The other day I had a dream. My daughters were younger, probably about 10-14. As was typical during our family years, we were in the living room having a family meeting about something. I was standing in between my eldest daughter and my youngest daughter. My middle daughter was across from me, watching.
I don’t remember what the topic of conversation was, but I do remember how I felt about my eldest daughter in the dream: she was wise, commanded respect. The whole family felt this way; what she said was important, It Was Right. As she sat on the couch making casual pronouncements, we all nodded sagely in agreement with her. After all, she was Right. She began a litany of what she didn’t like. She didn’t like so-and-so from town, so-and-so from church. Oh and her teacher, she didn’t like her. Then came an announcement that jarred me out of my agreement: she said she didn’t like her little sister.
On my right, her little sister, about four years her junior, curled up into a tight ball,arms wrapped around her knees, crushing them to her chest as she tried to be tough and not show how much that announcement hurt her. She just soaked it in, absorbed it as truth. After all, the wiser older sister had announced she didn’t like her; she must not be worth liking. She should just suck it up.
As I stood in the middle watching this I was racked with conflict. The eldest had made an announcement, it must be right. But I could feel the youngest sister’s pain. I was nauseous with the sense of rejection and wanted nothing more to take her in my arms and block her ears. But the damage was done, she had heard it, and no amount of comfort was going to erase the fact that her elder sister didn’t like her.
I woke up crying my eyes out, and the dream stayed with me throughout the day. Now, in no way does this reflect the real women’s relationship, which was part of the puzzle to me. As siblings, my daughters have had their conflicts, but they are all three very close and stick up for each other through thick and thin. I finally realized what was bothering me: I stood by and did nothing while this happened. I was so seduced by the authority I placed in the eldest daughter that I couldn’t decide what was right.
I have a strong respect for authority. I see authority as strong, and expect it to protect the weak. If an enemy announces themselves with a clear attack, I know just what to do: fight. This, however, was a sneak attack from someone masquerading as an authority figure; my inner critic.
Ah, my inner critic, my voice of “reason”. Maybe my inner scientist was offering her opinion. After all, she’s the one with the two degrees and respectable steady government job, shouldn’t we all listen to her? I DO love her. She’s done a lot for me, and gotten my out of some pretty big messes. She is intelligent, and entitled to her opinion and our respect, but when what she has to say is destructive it doesn’t need to leave her mouth.
I stand, paralyzed, in the middle while litany is going on in my head on a daily basis. It became very clear that I still place a huge amount of weight in her voice, and I automatically believe what she says. The damage she inflicts is enormous. My heart breaks anew every time I remember my child artist curling up and trying to be tough. I need to find a crystal clear way to tell the critic “enough is enough”, and at the same time nurture that little artist and somehow restore the natural boldness that she was born with.
I am practicing loving them both.This journey is teaching me that love is a discipline, something to be practiced and strengthened like a muscle. So, as a practice, I am trying this exercise: I look at myself in the mirror every morning, and for two minutes, I say “I love you”.
When I hear a negative thought, I am responding, “I love you.”
We shall see how it goes.
I suspect everyone struggles with their inner critic. I would love to hear ways you have tackled this beast, or even just how you’ve learned to discern his/her voice. Comment below, or drop me a line at CarsonWalker at sidewaysIntoCrazy.com.