Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taming Your Inner Critic

This article is must reading.  Yes, I said "must", which means I need to read it again.

Mike Robbins: 5 Ways to Tame Your Inner Critic


W
hat better time than the Holidays to put to rest those demons that whisper our faults in our ears until we are numb?  In a much-needed act of kindness towards ourselves, it couldn't hurt to stop for a bit and wonder who in hell it was who made the rules that we are striving so hard to live by.  Worse still, we strive to make other people live by the rules we've chosen as well.  O, Joy!  Like it's not hard enough to just get through the day with all of our aches and pains, idiosyncracies and dysfunctions, we also have to keep score for ourselves and stay on top of everyone around us.  

Is it any wonder that depression is a national affliction?

Mike Robbins, motivational speaker and coach, pinpoints five problems and ideas for conquering them and making life a happier experience all around.  For us horse people, every one of them pertains in spades.  

Who among us truly gives everyone (even that idiot down the road with the dog barking on the deck at all hours freaking out our spooky mount at the worst possible moment) the benefit of the doubt?  I'm not sure I can find it in my heart to think rosy thoughts as I wrangle my hysterical horse out of earshot of the nasty mongrel, but I could probably manage a gratuitous "He probably chews the furniture if he's left alone in the house" in a less-resentful tone and without the "and it serves that idiot right" tag line.  And at least it's five minutes when I'm not wondering if my weight is evenly split over my hip bones, if both heels are down appropriately,  and if my back could be a bit rounder.

Do I take things personally?  Well, I can honestly say "not so much" to that one.  That, however, is a sign of aging, not of kindness of spirit.  I believe I read a research study once that indicated the age of 50 as a turning point for women.  Pre-50 we're all about ourselves and our families and protecting the status quo.  After 50, we become more other-directed.  That's why most of the local charitable organizations and service groups are heavily populated by greying heads.  It's hard to take things personally when the bigger picture suddenly becomes apparent like one of those 3-D "put your nose here and unfocus your eyes" things that goes from random colored flowers to a rocket headed for a far-off planet if you can just look at it long enough without getting a headache.

Dressage...Custom-made for picky people.
Here, DQ Jessica and Rat have a moment of
peace during a test, and...uh....wait...is that foot
too far foward? 


The saying that is often attributed to Oprah, that we would stop worrying about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do, holds true in pretty much every circumstance.  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may recall my lecture on spheres of reality and how each of us lives in our own and can't ever cross the bubble into someone else's.  Remember that they're busy making it all about them, and you will automatically stop making it about you.

Looking for the good is one of the easier assignments in this article.  If you have horses (or any other animal...or small child...or man) living in your bubble, there always comes a moment when you have to justify to yourself that other being's presence and continued existence unmolested in your sphere.  That's when you look at him or her (or Zip) and smile because as generally useless and majorly annoying as that being might be, there's just something there that makes it impossible for you to kill it or turn it loose to infest some other bubble.  Just last weekend, the Dukester, my mini herd antagonist, had another emotional meltdown thanks to some neighborhood ne'er do well (yeah, the one with the dog) believing every holiday deserves to be celebrated by imported urban idiots shooting shotguns into my woods.   As Duke was running laps at the end of the longe instead of doing his little perky Good-Boy thing and as the rest of the herd responded by losing their minds on the other side of the fence, the thought crossed my mind that Duke could go live somewhere else.  It barely took form, however, before a dozen excuses for keeping him shot up to block it from my consciousness.  Finding the good in anything can require some searching, but we generally manage.

Seeking to understand before jumping to judgment is a toughie.  I had a lot of experience with this as a special ed teacher.  Since I wasn't allowed to beat or handcuff my students, trying to understand the why of their behavior was a must.  I think that's harder to do when 1) there are fewer societal constraints than in the public school classroom, and 2) when it's a horse we're looking at.  Alien brains are hard to fathom sometimes.  I've often wondered why a particular horse chose a particular behavior that seemed so completely irrational and out-of-character.  We try to understand, and sometimes we succeed.  Mostly we succeed in projecting onto everyone and everything around us our personal view of the world.  That's what makes this part of the assignment so difficult.  Taking  your "self" out of the equation is nearly as impossible as is seeing into someone else's personal bubble.  So I suggest at this point we just reprise the first two suggestions--give them the benefit of the doubt and don't take whatever is happening personally--and hope for the best.

Being gentle should be the basic human reaction to every situation, don't you think?  How often is it?  If the whip is the first line of defense when we're confused by our animal's behavior, then how likely is it that we'll be less defensive and controlling when it comes to ourselves and our fellow humans?   There's something in society that rides the rail between being kind to ourselves and being self-indulgent.  I know I can tell when I've crossed that line because it feels so damn good to be kind and I'm so guilt-ridden when I've indulged to the extent that I notice it.  It's the one piece of chocolate (dark, for its anti-inflammatory properties of course) to celebrate a job well done as opposed to the new wardrobe to celebrate not killing one's spouse.  

We need to forgive ourselves and others for not meeting arbitrary standards.  If we could master that, just think how far we could go toward a peaceful life.  If we stop setting ourselves up as arbiters of what is right and good, we might discover that it really doesn't matter.  Congress might even begin to function again!  Wouldn't it be nice for just one day to be able to be completely at peace without the mega-job of controlling everything around us shadowing our every moment?  

Go forth and be less critical.  It sure couldn't hurt.

No comments: