No, not your husband / wife… Nope, not mom. Not your brother or sister. Of course, not your cat. I’m talking about that stupid a-hole in your head that sees the other side to everything you do. I recently went through a period about a week-long where everything was annoying, and that voice was loud. I got upset a lot, was easily offended by others, spent a lot of time counting to 10, recognizing that the outside world had not changed that much, but something was going on in my head.
It turned out that a conversation I’d had with a friend had kicked off an avalanche of self-doubt and criticism. Who is this friend, you ask, and why would he/she be such a dick? There was no ill will involved, just a festering sore of inadequacy that had been hanging out and needed to be expunged. What was amazing to me was the pervasive nature of that feeling of inadequacy. It transformed the lens through which I see the world into a dark, post-apocalyptic wasteland where all was for naught, and people, even those closest to me, sought only to criticize and bring me down, to blame and make more demands, to marginalize and berate.
I took up meditating about 3 months ago. I’m not consistent about it, but 3-4 times a week, I do a 10-15 min long guided meditation. Part of this practice is letting your mind range free and observe what it does. During one of these sessions, I realized that I had been feeling inadequate in one task for quite some time, and that with the conversation I’d had with my friend, that feeling had seeped in to all the other things I do, polluting my self-worth and hampering my initiative and abilities.
A great thing happened. once I understood what was happening, I was able to recast the very negative reactions I’d been seeing as pervasive to a very compartmentalized occurrence. My energy came back, my smile returned, the dark clouds floated away, and that stupid fucking critical voice got quiet.
I think it is true that we all live with the most critical person in the world. Who else has access to all our fears and weaknesses? When you feel the warning signs, find a way to lightly inventory the route causes, so that you can protect the rest of you from their effects while you figure out if you need to address them.