Inner Critic

Compassion Protocol for the Worst Days Ever

I'm usually pretty hard on myself- when I'm not being productive, my inner critic tends to stand there and whip me repeatedly, even when it's an extraordinarily bad day- when it feels like there are knives sticking into your back like the ten of swords card in tarot. 

Yesterday could easily stand out among 2016's worst days, and I've become conscious that when those days happen, I need to be nice to myself and basically allow myself to numb out a bit.  I'm of the type that would say, "no!  I need to feel the pain to process it!", but I've also become aware that I'm human, and can only process a bit of pain at a time.

Here's some things I'm allowing myself to do on extraordinarily bad days without any guilt whatsoever.

1.  Sleep as much or as little as I like

2.  eat an extra energy bar or two without feeling guilty (I'm a stress eater)

3.  use the heater (without thinking about the bill)

4.  watch youtube all evening

5.  throw my clothes on the floor instead of hanging them up (although trust me, I throw my clothes on the floor all the time- I just feel guilty about it.)

6.  If I don't drink my entire litre of water for the day, it's okay.

7.  If I don't want to go to the gym, my inner critic guesses that's okay, although I do have to promise to go the next day.

8.  slouch

9.  Eat A BIT of honey and peanut butter out of the jar

Here's what I still have to do:

1.  Wash and oil my face before bed

2.  Brush my teeth

3.  Move a TINY bit of energy around- I tend to get immobilized if I don't, so I have to make it to the garbage to throw out a wrapper, or put my shoes away... something to make sure the energy keeps moving a little bit.

If I only had normal bad days, I don't know if I'd have learned that it's even possible to shut the inner critic up.  On Extraordinarily bad days, I pull the plug on it and just enjoy the silent, empty ether.  I'm not in charge of manufacturing hardship to build my character- hardship is something that comes to you and you have to make lemonade with it... or don't make anything at all. 

 

#Imnoangel is #missingthepoint

  Hugely trending #Imnoangel campaign by Lane Bryant right now, with the headline, "Lane Bryant Bashes Victoria Secret with "I'm No Angel" Campaign". The company sells plus-sized lingerie.   Photo from Cosmopolitan.com

Hugely trending #Imnoangel campaign by Lane Bryant right now, with the headline, "Lane Bryant Bashes Victoria Secret with "I'm No Angel" Campaign". The company sells plus-sized lingerie.  Photo from Cosmopolitan.com

I saw this post from Adweek in Facebook this morning, which totally got me all twisted up.  "Lane Bryant Bashes Victoria Secret with 'I'm No Angel' Campaign".  I love Victoria Secret angels- I do their workouts so I know how hard those girls work.  I also know how well they take care of their bodies by what they eat, what they put on their skin, how well-informed they are about nutrition.

So I wondered, when I saw this, if someone was trying to pass a moral judgement on people who want beautifully toned bodies, who go to the gym and eat well in order to get them.  But then I realized, no, Lane Bryant is trying to sell underwear. 

These girls have great aesthetics going on, so whatever, but oh my god, are we missing the point here.  This is 2015 and the body-image conversation is still for the most part in the dark ages.

Craving a VC Angel body isn't healthy, but neither is cynicism towards one, a form of aversion.  In Buddhism, the two greatest causes of human suffering are craving and aversion, so let's move past the useless "love your body" rhetoric to something more useful.  Does anyone know what "loving your body" means anyway?  Are you supposed to have warm feelings toward it?  Conjure up affection for it?  Pet it?  Give it treats when it's good? 

Pop body image rhetoric gets one thing right- that being at home in our bodies is true freedom- Maya Angelou said, "I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."  Gurdjieff told his students repeatedly to "Stay with yourself, stay with yourself."  Absent-minded or emotional eating, or lazy meal prep is a manifestation of having left oneself- having dissappeared into the worries, fantasies, memories, and other thinking, emotional, and instinctual patterns ever arising from the ego structure.  When you're tuned into your body's needs- honoring it by listening when it's full and feeding it nutrutious balanced meals when it's hungry, you're "really seeing it", and in mindfulness, to see yourself with the inner eye and stay with the discomfort that arises when something difficult comes up is to love.  See, stay, notice.  Love and sexiness is what is revealed when our defenses have been "noticed away."

  Is this what your inner critic looks like?  Quick, take a couple seconds to just notice the physiological effect of their hassling. Noticing that tension in your body when you cringe about a part of you you don't like is the secret to the life-long journey of dissolving the inner critic.   Image from lisarosman.com

Is this what your inner critic looks like?  Quick, take a couple seconds to just notice the physiological effect of their hassling. Noticing that tension in your body when you cringe about a part of you you don't like is the secret to the life-long journey of dissolving the inner critic.  Image from lisarosman.com

This is a lifelong journey, not a quick fix.  But the result is we get to come home to ourselves and radiate from within.  That's sexy. 

Making Breakfast with Your Inner Critic

My favorite ritual is making my smoothie in the morning.  I've been drinking a smoothie every morning since late 2007, and because I go long stretches before I change the ingredients, I'm usually going through the same motions every day-- four steps to the fridge- get out five ingredients- add them to the cup, put the ingredients back; three steps to side cupboard to get the greens, peanut butter and honey, put them in, put them back; three steps to back cupboard to get out supplements and protein powder, put them all back.  I will never get tired of this.

It's a great time for meditating because when you're doing something simple, with all the steps memorized, you have more presence to pay attention to the inner critic and watch your internal reactions to their nit picking in the background of your mind.  So the two big complaints my inner critic has is that 1) I'm not making my smoothie fast enough and I could be moving more efficiently-- like grabbing the supplement bags between two fingers so I don't have to make two trips to the back cupboard-- and 2) I put too many ingredients on the spoon, and I won't have enough room in the cup for the rest of the ingredients. Other favorites are that the counter is messy, and I'm using too many spoons and should just re-use an old one so there's a balance of forks, knives and spoons in the dishwasher next time I do a load, and I'm not just doing a load because I'm out of spoons. 

What's beautiful is I can just notice the nit-picking and see where it lands.  If I'm not able to catch it, it lands somehwere in my muscle tissue, resulting in tenseness in my neck or back, and by the time I'm done, and I don't know why I'm so tense.  When I can notice it, I just watch it dissolve like a snowflake on the pavement.  It's the most wonderful thing- I don't know if I'd call it relaxing- it's freeing.  I walk away from every smoothie-making ritual a slightly freer woman.

Waking up with the Inner critic

A while ago, I read somehwere, (I forget where) that type Eights wake up angry.  That makes sense, but then it would also follow that the rest of us wake up with our own vices on automatic.

Anger types

8- expressing their anger

9- denying their anger

1- repressing their anger

Shame types

2- shame of not being loved or loveable

3- shame of not being valued or valuable

4- shame of not being deep or unique enough (I actually forget what they're ashamed of off the top of my head, so I just used these adjectives- they're definitely true, but I don't know if they're the CORE sources of shame.)

Fear types

5- fear of not knowing enough

6- fear of not being prepared enough

7- fear of there not being enough to do

So a while ago, I decided I would check and see if I woke up feeling my core feeling, and it takes a while to be able to notice anything.  Of course we all wake up with that pristine, spacious  feeling, totally disconnected from the realities of our lives, and then suddenly, reality kicks in, and we remember the specifics of our upcoming day, or something that just happened the night before. 

Side story: I was, coincidentally, at an Enneagram workshop in Montreal, and one morning, before anyone else had woken up, I had to go to the bathroom.  So I made my way down the long, dark hall of our dorm in my just-woken-up stupor, and sat down on the toilet, which was facing the shower.  My eyes happened to drift onto the tiles all squarely and tightly aligned on the shower wall, and I heard this little inner voice that said, "You could never lay tiles that perfectly." 

I was like, "Oh my God.  Seriously?  I don't even have any interest in doing tiles.  That's the first thing I wake up to??"  That's when I first got the whole inner critic idea.  We all have a malicious voice inside us, criticizing us in the background, in our unconscious, that we can barely hear.  It takes time and attention to dig it up so we can notice it enough to let it dissolve.

So anyway, what I did notice this morning upon waking up, was sadness.  I didn't let it in consciously, but I was aware of the door being nudged open, like Donkey letting himself into Shrek's house, and just spreading himself out on his favorite chair, and saying "What's for breakfast?".  It was like sadness just came in without knocking and spread itself out inside my chest.  So I was like "WTF.  I didn't invite you in here."  Of course, you can't kick a feeling out, but you can notice it and let it pass through.  Acknowledging the presence of an emotion is often enough.

By self-observation every morning, we can get to the point where our core feeling has to knock first, and we get to guage if we even need its presence to feel "right".  We know the technical answer is no, but where we're at in our spiritual journey and what we know to be true can be two different things.