Dear Inner Tyrant…

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:

  1. Just not true.
  2. One of the biggest lies on the planet.
  3. 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?

Comments

  1. That inner voice does seem to have so much over us – but you’re right. It’s only noise.

  2. This really resonated with me – I’ve read the Chimp Paradox and so I know I have a negative chimp who loves to criticize and has, for years, driven me to despair sometimes. I understand it now and so I ‘have a talk to myself’ when the chimp takes over – I now know that I can be in charge! Self-criticism is completely useless to anyone.

    Well done on getting your tyrant in a headlock too!

  3. Author

    Julie, thanks for sharing what helped you. I’d not heard of the Chimp Paradox so took a look on Amazon. It could be a good way of explaining this to some people I know, so I might get that book. How great that it helped you see you could be in charge. It makes such a difference when we get to that.

    I absolutely agree that self-criticism is useless. I’m growing more and more convinced that if we all started being kinder to ourselves the world would be a far better place.
    Thanks again.

  4. That inner voice can be so cruel and I love how your letter put it in its place. I often think about how interesting it is to change perceptions from being a child who hopes for love and approval to being a parent and wanting your child(ren) to know that even when you’re upset with them (or with something else), that we’ll always love and approve of them. I also love that your inner tyrant is losing strength, and getting weaker. Great post, Yvonne!

    1. Author

      Kristi, yes that inner voice seems to internalise all the unkind stuff people said instead of the nice, and I am also glad my inner tyrant is losing its strength! I’ve heard that all these unhelpful beliefs are formed by the age of six, so we go on letting ourselves be ruled by beliefs from when we were toddlers. That does make it easier to let the beliefs go!

      And yes to what you say about changing perceptions and knowing that you always love your children even when you are upset with them. I’ve tried to tell mine that, and mostly I think they have understood it, though when they are upset they don’t always remember. I guess that’s life!

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. What a wonderful exercise! And how wonderful to come back here! I’ve thought of you often in my “writing absence” and though I’m still working 50-hour weeks, the pull of community and blogging has never let me go. I’m trying to get back into it – though with limited time – at least for now. I’m intending on that changing.

    In any case, your inner tyrant here is the stuff of voices inside all our heads. That “ego” piece is a tyrant, as Tolle would argue. (And so wonderful that you love his work, too.)

    Oh, how I’ve missed you and your avant garde spiritual thinking. And keep writing these cathartic posts – how inspirational!

    1. Author

      Cynthia, how wonderful to have you back here! Come any time if you are going to say such nice things! 🙂

      Goodness you are working so hard! Hope things settle for you soon.

      Yes, ego would be another way of describing the inner tyrant, and both of course are just these voices or thoughts in our heads. And yes, I definitely love Tolle’s work!

      Thanks so much for your comment and so glad you enjoyed the post.

I love getting comments and reply to every one. Tell the world (and me) what you think!