A couple of people have asked what do you do about the voices in your head, particularly the inner critic. Thus far, there have been two kinds of question.
The first and most common one is “how do you make it go away?” There’s a fair bit of info out there about various methods to erode/dismantle/gag the inner critic. A very common piece of advice is to be on the lookout for when it starts to have a go at you, and argue back at it. The critic tells you that you’re a piece of crap, and you (metaphorically) yell back that no, you’re not. Don’t take it lying down. Tell the critic what’s what!
That, for me, didn’t work. It turns out that even the imposed imaginary constructs in my head are precisely as stubborn as I am. Arguing back and forth just made the inside of my brain VERY LOUD. Not saying that the method per se can’t work, just that it didn’t work for me.
What worked for me was a kind of meditation Marc MacYoung taught me. The idea is to run your brain as a kind of debating club. One of the voices grabs the “talking stick”, and they have the right to say their piece, all the way to the end. No interrupting. No arguing. No running away from it, even if it hurts. Once they have finished, though, they have to shut up and let another voice talk. Same rules apply.
As an uber-nerd, I found it all too easy to visualise this: a variety of creatures, some monstrous and rather badly behaved, arguing about the whys and wherefores of what we should be doing? That’s practically every book I love. It turns out that the more opportunity you give the nasty voices to say all they’ve got to say, the less sense they make. They’re often doing little more than repeating vile stuff on a short loop, often badly out of synch with reality, or just so extremely negative to the point of being obviously stupid. It makes them very easy to dismiss. [“Oh, so I’m a ‘waste of space’ who ‘everyone hates’ and the only hope for me is to ‘not have been born’? Charming. Can we have this discussion later on, when I’m not busy hanging out with my incredibly cool friends and having tons of fun? Much obliged. I’ll call you. Not.”] They’re even less able to answer questions like “why?” and “what is your ultimate goal?” in a rational fashion. When they do make sense, their advice, however vitriolic, can be actually used to make good changes. Or not. Whatever takes your fancy; it’s your brain and your life, after all. No brain parrot has the right to dictate to you.
That worked for me, anyhoo. Being a coward helped, because if you tell me that there’s something scary I move towards it; I’m not brave enough to just let it be. I’ll have no monsters under the bed or in my head, thank you. It took about a year and it wasn’t precisely pleasant, but it worked.
The other kind of question was asked by Mary (hi, Mary!). I really love Mary’s questions because they tend to highlight when I’m either not making any sense to anyone who’s not in my head (writing is a solitary occupation and can result in rectocranial inversion, or at least a tendency to talk to one’s navel), or giant blind spots.
“Why is it so freakin hard to shed the effects of the perceptions that people had of us when we were kids? Who do we become when we shed them? Is there anyone to confirm who/what we are?”
This one, for me, is a blind spot. I’ve never thought about it because I’ve never thought about it. Thinking about it now, I guess that for me the proof of who I am is in what I do, but mostly I don’t feel I have to prove anything at all. I’m not sure who I’d be proving it to. But how you take that leap, from knowing who you are because you’ve been routinely told to not knowing it anymore and being comfortable with that, that I don’t know. Maybe the leap comes first, and all the problems disappear as a consequence. Or not.