“In an exercise on contacting the inner critic, I felt my inner critic as a physical sensation...”

Is the tightness in your chest giving you wise inner guidance? Or something else? Read on…

John writes:

In an exercise on contacting the inner critic, I felt my inner critic as a physical sensation (a tightness in my chest just below my throat). Now I’m confused. I wonder how I can distinguish between a felt sense that is guiding me and the sensation of an inner critic.

Dear John:

I understand why you’d ask that question. At first glance, it seems as if the Focusing process tells us that any body sensation is the “wisdom of the body.”

But that’s not true, is it? We get many body sensations, for all kinds of reasons. Not all of them have wise guidance for us. That’s why Gene Gendlin coined the term “felt sense” — to point to a very special kind of body sense.

A felt sense that is guiding us is quiet, calm, like a little whisper. An inner knowing. It isn’t anxious or insistent and it doesn’t clamp, clutch, or block us.

Yes, we do get other kinds of body sensations. Feeling an inner critic as a body tightness is quite common. We might feel other strong feelings in the body: sadness, dread, upset.

In Inner Relationship Focusing, we accept all feelings. We have a process of acceptance and empathy where any feeling can open up a forward life process.

If you know that the tightness you feel is an inner critic, you can say to it, “Might you be worried about what would happen if you didn’t tighten me like that?” It’s often worried about us feeling something, saying something, or doing something.

When other, more insistent parts calm down, then we are able to feel the quiet whisper of the felt sense underneath… the deep inner knowing of what is right for our lives.

Note: Tightness in the chest could be a heart attack signal. Please check with your medical professional if you are not sure.

Would you like more help working with inner critics?

We have a free video course that can help. Click here to sign up.

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