Tips, Tools & Tactics to Address the Pathological Critic

anxiety pathologic critic tools and tactics Jul 06, 2021

Key Points:

1. The pathological critic is a term coined by psychologist Eugene Sagan to describe the negative inner voice that attacks you.
2. Your pathological critic is trying to convey something important to you. Take some time to objectively assess the message that it's communicating, and while you’re doing this, remember that a thought is just a thought.
3. Over time, all of these tactics will help you adopt more authentic actions, and eventually dial back the intensity of negative self-talk.


Here are five actions that can help tame the pathological critic.

Action 1: Become Familiar with Your Pathological Critic.

When a negative thought arises, ask yourself: Is this thought fact? If you answer - yes - that it is true, then ask yourself how you know this to be true, how and when did you take on this criticism, and how it's influenced you since adopting it. Ask yourself, & what evidence do I have that supports this thought to be true?

If you discover that the thought is not true, i.e., a false statement, then you've just put the pathological critic in its place.


Action 2: Personifying the Pathological Critic.

Personifying is about assigning a unique name to the inner critic that you’ve identified. This serves to separate yourself from the pathological critic and observe the critical dialogue from an objective viewpoint.

For example, you can name your pathological critic something sharp or funny and every time you notice it acting up, you can imagine yourself patting it on the head and telling it to sit down and shut the hell up.


Action 3: Separate Yourself from the Pathological Critic

Creating an objective perspective of your thoughts allows you to separate yourself from your cognitions. Use the following tactic to objectify a negative statement. 

Critical statement: I'm no good at talking to strangers at parties. I'm a loser.
Objective statement: I'm having thoughts that I'm not adept at meeting or talking to people I don't know. I'm imaging that I'm not competent.

These thoughts are simply thoughts and are not true.

Action 4: Rebuttal Your Pathological Critic with Self-Compassion.

Not only can you reframe and objectify all the negative self-dialogue, but you can turn it on its head and use it to your advantage. Use the following tactic to positively reframe a negative statement. 

Critical statement: I'm no good at talking to strangers at parties. I'm a loser.
Reframed statement: Going to parties where there are lots of people you don't know, is difficult for a lot of folks. It might be a bit awkward to begin with, but I'll find my groove and have fun.

Action 5: Don't let the Pathologic Critic Dictate Your Actions.

When you recognize a critical statement, ask yourself, what would I do (behavior), and then make a choice that opposes the action that you would otherwise take.


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