The Cook Awakening

Soothing the Critic

January 13, 2019
Posted in: Events, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

It’s painful. So many of my clients tell me there’s a voice in their head that says their best is just not good enough.

It’s called the Inner Critic. There’s a lot to say about the Inner Critic, but very briefly, it’s a part of the mind that is always criticizing us. Its sole job is to tell us what we’re doing wrong, how we could do things better, and for some of us, it tells us that nothing we do is worth anything. We can end up feeling like we should just stop trying.

If we tell a child who is just beginning to walk that they should never fall down, or that they should be running already, it will be very difficult for them to learn, with all the stages that need to happen for that skill to develop.

That seems obvious. And yet, our minds do something like that to us all the time!

Tara, Deity of Compassion

For some it can feel like a goad that keeps them always on the run, never able to relax. For others, particularly those who may be dealing with health challenges or other situations in life that feel humanly impossible, it can end up just feeling that their only real choice is to give up. I will hear “I think I’m depressed” when what may be happening, at least partially, is a chronic, full blown critic attack that is beating them into exhaustion.

If energy is in short supply, you don’t have any to spare. If you have a higher demand lifestyle, managing the Inner Critic will take up energy that you really need to get your life tasks done. Either way, you really can’t afford this constant companion to sap the resources you need.

I want to tease out one aspect of the Inner Critic here. It developed in childhood with the sole purpose of keeping us safe. I’ll repeat that.

Your Inner Critic is trying to protect you. It is a manifestation of fear, of anxiety about being an outcast.

If a child doesn’t fit into their family to some degree, they risk not being taken care of. A child’s nervous system is acutely attuned to safety, they know on a visceral level that if their caregivers abandon them, they will die.

As adults, that can sound overly dramatic. “I’m not afraid I’m going to die if I don’t get things right!” And yet, the original seeds of these inner selves developed in childhood, before the rational parts of our minds developed. Remember the example I gave earlier about the baby learning to walk? Those developmental milestones are a pattern throughout our lives.

So, what to do?

It all comes down to love. We have to learn to love ourselves. Like it or not, the Inner Critic is a part of you. Impossible as it seems, you have to learn to love your Inner Critic.

Stay with me, here.

Remember that the Inner Critic is an anxious part of you that doesn’t know that you’re not actually a baby in danger of being left out in the wild for the coyotes to find. Its methods may not be effective, just as shouting at a child to RUN when the child is just learning to take their first wobbly steps is not going to help it learn.

Knowing that at its heart the Inner Critic is afraid, and is rooted in a very young part of you, can you imagine what it might be like to reach out to it with love? “It sounds like you’re scared. I’m here.”

We don’t shout back at a frightened child, if we’re in our best selves. We love them. We reassure them. We don’t give in to a child having a tantrum, calling us names. We are loving, and firm.

Give it a try. Wrap your arms around yourself, or hug a stuffed animal, if you still have one around. (I highly recommend having at least one stuffed animal as an adult.) Find a part of you that actually knows you’re going to be okay. That part of you is in there, somewhere, however deeply buried. If you can’t find it easily, try a little “fake it till you make it” – pretend you know it’s going to be okay. There’s no coyote waiting to eat you. The dirty dishes won’t actually kill you. A work assignment that’s just good enough, is actually good enough. It’s not all a sign that you’re a terrible human being and it means you’ll be homeless in short order. Having to spend most or all of the day in bed because of a chronic illness flare is not laziness, it’s actually you taking care of yourself.

Let the part that knows, reassure the part that is in a frenzy of fear and trying to make you do more or different. The part that’s telling you you’re a failure.

I hope this gives you a small ray of light into the shadow that the Critic can cast in your life. It’s a rewarding exploration, usually starting with a kind of horror — “Oh my god, do I really talk to myself that way?!”, but can end up with a beautiful empowerment that comes with self knowledge and facilitation. There’s something you can do about the war in your mind and heart.

My New Year offer is still in effect, until the end of January! Half off your first month of counseling when you commit to three months of working with me. Go here for more about that.

And, if you work with death and dying on a regular basis, please join us this Wednesday evening for a special gathering designed to support YOU in the tender and challenging work you offer the world. Go here for more information. Don’t wait, that’s coming up soon!

Blessings to you, and to your Inner Critic. May we all be reassured that the coyote is not waiting just outside the door. May we know peace, and rest. May we know joy in our accomplishments.

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 13th, 2019 at 3:27 pm and is filed under Events, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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