Our Inner Critic

Can grammar alleviate your inner critic? This Psychology Today article believes so. The article here and one published in the March/April 2019 edition of the magazine report that using a distanced inner voice can help. The writers find it fruitless to attempt to get rid of the inner critic and instead work to change the dialogue. Read more here.


Self-Criticism and Self-Soothing

How do you turn a self-criticizing voice into a self-soothing voice?

Posted Mar 01, 2019

Stan, the retired CEO of a Fortune 500 company, smacks his racket on the ground and shouts, "You idiot!" Barbara, who made a fortune in commercial real estate yells, "What's wrong with you?" And Karen, who was a successful entrepreneur, shouts, "Stupid girl!" I've always thought people's reactions to their mistakes on the tennis court give a glimpse into their childhood. These are the voices they internalized as youngsters and now use on themselves. But some people reassure themselves, saying things like, "Okay, that was bad, keep your eye on the ball."

Source: Claudia/Unsplash

What differentiates Stan, Barbara, and Karen from the people who can reassure themselves when they have made a mistake? From a psychoanalytic point of view, the critical voice is called an "introject." Introjection occurs when a person internalizes the ideas or voices of other people. The other people are usually parents, grandparents or teachers. If those important others were critical and judgmental, the inner voice is a critical one. In all object relations theories, the external object gets transformed into an internal image or "object." If that "object" is not fully internalized, it is referred to as an "introject." Introjects are labile and get projected onto other people easily. They come out in psychotherapy in the form of "shoulds" (e.g., "You think I should..."). If the voices of our significant others were supportive, on the other hand, they become identifications and we are able to comfort ourselves when we fall short or make a mistake. The outbursts on the tennis court offer a window into the introjects of the players.

How do you turn introjects into self-soothing voices? The psychoanalyst and the cognitive behaviorist take two very different approaches.

In her Psychology Today article (April 2019), "Silence your Inner Critic," Jena Pincott says, "The best intervention may be to respond to its grievances from a detached perspective—almost as if you were another person. This technique, called self-distancing is increasingly used in cognitive-behavioral therapy."  The method involves replacing the first-person pronoun with a third person pronoun when talking to yourself. For example, "Karen, that was just a good shot. It's not your fault that you couldn't return it." The theory is that self-distancing allows one to respond as if it were happening to someone else.

The psychoanalytic perspective, on the other hand, views the problem as more complex—introjects reflect a developmental deficit. Negative introjects prevent the development of a solid core self. Wrestling with a nasty self-critical voice and being plagued with "shoulds" prevents the development of fully internalized values and the ability to tolerate not living up to them occasionally (i.e., mistakes, disappointments, and failures). And, when a person's psychic structure is on the introject level, the introjects are not only turned on themselves but also projected onto others.

From a psychoanalytic point of view, rational thinking is not enough to get rid of introjects—it requires psychoanalysis. Why? In psychoanalysis, the negative introjects get projected on the analyst in the transference. Through the process of analyzing the transference, the patient is able to dissolve the introjects and identify with a new, supportive inner voice—the analyst's.

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February @ Thrive

This month we have some great options for your creative expression!

Starting with Saturday, Feb. 2nd our Renewed Perspective workshop will assist in your realigning your goals and values, from 2-4 pm.

Sunday, Feb. 3rd we offer our LGBTQ+ affirming art therapy group for those who are 13-17 years old, from 11:30am -1pm.

Monday, Feb. 4th we host clinicians for an art therapy group, from 10-11:30am.

Saturday, Feb. 16th we host an open studio for all, from 2-4pm.

Sunday, Feb. 17th we offer our LGBTQ+ affirming art therapy group for those who are 18-24 years old, from 11:30am-1p. Also on the 17th we host another clinicians art therapy group option, from 4-6:30pm.

January 2019 @ Thrive

There are several options this month to help set the intentions for the year.

Saturday, Jan 5th 2-4 pm
Renewed Perspective Workshop:
Spend time establishing what you need for the new year. Come back to what is important to your well-being via this workshop of exploration and clarification. 

Sunday, Jan 6th 1-2:30 pm

13-17 y/o LGBTQ+ Art Therapy Group:

This group is for youth who identify as lgbtq+ or are questioning their identities on the gender and sexuality spectrums.  You will spend time using art to express yourself while connecting with others and building your sense of self.

Monday, Jan 7th 10-11:30 am

Clinicians Art Therapy Group:

This group is for mental health clinicians (including interns) who are looking for a place to process their work and increase their life balance.  The theme and structure of the group will be determined organically from the range of professionals who attend.

Saturday, Jan 12th 3-5 pm
Intro to Art Therapy Studio:
Spend time understanding how creative self-expression can allow you to communicate and understand in ways that may not otherwise be accessible. Spend time within this introduction group increasing your knowledge of Art Therapy as a practice. 

Sunday, Jan 20th 1-2:30 pm

18-24 y/o LGBTQ+ Art Therapy Group:

This group is for those who identify as lgbtq+ or are questioning their identities on the gender and sexuality spectrums.  You will spend time using art to express yourself while connecting with others and building your sense of self.

Saturday, Jan 26th 2-4 pm
Yoga and Art: 
Within this group you will have the opportunity to connect your physical and mental well-being. Through the act of yoga and art you will let go of what doesn’t serve you and create a vision for what will drive you. 


Sunday, Jan 27th 4:30-6 pm

Clinicians Art Therapy Group:

This group is for mental health clinicians (including interns) who are looking for a place to process their work and increase their life balance.  The theme and structure of the group will be determined organically from the range of professionals who attend.

Holiday Scramble

Getting it all done...an idea that seems to grow in size around the holidays. This idea becomes a feeling that we often take on as a reflection of who we are as a person and our ability to be a fully functional human being. If we cannot attend all the gatherings or shower our loved ones with gifts or present an image of togetherness than it must be true...we must be less than.

These ideas that turn into feelings don’t just pop up during the holiday season and in fact show up in various ways throughout our days but seem to be tenfold during the holiday rush and eventually comes crashing down into an idea of “what’s next” after the new year...where do I direct my energy now and do I have the energy to direct myself in the direction that will be most helpful to me. 

What feelings are prevalent during the holiday seasons outside of (expected) joy, happiness and thankfulness? Often feelings of anxiety, stress and depression are exacerbated when we are flooded with ideas of being connected, present and attuned to those we hold dear. 

Anxiety often surrounding the drive to do it all and to do it all perfectly. 

Stress reflecting on there never seems to be enough time. 

Depression pointing towards connections that may not be there or have dwindled.

While these identified feelings are not all that one can experience during the holidays it is important to recognize that our feelings as a whole can become exacerbated and to prepare as much as possible.

Per the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org)

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

1.      Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.


2.      Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.


3.      Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.


4.      Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.


5.      Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

o    Donate to a charity in someone's name.

o    Give homemade gifts.

o    Start a family gift exchange.


6.      Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.


7.      Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.


8.      Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

o    Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

o    Get plenty of sleep.

o    Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.


9.      Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:

o    Taking a walk at night and stargazing.

o    Listening to soothing music.

o    Getting a massage.

o    Reading a book.


10.  Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.


Take control of the holidays

Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Rachael Zutty
Special New Years Workshop with Stretch Chi and Thrive Art Therapy

New Years is a beautiful time for reflection and planning for the future.  Stretch Chi and Thrive Art Therapy are combining expertise on December 30th for an afternoon of letting go and embracing the future.  

The workshop begins at Thrive with a blank canvas and plenty of art supplies.  We'll begin exploring our inner worlds through art.  Next we'll venture across the hall to Stretch Chi to stretch 2018 out of our bodies and welcome in the New Year with harmony and balance.  Afterwards we'll return to Thrive to re-explore through art after stretching and share with the group.  

Stretch Chi utilizes the innovative new method of flexibility training, Ki-Hara Resistance Stretching.  

Thrive Art Therapy uses art media, the creative process and the resulting artwork as a therapeutic and healing process.  

Join us Sunday December 30th 2-5 pm

Light Refreshments included.

Early registration is $50 until December 19th 

Price increases to $75 on December 20th

REGISTER AT: www.stretchchi.com/upcoming-workshops

Rachael Zutty