Your grouch stands between you and the life that you want to live.
You have one. We all do. He is never quiet. And he hates the limelight. He delights in mistakes, missteps and missed opportunities. He dwells in the depths and loves the trash bins of your life.
Who is this mysterious person? He is your inner critic. Some people refer to him as a gremlin or as your Resistance. I think of him as my inner Oscar the Grouch. For you, your grouch may be a she. But for me, he is a he. (Sorry for sounding a little like Dr. Seuss there.)
Every time you try something new, your grouch goes along for the ride. In your recovery you may need to speak to a sponsor, or speak in front of a recovery group, or talk to your therapist. Before you open up your mouth, your grouch will take the opportunity to talk to you. And it’s never pretty.
Any time you make an effort to grow or risk, your grouch wants to scream. Because when you risk, you are doing something that you are not used to doing.
For me, my grouch loves to assume the worst. I’m speaking at my church today about mental health and recovery and my grouch has been talking to me all week about it. My grouch says things like “People will be bored,” “I will trip on the steps and fall flat on my face,” or “I will lose track of my notes and say nothing but ‘bla, bla, bla’ while drooling all over my shirt.”
Our grouch never brings out our best, but will highlight our worst. And most times, his specialty is reminding you of your mistakes. For some of us, our grouch will make assumptions about what other people think about us. And he will keep us down, unfulfilled and unhappy.
Notice what happened here. Our grouch specializes in using anxieties (events or situations that have not happened yet, and likely never will) and assumptions to occupy our attention. I call this the Three A’s: Anxiety, Assumption and Attention. These are the domains of the grouch, if we don’t keep him in check.
Steven Pressfield calls your critic “Resistance.” I prefer grouch, but you can call him anything you want.
Pressfield begins “The War of Art” this way:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stand resistance.
Your grouch stands between you and the life that you want to live. Your grouch feels very real and very powerful, but he’s not. Remember that he specializes in the Three A’s: highlighting your anxieties, leading you to make assumptions and distracting your attention. His only power is that you and I listen to him and go along with what he says.
Your grouch wants to keep you down, that’s his mission. He’s friendly with you, but trust me, he’s not your friend. He wants to use fear to keep you down. But instead, here is what you can do with fear: use it. How?
Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Fear in recovery, fear in a job search, fear in a relationship, fear in anything is good. It tells you what you need to do. Ouch.
Here is something to remember. If you wait for inspiration to hit you before you do the work, before you take your next step or before you take a risk to speak what is on your heart, you will never do it. It may feel like hell, but that is where the growth will happen.
The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not.
Pressfield (p. 69-70) has some advice for writers that relates to you and I in our recovery, and any other part of our lives. It is like a declaration about how to stand up to our grouch, our resistance:
- We show up every day. We just show up and do the work, that’s what we do. The grouch calms down sometimes and gets louder other times. We accept that.
- We show up, no matter what. No matter how we feel, how hard we blow it or how loud our anxieties scream at us. The work that we have to do today is what needs to get done.
- We stay at it all day. “Our minds may wander, but our bodies stay at the wheel.” We stay at this for as long as it takes. Recovery works when you stay at it.
- We commit to this for the long haul. See #3.
- The stakes for us are high and real. It’s about getting our lives back, our families, our future.
- We accept remuneration for our labour. The remuneration of recovery is our own recovery. No one else can do it for us.
- We do not overidentity with our recovery. Recovery is a path to becoming who we are. Recovery does not own us. We can become really good at recovery, know it and help others with their recovery, but we are not Recovery. We are John and Susan and Pat and Kevin and Sean. We find ourselves and enjoy who we are again.
- We master the techniques of our recoveries. We know how to recover, and if something is new and unknown, we embrace it. We also know that recovery is not one thing. Each person has a different kind of recovery that we need to master. And our recovery often has a variety of seasons or phases that require change and growth.
- We have a sense of humor about our recovery. Taking ourselves too seriously is how we get into trouble.
- We take encouragement or feedback with a grain of salt. We listen to it, but we keep going.
The main thing you can do with your grouch? Keep going. Do what you are afraid to do. Don’t worry, your grouch will find something else to complain about. That’s just what he does.
I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.
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Keep it Real
Photo by David Goehring