Burkhard Düssler: Stop getting ready

Burkhard Düssler: Stop getting ready

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The internal critic who complains that we are too stupid, too lazy, too weak or too selfish can lead us to commitment, but also to constant brooding, self-doubt and irritability, according to Düssler, a specialist in psychotherapy and psychosomatics. This powerful inner authority puts us under pressure, especially on the verge of a depression or a burnout. However, we could benefit greatly from the reassurance of the inner critic and understand the logic of our apparently illogical thinking.

"It always works as a miracle for me: If we think realistically about ourselves and heed the crucial rules of the game when dealing with ourselves, we can comfort our childish side again and again and actually be a smith of our luck." (Burkhard Düssler)

According to Düssler, the inner critic revolves around self-esteem. He warns us of everything that limits this: mistakes, criticism or failures. On the other hand, he drives us to improve self-esteem through success, recognition and affection.

Don't silence the inner critic

We cannot silence the internal critic, Düssler says, and we would not have to. Depressed people would know the inner critic as a “gray cloud” that paralyzed every activity. This leads to body tension and pain, according to the author, the negative thoughts determine what happens with dominance. Even if it becomes clear that the internal critic is not always right and that his claims do not match our actual beliefs, we could hardly avoid his grueling criticism.

An overactive internal critic leads to devaluation and accusations like "You have always been guilty and inferior". Consequences can be excessive fear as well as frustration eating or high emotional vulnerability. Even if he is less extreme, he is annoying. It gets complicated because we realize that his judgments are exaggerated, but "somehow" true. We are tempted to avoid this exaggerated self-criticism by distracting ourselves, whether through television, the Internet or cleaning up. As a result, an inner struggle develops at most, but the inner critic cannot be silenced.

Instead of calming down the inner critic, we could learn to live in peaceful coexistence with him and even benefit from him.

Not a bad guy, actually

The internal critic is not just negative. It prevents violent conflicts and teaches us to show civilized manners. It inspires us to persevere and achieve something worthwhile. So it wouldn't work without him. "How relieving it would be to hold him back with his exaggerated alarm and only support us with sensible warnings." To make this possible, we first have to get to know the inner critic, says Düssler.

Behind the facade of the tyrant

The author simply did not want to believe "that the human psyche contains a fundamental misconstruction" and looked for the hidden meaning of (excessive) internal self-criticism. What sense could that be?

Düssler writes: He warns us of dangers (...) - Accordingly, there is an instance in every person that spontaneously reacts to seemingly threatening situations. (…) This applies to physical “dangers” as well as to “interpersonal dangers” if, for example, you seem to have misbehaved in a group.

Red alert! - Why actually?

Many threats involve situations from the social environment. The inner critic sees danger in the rejection by our fellow human beings. This instance made it clear to us what to do in order to make yourself popular and get “soul food”. He ensures that our desire for recognition and satisfaction is satisfied.

Where the inner watcher got his messages from

According to Düssler, we collect basic messages in our childhood. Some of such messages are first of all exaggerated and at the same time conveyed through generations, such as "Those who show weakness have already lost." But children could also radicalize their parents' messages by doing everything they can to get them recognized. Parental messages could thus become a generalized and self-damaging motto in life.

We develop other inner messages ourselves. Often the origin lies in skills that the respective children are particularly good at. Especially intellectual children could develop the inner message "You always have to be the best", particularly sensitive "You have to make sure that mom is relieved".

Inner messages also arise from painful experiences. A painful key experience could lead to the principle "I never want to experience such a disappointment again" and to the conclusion "That's why I will never trust myself to anyone again!"

Some messages from the internal critic hurt us a lot and severely restricted us. But he always presses us with the worst messages when we feel insecure, the author explains. He falls silent when we make him feel safe.

Düsser concludes: “So your inner mind is not the problem, and neither are you - nor any of the meaningful and realistic messages and beliefs that you have acquired. It is the exaggerated and the wrong messages that you carry within you and that can be used to put pressure on your minders. ”

I see something you don't see - and that's childlike

Thinking realistically is not a matter for the inner critic. He appears naive and overly anxious. His ideas suited the children's world of experience better than the adult reality. He takes radical positions and often exaggerates, quickly losing track of strong emotions, can no longer perceive or process important information under stress, but only see a small part of reality that frightens him. His great emotional dependence on recognition is childlike rather than adult. Since he thinks childishly, we shouldn't treat the inner guard as an authority.

No fight - but two winners

"If an adult (...) gets stuck in his tunnel vision and regularly sees criticism as disregard for himself, this suggests that he takes over the tunnel vision of his watcher. This can cause chaos and suffering over time. "

If this point is reached, on the one hand the sufferer suffers himself, for whom his environment is a constant source of injuries, and on the other hand the social environment is constantly exposed to emotional outbursts and "counter-attacks".

The problem today is that the child watcher cannot see whether the current situation is as threatening as the one he remembers. If we insult the childish critic now, he will perceive it as an attack and become even more anxious. We would have an internal power struggle that we can only lose.

It is best not to take the child's watchdog too seriously - knowing that many of his messages are wrong or exaggerated. They should take him seriously, however, because his messages are essentially justified.

Düssler writes: The warning messages of the child's watchdog are based on very real, personal experiences and perceptions; therefore, in his view, they are all justified. For this reason, we should take his fears seriously.

However, understanding and action are two different pairs of shoes: "However, our understanding of the child's watchdog should not lead us to accept his exaggerated fears as truths and immediately implement his instructions."

What to do? "So if you could manage to have both a certain understanding of your little watchdog's fears and a clear awareness that his messages are probably exaggerated, you would have made a good start," concluded Düssler.

Who you talk to when you talk to yourself - Three Inner Instances

An internal dialogue is not only normal, but sensible. But who are you talking to when you talk to yourself? He asks. First, there is the little watchdog.

This inner watcher has access to our "personal truths", that is, to the messages that we have collected in our previous lives, such as "You have to do this!" Or "This is important!". Since these truths controlled our view of life, they are very powerful. They contribute significantly to our self-image, to what we meant to be.

The inner guardian has the task of preventing repeated experiences from being painfully stored. He also presses unrealistic "truths" like spines into our souls. It hurts. The further we can reduce our belief in the unrealistic messages, the less our child-minded person emphasizes them and the less the pain caused by them. So we should replace the unrealistic messages with truths that can really convince us. The second instance is the inner child, which always reports when we do something spontaneously, inspire us or feel "childish needs".

The inner adult is opposed to the childlike watchdog. In the dialogue of the inner instances, you should identify yourself with this inner adult. Because if he is awake, you would be the captain on the bridge. This is the case every time you act as an adult, whether it is to understand a text or to go to work regularly. This grown-up self is usually more relaxed than the inner guard, can use his mind much better and has a higher life experience. The best way to use his adult beliefs is to have a realistic overview of the situation.

In stress, where we do not have this overview, the adult's voice is often the quieter, and the anxious minder is on his own with his childish fears.

Düssler closes: The decisive challenge is therefore that we bring our “grown-up self” with his skills and experience into play again and again and develop our own realistic considerations. Because then we can either calm our over-anxious child watcher or benefit from his advice if we recognize that he is right.

The inner child

According to Düssler, the inner child shows up not only as a fearful watchdog: “There are endless possibilities to have a good time with your inner child. And infinitely many to feel the painful feelings of the inner child: it can be sad, stubborn, hurt, feel lonely and inferior. If we are attentive, we can perceive it as soon as it communicates with its needs and feelings. "

Which instance is currently reporting?

But, according to Düssler, how do we know whether a child's watchdog, inner child or inner adult is reporting?

The child's watchdog shows itself clearly when we put ourselves under pressure, brake or reproach ourselves. If - then links are, according to Düssler, to warn his usual method of supposed or real dangers. The inner child, on the other hand, reports needs like doing something beautiful, feels deep grief as loneliness and can be very enthusiastic. The inner mind, however, does not go beyond satisfaction. If thoughts correspond to realistic beliefs, the inner adult plays along. You can also recognize this from his ability to create a realistic overview, says Düssler. In stressful situations, he reports quietly, while the inner watcher pushes.

If several instances report at the same time, you should, according to Düssler, take care of the loudest. They need their attention most urgently.

How to properly understand your inner guardian

The dialogue with the internal authorities has become an integral part of psychotherapy. Unfortunately, the dialogue with the inner critic often amounts to an inner struggle for power, which does not do justice to the integration of the different voices. However, we could learn to conduct the inner dialogue directly and openly, even if it feels strange at first. In this way we could have direct access to the otherwise hidden rules of the child's watchdog.

We could get the inner critic out of his comfort zone with a threatening fantasy and perceive him more clearly. Then it's about what he wants to warn us about. The question to him was: "What could happen in your child's imagination at worst?" If you get a warning now, then you are in dialogue with your inner guardian. An anxious watchdog needs understanding as well as an inner child.

The correct assessment of supposed dangers

In order to assess whether there is a danger that the inner guardian warns us of, a reality check with common sense is needed. To do this, we would have to distinguish what we feel spontaneously, because that is the alarm of the inner watcher, and what we actually think is realistic. As soon as you have cleared the main fears of your inner watcher, the dialogue with him becomes more and more fluid.

You can find out that the inner watchdog is exaggerating by checking the situation. Mistakes could cause problems, but hardly any mistakes lead to total chaos. Inferences about complete incapacity are exaggerated, because all other characteristics are not negatively affected by not being able to keep up with others in one area.

The virtual friend

One way to get the irrational fears under control is to be a virtual friend, whom you can let your inner guard take care of. This virtual friend could go through situations with the inner guard and assess whether they were really dangerous or not. You should be asking yourself: What would I say to my virtual friend?

The sense of reality checks

According to Düssler, the reality checks can be a real challenge. You should give advice to your virtual friend first, because we are much better at giving advice to others than ourselves, the author said. Reality checks would go much faster over time.

These reviews are the only way to find our own values ​​and beliefs, otherwise we follow the habit or voice of our inner minders.

Typical watchdog thinking

Our inner watchers love extremes. Typical for him are thoughts like "only", "always", "constantly", "everyone", "never", "totally" or "always worse". It will be difficult if, firstly, negative extremes do not apply and, secondly, we see them unnoticed as facts. The high price is real failure and hopelessness.

However, these negative extremes would make sense that they act as valves and seem to simplify complicated problems. But this effect only lasted briefly, and then the usual feelings of the watcher came to light again: distrust and fear. The inner watcher now needs the feedback: "Yes, it feels so bad at the moment."

Escape extreme thinking

The ability to put the negative things next to the positive things helps to escape extreme thinking. The recognition of small bright spots save you from deep despair. The more a person is in a psychological crisis, the more he is involved in extremely negative messages.
The little bright spots are necessary to be patient enough to succeed in many small steps.

If, then or not?

A “if-then-thinking” is also typical of the inner guardian, ie the establishment of causal chains that often do not correspond to reality. He links some events to an anxious conclusion. If you look at these conclusions realistically, you would usually notice that one (if) has nothing to do with the other (then).

Realistic instead of unrealistic messages

In order to replace unrealistic messages with realistic ones, the first thing to do is to dispose of the unusable part of the messages. You can only get rid of them if you have identified them as unusable. And you dispose of these useless messages where they come from - in the past.

For example, if you are afraid of a new relationship, it may be because you feel guilty about the end of the old relationship and consider yourself incapable of relationship. However, if you were able to realistically assess your own mistakes as well as those of your ex-partner, you could learn from the past relationship for the next one. This would make the new relationship an enriching opportunity.

Even painful memories can fade away when the messages that have disappeared with them disappear, says Düssler. There are also threatening messages that were realistic at the time they were created, but are often no longer there today.

Formulate the new belief

Once you've straightened out unrealistic messages, be it time to formulate new beliefs that are more appropriate to reality. That way, you could regain tons of lost power that will let you walk the world more freely for the rest of your life. For example, it would be positive and realistic to say “I can feel and think everything! And I can do everything my virtual friend can do: everything that is fair for me and the others. "Or" I don't have to do it, but I can do it if I want to. "

The most common stress messages

According to Düssler, a central stress message is: "I am worthless". The fear of the feeling of inferiority or standing as a failure is great. This results in a permanent self-criticism: "Warning, they think badly about you!"

This resulted in aggressive as well as depressive variants. An aggressive form is: "As long as you can devalue others, you are more powerful and worth more than them!", A depressive form: "You are inferior, so be quiet and resign yourself to it."

Widespread patterns to ward off feelings of inferiority are change of subject, aggressive devaluation of the other, excessive avoidance behavior or reproachful withdrawal. However, if you understood that you are immeasurably valuable and feel inferior only because of learned thinking and action patterns, you can think of guidelines such as: "I don't need to worry because I am very valuable."

Your toolbox for reality checking

In the end, Düssler provides a “tool kit” to systematically implement the described path to a more positive self-image. These tools are firstly the virtual friend, secondly real friends that you question in the respective situation, thirdly, scales from 0 to 100 percent (to act against messages like “I always do everything wrong”), fourthly experiments with which you can test your inner self Training watchdogs to look fifthly into the past, which we have managed so far to estimate the likelihood of the future, and sixthly to ask about security.


Düssler nestles his theses in practice. Anyone interested in the scientific foundations will miss knowledge from memory and brain research, which could explain exactly where the warning and fear images, which the psychotherapist calls inner watchers, have their origin. In this way, memory does not function as a chronicle, but as an orientation system that is continually restructured, depending on which experiences appear to make sense in which way in the present. In addition, the strong fear patterns that trigger stress come from our older layers of the brain, which we even share with reptiles.

"Stop getting ready" has practical value, however. Although it stands for someone who is a little familiar with psychology and psychotherapy, there is nothing new in it, but it is so visually summarized that the exercises described can also be used in everyday life.

Who is the book for and who isn't?

However, it is best suited for "normal neurotics" who can recognize their "inner guard" and are able to deal with it. Anyone who suffers from a serious psychosomatic disorder in which this internal critic exercises his power uninhibitedly needs outside help and cannot rely on this book. This also applies to mental disorders in which a reality check is not possible because they are associated with a loss of reality. The first applies to severe depressive disorders, the second to psychoses and both for bipolarity (bipolar disorder). (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Burkhard Düssler
Stop getting ready.
How we find lasting positive self-worth.
Kailash 2018.
ISBN: 978-3-424-63158-6

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