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Section 6
Adolescent Self-Criticism

Question 6 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed the technique Identifying the Critic There are four steps in Identifying the Critic.  These four steps were:  hearing the internal voice; recognizing its presence;  monitoring the voice; and determining emotional feedback.

In this section, we will explore distinct ways for teens with oppositional defiant disorder to Destroy the Critic.  These methods include:  unmasking the purpose; talking back; and rendering the critic useless. As you recall, in Identifying the Inner Critic we learned how the critic is present in a teen’s life.

3 Techniques to Destroy the Critic
In the last section, you met Josie who was being influenced by her own father’s drive for perfection.  After identifying that her father, Randall, was being manifested in her critic, Josie was ready to annihilate her inner critic with Randall’s help.  In this section, we will expand this developing communication skill.

♦ Technique #1. Unmasking the Critic’s Purpose
The first step to destroy the critic permanently is unmasking the critic’s purpose.  I asked 17 year old Josie to look beyond the consequences of her critic and try to uncover the motives behind the critic’s statements.  For Josie, this meant analyzing her own social incompetence. 

She stated, "I recently have had trouble at school with friends.  Actually, I don’t have very many.  I just recently realized that I was comparing myself to my friends.  I had to be as good at basketball, or be the president of NHS, or captain of the speech team.  There was no room for second place.  I realize now that that was my critic talking, telling me to work harder.  At some point, I realized I could not work any harder.  If I did, I would kill myself." 

Randall, her father, took part in unmasking her critic.  He stated, "I know when she’s stressed.  It’s easy to tell.  She gets really irritable, so when I see that, I’m thinking ‘Critic’s talking again.’  I sit down with her and we both go through her feelings and activities together."  As you can see, her father is taking an active role in repairing the damage his own drive for perfection has done to his oppositional defiant teen.

♦ Technique #2. Talking Back, 3 Methods
The second step to Destroy the Critic is talking back.  I explained to Josie that there are three methods in talking back.  The first method is called Motivational Mantras.  This method entails selected words or phrases to set the tone. 

A. Mantras
The teen should develop ways to come back to the critic in phrases such as  "These are lies," "Shut up!" or even "Screw you, asshole."  The teen client, after choosing a mantra, yells them internally when he or she hears the inner critic.  While these phrases are going on, an action should be brought about externally to help the teen stop the critic.  For instance, a teen client could grit his or her teeth.  This action also helps to represent inner determination and help Destroy the Critic.  Josie decided to adopt her favorite mantra, "Shove it."  She stated, "I actually say this to girls on the opposing team who are hassling me.  It usually works."

B. Asking the Price
The second method in talking back is Asking the Price.  I explained to Josie that she could ask herself, "What price do you pay for the critic’s attacks?"  In other words, What is the price for pushing yourself beyond your limits, feeling anxious around people,  or constantly thinking that other people do not like you?  Josie would talk back to her critic by saying, "You’re costing me friends, a boyfriend, and my happiness.  I can’t afford you!"  By counting his or her losses, I find that a teenage client is more willing to give up the negative thoughts.

C. Affirmation of Worth
A third method of "talking back" is affirmation of worth.  Affirmation of worth is essential for the technique of talking back to Destroy the Critic.  While Motivational Mantras and Asking the Price are important, the critic will return time and time again unless affirmation of worth is developed.  Josie stated, "The critic used to make me feel worthless.  I have come to find out that the critic is made to make you feel that way.  The critic makes you believe you have no value." 

Her father, Randall, also helped Josie in this step by encouraging her and helping her discover her own uniqueness.  Randall stated, "I tried to instill in Josie that her value is determined by her experiences and decisions.  Achievement has nothing to do with your worth."  Josie continues telling me one thing she tells herself each day, "Ok, I'm not better when I put others down.  Lashing out at my teacher won't make him like me." 

Although Josie says she still has anger issues, she also states, "I can see when I'm letting my anger go too far.  Sometimes I can't control it, but I know afterwards what I did wrong."  Think of your Josie.  Could he or she benefit from a parental encouragement in affirming his or her worth?

♦ Technique #3 - Rendering the Critic Useless
In addition to unmasking and talk back, the third and final way to Destroy the Critic is rendering the critic useless.  It is not enough to just understand the function of your critic.  As you know, to truly help a teen, you must get them to render the critic useless.  This entails putting into practice all the steps discussed before, all in an attempt to drown out the inner critic. 

Also, it entails getting the client to realize that the critic is not needed to achieve.  Through this exercise, I attempt to motivate Josie to reevaluate her personal goals to realistically fit her needs, learn to see herself the way she is, challenge old beliefs, and to find new motivators. As Josie continues to fight her critic, she will be more capable of controlling her outbursts.

The next time you have a depressed teen in counseling, I recommend using the Destroying the Critic Technique and the three ways outlined to Destroy the Critic.  Recall the three ways to Destroy the Critic are Unmasking the purpose, talking back, and rendering the critic useless.

- Chai, Z., & Lieberman-Betz, R. (Mar/Apr, 2016). Strategies for Helping Parents of Young Children Address Challenging Behaviors in the Home. Teaching Exceptional Children, 48(4), 186-194.

In the next section, we will discuss four exercises in which to engage compassion in a teen’s life.  These four exercises are Video Encounter, Active Listening, Compassion for Things Past, and Compassion Mediation. 
Reviewed 2023

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Gadassi Polack, R., Everaert, J., Uddenberg, C., Kober, H., & Joormann, J. (2021). Emotion regulation and self-criticism in children and adolescence: Longitudinal networks of transdiagnostic risk factors. Emotion, 21(7), 1438–1451.

Fosco, G. M., Lippold, M., & Feinberg, M. E. (2014). Interparental boundary problems, parent–adolescent hostility, and adolescent–parent hostility: A family process model for adolescent aggression problems. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 3(3), 141–155.

Høstmælingen, A., Ulvenes, P., Nissen-Lie, H. A., Eielsen, M., & Wampold, B. E. (2021). Trajectories of change in chronic depression: Differences in self-criticism and somatic symptoms between users of antidepressants and nonmedicated patients. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 

Kopala-Sibley, D. C., Klein, D. N., Perlman, G., & Kotov, R. (2017). Self-criticism and dependency in female adolescents: Prediction of first onsets and disentangling the relationships between personality, stressful life events, and internalizing psychopathology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(8), 1029–1043.

Martin, M. J., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., & Gutierrez, G. (2019).
Attachment behavior and hostility as explanatory factors linking parent–adolescent conflict and adolescent adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(5), 586–596.

What are the three ways to Destroy the Critic? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 7
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