Listen for the Grain of Truth in Any Disaster
In a previous post, Hacked, Scammed – Lessons Learned, I mentioned that one of the first lessons I had to learn was “why didn’t I ask for help sooner?” Why did I stubbornly insist on trying to solve the problem of my computer being disabled all on my own, when that kind of problem was clearly beyond my pay grade.
I really have tried to listen to the grain of truth in that disaster. I teach that listening/learning in workshops all the time. (Next time at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington, D.C. March 11, 2022.) An exercise to do that listening and learning is included below. My own learning:
It has been a source of pride that I can function pretty independently and use my tools to cope with looming disasters. [Read about the lessons learned the time I dumped my computer into the ocean.] I tend to move into problem solving mode before thinking about who to reach out to for help.
Actually, I’m learning I need to reach out to people to help bring me out of panic mode before I move into problem solving mode. The decisions I make from panic mode are not necessarily coming from my higher brain, even though I might trick myself into thinking so.
In the recent scam disaster, I could have reached out to a friend to even say, I’m panicking! My computer has been disabled. (It truly was, or I certainly believed so.) I’m not thinking straight. (That’s the key. In panic, we’re not thinking straight, even when we’re acting swiftly.) Can you help me calm down? I just need to calm down enough to get my higher brain back online. Then I can figure out what to do about my computer.
And the connection with another calm human being would have calmed down my nervous system enough to realize I could call my tech person, even on a Sunday, and that would have disrupted the entire chain of reactivity.
I teach these tools all the time. And the science behind them. In my panic, I forgot I knew what I knew, which includes knowing that other people know what I don’t know.
I de-briefing the entire disaster with my tech assistant, she helped me realize that I panicked in part because I believe myself to be a complete doofus about technology (not completely true, but the belief is true), and therefore I’m vulnerable because I don’t trust myself to know what to do about computers. So another listening to the grain of truth in the disaster is to acknowledge I could become more knowledgeable about computers. Not enough that I can fix them, but enough that I’m not so vulnerable to believing I’m helpless and thus at the mercy of any scammers that come along.
So my commitment to myself going forward is to learn my way around computers enough to know when a meltdown is truly a disaster (and who to call for help) and when a meltdown is my own reactivity and panic (and still, who to call for help with that).
EXERCISE IN LISTENING TO THE GRAIN OF TRUTH IN A MESSAGE FROM THE INNER CRITIC
We want to acknowledge that the sometimes harsh messages of the inner critic might be messages with a grain of truth in them. Something we could change about ourselves or our behavior that would truly help us relate to ourselves more skillfully, or relate to other people more skillfully, or solve the difficulties and disasters we face in our lives more skillfully. It’s important to be able to pay attention and listen to learn from those messages without being overwhelmed.
Just as we don’t want to get carried away in fear if we sneeze or feel pain because we stub our toe, we do want to pay attention to any part of the inner critic’s message that might be helpful. Not for self-improvement but for self-awareness, self-acceptance, and our own learning and growing and recovering our well-being.
Maybe it would be wise intention and wise self-care to get more exercise, or pay off the credit card bill before the deadline, or be more empathic with our sister-in-law.
This exercise is actually an inner dialogue between your Wiser Self, the self that is able to be mature and insightful and responsible for shifting our thoughts and emotions and behaviors when necessary, and the inner critic, whom the wiser self is able to meet with and talk with and listen to and even learn from without the inner critic taking over.
Let yourself come into a sense of presence, aware of being in your body in this moment, in this place, breathing slowly, deeply, gently to settle into a sense of safety and ease in being present to your experience of this moment.
And invite your wiser self, however you can imagine and experience embodying your wholeness, your strengths, your inner goodness. The wiser self that has compassion for any part of you that might be intimidated by the inner critic, even compassion for the inner critic itself, how hard it has been working, it believes, for your benefit.
With the self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-compassion of your wiser self, you imagine your inner critic showing up to have this dialogue with the wiser self. Your wiser self is in charge of this meeting.
You can appreciate the inner critic might have an important message to you to change, an important lesson for you to learn, but you’re in charge of how this meeting goes.
You begin the inner dialogue with the wiser self acknowledging how hard the inner critic works at doing its job, how seriously it takes what it believes to be its responsibility…
…to warn you of mistakes you might make or behaviors you might do that would hurt your or other people. How it tries to make you do or be what will keep other people or yourself liking you, approving of you, staying in connection with you.
The wiser self askes the critic is there ONE message you would like to me listen to today? One lesson or change you would like me to consider today?
You imagine the critic sharing one piece of information, one message, one lesson. If possible, in a tone of voice that is somewhat neutral, so the wiser self can really hear it.
You imagine the message and you imagine the wiser self listening, hearing, receiving, acknowledging. It might be a stretch, but see if the wiser self can acknowledge any grain of truth in the critic’s message. Sigh. Wish it weren’t true, but there it is.
Imagine the wiser self thanking the inner critic for sharing its message, especially if it could do that in a somewhat neutral way.
Let go of imaging the inner critic and let the wiser self reflect on any grain of truth in the inner critic’s message.
The wiser self might even begin to discern some shift in attitude or behavior you could make because of the lesson.
[If the wiser self didn’t hear any grain of truth in the inner critic’s message, don’t’ worry about that. There may not be any. The inner critic may just be harping on something out of habit.
Maybe the tone of the inner critic was too harsh and too hard to listen to yet. Maybe the wiser self needs to practice trusting itself to discern any lesson in the inner critic’s message.]
This is a practice of the wiser self listening to the inner critic without being shamed or overwhelmed by it. And it does get easier with practice.