In the last article, we briefly explored how the (inner) critic can affect our relationships. The critic comes from childhood wounding that we subconsciously couldn’t deal with otherwise. The critic inside can be good, but if it is not controlled, then it can lead to very destructive and hurtful behavior.
How To Overcome Childhood Wounding
Childhood wounding is a term used to describe emotional trauma experienced as a child that has carried into adulthood. Wounding impacts our relationships whenever the brain perceives a similar environment to the original pain we felt as a child. The focus should be on targeting and identifying vulnerable areas in which one might have experienced wounding. Need to disengage these patterns and focus on healing.
In Imago, Harville Hendrix explores three common ways of responding to wounding. The first is gravitating towards someone who is critical because you were criticized as a child. The second is where your partner is giving reasonable feedback about a situation, but you experience it as highly critical or overwhelming feedback, because some aspect feels familiar to the child wound.
The third response to wounding is getting your partner to criticize you by doing something that brings it about. If you had overly critical parents, and they criticized you for being sloppy, you might drop things everywhere and make a mess to subconsciously test if you will get a reaction. Another example is asking for someone’s opinion, arguing about it, and then saying that they never listen to your point of view.
These types of things can all play out in your relationship or marriage.
Where It Comes From
Is there any foundation for what we can often see is simply destructive behavior?
There are very good reasons for engaging in these types of behaviors. Sometimes we engage in critical behavior to protect ourselves. We may do these things in a misguided attempt to try to heal a wounded part of ourselves on the inside. Sometimes this behavior can bring light to the dark places we haven’t found the courage to work through, or even look at.
For instance, someone might be critical of their partner in ways that aren’t fair, or distort what they are doing as critical, when in reality they are just giving you feedback.
How active a person’s critic will be may range from mild to extreme, often depending on how mild or intensely critical the person’s parents were. If someone is truly critical and extreme with their behavior, this can lead to abuse and other issues like addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Working as a Couple
At a certain point in our lives, we needed more rules to adapt to the larger expectations of society. We may become evolved enough that the critic is no longer needed and in fact becomes more problematic than beneficial. At the very least, people need to notice the truth in what the critic is saying, but update their inner critic’s programming.
You might be wondering how you work with the critic or what the positive outcomes might look like for your relationship. First, it would be best to try and get to a place where each of you are able to talk with each other about your inner critics. This way each partner learns to take responsibility rather than blame the other; overall this can deepen intimacy in the couple.
If you can be kind and compassionate towards your partner’s faults, then this makes it easier to avoid stepping into the critic role. Loving your partner along with their imperfections is a sign of a more mature love; if a couple is able to continue to develop in this way, it can help them to withstand greater life challenges.
If you expect to get rid of the inner critic completely, you might be setting yourself up for more pain and deeper shame. However, with practice you can learn how to work with your critic, or find ways to have it take a step back. With practice, you could learn to experience what life is like without its critical influence. Working on your inner critic individually, or as a couple, could lead to the critic having less influence on your relationship.