The inner critic speaks

I am worthless.

I am stupid. I never see the most obvious things, do not make the most obvious connections, until far later than I should. I can be completely blind to things.

I am lazy. I do not do things which should take no effort at all. I should show some self respect, and clean my house, it is a tip. Being tired or unmotivated is not an excuse.

I am weak. Yet I am confrontational. All happiness is misery, because it will pass, yet misery and depression is seeing the world as it really is, so permanent.

I am ashamed of everything: action and inaction, desire and indifference, masculinity or femininity in myself.

I have disgusting belly fat.

The inner critic speaks and I find hacks. What I want is “disgusting” and “shameful”. Very well, I look at it, smile, and say “Disgusting and shameful” appreciatively, anticipating my disgusting delight. Or I see that these unconscious responses are not serving me, and set myself to tell the truth about them- yes, I want that. It is not wrong to want it. Persuading myself against my instinct or snap judgment is difficult, time consuming, and takes energy, but is worthwhile and I improve at it. Those instincts are changing.

Yet, there is so much energy in the inner critic! The exercise was to say all that is bad about you, and I spoke continuously for two minutes, vehemently and articulately, voicing thoughts which I do not think are true yet which are in me, which control me and prevent my actions. If only I could use that energy! It has felt that I am pulling against myself, for the longest time, like an isometric exercise pushing my fists together in front of my chest and getting nowhere, like horses pulling away from a central ring to which all are tethered- sweating and straining and not moving. That vehemence- could I channel it?

Being controlled

As we wander through the town centre to the café-pub, she notices a bright-yellow, “Spring-like” coat in a charity-shop window. She says it would look good on me. I go to investigate, and take it from the window display, undoing all its buttons, unwrapping the very long belt. A worker dashes over and pulls the mannequin from the display, then feels the need to explain and apologise- “We’re not allowed to have them in the window without something on them”. I apologise in turn- I am sorry for dismantling the display. “I like it, but it is up to you,” she says. Are the arms a little short- I was descended from gorillas- maybe a little, she thinks. She will not exert herself to persuade me at all.

I buy the coat, and wear it to the pub. I enjoy lunch with her, then cycle home, still wearing the coat.

I am not certain she would think of this, but I analyse obsessively, and decided- she told me what to wear, and I wore it. She took control, and I assented. I really really like that. I could give pathological explanations. My mother was extremely controlling, and it is because of that. I am not behaving like a fully mature adult. I don’t know if any cis woman would feel this way about a man.

I really really like that. And it is shaming, humiliating, NOT HOW A MAN SHOULD BE!!!! RIDICULOUS DISGUSTING SHAMEFUL VILE

The inner critic does not like it. I have such strong internal barriers against this, it is more an internal policeman, with a taser to paralyse me if I stray from the Right Path. It comes from my controlling mother and soft father, who were terrified of anyone finding out.

I called the Samaritans. “I want to talk about sex”, I said. “This is not the phone line for that,” she said, and rang off. With the second, I was more circumspect. I do not want to perv on her, but to sort out my feelings. I have been frightened of my feelings and suppressed them, and want to accept them and feel them fully, for then I feel I pass through them. I need her presence as I do this. Shame, humiliation, resentment, complex unnamed feelings well up within me and I can bear them if I sit in silence, eyes closed, and allow their conflagration, their cacophony. Then such regret!

I told her of leaving the office to kill myself. It was the only thing I could do. I could not bear it, and had to get out immediately without thought for the consequences. The internal policeman does not accept such an excuse, for any human being with the slightest resource or resilience would have had no problem at all. I feel the pain of being in that situation, and then the pain at lost opportunities from never being able to accept that pain, so wanting to hide away, and wonder if some sort of forward movement is possible.

My lunch companion is a friend, not a potential partner. However, after years of trying to make a man of myself and so being unable to let a potential partner in, and loathing my attempts at sex because I did what I thought I should do rather than what I might like, these experiences might help me seek out something which could satisfy me at last. An oddity- as I spoke to the Samaritan woman I was using my female voice. Often, I speak below the break, but not then.

-What will you do next? she asks.

I will watch Call the Midwife on tv. Apart from one token character the men are all stupid, sometimes bumblingly well-intentioned but usually selfish, even violent. And the women take control and sort things out. Just my sort of programme!

berthe-morisot-in-the-dining-room

I am here

With my life as it is, all I have to do is ensure that I have enough food in. I could even wait until I had not, and go to buy it then. If I don’t have milk, I can’t have tea or cereal with milk until I buy some. I don’t have to tidy my living room, or clean the filthy basin in my bathroom.

If I don’t clean my teeth, I feel uncomfortable, and if I don’t have enough fruit I feel out of sorts. I love fruit. Peaches in the summer, though I could get expensive ready-to-eat peaches now, but sweet conference pears are almost as good for intensity of flavour and juiciness; grapes, plums, and citrus- tangerines, satsumas, clementines, whatever.

I love pictures. I love the mannered strangeness of Giulio Aristide Sartorio, my latest happen-upon. I keep telling myself I could get the train to London to the Tate, which always has wonderful exhibitions. Getting to Swanston, getting the train, getting across London takes trouble and expense, but it is manageable. I have not got round to it. I am unsure why not.

I have managed to strip my life down to minimal challenge. I blog a lot (I like blogging.) I watch a lot of television.

How I respond to challenge may be the issue.

I am in trouble. Various people are going to meet to address the problem of Clare, and may come up with a solution I do not like. I have a knack for focusing tensions in a group around me, and while I feel those tensions are the problem rather than my wickedness, I am unsure I could convince them of that. Hollyoaks has nothing on the way I manage my personal relations. There is little I can do, I just have to wait until they have met.

I would like someone to give me a hug and say there, there, it’s going to be alright.

I have had the thought,

I am here.

Now, I am finding what that might mean. This morning, I cycled into Swanston for the fruit stall. It was not there last Tuesday, but was today, perhaps because the weather was better. I could always ask them why they don’t come. I got apples, plums, grapes, and satsumas, much cheaper than the supermarket. I am pleased.

If I cycle, I save the bus fare, but there are costs to this. That hill is hard work. It’s cold. I will get sweaty and possibly smelly. I don’t like the jacket (I could replace it). Most of the road is between hedges which are ugly, and much of the landscape beyond is featureless. The sun, and the brightness, are beautiful. An overtaking driver gave me far too little room, so that when I swerved to the right to avoid a pot-hole just as he passed me, he was frighteningly close.

Three miles from home, I address the thought, I am here. There is beauty where I am. I have an effort to make. It seems to me my ways of dealing with the efforts I have to make are denial and resentment. I deny the effort. Anyone with the slightest resilience, anyone with any value as a human being, would find them minuscule and unworthy of notice. (Therefore I have no value.) Then I resent. I should not have these difficulties.

There is some pleasure in facing where I am. Three miles to cycle, with some climbing. These delights, and these difficulties which matter to me. These blessings and the forebearance of my situation keep me safe enough.

I look out the window at the sunset. The sky is so beautiful!

giulio-aristide-sartorio-wee-boys-smile

Scissors and glue

I spent a pleasant hour or so this afternoon with scissors and glue- craft activities based on positive psychology. I am tempted to be dismissive, but I enjoyed it, and will share with you what I made. I went to the local Mind for a taster session on their Building Self Confidence course, and may take it. I forgot to take my lunch: possibly I was nervous about going. There was Christmas cake to fill me up, and another service user gave me a satsuma. She seemed a kind, gentle soul. I thought her eyes were lovely. She talks herself down, and was gently challenged.

Everyone’s normal, until you get to know them.

They quoted Oscar Wilde- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Well, yes; and you cannot be anyone else anyway. Anthony Burgess told of a boy at his school who affected a French accent to appear sophisticated, but spoke French with an English accent. I have huge privilege, being educated and having a fund of stories like that; it came to mind at just the right time.

We discussed the inner critic. “You would never be as cruel to others as you are to yourself,” I said. I am trying to show you I know this stuff. Nothing they said seemed new and useful to me. Yet I want to get out of the house, into a non-threatening environment with other people, and this might do. I have thought of voluntary work, but not enough actually to volunteer. And something did seem worthwhile, a thought I had, prompted by being there:

I have been thinking of a facebook interaction. I commented on a Remainer group, and a troll responded “Lolwut”, and another the eu was trying to take our freedoms away. Thankfully within a few years the corrupt dictatorship will collapse. Not people who were seeking to understand my point of view, people who were trolling, possibly to spread gloom and despondency on my side, so I responded, [names] not very bright, are you? Find out about the issues before showing your ignorance here. Now I am second-guessing. Was mine a constructive pacifist response?

It is very controlling, wanting your every response to be right.

I don’t like their ending visualisation. Imagine yourself happy and successful, as you would want to be. I hear that if you imagine having something you are less hungry for it, less likely to go out to get it; or, I do not want to imagine something I do not trust I can create. But- why not enjoy fantasy? Am I too puritan? Second-guessing again.

There are some good paintings here, but our exercise is less technically stretching: cut words out of magazines, which apply to me, and glue them to a silhouette. So, here it is. Some of the words were offered by others. “Does anyone want Bohemian?” Yes, I wanted Bohemian.

I enjoyed it. This is a place I might go. I need to go somewhere.

scissors-and-glue

Childhood trauma

What is trauma? When the being fears dissolution, because it loses trust in its ability to save itself, or faces an unbearable threat from outside.

I start with Tina by talking of things which please me. I was proud of that AM. Without my contribution over three years it would not have been as beautiful as it was. And then I was-

I know the word. It is in my mind, and I started the sentence knowing that was what I would say, but I cannot say it. My inner critic shuts me down. I pull together the ability, and eventually say it-

brave.

Now I have to say what was “brave”. That exposes me to Tina’s judgment, and the inner critic projects on her that it will be unfavourable. And the inner critic has to have its cake and eat it: that I imagine the situation might be difficult shows that I am worthless, but even though I am so worthless as to find it difficult, facing it shows no bravery.

“It was an awkward situation,” she says. Yes. Certainly awkward, so I could face it or hide from it. If “brave” is too strong, the word “awkward” will do.

Much of my anger and fear comes from old stuff, and I have been pleased recently by moments that emotion seemed to flow healthily, a reasonable response to current circumstances. That past emotion does me no good now.

-It is judged- by the inner critic?

By me, actually. It does not serve me. It blocks my actions. It stops me meditating.

Do I need to name the trauma? No, she says, but I need to resolve it for my younger self. The younger self is still judged, and that prevents my integration- for I am that child as well as this adult.

And then it strikes me. I judged those feelings at their origin- I was not enabled to accept my anger and fear, because they were wrong. This is toddler or pre-toddler response. Then I suppressed my anger. It curdled, and it still sits in me. That small child remains angry and fearful. And I still judge the anger and fear, because it is relates to old stuff and it gets in my way- that is true, but unhelpful. If I could cease to judge it-

The memories might be so distant that you could not resolve the trauma or say why it is traumatic. A man she worked with brought it into awareness through lucid dreaming, not to relive it but to be with his younger self. He found he had not had a wholesome childhood, played unselfconsciously, or been happy- so he made one. He took the younger self on outings where it was not judged.

Trauma is about self-worth. (I am not worthless, but do not entirely believe that.) All parents give you all the faults they had. They say “Don’t be silly” and you believe that reaction silly, ever after.

After our last meeting, I felt I was not so much going in circles as turning on the spot. This feels much better. Much to do, but some chance of progress. It is not so that I can go back to work, or so that I can make a contribution, but-

so that I might be more effectual in achieving things I find worthwhile.

Oh, and that. I am pleased with that decision. I can frame it in words which judge it. I should not go back on my word. Well, no, I should not. And, I do not run away from things but face problems squarely– again, a virtue of the person of integrity- but these words don’t seem to fit the real situation. Seeing I can accomplish nothing I find of value, I withdraw. That seems to fit much better.

margaret-sarah-carpenter-selina-fitzwygram

Everything is beautiful II

I wrote on facebook,

Our mistakes, errors and failures
are beautiful

and Hazel wrote, “Mine aren’t.” Oh, Hazel!

Right now, consumed with shame, I wonder whether anyone has wasted her life and talents as badly as I. I have no job, house, children, savings, pension- prospects- I maunder away my life, bored and resentful, watching TV, dozing off, writing here.

(Attentive readers will notice the word “partner” is missing from that oft-repeated list. I have gone out a few times with someone. I would love to say “I am going out with” her, and only avoid that from fear of being presumptuous.)

Onywye. I reason myself out of my shame, and I feel my way out of it. I have always done my best. I could almost say, they are not mistakes, errors and failures, but attempts. They have been my best shot given my knowledge, understanding, levels of energy and motivation at the time. And if there is so much that I am not attempting, now-

my hurt is real. It is not, just, that I am weak, and should pull myself together. “I get on with life” said Neil, and I said, “Well, so did I, until I stopped”. That stopping, that Moment-

I thought I should cycle on the ball of my foot, rather than the instep, so put up my bicycle seat. Cycling felt wonderful. I noted that sometimes I was slipping my arse from side to side, and it felt like it could hurt my back- Dean later told me the seat too high can hurt the back, not necessarily for this reason. My metal pedals have a side with a bit of grip, so it will grip my toe rather than sliding down to the instep. Next day I climbed to the top of St Pauls, and that evening felt something go in the back of my ankle- I was frightened my ligament was damaged. The day after that, exuberantly I started pas de basque, and felt something go in my ankle again.

I watched other people cycling- not races on telly but people in the park, and the South Bank of the Thames, and ruefully saw that they all cycle on the instep. Though Dean says the power should come from the calf muscle.

Friday night I tried cycling. My ankle feels alright. I decided to leave the seat up, and do that nine mile run. I was monitoring my back, thighs, knees, legs, taking care, taking reasonable risk.

I showed courage. When my inner critic denies this- I know enough not to project her denial onto you-  I say I had experienced pain, and feared I had damaged myself, and doing the same thing scares me, quite reasonably. Yet I did it, safely enough. I am proud of myself.

How wonderful to learn to value myself and take care of myself! I am not just listening to the voice saying “Fucking get on with it you useless prick, there should be nothing to it for anyone not as worthless as you…”

How wonderful to achieve what I have, when I did not know this! That stopping, that Moment

It was the best thing I have ever done!

Topmost niche

Bipeds

There are three pairs of geese, each with five goslings. Two families are on the water, but one is on the grass between the path and the water, though I am only four feet away. They are so tame that though the parents keep an eye on me they are not fleeing. Two women have also stopped to watch the babies, and one says to me how they have grown, in the last fortnight! We share our delight at seeing them, cooing as over human babies. I felt complete joy.

The average age at the first rape of these women is thirteen. Of course I did not see the ones still in sexual slavery, or the ones who died in their twenties of chronic drug use, or the suicides or the ones murdered. The ones I met have had luck, as well as resilience.

I felt I was seeking reconciliation, healing, and the deepening of our worship and community together. Others thought the problem was me, and the first priority was to get me to shut up. I would not shut up, and the whole area meeting condemned me, while (I read later) demonstrating caring, concern and tenderness for me, which I did not perceive at the time.

I feel like Francesca, blown around the outer circle of Hell

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything, is wonderful. If I could steal anyone’s life it would be hers. It moves me to tears, changes an ideal into an imperative and a normal attitude into a vile one, in my mind and the phrase that speaks to me now is like someone unable to fall fully in love because she can’t stop imagining the inevitable heartbreak.

Those former sex workers, they have huge resilience, they have faced things you could not even dream of, and you claim to be broken after- Nothing??

This cruel voice in my head, saying I am weak, is the problem. It is what holds me back

Kate approached me two years later. She was very glad to see me at Yearly Meeting, yet she needed to check that I really did not recognise her. I might have been snubbing her. I reassured her that I am really not good at recognising faces or remembering names, though she recognised me sitting on the grass in the sunshine two years after. We had a very brief conversation. She was really glad to see me. I was grateful for that, and for her saying it.

If only I could recognise people and remember names!

I have spent much of the last 48 hours pacing the floor, weeping and wailing, wordlessly, lying awake at night and dozing fitfully in the day. I am so grateful! -that the tears ooze out of my eyes rather than leaking from my nostrils, which they usually do, which is such a pain.

I came to the Religious Society of Friends because I felt too uncomfortable staying with the Anglicans and expressing my real, female, self. I was welcomed, and that acceptance gave me the courage to transition in work. That experience coloured my view of the Society and has affected all my actions and relationships in it since

and the thought that my view of the Society might nevertheless just possibly not be totally fucked up and damaging and ridiculous sets me wailing again.

Those strange bipeds, which bear a superficial resemblance to me! I am projecting onto all of you, right now: anyone who would see me is like a seven foot granite statue in my mind, a Judge, seeing me and finding me wanting, condemning me-

possibly this is unduly pessimistic in me

The green sofa *oil on canvas *65.4 x 92.4 cm *signed b.r.: J. Lavery

Taking up my cross

Julius is a satanic figure, while Tallis is represented as Christ-like, since he absorbs suffering while Julius sows it….evil is propagated in the world by the transmission of suffering from one person to another, and that it can only be stopped by someone’s being willing accept the suffering without passing it on. -Wikipedia on A Fairly Honourable Defeat.

I don’t believe in consciousness after death. My Self is so bound up in this physical being, and so influenced by the physical world, that I cannot imagine anything recognisably me in a Heaven with different physical laws and some sort of “perfect” body. At best- and Paul is worth reading– there is something quite different, in the common analogy as different as being out of the womb from being in it. A wise Quaker told me our atoms leave us and move through the world, in other people or in the Earth, and we live in the memories of those we have touched. What will survive of us is Love. As this was exactly my view, my belief may merely be following the fashion.

So, Heaven is here, and I seek to follow Christ, taking up my cross.

My friend Carol, who put me up last year, paid me no attention whatsoever. She had her house presentable and had a programme of entertainments, she cooked well and was the perfect performance of the attentive host, and she talked endlessly of her achievements, difficulties, luck and cleverness. I hated her by the end, and yesterday she invited me again. Absorbing pain is sometimes beyond me: I told her how I had loathed her before I left. She will phone again, though I never phone her: so I do, generally, give her relief.

I could absorb pain in the CAB, listening to people’s woes and earthing them: they left lighter. Then again I got into fights, when I felt I was in the right. I absorbed my mother’s pain, perhaps, when young.

I did a blog post this morning, showered, then encountered my inner critic. I amplified her diatribe, to drain the pain from it: I must do my washing right now, and hang it outside, or I will miss this bright dry day and break the rules and prove my utter uselessness and badness

gosh that’s liberating, satire like that. The point is most of my anger is aimed at me not others. And I did my washing so my clothes and towels would smell better.

Now, I am retreated from the world. On 7 May I got a letter from the Department for Withholding Payment: give us all your bank statements by 14 May or “you may lose benefit”. I posted them, and as I write this got a brown envelope with the familiar type-face: even though it says I am awarded benefit, I felt washed with anger and fear at the threat I had weathered. And it passes over. I will not inflict it on another.

In the park, I played at being Christ-like by exaggeratedly walking out of people’s way. I can play, and analyse the feelings. If I did it, I would have to be without egotism.

knees of Jesus

Love suffused

At four this morning, I had a religious experience. I felt suffused with Love. All of me was love and beauty.

I have been at the Yearly Meeting of Quakers in London. I stayed in the house of a couple I had never met before, Quakers who had volunteered to put up someone attending. It is Georgian terraced, within walking distance of the National Theatre, and its walls have beautiful things on them. On Friday night they met me at Friends House, and he escorted me home on the bus, telling me where was the best art gallery in London- the Courtauld Institute- and of international travel pursuing his career. She cycled. We sat in their tasteful, well-appointed kitchen drinking tea, and my inner critic said,

other people can make something of their lives.

It’s a bitch that way, but you know that. I felt sharp hot shame, not just that none of my anecdotes match. I did not like him. I don’t think he thought much of me, though I could be mistaken.

Last night I got back first, after we finished early, and could not open the door. I had to phone for instructions- pull it towards you, the yale lock will turn then. Oh right. When they returned, we drank tea. I can’t remember what I said, but she said,

-You’re very kind. (These words can be a brush-off or a put-down, but were a simple observation.)
-It gives me pleasure.

Later, we watched a drama about cancer, and when the character complained about the horrid wigs available on the NHS, I showed off mine. She saw that the hairline on the lace-front looks natural. I took it off which elicited a gasp, as I like to shock, and she felt the hair. Possibly I might show more self-respect.

In the night I woke.

After 48 hours, I could answer the inner critic. I have had certain difficulties. I would not minimise others’ difficulties, but mine have been hard for me. The anger I have carried is justified. (Round and round the circle I go; this is new, and not new; I see more clearly-)

Then- this animal, this creature, this thing, process, object-

this-

is beautiful, and wonderful.

This is new. This is not my old arrogance, but softer and heart-felt. I have known “I am a human being”- wonderful, and one of seven billion- but that was intellectual acceptance, this is emotional acquiescence.

I am completely happy. I feel intense love, undirected, or for myself, or for the world, or God’s for me. This- this- this-

This-
creature

is utterly beautiful, perfect in itself. Not what a man might call perfect. Not needing to be other to be perfect. Perfect.

Our discernment was on “Living out our faith in the World. What can Quakers do? Be our beautiful, wonderful selves. One of us might visit the Grand Turk. One might return to the Massachusetts colony, and worship there, though she be hanged for it. One might found a chocolate factory, or a shoe factory, or a bank. We are not alone. There is that of God in every one.

Over breakfast, I thought of telling my hostess, but did not need to.

Shame suffused

It seemed I was a mass of, I was only shame and resentment, and had always been so: at first, shame at who I am, and now shame at hiding it. I was conscious of that lifetime’s burden of shame and it was alright, because I was present as a feeling being, absolutely my feminine Real Self.

Jamie said we don’t see people and see how beautifully life has sculpted them, like a tree. I do physically. Not so much mentally. He talked of personae inside us- the sex maniac, the naive child imagining “this time it will be different,” the Innocent Victim. Everybody knows the inner critic.

I have not been so conscious of my inner critic this year. While others produce scripts, such as you are so unattractive, stop whinging and get on with it, I produce single words. Can’t. Won’t. Bad. Wrong. Silly. False. Fear. Useless. All wrong. Moan whinge. Shit. AAAAAARRGHH!! I want the music off, it’s getting in way- tell him, get nowhere. Fuck I hate this I hate you. Then we read the scripts, in characters, including the porn star and the game show host. The mockery is wonderful, distancing me from the script.

We then consider our limiting beliefs, where we might have acquired them, and what we would be without them. Any belief I am aware of is a choice.

When did you feel ashamed? The initial spark of any action is always loving and creative, though it may be changed by stupid decisions into toxic actions: knowing this helps me forgive myself and others. I felt ashamed of my femininity and of my spontaneous responses since babyhood. I thought of that Genesis verse, “Male and female created he them”: it could mean everyone is both, anima and animus, as Jung said. How is that gift of femininity working for you now? Usually, it is suppressed or over-emphasised. That is an interesting perspective, as I would have thought my expression is healthy, painstakingly freed from suppression.

Then we interview the shamed younger self, which writes with the non-dominant hand. I never left. I do your acts which surprise you. I live, love, receive, never give up. I carry you. Was there anything unjust in what happened? NO. It is what is. It is beautiful. Yes. I hurt. I am amazed by the beauty and delight of all of everything. What gift did you intend to yourself or others? Truth, authenticity, yielding, love, acceptance, being, everything, beauty, liveliness, playfulness, appreciation, movement, softness, girliness, sweetness, LIFE!!!

How would you like to bring and express these gifts in my life now? Presence with those who appreciate me, sacrifice, performance, rejoicing, appreciating beauty, happiness.

We are two selves, the human on Earth doing stuff, feeling and reacting, like an avatar in a computer game, and a soul observing without being part of the drama. Or a frontal lobe and limbic system, whatever. Pain resisted is suffering, pain welcomed is insight. I must walk as the Queen, being myself, not manipulating or game-playing, and as the lady-in-waiting, caring for my physical and mental needs. The photo is a map-projected view of Ceres, taken by Dawn, a beautiful record of external impact and internal action.

map projected view of Ceres, taken by Dawn