The Inner Judge and Victim

It’s toward the end of September, and I’m sitting beneath the covers in this unheated RV, nursing a hot green tea. We pushed start time back thirty minutes because, contrary to the morning forecast of 52 degrees, it’s a chilling 38 outside. Things will change when that beautiful sun rises.

I’m reading through a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, a spiritual healer from Mexico. He was talking about the conflict between the “Inner Judge” and the “Inner Victim.” The two energies feed each other and create so much unnecessary inner chatter. He writes:

“Ninety-five percent of the beliefs we have stored in our minds are nothing but lies, and we suffer because we believe all these lies.”

That’s one of those truths I’ve known for years now yet need reminding of every day. Lately these inner energies have gotten out of whack. This morning, I wake up thinking, Man, it’s so cold outside. That’s in that 5% of fact. Then, however, when I think, This stinks. It’s gonna suck to open the roadside stand and feel my fingers scream in pain as I try to open the impossible lids of those cucumber buckets—Victim. Then what happens is Judge comes in. Judge says, Come on, you wimp. Buck up. Quit your complaining. You’re always whining, never appreciating what’s going on.

Then the two fight and cause me to forget they can only speak in untruths.

I’ve let this inner conflict accelerate too much lately. I’ve been looking too much at the clock, awaiting the end of the work day. I’ve been thinking too much about all I need to do in the sense of lack—I’m not trying hard enough to find a job, I’m not writing enough, I’ve let my novel take the backseat…

What I’ve come to realize is that these thinking patterns can be cured, but their cure does not come through a new thought. I cannot rationalize my way out of the conundrum they pose.

Viktor Frankl once said,

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

These voices of Judge/Victim aren’t my response. They are simply disguised that way. Instead, they are more stimuli, albeit of the internal variety. So correcting them is a matter of finding that space between their arising and my response and relating to that space with intention. Only then do I open to growth, transformation, and freedom.

Thus, the way out begins with calm awareness. Through engaging in activities that deepen internal awareness, through tuning into the heart, I glimpse the illusory nature of the conflict.

How do you tune into your heart? We should all be able to answer this. If we roll our eyes at the question, something is probably missing in our lives. I tune into my heart through both stillness and physical activity. I’ll close my eyes and focus my breath, and within minutes, it’s as if I’m watching this Judge/Victim conflict on a screen. I see the way it’s playing out. Conversely, when I exercise—hiking, running, lifting weights—I often feel the conflict play out and accelerate. But by continuing to exert myself, by getting all this great oxygen to my brain. I am left in the end with a grounded, physical connection to body and earth, and the pleasant sensations this yields evaporates the majority of that age-old conflict.

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