I have that voice in my head. You know, the one that jumps in quickly to tell me what a f—k up I am? Or that is always willing to second-guess a decision I’ve made or action I’ve taken? That willingly questions me and critiques me, and often therefore sabotages me?
I have that voice so much that I gave her a name. She’s “my editor,” and boy does she invariably have something to say…and usually something to say that beats me up (or down).
Over the years, however, I’ve learned a lot about my editor, and everything I’ve learned has helped me find ways to quiet her…or to at least live with her and not be ruled by her. At times, I’ve even found a way to appreciate her and to partner with her.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- She’s out to protect me – the first, and probably more helpful, thing I realized is that my editor is not trying to make my life harder. She’s not trying to put and keep me down. She—albeit erroneously—thinks she’s protecting me. That she’s keeping me safe. She learned (I guess I learned as well) that life is not safe, and that I wasn’t safe, and she therefore steps in—before I’m even aware—to keep me out of harm’s way. I’ve learned to thank her for her protection.
- She’s just a scared, lonely kid – the more I can objectively watch—and listen to—my editor, the more I realize that she’s scared. And lonely. But instead of asking someone to take care of her or to make things safer for her, she fights. (She usually fights me.) She’s learned that if she holds me to high enough standards, then she/we may be protected. She’s learned that catching and correcting my (imagined) faults leaves little to chance and less to go wrong. I’ve learned that often all she needs is a hug and a comforting, “there, there.” If I can love my editor, she relaxes and eases.
- She wants to play – if she’s a kid, kids like to play. In fact, she’s probably that part of me that didn’t get to play. She’s probably that part of me that stepped into overdrive and over-responsibility when my mom moved out when I was eleven and left me in charge. She’s probably the part of me that knew it was my duty to save the world for God—did I mention that I was raised in a cult?—and that there was no time for fun or frivolity. I’ve learned that all she needs, at times, is a chance to be a kid and to know that life is supposed to be fun. And that she’s allowed to take a break and have fun.
- She was taught some wacky, wacky things – the more I learn about the effects that my childhood had on my brain and my thought patterns, the more it all makes sense. I was, again, raised in a cult. I was a Moonie and followed my Messiah blindly. Research has proven that being raised in a cult does weird things to your brain and emotions. And besides the cult, I had a bunch of other less-than-stabilizing experiences. My parents splitting when I was young. My dad’s rage. My mom’s search for “truth” in various religions and spiritual practices (and a macrobiotic diet, life on a commune, etc.). I’ve learned that as harsh and anxiety-ridden as my editor may seem, it makes total sense that she is the way she is (and that she’s part of my makeup). And somehow, knowing and accepting this makes it easier to accept her—which only lessens the negative power that she used to have over me.
- She is not alone – even though my childhood experiences may be more outlandish that those of many people, I’ve learned that the effects it had on me are all too common. Low self-esteem. Self-debilitating thought patterns and self-criticism. Self-punishment and harm—either literal or hidden. I’ve learned that many of us have some form of “editor” who does their best to keep us in line…and to keep us safe.
The more I’ve learned all these things about my editor, and the more I’ve been able to lovingly thank her for her determination to protect me (at all costs), the more the costs have gone down and the more she has been able to ease off.
Written by Lisa Kohn