The Positive Approach - Lesson 4
By Peter Shepherd
In the first stage of this series we have been looking at the factors that can cause fragmentation of our identity: invalidation (feeling put-down by someone), co-dependence (where we put aside our own feelings), suppression (the opposition to one's goals and purposes by another), and in today's lesson we look more at how criticism can affect us, and how best to handle it.
A person tends to defend himself and protest, when confronted by another's criticism or complaint. Nevertheless he may afterward start to introspect - "Is it really true, what was said?" - causing him to fixate his attention inwardly on himself. Compulsive introspection is caused by a false criticism being accepted, which causes the person to look inwardly and worry about the mystery caused by this error. In a normal person this can cause diminished activity and unhappiness or illness. With a neurotic person it can push him over the edge into psychosis.
This may begin early in childhood with the 'overcautious-parent' syndrome - "What are you doing?", "Careful, careful, careful!" when you're climbing up a ladder, and such things that interfere with the natural flow of simple actions, so the person arrives at a point in life where he is inhibited from handling the world around him. Such a person has to think about everything he does, rather that just do it.
Another's criticism or complaint is rarely specific and accurate enough to be helpful. Often it is a generality or exaggeration, i.e. more than the truth ("You're always moaning" whereas I only moan sometimes); or it may be not quite true ("You don't give clear instructions" whereas I have normally been giving clear instructions but I didn't in this particular person's case).
If the criticism is completely off the mark it is less likely to cause confusion and introspection. The trouble is, criticism often has an element of truth in it, and if the criticism is rejected off-hand, the truth of things remains uninspected and unhandled.
Even if the criticism is accurate, having behaved in a certain way for some time, often all his life, a person asserts the rightness of it - he IS the behavior! - and becomes resistive to inspecting and handling the condition objectively. Further criticism just makes this worse. But unless a person is able to evaluate his own behavior objectively, which includes learning from other peoples' point of view, he will not be able to break free from the shackles of a limited personal identity and realize his actual unbounded Higher Self.
For each person that you know, consider if there is something which that person has suggested is wrong with your behavior or attitude?
For each criticism that you find, consider whether it's an over-generalization or exaggeration, and whether the criticism was made from a viewpoint of intolerance or negative thinking. Was the criticism based on a false assumption? Is the criticism partly true or is it true of just a specific instance? Have you ever criticized someone of the same thing?