Now that I have got your attention with a little bit of drama, I will tell you briefly what the exercise required. It required three roles, the criticizer, the criticized and the compassionate observer. To begin I chose a chair and began talking outloud to the other chair, using the voice that I hear in my head that constantly criticizes me. This is one of the voices of my mind, it is the voice that nothing is I do or am is ever enough. It is harsh, cruel and passionate. As I spoke outloud, I noticed my tone, my posture, my emotion and was surprised to find how easy it was for me to say these things even outloud. As I gathered momentum however, and began to listen to the words, I felt myself shrinking.
Which is when I took the second chair, the criticized. This is another voice in my mind, another role that nothing is enough, this is the role that is ashamed. As part of the exercise I was to address the criticizer and tell her how I felt about what she said. At first it was difficult to even voice the words, to even put language to how small I felt, how unworthy of being alive and helpless to address the issue. This was not about fighting back, it was simply about expressing a part of myself outloud that I tend to minimize. This was just standing up and acknowledging that words can hurt, tone, posture deeply affect me. I found a few things to say, I even stood up at one point in an effort to make myself bigger to find my voice and I lost the state of being criticized. (Important to note, how physiology can affect things, not the point of the exercise.).
Then I moved to the third chair, the compassionate observer and I sat there. Glancing back and forth between the two chairs, nothing to say. I simply sat for a long time before I stood up crying, feeling like a failure and wanting to give up.
I went over to my book and reread the exercise, thinking maybe there was something I missed. I was looking for the "how-to" guide, I wanted the knowledge without the experience. I could hear thoughts in my head, "you will never get this, just give up"; "it is okay you gave it a shot"; "just keep reading the book, the answer is there." As I said earlier, I did throw the book across the floor, and had to sit with myself.
I asked myself an important question. "Do you want to do this or do you want to read about it?" I really want to gain more skill and competence in self-compassion. I want to be able to accept myself. So it drove me crazy, but I refused to read more of the book before completing the exercise. What did completing the exercise mean? It meant I needed to find the voice of self-compassion, that I needed to convey one thought to both sides of this coin, without throwing back criticism at the critic, and not disempowering the criticized.
Every so often, when I would see the book. I would sit down and start the exercise again. It took many attempts to find even a little bit of a mousy voice. I will discuss that in part two....
Question of the day: When approaching new tasks, things that are uncomfortable, things that you may not be good at, what do you do to help yourself be more present?