On Sunday, Bloody Good Bloke brought up something about my behaviour earlier that day (see below for details!) that made me furious at him.
The kind of furious that I save up specially for things that I know are true.
The things that I reeeeaally bloody wish weren’t true.
Thank Buddha I didn’t externalise my furiousness. I’ve learnt not to trust Neville when he suggests I project my guilt all over everyone except me.
Instead, I felt it swilling round my chest much like the burn of whisky on my whisky-hating lips.
It swilled around and around, Neville shouting out all sorts of comebacks in my head as to why BGB must be wrong.
And then, only when I’d stared at the ceiling blinking for long enough, did I come across the real emotion, lurking just beneath the fury.
“You’re offended when you fear that it might be true” reckons Naval Ravikant, and I reckon I’m offended by that.
BGB had pointed out that the reason he’d reacted so strongly to something I’d said moments before was that he’d felt I’d been quite critical of him earlier that day.
He’s a very easy going and diplomatic man, so I knew for him to bring something up like that,
I really must have been a critical badger indeed.
This realisation sent me into a shame spiral.
I knew he was right. I’d been in robot-mode all day, with too much to organise and too many weeks spent in “get-shit-done” mode while moving interstate. I know that being in that state for too long can lead me to being more impatient and critical.
Neville ran through the Negative Archives of my mind (which he has catalogued with great precision over the decades) and pulled out hundreds of thousands of past incidences when I have behaved too critical, too negative, too controlling, too blunt, too rude, too all the things I secretly fear I am at my core.
Then he laid them out all over the place and paraded around my brain shouting “Look!”
“The evidence — which I have collected completely unbiasedly — confirms, Andrea, that you are a horrible human, and you’re bloody lucky you learnt that mindfulness thing, because otherwise you would be a critical, controlling, negative bastard, ALL the time.”
“So,” concluded Neville “It is of vital importance that you DO NOT have children ever, since then you will be sleep deprived, your prefrontal cortex will go offline, and all these abominable things about you will resurface, and then everything will be next-level terrible.”
But then, unexpectedly,
I heard a kinder voice, Neville-in-training pipe up.
“When you’re tired and stressed, you can sometimes be a bit critical and negative, we know this and we’re working on it. But don’t forget that the controlling, negative part of you, Leonora – she was brought in to help you cope with that horrible stuff that happened in your childhood. She is just trying to protect you.”
Neville paused his rant to consider Neville-in-training’s words. He couldn’t find anything to disagree with so far.
Neville-in-training continued hopefully:
“You didn’t know how to manage your emotions back when you were little, you just coped however you could. The Leo part of you is a control freak because you’ve had to deal with some really hard things that were out of your control when you were young. You have 5 ACEs*. That’s a lot. You’re doing your best. It’s ok to be critical and negative sometimes, you’re only human. It’s all ok.”
[*Sidenote: ACEs are Adverse Childhood Experiences. I highly recommend checking if you have any ACEs and reading up on this research, it can help you be less self critical if you wonder why you sometimes exhibit really unhelpful behaviours.
Higher numbers of ACEs increase your risk of addiction, depression, and anxiety by hundreds and thousands of %. But please keep in mind that there are also many, many forms of less-obvious trauma, big and small, during both childhood and adulthood that are not part of that list but very likely to still be affecting you and your Leonora too.]
I turned to Bloody Good Bloke.
“I’m sorry. Also, I’m in a shame spiral”, I said quietly with tears sliding down the sides of my face.
“I’m so sorry I’ve been too critical of you today.
I think I was also a bit controlling wasn’t I, when I told you how to crumble the feta?”
We both laughed.
“I’m sorry I was like that, I don’t mean to be, it’s nothing to do with you. I’m sorry it probably feels like it is. I think I might be doing the dismissive attachment thing of trying to push you away. I’m scared of what we have. I’m not sure but it feels like maybe I want to put you in your place so that I won’t be scared of you anymore. I’m going to keep working on it. Thanks for being so tolerant.”
Bloody Good Bloke hugged me and said
“You really aren’t as bad as you worry that you are, it was only today. But thank you for apologising.”
I wanted to share this with you because self-compassion is changing mine and my 1:1 client’s lives lately. But it can feel confusing and strange to practice at first, so the more personal examples we all share, the better.
I put Neville into self-compassion training a couple of years ago, thanks to the repeated conversations with a number of my amazing psychologist friends who eventually convinced me I had to read the research and actually start practicing this “self-compassion” thing.
I was about as willing as I am to take out the compost.
Eventually I came around, and Neville-in-training has become more and more of an advocate for it. He’s actually becoming kinder and more understanding towards me and Leonora.
The more I practice the easier it gets.
I’m going to be running an online workshop soon called How to be less of a dick to yourself (without losing your edge). Click here to register your interest.