Who is your Inner Critic Anyway?

Who is your inner critical voice? The voice we hear in our heads that often speaks to us in a way that we wouldn’t dream of using to another person. The part of us that criticises and drives us, sets unrealistic expectations and is then down on us when we don’t meet those expectations. The part of us that can demoralise, demotivate and derail us sometimes. Having an understanding of this part of ourselves and then some alternatives to listening to this voice can help defuse the power of this part of us. This is where I go to theory to explain something that is very common for people and which I suspect most people will experience in their lives.

As well as being a creativity coach I am a transactional analyst. Transactional analysis (TA) is a set of theories developed by Eric Berne in the 1950’s and 60’s that today are widely used in coaching, psychotherapy, education and organisations around the world.   I am going to look at some straightforward theory from TA to understand the inner critic.

Structure of Personality.

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Eric Berne

Berne wrote about personality structure as having three parts or ego states.  An ego state is described as “a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour”.  Another way to think about this is that our experience is organised into three parts.  Each of these parts has a recognisable pattern of thinking and feeling with corresponding behaviour.  The three ego states are named Parent, Adult and Child.

I began this post by talking about the inner critic, that inner voice which so often has unrealistic expectations and criticism. I identify this part of us with the Parent ego state. Before I go on to look at this in more depth I will summarise Adult and Child.

Child Ego State

The Child ego state, can be described as thoughts, feelings and behaviours replayed from childhood.  Experiences organised from when we were children.  Here’s a simple example.

You are at school maybe 4 or 5 years old. The teacher asks a question, you think you know the answer so you put up your hand. The teacher asks for your response, which, when you give your answer, is wrong. As you get it wrong someone at the back of the class sniggers, and you feel really embarrassed at not knowing the correct answer. You think and maybe decide “it’s not a good idea to answer questions in case you get it wrong.”

Thirty years later you are attending a one day training course as part of your job. The trainer asks a question, you answer and get it wrong and in that moment you revisit the experience you had when you were 4 and answered incorrectly in class, you feel the same embarrassment and again think, “it’s not good idea to answer questions. ”

Adult Ego State

When we are in our Adult ego state we are using thinking, feeling and behaviour in response to the “here and now”. Being in my Adult ego state means that I am in the present, fully aware and contact with myself so able to respond to a situations using my capacity as an adult for solving problems, reality testing situations, being honest, direct and open about what I am thinking and feeling and being spontaneous, creative and vulnerable.

Problem Solving

I am going to use the example I gave to illustrate Child ego state as a way of demonstrating what I mean by a here and now response in Adult ego state.  In the example of getting an answer wrong in a training course, the Adult response might be to feel ok about not knowing an answer and then to reflect on what you have not understood and what additional information might needed to give the correct answer. So I am engaging my problem-solving skills as an adult to solve the “problem” of not knowing an answer.

Parent Ego State

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PAC Model

The Parent ego state is a collection of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are “taken in” or copied from significant adults during childhood and with the perception of a child. Significant adults can mean our parents, or primary caregivers. It can also mean aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers, sisters, teachers and even society at large. It is an external experience where we have observed someone else’s responses to a situation – their thinking, feeling and behaviour and we have “taken that experience in” so it then becomes part of how we respond in a similar situation.

Here’s an example of how this might work. You are five years old going away on a family holiday. As you are driving down the motorway someone cuts in front of your Dad, who is driving. He swears and shouts, gesturing fiercely at the driver responsible. Thirty years later you are driving on the motorway and someone cuts in front of you. You swear, shout and gesture fiercely.  Over time as we grow we internalise a whole host of experiences, some positive and some negative and together these form the Parent ego state.  So, the our critical inner voice is the expression internally of the negative parts of the Parent ego state.

Here are some of the reasons why is this part of ourselves so critical and harsh.

Firstly experiences are taken in when we are young and with the perception of a young child. For example, as a child we don’t fully understand the nuances of adult communication.

We also simplify and generalise from individual experiences.  Here’s an example.  A  parent or caregiver is having an important conversation on the telephone.  You are 6 years old and jumping down the stairs singing a nursery rhyme.  The parent or caregiver turns to you,  saying crossly “don’t shout and jump while I’m on the phone”    But you hear this as “Shouting is bad.”

The Parent ego state is actually a mixture of many experiences with parental figures and messages from the environment.

Finally a large part of Parent is about protecting us when we feel vulnerable in some way or another. For example the critical inner voice that sets high expectations may be protecting against the possibility of criticism or rejection from others.

So, how does this help us with our inner critic?

Well what this says to me is that when I am in my Parent ego state I am likely to be responding to a situation or stimulus using thoughts, feelings and behaviours from the past and that I have taken in from someone else as I perceived them at that time.  Therefore this response may not be relevant or appropriate to the present. I may want to revisit some of the messages and experiences I have taken in and up date them with how I think, feel and want to behave.  One way you might like to do this is to make a list of some of the sayings and slogans that were common in your family and that you find yourself saying to yourself.  An example might be when something bad happens “you’ve just got to get on with haven’t you.” Write them all out and then see if you think they are true for you today. If not update them with something more relevant and supportive.  So in the example given above I would update that to ” when bad things happen in life it’s good to seek support.” Take what is useful and helpful ignore the rest.

If I am in my Parent ego state I’m not using all of my Adult to problem solve and reality test. I may not be seeing the situation as it really is. Recognising this is the first step to moving into a more Adult place and regaining all of our Adult resources to problem solve and support ourselves.

Another way to deal with the inner critic is to thank that part of self for it’s positive intention  – even though impact is different from intention. Then turn the volume down on the voice, you might even want to visualise a large volume dial and imagine it being turned to reduce the sound.

These are few suggestions how to deal with you inner critic – have you any more?  I’d love to hear from you.
 

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Why Me as Your Coach?

Choosing a Coach

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Lin Cheung

If you are choosing someone to work with as your coach it is important to find someone where you have the “right chemistry.” Chances are you will be talking about areas of your life where things might not have gone so well, and sharing some of your most important hopes, aspirations and goals.  Finding someone that you click with, you feel comfortable with and in whose expertise you have confidence is likely to be pretty important in making the relationship,  and the work,  a success.

Here’s a few thoughts from me on how my unique blend of experience and expertise might be helpful to you in achieving your artistic goals.

Achieving Goals

I am a practising and exhibiting artist.  I am engaged in my own ongoing process of artistic development.  I know what it’s like to go from being an absolute beginner to wanting to show work and how to do this. This includes the practical steps of finding suitable events and venues, deciding what work to show and how to show it.  With over 15 year experience as a psychotherapist I have in-depth knowledge in how to work with people psychologically.  In coaching this means I’m working with you to look at what you want now, how your thinking and behaviour may be helpful or counter productive and looking to facilitate you in achieving your goals.  And you can have confidence that I will recognise quickly if something is deeper than coaching and refer you on to someone who can help.

Transactional Analysis

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PAC Model

I bring 15 years experience of working with people in the field of personal development.  I know about how to support myself in being effective  as coach.  For example I have my own coaching supervision where I consult with a colleague so that I’m well supported to help you.

I have a wide range of  models and tools to draw on to help you achieve your outcomes. the main model I use is transactional analysis which is widely used in organisational development, coaching. education and psychotherapy.

Running a Business

My business experience comes from having worked in organisations in sales and marketing for over 15 years and running my own businesses for the last 15 years.  Not only do I understand the theory and principles of marketing I have had lots of practice putting them to work for myself!

I’m flexible in my approach and our sessions can be either face to face or over Zoom depending on where you are based. You can send me images of your work and we can discuss them, you might want to focus on your inner critic or how to loosen up in your work.. You may wish to move from representational to abstract painting. Or, you might want to begin selling your work and are not sure how to set up.  These are just a few examples of some of the areas we might focus on.

So, what next?  I offer a free 20 minute discussion by phone or online so that we can see if we “click.” If that works then you have two options. I offer individual sessions or in blocks of four or six. Contact me to discuss options and costs.

I’ll finish by quoting Picasso.

“Every child is an artist.  The the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

First Steps Art Workshop: How did it go?

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Abstract exercise

First Steps in Art is a one day art workshop for absolute beginners to art.  Firstly after all the snow we had been having we were lucky with the weather.  No snow and everyone had a relatively easy journey. Six people assembled on a Friday in Buxton to take their first steps into learning about art.  Several people in the group were completely new to painting and drawing whilst  others had some experience but wanted a chance to explore and play with materials and find out more.

After a taking a little time to introduce ourselves we quickly got down to putting paint to paper and began the day with a short briefing on the materials.

Using Watercolour and Oil Pastel

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Collage

The first exercise was using watercolour, wax crayon and wax pastel. Do you remember as a child making rubbings using wax crayons of interesting surfaces. Well that is exactly what we did. Our venue, The Green Man Gallery is an old building and there are lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore with a variety of surface textures to play with.  This was part of the first exercise –  using the rubbings and making collage papers to use later in the day.  We all made an abstract piece and then a collage before lunch.

Lunch was an opportunity to see something of the town.  Buxton is a place with lots of history and an excellent range and choice of places to eat and drink. there are cafes within walking and a deli just up the road from the gallery. And of course you can always bring your own food as the gallery has a large space on the ground floor where you can buy a coffee and sit and relax.

Acrylic Paint

The afternoon was mostly given over to looking at acrylic paint. Painting on wooden board is interesting as the hard surface allows for a wide variety of techniques to be used and because it is pretty robust you can scratch and scrape into the paint as it begins to dry.

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Acrylic on board

After cleaning and clearing up we gathered to reflect on the day.  All delegates rated the teaching style as excellent or good and here are some of the comments from the participants.

Delegate Feedback

I would definitely attend another class.

Lin, you are enthusiastic and supportive, this helped my creative process and willingness to use the various materials. the workshop activities were enjoyable and fun. Thank you. 

Great day,enjoyed having the time to explore the different media and learn some new techniques. 

Enjoyable day. Thank you. 

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about this course for a while?  Not sure if it was for you?  I hope this information and feedback lets you know a little more about what to expect.

The next date is Friday 28th September and there are still some paces left. Contact me to reserve your place and come and play with paint for the day.

100 Days Project

 

So, I signed up. My 100 Days Project is to complete a collage a day for my sketchbook. In part this is because I’m currently signed up for a three month online art development programme run by Nicholas Wilton from Art2Life,  Creative Visionary Path (CVP).   It’s proving to be a fascinating, challenging, amazing experience. I’m learning so much, it’s very intense and I’m not sure what my work is going to look like at the end of the process. However that feels incredibly exciting and I’m enjoying it tremendously. Here’s a Facebook live video of me in my studio chatting about it.

Sketchbook Collage

When I saw on Instagram that lots of people were posting about the 100 Days Project I got interested and then realised that it would be great support to my work on the Art2Life Creative Visionary Path. And, so far that’s proving to be the case.

After each little collage I’m analysing the work according to the principles I’m learning. I’m noticing and understanding more about how I make art. Of course, I’m doing this with the paintings I’m making as part of the programme, but the little collages are particularly helpful. Partly because they’re little, so I easily take them in and also because I am doing one every day.  The repetition of little and often is also really helpful.

I’m at the end of the first week. Here’s my learning so far:

Habitual shapes – I’m starting to recognise the shapes I am habitually drawn too, this means I can do something different, something new.

Because I’m right handed I often place my largest shapes to the left first, I can put them somewhere else.

I work a lot with mid tones and I want to develop more value contrast in my work.

My work can be busy, I want to develop more skill in simplicity.

Pretty good going for seven days.

I’m thinking about introducing some themes during the project  – maybe a week of monochrome, a week of  limited palette, a week where i use a particular material.  you get the idea.

Each of the collages is on a single page in my sketchbook with all my notes alongside. If you are interested in seeing them (and meeting me) in real life then I will be exhibiting at the Spring Bank Art Centre with Derbyshire Open Arts on 25th to the 28th May.

Hope to see you there.

How to know when to STOP PAINTING and take a break!

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Time for Coffee

There’s no doubt that we can absolutely lose ourselves when we are painting. The experience of creating can be so compelling and interesting that we lose track of time completely. And, while its great to be so involved in something I also think that sometimes we need to stop, give ourselves a break to come back refreshed with renewed energy.

Self awareness in Art

My personal experience of painting has definitely been informed by my experience of training to be a psychotherapist.  In that training self-awareness, understanding thinking and feeling, and noticing what’s going on in my physical state has been very significant in my work in helping people.

It has also been really important to me as an artist where what’s going on in me is just as important as the technical understanding of things like colour, value and composition.

Why is this important in knowing when its time to stop?

What I’ve been noticing are certain states of mind that when I pay attention help me to know when to take a break.

Intuition to Mindlessness

I notice a shift from painting spontaneously and intuitively with a positive energy to a kind of mindless, frustrated applying of paint that gets repetitive and unhelpful with an underlying tiredness.

It isn’t a definite bold move or something considered but a kind of “I don’t know where this is going but I’m not able to stop” process. If this starts happening then you need to stop.

Tightening up in Painting

You’ve stopped standing back to look at the work and get focused in on small finicky details.  Using small brushes, messing with the details.  Going over and over.  You need to stop.

You’ve stopped looking at the clock, haven’t eaten or had a drink for a few hours. You’ve simply been at it too long without a break.  You feel tired and your energy is dipping yet you keep going.  You need to stop.

Critical Inner Voice

You start listening to the inner critical voice that is telling you the work is no good.  You need to stop.

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Breaktime

I think all of these are sign that our creativity has gone for a walk and that we need to take a break whether is it for a sit down with a cuppa, a walk in the fresh air or doing something different.  The break gives us time to refresh, come back with renewed energy and having found our creativity again.

Are there any other experiences you have had that tell you it’s time for a break?  Or, what are your strategies to renew your energy?  I’d love to hear from you.

First Steps – What to expect

First Steps in Art is a workshop specially designed for people who are completely new to drawing or painting.  So, what can you expect from your first art workshop?2015-10-27 07.57.47

Firstly a warm and friendly welcome, a cuppa and a chat when you arrive.  There will be time to introduce yourself to the other members of the group and as the teacher for the day I will be taking time to help people settle in.

Then, an overall introduction to the day and what we will be up to. Clear instructions on each lesson and how to use the materials

Each lesson will be introduced in turn with plenty of guidance on what to do.  I’ve some interesting and exciting things planned for us which are geared to help build your confidence quickly. As an example, we will use watercolours to paint stripes on a piece of paper and then cut it up to make a simple collage picture by sticking it on coloured card.

We take an hour for lunch allowing time for a break.

Group size is limited to 8 people so there is plenty of opportunity for one to one discussion and support from me.

Finally, you take home the results of your painting for the day.

 

 

 

Artist and Designer Fair

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Looking across the Pavilion Gardens earlier this year.

This weekend I’m off to the Artist and Designer Fair being held at the Pavilion Gardens Marquee in Buxton.  The Pavilion runs a huge number of events each year including food and drink , arts and crafts, antiques, and garden events. This is one of a regular series of art events in the calendar and I’m off to scope it out for two reasons. I’m going to be looking to exhibit myself next year now I’m settled in Buxton and I’m thinking about Christmas presents.

I really like to buy from local crafts people and artists rather than from the high street. I love knowing exactly who made the item I am buying and in lots of cases being able to chat to the artist or maker to find out more about them, what materials they use, how they go about making or creating the piece and all about their work. Its a great way to shop and I always have an interesting time and come away with unique and lovely things.

I’ll be posting after the event with news of all my purchases. Thinking you might like to drop on in?  Here’s a link to the Pavilion site with a list of events between now and Christmas.

I’d love to hear about your finds, what has been your best arts or crafts purchase so far?

Free yourself

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Plein Air watercolour and ink.

I’m thinking about new ideas in my work particularly how to join up the skills I have as a psychotherapist of over ten years and as a practising artist. Having been on my own journey of artistic development; from someone who hadn’t picked up a paint brush since “A” level I’m very interested in working with people in freeing up their creativity, whether it’s because they want to paint, play music, act dance or sing or because they want to find a way to improve their creative energy in a more general way and free themselves to be more expressive.

Critical Inner Voice

When I was at school I can remember how difficult art felt sometimes.  My inner voice criticising, feeling unable to express myself feely, being scared about what others might think or say about my efforts. From my own recent personal experience I can definitely say that my confidence in painting and in being willing to experiment now comes from having done so much personal development work as part of my training to work as a psychotherapist. That work has been all about understanding myself better and growing my confidence in my thinking, feeling and ways of being myself. Which has fed through into my painting in a willingness both to experiment and test out new ideas and to put myself out there, for my work to be seen and commented on.

Understanding Self

I’m not by any means suggesting that everyone who is an artist or who wants to express themselves in a more creative  way needs to undergo a course of psychotherapy – however I do think that there is something to be said for understanding how we might be limiting ourselves and then finding ways to liberate ourselves from old patterns of criticism, or insecurity in our expressiveness.

Coaching for Creativity

I work with people in just this way, whether in a small groups or on an individual basis I provide creative coaching support.  My approach is to focus on what each person wants to gain from the time with me.  So, we might explore practical techniques as well as how your thinking and feeling might be influencing your work. In my experience it is the ideas we have about our abilities and what we are doing that feeds into what and how we create.

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Mixed media experiment using collage. 

If you think you might be interested in exploring how I might be able to help then please give a call or drop my an email using the form below. we can have a 20 minute conversation free of charge to explore some of the areas you might like to work and if this might be for you.

 

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