Internal judgements

Much of my work seeks to gain an understanding of my clients' internal worlds. This is a very personal part of ourselves and is not always the part that we would like to put out to the world around us. The thoughts that we have form part of our internal world and can offer clues as to what has led us to the relationship that we have with ourselves within. 

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What is sometimes called the "critical thought" or the "harsh inner critic" can be exhausting to live with. It can be a case of having to constantly defend oneself... from oneself. "You shouldn't have said that", "They aren't going to like what you just did", "They will think I am selfish", and "You always mess things up" are just some of the constant attacks that we can find ourselves under from parts of ourselves. 

Defending oneself from these attacks can take place in a variety of ways... perhaps tried and tested over time to find the one that just puts the thought to bed as quickly as possible. But occasionally, external events validate these thoughts to an extent that it no longer feels like the same old methods are working. To have the feeling of losing this battle of thoughts can feel devastating. Just being in the battle alone can be challenging and anxiety-inducing in itself, especially when there is even a remote threat of a negative belief of oneself being validated from external events. 

When we were once small, trying to grasp what this world was all about, there may have been understandings and beliefs about ourselves absorbed from many events taking place around us. Little ones are like sponges, taking it all in and trying to piece it all together. Our early understandings can form the beginnings of the beliefs that we have of ourselves, but not in their entirety. For there has been a life led since, either validating or disproving these early beliefs.

I sometimes picture harsh beliefs about the self as a set of old-fashioned scales, being tipped one way or the other, with life's events (and indeed our take on them) acting as the weights. Behaviour then works to get the weights on the other side (e.g. if I am convinced others think that I am nasty, I will work twice as hard to be kind). 


How can therapy help explore critical internal judgements?

Exploring critical internal judgements and beliefs in a safe way together with a therapist can help to gain an understanding of their roots and develop a different perspective of them. When you engage in these thoughts (either for or against), the battle is alive within. When you gently explore the thoughts, bringing them into awareness and approaching them with care and curiosity, a new space opens up. Hopefully, this can be a space from which a potential for change can arise. 

Seeing a therapist can be a big step into new territory. There are often deeply-rooted parts of ourselves that we often find ourselves hiding from others and managing alone. However, if the therapist feels right and the setting feels safe, exploring parts of the self together with another could become a step that leads towards change.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Reigate, Surrey, RH2
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Written by Hannah Downing, MSc, MBACP
Reigate, Surrey, RH2

Hannah Downing is a psychodynamic psychotherapist practising both in-person in Caterham, Surrey and remotely by video nationwide.

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