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I will not run away from "me".

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Why you need to get to know your inner critic.

(Part 3 of the Heal with ACT series).

How have you been dealing with your struggles?

What has led you to being "stuck" in your present situation?

In the previous post of this series, I introduced you briefly to the concept of Cognitive Fusion and how we often get fused to our thoughts and beliefs.

We believe that they come from "us", and since they come from us, they seem very real.

But we also gave a name to this particular inner voice that we struggle with - we called this the "inner critic" - the voice that is sometimes harsh, sometimes anxious, sometimes angry, and a lot of the time, whispers all sorts of negative things about ourselves and other people.

We also took a few moments to do a little practice - to start writing down some of the thoughts and beliefs ushered by this inner critic.

That's because the first step to healing is always to cultivate a deeper awareness of ourselves.

And in this article, I hope to bring you to an even deeper awareness of the negative ways we've come to cope with our struggles. So, let's turn back to the question I posed at the start of this article:

"How have you been dealing with your struggles?"

In other words, "How have you been dealing with you inner critic?".

I'm willing to bet that the answer is this.

That you tried your best to get rid of it - to run away, fight, suppress, argue, rationalise and to make it go away.

You tried to run away from you.

This inner critic may not be you per se, but it is a part of you.

Since it is a part of you, how is it possible for us to keep running away from it?

I don't know about you, but I sure tried to that for most of my life. I tried to argue with it, make it go quiet. I tried to show it that I am possible of beating it.

Still, no matter how far I got, it was always there, quietly conspiring the next negative tale of me.

You know it as much as I do - our thoughts, emotions and fears will always catch up to us. They will not go away on its own as much as we try.

In a way, we've really been struggling with ourselves haven't we?

We struggle with the part of us that we've come to detest, hate or even loathe. I mean, nothing really odd about that. It has made our lives pretty miserable.

And in saying so, I go back to what I said as the start of this series - that it's not your fault you are stuck. You did what you had to. You did what you could.

And it is perfectly natural for us to want to run away from the things that make us scared, anxious, sad and miserable.

It's called "Fighting and Flighting", and sometimes "Freezing" too.

What would you do if your microwave caught on fire? What would you do if you came across a wild boar, or if it's late at night and you crossed paths with an angry ranting drunk.

In those cases, facing these very real threats will naturally issue your body and mind to release a dose of Adrenaline, giving you strength and heightened awareness, and preparing you for the age-old option to Fight or Flight.

Take the example of the microwave on fire - we can fight it by dousing it off with wet rug, or we run away when the fire gets to much to handle. After all, our life is at stake.

At other times, we might also find ourselves automatically Freezing.

Take another example of someone being pinned down by a big Alaskan bear. There isn't very much you can do, except maybe for playing dead. We remain still and hope and pray that it'll let go of us after awhile when it thinks we are finally dead.

Yet, the microwave, the boar, the drunk and the bear are all examples of external threats in our environment.

These threats are all ones that we can see, feel and touch, run away from and fiddle around with in our environment around us. They are all things we can actually physically do something about.

Fight, flight, freeze are all evolutionarily ingrained responses that our body automatically shifts to when we encounter such threats.

Yet the question is this - What about internal threats or problems? Ones that we can't really see or run away from or try to physically fight. Ones that only exist in our own minds?

How do we deal with an inner critic that makes us think and feel a certain way? Our thoughts, emotions and beliefs aren't things that we punch or make it go away right?

Well, actually the truth is, we tend to do the same.

This is how we try to fight and run away from ourselves.


  • Arguing with our own thoughts, e.g. "I need to stop thinking this way!"

  • Trying to rationalise and make sense of things.

  • Suppressing painful thoughts or memories by pushing them away to the back of your mind.

  • Blaming ourselves and diminishing our self-worth, e.g. "I'm not enough"

  • Name-calling yourself, e.g. "I'm a loser"


  • Numbing yourself with alcohol, gambling.

  • Distracting your attention with something else, e.g. playing mobile games

  • Avoiding the situation, e.g. social situations, scary events


  • Being paralysed with fear, lying in bed all day.

  • Forgetting how to feel.

  • Not doing anything - giving up.

You see what I mean?

But it doesn't work.

I'm sure you've no doubt tried these strategies countless times already. And in doing so, I want to tell you yet again, it's not your fault.

You were just doing what you thought was best for yourself.

But here's the thing, you and I can see that these strategies don't work in the long run.

Sure, sometimes fighting and running away helps and we can carry on doing whatever we are doing.

But as much as we have grown to dislike it, our inner critic is a part of ourselves.

How long can we run away from ourselves?

It is here that I'd like to introduce you to another Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) principle - it's called Experiential Avoidance.

In short, this means that we try our best to avoid the difficult thoughts, emotions, memories or even future events that we've conjured up in our inner world.

We try to fight and run away from the voice of our inner critic.

But as much as we run, it is always there.

Yet, the only thing that this lands us into is a vicious cycle of our own making. Here, you can read more in this standalone article if you'd like.

Through our fighting and flighting and sometimes freezing, we learned to become so uncomfortable with our discomfort that we never really approach it directly.

We keep up the war with ourselves - that's it isn't it? It's a war with ourselves, varying voices of conflict in our own heads we try to contend with.

So if running from ourselves, doesn't work - what then?

What's the opposite of avoidance? A few words come to mind - perhaps approach? Go towards?

Go up to meet?

Well the word I'm hoping we can get to is Acceptance.

The oppositive of Experiential Avoidance is Experiential Acceptance.

We have to learn to Accept our experiences. That's the A in ACT which we will come to very shortly.

But I know, I know. How can we learn to accept this inner critic that can sometimes feel like the most vicious thing in the world?

How can we accept our depression? Our anxiety? Or whatever it is we are going through? Especially when our heads don't feel like a nice place to be in.

Well, I agree. It's not an easy concept to get our heads around, but healing isn't easy. Otherwise, you and I would have done it already.

But we have to try. And for that to happen, let us take the next step. Let us gain a closer look into the true nature of our minds.

Take care,



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