I hated it when someone disagreed with something I did or said, and I felt resentful when they criticized me. But I exploded into orbit when someone actually disagreed with and criticized MY OPINION, usually hosing that person down with a golden shower of sarcasm. But if they backed it up with logic, facts, figures and a better argument? Well then I felt compelled to respond by providing that person with my speculation on the past and/or present sexual activities of their mother.
As children, when we were publicly criticized by a parent, teacher or other adult, we felt humiliated, defeated and shunned from the herd. We wanted to either lash out, or escape to a place where we were safe and free. So a neural pathway, or ‘mind road’ was paved as a negative response to criticism. As adults, we are our own worst critic. We’re usually engulfed in a fog of self-criticism, and when other people criticize us, our minds automatically jump onto that old mind road from childhood and we get that familiar feeling of hurt, humiliation, resentment or anger. So we either defensively respond in fight mode or we want to run and escape in flight mode.
When someone disagrees with us or criticizes us, we can consider the criticism, learn and grow from it, or leave it alone if we determine it’s just a differing opinion from ours, particularly opinions on politics, religious views or addiction recovery. We can consider that every person is a singular blend of inherited genes, inherent personality traits, childhood experiences and adulthood encounters that are unique to them. We can accept that this gives them very specific values, points of view and things that are important to them and different from what’s important to us.
But when we get into recovery, we’re faced with owning our mistakes that have blown up in our face and exploded our lives into pieces. This part of recovery is difficult because we’ve already spent the last few years putting ourselves down, criticizing ourselves for our mistakes and our addiction, or blaming others for it. It’s important to separate the events that were catalysts for our addiction into two categories – (1) those events where we were truly a victim and (2) those events where we could have made better choices. More important is to sidestep the mind road that compels us to negatively respond to criticism, whether it be from someone else, or from ourselves, and/or to run and escape with our drug of choice. Progress is impossible if we’re stuck on the road where we defensively respond to criticism, put ourselves down in defeat for our mistakes, or run. But the growth begins when we actually start to change and approve of ourselves.
Whatever we do in life, there is probably always going to be someone who wants to disagree with it and/or criticize it. The only way to avoid criticism is to never do anything, say anything or be anything. Criticism is often just someone else’s opinion that we don’t agree with. A true sign of inner peace is simply allowing people to disagree with us, even criticize our opinion, not react to it, and let it float by like scenery on a train. In the end, freedom isn’t being able to do whatever we want – freedom is the absence of ego, resentments and guilt. If people disagree with us, which they are certain to do, it just means that we’re in action, noticed and relevant.