Sunday, March 11, 2012

Inner Critic V. Inner Child

NYC child mannequins
Time for a show down.

Well, not exactly. More like a slow down.

Now that I am slowing down, on vacation, the fits my inner child has been throwing lately have calmed down. It's easy to negotiate my desires and my obligations with so much space.

Yet, when I am in a busy social situation, even here, in a lovely house with one of my best friends' roommates, or in a shop with too much stimulation, I feel the contrast coming on.
The Inner Critic says:
"Tough it out. It'll only be five minutes more. Be polite and nice."
The Inner Child is saying, or thinking:
"I want out now. This is not what I want or need. Take care of me."

 I am mostly prone to listening to my Inner Child. She experienced a lot of neglect - this is my Inner Child I am talking about, not my childhood self - via my Inner Critic for many years. Still does. But the fact is that sometimes, she's just as rude, unrealistic and manipulative as my Inner Critic. And just as likely to seem like she is being honest when in fact she is covering something up, protecting it.

Maybe not quite as likely, but she's a child, with a limited perspective, and so therefore must be, like my Inner Critic, listened to with grains of salt.* I wasn't able to see this for a long time, so eager to please and assist her after such a long time of disregarding her.

In her wonderful book Multiplicity, Rita Carter describes what she calls minors and majors (players in our day-to-day multi-faceted personality(ies) - and in my life as an adult, the Inner Critic has played a major role, and my Inner Child a minor role. Because they seem opposite each other, and the Inner Critic has more power, my Inner Critic will often squelch my Inner Child. Being married happily and doing work I love certainly supports the tender wisdom and joy of my Inner Child to come out, and yet, running my own business and having the triggers I have encourages the Inner Critic. But overall, my goal is to make sure the Inner Child has a more comparable voice, on par if not more than the Inner Critic. Or that has been my goal.

I suppose it still is. But I listen to her more now like, well, a child. When I wrote in a class this last week about her throwing a fit, a mom to young boys pointed out that children never think they are being "heard" if you don't do what they want (my Inner Child accused me of not listening to her when I didn't give her what she wanted). That was a big relief. I'm not a parent, and didn't have good parenting experiences from my parents. One of my best friends is just now pregnant for the first time - though I know many folks with young kids, I don't spend much time around them.  I certainly can't suggest how to parent a small child, inner or outer. So a little clarity in that chaos is helpful.

All this is a reminder that in fact, the major here is me - adult Miriam, who runs her own business, her own job, her own life's passion. Really, in comparison, Inner Critic and Inner Child are minors. Parts/facets of me, no more me than the parts I like or am proud of are. Neither of them like that very much, but that's how ego responds to understanding impermanence. In the meantime, I am grateful that I can keep finding nuance, keep exploring my own inner self landscape, and listen to the chirping of children and critics as nourishing richness instead of tripping over them in the dark - either of them.

*Last night a friend in Portland, OR, where I am now visiting, described a debate she had with her roommates recently about the merits of all the different varieties of salt now available: Himalayan, Sea, Red Sea, etc. And today we visited a shop that sells ONLY salt, chocolate and wine. Sheesh.


  1. Yay the ever-revealing layers of exploration! And I appreciate the reference to salt ;)

    Thinking more about our very very interesting brains, my therapist recommended that book we were looking at in the Shambhala Center the other day "Buddha's Brain." I am definitely going to read it now.

    1. Check out also this brand new book called The Misleading Mind...I am sure I will be writing about it as soon as it comes out!