Liberate the Critic — Empower the Muse

An Inquiry Into Transforming Internal Chatter (ROUGH DRAFT: unedited)

The Voice, What is it?

After years of working with women and girls and developing techniques, practices and ritual to guide us in transforming self-negation into self-honor, I continued to come up with the same challenge. What is that? Yep. The critic again.

You know ‘the voice’ that we all have that tells us – who do you think you are? you are a fraud. you are never going to pull that off. you are not worth it. you are not good enough. you will never BE good enough. you have always been a good for nothing. it is all your fault.

Is it sounding familiar?  Some just call it the “critic”, and if allowed to thrive, the constancy of the chatter can be deafening.

Well what if our internal voice was saying: you are marvelous darling. you are amazing. you can achieve your visions. don’t give up. you can do it. don’t listen to the critics. you are wonderful as you are. you don’t need to keep improving every second, why not just be for a little bit? you will make it through this. you have good ideas. you are seen. it is safe to rest. you are not a product, but a person. you can think for yourself. you can change your mind. you are not stuck. you, are lovely.

Well, I been thinking. About how we live and be in this world, and where we get “stuck”. Where we fail to follow through on good ideas. Where the idea flying down the manifestation shoot gets caught, clogs up the works, and so we quit, fail or feel discouraged enough to allow a mundane life.

The Things to do are: the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to see need to be done. Then you will conceive your own way of doing that which needs to be done — that no one else has told you to do or how to do it. This will bring out the real you that often gets buried inside a character that has acquired a superficial array of behaviors induced or imposed by others on the individual. Buckminster Fuller

I know that others are seeing that this work needs to be done, and perhaps the riddle has already been solved and it has not yet reached my burg. What I know is that MOST of the women I work with regardless of age or race or economic status, have not been having this conversation, really. And I mean, really have it, to the point where they are working towards change how the mechanism of the voice operates in their lives.

The reason this has come up is because of my on-going work, and the ability of being able to work with folks over longer periods of time, and therefore, track results. And every single one of them has “the voice” although not every single one of them has been present to the reality that there was a voice and it was influencing the course of their lives, affecting their thoughts and decisions on a continual ongoing basis.  In my workshops, when I point out ‘the voice’, we usually laugh – aha! caught you, we think. But no. Knowing about it, does not do much to transform our experience of being controlled and continual stalked by a presence within us that we have no recollection to having invited to our personal tea party. The voice, a self imposed tyrant, can possibly be freed, liberated even. How does that sound?

Where did ‘the Voice’ come from:

The voice may have come from mom or dad, or another adult, or teacher or preacher or mean sibling. It may have been one time or a hundred times. It may snuck in from tv or other media sources. It is continually enforced over the airwaves and webworkings of the “system” – which continues to enforce ideas like: unless something has a monetary or quantifiable value, it is somehow not valuable. We, therefore are not valuable unless we are “put to use” and that use has a result that can be measured.  Much of what ‘the voice’ focuses on is our lack of value. Our lack of worth. And indeed, we have been force fed that we are ‘good for nothing’ for some time now. Yuck.

Yesterday at a meeting, I spoke with one of the family matriarchs and my co-teacher for many courses,  that artist, Sue Hoya Sellars. She brought the conversation of “value” the the table and how the value system continues to enforce the voices. She also brought up, and with me, taught yesterday at the Institute of Transpersonal Pscychology, how the synaptic junctions formed as a result of self neglect and negation, and of this voice, actually function and from in the body and nervous system. And, how, we might, with practice, begin to dissolve those damaging pathways, with, practice. We are going to work together on this topic, as her view have been absolutely instrumental in my approach to intentional creativity.

The Voice is Common Amongst Us

We all have it. The voice is common to all of us. It is across the entire world! It is not an American invention, although our innovation on it has been very successful for selling clothing, cigarettes and cars. Because the enforcing of “that we need something to be ok” is a big sales pitch we Americans have been sold. But it is everywhere, regardless of class or race or culture, the voice is operative. Amazing isn’t it? That something so common, could be talked about so little? I am overgeneralizing, but for the sake of the conversation… It shows up to varying degrees, in China if you are girl, you are not worth saving. Hence the orphanages being filled with girls, 15 million orphanages, due to the one child law. Now, regardless of the law, and who made it. The reality remains that girls are not “wanted” and as they grow up, if they survive, will have to deal with the story of being abandoned, not valued and essentially, not loved. Further the kind of decision making that devalues human life, ends up having devastating reaping and sewing effects.

In 1999, Jonathan Manthorpe reported a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, claiming that “the imbalance between the sexes is now so distorted that there are 111 million men in China — more than three times the population of Canada — who will not be able to find a wife.” As a result, the kidnapping and slave-trading of women has increased.

In India, the dowry system connected with girls, making them feel they are a burden to their families, and feeling guilty for being born, has contributed to the murder of millions of girl children – and – it is an acceptable practice.

“A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?” Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child’s life eight years ago. “Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her.” Reported by John-Thor Dahlburg” Where killing baby girls ‘is no big sin'”

And in America, we have any number of assorted examples that lead to the insecurity and self loathing of of women and girls – according to the US Census Bureau, 293,655,405  people suffer from Anorexia Nervosa. While it is in other countries as well, we are of course the sad winner. It is said that one in 200 American women suffer from Anorexia. The top psychological issue for this condition, although there are many – IS self esteem.

Why do I bring these examples up? And why do I focus on women and girls?

I site these examples so that when considering the “VOICE” and it’s impact on our lives, we are really and truly aware of the impact of our thoughts, and society’s conditioning on our thoughts – that we know that not being able to think and act for ourselves is literally a “killer” in our lives.

How can I support women in transforming the voice, or liberating the critic, within my own circles and workshop? I focus on women and girls, not to the exclusion of men, but because that is who I work with, and my entire journey on earth is informed by my work – and that work is with women and girls, so the thoughts, and processes arrive out of real time “work” with those I am blessed to work with. It is hearing about their struggle with the voice, which many call the ‘critic’, that has inspired this inquiry.

Some schools of thought say the critic came to be as a way to protect us, and started in early childhood – it is  hard for us to work with something, that was once there as a way to protect, and now is harming. In many ways, we may not want to confront it at all. Can’t say I blame us for that. Is the critic just an invention of our mind/ego/psyche? Or is it something, a location within us, like soul? I don’t know. But it seems obvious that if we keep thinking we deserve to fail, we are more likely to fail and that pattern continues to infinitum. But that is not always the way it goes – many many people have created amazing lives, whose voice told them they were a piece of you know what. So, we do overcome it. But how? And the average, is not good. If we think we deserve to poor because having money is bad, often we do create that for ourselves – but it is not as simple as that either. We struggle to navigate a world where bad things happen to good people, and wicked folks profit of our failures as as society, where things like pornography could even exist. An estimated 97 billion dollars was grossed in the world on pornography on the internet alone in 2006. And we are still being told we cannot afford to feed the world. The food scarcity in our world is an enforced reality – created by big business to create profitability. The big business insurance and medical folks are doing their darndest to keep us from having healthcare – and trying to convince us we cannot afford it as a country. What? This world’s views are invented by people who live here like you and me. So let us consider, the path to our own worldview, and how we might cause other inventions along this here path of life.

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. Carl Jung

For years and years, I have asked the question of my students, and my readers – what if the voice said how wonderful you are? Everyone loves the idea, and does try it. It works! YA! But only if we keep practicing it. The other operative voice, is so ingrained, and actually, so physically and emotional cued to our chemistry, that we cannot just say one time, “I release the critic” and expect it to go away. It takes practice. But what and how long?  I have begun to do this work with my students, and am tracking our experiences, because if we can get this thing figured out, we can really and truly help one another make it past the negative, destructive self talk that is literally battering us.

First we need to realize that what it is telling us, unless it is alerting us to real danger – is not true at all. If we can get, that “you are not good enough” is not true, that is the first step in dismantling how it operates in us. I have heard, that very sophisticated practitioners actually say to “tune out” the voice, to learn to ignore it or talk over it. I don’t think this is working. SO what will work?

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
– Patrick Overton


I began to think – what if….

instead of getting rid of it, we liberated it. What would it look like to liberate the critic? I ask this because I am awed by the power of the voice mechanism. I am stunned by the far reaching aspect of something we would not call spirit or soul or self – but that we identify as “self” which is not really self. There is profound power in the mechanism that continues to be with us, and tell us lies, that we believe, and us go a lifetime without noticing it is something we may actually be able to manage. That we ourselves have the power to change, and yet do not know how.

We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. Carl Jung

In my workshops we have a critic portal, which we playfully open in the ceiling, and we throw up our arms and with it we release the critic. It works pretty good, and I remind my students, that now their job is to REMEMBER they did that already and if the critic comes back, don’t react, just remember they have been sent out the critic portal. Since a lot of folks are attached to their critic, not to be confused with a discerning voice, I tell them they can have their critic back anytime they want, only just know, that in my class, the critic serves no function. This seems to diffuse the power enough – and my students report amazing results: ‘No critic today. Critic came only once. First time I was able to have a critic free day in years. I stopped hearing the negative talk.’ And then, if they don’t keep practicing, they get in their car, and the critic comes into the passenger seat and begins to take up even more space than before. What were you thinking? you think you did a good job. Those people don’t really like you. Your painting/poem is not good, they were just telling you that. Just wait till you get home and show someone else – and you will see the truth of your work today.

The voice is very sophisticated, using our subconcsious, and our innate wisdom, to dominate. I cannot help but wonder, if Creator didn’t put it there for good use – and we have made it turn bad over the years until it is literally a malfunctioned mechanism.  I keep asking – can it be made for good? I don’t want to confused the critic with the voice of conscience, which I value highly. If we will pay attention and not lump thoughts together, but learn to distinguish them obersvationally we will see the voice of conscious sounds totally different in our heart than the critic. Also – good voices call us to action, positive action. While the critic’s main mode is disempowerment. And it can also become very dangerous as well, if we listen and act upon the promptings, we, even if we are sane, can become out of control. I don’t know about men, but I know with women, when PMS rises, the voice volume and content just gets louder. No wonder we drink red wine during this time, as it is one of the things that seems to quiet the voice down! One glass and it is as if the voice is calling from another room. Relief. Art, is also a relief, if we navigate that journey mindfully.

Creating one thing at a certain point in the river feeds those who come to the river, feeds creatures far downstream, yet others in the deep. Creativity is not a solitary movement. That is its power. Whatever is touched by it, whoever hears it, sees it, senses it, knows it, is fed. That is why beholding someone else’s creative word, image, idea, fills us up, inspires us to our own creative work. A single creative act has the potential to feed a continent. One creative act can cause a torrent to break through stone. — Clarissa Pinkola Estes

To create art  – is a phenomenally amazing act that brings us face to face with our internal critics and demons as if “on-demand”.  The kind of art I teach, is not just painting, painting is the tool – but the real work is self honor. Listening. Caring for oneself and others. And, yes, learning to manage the negative self talk is hugely central to our process. And so now I begin a deeper inquiry which I am sure will take me the whole of 2010 to even begin to touch something close to a homeopathic understanding.

How do we transform the negative voice, into a positive voice of self honor and support? How can we liberate the critic, and empower the muse? What is the process and practice by which this happens? Could I work with a group of women, over time to discover real world methods of making this change in our lives? I know this conversation is being had by others, and I am sure there are brilliant observations to be learned from. But before I hear more of what others have to say, I want to do my own work with it, then bring in the experts. I want to address it with creativity and right brain left brain as the healing medicine. I want to explore identity  – the creation of powerful identity as the WAY through which we will liberate our critic, and empower our muse. TO INVITE the inspired creativity that comes when a person honors their voice, and that they have a contribution to make.

There will be, of course, more to come in my writings about this work, like how randomness and the law of attraction correspond to this. As well as how we might address perfectionism and wildness in the context of the voice. Like how the subconscious and conscious mind work together with the voice. I do not think, we can just start telling ourselves we are good and wonderful and suddenly believe it. I feel that our very lives will need to move towards that which is good and wonderful, an alignment if you will, of the what the messages are that we now choose to embody. Now I am all for affirmations and declarations, you may have noticed, without dedicated actions and plans behind them, they often stay affirmed, but not manifested.

I believe, with all of my being that whatever is working in us for harm, can and should be tended. I believe that self respect is essential for living healthy lives and loving others. I believe, that each of us is a creative being, and that Creator gave us the gift of creativity to heal many many many of the wounds. I believe, that with practice, we can begin to think for ourselves, and not constantly be at the mercy of the mindset of others. I believe, working with the internal voice of the critic, can open up new space for inspiration, possibility and transformation to bloom.

Shiloh Sophia McCloud

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Note: My workshop, Leading a Legendary Life in 2010, which is a painting and writing course, online and in person, will be the place I work with live students on navigating the terrain of Liberating the Critic and Empowering The Muse

A Ritual and Practice: Liberate the Critic – Empower the Muse – A Getting Started Practice and Conversation: materials: paper and pen. Try at your own risk.

1. Listen for the voice of the critic (it is saying, who me? or what voice?)

2. On one piece of paper, in kindness, ask the critic to tell you what is on his/her mind. Write it in a letter form. One page only.

3. Read this out loud. Notice without reaction what is there. It may be mixed with good stuff/bad stuff/crazy stuff. Just listen.

4. Listen for the voice of the muse.

5. On one piece of paper, write a letter from your muse, to you.

6. Read it out loud. Notice. Honor. Consider.

7. Tell the critic, she/he has been heard. Tell the muse she/he has been heard.

8. Tell the critic, she/he is in the process of being liberated. Released. And that you will let them know when you need them.

9. Make a creative play date with the muse, put it on your calendar. Prepare for it through gathering your materials.

10. Throw away the critic’s page, with joy, if you choose. Keep the muse’s page. Remember, the next time the critic tries to tell you some bull, that you have done this ritual. Then call up on the muse in that moment.