Treating yourself like a precious object will make you strong.

-Julia Cameron

One of the first songs I ever wrote, Learning To Love Myself, (click on the song title to enjoy) was written while gazing at myself in the mirror. The words of the chorus were, “Every day, in every way, I’m learning to love and respect myself.” I sang it for hours, hoping that by affirming it over and over, somehow I would get it and magically start loving myself. Little did I know back then that to really love myself I had to get to know myself. I had to become conscious of the different parts of me swirling around in there, and establish good communication between them. And so I began the ongoing, ever-changing venture of developing a loving relationship with the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with: myself.

To describe the dynamics of this relationship, allow me to take you on a guided tour through my psyche. You will meet my critical parent, my loving parent, my little boy and my higher self. These are mythic characters that I will bring to life through a playful blend of fantasy and reality. I use them to depict a valid process that goes on inside me, one that at times I both struggle and triumph with.

The loudest aspect of my insides is the inner critic, or critic for short. The critic’s job is to constantly draw attention to what is wrong with other people, the world, and myself. (And what a good job he does!) Tracing back my critic’s family tree, I found out that the first seedling came to this country with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. Historians noted that the critic was seen in the back of the ship, gazing in Europe’s direction, muttering things like, “This was a big mistake. We should have stayed home. We should have known better!” (The critic is quite fond of the word should.)

The main focus in those days was survival, and the critic’s whip did seem to motivate people to work hard and to will themselves to survive. The critic thrived back then, and was an integral part of building a life in the new world. From the farmers’ fields to the preachers’ pulpits, from schoolhouses to family homes, the culture was permeated by the straight and narrow thinking of the critic.

With each new generation, survival became less of an urgent focus and the pursuit of happiness became more of a priority. The critic began to feel out of control, perhaps even out of a job. It started to sense danger to its own existence. On therapists’ couches, at weekend workshops, and anywhere self-awareness was present, people began to question the rigid rules and bureaucratic overtones of a critical voice. These days the critic’s military tactics are quite outdated, and he is in training to operate a modern computer program that protects and serves without police brutality. The updated software incorporates gentleness, compassion, and humor, three qualities previously not found in the critic’s tool bag.

My inner critic is a bit like the Japanese soldier who was found roaming the jungles of an obscure South Pacific island, twenty years after World War II was over. He was convinced that the war was still a reality and his nervous system was geared to fight the enemies. Sony, Panasonic and Toyota all helped educate him about the current state of peace and prosperity. Eventually, he was honorably discharged from his military state of mind and learned to be at ease with himself and the world.

Used as survival strategy during a wartime economy (childhood), my critic is currently being eased out of the jungles of fear and is learning his place within a peacetime sense of self. The critic learned about life from watching too much tunnelvision, fixated on the channels of right or wrong, good or bad. Left to himself, he would continue to watch his black and white tunnelvision set all day long, to be in remote control of how we picture life. But lucky for us, we have Big Scott to guide the critic away from his old programs. Big Scott is a voice of love and support that we’ve been developing over the years. When the critic barks at us in his usual righteous tone, “You did that wrong again! You’ll never be good enough!”, Big Scott might switch off his TV and take him outside to gaze at nature. “Look, Mr. Critic.” (The critic listens best when called “Mr.”)  “Look at all these different bushes and flowers. None of them are exactly alike. Are any of them right? Are any wrong? Are there any mistakes or flaws in nature? And aren’t we a part of nature?”

Sometimes the critic mellows and takes a deep breath. Sometimes he puts up a fight. Imagine knocking on the door of the Pentagon in Washington and telling the staff that the country doesn’t need weapons anymore for its protection. Might there be some resistance? The same is true for our personal pentagon. When it comes to taming the critic, Big Scott has to be patient, persistent, and persevering.

Big Scott’s main job is to take good care of our inner child, Little Scott. Without firm and loving parental guidance, Little Scott tends to get himself in trouble. He might choose to eat things that taste great going down, but make us feel sluggish for hours later. He might run across the street without looking both ways for cars. He might even run and dive heart-first into a relationship, forgetting that he can’t swim in such deep waters without Big Scott pacing his strokes and keeping him afloat.

In Little Scott’s room there is a special intercom. This line is directly hooked up to the inner critic, and when the critic does a sermon, the child hears it on his speakerphone. This is very painful for him, and he usually hides under the covers, trembling in the dark until Big Scott comes to love him up. Like any parent, Big Scott is learning how to care for Little Scott through life’s most effective on the job training program, trial and error.

Big Scott has one more job, listening to and acting on the guidance of Swami Scott. Swami Scott is a wise and powerful being who lives on a high mountain peak in our inner Himalayas, somewhere between our eyebrows. Swami Scott has only one disciple, and he encourages complete inner-dependency. After taking many workshops and seminars, and studying with other swamis, personal contact with Swami Scott is one of my greatest joys. I sit at his feet in confidence, knowing I never need fear giving him my power. He is my power!

And now to formally introduce Little Scott. We used to think that being an adult meant not being childlike anymore. But look into any adult’s heart and you will find a child in there, no matter how grown up they appear to have packaged themselves. My inner child is a delicate, tender, brilliantly creative and exquisitely sensitive child of God. He feels life to the fullest. He can feel anger, hurt, sorrow, fear, regret, joy and ecstasy, sometimes all in the passing of one hour. But he can also hide really well from those feelings if he doesn’t feel safe.

For much of my life Little Scott did not feel safe to feel or express what he was feeling. Parents, teachers, other kids, and the inner critic all seemed to gang up on him and contribute to his not having a safe space to explore emotions. So the kid learned to cope by hiding, pretending, and isolating, which translated to many years of substance abuse. The disconnection from feelings went deep. I even found spiritual pursuits could be used to numb out. Feelings band-aids come in many forms and disguises. My first ten years of meditation, though helpful in many ways, were a form of medication, spiritual anesthesia for the layers of emotional pain my inner child carried.

What Little Scott needed was for Big Scott to learn to come into his room and listen to his feelings, with empathy and acceptance. The child needed a loving presence, a consistent inner friend who would be there for him without judgment or diagnosis. Little Scott tried to find that love through sexual relationships. Women would come and go, but the emptiness of not having his own inner connection would return. In that emptiness he cried out, asking for love and nurturing in the only ways he knew how. He cried through addiction. He cried by not letting Big Scott reach his goals. He cried until the criticism, the constant high-speed busyness, or other forms of self-abandonment would stop and Big Scott would come into his consciousness for a loving bedside chat.

Those chats have become the cornerstone of my recovery, my highest and holiest act of meditation. During those times Big Scott listens compassionately to the little guy, cradling him tenderly while he shares, making a safe space for tears, fears, anger and joy to be felt. Tissues are on hand, and the critic stays out of the room. This is where we are learning about the power of acceptance, simply hearing where we are at without trying to fix or change things.

As we cease pushing and shoving ourselves around, feelings come up to be felt and are released as part of a natural cleansing process. Little Scott becomes lighter and freer. He feels handled with care,  a sense of safety which allows his heart to open and express love. He gets a familiar twinkle back in his eyes, a light by which Big Scott, Swami Scott, and Little Scott work/play together to share joy and inspiration with others.

And so we see that love and service starts with being kind to yourself. It takes courage. In a culture that teaches us that strength is about grabbing a bull by its horns, it takes courage to gaze at yourself in the mirror and say, “I will not fight.” It takes courage to walk the path of least resistance, to be a peaceful warrior in a world that has not yet learned to value the power of gentleness.

This is my dream, and I invite you to join me: that more and more of us negotiate a cease fire with our inner critics, that we treat our inner children to a lasting, happy childhood, and that we handle ourselves, each other, and our world with the utmost care and respect.

Click on the song title to listen to the song…

Handle Yourself With Care

By Scott Grace

Once I thought by now I’d be

Mr. Functionality

Perfect and complete in every way

But I still get lost and then get found

As I walk this sacred stumbling ground

I need to reassure me, I’m O.K.

I’m all grown-up the world can see

But that is just one side of me

I’m also a tender child finding my way

I sometimes fumble in the dirt

I have a heart that can be hurt

And so I hear a voice within me say

Handle yourself with care

There’s a precious child of God in there

There’s a judge inside that’s sometimes strong

Convinced I’m doing my whole life wrong

So quick to rise up to my prosecution

But as I grow it’s getting clear

The judge is just a voice of fear

And gentleness my only real solution

For how can the child in me feel safe

If I’m trying to whip myself in shape?

There must be another way to grow

The petals of my heart open in a loving self-environment

A flower grows and blooms

When it’s given the room

So handle yourself with care

There’s a precious child of God in there

And so I live life day to day

Some obstacles get in my way

And though I groan I see the strength that’s birthed

I still get lost and then get found

As I walk this sacred stumbling ground

But life is getting sweeter on this earth

Reaching out to make heart connections

Making my peace with imperfection

Finding out the world needs what I have to give

For as I love the child in me

My heart extends so naturally

I can lend the world my shoulder

When my cup is running over

So handle yourself with care

There’s a precious child of God in there

1995@Copyright ScottSongs

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