In the October 1997 newsletter I wrote about the Inner Critic, that voice within us which has nothing good to say about any of our efforts and is very rude about our failings.. It says:
"If you eat that brownie you're going to gain five pounds."
"If you try anything new you'll only get into trouble."
"If you don't listen to me you'll regret it."
Although you may hear the Inner Critic in the course of ordinary living it it has more to say when you contemplate doing something new, especially a major change. It sounds just like your parents did when they'd decided that you were hopelessly irresponsible, immature, and needed a massive dose of adult-style reality to bring you to your senses.
The Inner Critic isn't the only voice which warns you against change. There is another voice inside most of us, which we've named the Inner Comforter.
The Inner Critic is easy to hear. It speaks its mind with great bluntness, unlike the Inner Comforter, which often speaks softly (it doesn't want to hurt your tender eardrums). If the Inner Critic is the harsh parent, the Inner Comforter is the loving parent who tells you that there's no need to frighten yourself by going through changes, that life is perfectly fine the way it is.
This voice says:
"Go have another brownie if it'll make you feel better.
"You're right, meditation really IS boring."
"Don't ever tell people if they hurt your feelings; you'll only make them--and you--feel bad."
Though one seems like your worst enemy, the other like your best friends, these two voices are partners who conspire to keep you from doing anything even moderately drastic with your life.
The Inner Comforter is far more crafty and less tamable than the Inner Critic--if only because you'd never dream of wanting to tame a voice which is so soothing and understanding. And sometimes it's so quiet in its reassurances that you don't even consciously hear it.
Painting is one of the ways in which I step out into the danger zone. I hear from the Inner Critic on a regular basis, but the Inner Comforter is far more subtle. Sometimes when I'm struggling with a painting there are no words, or even sounds, only the feeling (sometimes commencing the moment I pick up a brush) that I'd rather be reading a murder mystery, or washing my crystals, or staring out the window at nothing in particular--that I'd rather be doing anything but holding a brush and looking at the threatening blankness of a piece of watercolor paper.
I don't have to paint, after all. I don't have to prove anything, and why do something if it isn't any fun at all? If I stop now I'll never have to hear that mean Inner Critic again.
Now that I've made much of the sinister and sneaky aspects of the Inner Critic and the Inner Comforter I want to emphasize that they are simply those parts of us which wants to be comfortable, to avoid challenge, pain, and humiliation, which seek only to guide us to that haven known as the "Comfort Zone."
Comfort zones are the areas of our lives which are safe and familiar. In some cases this area may be physical, as for people who never leave their houses (town, state, country). Others may be easy with physical travel, but find other deviations from the normal threatening.
A comfort zone feels like a cozy living room. A friendly fire crackles in the fireplace; the lighting is soft; you sit in your big, comfortable chair, your cat purring on your lap as you read your favorite book and eat your favorite flavor of ice cream, completely at easeãbecause in the comfort zone we don't feel anxious or threatened, and we don't expect any unsolvable challenges to appear within its boundaries.
Comfort zones are truly lovely states of heart and mind. They answer our need to retreat from the stresses of living. Other animals have them--watch a bird sitting quietly on a branch. The average cat seems to spend ninety percent of its time in a comfort zone.
The greatest danger of comfort zones occurs when their boundaries are invisible, when you don't know that you've stepped into one and are settled for the duration. That was part of my painting crises. In rendering familiar subjects in familiar ways I'd unknowingly slid into long-term occupancy of a comfort zone. Once I discovered it in this realm of my life I soon saw that I crept soundlessly into the comfort zone when other areas of my life seemed threatening.
There are a number of clues which can help you realize that your comfort zone has become habitual.
The above warning signs describe relative states of inertia; the ones below when you're doing your best to move forward, but something always seems to go wrong.
Sometimes they're seemingly small things.
The next category brings us closer to the source of resistance.
Rejoice if you've reached this point, because you're no longer sinking numbly into a comfortable chair or a good book. You know what the problem is.
This is what the Inner Comforter, with all kindly intentions, is trying to keep you from knowing about yourself. (The Inner Critic has no qualms about calling you a coward, etc., but this causes many of us to throw back our shoulders and say, "I'll show you how brave I am," and march off into disastrous battle against an unacknowledged adversary.)
The first thing to tell yourself is that it's all right to be afraid. It's not shameful, unspiritual, cowardly. It's human.
The next step is to look at the fear. A helpful way to do this is to imagine what will happen if you make that phone call, move into a new apartment, etc. If possible, imagine both the worst and the best that can happen. Our fear of failure is equaled only by our fear of success, and both are dwarfed by the fear of change, which means discomfort, uncertainty, and possibly making a fool of oneself.
Some people shrink from change; some charge at it with the idea that they can get rid of its effects all at once. We recommend a more deliberate course of action.
As you go through these steps your Inner Critic and Inner Comforter will try in their own ways to talk you out of such rash behavior. Talk back, not by resisting them, but by engaging in dialogue.
The more you communicate with them the more quiet their voices will become, and soon you'll hear a new one. You may call it your Inner Guide; it's the one which will not only encourage you to step out of your safe cocoon, but will accompany you every step of way.
When you decide to move from the "here" of comfortable, easy (and let us not forget, unchallenging and sometimes boring) existence, a tabular crystal (one which is flat) can serve as a bridge over the sometimes abysmal-appearing depths over which you need to cross to get to the "there" of a life which offers challenges, surprises, and growth.
Those who experience known or unknown fears about launching a new way of living can benefit from charoite. Rhodochrosite is helpful for anxiety. The difference between the two feelings isn't always clear, but we think of anxiety as a fear which expresses itself physically.
Grounding stones are always beneficial to those who are moving away from home base. These include black tourmaline, onyx, hematite, tiger's eye, carnelian, red jasper.
Walnut is the foremost flower remedy for those who want to create change and growth in their lives. It gives one strength for the journey, including the ability to not be swayed by those well-meaning people who tell you, "Better safe than sorry."
Aspen is valuable for fear of the unknown; while Mimulus helps those who know what they're afraid of. If a fear of
breaking away from the traditional way of doing things haunts you, Purple Monkeyflower may be helpful. Mullein helps
you to connect to your Inner Guide.