Many of us are haunted by our internal critic: the "shoulder," the judge, or whatever name you would like to give him or her. For those who try art therapy for the first time, who have experienced ongoing battles with these negative voices, a new process begins to take shape. Process versus product. It is difficult at first to move beyond the idea of an aesthetic and beautifully pleasing piece of art to staying in the moment with the process of creating. This is one of the key elements to using art therapy and how art therapy and an art lesson differ. Staying in the process becomes freeing and enjoyable when staying in the here and now is the goal. Clients many times tell me how much they enjoy not worrying about what their art will look like and just let what will happen happen. Here, we begin to see how our internal critic really works as its voice tries to be heard and as we develop a new voice that asks the critic to please step aside.
Learning to talk to your internal critic can be a daily practice that takes place in a journal or whenever you encounter the negative-thinking voice. Awareness that it is taking place is the first step. Acknowledging that it exists must happen before you can confront it. I tell clients to draw or write in a journal to practice working with the judgemental voice inside of them. When issues of perfection, or feelings of making a mistake arise, I ask clients to acknowledge the feeling, and try to stay with the process allowing their art to be what it wants to be. So, as you work in a journal, be aware of what is happening as you draw or write. Be aware of your reactions, and instead of doing what you've done in the past, try something new. Try gently asking the critic to please step outside, because, you know what you are doing and do not need his or her help. Continue to work with this process until you feel you can work freely and comfortably allowing the process to take place without judgement.