To better understand criticism it is important to have a few definitions.  Since most criticism
involves interaction of two people we will name these people the “Demander” and the “Perceiver.”
The Demander is the person from whom criticism comes.  The Perceiver is the person who
perceives the demand in a critical way.  In fact, criticism is a demand for someone to do something.
Developmentally, this exchange between the demander and perceiver has its origin in the parent-
child relationship.  In later life it continues as the perceiver sees the demander as a person in
power. The perceiver gives the power to the demander who is viewed as an unequal and in a
superior position.

All criticism, regardless of the form in which it is expressed, has its origins in one fundamental
principle. This single principle is what I have called  the Truth- Imposition Dilemma of Mankind.  I
believe that this concept needs a slight expansion for the origins of criticism. In order for criticism
to be perceived or intended there has to be a basic “Truth” as believed by the demander.  This
“Truth” will have an Expectation carried along with it.  In addition, the demander will have a belief
that his Truth and Expectation can be imposed on the intended  person.

The universality of this “Truth” (belief) - Expectation - Imposition sequence comes from the fact
that we all grow up having certain beliefs which we are convinced are true. The generational effect
is that all parents impose these truths on their children and they are passed down from generation
to generation  -- often with no or only slight modification.

For example, in our culture we have had a belief that one shouldn’t hurt others feelings.  While
this belief is based upon a false assumption, i.e., that it is possible not to hurt others feelings,
nevertheless it is still held by parents as a Truth.  It is taught (imposed) on the child with the
expectation that the child will conform and not hurt others feelings.  The result of this misteaching
is that teens and younger adults will go to many extremes to avoid the expected criticism from
breaking this belief if they reject a partner which inevitably hurts the feelings of the one rejected.  
This often results in the unpleasant situation of staying with partners only to avoid hurting their
feelings.  How many of you have seen a teenager stay in an unhealthy relationship only because
they were afraid of the effects of the rejection.  Indeed, they also are often bothered by guilt from
having violated the misteaching because the rejection did, in fact, hurt the others feelings.

.           So, not only do we set ourself up for criticism from the Demander but also we set ourself
up for criticism within ourself for having broken the rule.  
Laurence C. Smith, Jr., PhD
Table of Contents
Chapter I
1. Just What is Criticism?
2.  Truth-Expectation-Imposition

Chapter II
Five Ways to Show Criticism
1.  A Look
2.  Our Language Which Demands
“ Do It My Way”
3.  A Physical Expression
4.  Combination of the above
5.  Indoctrinating a Strong Belief

Chapter III
The Generational Illness
1.  The Teaching of Criticism
2.  The Language of Criticism
3.   The Automatic Nature of Criticism
4.   Misteachings

Chapter IV
Ten Purposes of Criticism
1.  To Teach My Values
2.  To Impose Our Beliefs and Our
3. To Create You in My Image
4. To Establish Law and Order
5. To Maintain Law and Order
6.  To Reduce My Fear
7.To Make Me Feel That I Am Doing My
8.To Fulfill My Belief That I Can Make
Things Happen
9.To Fulfill My Belief That I Can Stop
Something from Happening
10. To Avoid Taking Responsibility

Chapter V
Twelve Who Do It
1. Those with the Strongest Beliefs
2. Those Who Believe That There’s
Is the Only or the Best Way
3. Those with the Strongest Opinions
4. Those Who Are Rigid                      
5. Proselytizers -- Those Who Believe
That They Have the “Truth”
And Must  Impose It on Others
6. Those With the Most Fears
7. Those Who Feel the Most Unsure of
8. Those Who Feel the Most Unsure of
Those They Love
9. Those Who Have a Poor Self Image
and Poor Self-worth
10. Those Who Believe They Can
Control Others Behavior
11. Those Who Have Been Criticized
Growing up
By Laurence C. Smith, Jr., Ph.D.
When someone asked me why I would write a book on criticism and call it “Criticism - Our
Disease”, I told them that criticism was the silent psychological disease. It is a disease of epidemic
proportions in our society and one that has the greatest effects on more people than any other
single interaction that occurs to each one of us.  We have all been criticized in our upbringing and
I am fascinated by the variety of ways that we handle criticism.   I am amazed at how instrumental
criticism has been in forming our personalities and in forming our psychological defenses.  The
effects of criticism are so quietly devastating at very deep psychological levels that if it were
abolished we would raise much healthier children and have a society with individuals with a much
stronger sense of positive self-regard.  There is a strong need for each of us to be aware of our
use of criticism, to amend it, and to reduce it.

In this world of varying beliefs and multiple “truths“, it is my purpose to bring forth a few universal
truths that can be applied to the greater understanding of mankind and that hopefully, these
truths will have some universal application in personality development and personal interactions.  
In my first book, “The Nature of Human Feelings”, I focused primarily on the description of the six
natural and universal feelings that occur in all societies under very predictable circumstances.  
The contribution of that particular book was intended to simplify human feelings to the point where
we can predictably understand and communicate about feelings by understanding the cause and
the effect of each of our Human feelings.

In this book the focus will be on the interaction effects between individuals when criticism is the
focus of the interaction. The effects of criticism are insidious. When people are around someone
being criticized or are being critical there is always DIS-EASE.

Criticism, rejection, and abandonment are the three most traumatizing psychological effects on an
individual. The most pervasive of these three as criticism. It exists in repeated fashion over years
of an individual’s life. As such it is constantly reinforcing to the individual and his or her psyche
because of the never-ending incidents in our families, education and society.  Because of the
repetitiveness of criticism it continuously reinforces the negative self-image of the individual being
criticized.  Only the crimes of physical and sexual abuse have a stronger affect on a person’s life.  
The frequency and universality of criticism in our society has a much greater overall effect on
humans in our society than the isolated incidents of the other types of abuse.  It is for this reason
that I believe that criticism is the most universal and most negatively destructive force in our

In only one instance does criticism ever have a positive effect.  That one instance is where the
individual is sufficiently matured to be able to weigh the value of the criticism in a positive way,
without any of the emotional overlay of the effects of criticism. That is, the individual must be
developmentally mature enough to emotionally detach from the criticism itself and from the person
being critical.  For the majority of us, however, criticism feeds our negative self-image and our
ever-present doubts about ourselves.  Criticism almost always has negative emotions attached to
it. It is as much the negative emotion attached to criticism as the criticism itself, which affects the
person thoughts and feelings toward himself. When yelling or screaming or finger pointing
accompany criticism, as it often does, the emotional consequences are extreme. None of us likes
to have another person feeling negatively towards us or to be sitting in judgment against us.
Criticism places you in that position.

This book will discuss and explain the consequences of criticism and will bring the reader some
means of understanding and coping with this ever present destructive problem.  Once we have an
understanding of the dynamics of criticism, there will hopefully be greater motivation to overcome
our critical ways.  I believe that everything that we do in a critical way can be done better and
without the devastating psychological effects if it is done in an educational manner.

My style of writing is such that I am basically a person of few words and I do not like to make
elaborate examples and explanations about what it is that I am trying to convey.  I have a
tendency to write very heavy thoughts.  As such, it would help the reader to slowly read the
contents of this book, taking time in between sections to reflect and ponder the particular issues
at hand in regard to him or herself. Only through reflective thinking will you get the most out of
what you’re about to read.  This is not a quick skimming book.   It is not one that you can read
while watching television or doing other things; it will require a certain degree of thought.
Chapter VI             
Three Big  Effects of Criticism
I.  Emotional Effects
Primary Feeling Is Hurt
Makes Us Feel Bad About Ourselves
Makes Us Feel Powerless
Makes Us More Fearful in Dealing   
with the World
Makes Us Feel Impotent
II.  Ego Development Effects
Lowers One’s Self-confidence
Creates Self-doubt
Undermines Belief in Self
Creates a Negative Self-image
Creates Lower Self-worth
Foster’s Feelings of Insecurity - “I Can’t
Do Anything Right”
Makes Us Question Our Sanity and
Our Perception of the World
Creates a Personality Unwilling to Risk
Develops Poor Self-respect and Less
Respect of Others
Creates a Personality Less Able to
Support,  Nourish and Protect
Self and Others
III.  Behavioral Effects
Causes Less Desire to Communicate
Causes Interpersonal Withdrawal
Causes Less Disclosure and
Greater Silence in Relationships
Makes Us Question Our Perception,
Knowledge and Information
About the World
Causes Us to Go Underground in
Our Interpersonal Interactions
Reduces or Stops Confrontation
Causes an Increase in Lying
(anticipated criticism may be the
origin of all lying)        

Chapter VII      
Nine Personal and Psychological Defenses
to Avoid  Criticism
1.  Withdrawal - Physically and
2.  Avoidance -- Creates Excellence
and Secretiveness and
Changing the Subject
3.  Development of Manipulation
4.  Development of Sequences of
5.  Builds Defenses of Not Listening
and Not Hearing
6.  Develops “Debate Vs.
Discussion” and “Competition
Vs. Cooperation”
7.  Foster’s Lying As a Defense
8.  Builds the Defense of “Shifting
the Blame” so You Are Never
Wrong and Thus Never Criticized
9.  Create Aggressiveness As a
Defense (Get Him before He
Gets Me)

Chapter VIII
Three Ways to Correct Our Critical
I.  Passive Correction
Developmental Maturity
II.  Active Correction of Self
Challenge Our Beliefs and Modify
Increase Our Self- Knowledge
around Our Fears and
Developed Options and Risk-taking
Turn Personalized Criticism into
Information That Can Help You
Recognize What to Change and
What to Accept In Yourself
Examine And Question Your Beliefs
about “ Truth -- Imposition”
III.  Active Change in Relation to Others
Learn the Language of Criticism and
How to Counteract
“I” Message Vs. “You” Message
Give Positive Strokes
Be Aware of the Negative Effects of
Criticism - Anticipate That It
Always Causes Hurt
Accept Others As They Are Verses
Trying to Change Them
Let Others Be Themselves and
Foster Their Self-development
Support and Nourish Others’ Self
Learn How to Teach in All Situations
Where You Would Have Been

Criticism is the vehicle for imposing our beliefs on others thus
perpetuating the Dilemma of Mankind.
Laurence C. Smith, Jr., PhD

Laurence C. Smith, Jr., PhD

It is difficult to write about criticism without some form of definition in the ways that we express
criticism.  For the  purposes of this book I am going to define criticism in its broadest sense.  Criticism
takes many forms. Fundamentally, it is an attitude  that can be shown in a variety of ways.

For many of us, we are totally unaware of the critical tone that exists in our expressions whether it is
verbal or physical.  Criticism has become so automatic in our society that many of you as you read
this will be surprised to hear that what you are doing is defined by me as criticism.  When I say that
criticism can be manifested by a look, most of us understand right away what I mean. The critical look
usually involves some form of disdain by the person being critical. It may include a raised eyebrow or
a glance up into the sky or even a turn of the head looking over ones shoulder.  The critical look has
as much power as any verbalization.  It can be seen across the room and in a knowing way it is a
clear message that parents give children when they have misbehaved. For a child the look of
criticism is something that has to have been preceded by some form of verbal correction done in the
past.  Frequent scolding by the parent for a specific task sets the child up for the awareness that
when the behavior is repeated, only a look from the parent is necessary to replace the spoken word.

With the advent of television, nonverbal forms of criticism have become more prevalent in our
society.   We as frequent viewers, have become more aware of an increasing amount of nonverbal
types of criticism. A thumbs down gesture is only one example.  Gestures and a variety of different
forms of body language have become commonplace signs of criticism. Sighs of exasperation are
another common form of criticism.  Whatever the physical manifestation of criticism, it is ordinarily the
underlying attitude of the individual who is giving this criticism that makes it clear to the receiver that
he indeed is being critical.

By the time each of us has finished the first grade we have been over- exposed to criticism. Those of
us who have been raised with the English language have experienced criticism to a much greater
degree than someone raised in the tradition of a foreign language.  To us criticism is a function of
the structure of our English language. While criticism can be expressed nonverbally by a look of
disapproval or doubt, most criticism comes to us verbally by the use of the future conditional  form of
the verb.  This verb is almost always preceded by the pronoun “you” and a pointed finger that feels
like it is going right through you.  This combination of verbal and physical expression of criticism is
perhaps the most powerful. The following are examples of this type of verbal criticism:

“You should do this.”
“You shouldn’t do that”
“You must do this.”
“Right lane must turn.”
“You have to do this.”                                             
“You better do this.”                                                        
“You better not do this.”
“You know what you ought to do”
“You need to do it this way”

Direct commands not to do something are also a source of criticism that seriously effects a person’s
behavior. How many times do you remember being told “Don’t hurt people’s feelings,”  “Don’t be
selfish,” “Don’t tell a lie,” “Don’t have too much fun,”  “Don’t do that, because what will the neighbors
think if they find out?”  Each of the above direct commands has as their basis a fundamental belief
that becomes part of the child as he grows up. Each of these beliefs becomes so deeply ingrained in
us that they may contain an anticipation of criticism if we violate them.  Each of us has innumerable
significant and insignificant beliefs which have formed part of our behavior. “Don’t take the last
cookie on the plate” may be one of those socially unacceptable admonitions that we have grown up
with. “Don’t put the napkin on the table before you have finished eating,”  “Clean you plate or you can
‘t have desert”,  “You better do what your mother says”, may be other admonitions.  By the time that
we are adults these admonitions and many others like them have become part of our automatic
behavior, which if we inadvertently violate them, makes us feel a twinge of guilt. And indeed, that
critical watchful eye of the parent remains ever-present even into our adulthood and later years.

How many times have you been told that you shouldn’t make too much noise, you better come in
before 10:00 or something bad can happen to you, you must pick up your dirty dishes, you have to
call me if you’re going to be late, you need to go by and see your grandmother, you better not miss
church today, you have to be quiet around your father when he’s sleeping, and you better do your
homework. While each of these commands are not critical in and of themselves, a violation of any
one of them can make you critical of yourself and can contribute to your feelings of guilt from not
following these well indoctrinated teachings that have become part of your belief system.

Most parents with strong beliefs indoctrinate the children very early in those beliefs.  These strong
beliefs often lead to greater potential criticism.   For most of us, early upbringing has been so full of
actual and implied criticisms, that it is surprising that we do not have many more psychological
problems because of  it. In every family there is an elder, a mother, father, grandparent, aunt or
uncle who is known for being critical -- if not to one of us then of others around us -- the neighbor
who lets his dog run all over, the teacher who never gives homework or who gives too much
homework, the brother who is too lazy, the sister who is irresponsible and cousin who is stupid.  We
have heard it all, over and over, to the point where criticism becomes deafening. Being told what to
do isn’t in itself criticism, but being told how badly, incorrectly, or imperfectly it was done is where we’
ve gotten most of our criticism.

In families where both parents are very critical the negative results on the child’s psyche are
astounding.  Not only does it cause a negative self-image and feelings of worthlessness in the child
but it also can set up behavioral defenses that effect that child well into adulthood if not all of his life.
Other than abandonment, rejection or abuse, criticism is the greatest negative influence in the
developing psyche and personality of the child.  It is certainly the most all-encompassing influence in
our society because of the structure of our language and the spread from generation to generation,
which exposes everyone in our society to criticism.  It is for these reasons that criticism exists
throughout our society.   Indeed, it is an extremely serious “disease” of epidemic proportions.  I hope
to show that criticism, like no other single type of behavior, effects people negatively at their very
roots of character and personality development.

Laurence C. Smith, Jr., PhD

CHAPTER II - Criticism is An Attitude
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Definition of Criticism -- Any expression (verbal of non-verbal, implied or stated), of ones belief showing disapproval, disagreement or
disfavor to another with the intent of changing someone’s behavior or beliefs to conform to yours without the others consent.  Verbal
expression usually begins with “you” should, ought, must, have to, shouldn’t, better not, need to etc.
Copyright © 2006 - 2009 L.C.Smith, Jr.,
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