Breaking Free from Critical Addiction clearly explains causes and symptoms of critical addiction. Using the Four Steps to Freedom, it then offers relief from your Inner Critic's tyranny. This mental detox prepares you to create a life you enjoy. After all, you can't brew good coffee in a dirty pot! That's the real secret.
Kalie Marino's masterpiece paves the route to dissolve individual and global self-defeating ways with stories, physics, and age-old wisdom set to the tune of inner and external peace. Be prepared for your Inner Critic to be transformed into an Inner Coach with a new set of songs, all in the key of gratitude.
"Perhaps you are very familiar with your Inner Critic, but the two of you have never been properly introduced. Kalie aptly makes that introduction and then skillfully speaks to both of you throughout this book, inviting you to make peace with the mental roommate that pays no rent and was never really invited to stay in the first place. She invites you both to grab a seat and have a listen. It will change your world and the world of those around you."
- Pamela Maliniak
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Breaking Free from Critical AddictionOur #1 Social Disease
By Kalie Marino
BALBOA PRESSCopyright © 2012 Kalie Marino
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhat Is Critical Addiction?
Some people look at a glass and see it as half full, while critics look at the same glass and see it as almost empty.
Our society has become addicted to criticism and other forms of negativity, which is a social disease of epidemic proportion that goes unnoticed as a silent killer of both life and happiness. The news media focuses on disasters and bad news, because good news does not sell nearly as well as the bad. From true-life horrors to anticipated natural disasters (and everything in between), movies filled with violence and impending doom do quite well at the box office.
We live in an atmosphere of fear and doubt, one in which everything and everyone is scrutinized and judged. Even small children are under pressure to compete and perform as never before. Spouses find fault with each other, and the divorce rate climbs. Many carry grievances that perpetuate cycles of attack and vengeance, reviving old conflicts and creating new conflicts—even wars.
The emotional stresses of society are seen in the rise of addictions of all kinds. As anxiety and stress grow, illness and disease becomes more prevalent, because criticism and negativity wear on the body and weaken the immune system. Viruses mutate and multiply as their underlying emotional cause goes unnoticed and untreated. This hidden addiction is a social disease that is fueling the fire of spiraling emotional, physical, and social problems.
Political campaigns are fought and won with negative ads that criticize opponents or try to ruin their reputation. Politicians talk about what they stand against instead of what they stand for. Our national campaigns are focused on resisting evil. Even though we are fighting a war on poverty, a war on drugs, and a war on terrorism, we are not winning any of them. In fact, the things we are fighting against are growing. Something is wrong.
What happened to resist not evil, the advice we were offered in the Christian Bible? Instead of constantly fighting against what we don't want, what has happened to fighting for that which we value ... like our forefathers did when they declared our independence from Great Britain and identified our human rights?
It is time to shine the light on our society's critical approach to life and reevaluate if the approach is in fact working to bring us desirable results. There is overwhelming evidence that criticism is a destructive force. Is this is how we want to live our lives? Is there another way to live? Are we willing to change?
In the next chapter, I show why habitual criticism alone qualifies as a dangerous addiction. In the third chapter, I give examples of how this pervasive negative attitude has become a part of our everyday life, and I list symptoms of critical addiction. Part two of this book focuses on solutions and treatment plans. Part three offers Four Steps to Freedom, while part four explores the energy of consciousness—a new paradigm for understanding behavior that enables us to make major changes or shifts in consciousness more quickly and more easily.
Tragically, most people are unaware of the impact of criticism and negativity on society and themselves. If they are aware, they simply go along with it because everybody's doing it, and they feel helpless to change it. By publicly acknowledging the personal and social problems caused by this judgmental pattern, and by working together for a positive future, we can take steps to make changes that will be rewarding for everyone.
Criticism, while only one aspect of negativity and pessimism, is symbolic of the problem as a whole. It is a mental and emotional process—one of faultfinding in seeking out what is wrong or lacking in each situation, instead of simply noticing what is present and its effects, and then proceeding to choose what we want to come of it.
Criticism can be done with harsh words, name-calling, sarcasm, a put-down, a frown, a sigh of disgust, or a disdainful glance. Worrying about a person making mistakes instead of having faith in them is a covert way of criticizing. Many people realize they worry a lot, but they may not recognize that they are using this anxiety to criticize through various ways. Instead, they may feel virtuous about worrying. Notice here that criticism is a little like dreaming; everybody does it, but not everyone is aware of doing it. Some people criticize out of habit, while others just seem to enjoy doing it. Pessimists are critical and often act superior because they notice possible problems, but research shows that optimists live longer.
Most doctors recognize negative thinking as a contributor to disease, and some doctors go so far as to say that negative thinking is the number one cause of all disease. As a therapist, I have seen clients go into remission once they resolve related emotional issues. If there truly is a relationship between emotional health and disease, our society's critical approach to life has created a social disease that rests at the heart of many maladies plaguing our world.
Educators point out the importance of rewarding positive behavior and showing children the natural consequences of negative behavior. The same thing is true in the workplace. A negative or critical atmosphere lowers productivity and increases costs. Criticism is destructive to self-esteem, toxic to self-confidence, and hinders team building. It simply does not work at any level of our society.
Identifying and changing this addiction is crucial to our survival and wellbeing. While a negative perspective on life is only an attitude, it is itself a critical addiction. Attitude and perspective make the difference between whether we are happy or sad, productive or unproductive, healthy or ailing, and at peace or in conflict in all areas of life. Understanding critical addiction is absolutely necessary to successfully treat all addictions and most of our social problems.
Criticism is mistakenly seen as normal, expected, and even desired as necessary. Most people today are unaware of the negative impact their own criticism has on others and on themselves. Doctors once endorsed cigarettes as good for you, until their destructive and addictive qualities were proven. Behavior that is clearly co-dependent, or symptomatic of love addiction, was once romanticized and glorified in the movies as the way life 'should be', until its destructiveness was identified. The process of habitual criticism, worry, and negativity must also be understood and named for what it is—a destructive addiction and social disease. Once identified and named, recovery is possible.
I wrote this book for the purpose of identifying and naming this insidious addiction and social disease. I wrestled with names, deciding that "critical addiction" best described it. My insightful editor suggested I would do the work of future researchers justice by outlining a specific definition. The best I can do at this time on such a broad term with so many implications is as follows:
Critical addiction is a broad term for problems with habitual negative and critical thinking to the detriment of the addict's self-esteem, relationships, and/or health, causing either low or aggrandized self-esteem, anxiety, anger, depression, paranoia, self-absorption, defeatism, pessimism, and/or feelings of overwhelm, often leading to other forms of addiction of which critical addiction is the primary addiction. Addicts have a compelling attraction to negativity that expresses itself through anger, guilt, and fear, as well as faultfinding of self and others. Critical addiction is spread through social contacts, making it a social disease of immense proportions.
Criticism Destroys Relationships
Your best friend is the one who appreciates you the most. We defend ourselves from critics. So when people carry the habit of criticism into their 'love life', they do not have a love life anymore. They find themselves living with the enemy or divorcing them. As society becomes more critical, the divorce rate rises.
Criticism is experienced as an attack, because it is not based on respect for who we are at our core. When we are criticized, we feel attacked and defend ourselves in one of several ways. We may attack back by finding fault with our attacker, we may comply in an attempt to ward off more criticism, we may be passive aggressive and ignore what they say, or we may actually do even more of the thing that bothers them just to get back at them or try to prove that we are not in the wrong. Even if we use these tactics unconsciously, defenses of any kind only escalate problems in the relationship.
This does not mean that you lack the right to complain and tell someone when you don't like his or her behavior. However, understanding must precede the complaint or advice and respect for the person. If you want another person to really listen to what you have to say and respect your opinion, you must first show that you respect them through using words of understanding, empathy, and validation. This establishes you as someone safe who does not want to hurt him or her.
A suggestion is just that and not a demand, so harping on a point is just trying to prove you are right, which is conflictual and negative. Have faith in the other person to do what is best for them in that moment. They don't have to take your advice. If they don't take your advice, and they fall on their face, be there for them in a supportive way so they can learn and grow from the experience. "I told you so," is a criticism and is not supportive.
If a person who appreciates you for the person you are makes a suggestion for improvement, you are more likely to listen to that person than someone you think is just criticizing you, pointing out your negatives, or worrying about you unnecessarily because they lack faith in you. When a person is supportive of you, their comments are seen as suggestions and not criticisms.
How do you like people who criticize you? Not much, I'd venture. We don't usually feel good about ourselves when we are around people who are critical of us. We enjoy being around people who accept and appreciate us just the way we are. No one likes a critic! While we can overcome our reaction to them, they may still be at the bottom of our popularity list.
I remember comforting a young teenage girl who was jealous because a new girl was getting all the attention of her friends. When I asked her to describe the new girl, the first characteristic she could think of was how accepting and nonjudgmental the new girl was of everyone. I asked, "Do you like that?" When she replied that she did like it, I asked her if she thought she was that way herself. With a shocked look on her face, she reflected on her own judgmental nature and admitted that, like her friends, she would prefer being around the nonjudgmental girl too. She was a fast learner and began altering her critical attitude, which changed her popularity with her peers.
Origins of Critical Addiction
We are not born critical. Criticism is a learned behavior that does not serve us, yet it is widespread, destructive, and goes unrecognized and undiagnosed as a highly communicable social disease. There are two primary ways we learn criticism: we learn it through our culture, and we learn it through traumatic experiences, which teach us fear and distrust.
There are millions of sufferers who believe that a critical state of mind is a necessary part of being responsible, simply because they were taught to criticize at an early age. This belief has been passed down through generations.
Many people are taught there is something innately wrong with them and that being self-critical will help them improve and become better people. They fear making mistakes, which makes them critical of everything, looking for possible problems as a way to prevent them. Some believe they have to be better than others just to be worthy, so they are constantly comparing and/or competing to prove themselves. Social values support these and other false assumptions, spreading this communicable disease, while criticism erodes the self-esteem of everyone it targets.
Critics are usually people who express the desire to "be good" and "do the right thing." However, no matter how hard they try or what they do, they never feel good enough and never think they have done enough. They must live up to some imaginary standard that seems to constantly change and exist just outside their reach. Sometimes they take solace in the faults and inadequacies of others so that they can feel better about themselves.
Some addicts are self-critical, while others are so afraid of being weak or inadequate that they deny their own mistakes or perceived shortcomings and focus all of their criticism on others. But under this veil of secrecy and denial (and even the appearance of superiority), these critics share the same feelings of inadequacy as the ones who are self-critical.
Habitual criticism paired with negative thinking has gone unrecognized as an addiction in itself, because it is not based on any external dependency and cannot be evaluated on appearances. Critical addiction is an addiction to a thinking process that distorts awareness, destroys self-confidence, and interferes with the ability to enjoy life. Addicts have difficulty enjoying life, because they must be constantly on guard against making mistakes or being the victims of the mistakes of others. Understanding criticism addiction is necessary for the healing of all addictions and social problems. We cannot have peace or real freedom until we see life from a life-affirming perspective.
When we look back with nostalgia on the good old days, we usually remember a time when people appreciated what they had and what they could do. Life was simple. Today, thanks to television and the Internet, we know more about the world and different lifestyles. This is wonderful if you find appreciation for our collective differences, but it is painful if you compare yourself to others. Critics make comparisons, focusing on what they don't have and can't do, instead of noticing what is possible and seeing life from a perspective of abundance.
We are happy when we appreciate what we have and feel grateful for what we can do. This is an attitude of gratitude that is available to everyone while we enjoy the process of creating a better life. We need only to change our perspective—but to change it, we first need to identify the problem and value seeing things differently.
We also learn to be critical as the result of traumatic experiences that leave us with a negative outlook on life. Our society has increasing numbers of people involved in combat, crime, violence, and child abuse who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other forms of trauma. They need professional help to heal. However, trauma distorts perception and causes problems in every area of life, including employment. It is often the people who need help the most that do not have the health care resources to obtain it, resulting in more crime, violence, and drug dependency, perpetuating the problem. Therefore, health care reform is a matter of national security and far less expensive than building more prisons.
Negativity and Illness
I want to add a special note here about illness. It is important to acknowledge that it is more difficult for a sick person to be in a positive state of mind than a healthy person. Because of the direct relationship between body and mind, toxins and disease take a toll on the mind. Some diseases and energy imbalances are especially toxic to the mind, causing people to feel anxious and depressed. Dehydration can also cause depression. So, it is important to drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods, and exercise as part of healing the mind of negativity.
That being said, even though it may very well be more difficult for a sick person to be positive than a healthy one, it is absolutely essential for sick people to take charge of their minds and turn their thinking around if they want to make a full recovery. The shift will help them get well faster and open the door to the possibility of full recovery, instead of just masking symptoms or experiencing temporary relief. We get sick from the outside in, but we get well from the inside out. Our thinking has a huge impact on the body, and focusing on the positive is what plants seeds for miracles. Anyone can do the Four Steps to Freedom found in part three of this book, even if they are ill.
Excerpted from Breaking Free from Critical Addiction by Kalie Marino Copyright © 2012 by Kalie Marino. Excerpted by permission of BALBOA PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part I: Identifying the Problem....................1
What Is Critical Addiction?....................3
Addictive and Dangerous....................11
Part II: Focusing on the Solution....................31
Creating Healthy Environments....................33
Aspects of Identification....................38
Part III: How to Find Peace....................51
The Desire for Happiness....................53
Step One: Own It....................57
Step Two: Devalue It....................63
Step Three: Flip It....................73
Step Four: Replace It....................85
Part IV: The Energy Of Consciousness....................91
Open or Closed Energy Systems....................108
Changing Energetic States....................114
Shortcuts to Freedom....................125
Peace As a Social Value....................132
About the Author....................147