Let The Inner Hero Do the Talking

I was just so damn clever. Fitting in a coaching between a client meeting and a busy afternoon,  I researched and found a peaceful park where the conversation could be undisturbed– a perfect mix of privacy and outdoor beauty.

Park1My hand fished into my purse for the phone and headset and out came the headset. No phone. The hand went back in, a bit more frantically. Still no phone. The phone was charging peacefully on the desk in my office, 35 miles from the park, silent and hidden, filled with unusable power.

I went frantic. A beloved client would phone and not get a reply. How careless could I be? How stupid was I to forget the phone, when it was the most important thing? I shouldn’t be a coach. Maybe this is senility creeping in. Alzheimers!  I’m an idiot! An embarrassment to the entire coaching profession! Maybe I should stop coaching, if I can’t remember the phone.

Park2If you are smiling in recognition or shaking your head that I’m not seeing my own inner critic, you are smart. The inner critic uses the spiral of guilt and embarrassment to twist emotions to crisis level. The inner critic manipulates a useful emotion (slight anxiety, which makes me alert) into global statements and crises (which is non-productive). I even wrote about it two weeks ago–our best characteristics, turned up too loud, are our worst faults.  I had traded attention to detail  (timing the drive from client to park and choosing a non-bark part) for missing the big picture (taking the fully-charged phone).

There was nothing to do but drive home and phone the client and apologize, but the feeling of guilt and stupidity stayed. This is exactly why I wrote the Inner Hero Art Journal–it’s fine to feel every emotion from joy to anger to frustration and self-flagellation–but it is not useful to hang on to them past the productive portion, which was long over. I knew what I did wrong, and knew also I was likely to meet it again. We do repeat our mistakes. Often.

Here’s how I got in touch with the Inner Hero I needed: I went to the studio and using a small piece of monoprinted paper, I folded an accordion book.

Book1The whole point of working with inner heroes is not to create images of them, but rather call forth the healing spirit, the wisdom that’s needed at the moment. In this case, it was recognizing my care for the client in arranging a quiet place to do deep work as well as recognizing my attention to detail.

Also worth recognizing is the fragility of planning. And idea can be well-thought out, but without all the steps, it can fall apart.

I thought of all the feathers I see when I walk. They help a bird soar, escape from danger, keep warm, keep cool, keep dry. But they are fragile and easily torn apart. I called on the Protector of Flight Feathers, an inner hero made up on the spot.

Book8Inner Heroes don’t have to be grand, or easily understood by the world. Compassion, Generosity, Kindness, Happiness are all great, but what was needed at that moment was the Protector of Flight Feathers. So I would not be stuck on the ground, easy prey for spiritual raptors.

-Quinn McDonald knows her Inner Critics, but she depends on her Inner Heroes.

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12 thoughts on “Let The Inner Hero Do the Talking

  1. I had my phone with me, and dropped it on the ground so the screen broke. OMG, I was so angry with myself. Still am, a little. But will be brave like you and move on from that feeling of being such a stupid person for dropping it! 🙂

    • That kind of accident is hard to forgive. I broke a bottle of eye medication a few weeks ago, and had to buy a whole new bottle while I was out of town. The drugstore close to the hotel was not covered by my insurance, and I had to pay 5x as much for the replacement bottle. I beat myself up for it for days. But, like your phone, it was an accident, not a careless habit. And often, accidents are just accidents. And yes, forgiving yourself and moving on is far healthier to your soul that beating yourself up.

  2. Since I started working on asembling my Inner Hero contingent, and it is slow going, I have noticed I am becoming more patient with the ICs. Trying to help them tone down the volume, learn how to support rather than tear down, because deep down, way deep down, I know they care about me, want to protect me . . . it’s just that they lack a certain maturity. Reading your book slowly, thinking about it as I go, recording what comes to me, is incredibly helpful.

  3. The Protector of Flight Feathers is interesting. Thank you for sharing that with us. My inner critic looks like a young boy. By placing him in this form I’m reminded that as a critic he is still in child form learning and growing just as with my artistic endeavors.I’m learning and growing. Placing him in this form reminds me not to take his harsh words to heart and to stop and think about how the critique should actually be given. Henry reminds me that as a self-critic I have a lot to learn in how to critique myself.

  4. Wow Quinn, that’s a great post (love the photos too)! The great fligt protector is fantastic imagry. I started playing with my new inner hero book just the other day. I came up with a line drawing of my Mom as my inner critic. It absolutely cracks me up and ironically it makes me love her more!

    • We have many incarnations of our inner critics, don’t we? Mom is a really popular one, because that’s what they often did–tried to protect us in ways that look and feel constricting. The Protector of Flight Feathers is new to me, I’ll have to explore it more.

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