Critic vs. judge

I know this should be perfectly obvious, but this morning in Trust the Process I have been reading about the difference between your inner critic and your judge.

The critic is that invaluable voice that's always speaking during the creative process: Try this.  What about this?  No, those proportions are off.  Hmm, don't like that color so much.  What if?  The critic is cooperating with us, working with us to arrive at a more satisfying product.

The judge, however, is always undermining: Oh, God, what were you thinking to try THAT?  This sucks.  You really have no clue how to do this, do you?  This is so amateurish. You'll never amount to anything...

I wonder if those of us who run into difficulties distinguishing between those two voices internally might also have trouble distinguishing between them externally as well?  Or maybe it's just that in certain areas where we are feeling particularly sensitive and insecure the distinction between the two voices gets muddied?

I had an experience this week where something I wrote was challenged and rewritten, and some part of me got very huffy and felt judged.  So I sat with that feeling a bit, did my best to see what part of me was feeling so sensitive, and then found another stronger, calmer, more rational voice to speak on her behalf. 

When the response came, it was so eminently reasonable that my rational voice was able to explain it to the huffy part, and all those fight or flight feelings completely subsided -- no, more than subsided.  Washed away, with this purifying sense of absolute clarity and wonder, as if angels had come along and lifted me right out of that ugly net of judgement and blame.  You know that net -- the one that has a way of spreading to encompass not just you but everyone around you?

And so, in the end, what had felt like judgment became joy; an opportunity for self-examination and release.  And now, as I read over what I've just written, I see it's been influenced, not just by what I've been reading in Trust the Process, but by the other book I'm reading right now, A Fatal Grace, the second in a series of mysteries by Canadian author Louise Penny. 

The hero of Penny's books is a police inspector named Gamache, a wise and thoughtful man whose advice to his underlings is always about not jumping to conclusions, being willing to admit you are wrong; that you don't know the answer -- and always to listen.  Gamache, Penny says, "was the best of them, the smartest and bravest and strongest because he was willing to go into his own head alone, and open all the doors there, and enter all the dark rooms.  And make friends with what he found there.  And he went into the dark, hidden rooms in the minds of others.  The minds of killers.  And he faced down whatever monsters came at him." 

The books are marvelously written, with a gentle dusting of faith, poetry, and art, including (in this one) an artist whose every painting is inspired by those wonderful lines from Leonard Cohen -- "There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."

How can we not be inspired by an author who encourages us to face our demons?  I can't wait to read the next book in the series...


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