The road to freedom

When I was eighteen, I weighed six stone, which is light for a young man 5’10” tall. That’s 84lbs, 38kg. By age twenty I had bulked up to 8½ stone, 120lbs, 54kg, 1.78m tall. This BMI calculator says that is seriously underweight.

When I was a child, the only way I had control in my own life was by refusing food. My mother made a special diet for me, of rissoles- mince stuck in a lump with egg, coated with breadcrumbs, fried- and baked beans, or beefburgers chips and beans. Thinking back on my weight showed the cost of forcing this. I must have frightened her. I don’t remember starting this, or refusing food particularly: I only remember when we had reached a modus vivendi. She had a story about when I was being weaned, and she forced chicken through a sieve to mince it up- “and you spat it at me,” she said, reliving distress. I would eat anything now, though don’t choose to eat salad.

Everything else was controlled. I grew up in Argyll and spoke with my mother’s English accent. There was one political view permitted, which I assented to aged 12, reading The Sunday Telegraph before the election of Margaret Thatcher. There was one musical taste- classical, nothing else worthy of notice. My parents took me Scottish country dancing, which I still enjoy, and to the Scottish Episcopal Church, so I continued Anglican until 2001. I last voted Tory in 2010.

I am feeling my way in to giving details about my “dreadful” childhood. It felt completely normal at the time. I met a monster mother about two years after mine died, and repeatedly told the story, thinking mine was worse though I could not say why. I see telling the story in 2011 I said the other was worst. Then there’s the story about being stressed as a child, and I felt the need for corroboration.

It was good to play the piano. My mother did not like me being so demonstrative of feeling with the Pathétique sonata. I kept myself to myself, like my parents, and still do.

I was controlled. When I was considering transition I read that real transsexuals knew there was a problem aged two or three, knew precisely what it was aged four or five. I started cross-dressing at puberty. I still think of that as casting doubt on me being really trans, twenty years after transition, rather than showing that I did not know who I was or what I felt when I was a child.

I am typing this now with the controlling parent or inner critic on my back, inching my way forward, desperate to convince her, thinking I need to convince you. And, I believe it. I want my inner critic to believe it too. This is not the inner light or true self which says these things clearly. Now, I am in the adjusted self, which did what the inner critic desired, which thinks itself rational, seeking out evidence to convince the inner critic or controlling parent.

Yesterday after an ACA meeting on zoom three of us stayed sharing for more than an hour. I spoke of M. I continue to think of her. Today I cried, while the inner critic railed at my ridiculous self-pity. We stopped talking, and M required five days without texting, controlling by withdrawing. I sought to control by continuing contact, which would never work, then worked hard to shame her and drive her away. First I felt self-righteous about shaming her, then shame. Trying to assert control, I felt desperation or hope, casting about for persuasive argument. Today, crying, I felt the pain and sadness of that separation, while the inner critic told me how bad I was for shaming M and had no right to feel this way.

I believe I felt that sadness and so might let it go.
-You must have felt it before, says the inner critic, in disbelief.
-You have no right to pain, having been so monstrous, says the inner critic.
-This is ridiculous self-pity, judges the inner critic.
-It won’t be enough for you. Either you will revel in the pain and get stuck, or continue fantasising about talking to M, says the inner critic.
I believe I felt that sadness and so might let it go.

After a lifetime of suppressing and denying my feelings because of my mother and my inner critic, feeling my feelings is the road to freedom. I try to avoid sadness, and it stays with me as a burden. If I feel it, allow it to flow, it may pass through me and away.

On the value of feeling sadness.

The Adapted Child

I lived my life completely under my mother’s thumb, doing as she thought right. Then I left home, and lived the same way: I placated my inner critic as I had placated my mother. I had internalised her requirements so I would not get the wrong side of her, so the monster would not get me. I had internalised them so well they were unconscious, simply the only possible way to be. This is the adapted child, not a good way for an adult to be.

Since 1986 I have spotted ways in which the way I thought was insane, but still mostly persisted with it. The real me underneath began to emerge, in 1998, and in 2015, and still mostly I lived as the adapted child. It was just normal. I think of that way of being as “me”, generally. There is something deeper, truer, more alive underneath and still, mostly, I am the adapted child. So, I do not consider what life might be like more than about a month or two ahead. I was often unconscious of what I was feeling.

We become conscious of the inner critic when it begins to fail. I only need to hear it say “You can’t say that!” when it crosses my mind I might say what it objects to. There were the words I could not say, then there was the statement about my childhood which I so feared, I thought everyone would judge me for it, so it took all my courage to say it to someone else. And then this year there were things I said to M who welcomed me saying them, and gave me the strength to say them more and more easily, so that I can speak from that heart space far more easily now. Now, “You can’t say that!” may just be a faint echo; and yet still there may be aspects where the inner critic remains unconscious and in control.

I went to the supermarket on Friday 14th wanting to be my Real Self, my Inner Child. I stood at the end of an aisle, centring. And I was: I felt joy, I was in touch with my feelings, my senses felt more alive. It is an effort to be like that, and it is the only way to be. I had a problem there with staff, which may be because I look trans, or because I look poor, and from the real self it is almost not a bother to me, well, I am where I am. I know that had I met it from the adapted child it would have rankled with me for days. I am doing all this work, to be acceptable! All this work and it does me no good at all! (That’s all or nothing thinking.)

The adapted child wants to preserve equanimity, and the true self/inner child preserves it far more easily. The adapted child is unaware of feeling until it bursts out, and the true self can feel it and let it pass. And I cannot go to the Lovely Gathering at the moment because my frustrated, powerless anger at Jamie is unbearable.

The adapted child is a child’s way of meeting the problems of adulthood, or a way of being stuck in childishness. Hence maladaptive characteristics like, not really caring about the future. So we call ourselves “adult children”. The inner child is the way to the integrated self. The adapted child was simply normal, so did not need a name: as I name it, I problematize it, and shed it more and more.

Escaping the enmeshed relationship

My mother did not allow me to develop a personality independent from hers. My attitudes, opinions and desires matched hers. I rarely had any idea what I was feeling. Though we had moved several times, and local people spoke with a different accent, I spoke with hers, and still do. She died when I was 29, and years after that I decided it was time to rebel against my parents. I last voted the way they voted in 2010, though my politics had been diverging for years.

Do not resent the world.
Respect it.
Dance with it.

I still do not know who I am, but I am learning. I do not fit the mask my mother clamped on me. I am fey and feminine, and my mother brought me up to make a man of myself. The enmeshed relationship makes boundaries difficult. I was allowed no boundaries. Even now I have difficulty understanding the concept, leave alone- I understand the phrase is “creating healthy boundaries,” but have the foggiest idea what that might mean.

I have conflicting desires that I do not understand. My friend said, “It’s as if you want to merge into the background in the most eyecatching way possible”. I want to hide away, and I do. And I want to be seen: three times I spoke to hundreds of people last weekend.

The inner critic is quieter. It still says, “’enmeshed relationship’ is a diagnosis, you have no qualification to say that”. Well, I have no qualification in psychology, and I know what I experienced. It says, “Why are you still on about that? Why go round in circles?” And I reply, I still go on about that because you resist. I will stop dwelling on this when I have cleansed it, when I am merely myself. And, “I want to cultivate flowers as well as pull up weeds”.

I went to the Yearly Meeting, and looked forward to it for months, and Friends there noticed how tense I was. I played a part in our discernment, and am pleased with my ministry, recorded in The Friend. I like the idea of “Caste” rather than privilege: it is to whom you defer, and whom you expect to defer to you, unconsciously.

I stayed with Friends on Saturday night, and walking from Hammersmith tube to the bus station we passed three beggars. My friends gave them a few coins. I do not use cash any more, and gave nothing. One used a loud desperate pleading, almost a scream, which I find disturbing thinking of it days later. Returning, I looked out the window of the bus then the tube at the passing city, delighting in the rapidly changing impressions. My feelings flow better. I see them more clearly.

On Tuesday I went to the supermarket, and rather than merely put off going I felt the anxiety. Feeling it is so much better than being affected by it unconsciously. So I did what I had to do. And my inner critic says, “How trivial”. Well, I am where I am. I feel this is progress.

Someone ministered that the Way is not a straight road. Surrounded by darkness, having no idea where we are, we wait, pray, listen, and God shows the next risky footstep.

I love “Inside No. 9”, and this week’s episode is particularly good. You see the man with his ridiculous haircut and his pursed lips turned downwards, in the dark, old-fashioned house, and think, “Who is this weirdo?” At the end, he takes his first steps towards freedom, and I was moved to tears because it is a road I am walking too.

I would love it to be easy. Is it that, hiding away is my mother’s way, wanting to be seen is mine? That is an attractively simple view, and I am not sure of it yet. Even if I were wholly my own woman, there might still be paradoxes and inner conflict. The way to freedom is through accepting my own feelings, however challenging, threatening or incomprehensible I find them.

And I can. At any moment, I can step into the presence of my inner light. I do it when talking- sometimes I wear a mask, sometimes I speak from the heart. So, why do I not speak from the heart, all the time? What frightens me about it? What does- the other way of being- do for me?

My sexuality is completely different from what I was taught was right and acceptable. I want to be sexually overwhelmed, I want to be taken by a strong woman, and that was such a challenge to my fragile sense of self that I could only admit it within the last twelve years, though I had hints of it in the 1980s. So I have never really had a satisfying sexual relationship. Bound so tightly, I would have been a dreadful parent, though my true self, soft, gentle, peaceful, loving, creative, graceful, would make a wonderful parent. I feel such terrible loss, and waste of potential.

With that woman, I wanted a relationship, I wanted romantic involvement, and it appears she just wanted sex. I am complaining about “Of course I’ll still love you in the morning,” which as a cliché may be outdated. It activates so many of my insecurities. Yes. I am claiming to be a woman, with a woman’s reactions. Not all women, maybe. Not how women ought to be, necessarily. Yes I was born with testicles. And I am a woman, reacting as women so often do.

This is who I am.
I am Clare.
I am a woman.

Compromise

I burned out because I could not compromise. I kept on fighting the things I could not change. This is neither to be admired or condemned, but noticed.

I came out of the tribunal, burst into tears, and shortly after stopped doing tribunal cases. Tuesday 19th evening, I was weeping over the same incident with the same level of distress. I wrote in 2013 that my actions showed integrity, creativity and bravery, and I still assert that, but the problem was taking failure so badly.

Given the difficulty I had with earlier cases, it was something that had very little chance of success, possibly none. I could not persuade the people I needed to persuade. They were too invested in the integrity of the system to accept the evidence I could produce from someone in my position.

I am lying in bed the next day, typing, and considering the level of that distress. I still feel it. (Another failure comes to mind, which still distresses me.) I am not crying, now, but gazing with wonder at the depth of my misery. It is the pain of not being all-powerful. I should have been able to overcome all these difficulties. It is linked to the fear of death.

Divorced from reality? Contemptible? My inner critic is quite capable of berating me, scourging me, both for failing to get Dr Pyle sacked and for stupidly imagining that I could.

The other failure I am thinking of now is from about 2008/9, a killer argument in an employment tribunal case which I did not spot until I had settled it for the contemptuous sum of £200 from the employer. I should have spotted it earlier. It was obvious, I berate myself. I imagine spotting it the day before the assigned hearing and begging the tribunal to accept the documentary evidence late. Obvious in retrospect. Now I am berating myself for not seeing it before, still being upset now, and the intricacy of my fantasy of what I should have done.

This is to be noticed. The distress is there. “Have mercy on yourself,” said Menis. Ideally, perhaps, I would have dealt with it by now but I did not because-

that deserves further thought, perhaps, but now I think-

I was-

I was unable to admit to myself that I could not accomplish these things, see the obvious argument in time, put the evidence over convincingly. It was all linked to the fear of death. That I still feel the distress now, more than ten years later, shows it still is in some way. And yet I am still alive.

All that I could ever fear
has come to pass, and I’m still here.

Now I am thinking of that job interview in Bedford. I got all the questions on DLA and IB right, in the written test. Towards the end, the interviewer exclaimed, that’s the first time you’ve smiled. People tell me I have a beautiful smile, and I hate it. After, everything I said I smiled. I did not get the job, burst into tears, and could not bear to apply for benefits jobs again.

Now, sometimes, I am frightened to go to Aldi. Have mercy on yourself. I imagine trying something, fearfully, as if I reached tentatively out with broken fingers to see if I could grasp something, dreading the pain. “You’re covered in scars,” she said, more than twenty years ago.

Love, mercy and understanding heal me- my own love, healing me from my own introjected judgment.

My friend wondered if I judged her for smoking, then decided she was projecting on me. My eyes followed her cigarette, and she noticed across Zoom. There is endless judgment. The packets are full of judgment- “Smoking Kills!” “Smoking makes your kidneys fail!” “Smoking prevents you enjoying sex!” There is judgment, everywhere, of everything, perhaps the pitiless selfish gene demanding its continued existence and using our suffering to drive us on. When we disagreed about covid, I saw how my trust in my ability to select and absorb information about it, and to change my view as the information changed, is bound up in my sense of self, which again is a matter of terror of death, exacerbated in the case of Covid which really does kill people.

I have hazy ideas of what I might do. I could notice and praise every thing I did: any small act towards cleaning the house, perhaps. That is the idea of Behavioural Activation. Notice and delight in your doing stuff, and so build up your ability to do stuff. I am Loving Awareness. There is Love, and acceptance for the terrified, scarred, hurting being that I am.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I was berating myself for having so little to show for all my gifts and talents, and that does no good, for all the gifts are in the hurt self. Only love can work now.

24 May: I noticed  I had difficulty motivating myself to do something, because my way of doing it had to be precisely right. There were clearly wrong ways, but a variety of OK ways- one with one problem, one with the opposite problem, but satisfactory. The difficulty of choosing between ways, which on analysis I found satisfactory, stopped me starting the action.

Some thoughts on Truth

If my beliefs are the opposite of what they once were, have I ever been truthful? Realising how untruthful I am, I worked out my main reasons for lying. The first was, I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person. Now, I lie to myself if the truth is too uncomfortable. Many people do: one of the BYM Queries is “What unpalatable truths might you be evading?” At some level, I know the truth that I deny- call it conscience or God- so avoidance involves shutting down perception. Evading the truth takes effort.

If “the truth shall set you free” it is free from ego-imaginings that I am who I imagine I ought to be. That denial of reality is a great deal of effort for no benefit. I don’t fool anyone else; so I expend all that effort to fool myself, in order to make me feel safer. Except it doesn’t really. So I am confused and hurting, wanting to be what I am not, until I accept who I am. I want the world to be other than it is, but you have to accept it before you can change it.

My parents were as queer as I am. The most important thing in my family was to appear normal, which meant hiding away. I had to appear to be a man, and lied to myself, as well as the world. This was intensely damaging. My work now is to recover, and truth is my tool: I seek it out and cling to it, as if drowning.

My inner critic, or inner persecutor, tells me that all my motivations are cowardly and self-serving in the most ridiculous, self-defeating, short termist way. That inner voice does not know or cannot admit the truth. It also tells me that things should be easy, so I am surprised and angry when they take time or effort.

In some circumstances, I would lie, for my own gain, to deceive others. This bothers me more in the sense of “will I get caught” rather than the pangs of my conscience telling me I do wrong.

People whom I value, whose judgment I respect, think I am an appalling person. I think they are wrong. Another friend tells me I am particularly truthful, and I am grateful. Possibly I am: when someone does not think she has a particular good moral characteristic and wants it, she works particularly hard at it.

I am a critical realist: I believe there is a real world, but it is too complex to know. Humans might see some aspect of truth. A community which accepts difference will know the truth better than any individual, but too often to fit in to their community people have to accept the community’s common view.

Psychological research observes that trans people rearrange our life story and our understanding of ourselves to convince ourselves that we are “really” trans. I simply know that transition is what I want more than anything else in the world, and I did it despite the difficulties it causes me, so I must be trans.

I know trans is a wrong way to be, I should not be like this. This is called “internalised transphobia”. It is one of my deepest truths. I also know that is false, which seems like a more intellectual knowing.

“Why did you do that?” is an impossible question. Humans rationalise motives. Many things motivate us, some seeming more reasonable or acceptable than others: to others or to ourselves, so I might not know my motivation. If things pop out of my mouth which I immediately regret, this is because I am more complex than I understand. And, I can come together and speak from my integrity, a truth that I know. It feels like ministry.

A lawyer recognises that there is only evidence, which includes what people say; that “proof” is in the mind of the judge of fact, who does not know absolutely either; that there are opposing, contradictory views; that people see the same event differently; that some people lie for gain, as I just said I would.

Being able to live with not knowing is a great blessing. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.

Blake was right: “Everything that is, is holy”. You see things more clearly if you see them with respect, worship or love. The attention necessary for this is hard work, impossible if you spend your energy lying to yourself.

This iconic painting is out of copyright. How thin the people are!

Honesty

I introduced myself in a 12 step programme way. My name is Clare, and I am-

The purpose is to strip back the ego. It may affect what others think of me, but for me, what I think of me is far more important. Of course, that’s just weird and wrong to me, like everything else about me is, but this is the sense of it. Keeping my expressed emotion on an even keel is important to me because that stops others noticing me. I don’t want to be seen. This is an inherited trait.

I don’t want people to think of me at all. If they do, that’s a fail. So, suppressing my feeling is success. So, what I think and feel about myself is far more important to me than what others do.

And, I am angry about this. Anger is my underlying, everlasting emotion. And, taking oestrogen and especially progesterone made my emotions more volatile. It all makes keeping emotions level difficult, and I am paralysed with the effort.

At the Pendle Hill worship sharing on nonviolence on Wednesday 2d, I said my difficulty is my sense of my own worthlessness. Ruth, a spiritual director, had not realised that self-rejection, violence to self, is a root of violence directed at others. Self-love is the foundation of nonviolence. She proposed this mantra:

I love myself unconditionally
I forgive myself unconditionally
I feel myself loving myself unconditionally
I feel myself forgiving myself unconditionally

My self-improvement side thought I should practise listening. Attempting that, I wrote,

The more I see of each of us, the richer my experience is.
The more of each that can be present, the more powerful we are.

Then there was the Friday group where A invited me, then said everyone should introduce themselves. He is A, who has a life which seems in that moment to me to be so much better than my own. So I went all twelve-step. I have chosen this life. My voice barely shook as I said it. That was the end of the introductions.

This is for my good. The working theory is that it suppresses the ego and puts me more in direct contact with reality.

Ministry at Pendle Hill seemed important. I wrote,

Is it possible to be a self- undefined and unaffected by others? No.
Could there be a boundary I could make, around those parts which will maim me to be redefined?

People said,

Trouble means that you are alive
To live with hope is to live on the divine bank account
Living with winter and summer, sickness and health- the meaning is in accepting it all

I could barely hear a woman, and heard her as saying, in a baleful way,

… You think that you folks in the north with all of your wealth are somehow protected from human pain?

But others had difficulty hearing, and someone explained that as people in poor countries thinking we in the North are protected.

Then there was this Atlantic article, on measuring α by adding a single photon, with a laser, to caesium or rubidium atoms to put them in a state of quantum superposition, and measuring their velocity. This involves calculating gravity at the precise point where the experiment takes place, to eleven or more significant figures, and may confirm or refute the Standard Model of elementary particles. I find this amazing and beautiful, but the comment of Saïda Guellati-Khélifa, leader of the team in Paris doing the work, struck me most: “You have to be rigorous, passionate, and honest with yourself”.

On Sunday 6th I cycled to Aldi. As the shadow moved, putting the grass in sunlight, the frost on it began to turn, but was pure white in the shade. I have been thinking of that Anna Akhmatova poem. Why then do we not despair? Because I have not been paying enough attention? I read the Observer editorial on Keira Bell, a harsh anti-trans polemic, which hurt and frightened me.

With these stimuli, I looked at my Friends’ zoom-faces. The intense concentration on some, cogitating, putting the pieces together. The beautiful loving smile of another. I feel my pain, give thanks for the beauty of my Friends, and of the world- and feel intense joy. I would like the joy to leak out and infect others. I would like to minister on this, but it seems for me alone at the moment.

That joy and darkness- to contain it all at once! I want my dishonesty to make me feel better about myself and fool others, but it doesn’t, not really. Through me the gale of life blows high, so- let it fill my sails!

---

On Tuesday 8th, I had a fight with my inner persecutor, which denies anything good about me. Imagine me, if you will, curled into the foetal position, weeping, shaking, and fighting to gasp out a few words.

The words were, “I am passionate about injustice, and I fight it to the end when I see how I can”.

The persecutor does not like me saying anything good about myself, and demands evidence. I have evidence. I come away having won the ability to say that for myself. I was sort-of aware of it before, but not really able to say it, bewitched by the persecutor’s doubts. This is a win. I came out delighted, in an emotionally labile state, again wanting my joy to burst out of me and infect everyone and fearful they might object to my vehemence or even [gasp!] not understand. It did, a bit, in M’s zoom group. Some caught it, and liked it.

Here are some more good words and true: “I love at least some of my enemies.”

I was also wrestling with what it would mean to find the light within. It is, to be a whole and integrated human being, and the bits missing will be different in each case. I am aware of the inner driver, that part of me that wants me to work hard at self-improvement, and the inner protector, that protects me from the worst of the driver’s goads. I am not really aware of what I want, other than wanting desperately to be safe, and feeling so unsafe that this manifests in wanting not to be seen, not to be noticed by other people (in the most attention-seeking way. I’m confused too.)

Knowing “What one wants” is clearly not the problem for, say, Donald Trump. The part of ourselves we do not know will be different in each case. For many people, it will be multiple suppressed parts of their personality. The Light, union with Christ in God, God in us, is the part we do not know.

The inner gaslighter

I have an inner gaslighter, rather than an inner critic. It refuses to accept my feelings, saying they are a pretence or an act, or to admit that my motives are ever worthwhile, saying they are cowardice and the most ridiculous short-term self-serving.

Quakers asked me how well I conform to the testimonies, and I could not say. I made a joke of it. I said when I did not. This morning I asserted to an audience of fifty wise souls, and now to you, my utter commitment to peace, equality, simplicity and truth and the absolute authenticity of my feelings. Before that, I suffered a painful- transition, I will call it: a stage when my inner gaslighter berated me, and I asserted my truth against it, feeling all the pain of its denial and my own lack of belief. There I am, talking aloud to my empty room, inarticulately- “I- I- I- I Am Truthful, I Am Truthful, I am Truthful…” both with a need to convince myself and terror and also delight in asserting it.

I said it to those wise souls and they affirmed me. Hurrah for chat:

your words resonate with me.  Thanks for being so open and honest
Missed you so so much xxx much love xxx
I think  you have most beautiful kind generous wise energy

Separately, someone wrote,

More and more I realize that being free from that instance/ need of pleasing everyone and being validated by others is the real deal…the freedom…the liberation…we think that “enlightenment” is exclusive, something that is far away and available only to few …while instead is much closer than we think…if only…we could embrace totally ourselves and look at reality from those healthy lens…..

Then there was the Pendle Hill worship, where I sat, feeling I was in my holiness, my inner light fully conscious and in control, and Friends ministered on giving gifts freely, and paying them forward. In my Friend’s time of greatest vulnerability and need he was supported.

Perhaps the inner critic or gaslighter will return. Those paths through the dendrites are too well-trodden to disappear in a day; and every time I assert my truth, it gets easier. I feel I broke through the barrier that held me back earlier this month.

I need to be affirmed- I am in great vulnerability- and I am affirmed. When I did not see myself my Friend saw me, writing of me, “she is absolutely committed to Truth and spoke … with honesty and courage”. In another meeting this week I moved a Friend to tears, and he wrote, “I think this writing is absolutely beautiful”. I write this here because these are the things I need to take into my heart, these are the things I have locked out for too long, I need to know that they are true. I feel affirmed.

I am Abigail, and I am Love, radiantly open to myself, my world and to all people, giving and receiving Life.

Correcting yourself

Do you have an inner critic that persecutes you, or does it help you improve? When I think of the inner critic I think of it calling me Worthless, so the idea that it might correct me, or give valuable criticism, surprised me. And yet I notice when I do something not as well as I might, and how I might do it better; and the realisation is not always kicking myself. It could be rueful, and it could even be hopeful, seeing a chance for improvement.

I thought of the “inner critic” merely as a persecutor, so that I thought of this process of assessing my actions and ways of improving as a different thing. I still do. Though that could be a way of hiving off anger at myself, the most negative self criticism, and conceiving it as separate from me. I think it is introjected, so in a way it is.

A self-criticism scale has seven heads which are classified as self-persecuting, fourteen as self-correcting. Some are clearly persecuting- “to punish myself”. Some are clearly correcting- “to remind me of my responsibilities”. Yet I think that inner critic persecutor, which feels like a small child, if it articulated its purpose would claim to be correcting me. I experience it as always enraged and terrified, but it wants to improve my relations with others, just has no idea how.

Who can define “overconfident”? I feel Mr Johnson and Mr Trump have too great confidence, and it makes them act badly, but some risk taking is necessary. So “to stop me getting overconfident” could be self-restricting rather than self-correcting, holding me down. Who defines what is overconfident? Luck and hindsight can affect that.

I feel I have a fairly adult way of recognising that I could do better, see better, know better next time, with a proportionate regret, and separately an inner critic which berates me, turning my hurt into anger against myself.

That persecutor also brings strong feelings to consciousness. When I berated myself as an idiot for a comparatively minor mistake I became conscious of anguish I felt.

It is interesting to read the list. “To stop myself being happy”. I get happy occasionally. I tend to realise that it will pass, but I don’t think it makes me particularly self-critical.

“To stop me being lazy.” I notice that I ought to do cleaning and tidying, but do not do it. I don’t know I would call myself lazy. Lacking self-care, perhaps. I kick myself a bit about it, but it does not generally have the effect of making me do the task. Too rarely I feel desire to do it or an anticipated pleasure at doing it. These things can become habits, I understand, strengthening pathways in the brain through repetition. I have never done that, though.

“To stop me being angry with others.” That fits. I hold myself in.

“Because if I punish myself I feel better.” That sounds like self-harm. Cutting, one lets the feelings out. I feel pain I can only acknowledge as physical. Releasing and acknowledging the feelings brings relief. Again distress is turned inwards.

One, “to make me concentrate” seems to consider current action rather than past mistakes. Concentrate! I tell myself. That would be better as encouragement than criticism or correction. You can do it!

I can’t suppress the inner critic. I don’t think it a good idea to fight it. I feel a rueful acknowledgment is the best way: notice the anger, fear, hurt, desperation, consider that this is the negative inner critic speaking, and that I do not believe what it says. No, I am not a worthless halfwit.

Then notice and practise productive self-criticism. I could improve.

I went to the library to ask for The Testaments. I was in a poor quality t shirt and found myself patronised. The woman said they had not acquired it yet, and could not say if they would get it, nor take reservations for a book they had not bought. She asked if I had read The Power and suggested that I read Vox, a feminist adventure novel. Women are silenced-one woman fights to speak out. No, I don’t want a feminist novel, I want the latest Margaret Atwood. I am not reading occasionally, or hat trying reading as an entertainment, I know my own taste. Instead I got the latest Sebastian Faulks.

The self-criticism which might ameliorate that situation is too abstruse and wide-ranging to attempt.