I have been trying to use active imagination with the force of the inner critic inside me lately. For those who dont know active imagination is a way we can dialogue with an inner psychic force inside us, Robert Johnson Jungian therapist addresses it in his book Inner Work but my talks with the critic were also inspiresed by another book called Freedom from your Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approcach.
One of the things my inner critic does is drive me hard. As a child growing up we were not allowed to play or have fun until all our chores were done. A friend in later years said it was like coming to a military operation in our home. We had to iron our own school uniforms, polish our shoes and clean our rooms I also learned to run around after my mother who would get herself in a state of apoplexy at any sign of mess. In later years when my older sister was in the care home for acquired brain injury she would laugh uproarously about an incident at a farm when Mum got chicken shit on her shoe.
It was a bit mean come to think of it for as an emotionally neglected child my mother had no one at all there for her. Her father died when she was 7, her own mother had no war pension and had to work afternoons, evenings and mornings just the times she should have been home for her daughter. Mum got her own dinner, she made own breakfast, got herself ready for school (where she was abused and punished and used to clean the Nun’s chapel or stood in the corner for not doing home work COME ON!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!) Those were harsh times during the 1930’s coming out of the depression years and First World War into the intense climate of the Second during which she met my Dad.
Dad was the oldest of a fatherless family too, fleeing Holland just prior to German occupation in 1938. He was hell bent on becoming a millionaire. My godfather, his best friend told me this when I got into addiction recovery in 1993-1996. We had many chats because my father died when I was 22 and I never knew his history over which he remained quite silent like many of his generation.
Anyway back to my inner critic who I call Mr A and my therapist calls The Annihilator. He often wont let me rest and the other morning when he was off on a rant I just gave him a hug in my active imagination then I put an ice pack on his head. It was a while until he calmed down but I got a good insight into what lay beneath just as when one time I stopped my Mum mid flight in an OCD cleaning spree to hug her and she also burst into tears!!!
I have been grieving a lot more since this incident. The self punishing voices are still there but I am able to bring them out and ‘unblend’ from them (a term used in the second bood mentioned above.) My child inner often gets tormented by Mr A he blames her for everything, including a host of things that never in a million years could be her fault. But of course this is what happens to those of us emotionally neglected in childhood. But we can take back control over these inner forces if our desire to love and seek the truth is stronger than our possession by them, if we are willing to do the inner work to make them more conscious.
As Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss point out in the second book our Critic is so often hostile to our Inner Child but we can learn to change this by self compassion and in the process our compassion for the wounds of those who abused us also grows. We know they were hurting and did the best they knew, even if it was in no way good enough, we are on an evolutionary trajectory in regards to that carried or inherited trauma.