They’re Ba-ack! I thought I’d already sent them packing once and for all, but apparently they didn’t listen very well. One thing is for sure; they expect you to listen perfectly to them! That’s why they come to catch you in a weak moment… and cornering you within the confines of your own head, relentlessly recite your past mistakes to you; like you somehow weren’t already aware of them! They tell you why you should or shouldn’t have done what you did, followed by a judgment… or five about it! You know, those errors you made in the past when you were young and less experienced. Or… even just yesterday, when you were unaware and didn’t consider every other possible choice than the one you did, and because you didn’t, this left you in a bad spot.
Maybe you’ve noticed them before… those critical voices in your head, that, like the mob coming to extort, yet, another payment from you, badger you, sometimes in a soft and subtle way, and sometimes in a loud and abrupt one. But either way, it all ends the same… they want you to pay for something. Even if you have already paid before, they forget… or don’t care… and come back for more! Their favorite currency is in the form of your guilt, shame and regret. So, unless you are blissfully unaware, conscience-less and don’t care, or have already learned the secret to making them stop, then… welcome to this awesome human experience!
Throughout time, these disparaging voices have been referred to as, “the critical parent”, “the judge and jury”, “the committee”, or “inner demons”, just to name a few. And because they can be so damn mean, leave some convinced that these “mental tormentors” are really “outer demons”… as who would really do this to oneself?
I’m not talking about the typical conversations that continuously play in your head; the internal chatter of what to wear, what needs to be done for the day, and what you think about this and that. I’m not talking about the occasional persistent dialogue that sometimes keeps you up at night; rehashing a conversation from an earlier time. I’m not even talking about the obsessive loops that get stuck in our heads when analyzing something to completion. What I’m talking about is much more annoying, and far more invasive. I’m talking about mental floggings. Believe me, you know it when it’s happening!
For some, the negativity coming from these “inner demons” can be so vicious, as to literally drive one crazy, or even to commit suicide! But whatever these voices are, or wherever they originate; from within the psyche or outside, the bottom line is… the psyche is negatively affected! And just so you know, the longer you’re alive, the more “mistake material” they have to haunt you with! I say “haunting” because they haunt you with your past.
If this is not familiar enough yet… perhaps you’ve heard them questioning or cross examining you about your judgment OR the choices you’ve made; creating doubt in your mind, causing you to second guess yourself. This is not about your conscience prompting you to right a wrong. This is not about a reminder of unfinished business or lessons never learned. No, that’s the thing with this. You’ve already learned from your mistakes. This is about never letting you get completely free from them!
When I woke up this morning, they were there with baited breath – just waiting to cross examine me, on… of all things… a judgment call I made two and a half years ago when I adopted a kitten named Angel from the animal adoption agency. But when I could not get her to stopping peeing all over my carpet, although I felt guilty about it, I was compelled to return her after one week. With Christian’s death just a few months behind me, and still too weak to take on much more responsibility, I was overwhelmed with stress. And because of my lack of well-being at the time, I took her back hoping she would find a better home with someone who had the energy to train her.
So… after a long stretch of welcomed silence, those demons were back at it again; chiding me for my so called “wrong-doings” about this cat, and by the time they were finished with me, I was left to wonder if Angel was happy now… or was she used in some animal testing laboratory somewhere! (If you’ve read my post, “Saving the World“, you might see where this is coming from since I’m a sucker for saving stuff. But that’s how they get you; they look for your soft spots, whatever they are for you. Then just when you are feeling a little weak or a worn down… they strike!)
So, needless to say, because of this surprise visit, I spent some time thinking the whole “kitten-peeing situation” through. AND AGAIN, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t have done anything any differently. I was even reminded that if I hadn’t returned her, I would have never gotten the other cats later, that I love so much now. So you see, despite even the best efforts made, you just can’t please this crowd since they are completely unreasonable!
(This time was only about a cat, but the next time they come to haunt me with some random selection from the archives, it may be far more serious than this, as I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life from which to choose.)
So, what makes them completely unreasonable? That’s a great question! The criticisms that are launched at us have to do with who we are not, against the backdrop of ideal perfectionism. This “critical crowd” seems to have a particular standard which we must always live up to… and if we fall short from this expectation, then we must pay for this supposed “sin”.
Despite my many endeavors to kick them out, and all the tricks, tips, even strategies devised to insure their permanent eviction… like a bad door-to-door salesman, they eventually come back knocking… even when the “no solicitor” sign is clearly posted on the door! They don’t care! Their disregard is blatant!
Over the years, I’ve discovered that even my most sincere attempts at being my “very best self,” haven’t dogged them for long, since no amount of perfection is ever good enough for them, because… just to be annoying… they are continually changing their ideal of perfection! In other words, don’t change a thing about yourself just to please them, you could never change enough to reach their unattainable goal of perfectionism! I’ve found, it’s not really about that for them, it’s about finding a victim to feed on for awhile. So be fore-warned, your anguish IS the food that feeds and strengthens them.
When the critiques are just soft and subtle, you may be able to get away with a simple, “Thanks for sharing!” comment, to signal their exit. But other times these critiques can be brutal and crushing, causing self-doubt, anxiety and depression. Some people turn to alcohol and drugs to drown out the noise. Some bury themselves in their work or other addictions in order to block out the drama. But soon, even these methods of escape become subject to harassment, as every new mistake eventually becomes fuel for the next fire.
Unfortunately, for some experiencing this unbearable torment, suicide seems to be the only way to escape the pain inflicted on these individuals. Now… in wake of this new loss from yet another suicide in the world, it is the loved ones left behind who find themselves insecure while wondering about their decisions, and what more they could have done to make any difference. And… more guilt, regret and shame gets added into the world. Cruel, isn’t it?
You see, the thing about awareness is… to get it… you have to be able to make some mistakes along the way. For it is only through our misjudgments, misunderstandings and misdeeds that we have a chance of gaining any new knowledge, understanding or wisdom at all. But now, with our newly acquired awareness, the dilemma is that we are even more aware of our mistakes than ever before!
Because hindsight is always 20/20, when we look back on our lives, we think we should have somehow known better than to have ever erred in the first place. But, the truth is… you couldn’t have done anything differently from what you already did. You can’t change the past, you can only learn from it and move on.
You’d think that learning from our mistakes would be a good thing, right? That way we don’t have to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Well, it is, but after all that progress made thus far, the problem is… like a mighty weapon, the “inner demons” use our awareness against us!
Yep. When they come for a haunting, they use your hard-earned awareness to cut you down to size by making you feel insecure and unworthy. You’ll notice… even if you’ve already cleaned up all the mistakes you’ve ever made in your life, they pretend you haven’t by rubbing your nose in them again and again. Then… after all your growth, these “inner demons” make you think and feel that you haven’t progressed much, when you actually really have. You see, the dark side of awareness that condemns you is… that you’ve made any mistakes at all! It’s all a set-up for an unrealistic game designed for us to never win… or so they think.
Another thing about awareness is… even though those “inner demons” will never completely stop coming to haunt you, you can use your awareness in a different way to turn the tables on them.
Being very sensitive, I have been aware of these “hauntings”, on and off throughout my life. I believe this to be the source for much of my anxiety and depression in the past. Throughout the years, I tried many ways to stop them; but to no avail. It wasn’t until about three years ago with Christian’s death, that I was forced to use my awareness in a much different way than I had ever before. Ironically, I came to the following by accident.
After years of struggling to survive the antics of my “inner demons”, and now, with the horrific “hauntings” that followed Christian’s death, I did the unthinkable! Having finally reached my maximum pain capacity, and knowing I couldn’t hurt anymore than I already did… I calmly turned to face them and said, “You have my full attention now! What do you want from me?”
This time… I did not run from them. I did not argue with them. I did not fight them off. I did not stand my ground. I did not defend myself. I did not avoid, ignore or resist them. I did not try to fix them. I did not judge them. I did not even believe or disbelieve them. I did nothing at all to survive them. Then, as if separating myself from them and the torment I was so solidly steeped in, I simply stepped away, and out of the “me” being tormented by them. And while facing them with physical eyes closed and spiritual eyes and ears open, I really listened to what they had to say with my guard completely down. At first, it seemed unbearably intense – and I wasn’t sure I could take it. But after a short while of intent listening, something miraculous began to happen. The more I focused on their words, the less they said, and soon… to my surprise, these demons fell away into nothingness!
One by one, as they vanished, I wondered, “How can this be? Weren’t these the same demons hell-bent on pestering me when I was down? Weren’t these the ones so quick to point out every imperfection?” And now, while in my deepest grief after Christians death, “Weren’t these the demons that plagued me the most with unparalleled cruelty? After all their harassment, where did they go?”
But… the most important thing to know about awareness is… it’s a valuable weapon; like a double edge sword, it can change your experience in an instant!
You see, the light side of awareness that waits to redeem you… is the act of shining the pure light of consciousness upon them. In such light, no darkness can hide in the shadows. No lie can be told without revealing it as the illusion it is. No innocence can be corrupted. And… no impure being that is not love, can be left standing with tormenting chains in hand. In the presence of this luminous light, all the darkness must depart or become light itself.
In the end, I realized… there actually was something very important that I needed to learn. As bad as the hauntings have been and as frightening as the demons have occurred to me, this experience has been an invaluable blessing. For, without my deepest pain and my greatest fears, I would have never learned to turn and face them. It is this that has finally set me on my path to peacefulness.
Now… when they come back to haunt me again, as they surely will, I will calmly face them with fearlessness… and maybe even a little yawn as I say, “Oh, you again.” Then, like flipping the switch of pure awareness on, I’ll watch the darkness disappear into the light!
If “inner demons” haunt you, I offer up my experience for your consideration. Of course, it could be that having descended to the bottom of my misery, I was ripe for this transformation. This is most likely the truth since I’ve become a changed person because of it. At the very least, consider it an experiment of transforming darkness into light. But don’t just read these words and think, “How nice that worked for her,” fearlessly try it out for yourself and see if this happens for you. This is not to say you will never experience painful emotions. That’s not what I’m talking about, for it is only natural at times to do so. It is to say that when you are fully present in the moment, your “inner demons” along with their hauntings… no longer have a foothold to exist in the NOW, because mental torment is a thing that lives in the past.
The trickiest part about using this method successfully is first; realizing you are under attack, secondly, remembering to use your awareness as the magical sword of light that it is. Many times we get so caught up in the drama of it all, we forget we can do anything else. And as humans, who are hardwired for survival, we automatically fight and resist everything and anything that even remotely looks like pain or fear. But just remember this.. the secret to facing “inner demons” is to simply turn and face them! As it turns out… all they wanted was our FULL attention.
Note: This method also works on subtle hauntings, although the most obvious and dramatic results occur when the torment is the strongest.