• Loraine Van Tuyl
  • Inner Critic Rehab: 6 Key Steps for Unlocking your inner Creator
Inner Critic Rehab: 6 Key Steps for Unlocking your inner Creator

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.   

                                               - Rumi

What if our inner critic is nothing more than a locked up inner Creator?                     - Loraine Van Tuyl

Over the past two decades, I have spent thousands of hours tackling what I consider to be one of the most rampant crises in modern society - contagious and parasitic inner critics who latch onto our subtle energy bodies and drain us from the inside out.

It doesn't seem to matter if they remain behind the scenes or end up front and center on our life's main stage. Either way, most inner critics run - and often ruin - "the show," working around the clock at this goal even when we are asleep.  Because they never tire or sleep, they do far more damage to our entire system than we realize or would normally put up with.

Why is that? What's in our collective blindspot that we can't look in the eye?  Are we so terrified of sounding weird or different that we force ourselves to believe that the emperor is wearing clothes?  If so, it explains our confusion, unable to see that this adamant part of ourselves that relentlessly advocates for our "best" interests, is our inner critic.  It censors and imprisons us into a cramped, stifling cell, and hopes that we will never drag it out in the light.

We give our inner critics tremendous benefit of the doubt, even when they are screaming in our face.  A little bit of scratching under the surface reveals the reasons why. These brutal whip crackers are able to convince us that they are "helping" us shape up and adapt to our external circumstances, often reminding us of the reprimands and patterns that were cracked on our psyches and skin by the time we were ten, some of us much younger.  We learned to uphold all these old contracts with our inner critics, handing over big bucks -sometimes our entire "life savings"-  to these suckers posing as our bodyguards.


1. Detecting and unmasking the Inner Critic

By taking a hard look inward, we learn to detect and unmask the different faces and sly tactics of these pesky gremlins, bullies, demons, know-it-alls, monsters, leeches, introjects, fuckers, snobs, creeps, shadow parts, black holes, which are just a few of the many endearing names that these dubious energy hogs have been called in my practice.

Despite studying their moves for years, it's still nearly impossible for me to sum up in a one-size-fits-all formula how to disarm these frauds that behave like moving targets.  There is one thing I'm pretty sure of.  Inner critics have perpetuated, perhaps even started, our current epidemic of soul loss, the common denominator beneath a bleak outlook on life, a distorted sense of self, high reactivity to others and situations, and everyday anxiety and depression. They justify the full range of our "normal" narcissistic delusions, and produce the blaring voices underneath more severe episodes of "mental illness."

If you have a loud and feisty inner critic, you may notice how eager it is to shoot me down or shoot whatever I have to offer you down so that you won't be able to unshackle and release it. Within a blink of an eye, it will give you ten reasons why THAT wouldn't work for you, why that doesn't apply to you, or is something that you already tried and will only remind you that you are a miserable, no-good failure, unable to make anything happen and sucking you dry the moment you give in and give up. 

Your inner critic loves it when you kick yourself down (especially when you are already down), so you don't realize that you can use your anger to dust yourself off and get back on your feet. Even if you do realize it, your inner critic will make sure that you don't have the energy to do it, keeping you on a steady drip of bullcrap and inertia. Not having it? Then, ah huh, the 12 X 12 inches of ground underneath your nose can serve as your patch of the planet and your batch of bravery to reclaim right now in this moment.  Yeah, really. 


2. Preventing yourself from becoming an Ideal Host

What kinds of hosts do inner critics love to invade? One who is alive and kicking, but not clear, cohesive, and strong enough to unravel and dissolve the dis-ease causing agent that creates havoc within. The more unaware and/or intentionally (or unintentionally) invested we are in remaining helpless victims of our minds, emotions, bodies, traumatic past, and circumstances, the more likely that we remain foggy, numb, split, powerless, and unconscious of our true nature and potential.  And the deeper and wider our inner critic groove becomes.

We are invited each step of the way to reclaim our power, to reinvent our self as we go. Our suffering isn't permission to sit back and wait for a rescue team to lift us up and transport us to higher ground. Our suffering is an invitation to identify our core needs and deepest longings, practice spiritual grit, and learn to trust and work alongside others as we continue to dig our way out of our own dark pits.

Why do we need to work that hard when we are already exhausted, beaten down? Because our inner critics are trapping us into a hologram of horror, and trying to bait our rescuers with painful pleas. Conscious, intentional effort need to outweigh any rescue effort, or the whole operation will avalanche, especially when working with inner critics in epic battles that are intense and timeless, involving big chi and big potential.


3. Practicing fierce compassion as the antidote

Clarity and compassion for the inner critic's function and purpose need to burn more fiercely to effectively transform it into an inner Creator and shepherd it with a bright torch out of darkness.

Understanding that our inner critics are savvy, smart badasses, bootcamped and hazed by our rational ego-minds has helped me to work with some of the most facetious and slippery inner critics around. These inner critics tend to balk at intuitive and spiritual wisdom, and believe that airy-fairy sweet talk only spins flimsy safety nets out of cotton-candy. Candid and astute, they have their index and middle fingers on the pulse of the "real" world of business, economics, career/financial success, sex appeal, and politics, and are driven by facts and hard data that produce results and positive output. They have the chops, looks, and muscles to outwit the sophisticated and psychological dangers of modern society, and they are as upgraded as our latest hand-held device.

They are heralded as heroes for rearing their daring, confident heads in today's brutal and competitive arenas, and therefore are utterly convinced that they, and only they, have our backs. They know exactly how to help us succeed and remain safe in modern life. If they are into esoteric wisdom, they broadcast it from their high-horse. They wouldn't fathom getting down to feel what it's really like to walk in our shoes, because that would only deter their lofty mission in getting us closer to becoming our "ideal" superhuman, soulless self.  

They keep us in line, move us from Point A to Point B, and prevent us from embracing unnecessary detours by thinking of them as pilgrimages. No no no. Their most important job is to prevent us from ever wasting our precious T-I-M-E on soul yearnings that have no value in contemporary society, scouting and strategizing our path at least a dozen steps ahead for us.

Who wouldn't want that kind of valiant protector and competent go-getter by their side, you may be thinking until you realize that, wow, that sounds like my father, my mother, my boss, my adviser, my [fill in the blank]. Most of the time, our inner critic sounds like some kind of authority figure(s) or "system" in our life that promises to absolve the looming existential angst that gnaws at us in the far corners of barren institutions and in the achy, spiritual voids of modern-day society, an existential angst that had began gnawing at our entrails and soul ever since we were born, heck, long before we were born, gnawing through our ancestral lines, gnawing through the collective conscious and unconscious energy that recycles through each of us.

Don't be fooled by appearances. The more helpless we appear on the outside, the more monstrous, big, and energized our inner critics are on the inside. As I said before, our inner critics wear many different masks and chameleon into whatever they need to in order to stay on top of us and our lives.

Many, if not most of our wounds - inherited from real, virtual, and mythical battles still raging behind, all around, and above us - are accompanied by clever remedies (the coping strategies of the inner critic) to cover up the hurt and neglect that still fester in them like pus. 


4. Boosting your immunity to inner criticism

Overempathize with the wound and partial solutions without having done your own healing work, and voila, meet your newest ringleader or side kick. Just like an airborne virus, they jump ship and infect us when we are not actively boosting our immune system.  We can end up collecting an entire posse of them, requiring just as big of an army of spiritual guides and warriors to dismantle them.

Our inner critics are super sophisticated and brilliant in their dodging abilities.  They hate feeling vulnerable and squishy on the inside, and when that's the case, some of us focus all of our critique on others to give ourselves a break from their constant interrogations.  Our inner critics are masters in pointing out the flaws in others to remind us of all the ways in which we are ok, even better than the rest.  That way, we don't risk revealing our heart and soul to others, nor need to face how much we have twisted and contorted around our deepest pain.

Especially if we are leaders, and resort to some of these tactics because we can't bare the thought of confronting our unhealed wounds, it's imperative to understand our impact on others and attempt to break this insidious cycle anyway. If not for ourselves, for the greater good. None of us are immune to catching this bug that can only be expelled with conscious and intentional practice.

As much as it feels at times as if we are spinning randomly in a spiritual vacuum, we are not. This is what the empty wind under our inner critic's wings feels like, making it more enticing for us to forget how and where to land so we won't regain a firm foothold and renewed spiritual traction. Instead, we fall deeper into hopelessness and despair, latching onto notions like,There is so much awry in today's world. And because there is so much awry, I have no choice but to be beaten down too. Because I was and could be every single person who was once beaten down, how dare I scream, Who gives a fuck about them? I need help!

How do we shed our survivor guilt when we feel like we are better off than everyone around us? When we feel as if we are dropping ourselves if we let go? How do we reclaim our sanity and well-being, and allow our rage to infuse our cries that we are sick and tired of being sick and tired until every single cell in our bodies means it and transforms?

We tried before, but failed, we say, and hate ourselves more for needing to succumb to all the inner demons and critics within us, feeding them heaps of self-loathing and powerlessness. And down and down and down we fall into the abyss.  

Don't believe I've been there? Well, you are wrong. We all recognize this, because we have all been there. Some of us are just better at disowning and locking the hardest truths about ourselves high up in a tower or deep down in some gnarly cave.

Regardless, we can all still throw a wrench into our private hamster wheel at any time, even in one as big as a black hole. By defiantly reclaiming and planting our current two feet back on the ground, we give our soul a chance to settle in and root back into the earth.


5. Reconnecting to the healing power of the earth  

Rooting back into the earth reconnects us to our true nature, the indigenous part of ourselves that mixes our blood and bone marrow with red, sticky mud, the part of ourselves that is impossible to eradicate and intoxicate with all of our modern-day drugs and seductive addictions, as much as we are fooled to think so.

Our preoccupation with ourselves naturally fade when we demote our inner know-it-all, who is literally railing against the galactic center, our embodiment of the Source, for having done it all wrong.  As much as we may have hated the night in the past for giving our inner boogey men free reign to torment us, our attention will one day shift to the magical dance between the sun, moon, and the earth as they softly hush all the creatures and tree fairies to sleep to resume their mighty tasks the next day.

And suddenly, as our inner bully gets closer to the ground, we realize that there has never ever been a day in the history of our solar system when the night wasn't followed by the light of day (unless you are lucky enough to live in Alaska, where there are exceptions to every rule).

It starts to dawn on us that our hatred for all that we imagine is wrong with us, with others, our situation, and the world, are motivated by ego-maniac attempts to tamper with and change timeless laws of nature.  They will begin to fizzle and dissolve in a growing humility and awe when we accept defeat and make room for something much grander and more mysterious than our blown up ego-minds.  Then one fine morning, we let ourselves be picked up and woven back into a warm, sacred tapestry, and do it so naturally, it appears as if we've done this our whole lives.

And then what? How do we survive in this freaking world, this world full of freaks. Are we not to ever criticize? To get upset and resist what's wrong, to fight for what's right? Of course not. The key is to extract the harmful judgment out of our observations and discern with fierce compassion and equanimity what is really going on. And admit that we are not that different than the freaks who scare us. 


6. Activating the solutions in your soul's blueprint

We can cure our own freakishness even when others haven't extracted their inner demons out of their systems yet.  We can gracefully twirl around our inner bull or whisper into the ears of our inner wild horse until we've tamed them. Our souls are coded with the answers implanted in our psyches like time-released capsules, unmanifested gifts of guidance waiting for our signal. Wholeheartedly embracing our unique challenges and reaching out for help is the key that unlocks and activates them.

Practicing equanimity builds our tolerance muscles so that we can intuitively and accurately read a self-administered X-ray or MRI assessment of our own energetic body. By embracing and embodying the truth of who we are in this moment through the help of mindful walks, meditation, contemplation, genuine connection with others, journaling, journeying, yoga, and the like, we momentarily stop splitting ourselves, our wounded parts, and our reality into good and bad, and stop begging our inner critic to come to our rescue so we can problem-solve.

In time, our judgment of ourselves and others, our need to compare and compete, and constantly feed our narcissistic superior and inferior selves yo-yo thoughts will lose its appeal, indicating that our raw, infected wound buried deep in our psyche is healing. 

Celebrate yourself when this moment arrives.  Give yourself space for creative expression, lather yourself with validation, bask in authentic intimacy so that you too will no longer pass that wounded, stunted buck along, with inner critic and all.

This renewed integrity will eventually become the shining Light that catalyzes what truly is in our best interest and will, paradoxically, also energize the best in our loved ones, our communities, the planet, and the cosmos through a sacred, invisible web of life that we can never ever not be a part of. 


Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, is a holistic psychologist, spiritual teacher, and shamanic healer at 

www.theSacredHealingWell.com  Also connect with her here: 




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  • Loraine Van Tuyl

    Thank you, Shelah!  Shamanic work is powerful! Most effective way I know of to get that inner Creator out of the cage : )

  • Shelah L. Maul

    Hi Loraine! Thank you for a lovely post! This article really resounded with me, such great insights. I love that quote from Rumi and also have done some work with a shamanic healer here in Frederick, Maryland. Best to you! :) XO Shelah