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.