Critics, Inner and Outer

We all have a Critic living and breathing inside our heads.  This figure tells us we’re not OK, we don’t look OK, we don’t act OK, and no one thinks we’re OK.  Once in a while we get reinforcement from another person who repeats those statements, sometimes verbatim.  That’s eerie when it happens and only proves that, yes, that Critic is finely in tune with external reality. 

My own Critic hates me.  He’s been with me for as long as I can remember and probably before that.  He sits on my chest and makes breathing hard.  I feel hopeless and helpless when he’s around.  My Controller developed to assuage this relentless Critic.  My Controller told me how to do things right (and exactly what right was) in hopes that the Critic would be assuaged and thus convinced to relent with his constant abuse.  My Controller gave me no leeway for creativity or joy, just accomplishment and production and work, work, work.  The Controller was trying to satisfy the angry Critic by “doing.”

When I work at the prison I see my Critic around me.  Some inmates hate me without knowing me.  They don’t say or do anything but they communicate their disdain palpably.  I just notice them.  I see their smoldering resentment and their blocks to receiving.  I can’t make a difference with them, just as I can’t with my Critic.  My Controller thought she could, but she can only keep me imprisoned in my fear -- doing, doing, doing. 

When I have inmates in groups I can’t react to them.   I can only observe.  As I know them better over time, I see their pain and their fear of their vulnerability and their feelings.  These big ferocious guys are children hurting behind their violent masks.  They roar and threaten but they do nothing.  They are too scared.  They fear that they are not enough, just as I have.  They can’t tolerate those feelings, though, so they distract with their shouts and their acting out and their threats.  They appear intimidating until I notice the silence when I ask about their mothers or the sadness when they speak about their children.  They are just like me but their facade looks different.

When I imagine the Adult me, bathed in golden light, powerful and loving, living as I choose to, I see my Critic as an inmate.  I look into his soul and see the hurting Child there and then I bathe that Child in golden light.  I see that as an Adult I can heal my Child and be there for that Critic/Child to heal him, too.  Healing doesn’t come from pleasing the Critic so he will back off.  It comes from empowering the Adult to love the Child who hides behind the Critic’s mask.  That’s all the Critic is -- a mask to hide vulnerability. 

So many years of my life I was intimidated by the mask.  By knowing the inmates, I can see the feelings behind the mask. The inmates don’t intimidate me and now my Critic doesn’t, either.  I heal my inner wounds by knowing the men who hate me and helping them to heal.  They are my gift because they hate me. They don’t give me approval for achievement.  They just show me my Critic without apologies. They are there, they are angry, and they are unavailable for relationship.  The only way I can relate to them is by acceptance, non-resistance, and detachment.  I can’t expect anything from them, including change.  I have to accept that and let go.  Knowing them demands that I remember that I am valuable in myself and fine just the way I am.  It helps me release my Critic.

What a fabulous gift!


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