No aspect of me is actually an enemy. I need every single element of my personality. BUT, let’s be honest, sometimes parts of who we are feel like the enemy, wound like the enemy. Even though all parts of me are actually trying to help me thrive and survive, some aspects are more misguided than others. As I watched Game of Thrones this afternoon (yes, I’m at GOT junkie) Tyrion said the following:
“You need to take your enemies side if you’re going to see things they way they do. And you need to see their side if you’re going to anticipate their actions, respond effectively and beat them.”
He left out one extra piece – we have to identify the enemy. So, let’ start there.
Let’s state unequivocally that feelings are NEVER the enemy. I say that because my first impulse was to say that “fear” is an enemy. Fear is NOT an enemy. Fear is information. I had to dig deeper … here is what I came up with:
Yes, these are all “voices” but the subtle distinctions are important. Each voice speaks differently, uses a different tactic, has varied volume and strength. While I’m sure there are many more, these four were very obvious, loud and often insidious. I actually think I battled each one sometime in the last 24 hours. Let me show you how:
You have a different list, I’m sure. But I think you get the idea. Our personalized enemy is that part of us that seeks to hold us back or drag us down or force us silent.
Just doing this small bit of writing has helped me identify the enemies’ actions. But I must be more vigilant. I must pay better attention and I must be attuned to all of their strategies. A good commander has sneaky methods of attack. Sometimes the attack is direct, sometimes it’s sneaky. The only way to anticipate the actions is to pay close attention. One thing I have begun to see more clearly is that when one enemy fails, another rises to the same challenge.
For example, I was able to beat the sugar monster by having a cup of coffee sans sugar. But now the teenage rebellious dragon is rattling in her cage, demanding I drive to the ice cream store. I won’t be able to do that, so my guess is the Inner Critic enemy will rear its ugly head and tell me how weak I am. Well, you get the picture.
All I can do is be intentional in my watch for the attack. Just seeing the attack will help defend my authentic self.
That’s what this entire blog is about – developing strategies to respond effectively. Every blog is an attempt to anticipate and find ways that work for me. One skirmish at a time.
Here are a few responses I’m using today:
One: I’ve been doing this great 5-5-5 breathing thing – breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, breathe out for five seconds. It’s been amazingly effective in calming me down.
Two: I’ve also posted several notes to remind myself of my goals, my strengths. Every day I found a new one … this is today’s:
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine.”John C. Maxwell
My day is coming to a close. Tomorrow, I’m going to have the following routine:
Three: My morning pages is also a strategy – it’s a place to put in writing my battle plans. It’s a place for me to whine and then close the book. It’s also a place for me to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. It’s a place I can be perfectly, wonderfully authentic!
Those are all SMALL acts – but they are doable and they are footsteps on the path of success.
Four: I’ve already laid out the ingredients for healthy eating tomorrow. It’s kind of like going into to battle with all my supplies ready and within easy reach. The less decisions I have, the less I have to listen to any voices. Oh, I’m no fool, I know the enemy is strong and will have many tactics to throw my way – but, I’ve done what I could for now. And, that’s all I can ask of myself.
As I get stronger, as I recognize their voices, as I identify their battle plans, I can develop my own battle plans, my own strategies. I can win the next battle. That’s all I can do for now.
We all know how that phrase ends ….
If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all (my father said it better … If you can’t say something nice, then keep your damn mouth shut.)
What the phrase doesn’t say is that if we can’t say something nice then lie! Re-read that so you have the words correctly on your tongue …. if we can’t say something nice doesn’t mean we should lie.
So, why do we violate our own authenticity on a regular basis? Are you raising your eyebrows at my calling us all out as liars? See if any of these scenarios fit:
I can go on with the examples and I get ‘social niceties’. But here is what bugged me – and has me on a soapbox – last week an acquaintance posted on a social media this wonderful tribute to her husband on their anniversary. She went on and on about what a great guy he is, how supportive, how she appreciates him … lovely! EXCEPT, I happen to know this couple is so unhappy they barely speak.
Now, I’m not suggesting she should have broadcast what a jerk she thinks her husband is or how disconnected they may be. I AM asking … why say anything at all? Why not ‘keep her damn mouth shut’ as my father would say? Why lie?
Another person on social media had a birthday. Well-wishers came out of the woodwork … lovely! EXCEPT I know some of those well-wishers not only can’t stand the birthday girl but actively trash talk her. So, again, why lie? Why not just keep your damn mouth shut? For my part, this person is not someone I want to cultivate a relationship so I simply didn’t post anything. If I had chosen to wish her a happy birthday, that would have been inauthentic!
We preach ‘authenticity’, ‘be your own person’, and ‘it doesn’t matter what other people think’ – but do we live it??
One last example – and this may be what has me in a tizzy – an old acquaintance (someone I might have once called a friend) posted a picture of me from years and years ago. She ‘tagged’ me and wrote this sweet comment … lovely! But, was it authentic? I haven’t seen or spoken to this person in YEARS. I can’t help but to wonder what inspired the sudden loveliness? (*see important note below for a rational mind’s interpretation)
Want me to be super authentic – the picture that former friend posted was one of my least flattering. My inner critic, my inner bitch, is trying to convince me she intentionally posted that very picture to make me think badly of myself and to make her look good. My rational brain says that’s crap. My emotional brain is banging a war drum. I’ll spend a bit of time calming the beast within.
One of the reasons I write this blog is to give people who struggle with Excess Emotional Energy ideas for calming themselves and using that energy to make the next best decision.
I’m struggling right now because I want, desperately want, to use my writing time to beat up this person and beat up myself. You see, the picture was from “before” my mental breakdown and it showcases all that I lost (my career, my friends, even my religion) … so it’s very painful to see that picture and more painful to see it on social media.
I WANT her to have posted that to purposefully hurt me. Why? Because then I can wallow in how awful she is instead of wallowing in how awful it feels to have lost so much. If she intentionally hurt me, then I can focus all my energy on hate instead of healing! Hate is easier. Do you see how an emotional mind often becomes about self?
I have a choice to make – in this very second, I have to decide what to nurse or how to channel this excess emotion. It’s too flammable to take out and hold right now. I need to cool it down. I’m shuffling through all the techniques I’ve learned in therapy, rehab, life.
Strangely, I have the Wall Street Journal with me (this is the first time I’ve ever bought one) … I’m going to read two articles, circle any ‘big’ words, look those words up and use them in a sentence. By the time that’s done, I’ll be better able to choose healing over hatred. I’ll be able to look at that picture and hurt. It’s okay to hurt – it’s a part of being human and emotional. But the difference will be that I hurt because of what I’ve lost not because of what someone else said or did. But, I also am able to remember that picture and remember some of the wonderful moments of ‘before’.
If it still hurts, I’ll take it therapy! Eventually, I have to deal with all that my career was and how badly it hurts to have lost it. That’s one area that stays too hot to handle!
First, my husband was reluctant to have me post this blog. He’s worried that the people I’m mentioning will recognize themselves and I may cause problems. He’s right. But, I promised authenticity and that’s what I’ll give. And, seriously, if they recognize themselves then maybe that’s okay.
Second, my husband operates out of a rational mind most of the time. He said that maybe the person posted an old picture of me in an effort to “have a genuine and safe way to reach out and see if there is any mutual desire to reconnect or mend.” Every thing we see, think or believe can be viewed from a different lens.
I’m a bit disappointed – I’ve read six articles and no ‘fun’ words. But, the desired effect was met. I’m calmer. I will NOT be wasting time on hating … and, I think I’ll have to take the career loss into therapy – it’s just too hot for me to hold by myself.
I learned a lot reading those articles – I learned there is a lot more to learn!
Our inner critic has one favorite activity – knocking you off your game! I just wrote another recipe that helped to shut the critic’s mouth. As I did those activities, I realized I was having a ton of fun with one specific activity:
Imagine you are at dinner with a [fictional] character you absolutely HATE. (Every story has a villain, right?) What would you talk about? What you would want to say? What do you imagine the character would say back?
As I played this game, I realized my inner critic was having the time of her life! And, since it was a fictional character, I could do/say/think whatever I wanted. My inner critic is really pulling out all the stops – I’m truly laughing at her exuberance.
Let’s go with Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
What would I say?
Can you see why my inner critic is frolicking? I’ve given her free reign (and trust me, she’s being more graphic than I can be here) ….
My inner critic is focused elsewhere and since I’ve given her such a dramatic character, she’ll stay busy for a while. If I know her, she’ll move through all the characters in Game of Thrones. I’ll have lots of time to get things done without her voice bringing me down!
Trust me, Cersei won’t mind! After all, she’s fictional. And my having such vehement feelings just proves Lena Headey is a great actress!
What do you when your inner critic rattles your cage? You know what I’m talking about – you’re trying to do/change/become something and your inner voice tells you why you can’t/ shouldn’t/ won’t. Before you keep reading, find that voice and let her get a few jabs in – that way, you’ll know if this activity helps you or not.
My inner critic is having a high-old time telling me:
She needs to SHUT UP … (I wanted to use much more colorful language!) How can I put a sock in it? (Note: first you have to recognize the voice – which requires you to pay attention to your thoughts!)
It would be great if you have paper and pen but you can just do this in your own brain!
Actually, trying to “hold” all of this in your mind will really stretch you and force that inner critic to hush – there won’t be room enough for both!
Recognize that negative voice!
Choose one or more of the following topics and just think about it. Dig deep for the answers – don’t settle for easy, superficial answers.
Did you notice that I stayed in a fictional world? That was intentional. Our inner critic can’t criticize something that’s not real. Oh she may try to critique your choices or answers, but her voice will be diminished because there is no basis in reality. In a fictional world, your choices don’t matter – it’s all in a world someone else created.
Is your Inner Critic quiet? Or at least quieter?
Did you find another way to entertain yourself instead of listening to negativity?
Did you learn something about yourself based on your choices? (I did – I really was able to understand what types of stories bring me joy and why.)
I’ve been watching The Fall on Netflix. The story is simple – a serial killer is being pursued by a detective. What makes it so interesting is the character development. I HATE the main detective, Stella Gibson, who is played by Gillian Anderson. If I could have her over for dinner what would I want to know? I’m only ½ through the series, so I started asking questions I hope get answered before it’s over. Here are a few:
Okay, so my inner critic is now beating up Stella Gibson – it’s better to beat up some fictional character than me! And, I get to feel virtuous – I may not be the next Elizabeth Gilbert but at least I’ve never slept with a married man!
Lastly, and this is just a side benefit, I’m pulled even more into the show – in a way, I’ve entered the show – which will just enhance my watching experience. As a matter of fact, I’ll be asking these questions to my husband – we should have some great conversation!
My husband does my editing … here is what he added:
“Your Inner Critic is a moron. If I was violent, I’d kick her ass from here to Hades.” ~ I thought that was sweet and wanted to share.
Does your brain ever send you negative messages? I’m not talking about the Inner Critic. The Inner Critic likes to beat you up for being you. The Negative Brain just likes to whine about what is. For example, the Negative Brain may say, “This day sucks.” The Inner Critic says “this day sucks because you suck.” A very important distinction. Today I’d like to talk about the Negative Brain. Let’s call her Nelly.
I slept late, didn’t have any syrup, and I had appointment that required me to hit Atlanta traffic. Sitting completely still in the traffic, I had to use the bathroom. Then one of those idiot drivers who think they are more important darted in front of me, almost taking off my front end. Nelly sent me a nice negative thought: “You’re having a terrible day.”
My initial response, of course, was to agree and to delineate all the ways my day had not been perfect. After that, my guilt-o-meter reminded me how wonderful I have it, how some people are starving. I let Nelly and my guilt argue for a bit.
I hit the 3rd red light in a row. Nelly threw her hands in the air and screamed, “See, you are having a terrible day.” Nelly invited me to spiral into the wonderful world of woe-is-me. For some reason, I immediately pictured a toddler not getting her way. That made me smile and that made Nelly mad.
One of the ways I used to handle my children was to distract them with games. Why can’t Nelly play a game too?
“Nelly,” I thought (yes, I actually thought these words), “we like words. We like to read. Surely you can come up with a better word than ‘terrible’.”
She jumped into the game – after all, I wasn’t fighting it. Instead, I was giving her full reign to tell me more.
“Horrible,” she said.
“Come on, that’s no better than ‘terrible’.”
“That’s too close to horrible to count. Can you find a four-syllable word?”
After a search inside my grey matter, Nelly excitedly said, “Insufferable.”
“Very nice---” I said but was quickly interrupted.
I smiled at Nelly’s creativity but said, “That’s an impressive word. But, don’t you think you’re being a bit melodramatic.”
Nelly crossed her arms over her chest. “Unproductive,” she said with a self-satisfied grin.
That was a good one because Nelly knows I like to be productive. “Maybe,” I said back. “But I’ve finished the laundry, exercised, fed the dog, canceled that subscription, balanced the checkbook. Can you come up with something that’s more accurate?”
I could feel Nelly looking around for a new word. Finally, I could sense her settle into a satisfying response. “Frustrating, annoying,” she blared at me.
I smiled (the person in the car next to me must have thought I was nuts) and said aloud, “Those are only three-syllables but I think those are perfect choices.”
Nelly wiggled in excitement for the validation.
“But,” I said, “frustrating and annoying are not the same as terrible. So, my helpful Nelly, let’s try to find the right words from now on. Okay?”
She fluffed off in annoyance. She may have left irritated but she left!
She’ll be back. She’s in the corner of my mind looking for reasons to whine right now.
Sometimes I’ll have the wherewithal to stop and play a game to get her diffused and focused more on truth. Sometimes I will accept the invitation to the whoa-is-me party.
Regardless, this worked and therefore I have a nice new strategy. Even if I accomplish nothing else today, I was productive! Take that, Nelly!
Now I’m wondering what other games I could play.
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