Friday, July 22, 2016

The Inner Critic

As my regular readers will know, this summer I’ve been spending time with my mother who has dementia.  For my own mental health, I’ve been taking time once or twice a day to go for a walk, with the aim of walking 10,000 steps each day (which also fits in with our new theme next year at school, the Year of Movement).  During this time I’ve been listening to the mindfulness meditation app Buddhify.  A couple of these have really struck a chord with me, especially the meditation that deals with the Inner Critic.

We can all suffer from that voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough.   I have spent many weeks with this voice, constantly asking myself what is the best thing to do to meet Mum’s needs.  The meditations have helped me to appreciate that I shouldn’t fight these negative emotions because adding more struggle to the negative never tends to end well.

For the last couple of days I’ve been trying to do as the meditations suggest – to acknowledge the inner critic by naming the emotion.  As I’ve heard, over and over again, naming the demon allows the hero to gain the upper hand.  The meditations have guided me to actually say hello to the critical thoughts that emerge in my head while I’m out walking.  These are examples of some of my most common emotions:

I’m not good enough – hello judgment
I’m not doing this right – hello doubt
Why did I do that? – hello blame
I shouldn’t have done that – hello guilt

We are told in these meditations that emotions are simply thoughts with a lot of energy behind them, and that by naming the emotions we externalise them, and see them as separate from ourselves.  And what I love as well is the metaphor shared in one of the meditations about the sky and the clouds: 
Whatever clouds pass through the sky, whether stormy or clear, the sky does not change.  It is just a container for the clouds and the weather as they stick around for a bit and then pass on by.  The sky unchanged by the things within it.  The sky knows the weather very well indeed but it also knows that it is not the weather, it is the sky. 

So this is worth hanging on to – my mind is like the sky – negative thoughts and emotions pass through, but the person I am remains, and does not get changed by them.

Photo Credit: rkramer62 via Compfight cc

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