You know that sneering voice I described in my last post? The inner critic who tries to keep me from reaching for big projects and exciting adventures and, basically, success?
While practicing yoga on Sunday, I had a realization.
Shunning that critic—trying to keep her out of my head through force--isn’t the way to lose the negativity she brings. In fact, I should welcome her into my head, invite her in for a cup of tea and a little sit.
Might she still be nasty? (“This tea is terrible, and I hate your couch. Oh, and look at all this dog hair! Tsk-tsk!”) Yes, she still might be. Do I have to listen to her? No, I don’t. But kicking her out and pulling the door shut as she bangs on it with her fist and tries to push her way in? What a lot of wasted energy that would be better spent elsewhere.
Instead of trying to deny her access, what if I was just nice to her? What if I had compassion for her obvious pain and suffering? What if she was just doing the best she could?
I don’t know that I’d change her, or win her over, but maybe, eventually, she’d settle back a little more comfortably on the sofa. Maybe she’d ignore the dog hair and even realize that the tea wasn’t that bad. Maybe she’d find a book on the coffee table and pick it up--busy herself with something she found interesting, that allowed her to take her mind off her troubles. Maybe, at the very least, she’d be quiet and at peace for a while.
My realization is this: That nasty inner voice is part of me. She’s like that because she’s scared, angry, defensive. She’s a little girl who didn’t know what to do when her world and the people in it were more than she could bear, and when she grew up, this was the best she could do. Her coping with all that early chaos doesn’t serve me or other people any more, but it’s a habit. What she really needs is a safe place where she can unpack everything, feel safe and have a cup of tea and someone who won’t yell at her.
So that’s what I’m going to do. The next time she walks into my head and tries to make me feel low and terrible and worthless, I’m not going to shoo her away. I’m going to ignore her ravings, wrap my arm around her shoulder and say, “Oh, you poor dear. You look cold and hungry. Why don’t you come in and have a cup of tea?”