The Emergence of Strength Through Struggle – A series of 4 articles.
Part 2, The Habitual Blaming Pattern (Inner Critic)
In a recent Mindfulness course we explored the process of Emergence of Strength through Struggle, so as a) to support people in integrating ‘hard’/’challenging’ experiences into their lives and b) to offer the perspective that ‘Struggle’ is an opportunity to hone one’s Soul – that deep sense of fullness of aligned expression – which I call Wholeheartfulness. I am offering a map of the process of Strength emerging from Struggle in a series of 4 articles and under the following structure:
Part 1. Vulnerability – Posted in April
Part 2. The Habitual Blaming Pattern (Inner Critic) – This month’s Article
Part 3. Gratitude and Loving Kindness
Part 4. Wholeheartfulness
Part 2. The Habitual Blaming Pattern
We typically talk about the Inner Critic or the Self-critical voice or the Self-judgemental attitude to refer to what I am here describing as The Habitual Blaming Pattern (HBT). I refer to the HBT as an ‘unfolding process’ and not a voice or an entity, although that’s how we may experience it very often. There is certainly a great value in experiencing the HBT as an Inner Critic, a voice and an entity. It means that we have started recognizing this pattern as a learnt conditioned voice that we can have some space from rather than letting ourselves totally identify with it. When this happens, unconscious identification with the HBT is gradually being brought up into consciousness and this feels very liberating.
The HBP is the mechanism of defence to Vulnerability (See Article 1). The key mantra is: ‘Not Enough’ and its mutual counterpart: ‘Im Superior’. It is expressing Deflation and Inflation and it is directed towards oneself and towards others. When directed towards others, it makes us feel good about ourselves. We get to feel valued – in our conditioned minds – by putting the others down.
The HBP is a complex pattern of internalised, unconscious and ingrained – to varying degrees – belief systems, emotional processes and behavioural expressions. As discussed in Artile 1, the HBP is the armor we construct to feeling Vulnerable. It is shaped in childhood and often in response to trauma (in varying degrees). The HBP is an accumulation of behaviours, belief systems and habitual emotional complexes that protect one from the pain of vulnerability; it shuts one down from life, from feelings, emotions and other people out of fear of being hurt for feeling vulnerable (being rejected, judged, blamed, put down etc. Often these were the feelings that arose in face of trauma earlier on in life).
Some of the HB behavioral patterns we get entangled in include:
Cynicism: Self-righteous aggression towards others
Intellectualizing: Analysis of the event/feelings/emotions that avoids actually feeling and embracing the emotion
Numbing: Food, Alcohol, Crap TV, Running, Drugs, Self-harming
Controlling: Demanding, High expectations, Rigidity, Hypervigilant of situations that feel uncertain
Pleasing: Not being able to say ‘no’, always agreeing and going along with things (passive)
Perfectionism: If I am to be accepted, loved, change my life etc I got to be and do more. Driven through Comparison.
It is not uncommon for a person to have a tendency to play out one, two or more types of protective mechanisms depending on context.
The HBT is a conditioned, shifting, reactive habitual unfolding, which is maintained by the fear of feeling the deeper pain/grief buried below the surface layers of our psychology. We cannot shut down, deny, fight, transcend, heal or stop the HBT from arising without consequences on our well-being, like addictions, anxieties, self-harming etc. There more we try to ‘DO’ to get rid of, the bigger it gets; its like throwing oil on fire!
A Survival Mechanism that turns on oneself
I read somewhere that the Critic is part of our survival mechanism formed by the age of 8 years old. It is the internalisation process of beliefs, behaviours, customs, and energies of our parents, school, culture, spiritual groups etc and its purpose is to ensure our survival by fitting in, securing love, acceptance and belonging. When a person experiences trauma/hurt and their authenticity is rejected and pushed down, the HBT is a way to psychologically dissociate from the pain of loosing our innate authenticity, creativity, vitality, aliveness, innocence and the isness of our human vulnerability. The subsequent rigidity and trance of unworthiness, shame and self/other criticism attempts to protect ourselves from the pain of loss of those parts of ourselves, in order to survive and ‘keep functioning’.
The HBP seeks to protect but also turns on itself by persecuting, blaming, diminishing and corroding ones sense of self. The story of the victim, the unworthy, the one who is not enough – in its inflated (Im better than…) or deflated (im less than…) versions – sidetracks, comforts and appeases our attention from feeling the deeper pain one has been separating from.
The HBP can show up in ways that include:
*The tendency to pay – often obsessive – attention to ‘negative feedback’ about you rather than the ‘positive’
*The rehearsing over and over again our ‘performance’, be it a conversation we had with someone, or giving a talk, or writing an email, or anything else.
*The comparing of ourselves with a past self, a future self or another person. Feeling ‘better than’ (inflated/pleasant), less than (deflated/unpleasant), same as (boring, dull/neutral).
An Opportunity rather than a Burden
When we start recognising – becoming conscious – of the particularities of ‘our’ HBP as a learnt unfolding process, we can open up, often gradually, to the possibility that this life im living, these conditions that are manifesting may be an opportunity for deeper, more true liberation and growth rather than an imprisoning burden and a suffering . We can open up to exploring what is happening in our lives as an invitation for deeper self-realisation and unwinding, asking ourselves:
How is THIS created and what does it trigger in me to open up to and unpack?
What then becomes deeply ‘seen’ frees itself up; identification gradually dissolves and emotive energy unlocks, moves and integrates back to our psyche, back to our innate wholeness.
Next month, in Article 3, I will share how Radical Gratitude and Loving Kindness (also for the blaming pattern!) offer a Gateway to reclaiming lost parts of ourselves and to opening up to the liberating gifts of Vulnerability.