How to Heal Your Inner Critic
This morning in meditation I met two of my demons, the inner critic and the wounded child. Our encounter was profound and I am forever grateful for the wisdom of the horse to know how to handle this moment.
What the horse, and the study of related healing modalities, has taught me is that our demons are our wounds and beliefs that are trying to keep us safe. They are often created when we are young as a means of protecting us in a vulnerable situation, at a time when we have little agency or understanding. They are not trying to hurt us, but when we try to destroy them with avoidance, prevention, or control, we do violence to them and they respond in kind. They may show up as addiction (avoidance), manipulative behaviors (prevention), dogmas (control), or any myriad other expressions in our lives.
Here’s what I mean...My inner critic arrived in my meditation in the form of Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. He was bent, shriveled, and murmuring to himself. He mumbled things like, “You’re not good enough, hide so no one will see how weak and useless you are. You’re so bad at all this.”
Next to him stood a pre-pubescent, chubby Gita. Like Gollum, her shoulders were hunched forward and her eyes downcast. She stood listening to Gollum as he began to tell her to “hide, quit, avoid public humiliation.”
And here is where the horse comes in. The horse has taught me to explore my inner realms from the place of a benevolent friend. I have honed the skill of observing my thoughts, beliefs, and feelings from a place of nonjudgement because of my work with the horse. And so, I did just that with Gollum and little Gita. I observed them, their body posture, their words, their feelings, their beliefs.
Once I understood them better, I was ready to engage. The horse shows us that the way forward is through love and compassionate, congruent action. When we do violence to that which we want to change, we cause trauma or dissociative behaviors. Instead, I allowed my current self to enter the meditation, stand with open heart before Gollum and little Gita. When they saw me, I wrapped my arms around them in a loving embrace.
I could smell their stench, I could feel their skin, I could see their backs as I stood wrapped in their arms. And then they cried. They cried, and cried, and cried. It was like an avalanche of despair and relief.
When finally they calmed down, they stood facing me with a sense of emptiness, but openness, as if waiting for the change to come.
It came first in their posture, they stood upright. Then in their smiles. It was then that I noticed them each holding something, a gift wrapped in delicate ribbon.
I stepped forward toward Gollum and he stretched out his hand to give me the package. His gift is humility. When filled with love, the inner critic shifted into the role of humble channel of light. His job was to notice the light of my soul shining into the world and to remind me that the light is a part of the Divine.
Next, little Gita reached for me with her gift. I took it gently in my hand and saw that her gift is transformation. Her task, when given the love and acceptance to perform it, is to remind me where I have come from and that change is possible.
I held the gifts to my heart with gratitude. I invited Gollum and little Gita to walk with me, hand in hand. Our shoulders back, sun on our faces, and breeze in our hair.
And that is how we meet our inner demons. This is how we turn them from violent beasts to valiant soldiers on the battlefield of life.
In simple terms, it goes like this:
Observe the voices, beliefs, habit patterns, and feelings that appear to pull you down or stop you from fulfilling your goals, dreams, higher values. Explore them to best understand them. This may be finding their origin, this may simply be understanding who they are today.
Understand that those old beliefs and habits are trying to help you. Thank them for doing their best.
From your higher Self, shower them with love. Show them that you accept and love them as God loves all of creation.
When you see that they have been filled with love, invite them to share their gifts with you. And they will, they each have a gift hidden deep within that showed up in misguided ways or ways that no longer serve your higher Self.
Tsultrim Allione, author of Feeding Your Demons, has a useful practice related to this, based on the Buddhist tradition. For me, it is face to face practice with the horse that has brought this understanding to life and prepared me to step with Grace through the process of transformation that the inner demons invite us to enter.