How To Understand And Control Your Inner Chat - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

We all have one—an inner critic that can easily match and likely exceed anything negative that anyone else might have to say about us. Think of it as the mental version of a racist person; it’s absolutely convinced that everything it says is true, but it’s looking through a profoundly distorted lens that shows a very different picture than what everyone else sees. 

Your Inner Critic 

How strong is your inner critic? The Compassionate Mind Foundation has a Forms of Self- Criticising/Attacking & Self-Reassuring Scale that you can try out to get a better idea. 

Here are a few questions to help you reflect on your inner critic. 

In what way do you believe you are most flawed? 

How do you treat yourself with respect to those flaws? 

Are there certain contexts in which you are the least likely to tolerate your flaws? 

What happens in your mind and body when your inner critic starts getting louder? 

Write a job description for your self-critic 

• How many hours is it expected to work per week? 

• Key responsibilities: 1)...   2)...   3)... 

• Job duties: 1)...   2)...   3)... 

• What skills is it expected to have? 

Questions to challenge your inner critic 

How would you feel if someone close to you had the same flaws you identify in yourself? How would you treat them? 

How do you treat your own failure compared to the same failure by someone you are close to? 

Is your evaluation of others’ status and successes relative to your own realistic? 

Self-Talk About Emotions 

We often have ideas we carry around with us about how we should feel and should manage our emotions. This concept is not unique to ACT; emotion myths are also covered in dialectical behaviour therapy. Some common thoughts about feelings are: 

• Happiness is the natural state for all human beings. 

• If you’re not happy, you’re defective. 

• To create a better life, you must get rid of negative feelings. 

• You should be able to control how you think/feel. 

• It’s not okay to remember unpleasant things. 

• My emotions can harm me. 

What feeling rules are you trying to hold yourself to? 

What would it take to create some wiggle room around these feeling rules? 


The inner critic can feed into a sense of shame, which in turn is associated with an array of negative mental health effects. Shame can involve thoughts, bodily sensations, urges, and memories. High levels of shame are associated with increased PTSD symptoms, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and self-harm. 

What’s the difference between shame and guilt? Guilt is focused on an action or situation that didn’t go well. Shame is a negative appraisal and devaluation of the self. 

In ACT, work on shame includes: 

• acceptance of that part of the self that feels broken 

• building awareness of negative self-evaluations by being present in the moment 

• defusing from the self-critical talk 

• approaching self-stories more flexibly, and recognizing the fusion you may have with these stories you’ve created 

• identifying values and make sure those values (e.g. empathy) are being applied to the self 

• cultivating self-compassion and a care-taking approach 

• taking committed action towards genuine values rather than whatever your self-critic is telling you that you need to do


Pritam Chakraborty

As I was moving through life, I occasionally saw brief glimpses of beauty.

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