October 27, 2020

How I Make Peace with the Critical Voices inside my Head.


View this post on Instagram


“It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative—which ever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” ~ Silvia Plath


Words swirl waking the day.

My coffee is warm but not comforting.

“You’re a better writer than this,” whispers my inner critic—cat claws in my head. I call her the banshee.

“You’re doing it wrong,” she says.


“You suck!” she says.

“(Sigh) Yep.”

Arguing is useless.

She gets abusive whenever I try something new—inserting shards of insecurities, digging in with criticism.

“You’re doing it wrong!” She wails mercilessly after I teach a class and sometimes before. Her new favorite thing to pick at me for is writing. She’s been shrieking at me—raking her nails through my neurons for years.

I breathe, releasing the urge to cover her mouth with duct tape. She’s not real. She’s me—a disembodied voice—an aspect of my psyche, sharp for being shapeless. She morphs to attack what is tender. The truth is she’s probably afraid. Banshees are harbingers of death; perhaps there’s some part of me that is ready to expire, a mask I am ready to shed.

There’s only one thing to say to her today. “Yeah, I’m doing it wrong because there’s no right way. Perfection is less than a myth. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to stumble as I dance. I am going to feel awkward.”

No one is sweet and gentle all the time, especially not me. It would be inauthentic. I want to claim me, all of me—sweet, fierce, fiery, sexy, and honest. Honesty requires I make space for all my feelings, especially my fear.

Fear is a feral cat wanting to be touched yet untrusting of society, of humans—afraid of being kicked again.

I’ve been kicked by friends, lovers, colleagues, and caregivers. I let cynicism grow in my heart, and I know I will need to bleed those wounds for them to properly heal.

Grom, my sweet pug, wants to snuggle and I push him off. A wave of guilt wobbles my belly. I feel bad being sharp or short with anyone so I am glad I live alone.

A new character emerges on the psychic scene; she’s relentlessly pink and looks like the chipper witch from the “Wizard of Oz.”

Aw gawd. What now?

“You know Justice, nice women don’t have tempers.”

Incredulously I reply, “Listen, we both know I’m not nice and no one is as nice as you appear to be. It’s unnatural to wear that much glitter.”

“Oh sweetie,” she croons, “I sparkle organically as do you! You are not this passing storm; you are the sun behind the clouds.”

How cliche.

I don’t trust scripts from my inner committee anymore than I would from a counselor. To truly be of benefit, inspiration must arise in the moment. It must feel genuine, not like spoon-fed-positivity-trance talk.

“Don’t you have anything original under that absurd gown?” I query.

She lifts her petticoats and I see she’s not wearing underwear. Finally, we are getting somewhere! In this moment, I trust the muff of this fairy-tale vision projected from some recess of my own brain more than any trite meme, poem, or movie line—raw and unscripted, this feels real.

Glenda is no longer Glenda—a caricature dreamed up by some prude, pruned brain in the 1930s to represent a holy woman. She is something else. She stares at me. Her dress drops—bare. She bares herself to me and I weep.

I am beyond weary of trying to be a good girl.

“I know you are frustrated; you hurt, yearn, and long for love. I know you are scared of leaving yourself behind, and tired of pretending. For the one who is worthy, you will never need to shut down again,” she soothes.

The banshee stirs, a great black cat raised nails ready to shred.

“I know you think you are protecting me. Deep down you long to be wild, to be freed.”

I continue gently. “I see you—twigs sticking from you hair, mud on your feet. You fear compromise like you fear being caged. I will not cage you. I will run beside you. I will hunt with you. I will burrow with you into those dark places you love. I will walk in the light with you, and skip and sing and play in rivers and forests.

A wild thing does not give up its soul easily and I will never give mine up again.”

The banshee comes to me rubbing against my leg, an ancient, dark cat less afraid but still skittish.

Sweat drips between my breasts inside my sunset-colored kimono. That headache pattern—my old friend—pulses between the sutures in my skull. I sigh as the connective tissue around my sacrum adjusts. My body is good at self-adjusting. I am getting better and better at listening to and taking care of myself.

Glitter falls from Glenda’s mouth and her breath smells like roses. She rises—nude—no need for the wand either.

She says to me, “Love is trust in the basic goodness of life, in your own goodness as well as your mistakes. They are yours and you made them for a reason. You chose to lose, to leave, to forget yourself for a time, so you can now remember. What do you remember?” She leans in; there are galaxies in her eyes.

I am in awe.

Inhaling courage: “I remember the feel of the red road under my bare feet, my hair tangled from running through forests, nicks and scrapes barely noticed for the simple joy of thriving in my body. I remember being tucked in by an ephemeral presence and the accompanying smell of fresh flowers.

I remember love—in known, unforgettable love, swirling through my blood, humming in my bones, waking me up to dance beneath the moon, praying to the dawn as if my life depended on it, and doing so was my ticket to freedom. I remember talking with horses and chasing cats until I learned to be still enough for them to come to me. I remember singing bird songs and knowing all the notes as I know my own soul.”

I exhale surrender.

“That is who you are, love.” She says, no longer Glenda—something older, wiser, and far more powerful than any Hollywood effigy. She is the goddess and she is here in me. She is the force that drives my life.

I am not afraid.

The banshee is calmed too—her wail a distant echo as she curls catlike around my knees no longer tripping me.

It has been said, within all of us reside a mental patient and a therapist.

I am learning to be more patient with myself—hard, holy, and human—and therein compassion blooms.


Read 16 Comments and Reply

Read 16 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Justice Bartlett  |  Contribution: 324,790

author: Justice Bartlett

Image: julika.illustration/Instagram

Editor: Lisa Erickson