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May 10, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

The Gentle Exorcism of Dexter, My Inner Critic.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately, and the concept of the inner critic seems to come up often.  This has led me to some deep thought regarding my own inner critic whom years ago, I decided to name Dexter.

Dexter is a mean little demon who takes up real-estate in my brain but refuses to pay any rent.  He’s angry and destructive.  Everywhere that he goes his main purpose is to damage if not destroy.

There was a time in my life when Dexter ruled my world.  So much so, that my belief in the things that he said left me paralyzed with fear and shame, making it impossible for me to function. Many years ago, his abuse was so successful that it was difficult for me to leave my home and I starved myself down to 92 lbs because he had convinced me that I didn’t deserve food.

As I grew, and found my way to a healthier place, Dexter would tell me to stick with what I did best. He would tell me that making costumes, was the only thing I’ll ever accomplish in life.  He would point out that I’ll  never be great at it, adding that I’ll never be great at anything, but for the most part, he kept reasonably quiet and allowed me to do my work.

Having lost some of his power, he decided to stick with what was easiest.  He would lay dormant until I would try to grow creatively through art, or music, or writing, anything really, and he would be sure to wake up to remind me that I was attempting to do things that I shouldn’t.  After all, who did I think I am?

His harassment caused the panic attacks that I had during guitar lessons.  The same panic attacks that had made me decide not to pursue a career in music when I was in high school. To me this was a sure sign that I could never really be a musician at any level.

When I decided to to take up photography, Dexter convinced me to throw my first rolls of film in the garbage without even developing them.  I finally became brave enough to develop some pictures, but threw the first prints out without even looking.  My belief in Dexter was so great that any mistake or failure to me was proof that he knew what he was talking about. Dexter enabled me in my own quest for unattainable perfection.

I knew that I had created him and he used that against me. “Look at you. ” He would say. “You can’t even control what goes on in your own head.  You’ll never do anything right.”

I tried everything I could to destroy Dexter.  I tried to make him leave his comfortable home by abusing him back.  I tried talking him away, I tried medicating him away. I imagined him locked up forever in a sound-proof vault where I wouldn’t be able to hear him anymore and though he would take vacations from time to time. He always came back.

Unfortunately for Dexter, my drive to create was stronger than his drive to destroy me. It is simply impossible for me not to try, no matter how hard it is to try. So I kept trying photography, until I couldn’t hear him anymore.  I continued taking music lessons including singing which was something I’d always been terrified of even when I was alone. He faded a bit, but the battle was never ending.

The thing that I am learning now, is that you cannot change anything by force.  I’ve learned to be gentle and loving towards myself, and in doing so, I am gentle and loving towards Dexter. After all, he is me.

Apparently, you can kill with kindness.

Learning to love myself was the ultimate win. In typical bully fashion, having been truly challenged, Dexter has crawled off into a far away corner of my mind and curled himself up into a tiny ball. his voice, is still audible at times and his words still have the ability to bite and hurt… but only if I let them.

Now, when I hear his frail whisper I say “Sorry Dex. You can live here if you insist but know this; I do not have to listen to you!” And I don’t.

So, my dear Dexter, thank you for all that you’ve taught me. Thank you for showing me my strength and resilience. Thank you for helping me to grow. Thank you for teaching me not to be hurt by words.

Now go back to sleep!



Leave a Comment
  1. Marc Ward / May 11 2010 1:29 pm

    Hey Jenny

    Well done on putting Dexter back to sleep.

    By overcoming all of what you went through it will sure back you a better person.



  2. jennyannfraser / May 11 2010 4:44 pm

    Thank you Marc!
    Yes, that is true. I wouldn’t change my past for anything.

  3. Chris Edgar / May 12 2010 11:53 am

    Hi Jenny — that sounds like a liberating discovery — that Dexter is actually you. That’s certainly been an important thing to realize for me — it’s enabled me to sort of “head it off at the pass.” When I am about to be critical toward myself, a sour feeling starts coming up in my upper back and shoulders — but the criticism doesn’t need to happen in that moment. Instead, the criticism was a reaction to the sourness, not a necessary result of it. Insights like this are why meditation is so important to me.

    • jennyannfraser / May 12 2010 8:24 pm

      Yes Chris I agree with everything you’ve said. I’m reminded to listen to my body to tell me what is going on in my head. Something I’m aware of, but want to be able to do more consistently. I really do need to get back to my meditation practice. It has helped me so much, but somehow seems to slide away at times. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. BK / May 13 2010 4:34 am

    Just thought I would share this poem with you:

    Invictus by William Ernest Henley

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeoning of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    • jennyannfraser / May 13 2010 9:07 am

      Thank you BK! I have tears in my eyes. That one is getting printed out and posted on my wall!

  5. Fatima Da / May 13 2010 7:44 pm

    Very interesting post, how wonderful is it just to feel and be different at the end….. Learning to love ourselves is definitely the ultimate win.. Great post 🙂

  6. jennyannfraser / May 14 2010 9:10 am

    Thank you for commenting Fatima. Change really is possible. I suppose it’s about being willing.

  7. Greg Blencoe / May 14 2010 10:39 am

    Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for sharing how you have overcome your inner critic. I think we as human beings have the potential to be so powerful. But our inner critics can hold us back so much. It’s amazing how much our lives can change when our conversation with ourselves changes.

    One technique that worked really well for me in this area is the “I love you” mirror technique. I think I learned it from Tony Robbins, but I have heard that Louise Hay encourages people to do this, too.

    The idea to to simply look in the mirror and then say how much you love yourself. Back in 2004, I did this for one to two minutes for a couple of weeks and had really good results. It helped me improve how I viewed myself.

  8. jennyannfraser / May 14 2010 9:19 pm

    Thank you Greg,
    That’s so great! I read Louise Hay’s book, You Can Change Your Life. I think the title alone says so much. If we could believe that, we would change our lives… and the world.
    The biggest turning point for me, was finding compassion and then forgiveness for others. When I could find compassion for others, I also found it for myself. It’s a nice side-effect.
    I highly recommend it!
    Thank you for commenting!
    (we’re on for the 30 day money challenge)

  9. Viv / May 15 2010 1:17 pm

    Hi Jenny,
    I am impressed with your succesful dealing with Dexter; I am also amused by his name. I enjoyed the Dexter series on TV and it seems an entirely appropriate name for an inner serial killer.
    I have similar issues, and to try and illustrate them I wrote a short story that you may enjoy. I am writing the second part now.

    Good luck,
    best wishes,

    • jennyannfraser / May 15 2010 1:57 pm

      Hello Viv, and thank you for reading. Lol at the inner serial killer… I LOVE IT!
      Funny, that I actually named Dexter long before the TV series and it hadn’t occured to me that they were the same.
      I can’t wait to read your story.

    • jennyannfraser / May 15 2010 2:03 pm

      I just read the story. I won’t comment on your page for fear that someone may trackback and blow the ending.
      Nice work. I can’t wait to hear the conversation…subscribing, now.

      • Viv / May 15 2010 5:26 pm

        It’s now posted.
        There are some differences to Dexter, but similar enough, I guess.

  10. Viv / May 15 2010 2:34 pm

    Very considerate of you, Jenny. A number of people made suggestions for the identity of the uninvited guest but those who came close were probably basing it on my tags listed!!!
    I have now also subscribed to yours.
    I expect people have said it plenty of times but your photos make you look very like Jenny Agutter, the actress.

  11. opoetoo / May 17 2010 5:27 am

    I really enjoyed this and I know this beast.
    He is necessary I think but he must be tamed.
    It is so nice when he is sleeping .

    • jennyannfraser / May 17 2010 3:10 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks so much for reading. Just remember, the beast is you, and he can be controlled. Start by being nice to it! 🙂

  12. Ally / May 21 2010 9:44 am

    thanks for the post. I have so many things I want to accomplish in my life and this post inspires me to work towards them!

    • jennyannfraser / May 21 2010 9:58 am

      Well, thank you Ally,
      My hope is that I will inspire so I couldn’t ask for more! You can do anything you set your mind to, and if there is a voice in your head telling you differently, you can always choose not to listen. It will eventually go away. Especially when you prove it wrong.


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