In my practice, there are a handful of books I often recommend to clients when we deal with issues of the inner critic. I’ll list them here and tell you why I believe they are so helpful.
1. Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown
2. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
3. Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson
If you scroll to the bottom of this page, there is a widget that will take you to where you can find these titles (and a few others) on Amazon.com. These 3 books tackle something that is an absolute epidemic in our society: self-criticism. Freud called it the superego because it was like the supervisor to the ego, keeping it in line, but I like to refer to it as the inner critic because that’s how we usually experience it on a subjective level. It developed in childhood because of lessons we learned, times we were chastised, and humiliations we experienced. It developed to try to protect us by preventing those things from happening again. It’s not something we want to or can get rid of entirely, but we need to alter it when it becomes toxic, attacking us, judging our every thought, feeling and action, draining us of energy, and telling us horrible insults about ourselves.
Some people brush it off, saying, “yeah, I’m hard on myself,” but my assertion — and the assertion of the authors of these books — is that it’s possible to dis-identify from the inner critic so that you can know yourself as something more than that critic, and, therefore, can put the critic in its place, bring it back down to manageable size, and then you can have choice about your next actions to take. That freedom comes from no longer simply reacting based on fear of recrimination or humiliation, but from seeing your choices clearly, recognizing that if you choose to have one more cookie, for example, that does not have to equate that you have no self-control, as your inner critic might insist.
In my opinion, Byron Brown’s book deals with this subject in the most thorough way, and stays with you through the complete process of becoming aware of your self-attacks, how to fight back against them, and how to continue with the process even as your inner critic gets subtler and sneakier. Julia Cameron’s full program, and especially the morning pages daily activity, is a great way to get through the blocks to expressing yourself as a creative being — and we are all creative beings. And Rick Carson’s is a wonderfully playful, cartoon-illustrated way to approach a subject that can be very challenging.