Being aware of the internal attack.
Satyam Veronica Chalmers
Most of us know that we are our own worst enemy and that we are hounded by voices of criticism everyday. We know we should be kinder to ourselves, but struggle to really love ourselves fully. Our inner critic has something to say about everything. From the clothes we wear, the way we walk, the way we speak, what is considered right or wrong, the people we choose to be with, the amount of money we earn, and the positions we hold in society. It is operating all the time, apart from perhaps when we are asleep. It sucks our life energy and we end up feeling exhausted, frustrated, disempowered and worthless.
It might come as a surprise that this inner critic is trying to protect us. The inner judge formed during our first few years of life. None of us are born with it, although it sometimes feels like we have had it all our lives. It is a combination of all the voices of parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, teachers and others that we saw as an authority on how to live in this world. They all gave us messages, either verbally or nonverbally, about how to live and fit into society. Perhaps it was simply a look of disapproval the first time we shouted too loud in a supermarket, or being ignored when we started crying. However, even if nothing is said verbally, we get the picture that these aspects of ourselves aren’t okay so we change ourselves in order to get the love and attention we crave from others. (This can also include negative attention, such as being yelled at). Eventually, we internalised these voices and messages, so we could function and be socially accepted without the input from these authority figures.
However, this isn’t about blaming anyone or looking for the cause of these voices. Often those around us are well meaning and want the best for us. Instead, it is about being aware of the internal attack today and how it impacts us. For example, for years I wanted to write, yet a little voice in the back of my head said ‘who are you to write, what on earth would you have to say that would be worthy, and your grammar is awful’. I’m not even sure where this started, however I do remember in high school telling a friend I wanted to write a book and she turned to me and said ‘what on earth would you write about, you haven’t lived’. I still to this day remember where I was standing when she said this to me. The thing is, she had ever right to question me on this and I had ever right to refuse her interpretation. However, I didn’t because my inner judge was already saying the same thing. So my dream died. Well almost. It was always there lurking in the background, but because this voice echoed the one in my head, I didn’t contemplate writing again for many years. That is until I realized that I had to write and it didn’t matter if I had nothing to say and that nobody read it. I realized it was writing that mattered the most. As a result I have discovered a great love of writing fiction.
So what are the steps to dealing with the inner judge:
You need to become aware of the voice in the first place. This takes some practice because it is so much a part of us, we rarely notice it operating.
2. Start to notice the symptoms of the inner judge in action:
- Body Sensations: The body is usually the best place to start. For example, I notice the inner judge operating when I feel tired for no good reason, getting sleepy or my body starts to feel heavy or constricted. For you it might be something different like numbness, constriction in the heart, heaviness in the head, aches or pains in certain parts of the body.
- Emotions: You might notice there are repetitive emotions you tend to feel when you’re under attack from the inner critic. For example, confusion, fear, shame, numbness, anger, frustration. When I’m under attack I get very confused and have no idea where to focus.
- Thoughts: Reoccurring thoughts or beliefs like ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re a failure’, ‘you’ll never make a success of yourself’. Also, notice if you’re thinking too much or rationalising, as this can indicate that you’re disconnecting from your feelings and your inner critic is in action.
- Compensations and addictions: We often have different ways of avoiding feeling the attack of the inner judge. By noticing when you’re compensating or repeating an addictive behaviour, you can also start to notice the attack of the judge. Examples include, going shopping when you don’t feel good, eating too much, working too much, watching too much tv, spending too much time on social media, as well as any addiction to drugs, sex, porn, alcohol, gambling.
- Judgements of others: This is usually a judgment about yourself. For example, if you’re judging someone for being weak, then it is likely you’re disowning your own judgements of yourself for being weak. The reality is – any quality we see on the outside is within us. We are all these qualities and by accepting them we can embrace ourselves. For example, I used to judge others for being manipulative and self absorbed, and I remember the first time about 15 years ago when I realised ‘I was actually manipulative and self absorbed at times’. It was one of those defining moments. I then learnt how to embrace these qualities in myself and thus was less likely to project those qualities onto others.
3. Embrace what is happening in the moment.
Once you become aware there is an attack, allow yourself a moment to become aware of what is happening. Notice your body sensations, thoughts and feelings, without attaching to the story the inner judge is telling you. Try to feel the feeling under the attack. Often this is a feeling of powerlessness, however sometimes there are other feelings layered on top of this feeling, for example, anger or sadness. So allow yourself to feel whatever is there for you. Start with where you are now – if you feel anger, then feel that until it shifts into something else. Keep feeling through the layers until you feel yourself shift into more lightness, energy and aliveness. Mindfulness practices are useful for developing this kind of awareness. Sometimes it also helps to have someone to support you through this process, as it can take some awareness and practice to feel these deeper layers.
Satyam Veronica Chalmers – Authentic Wellbeing
Satyam is passionate about supporting women to develop a greater sense of wellbeing in their everyday lives. She has been coaching, mentoring, and counselling individuals for the past 12 years, as well as focusing intensively on her own wellbeing by exploring mindfulness techniques, inquiry work, therapeutic groups, and applying extensive research on all aspects of wellbeing to her own life. This has enabled her to clearly facilitate others in their process towards greater levels of emotional, spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing. Satyam can be contacted at: www.authenticwellbeing.com.au
Life Balance = Presence. Authenticity. Joy.