The Inner Critic – a Conversation

The following summarizes two guided conversations I had with my client John, and a voice in his head I call the Judge. You might be more familiar with the term inner critic. It’s the kind of voice that almost everyone has experienced. I share this as an example of deep belief system work. 

The conversations are an exploration of the beliefs the Judge character operates by. Typically, by finding these beliefs and observing them from a neutral skeptical observer perspective, the assumptions and layers of other beliefs they are built on are exposed and fall apart under scrutiny.

John’s Judge is a harsh, critical voice who sends John around in circles, and berates him with incessant criticisms while working on his water filter business. 

I begin by guiding John to do some relaxation breathing and to place his attention on the Judge’s voice, words, and feelings. 

John:  The Judge comes with a feeling of a cold, gray cloud in the body. 

I ask John to unblend from the cold cloud and place the Judge in front of himself so he can see him better. 

I guide John through a series of questions.  There are often long pauses as answers from the Judge are deciphered. There is also breathwork and moving of energy between answers and questions. The gist of the conversation went something like this. 

Ask: What are you doing here? 

Judge –  I want John to be good and helpful.  I find the mistakes he makes and correct them.

Acknowledge and thank him:  Thank you for your good intentions.

Judge     – gives a laughing response

Ask: Why are you laughing?

John:  He is laughing because he is a huge power. He convinces me that with this power I will go closer to love, god. He is laughing because he tricks me with this story.  The Judge is clever. He shows me what is right and wrong with web pages in my mind. When i check them I see that he is right. He wins me over to believing him because I find mistakes he points out. It reinforces the habit of believing him. 

Asking John:  How do you feel about the Judge?  “I feel that he is an asshole.”

 We take some time detaching from these judgments and reactions so John can observe more clearly and then return to the Judge.

Ask the Judge:  Why do you do this?  

Judge:  I have huge power, and I enjoy it. 

Ask: How do you use this power? 

Judge   “I strengthen the other characters, Savior, the Victim, his Good Boy, about saving the world.  I push moral questions and spiritual questions and make these important to him. 

I use the other characters that join forces with me against John. 

I play god over John. I combine the priest from his catholic training and moral karma from his Buddhist studies to keep John stressed about being good enough and feeling bad about himself.   I can make him believe he can play god with all his moral questions and judgments. I strengthen all his beliefs against him.“

 Ask:  How do you play god? 

Judge:  “I tell you that you have responsibility, others depend on you, you have a big power over the world, You are meant for important things. You are supposed to help a lot of people. 

But then I play the other side. If you are so good, so moral, then you are great, but then I put you in situations that can’t be solved so you feel powerless and a failure.”

The Judge laughs.  He can pull John’s strings and make him believe he is great, and he is a failure back and forth so easily. The Judge is so confident that he can tell John what he does to him and John will still fall for it.

It seems at this point that by “play god” the Judge means that he can toy with John’s mind. 

John reflects on his business and other successes and” says.  “I was a powerful man, and I could do many things. Until I got crazy with all these thoughts,  Now the things I want to do are bigger than me.” 

We return to asking the Judge questions. 

Ask: When did you start doing this with me?

   It was so strong years ago, it was present all of my life.  (John answering)

I redirect John to ask the Judge. We want his version of the story and not one that comes from John’s intellect or conscious memory. 

Ask:  When did you start doing this with me? 

John is flashing back on versions of the judge

  –    6 years ago I was very strong

  –  25 years ago, to study for college, 

   – as I left for college to study, I felt very alone. Started to study for meaning of life,  

  – read Buddhist teachings, and the catholic church,

  then I developed anxiety, not knowing what life was about, feeling lost, and powerlessness.

 John:  “I found a catholic community. The community was warm and loving between the people.  I studied catholic theology about rules and dogma but felt in my heart that it was not what I wanted. The rigidity wasn’t warm and loving with their hard rules and consequences. It was so confusing. The love between people in the community was beautiful, but the rules were hard and cold, which felt the opposite.”

John reflects on the energy that combined morality, rules, and suffering punishments for breaking rules. It was reinforced with the teachings of Karma from the Buddhists.  We are supposed to suffer for our wrongdoings.    

We return to the interview with the Judge

Ask:     What is your purpose?

 Judge:   To lead you to be good. To lead you to god, and love.   And the opposite. I lead you away from god.

Ask? How do you lead me to god?  

Judge: I put bad feelings in you to be a better person. You will be motivated to help more. Also, knowing what suffering feels like forces you to prevent others’ suffering.  Awakes empathy for others.

Ask: How do you lead me away from god?

Judge: Through feelings and beliefs that you have to be better and better.

 I don’t leave you any peace and joy and just enjoy the moment. 

 I lead you to think opposing thoughts and contradictions, so there is no peace for you.

Ask:  Are you aware you contradict your purpose? To lead me to God and away from God?   Judge: Yes

Ask:  Why?  

Judge:   Confusion is my power. To confuse you to think contradictions and not be in peace. 

I give you a grandiose project and that you are great and must do it. You must save many people. If you can’t find a solution you have to be nervous anxious, frustrated, and guilty, and the karma will get you for failing.

 You can’t be in peace,  If you don’t solve the problem you have to suffer.

John  “He is an asshole.” 

John is surprised to find the Judge is such an asshole. It is just messing with him and gets off on being powerful and playing John with its contradicting stories. John is also surprised to see that these thoughts are not his at all. He sees that they come from some part of his mind very separate from him that seems just to want him to suffer. This is an important realization that can only be made from this observer’s perspective. 

Before this session, John assumed it was his thinking, so this is a new experience. The Judge looks very different when observed this way, and you can see these layers of motivation behind his thoughts.

John and I talk about the Judge and his motivations and contradictions. One of the purposes is to reinforce in John’s awareness the separation between him as the conscious observer, and the belief system of the Judge part of the ego mind.

I would have John practice being present with his breathing and relaxing while watching the Judge to reinforce the separation gap.  It was essential to establish that separation so that anything the Judge said going forward would be viewed from this perspective and seem less believable.  

We are out of time and we stop the session there.  I had John do some specific writing assignments to reinforce the Observe perspective at that time, and to continue the separation with the Judge. He was also able to see more of the stories the Judge uses and his tactics. 


A week passed, and we had another session. 

John describes a feeling of being pounded by energy felt in his upper body and head. He relates it to Karma as punishment energy.

We spend some time breathing, relaxing, and getting centered. We return our attention to the Judge and place him in front of John so we can continue our conversation and understand him better. 

Judge: Karma is streaming energy that you can’t escape and can’t avoid. You have to be punished. 

Ask:  Why does he have to be punished?

Judge: It’s a rule. 

Ask:  Who’s rule is this? 

Judge:   It’s my rule, and I learned this rule from the catholic and spiritual teachings and karma.

Ask: Why is there such a rule?  

Judge:  It helps others and improves the world. If you are bad you will be punished and suffer.  If you are good you can be happy. 

Ask? Do you want me to be happy?  

Judge? Yes, but just after you made others happy. Your happiness is dependent on others being happy. 

Ask: Are you making me happy?   

Judge: NO.  

Ask: Are you making me unhappy and miserable?    

Judge: YES. I’m making you miserable.

Ask: What is your karma for that?     

Judge:  If he does his job well, he gets good karma. 

I point out to John that the Judge has avoided the question so we ask again. 

Ask:  I’m miserable. You are making me miserable, and so what is YOUR karma for that? 

Judge: After a long pause, Bad karma.

 The Judge realizes that his actions in how he is treating John are now being questioned and judged. This is the first time the Judge has considered there might be karma or consequences for his actions. We let that realization settle on the Judge for a while

Judge realizes his motivations and actions are mixed between good and bad. 

The Judge returns with new justifications.

Judge: I  make John unhappy in order to make more people healthier and happier. 

I point out to John that the Judge has reworked his story to justify making John miserable. It’s rationalizing hurting John so others can be happy. 

Ask: Is it okay to make a man suffer so others can be happier?

 Judge:  ignores the question

Even if the question isn’t answered, in the Judge’s silence there is an acknowledgement that it is not okay. We let that realization soak into the Judge’s awareness as well.

We ask the questions again and let the quiet reflection of the Judge happen. The Judge is now perhaps realizing that he should act in a way that receives good karma. 

Ask: Is it your goal to help someone be happy?  

Judge: Yes 

Ask: Who are you helping to be happy. ?  

Judge:  Customers.  

Ask:  But customers have so many things in their lives that one water filter product doesn’t matter to their overall happiness. It’s a small thing to them. 

We don’t validate what the Judge has said about the product determining customer happiness, and therefore, John doesn’t believe the Judge. We won’t believe the Judge’s logic of making people happy with water filters will work, or that John could be responsible for others’ happiness this way. 

  The Judge feels caught.  

The Judge sees that the story doesn’t work for John, and doesn’t believe it himself. 

The Judge is contemplating and seemingly scrambling for power and control over John. 

I have John breathe, relax, and just be present and observe the gyrations the Judge is going through as it processes new realizations, its own Karma, and conflicting goals. 

The stack of agreements is falling apart.  John had to make others happy, but a good water filter isn’t enough to make another person happy. So now the Judge doesn’t have leverage with this narrative to make John feel like a failure. 

The Judge is looking for a way to strengthen himself with this karma story and make a strong case against John, but it is not used to being in this position. It has ridden the same construct of a story for years and doesn’t know how to adapt and grab a new issue so quickly. 

After some gyrations of the Judge, we press exploring further.

Ask:  How are you caught?  

  • We ask this question to reflect to the Judge that we see and acknowledge his confusion, feelings, and lack of credibility. 

The Judge has a collapsing energy as he sees his story is not being received. John does not believe that it is a path to making others happy or that he needs to do it to be good. 

I have John acknowledge the Judge’s good intentions without validating his approach. 

Acknowledge: Thank you for trying to help me be good, but making me miserable doesn’t make me good.  

The Judge is still invested in making John “good,” but we can’t do it this way. 

Acknowledge: We need to find a different way.

After some time. 

Judge: You are right because I see it doesn’t lead anywhere. I just destroy you, your mind, your health, and your relationships. Finding and fighting problems to help invisible people you don’t know isn’t the way.   I understand it is your nature to have a very loving and kind heart, and I just make you confused and unhappy.

The Judge is quiet, self-reflective. It is aware that what it has been doing was with good intent, but it was destructive.  There is a feeling of remorse with the Judge about his efforts.  Also a sense of confusion about having done what it has done and not knowing what to do next. 

Because of time, this is our stopping point for the day.

The Judge is just one of the voices in our head. Behind it are beliefs that it operates by.  It has beliefs that it is okay to talk to us this way and that we deserve to be punished and miserable. What is interesting is how these beliefs change when we hold our attention to these lies with scrutiny and awareness that they are not true. This is an advanced method to inventory your beliefs and change them. The Judge, or Inner Critic as commonly called, and the beliefs it operates by are just part of the Ego.

This sample of how to identify and change beliefs shows that we must go beyond trying to change the thought or judgment itself. We must also go past the voice in our head that voices the thought, which in this case is the Judge character. For deep change, we need to get to the belief level.