The inner critic in some of us is such a powerful force, some call it the negative super ego. My feeling also is that the more we have been hurt by others or life in the past, the stronger our inner critic becomes as really when you understand its function it is trying to protect you. I learned this while reading the book Freedom From Your Inner Critic earlier in the year.
In my own case I was raised in a house with an OCD mother who had perfection as a defence. So I equate needing to be perfect and in control with being loved and I know when I got sober I came to understand the huge part toxic shame had played in my own journey. I could be messy in my addiction and so called ‘out of control’ which was really about part of my repressive self and shadow wanting to break free but not in any kind of balanced way.
Of course shame and vulnerability are so closely linked and I also learned to hide and fear in my young years in the absence of care. I was not protected in any way in the course of growing up and was also left alone a lot. That is what one therapist I saw called benign neglect and I understood a lot more about that too when I read another book Running on Empty : Overcoming Your Childhood Emotional Neglect in which the author Jonice Webb outlines so clearly the consequences of such neglect which include :
- Feelings of emptiness
- Counter dependence
- Unrealistic Self Appraisal
- No Compassion for Self, Plenty for Others
- Guilt and Shame : What is Wrong With Me
- Self directed anger : Self Blame
- The Fatal Flaw (If People Really Know Me They Won’t Like Me)
- Difficulty Nurturing Self and Others
- Poor Self Discipline
- Alexithymia : Poor Awareness and Understanding of Emotions
As I view this list again is obvious how for each of the 10 points the inner critic can come in to blame and shame us. For example if we have no compassion for self, we tend to criticise ourselves all the time and with no true compassion for self or understanding of our emotions we give ourselves a hard time for feeling or acting as we do and also for our wounds which were not really our fault in the first place but now have at responsibility to understand feel and heal.
The antidote to the inner critic is to become more realistic in our self appraisal. To understand the nature of our wounds while not using them as an excuse to blame ourselves or stop us from growing in positive self discipline. Permissive parenting combined with emotional neglect means we tend to become addictive and don’t know how to nurture ourselves by setting healthy limits on say food or alcohol or drugs as well as using them to mask our pain. We may be the ‘spoilt’ child who really was so damaged and longing for love, attention and care that was needed but just never available in the emotionally necessary way.
I just opened my daily reader to the following reading and it was with the purpose of sharing it that I opened up this page to write. I felt that it was a powerful antidote for the hard time I so often give myself on the tough days, those days when I am not even conscious of the inner critic working away inside to reduce me to a pile of ash. I just felt the need to share it. None of us deserves blame or shame from others or from ourselves on this healing pathway. God knows its hard enough. So lets work to learn how to be more honest, fair and loving to ourselves as we do the hard work of emotional recovery.
Learning from Life
There are no ‘buts’ today. I am where I am, others are where they are, life is what it is. I will not parenthesize my life growth with a ‘but’, or hold back my forward moving spirit with second guesses. For today, I am living with things as they are. I am exactly where I am meant to be, learning what I need to learn. All I need to do is move through situations with willingness to learn and openness to feel. When feelings are brought up, I can accept them as what is happening within me – no need to resist and analyse them. Transformation will happen in the moving through and acceptance of what’s happening right now. I trust that my life is unfolding in such a way that what I need to become aware of, will reveal itself to me. I am willing to learn.
I see meaning in my day to day life
The meaning is there even as we become aware of ways we are limited or have fallen short. Some things the critic has to say may be helpful to help us move forward but we have to be careful when the inner critic is running a perfectionistic monologue that is not helping us to embrace our vulnerable humanity.