The Inner Critic gets confronted

Yesterday was a bit of a tough one. I awoke with the familiar anxiety in my chest and after a bit of on and off napping, I decided to started the day with a short guided  meditation. For the most part it was a good sit, but towards then end I started noticing something that was unsettling. I have heard that it’s possible to experience intense emotions during meditation and this was the first time that it happened for me to the point where I cried after meditating.

I use the meditation episodes of the “Against the Stream” podcast, and in this particular one the facilitator asks that we begin by “noticing any attitudes that have formed in the mind about our unworthiness and ways in which we are making ourselves wrong for experiencing what we are experiencing”. He goes on to say that “We need to notice these attitudes of the mind because if we don’t we live obeying them”. These words began an unfolding in me of how harsh I’ve been to myself over my life. He then goes on say that in looking back at our life, we can notice that there is a basic and innocent longing for peace and well-being. I think what did it for me was the use of the word “innocent”.

You see, when he used that word “innocent”, I immediately was able to see that I have basically been so abusive to that soft and nourishing place in me that knows what’s best for me. That intuitive and innocent child who knows right from wrong. Despite my best intentions, this ego part of myself has berated this innocent part of me. Towards the end of the meditation, I began to choke up, and just as it was about to end, I heard myself say “Oh my god, I hate myself!” Not so much as in “I hate myself for doing x,y,z,” but more like “I’ve been hating myself all my life!”

I sat there on the cushion, unsure of what to do. I looked down, and having that lump in my throat, allowed myself to cry. I let go of the fear of depression and allowed myself to cry, knowing full well that those tears would be soothing, allowing that innocent part of me to voice its pain.When I was done, I felt a release but was still bewildered at what to do next. Where to go from here?

Later that day I decide to do some inner-work with the Cappachione workbook. This time around, it delved into exploring the Vulnerable Child. I did the first exercise, but began to feel really tired.  I know that feelings of sleepiness or being tired can be symptoms of stress, and I decided to stop what I was doing and take a nap. In doing this I was listening to what I needed, and without judgment, acting on that need. I’m glad I did because it allowed me to get some distance from what I had just experienced during mediation. By distance I don’t mean ignoring the issue, but just being able to observe the issue rather than being overwhelmed by it. It’s a skill for years I understood on an intellectual level, but only recently have been able to understand on an emotional level, which has helped me to put it into practice.

One of the several people I have recruited to help me in this journey of mine is a life-coach. I had a session with her today that focused on my Inner Critic (Ego) because it’s so hard for me to be observant of that part of myself. She helped me to visualize this Inner Critic and begin a connection to her. What helped me the most was asking this critic what it wanted. I then realized that, harsh as this voice may be, what it was wanting was for me to be stable and safe. I reassured it that things would be okay (I have the means to pay my bills, rent, etc. and am still employed), and I told it that when it criticizes me so harshly I close up and don’t move forward on anything, therefore increasing my chances of not being stable to  safe. Funny thing is that when I acknowledged what she wanted, assured her things would be okay, and asked her to not be so harsh with me, she backed down. My coach then informed me that this is what I can do anytime I feel/hear that Inner Critic’s presence.

She also taught me a breathing exercise that I noticed does seem to help a little bit when I get anxious. It’s basically breathing in deeply, to your lungs full capacity, holding it for a few seconds, and slowly releasing your breath, emptying out your lungs. For some reason, this helps me more than counting in my breaths.

I will certainly have a chance to put these into practice soon enough, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

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