A young couple goes to India to study with a guru renowned for her teachings on loving kindness.
From the airport they decide to hire an open air bicycle taxi to take them to their mentors ashram. On the way to the temple they are unpleasantly surprised and accosted by a thief on foot who manages to snag one of their bags and take off with it.
The couple are understandably shaken and distraught by the time they get to the ashram. Because of the theft, but also because they don’t know how to respond to this incident and stay true to the sacred teachings of their beloved guide.
They ask her what they should do on the spiritual level if this ever happens again.
She tells them that first they need to buy themselves a nice, new and very sturdy umbrella. And that they must carry it with them at all times. And if they are ever bothered by a thief in the future they should, with great and utter compassion, hit them with the umbrella around their arms and shoulders as hard as they can to encourage them to let go of their grip on their possessions.
And once they are free of the intrusion, to bless the thief with a prayer for healing and wisdom with the wish that they find other, more productive forms of employment ~ Anonymous teaching story
We need to know how to protect ourselves. Whether it is from a punk in an alley or the punk ( AKA The Inner Critic) that resides inside of our own mind.
And I know… I know…. I’ve heard the arguments before.
The inner critic is only trying to shield us from harm and keep us out of danger. It’s simply scared ( poor thing) and is just doing its job. It only wants what’s best for us.
But if someone was telling me that they were keeping me safe by stalking, harassing and terrorizing me I would question their idea of safety and then call the cops!
The inner critic is inherently a bully and uses the bully tactics of shame, humiliation, fear and intimidation to control us and keep us in line.
It’s the part of our psyche that inhales all of the ways that we have been treated cruelly or disrespectfully in our lives. It then uses those learned tactics to scare us into submission when we are trying to expand and grow because it’s utterly terrified of the unknown.
And it needs to learn how to behave!!
I hear a lot of advice about how we need to approach the inner critic with kindness and compassion because it’s a part of us.
I’m also a VERY big fan of kindness and compassion, but it’s important to remember that the inner critic is a lot like having a friend or family member who is in the throes of a serious chemical addiction.
Every time they come to your house they berate you, make you feel inadequate, put you down and guilt trip you. And when they leave, you discover that your cell phone is missing and your wallet has been emptied.
Under those circumstances you need to change your locks immediately and possibly get a restraining order. And only then … after you have protected yourself… can you think about helping them get into rehab.
Learning how to deal with the inner critic is taking on a PhD level course in developing boundaries.
But you can’t have boundaries without being willing to engage with the energies of power and anger. And those two things… especially for women… are incredibly taboo.
We are taught that anger and compassion live in two very different neighborhoods. And that anger resides in a dodgy slum that we should never, ever visit if we want to keep our good person credentials up to date.
Anger is associated with being mean and nasty and just an all around not-nice human being. But that is only because we’ve only ever seen anger delivered in abusive ways.
Most of us don’t have much experience with anger expressed cleanly. We don’t often see anger done well, with integrity and even respect. Being angry doesn’t mean that you have to yell and scream and stomp around ( although that can be a fun energy to play around with).
Anger is that strong and fierce fire that rises up from the deep truth of your inner being when you are being violated and your boundaries are being crossed without your permission.
It is a sign that you are being treated badly. It’s letting you know that you need to stop the bad treatment and take care of yourself. Anger is a necessary energy of empowerment and a sacred force for generating refuge and protection. It’s there to provide a space where your inner champion can show up for YOU first.
So the next time your inner critic starts giving you a hard time (and before you get all cuddly with it), pull out your metaphorical Umbrella Of Compassion.
Feel your feet on the ground and your power being generated from your solar plexus. Throw your chest out, hold your head high, open your voice loudly and imagine standing up to it and backing it off with simple yet direct statements like:
I’m done with you.
I’m not interested in anything you have to say.
I refuse to listen to your abuse any longer.
I’ve had enough. It’s over.
No. Just simply NO!
Just do this as an experiment and see how it feels to remind yourself AND your critic that you are the one in charge of your life. Standing up for yourself doesn’t make YOU a jackass.
What it does make you is a powerful, self loving, self protecting warrior spirit of all that is good and holy in you.