Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Inner Critic Revealed

I'd like to introduce you to my Inner Critic. I talk about her a lot here and a new art project in my Zen community inspired me to catch her in the act.

I had this clever idea to use Photo Booth on my MacBook to "catch" my Inner Critic. Earlier this morning I'd thought about writing down some of the top things I hear from my Inner Critic on a note card and photographing them with me in the background looking angry, disgusted. When I finally got this done this afternoon I found myself really taken aback by the image.

Wow, is that some nasty shit. Inner Bully is more like it.

And yet that's the person I hear nearly constantly. Something about having this image really kind of creeps me out. The enormity of this voice, the judging and harshness of it. The ugliness fully revealed, not just alluded to.

Somehow seeing this visual representation helps me get a grip on why I've felt so self-doubting these past several weeks, why it is so hard to feel any sense of accomplishment when this is the constant negativity I'm bombarded with. No wonder my therapist will interrupt me occasionally during our sessions to remind me, "I don't like it when you talk about Sherri that way!"

Yeah, need to keep working with this voice.

I burned the note card in the fireplace and lit some incense just now. It felt like the right thing to do. A cleansing step.

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  1. Wow. You are brave to confront this inner bully. Brave to put a face to it. Brave to admit it! I am positive that you have it within you to quiet this voice. Where does the inner bully come from? Is it there to keep us safe? Mine asks a lot of questions like "Why do you think anyone would like that?"The only thing that makes mine get quiet is to love it. I don't know how to explain it. I say things like, "There, there. It's all right. You don't have to like it. But I do." it takes the sting out, sometimes. Deeply inspired by your bravery.

  2. Great work, Sherri!Working with the Inner Critic is vital important work. Hogen Roshi says that it can take people far off their spiritual path.Working with the Inner Critic has been important for me too. At the Great Vow retreat we drew our Inner Critics and it was very helpful.Once when I was really struggling with the Critic in my zazen, Chozen suggested giving it a non-threatening person name, something like Harry, Otto or Percival. Now when my Inner Critic comes up calling it by the name I gave it automatically creates distance and takes out some of the sting. "Ok, Otto*, I hear your opinion. Thanks for sharing." (* = Name has been changed to protect the Critic)Last week at sesshin, the Inner Critic was hassling me about my bell ringing (I really did make some mistakes during a service) and it went on and on. "Terrible. They will pull you out of sesshin to tell you they won't have you be the doan. That bell ringing was an embarrasment." Relentless.From somewhere inside (Prajna Paramita?), I was able to say to it, "Ok, critic, you can beat me up until after lunch break. That givse you two hours. After that we're going to be done with this issue." Later that day it came up again in my zazen and I was able to say, "Um, excuse me. I hate to interrupt you but you had your two hours on this. We are done discussing this. Thank you." It totally worked!Keep working with the Critic and leaning on the teachings. It's changed my life.

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