Anger, your inner critic, and calming the voice within with compassion.
In this week's email:
- Sit with Yourself: Silencing your inner critic with compassion.
- Our new free guide: 😉 This week's email is an extension of the guide.
Let’s do it.
🔊 Listen to the audio version of this week's newsletter!
This is an excerpt from our phenomenal gratitude journal that not only outlines the science of attention but guides you through a month's worth of journaling. Here are three simple questions to help start your day with gratitude. Whether it's at the end of the newsletter, or right now, take 5 mins to answer these questions.
Question #1: “I am grateful for _____ , because _____ .”
Question #2: “What am I looking forward to today (or tomorrow)?”
Question #3: How are you getting in your own way? Wright it down and form a simple action plan to overcome it.
Silencing Your inner Critic
Whether you have an internal monologue or not, you think, and therefore you are.
You. Are. You exist.
Not only as a mind and body bound by flesh and electricity but as a whole being filled with emotion, criticism, discretion, love, passion, drive, fear and apathy.
All of those things not only point to the world to help you discriminate between good and bad, but they also point to yourself. They are signals, whispering from the hull below your consciousness, sometimes trying to help guide the ship that is you, and other times ghosts coming to haunt you.
Take anger, for example.
Anger is an emotion that most would regard as unfavourable. It generally doesn’t serve your best self, it often hurts those around you, and it leaves you feeling lost and dejected once it runs back to its hole. This bias against anger makes most of us reject and neglect it. We repress the emotion, sweep it under the rug, or worse, gaslight others and ourselves in an effort to prove it never happened.
What if, instead, we treated the emotion as a signal.
Instead of reactively labelling and judging our anger as “bad” or “negative”, we took the time to understand it. This mode of taking a broader perspective was a primary psychotherapeutic principle of Carl Jung, who noted that it’s essential to listen to understand, not judge. This may sound like a banal statement, but until you’ve paid attention to your discriminatory systems of attention, you don’t understand the extent to which it’s engrained within your psychology.
And for a good reason.
Imagine if you never judged what you heard? What are you going to do, fact check every single thing you hear to be objective? Or simply believe it to avoid judgment? No, it’s essential, primal, and necessary - in the correct context - to judge what you hear to move through the world. But within your mind? More than anything, you need to listen to understand.
What made me angry? What triggered that emotion before my conscious awareness of it? If I pull the thread of this situation, what past experience comes to the surface?
You see, anger, in almost every case, is a reactive response to past vulnerability being rejected, ignored, or ridiculed. Anger is an unconscious defence mechanism to protect your vulnerability from being rejected, ignored, or ridiculed. It’s actually kind of sweet in that context and in its infant manifestation.
For example, imagine growing up in a large family where you never felt heard. As the youngest, no one ever chose your favourite hobby, they never went to your favourite restaurant, and your siblings were just old enough that unlike them who shared memories on the playground, you did it alone.
Now imagine years later you fall in love with someone who had the inverse childhood. They were the oldest, always got what they wanted, and sailed through life. In a perfect world, in many ways, you could both help make up for what each other lost - but only if there is enough self-awareness and love. However, in this corner of the multi-verse, it’s not the case.
After a few years of dating, things became comfortable. The other person settles into their default pattern of controlling, silencing, and getting their way, leaving you feeling like that child at home never feeling heard.
Without even writing the second act, you can see how because you grew up with vulnerability being silenced, you could become angered, unheard, and resentful towards your newfound love.
As a child, your vulnerability was constantly rejected, and now as an adult, in what’s meant to be the safe space of a relationship, your vulnerability is once again being rejected and even ridiculed. This kind of anger can manifest from parental neglect/abuse, bullying, genetic dispositions towards trait neuroticism, and stories - remind me to come back to that point.
Anger is telling you that there is a serious problem.
Anger is facilitated through a dopaminergic pathway, which, as we know in cognitive psychology, drives us to action. Dopamine is a well-studied neurotransmitter that reacts when action is needed. This person’s anger, driven and facilitated by dopamine, fights for ground to protect vulnerability. Run, get out, do something other than stand in the centre of the ring, getting your head beaten in.
This is you every single day.
You have a voice within you that speaks to you, threatens you, holds you back, pushes you forward. Sometimes, it reminds you of your worth, uplifts your potential, and celebrates your achievements. Other times, it feels like it’s out to kill you. It belittles you, chastens you, makes you feel small, tells you that you're worthless, tells you that you're incapable. The very thing that uses affections to elicit positive change can turn on you.
There are two sides to this problem: the first is what we discussed - the emotion, thought, feeling, or voice is a manifestation of past events that are used as a medium of protection. Your mind is saying, "I remember a situation I went through that I need to protect myself from, and I'm going to use whatever I can to protect myself. This is the essential role of anxiety. Your amygdala, one of the oldest areas of the brain, elicits anxiety as a defence mechanism.
The second side, however, is much more insidious and evil: the voice is the narration of a story.
Stories shape your perspective
Life is a series of stories, and we sometimes forget that we hold the pen.
The stories we tell ourselves often become the truth that we live. But it’s rarely the truth that we or others deserve. Sometimes, these stories evolve out of bad experiences; other times, they form from the content we consume.
Whatever the story, whether it’s about you or the person on the screen, it is just a story.
Stories are the basis for all prejudice. Stories are the basis for all self-doubt. Stories are the tinted glass through which we view the world and ourselves. The liberation from simply being aware of this phenomenon can be one of the most empowering and even confronting experiences of your life.
The past as you remember it is situated from a very narrow viewpoint. Memory, in general, is known to be an incredibly unreliable witness in a court of law for the fact that a person’s memory is so intertwined with who that person is, and who that person contains all the positive and negative parts of bias, ignorance, prejudice, and ability. All of which, as many a CCTV camera could testify, leads to a story in the viewer’s mind that’s wildly contrasted to the actual events.
You look out into the world and see it for how you think it is, but you actually see the world through who you are, not necessarily how it is.
Even if those events in the story are facts, are they still not stories? And like it or not, you don’t live in a story. You live now. In the present moment, right here, right now, in your body. Holding the pen, able to rewrite the present at any moment.
As the philosopher, Eckhart Tolle so wonderfully and powerfully wrote about the past,
“The past is nothing more than all present moments that have gone by. The future is just a collection of all present moments waiting to happen. Hence, living in any moment other than the present is useless — even if your current task is oriented towards the future.”
I don’t know what stories you have formed through trauma, upbringing, or content, but I encourage you to sit down and take that journey. For some of you, it might be the hardest journey you ever take. To wake up and realise the reason you aren't achieving or finding success is because of a story you have told yourself.
And maybe that story has formed out of a past experience and the emotions of the story are trying to tell you, "Remember that time where your Mum said you could not do it, or your Dad said he didn't accept you? That crushed you, and you do not want to go through that again, so don't achieve, don't be unique, don't be yourself."
That's your inner voice being manifested through affections.
But maybe, it's just a story you've picked up and told yourself, "I am worthless, I can't do it, I'm not enough."
That might be the hardest journey you ever take, and for others, it might be the hardest journey the people around you take. Whatever your journey, love is on the other side when you use compassion.
Sit With Yourself
That's the solution. Whether it's the manifestation of memory through emotion or a story you have told yourself, the solution is self-compassion.
When I discovered the etymology of the word ‘compassion’, it completely changed how I saw my healing. In fact, it changed my life. I realised that the compassion I needed to give myself was so much more than a kind word and an empty promise, but that it called me to suffer together with myself.
To actually be my own friend. To really suffer together with my pain so that I could get through it knowing that I was going to be okay. When I made a mistake, when I experienced failure, when I felt no love for myself. Not to judge myself, not to rush healing, not to say the things we all say when we think we don’t deserve love and grace, but to just sit and suffer.
That’s what friends do.
They don’t rush to give advice or explain away your pain. They patiently suffer together with you, so you don’t feel alone. They listen, they honour your pain and truth, they do their best to feel what you’re feeling. When you most need compassion is when you most feel alone. Like the last thing in the world you think you deserve is someone sitting with you through your healing.
That’s why you suffer together with yourself.
Whether it’s healing the child within you, or the you that screwed up and cannot let it go. Sit, suffer, feel, cry, laugh, and be gentle with yourself. Treat and care for yourself as someone who deserves to be cared for, even when it feels untrue.
Suffer together with yourself as a friend, and the love you share within will change you, heal you, and grow you.