Conscious Conversations: Short stories and other musings.

Inner Persecutor vs. Julie

I got so sick of reading other people’s stories. I had reached a point where I really wanted to connect more deeply to my own…to hear myself. I looked to books and “experts” for confirmation more than I looked inside myself. I knew I finally had to stop looking for confirmation and insights outside and start spending time inside. It had been a year since I shut down my counseling practice, and it had become glaringly clear that spending time inside my house did not equal spending time inside myself. Or maybe I was spending time inside myself and realizing how very chaotic it was in there. I quickly learned that having nothing to do was not exactly stress free. In some ways it was a little harder. There was not much to distract me from me. I came face to face with some really harsh voices that before now I just thought were common sense or smart. One in particular was actually quite mean and full of torture.

Constantly spouting off what I should do, what makes the most sense and questioning every move I made the Torturer (or Inner Persecutor as I sometimes call it) was abusing me. It was constantly telling me I could do better, I could be wiser, I should be doing more, I could say things differently, which were all ways of saying that nothing I said or did was good enough. I learned that the Torturer was truly with me 24/7. It got into EVERY SINGLE MOVE I made, every feeling I had and every decision. It was a devil cloaked in angel’s clothes convincing me it had my best interest in mind all the while keeping me captive.

I started to write down things that would go through the mind that were torture. These were common thoughts I had since I could remember, but this was the first time I was realizing they were torturing me. This list was constantly growing. The Torturer wasn’t interested in what I wanted or what felt good and free to me. It was concerned with “rules” or what made the most “sense” or what was the smartest and most logical. Even though I had ignored it many times in my life when it came to the big things like switching careers, moving to Michigan, marrying into a different culture, opening my own practice, closing my practice and others, I did not realize the Torturer was working non-stop on every other detail of my life all the way down to whether or not I should eat something for dinner if I had it for lunch. The Torturer never consulted my body. It only consulted the rules of the world – none of which were my creation. This Inner Persecutor was constantly on my case. It found every opportunity to beat me up. It even beat me up if I tried something new and didn’t like it whether it was food, clothing, a class or whatever. Anything that didn’t work out perfectly was a fail and a shameful waste of money in the Persecutor’s eyes.

Good thing my eyes were becoming my own and no longer one with the Torturer. It was no wonder my body was often so tender and sore. It was the Persecutor’s punching bag. Sometimes I felt like I had literally been beaten up. One thing was for sure: It was time to become the boxer. “Float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee” in the words of Mohammed Ali.

Two of my uncles were boxers, and I had boxer dogs most of my life. I figured my ancestry and my dogs had somehow prepared me for this. When the torturer started jabbing I had to learn how to duck and float. When it locked its stare, boxed me into a corner and started whaling on me I had to sting that bastard. There were times when I actually shadow-boxed around my house (which my boxer, Louise, really loved). I was training for one of the biggest fights of my life. My biggest moments happened after I studied its moves. I learned its patterns and shut it down at the first whiff of even a jab.

My favorite punch of all times was inspired by a “Grace and Frankie” TV episode. A character on the show told her domineering jerk of a husband who was always on her case to shut the f### up in the most amazing way I have ever witnessed. (The video is called Shut F##k Mountain and can be found on YouTube.) Watch it! I watched it over and over again until I could recite it in unison. I added several of my own lines, and this was the knock out punch that night when the Torturer tried to get in my head – which was the beginning of its pattern. I was victorious. The bastard was down, and my arms were up…literally my arms were up!!!

Is the Inner Persecutor part of me? It is part of a cultural voice? It is probably both, and where it comes from manners less than how it made me feel (emotionally and physically). I have heard many healers say, “you can’t dislike parts of yourself”, which I find useless because it takes people away from what they are actually feeling. The feelings are the guide. Either way, like people, parts of me sometimes need to be confronted and put in their place.  After all, the parts are not the whole. No one part is in charge even though this might have been the case for a long time. We have other parts that are dying (sometimes literally) to have a voice. When conflict between the parts comes up the conflict needs to be facilitated. We need to learn how to be facilitators and orchestrate a smoother dance.

A final note: As I was writing this, I noticed when I wrote the words “Inner Persecutor” or “Torturer” I wrote them capitalizing the first letter in each word. Logic made me change that at first because capital letters are only reserved for God, names or proper nouns. This Inner Persecutor was a tremendous force, so the caps stayed. For good or bad this force called me to the carpet (or into the ring) over and over again. One way or another it was gonna teach me to stand up and fight. I was beginning to see it as neutral – rather than good or bad. I simply see it as existing. It simply is. Trying to label it as good or bad immediately limits the wisdom. We spend too much time labeling things as good or bad, which immediately gets in our way of really knowing experiences or people and discovering any wisdom that may be present. Don’t get me wrong the “torturer” can still be a real pain in the ass, but I’ve got its number.