So I look back on my day…and I brood and ruminate and begin to really hate myself. I look further to see that 95% of my day was actually filled with goodness: good work, good smiles, good sun, good rain, good life. But why am I hating myself based on the tiny percentage of bad things? Why am I hating myself in any case? Bipolar tries to wreck my head with the inner critic.
I hung out with a friend and had a really good time – like seriously we were on fire with love and laughter. We connected, we felt great. Afterwards as I sit down in my flat, all of a sudden I find myself feeling attracted towards my friend. And my head says, “How dare you think that way? You’re a freak, you deserve to go to hell.” And then I react with inner turmoil: I feel guilt and shame and remorse. Shush, bipolar, please!
The pointed finger
I slept on today after a hard working week, and when I awoke after doing something not in accordance with my values, I started to hate myself again. I got changed, ate breakfast, and got out of the flat because my inner critic was attempting to destroy me. I made it to a coffee shop and did a bit of work…and then, I imagined a finger pointing at me. “Gavin, you’re useless. Why don’t you just do this and do that (self-destructive habits) and then happily burn?” Sweet goodness, I need help!
I did group therapy as part of a course a few years ago. We did some sharing and realised that most of the time, group members thought of themselves while listening to others. So rationally, when I’m talking to my friend, she is probably not picking up on my 5% of negativity, but rather on herself, her own life and her own reality (we can practice selflessness later!). Why feel guilty when looking at her? We are all sinners, but we all need love and not condemnation. So what can I do about this messy inner critic?
The inner observer
Well, mindfulness says to turn your attention to your inner observer, such as looking at life from the side of a river. The river can be like the world and your life like a boat flowing downstream (unless you are like salmon swimming upstream, says my inner critic!). Instead of judging and criticising my life, just let it be…listen, notice, and ponder. And when the critic attempts to interrupt my stream of consciousness, I need to go back to the side of the river. Wow, doesn’t this experience feel so much better? I’m beginning to see my friend with new eyes now: I gently see her smile and gently see her eyes. I gently appreciate my life experience.
The inner critic is certainly a downside of bipolar, and in the spirit of mindfulness, I constantly need to breathe and be that observer. Yes, I can still get involved in life; have arguments; get messy. But it doesn’t have to be soaked with self-hatred. I’m learning not to condemn myself; I am learning to be present and to use all of my capacities – my mind, my body, my spirit, my soul. I am learning to inhabit the world of the inner observer who appreciates life’s events and people. My inner observer relishes the time with my friend; let it be, let it be.