Dear Inner Tyrant,
Your tactics don’t work. I realise you are trying to help me, that you hope by pointing out my mistakes and short-comings I will be able to correct them. But it just doesn’t work. All it does is leave me feeling inadequate and hopeless.
You’ve been criticising me for over fifty years, so don’t you think that if the tactic was going to turn me into what you want, it would have by now?
Actually, I don’t really care what you think about that. I’ve spent far too much time and energy trying to figure out what you think, trying to do what pleases you. It is a hopeless task, because you never will be pleased with how I am. You are always looking for where I don’t measure up, for where I am not good enough, for what I need to improve.
Sometimes you even get me to do the same to other people – you use my voice to point out where they are going wrong, what they should do differently. Other times you use their voices to attack me. You twist what they said so it seems like criticism when it wasn’t. You complain about their tone of voice – using that as evidence of their unkind intentions.
Even if occasionally those observations are true, how does it help to repeatedly point out when people appear to be criticising me, whilst ignoring all the times they don’t?
I see you have no answer for that. You are scrabbling around, trying to think up reasons, but you can’t find any because there are none. None that are peaceful. It’s stressful to be constantly on alert for someone else’s attack. That’s just the size of it.
And how often have I caught you out and realised criticism you blamed on someone else was really just you attacking me?
Am I angry with you? No, not really. I’ve let you run riot in my life, let you take over. I believed I needed to learn to stand up to other people, but it was you I needed to stand up to. What I feel is not anger, but relief. I can truly see I don’t need to listen to your bullshit any more.
Okay, bullshit was a bit harsh. Yes, I know you were trying to help. Yes, I know you believed the way for me to be happy was do what other people wanted, to be what other people wanted.
But you are wrong. What you say is:
- Just not true.
- One of the biggest lies on the planet.
- Okay, I concede, maybe when I was one or two, or even five or six, it was in my best interests to do what my parents wanted (or seemed to want) and to be what they seemed to love. It was, for sure, in my best interests to get their love and approval.
But has it ever occurred to you that maybe I had that love anyway? Have you ever felt anger towards someone you loved? I know I have. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe sometimes when they seemed angry with me, maybe they were angry with someone else, or even with themselves – or maybe they just felt anger and didn’t even know why? Remember when we lived in the apartment below a young family and every Sunday morning the father would yell at the little boy, so loudly I quaked, so loudly I worried the unborn baby in my belly would hear and feel fear? You and I both knew then the little boy was not the cause of his father’s rage; we knew its cause was the beer the night before. So you could have stopped your constant harping right then. You could have said, “You know, all these years I told you that other people didn’t like you because of how pathetic you were? Sorry, I made a mistake. It had nothing to do with you.”
But you didn’t. Instead, you hissed at me: “You’re so weak and pathetic that you do nothing about that man. You hear him yelling at his kid and you know it’s wrong, but you do nothing to stop it. If it bothers you so much – do something. Stop being so pathetic.”
How on earth did you think that would help me to figure out how to help? All it did was add guilt to my fear. You really, truly are not as smart as you made yourself out to be.
Has it never occurred to you that any person who yells at someone else also has an inner tyrant bossing them around, saying they are stupid, ugly, lazy, too submissive, should stand up for themselves, stop being a wuss? Has it ever occurred to you that they might think someone else is attacking them, just like you feel attacked? As it ever occurred to you their inner tyrant could be getting it wrong, just like you do?
You used to seem so huge, like a giant who towered over me in my mind. Sometimes you even came with multiple faces, a chorus of inner tyrants dressed up as mother, father, grandparents, sibling, friend, teacher, boss, coach.
But you have shrunk. I see now that you are so small, tiny, not much bigger than a toddler. You are losing your strength, if you ever had any.
The strength you appeared to have was an illusion, based on stories and beliefs. When I look beyond those, you have no substance. Look beyond those stories and beliefs, and you don’t exist. You are an illusion. Whether you come dressed up as one person or as a chorus, you don’t really exist and you never did. You are nothing. This is why I feel no anger towards you. How can I feel angry with nothing?
This exercise of writing a letter to the “inner tyrant” was fun for me to do, and I love the feeling of freedom I’ve felt since I did it. All of us have a critical voice we carry around in our head, though often we are so used to it, we don’t even notice. We just assume the things it says are true, rather than challenging the beliefs that hold us back.
I love getting comments, and and I’d love if you would join me in banishing the inner tyrants that rule the world. If you were to write a letter to your inner tyrant, what would you say?