Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Inner Critics: Should something be done about them? About what?

Duff over at Beyond Personal Growth has an interesting post on the "Inner Critics."  This is something I've wanted to mention on this blog for a while, as it sounds a bit like the Genpo Roshi nonsense, and is also something that pops up at the Zen Community of Oregon from time to time.  Duff writes:

In Tibetan Buddhism, there are references to a spirit world full of various dieties and supernatural beings. The various dieties of Tibet are not all love and light however. For instance, sometimes nice guy Avalokiteshvara—the bodhisattva of compassion—gets all pissed off at how ignorant and deluded we are and shows up as Mahakala. His left hand holds a cup made from a skull and is filled with the blood of his enemies (and people think Buddhism is all about being peaceful!). Keep in mind that this is still the bodhisattva of compassion though. He only turns wrathful if there is no other way you will listen.

The same is true of our inner critics. If you don’t deal with your car’s inner critic, it may turn wrathful too, exploding with a bang in a fit of rage, so to speak. If you don’t regularly give the attention your body needs, your back pain may increase until it’s so unbearable you simply must deal with it. If you don’t listen to those inner voices and integrate the positive intention and information they hold, they can get sometimes get downright abusive. In other words, it’s better to deal with problems when they’re small and relatively nice than when they become overwhelmingly painful. The good news is if we really do deal with the intensely painful problems of our life with courage and compassion, our suffering decreases.
Mahakala doesn’t really want to kill us, but to give us a wake up call. Our inner critical voices don’t really want us to die or feel like crap, they want to make us more aware of something we’ve been leaving out. The way of communicating this information may not always be something we like, but we can always find a positive intention if we look for it.

I have a few responses to this:

  • I inherently don't really like the narrative of an "Inner Critic."  I suppose that is my "Inner Critic" commenting on itself.  But I also suppose not.   Most of the thoughts we have during the day, or at least those of moi, consist of "junk" transmissions of signals amongst neurons.   Well, that's what it is.  To make more of a story about it, one might label at least some of  such thoughts "Good" and at least some of those that one might not like "Critical."  As the namesake of the temple of my lineage declares: forget both.  Thoughts just are. 
  • Maybe some of these thoughts are critical (one way or the other: rants or raves), and maybe some are worth acting based on awareness of them.  But maybe not.
  • I wholeheartedly agree with Duff that these thoughts, like the sounds of others, like their body language, like their smell, like their demeanor, like the sound of the wind, like the wetness of the rain, like relief of a good dump are worth being given attention.
  • Maybe some of those thoughts are like the "prizes" that American cereal manufacturers sometimes put in boxes.  Whoever came up with the idea of putting some cheap piece of crap in a cereal box? Only an American could have thought of something as odd as that; in that way Americans are exceptional.  Though somebody in Asia came up with the idea of sweets based on water-soluble fiber that can choke a young child under the right circumstances.   It's a good thing nobody's thought yet to take a dump in cereal boxes.  Nobody's done that  yet, at any rate, although perhaps the election yesterday is another metaphor for dumps taken in manufactured cereal boxes.  Maybe though, your kid might really want that piece of junk in the cereal box, and maybe he'll be tempted to eat the cereal based on the junk in the box.  At least that is the fervent hope of some of the purchasers of cereal, perhaps, as well as the marketing department of cereal companies.   But when your kid has outgrown the need for cheap plastic toys that come in cereal boxes, it's important to remove the junk before you put milk in the bowl.
  • So, basically: pay attention. But don't take everything so seriously.  Not everything needs a story. But some things do, and are worth action based on awareness of them.
  • This post, and everything in it, especially the bullet item digressing into "prizes" in cereal boxes is obviously self-referential, at least insofar as my "Inner Critic" is concerned.  Your mileage may vary.

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