Working with the inner critic

An example of parts practice

Working with the inner critic

This is a moment in my practice of working with trauma parts when I switched from peace and presence to criticism and shame. If you find it hard to work with parts, this may help you create some ideas within the resistance. 

Please check out Internal Family Systems for an in-depth approach to working with parts. Internal Family Systems 

Moment of healing

“Ahh,” Laura thinks. “Isn’t it beautiful? The way the snow caps the pine trees that line the highway and the daylight seeps through the clouds above? It looks so crisp and clear. It feels cozy to be in the car, heated from the cold air outside.”

“Stop!” Another thought barges in, and she yanked away from the present moment. Instead, she finds herself pulled far inward to a sharp, tense, panicky stopping of breath. “Are you really present,” an inner voice yells. “Is this what you want to think?” “Are these the right thoughts to have?” “Shouldn’t you be not thinking at all and just seeing and feeling the moment?” “Are you doing this right?”

She suddenly feels trapped, afraid, and unsure of what to do. Breathing stops. Her body tenses, eyes go blurry. Her head feels heavy. And she feels pressure from the top of her skull, pushing her down into a state of disorientation so intense she gasps as if she were pressed into a blender.

“Ahh,” she forces. She is trying to get back to the peaceful moment. Trying to push away those thoughts and feel serene again. “Look harder, she thinks.” “Focus.” “THOSE ARE VERY PRETTY TREES!!”

“STOP!!!!!” “Just stop it!” The voices yell louder and louder. She retreats into the abyss of her internal cage. 

The fight continues until…

She pauses and takes a breath. “Ok,” she says. “Hi.” “I see you, and I hear you.” “I’m not going to fight you anymore.” “Let’s be together instead.”

“Hi, she repeats.” She stays steady and ready to meet the voice when it is ready. Already she feels much lighter. Resisting her thoughts makes them persist. 

She sits and waits and breathes. She also feels her body sink into the seat and senses herself back in the car, on the highway, with the snow-covered trees lining the sides.

The voice shows up with a face of a bewildered mother at her wit’s end. The mother sighs deeply. Exhausted but still has enough energy to rage at her. “What do you think you are doing? You don’t care about me at all! After everything I do for you!” She yells for a while. Loudly. 

“Whoa,” she says to the mother’s voice. “That’s a lot.” She doesn’t stop her. She listens until the mother is done. It takes a few moments. 

Finally, the mother’s voice sighs as she collapses into a chair. “I can’t do this anymore.” “I don’t want to deal with this.” “I don’t want to take care of her.”

“Who’s her,” Laura asks. Suddenly, she feels her stomach clench with raw disgust and vitriol. Right above the navel, below the ribs, a tightening so deep, she folds over and needs to vomit, NOW. A massive amount of gas erupts from her mouth. Her stomach churns.

“Hi,” she says as she holds her stomach. “It’s nice to meet you.”

It’s a little girl. Annabelle. The girl feels ill because she has swallowed so much abuse she didn’t want to. All the emotions dumped on her that she thought she had to swallow or she would be punished for speaking it out, the burdens of actions she was forced to do with people she didn’t want to do it with. Annabelle swallowed instead of purged because it was quieter, which meant it was safer. “My tummy aches a lot,” she says.

Laura turns back to the mother, who sighs in exasperation, feeling she needs to deal with the child because no one else will, and the child will not leave her alone. “Just puke it up already. Go on. Out with it.”

The little girl is terrified. She feels so much pressure to perform and no comfort at all.

Laura turns to the mother. “What would you rather do than this?”

The mother replies, “Leave. I want to leave and never return.”

“Ok,” Laura says. “If that is what you want, go ahead. I’ve got the girl now. She’s with me, and some other mothers are coming in too to take care of her.”

Mother waves goodbye and is off. She is gone to who knows where.

Laura turns to the little girl and introduces her to a couple of friends. “This is Hippie Chick. She loves to play and has a special garden that you can play to your heart’s content!” “And this is Mama. She loves taking care of children. You make her smile.”

The little girl is hesitant but interested. “Will you be here too,” Annabelle asks the woman.

“Of course!” “Sometimes I may go away for a bit, but I’ll always be back. When I’m gone, these two ladies will take care of you. Is that alright?”

Annabelle nods yes. She’s getting excited. Still scared, she asks Laura, “What will happen now? What do we do next?”

“I don’t know. I’d love to explore the world and see what happens.”

“That sounds scary; she shivers.”

“It does, but it’s also exciting! And you won’t be alone.”


“What do you need right now,” Laura asks.

“My tummy still hurts.”

“Ok, what does it want to do?”

“It wants to get rid of the yucky stuff.”

“Let’s get rid of it. I’ll be right here.”

We pull the car over at the next rest stop. A bushy area is nearby. We walk into it, and she curls right over. Waves of saliva, mucus, and gas come rushing out. She heaves, and she pukes. 

Rubbing her back, I urge her on. “You’re ok.” “Keep following your body. Rest when you need to and purge when you need to.”

She does until she feels finished. “I think I “m done for now.”

“ok.” Let’s go back.”

I feel better

After a visit to the bathroom, I chatted with my friend about what had happened. I can still feel the mother tethered to us, but she is getting further away. I hold my belly where the little girl is and look around to settle into the landscape again.

The energy still wants to pull me out of my surrounding, but it’s not as strong. This will be a practice and will take time. But I do feel lighter, more present, and back to clear thoughts more than before. I would like it to be better than it is, but it’s there.¬†

Ahhh…. perfection. Another part for another day. 

We head home, and I feel myself shifting in and out of being present with nature. My stomach is still churning, but it is better. I can be with nature a little bit more. This is good for now. It will get better with time. I am grateful for the moments of pure presence where I sense my world rather than think about it.

How to start

If you would like to know how to start in your own journey or work with someone who has been through the trenches like you, check us out here.

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