In spiritual work there is a very real potential for our Super Ego to stealthily insert itself into our practice. The Super Ego often shows up as an Inner Critic, a Bully, a Pusher, a Perfectionist who remonstrates with us for failing to live up to our spiritual truths and ideals and pushes us to do better. Because we have spiritual aspirations, it is very tempting for us to listen to our Super Egos, conflating their toxic attacks on our well being with spiritual truths. Our Super Egos can be very creative at turning every new insight and teaching against us as they use them as grounds for new criticisms against us. Our Super Ego are incredibly skilled at cloaking their demands and attacks under what seem to be incontrovertible spiritual truths. They often rely on the general theme that our Egos are inherently bad and so we have to beat them out of ourselves. But the real impact of our Inner Critics is to keep us enslaved in internalized self judgment and self abuse and cut off from the true power of Love and Joy. This is very common in spiritual circles where psychological insight is not honored and the toxic effects of childhood abuse are not taken seriously.


 In my therapy practice it is quite common for me to see a client initially suffering under a heavy weight of guilt, shame, anxiety and depression created by an Inner Critic that hides in the guise of “spiritual truth”. When this Inner Bully is exposed for the false prophet that it is, they begin to come out from under the weighty blanket of shame, a sense of deficiency and badness and to come alive, perhaps for the first time in their lives. The sad irony is that they have suffered under a false spirituality that taught them to doubt and hate their natural inclinations. So often the body takes a hard rap in spiritual traditions when in fact it is the mind that leads us astray with its belief in inherent sinfulness and depravity!

 I recently had a client that realized that his so called “Maximizer” who promised to make his life meaningful was in fact a toxic impostor that kept him running on an endless treadmill of self improvement and self castigation when he did not “live up to his potential”. He had bought into the belief that, without this Inner Critic, he would never amount to much. In our culture that worships success this is a very real temptation, even for people with spiritual orientations. The success culture insidiously undermines spiritual aspiration and turns it into a toxic parody of itself where it becomes spiritual ambition. As he saw the Maximer for what it was and released it, his anxiety and depression lifted and he found a quiet joy and he began to trust that his life would unfold and flow organically forward to where he was intended to go without constant anxious self monitoring and self criticism.


 Where in your spiritual ideals and attitudes might an Inner Critic be hiding out?

 Often this Inner Critic is so hidden from us that, initially, we cannot see it for what it is. One good indication that we are operating under its toxic influence is if there is any anxiety or depression present in our spiritual practice. If there is, most likely an Inner Critic is operating

About spirittherapist

The integration of spiritual and psychological work. Robert B. Cornell Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) Robert has been practicing marriage & family therapy for 14 years. He is experienced in the areas of depression, anxiety, spiritual direction, vocational counseling, and recovery work. He enjoys working with individuals, adults, and young adults. His work incorporates cognitive-behavioral, acceptance & commitment, depth psychology, humanistic-existential, and psychodynamic therapies. Robert is in the process of publishing a book on psycho-spiritual growth entitled, “Fifty Ways of Letting Go”.
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