I stubbed my toe yesterday, the little one. It really hurt.
I exclaimed right out loud. "Whoa-oo, that really hurts."
My inner meanie voice said "Oh, you are such a sissy."
Filled with doubt about my very senses, I wondered if
I am a big sissy. Pain is so subjective, you know.
Marshalling my sensory and intellectual faculties, I realized
My poor toe did hurt. I also wondered why I would say
such a mean thing to myself.
Can you imagine seeing a friend in pain and the best thing
you can come up with is "Oh, you are such a sissy!"?
I like this example. It is a short and clear(albeit mild)version
of the cruelty people inflict on themselves every day.It surprised me, because I thought I had left those self-chiding remarks in the dust long ago.
I remember a time, when I set out to teach that mean old voice a lesson in inner kindness. I consciously corrected it when I caught it saying "You stupid bitch!"--which it actually used to say fairly often. I would say out loud, "I am not." Sometimes I would follow that with "I'm actually
This little private practice did not require discipline. As
I became more conscious of the inner meanie voice, I
simply wanted to set things straight. It was fun. The voice
quieted down. I enjoyed noticing how ridiculous the meanie
I am grateful for the first glimmer of consciousness that
made me aware of the meanie voice and alerted me to
the common practice of self-chastisement.
My clients often say "I beat myself up" when they
want to change something or disapprove of themselves
in some way.
I'm an inward bound explorer so I ask them what they
mean and how they do it. Their answers often shock me.
It turns out that what goes on inside a lot of us makes my
meanie voice sound like a kindly kindergarten teacher.
They describe lying in bed at night raging at themselves.
They walk around cursing themselves, damning themselves,
The really weird thing is that they cannot imagine
not 'beating themselves up.' It often seems justified
by some mistake or failure they detect in themselves. They
see it as motivating themselves to do better.
I've never seen it work once. Cruelty is debilitating and demoralizing. It crushes desire and creativity.
I am on a crusade to stop cruel and unusual punishment
of the self and others. I have worked with lots of people.
I wrote two books and lots of articles discouraging the
practice of attempted motivation by misery.
If you suspect you are the victim and perpetrator of misery
motivation, what to do? Listen, listen, listen to that voice
inside. The one that just said "What voice?"
Be firm, but gentle with it. Tell it that it may not speak to you that way. Refuse to accept it. If the beat-you-up voice points out something you do want to change or improve, let it know you do not respond well to cruelty.
I'll bet you will have more happy times and fewer painful ones.
Oh, and about that sissy business? My toe is black now
and I didn't even cry! Pretty brave, huh?It is getting better quickly,
To your inner kindness!
There are 10 spaces open in the October BREAKOUT Coach Training
and lots of kindly happiness resources in the Breakout Store