic part. When you are feeling bad about yourself, you are blended with a Criticized Child part. In fact, you are often blended with both the Critic and the Criticized Child at the same time.

You can only work successfully with an Inner Critic if you aren’t blended with it or the Criticized Child. When you unblend from a Critic, it doesn’t mean that the self-judgment disappears or you stop feeling bad about yourself. It means that you aren’t completely taken over by these feelings. You have some space inside that is separate from them. You don’t fully buy into the idea that you are inadequate. You can see that this is just a part of you that is attacking you rather than believing it is the truth about you. For example, if your Inner Critic says that you are a loser and will never find love in your life, you recognize that this is simply an attack from this part of you. It isn’t the truth.

Though you may still feel sad or ashamed, when you are unblended with the Criticized Child, you aren’t dominate by these feelings. You have a place in you (Self) that is feeling solid and OK. From this place you can view these feelings and understand these attacks and work with them. You may feel hurt to hear this message that you are a loser, and you may feel some hopelessness about your love life, but that isn’t all you feel. You reside in a place that is deeper than those emotions, a place of calmness and curiosity.  This is not the final solution to your Inner Critic problem. It is just a preliminary step that gives you enough space to deal with the problem.

The Perfectionist as Enforcer

This is a continuation of the last few blogs on the Inner Critic, the Pattern System and enforcement. We can look at three levels of Perfectionist.

1. A healthy version of the Perfectionist will help you make your work excellent and your life organized without being extreme or punitive.

2. The Perfectionist will go overboard in these things by going for extremely high standards, causing you to overwork or be obsessive. However, it may just try to be perfect without self-criticism.

3. The Perfectionist Critic will push you to be perfect, often using harsh, judgmental language. It will attack you when you aren’t perfect enough.

I hope these distinctions help you in your work on this part. I would love to hear your feedback on this series of blogs.

The Perfectionist and the Pattern System

In the last blog, I showed how the Inner Critic is in the Self-esteem dimension of the Pattern System. Each of the seven types of Inner Critics also resides in a dimension of the Pattern System. Let’s look at the Perfectionist:

The two polarized protectors are the Perfectionist and the Sloppy Part, which just does tasks in a cavalier way, not caring about how well they are done or the consequences. The healthy version of the Perfectionist is the Inner Mentor who helps you to do things in an excellent way without judgment or extremes. It is caring and supportive and knows when something is good enough. The healthy version of the Sloppy Part is the Inner Champion who supports you working in an easy flowing way without sacrificing quality. And it also supports your feeling good about yourself. [Read more…]

The Inner Critic and the Pattern System

The Pattern System is a way of understanding different types of parts and capacities in the human psyche and how they are related to each other. (See  for more details.) There are various dimensions in the Pattern System such as self-esteem, power, intimacy, and accomplishment. Each dimension involves two polarized IFS protectors and two related healthy capacities. (There is also an exile involved, but I will leave that out of this blog.)

In the Self-esteem Dimension, the two polarized protectors are the Inner Critic, which tears down your self-esteem, and the Prideful Part, which tries to build it up by impressing other people or having grandiose ideas of how special you are. The healthy capacities are the Inner Champion and the Inner Mentor. The Inner Champion is the healthy version of Pride because it supports your self-esteem as your birthright. It reminds you that you are valuable just for being yourself and you don’t have to achieve anything or be anything in order to feel good about yourself. Your Inner Mentor is the healthy version of the Inner Critic because it helps you improve yourself in areas where you need that, but it does this with complete self-acceptance, kindly support, and encouragement. Your Inner Champion and your Inner Mentor naturally go together. They are integrated instead of fighting each other the way Pride and the Critic are.


Your goal in Inner Critic work is to develop your Inner Champion to support your feelings of self-worth, and to transform your Inner Critic into an Inner Mentor that functions like a good parent in helping you to grow.