The Self Critic is the author of misery. It twists and turns us away from the authentic self and towards the endless confusion of self-diminishment. This clever Minotaur employs two tactics to lure us further from our heart’s guidance and into greater and greater disorientation. The first is to convince us that it is our protector, aligned with only our best and highest interests. We are assured it will lead us through the uncertain and perilous terrain of our lives to a safe haven. “Turn left, turn right,” it coaxes. “It’s not much further… just around this next corner.” The further we go, the more hopelessly lost and utterly dependent we become. The second is to remind us we how vulnerable we are to our deficiencies, failings and mistakes. The Self Critic relentlessly broadcasts the haunted inventory of our faults to an audience of one. These assessments begin with gentle admonitions and grow more malicious with time. Like dispirited hostages, we finally succumb to the depreciatory commentary of the captor. Then, we join the assault. We relieve the Minotaur of the lion’s share of the dirty work by repeating its litany of faults and criticisms at the first opportunity.
By then our relationship to time has been altered as well. Instead of setting a course forward to our preferred future, we have been turned backwards to face a distorted past. In selective memory our mistakes are chronicled for instant replay, the library of our failures resides. We are like Prometheus chained to Mount Kazbek, forced to watch daily as our liver is consumed by an eagle, then promptly regenerating for the next feeding. In a state of learned helplessness, and in bad company, we are driven further and further off course until we have lost our way, and our best self.
The price associated with the Minotaur’s control of our consciousness is steep. Our dreams shrink and erode. We are constantly on our own case; nothing is ever good enough and an unhealthy addiction to perfection takes root. We hide from leadership rather than embrace it. We second guess our decisions, and mistrust our instincts, knowledge and skill. As well, we mistrust the honest intentions and support of others. Even small mistakes – our own or those of others – become catastrophes. We find little or no satisfaction in a job well done. Overly critical, we are both harsh judge and jury. Ultimately, our lives drift, devoid of purpose, meaning, or passion. Like the eagle feasting on Prometheus, the Self Critic conquers the tribute by consuming his or her attributes daily.
© Patrick O’Neill 2013. All rights reserved.