17 Apr 2018
Dear Inner Critic,
Can I call you IC? As in In Charge. That’s where you are now, in my psyche. No matter what I do, you’re quite fully in charge.
You’ve been there for the longest time, and my therapist and I have been working hard on trying to understand why you’re the way you are. You’ve always been around to drive me to greater heights, to push me on to be independent, to learn new things, and to never be complacent about anything that I do.
That’s the reason, even though practically everyone in my support group wants to give you a good left hook to the face, I still need you around. You’re me. You’re created by me. And I need you around. I know that.
But… can you be less harsh? You surprised my therapist and me when you refused to take any input, when you just simply sat stubbornly on the fact that I need to improve, that I need to face up to reality. Thing is, I don’t believe there’s only one reality that I need to face, and I don’t even think that reality measures up to the cold place that you believe in so strongly.
I know now, after that last therapy session, that you have a lot of fear that binds you tightly to where you are. Those fears are from our experiences, and some of them are valid. Why you can sit so tightly with the reins in your grip is because I also subscribe to the same fears. You just have to allude to them and intensify them.
But you make me hate myself.
You make me feel like I’m not worth the air that I breathe. You discount everything that I do because I’m not earning money to take care of the household. That hurts, because I can’t at all grasp any goodness in my actions and words even when I try hard. Sometimes I can, when I’m mindful enough to allow you to speak into my vaccuum bubbles in my mind, when I acknowledge that’s what a part of me feels and believes, that’s what you believe. I then can take a little pride and joy in what I do, but it’s hard, because you’re always at the edge of my consciousness, deflating, insulting, scolding, kicking, pushing.
In fact, you push me so hard that I keep falling backwards, not forwards. And to you, that’s precisely why you should push, and that’s why you’re so harsh. I keep failing your standards. And you know that I can meet those standards, that I’m choosing not to.
I don’t know. Sometimes I also doubt myself. Am I really sick? Is this really my condition? Am I just a lazy bum lying the hell out of myself? Could I try harder? Maybe it’s just my poor attitude, and not my own limits?
See, IC, what you do to me? See the loops that you throw me for? You remain so harsh and forbidding and unbending. I know we need to deal with the fears that drive you, at the next few sessions. But I don’t know why or how you became so hard. No wonder I’m never satisfied with my boys’ behaviour, or my own results in life.
But you know what? I want to be compassionate to you. I want to hear you. You exist for a reason, and I know you mean well. But as we have experienced countless times through our journey this last year, meaning well can kill. You’re driving me into the grave, and I fight hard not to go there, every day. Can you just let up for a while? Can you see the damage you’re doing?
In actual fact, you’ve never viewed me with contempt in all the Emotionally Focused Therapy that we’ve done. You’ve never wanted me to harm myself. You just don’t care about the result of your words and actions, because if I can’t meet your standard, I’m beneath your concern. I don’t know why that’s the way you’ve become. You want me to cut corners, to care less for others unless I gain something, to be a little less Christian and a lot more selfish, to do what I need to succeed in your eyes, instead of being a moral person that bothers about how morality pleases God even if it doesn’t merit our place in heaven.
You don’t care about heaven. You care only for responsibility, money, security and how much I don’t disappoint others.
And yet I can’t do without you. I need to manage you, to learn to moderate some of your messages, to work through the lies and the half-truths that you keep injecting, to get to the truths that you’re frantically trying to say but aren’t able to express. I know you mean no harm, but you’re harming me. Us. You don’t care if I drive myself head first into a wall (physically and emotionally) because I don’t meet your standards. I don’t understand why you can’t see how self-destructive and useless that is.
That’s really it. We don’t understand each other, and I’m going to have to be the one to reach a middle ground with you. My therapist will be guiding me, but I’m the one who’ll ultimately have to throw down the gauntlet, to say, this far and no further. Please work with me, I plead of you. Please don’t work against me. I’ve found how to get my way into you, and how that links us up so intricately, but if you remain stubborn, if you ignore facts, then honestly, even my therapist will be hard pressed to find a way to help us.
I don’t know how to be compassionate to myself, IC. Because of you, to be honest. You keep reminding me that I’m not due any compassion. But I’ll be honest. I want it. The few times I’ve glimpsed it from myself, I’ve wanted that compassion so badly. More than anything, I want to learn to be compassionate to myself because it heals. Because I know I can be compassionate to others, that no one person is not worth some compassion, however little. But I can’t get past that barrier you’ve slammed up, and I’m tired of banging against the wall to get you to lower it even a little.
So let’s handle our fears, the next time we meet my therapist. I can’t keep banging against the wall, as she says, but I can definitely tunnel underneath. Don’t be scared, IC. Don’t be angry with me either. I have to do this for our own good.
One day, hopefully soon, we’ll be able to live with each other without me looking longingly at the parapets of high rise buildings around us. And then we’ll get on with the business of being compassionate to everyone around us.