Yesterday, I went to get a tooth pulled. I pushed the extraction off four separate times because, well, I act like a huge baby when it comes to tooth pain, and oftentimes, I would rather push pain off and have it loom over my head than rip the band-aid off. Can anyone relate? After my husband, Josh, demanded I get it done, I finally went in. Although I was dreading it, one thing secretly excited me…Nitrous Oxide. I had never had it before and I heard it was downright great. I was excited for the excuse, like a kid about to have their first taste of wine at a wedding.
The dental hygienist explained the effect as being like “three glasses of wine without the hangover or calories.” She had me at wine. She said some people dance, cry, some people laugh or just zone out. When she put that mask on me, it wasn’t long before I was in a pretty damn good place.
Free at Last
Fittingly, there was a light above me that had a panel over it with floating clouds, and as I sat there in a state of bliss, I did start to tear up a little. My heart felt open. I started having some interesting realizations about my life. I started contemplating where I was hiding and resisting in my life. In that moment, I noticed, I was actually FREE from my ever-present inner-critic. I even chuckled to myself about it. She was gone! It was like I was removed or pushed aside for a moment from my usual place of judgment and was a casual observer to my own life and my own patterns. I was starting to have thoughts like, “I wonder why I took that action. What was I trying to accomplish?” instead of “I can’t BELIEVE I did that. I’m such an ass” or “You are going to mess everything up.” My thought process was fluid instead of staccato, and I felt at peace. I felt like I was completely in the moment, then the next, without feeling chained to the prison of my thoughts.
I think at some point I shouted, “We should all be hooked up to this all the time! There is no danger! It’s sugar free!”
When I later told Josh about this, he said, “Well, yeah. That’s why people get addicted to drugs” and he was right.
Something sunk in on a deeper level. I got why we choose booze, or food, or narcotics, or sex as our drugs of choice. Because momentarily, we get to escape our own story about ourselves (which is hugely responsible for our suffering), our own thoughts, our own self-perception and we can be in the moment with experience, with the feeling of unfolding and of freedom.
Disengaging From the Inner Critic
The only problem is that we cheat the journey when we go to these things to escape ourselves. It is actually the opposite of freedom. Because they are pleasurable, we are able to escape the story our inner-critic has about us for a few moments and just feel pleasurable sensation, and as soon as it’s gone, the inner-critic returns with a looming presence, as if it has been waiting for us all along. Then, we become addicted to sensation to escape, with the inner-critic always following closely behind.
In working with clients, I see this all the time. They give themselves SUCH a hard time for being unable to follow through or for defaulting to old behaviors, but they don’t realize that in even giving themselves a hard time, they are feeding the beast and perpetuating their own destructive cycles.
The inner-critic may never completely go away because they are there for a very good reason. (TWEET THAT SHIT!) They hang around to keep up from moving into the unknown territory of life. Our bodies cannot decipher between physical danger and emotional danger, and if we feel that fear (whether it is of failure or what we might be responsible to in our lives beyond body obsession), our mind will justify reasons we shouldn’t move forward. It will say things like “You’re going to fail just like you did last time,” “You’re not smart enough,” “You’re too old.” And if it needs to, it will get as nasty as it can to scare you into submission.
We CAN, however, start to dis-engage from the inner-critic as being ultimate TRUTH. And we can do it without booze, pot, sex, food OR nitrous oxide (however awesome they all may be). We can start to achieve this by daring to cave dive into our own limiting beliefs, our own story about ourselves, and a thought process that keeps us suffering. We can find this through so many avenues! It could be through meditation, studying, reading, traveling, self-inquiry, therapy, coaching, community, being vulnerable with other people, yoga or spiritual searching.
What would be possible for you if the inner-critic vaporized? What if the self BENEATH the fear was driving the boat?
Perhaps this is the reason for the whole damn journey in the first place, whether it be associated with body, spirituality or addiction. Perhaps the reason we embark on these journeys is to find a truth aside from our thought patterns, the self BENEATH our fear. Some call it presence, a soul, a spirit, inner intelligence, bodily intelligence, or energy. You can choose the language that feels right to you. Once we can choose which thoughts we engage with, a whole lot more becomes possible, because we aren’t letting the confused fear stop us, slow us down or subconsciously infiltrate our behavior.
Mindset and Weight Loss
Sustainable weight-loss has to start from this place of curiosity, released judgment and space. It can’t start from fear and self-criticism, because fear of “not being enough until you lose the weight” can’t motivate you sustainably. It can kick-start your efforts, but it will also almost always crash the plane. Once you are able to choose TO or NOT TO engage with the inner-critic, pretty much anything becomes possible. They say weight-loss is 90% mind-set. I’m starting to believe it’s closer to 99%.
A successful mindset is being able to choose empowering thought over destructive thought. It is being able to acknowledge the inner-critic with acceptance, and choose in favor of the self BENEATH the fear. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
I never would have thought laughing gas would have led me to write this post, or have the realizations I had yesterday. I know laughing gas ain’t the answer! But it gave me the gift of escaping my own inner-critic for twenty minutes, and now I’m on a journey to acknowledge her and choose the self beneath the fear in my own life. I’m going to choose observation, curiosity, and through that, choose love.
Rock On and Be Well,
Beth Wittig, Health-Coach, CCHP, AADP