Criticism Leads to Anxiety, Fear, and Unhappiness

Criticism Leads to Anxiety and Fear

Research supports the idea that all of us live with a lot of anxiety and fear. Much of the anxiety is just part of being alive: Our awareness of death, our fragility and vulnerability create a constant "existential" anxiety.

Within our relationships, however, most of us suffer from too much anxiety and fear primarily because our communications provoke these destructive emotions through criticism, accusa­tion, punishment and humiliation.

Living with anxiety and fear creates unhappiness and despair in all our relationships. So reducing the anxiety and fear caused by blame is one of this book's primary goals.

The goal of living Beyond Blame
is to live without criticism and accusation.

No More Criticism or Accusations -- How Would It Feel?

Imagine what it would be like if all the important people in your life stopped criticizing and accusing you! Imagine that the only things they said were positive and supportive! And when conflict arose (as it must) it was handled respectfully, with hardly any anger, fear or pain.

Wouldn't that feel wonderful?

In the meantime, we need to dig a little deeper into the debil­itating emotions of anxiety and fear, and how they're connected to blame.

Anxiety and Criticism Negatively Affect Recipients and Cause Unhappiness

Aaron teaches high school and shares custody of his ten-­year-old son, David, who has a learning disability. Aaron's ex-wife is studying nursing and also works, so she has little time to follow David's studies. Aaron blames a lot of David's problems on his ex-wife. Aaron is constantly in the grip of all six negative emotions (anger, resentment, anxiety, pain, fear, humiliation), but his primary emotion is anxiety: he worries about his son's academic success.

Aaron teaches science and he believes his son should shine in that subject, despite his disabilities and interest in art and read­ing. Aaron is completely unaware of how his anxiety over David's lack of ability in math and his ongoing criticism affect his son.

During a recent shopping trip, Aaron popped a quiz about the bill. "David, the total was $17.21, and I gave the clerk twenty dollars. So how much change should he have given me back? Go on, do the math in your head."

David mumbled an answer. Aaron snapped, "It's simple! Just think! David, you've got to do something other than read books if you're going to support yourself."

Of course the boy was humiliated and anxious. Why was read­ing silly? He wasn't naturally good at math and it seemed that unless he was, his father wouldn't love him.

Criticism Creates Anxiety and the Belief of Being Unworthy

Criticism Leads to Anxiety and FearSadly, Aaron's comment was part of a pattern of criticism that eventually created a great deal of anxiety in the boy. He felt increasingly incapable in all his studies. This anxiety made his study of math all the more problematic. In other words, he did a lot worse because of his father's criticism.

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

Criticism is the main source of anxiety in relationships and threatens the stability of the connection because it communi­cates that we're not okay, that our performance is substandard.


I'm not saying that an occasional minor criticism destroys relationships. A snappy, "Why did you do that?" will not be a problem. Nor will occasional disapproval cause harm.

The problem is the constant flow of messages with a negative emotional charge that tell you that you are not good enough. The consequence of living in such a critical environment is a tremen­dous amount of anxiety about the stability of the relationship.

Our sensitivity to criticism and accusation goes back to our earliest days as children with our parents. We know that their approval is essential to our happiness and all children do their best to please their parents.

Expressing Disapproval Through Blame & Criticism?

Unfortunately, too many parents (even in this more enlightened era) still use generic forms of blame and criticism as a means of expressing disapproval. The intention might be to improve the child's behavior, but the criticism just makes children feel bad about themselves, anxious about their relation­ship and especially anxious about their self-worth.

The dynamics of pain and humiliation are similar to those of anger and fear because they typically produce anxiety.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA). ©2011 by Carl Alasko.

Article Source:

Beyond Blame: Freeing Yourself from the Most Toxic Form of Emotional Bullsh*t
by Carl Alasko, Ph.D.

Beyond Blame: Freeing Yourself from the Most Toxic Form of Emotional Bullsh*t by Carl Alasko, Ph.D.For many, a rare day goes by in which the need to blame does not arise-be it to cover one's own errors or just to assign an unfortunate event some kind of name (i.e., "If only X hadn't said X, we wouldn't be in this mess.") The path to eliminating blame is not a quick or easy one but, as Carl Alasko demonstrates, it is a road that must be traveled if we hope to achieve true peace in our lives.

Click here for more info or to order this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Carl Alasko, Ph.D. author of the article -- Criticism Leads to Anxiety and FearCarl Alasko, Ph.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist specializing in couples and families for over twenty years. For the past thirteen years he has written a weekly advice column, "On Relationships", for the Monterey County Herald, which has consistently been one of the Herald's most popular columns. He has also given numerous lectures on the topic of healthy relationships and has hosted a popular advice radio show. Visit his website at

More Articles By This Author

You May Also Like

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration




is it covid or hay fecer 8 7
Here’s How To Tell If It's Covid or Hay Fever
by Samuel J. White, and Philippe B. Wilson
With warm weather in the northern hemisphere, many people will be suffering from pollen allergies.…
changing peoples minds 8 3
Why It’s Hard To Challenge Someone’s False Beliefs
by Lara Millman
Most people think they acquire their beliefs using a high standard of objectivity. But recent…
sage smudge sticks, feathers, and a dreamcatcher
Cleansing, Grounding, and Protecting: Two Foundational Practices
by MaryAnn DiMarco
Many cultures have a ritualistic cleansing practice, often done with smoke or water, to help remove…
overcoming lonliness 8 4
4 Ways To Recover From Loneliness
by Michelle H Lim
Loneliness isn’t unusual given it’s a natural human emotion. But when ignored or not effectively…
changing attitude about climate 8 13
Why Climate and Extreme Heat Are Affecting Our Attitude
by Kiffer George Card
The rising frequency and intensity of heat waves has been affecting people’s mental health by…
how to break bad habits 8 13
How To Break Unhealthy Habits By Not Obsessing About Willpower
by Asaf Mazar and Wendy Wood
One question we set out to answer in our recent research. The answer has far-reaching implications…
young woman sitting with her back against a tree working on her laptop
Work-Life Balance? From Balancing to Integrating
by Chris DeSantis
The concept of work-life balance has morphed and evolved over the approximately forty years it has…
avoiding closed mind 8 13
Why Facts Often Don’t Change Minds
by Keith M. Bellizzi,
“Facts First” is the tagline of a CNN branding campaign which contends that “once facts are…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities | | | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.