What do you suppose is the ratio of positive to negative feedback you receive? How about the ratio of encouraging observations, versus critical observations? What about the number of compliments you receive, versus the number of insults or mean remarks? Or the ratio of kind and compassionate interactions versus the number of judgmental ones? Do you feel life’s stings and papercuts more often than love’s kisses? Is the result worthy of the enduring effort? Isn’t “love” an emotion produced by verbs (a whole lot of verbs!) (and chemistry) which results in more of all the good stuff, less of all the rotten bullshit human primates are capable of flinging at one another? So… what are you personally doing to improve the ratio in each and every relationship – or interaction?

Sometimes it’s hard not to just sort of stomp around feeling exceedingly criticized. There is an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well, and I quickly find myself overloaded with a “self-improvement list” so long I end up wondering if my existence is holding back world progress. I’m also pretty good at some stuff; generally that seems much less relevant or noteworthy. (That observation gets a sentence now and then, the rest gets a fucking blog all its own.) I remind myself of two very important pieces of understanding that don’t change much, however ‘picked on by life’ I may be feeling:

  1. Criticism is basically just a very poorly worded request.
  2. Agreement #2 of the Four Agreements – Don’t Take Anything Personally

Generally, if I can hold those two understandings in mind when I am feeling particularly criticized and beginning to feel devalued or angry, I can more easily ask a very important question, “what is this person/situation really asking for (what is the unstated need), and how can I reply gently, while best meeting my needs over time?” Remember that bit about ‘an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well’? Yep. Here we are; I need more practice. I’m struggling not to take things personally, today. I keep practicing.

To be fair, I woke from a troubled restless sleep this morning to immediate decision-making that went mildly awry. In the moments of disappointment that followed, the nightmare I’d had returned to my thoughts provoking painful emotions, a feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness, that seemed supported by the morning thus far. Not only that, I was in pain. I was in a lot of pain – still am – more so than usual. At this point, I’ve taken all the steps to manage it that I know, and I’m mildly sedated, which doesn’t really improve my experience in a wholesome way; it definitely slows my thinking and dulls my reactivity. I earnestly need to spend some time alone, and spend some time creatively. I’m struggling to figure that out – partly it’s the pain, but partly it is this peculiarly plaguing sense of feeling criticized, and the way that feeling sort of ‘weighs me down’ emotionally, and stifles me creatively. It was even hard to write this morning.

Today I am finding communication difficult. Simple answers to clear questions evade me. I struggle to make sense of the context of questions or observations, resulting in mystifying misunderstandings. Everything sounds too loud… I am tempted to wonder if that’s the pain, or the TBI, or… truth is, it doesn’t actually matter; what matters is learning to comfortably state the simple need in simple terms, gently, safely, as an honest request for support – and sometimes for change. Yeah, I’ll just go right ahead and add that to the very long list of ‘an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well’ and I’ll get right on that, too, also, as soon as I can – that’s even sincerely meant. I literally do try my best to actually improve on each and every fucking minute detail of some weirdness or other that doesn’t fit my idea of comfortable emotionally safe socially productive interactions…every moment at risk of being so vigilant of my ‘failings’ that I end up feeling chronically self-conscious and anxious. It’s a delicate balance, and honestly – I mean to treat myself much better than I often do. I am only easily able to treat people dear to me as well as I treat myself… so… it matters greatly to ‘get all this right’. Yeah – that’s a ludicrously high standard to hold oneself, and it is a set up for failure, internal criticism backed up by acceptance of external criticism – real or imagined – with the painful outcome of anxiety, conflict, emotional self-harm, relationship sabotage… blech. Drama and bullshit.

I can do better. I do some days. Today is not a great day for me on a couple of levels. The pain and my sound sensitivity are physically difficult, and drive the emotional volatility and loss of balance. I can’t imagine ‘my happy place’ – and I’m standing in it.

Here’s the thing about improving my emotional ‘golden ratio’ though; it’s not actually about what I hear from other people, or how they see me, or the feedback they give me. It’s very much about whether or not I ‘drink the poison’. It’s about my own choices, and about how I feel about the woman in the mirror. If I am being that hard on me, it’s even more difficult to take care of me when someone else is hard on me, too, or I have to deal with a shitty day, or a lot of pain. There really are some great practices to fall back on. Meditation. Yep. Still works. It does work best to actually do it. Most practices work that way. Getting enough rest is a great practice – and I didn’t. So. Yeah. Mindfulness… ooh, I like that one so much (it’s so hard though…); it helps me stay aware of myself in this moment, and helps me be more compassionate with myself. I really am in that much pain – it makes sense to show myself some kindness. On and on I go. One practice, and then another. One moment to consider some observation that serves me well, or another: perspective, mindfulness, sufficiency, adequacy, worthiness, compassion… I keep at it.

I do hurt… and I’m okay right now.