Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Walking Away From Ourselves

A client once said to me, “If someone else spoke to me the way I speak to myself in my own mind, I would walk away. But I share a body with that inner voice so I can’t walk away from it.”

I replied, as gently as possible, “Ah, but we do walk away from ourselves. We distance from our inner voice by burying it with food or work or shopping or television. . . . with an infinite number of things to numb, distract and dissociate from our own minds, bodies, hearts and lives.”

And why wouldn’t we? Sticking around for constant and cruel berating would be like choosing to hold your hand on a hot stove. The instinctual response to pain is to withdraw, and that can be life-preserving.

The problem is. . . . if we numb or disconnect from our inner world to distance ourselves from that cruel inner diatribe, we also disconnect from our awareness of other inner states that arise: joy, gratitude, peace, ecstasy etc.

As with so many things in life the only way out is through.

First we have to “catch” the voice of the inner critic. I admit, sometimes mine is none too subtle which makes it easy. Years ago, when I first started to really notice this voice I'd just closed it down with a snappy, “Thanks for sharing but no thanks!” or a less polite, “Shut up.”

As time went on it got easier to recognize the background noise of the inner critic that often lives right on that thin edge between conscious and unconscious thought (no doubt so it can quickly slip into unconsciousness when I happen to catch it at work.) Gradually, when I noticed it- now knowing that it did not tell the truth- I expanded my ability to listen. Why? So I could begin to explore what drove it, what sourced its certainty that if I pursued my soul desires disaster would ensue. I didn’t just want to shut it up and shove it into my inner shadows. I wanted to know more.

And, of course, I discovered that this voice is driven- as all bullies are- by fear.

Gradually, on a good day- when I had the time, energy and consciousness- I could actually engage this inner voice in a dialogue. I wanted to hear its story. And as the story of deep terror was revealed the voice got smaller, the criticisms lost their power. Oh I don’t want to imply that my inner critic has disappeared! But, as Ram Dass once said of inner demons, they get smaller, and when they appear we can recognize them more quickly and have them in for a cup of tea without worrying that they will take over the tea party.

This is of course a process, and like most things in human beings it does not happen in a once-and-for-all straight line, but in more of an ever-deepening spiral. But gradually we can dissolve much of the need for habits of distraction and dissociation so we can feel and live the joy in our lives more fully.

And our freedom and available energy is deepened and broadened. 

Oriah House (c) 2014


  1. hello, i stumbled upon your blog because I searched ENFP, online. My personality type. You had a quote on there about daring to risk looking like a fool. It almost made me cry. I wish that you could be my mentor. I love what you write. I recently sold all that I had and moved to Australia, I was there 2.5 months and it ended up not working out like I thought it would, so I returned.

    I now have the task of figuring my life out again. I'm 28, single, homeless, and excited about my life. Anyway. Thank you for your musings, and thoughts.

    Hayley. Ps, I love your name.

    1. Welcome Hayley - so glad what I write resonates for you. I do post daily on the Oriah Mountain Dreamer page on FB - you don't need a FB account to see it. All the best with starting over again- may your find what is a living expression of who you are as life unfolds. Blessings, oriah

  2. This really resonated with me too. When I ignore my 'inner critic' it gets into cahoots with my 'inner demons' and that combo creates all sorts of mental mischief, none of which is good.
    I love this post because you said you invite the inner critic in and it gets smaller and weaker. This sounds like a very good strategy. It takes the power out of the critic. This makes me wonder if I can do the same thing with the other mischief makers, the 'inner demons', which are really just morphed out overblown inner critics.

    I've given all the negativity too much power. Lots to think about!

    Thank you so much for your words and wisdom!