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Better to be Bad in a Good World Than Good in a Bad World

Image of yawning child. Raleigh Psychotherapy, Counseling, Katherine Broadway, Harsh Inner Critic

Current cinema is flooded with movies about the “end of the world.” A catastrophic event occurs, the world as we know it is destroyed, and there a few “good” survivors left to face the “bad” faction who brought about the situation. This establishes a terrifying scenario in which the few people who are left must hide and struggle to survive, facing deprivation and helplessness. The world they now live in is, at best, empty of resources and, at worst, hostile. Every day they must fight for their survival. They live with hopelessness and the very real possibility of annihilation.

This is an accurate metaphor for the experience of people who received inadequate parenting. Inadequate parenting can range from benign neglect (parents who wanted to care for their children, but for one reason or another were not capable), to outright abusive. Because a child depends upon the parent to survive, it is intolerable for him/her to know the parent is inadequate. It would mean the child would not survive. Just like the survivors in the apocalypse movies, the child would be faced with certain annihilation.

In order to survive, the child interprets the parent’s inadequacies as being his or her fault, which makes that child view him or herself as “bad.” The annihilation anxiety turns into feelings of guilt because the child is "bad" for causing the parent discomfort. The child feels burdensome and inconvenient due to having normal human needs and wants.

From this guilt, internal messages and beliefs develop to help the child survive. Normal human need for love, nurture and caring-contact are labeled as “bad.” From this experience negative messages develop about who the child is. Messages in the child's mind could take such forms as, "I am wrong, not good enough, lazy, and stupid, unlovable; I don’t deserve to be happy or successful."

We carry these messages with us into adulthood, which is far past their usefulness. Those thoughts define who we are, and tell us that our motivations and actions are bad. We carry inside of us intense internal criticisms that are so old and deeply ingrained that we no longer consciously hear the critical voice, yet still act upon the messages it sends.

Together in therapy, we will deconstruct these internal beliefs so you can move forward in life and begin to feel better. Our first job is to help you hear your internal dialogue. As we discover more about you, we will come to understand these beliefs and how they developed. Eventually, you will learn to stand up to these self-criticisms and create new, more positive messages.

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