We’d been having a lovely day together, doing some shopping and having coffee. But for no apparent reason she started attacking me. She does it often. She is wonderful, kind, generous to me, then suddenly wham. She’ll turn nasty and abusive and the worst of it is, I never know why or when.
On this occasion her voice turned sarcastic and she told me I was unable to do anything right, and mocked my efforts.
Instead of fighting back, I became lost for words. I felt defeated, exhausted, laden with self-doubt.
Slap, stroke, slap, stroke. How does one deal with a friend who has an unpredictable cruel streak? Afterwards she is always so sorry. Despite the fact she’d been doing meditation, and practising compassion … snap. She’ll start with the insults.
I have sought advice. Why do I allow someone to talk to me in such an unkind and confidence-stripping way? Why don’t I just leave? The answer is this: there is nowhere to go. The critical judge is me. She lives inside my head.
World-renowned father of mindfulness and my teacher, US-based Jon Kabat-Zinn, titled his book Wherever You Go, There You Are. You take yourself with you. Like everyone else, I carry around a voice in my head otherwise known as the “inner critic” or “critical parent”, who disempowers me, creates unnecessary fear and anxiety, and never lets me enjoy my triumphs for very long.
The gentle part of me — optimistic, energetic, creative — gets sucked into her endless chastisements. And though I meditate, still she comes. The only difference is that now I can hear her and see her. A light has been shone inside that murky head of mine that outs her.
She emerges from the shadows and the things she is saying suddenly can be heard for what they are. Self-defeating rubbish.
The speaker is not a nasty person who seeks to harm; rather, a deluded creature, vulnerable, fragile as a newborn, wounded in childhood, who keeps the banter up as a form of armour. I guess the inner critic thinks that if it tells me to stay in my box, it will protect me from the pain of failure or my unreasonable expectations of myself and life. Perhaps she mimics the school teachers and authority figures she grew up with, as they mirrored those before them.
Time to stop believing the blah, blah. Turn the volume down. The fact is, we would never let anyone talk to us the way we talk to ourselves.