E,  Happiness,  Inner Critic

Is Your Inner Critic Unsupervised?

What's under the surface?

Many of us grew up with the story of the Titanic — an unexpected and tragic encounter between an elegant, state-of-the-art, transcontinental luxury ship and… ice.

Here’s the thing about large, unsupervised chunks of floating ice —  what you see is not what you get.  The part at the surface is only a small part of the whole. Apparently it’s the part that’s not visible that creates disaster.

[Tweet “Apparently it’s the part that’s not visible that leads to disaster.“]

Isn’t that a lot like certain parts of our lives? There’s what we see and then there’s the rest — which is often a whole lot bigger. That’s certainly true of our brains: the rational part is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s probably OK to not know about ALL of the rest. Where things get dicey is when we pretend that what we see is all there is.

Many people use the iceberg image to talk about the unconscious. I’m not that fancy: I like to think about it in terms of unawareness.

[Tweet “Many people use the iceberg image to talk about the unconscious.“]

So, if the dangerous part of our lives or our thinking are the parts we don’t see, what can be done? The first step is becoming willing to become aware. Take a look at this cycle and see how it feels to you.

I feel stressed.  I have a lot of information about self-care, but I haven’t been applying it.  Recognizing that makes me feel more stressed because I now add “guilt feelings” to the pile. “I should know better,” you say to yourself.  The ache in the pit of your stomach gets stronger. You call yourself a nasty name.  Your palms start to sweat.

Familiar? Yuck! You don’t want to feel like that. So what can you do?

The good news is there are lots of things we can do to better manage stress and most of them start with awareness.

[Tweet “Our Inner Critic gives us an edge, tossing us a whole range of physical cues long before we are consciously aware.“]

Becoming more aware does not have to be complicated and, when it comes to stress, our Inner Critic gives us an edge, tossing us a whole range of physical cues long before we are consciously aware.

So the first step to avoiding a tragic encounter with a “giant chunk of ice” is to increase body awareness. From scheduled stretch breaks to regular, brief, head to toe scans checking for tension and temperature. Are you tired or hungry?

Using the “conscious brain” to notice physical signs of anxiety or stress allow us the opportunity to take the next step… to check in with ourselves about other types of stress and maybe manage to avoid a collision with an iceberg!

Do you have any advice for increasing body awareness to decrease stress? Hints for making peace with the noise in your head? Please share them in the comments section.


Increased boy awareness can help turn that Inner Critic into an ally. The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten is now on Amazon.

Let’s connect on social media.


  • stacy

    Yep, you got me! I know what to do, yet often get caught up in time constraints and don’t….then feel guilty! When this happens I do stop everything and take a few minutes to just sit and breathe deeply until my shoulders relax & my stomach unravels.

  • Josee

    Great article Andrea. Spending much time at a computer most of the day, I’ve learned to stop every two hours, get up, walk away and stretch and breath deeply for at 10 minutes or so. That alone creates great body awareness.

    • Andrea

      Josee — I just learned something interesting about this very thing. Apparently, prolonged sitting shortens our psoas muscle. When we are preparing to “flee” that’s one of the muscles that tightens so we can run faster. Evidently, the shortening caused by prolonged sitting sends a signal to the brain, telling it we should run. And when we don’t get the message? More anxiety. Interesting, no?

  • Kelley Grimes

    Our inner critic is the biggest thief of peace and joy and thus incredibly important to bring our awareness to. I teach and use a process called the arriving technique where I stop and bring my full attention to sitting in a chair, breathing and knowing I am breathing, then I check in with sensations in my body, then with my thoughts with curiosity and non-judgment and then breathe in three more times saying I breathe into this moment, I have arrived!

  • Debra Reble

    I know when my inner critic is at work when I experience my voice change to a higher pitch. It usually means that something is going on underneath the surface that is unkind or belittling and I feel like a chastised little kid. Thank you Andrea for sharing you wisdom and your light! Blessings

    • Andrea

      I’m intrigued by the way theInner Critic shows up for people. The change in pitch is a new one on me. I wonder if it is also related to the dry mouth that goes along with a flight or fight mechanism.

  • Maggie Chula

    When I realize my body is tensing up, I check in on my feelings to help guide me. I do a check in often to “see” how I feel about something. To clear my energy and thoughts I do a few simple energy exercises throughout the day. I stop the flow of my thoughts by placing my tongue on the upper palate of my mouth right by my front teeth, taking three deep breathes as I consciously connect to the energy I am bringing into my body, and then shake out my arms and legs. It totally restarts my mind and I am back in control.

  • Dina Overland

    I so agree with you! Those feelings of guilt and overwhelm creep in just when we need to ease into self-love and self-care. That’s why I created a self-care list for myself with all my favorite things to do for myself when I’m feeling stressed, anxious, sad, or just “off.” It’s not a super long list and it’s not complicated steps – it includes thing like take deep breaths, hold my favorite crystals, journal, stretch – but it’s exactly the things that I need to stop myself for a second and reconnect with my Soul. Gratefully, it works like a charm every time 🙂

  • Rachel

    I see inner critics as misinformation. They are trying to protect is from things we don’t need protecting from anymore and actually blocking happiness health and success from coming in. I love the use of body awareness as an effective way to reclaim ourselves 🙂

  • Minette

    Self care is showing up everywhere as a theme for me today and I loved your analogies and suggestions. I do need to remember to check in regularly. It’s easy for me to take on a lot of stress and not even notice until I am wiped out. Thanks for the gentle reminders about why it matters and why I matter 🙂

  • Sheila Callaham

    Wow! What an important message to pay attention to our body signals. I ignored them for too long — fortunately, the body is an amazing instrument and I am slowly healing. Thanks for sharing such a powerful post.

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