One of the most telltale signs that we are not at peace is when we get angry at ourselves. For example, my basement has a low beam supporting the ceiling and I hit my head on it occasionally. When I do, one of two voices appears. One is, “You stupid idiot! How many bloody times do you have to hit your head before you’ll learn to duck. #%$&#!” Not kind words. Self-abuse, one might say.
The other voice can be kind and speak with perspective and compassion. “Owww! There I go again, hitting my head. Boy, I can be a really dummy.” Sigh. “What can I do to avoid going bald and scarring my head? Maybe I can pad the beam…”
The former voice was once the dominant voice in my head. My inner critic. Hard to please. Easily angered. When I was about 20 years old, I was returning to university and was about 20 miles/30km from home when I realized I forgot my briefcase. I was outraged at myself! I pounded the console of my car and berated myself mercilessly. I was shocked at the degree of rage that I felt! I learned I cannot trust my emotions, bottling them up over the years.
Your inner critic is a judge. He/she judges your actions and then condemns you if you mess up. We are truly our own toughest critic. This same voice turns on other people too, though most of us do our best to suppress this part of ourselves. We know all too well that the consequences of acting on that voice could be very dangerous – for the other person and ultimately for ourselves.
You are not at peace when you are angry. You are wishing, even demanding, that you be a different person – that you behave differently, speak more intelligently, think ahead better or perform at a higher level. You are being judgmental towards yourself.
Self-directed anger is unhealthy and if suppressed enough, becomes a depression. “Anger directed towards self” is the psychological definition of depression.
How do you break this cycle? Therapy, faith and a desire to have a happy, loving marriage drove me to solve this difficult personal challenge. You need to develop a “benevolent parent” voice, is how my therapist taught me. Be the parent to yourself that you wish you always had. I remind myself of this thought, “I am doing the best I can based on what I know and believe today.”
I believe it is the nature of mankind and our ego to want things our way. Anger spurs us on to get it. Our spiritual challenge is to overcome this. It is a journey of continuously surrendering to God the present moment. The spiritual principle I rely on is the First Rule of Inner Peace based on Matthew 7:5: “First get neutral and then you will see clearly what to do.” Paradoxically, we become stronger, not weaker.
When we judge ourselves with a critical voice, our anger blinds us, and our motivation is a flash in the pan. We lash out and frequently make matters worse. We are unwise in those moments. We cannot trust ourselves to do the right thing.
We berate ourselves in the ego-based belief that we could have changed the course of destiny. Perhaps we could have…but once we have done what we have done, it is too late. The only thing we are left with is the opportunity to make a new decision in a new moment about what is the right thing to do. When you get centered first, you see the Answer. Then you will act wisely and experience true inner peace.
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