Having been a victim – and perpetrator – of self-criticism all my life I often recognise it in others. As I’ve mentioned before, when I started writing (as an adult) on a German mountainside, Christmas 1980, I barely managed to get two sentences out before I slagged them off (‘too wordy and Dickensian.’) And that was a good day; on a bad day I’d hardly manage to write anything because the blank page would accuse me with its perfection – writing on it would be like peeing in fresh white snow. Self-belief is crucial for a writer; it is also horribly hard to attain, particularly in the face of constant rejection. But you pick yourself up, you blow a raspberry at the editors too foolish to recognise your genius, and you carry on.
What’s harder to excuse (though I understand the impulse) is folk who are afraid to put themselves out there but slag off those of us who do. I’ve had one or two of these in my life, and when I look at what they’ve produced there’s invariably nothing there – or very little. I’m guessing these people have a lot of warheads aimed at themselves but are armed with deflectors so that the flak gets splattered at those nearest to them – but however that goes, it’s harder to condone criticism from people who haven’t had the courage to put themselves out there.
But in the end the biggest enemy is oneself; and my own method of cheating the demon of self-flagellation is to outrun them. I simply start writing, put my fingers in my ears and say lalalalala and carry on writing so fast that they can’t keep up. Of course, once I start the editing process they’re there again – but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
(I’m going to continue to put these up as they occur to me but no more ‘normal’ blogging till Sept)
First of all I ought to say, I’m not very good at this, so this practice is for me as much as anyone. We can feel under attack in many situations – at home, at work, with friends or even in public places. Often these ‘attacks’ come out of the blue – and it is when we are least prepared for them that they can hurt the most. We can end up feeling defensive and trying to justify our own course of action. Here’s how I try to deal with these situations:
- Accept and acknowledge the hurt. Cry, scream or talk it out with a (neutral) friend if you need to, concentrating on your feelings rather than the perceived rights and wrongs of the case.
- Acknowledge that you may have been wronged. Accept that there may be positive ways of dealing with this but that for now, you need to deal with your own feelings before proceeding. Any communication made in a spirit of feeling wronged and hurt, is unlikely to be productive
- Accept (this is the hardest for me) that even communication undertaken in the most positive spirit may elicit a negative or aggressive reaction. This is hard to deal with and you can end up feeling aggrieved and hard-done-by.
Yoga practices to help
- Detachment. This is not a cold disengagement but a ‘stepping-back’. Visualise yourself taking a step back from the situation, see yourself as separate from it.
- Having owned your feelings,(this is important) take a step back from them as well. See yourself as separate from them. Say to yourself something like ‘I am not these feelings’.
- Practise some yoga breathing. Hands on abdomen, breathe in and out through the nose and observe the movement under the hands
- As you breathe, repeat to yourself the phrase ‘I am’ – or if you prefer, ‘so ham’ (Sanskrit version)
- Visualise the situation dissolving or resolving, whichever seems appropriate. NB avoid visualising or thinking about revenge. The other person’s karma means that their actions will come back to them and you need not trouble yourself about them. (This also means that any negative thoughts or actions will come back to you!)
- Finally, repeat the word ‘peace’ or the mantra ‘Om shantih’