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Day 13. The Chopper

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Its Motivations: To crush you for your own ‘safety’.

The Fear It's Driven By: If you exist, you will be in more danger and people will see you’re not good enough.

Underlying Beliefs: There’s something irredeemably wrong with me. I do not deserve love, care, trust and respect. Crumbs is the best that I deserve. I am only worthy of the attentions of an abuser.

Look Out For: Severe trauma in childhood or adulthood. A persecutor, judge and jailor in your life. Covert and overt abusive relationships in adulthood. Someone who you think is ‘nice’ and ‘super intelligent’ but also who you regard as authoritative who you allow to direct you. Difficulty forging friendships.

The big difference between The Shamer and The Chopper who can at first glance appear to be very similar, is that The Shamer thinks that you’re improvable if you just follow its shame-led instructions whereas The Chopper has decided that you’re beyond redemption.

The Chopper cuts you down in order to bolster itself (the inspiration for this critic).

It's not because you're weak - it is a very weak person who has to decimate someone else or take out their problems through rage and displacement driven activities in order for them to feel worthwhile and 'strong'.

There’s no two ways about it— The Chopper is a highly toxic, abusive backing track; it’s a self-protective but nonetheless very damaging pattern that is in response to earlier abuse. You have gotten into the habit of diminishing you in advance of being diminished because you were taught that this is what is going to happen to you. You believe whoever taught you this message and so the inner critic is the authoritative voice watching over you, so you never get to be free of the original trauma(s).

I think what is so destroying about abusive relationships, both the ones we have in our heads and real-life ones, is that we infer and then keep re-teaching us and reaffirming the messages that we picked up from the abuser. We end up doing some of their dirty work and even when they’ve long gone out of lives or cannot actually control us as they used to, they’ve cleverly lodged themselves with their rhetoric. After a while, we’re getting in there before they are.

It feels as if you’re never going to be free. The Chopper has taught you to give up on you.
It teaches you that it’s safest not to exist and attacks your self-worth by repeatedly shaming you into feeling that you are beyond ‘redemption’ due to your flaws. Like a real-life abuser, it chip chip chips and chop chop chops away at you with what might be cloaked as ‘helpful’ and ‘concerned’ comments that are really there to trigger self-doubt. It teaches you that it knows best and that pleasing it is how you gain worth, only it can become displeased over anything and everything, punishing you with its critical statements. Like in all abusive relationships, The Chopper robs you of your strength to leave or in this case, to talk back, to draw your line.

It teaches you that nothing you need, want, expect, feel or think matters and that it’s their job to direct you, to exist on your behalf… in a very toxic form.

The Chopper keeps teaching you that you are not entitled to the basics – care, trust, respect, love, even survival aspects such as food and water and its presence is likely the result of severe trauma.

The Chopper can be a way of distancing you from the other source of trauma which may be pushed so far down that listening to this inner critic’s voice is a way of not having to remember what happened.

The messages that you've picked up along the way that form and feed The Chopper are not yours. Sure, you might be repeating them, sure you might have built on them but someone, somewhere in your life, broke your spirit. Whatever their reasons for it, whether it was them having been abused and them repeating it with you, being disordered, rage and god only knows what else, that person did some terrible things that were pitched as being acts of ‘love’ or acts of protection because they projected their own struggles and darkness within on to you and then claimed that there was something wrong with you, that there was evil or that you have done too much wrong (no doubt something that you’re still trying to figure out what the hell that is), maybe looking for the magic level of understanding or the magic answer to make sense of all of this pain you have been through.

Of course, when you start to examine this critic's motives, you discover somebody who is deeply flawed and shamed in their thinking and behaviour that has put all of this on you.

It’s not you who is flawed and this critic (the source of your trauma), had to crush you to build you up and was repeating some aspect of their past and taking out their anger, pain, resentment and frustration on you, as well as projecting their own irrational fears on you. Of course, by critiquing you in this way and crushing your spirit, you lived in fear and did what they wanted so now you think it’s safest to do things their way.

You have become practiced at making yourself invisible and trying to please so that you can feel even a little less flawed, hence why you're likely to gravitate to someone who you regard not just as being authoritative but authoritative over you.

You’re highly likely to find yourself trying to please an abuser or just trying to let their ego reign by not making waves and being compliant. Or you might hide out in a relationship where you're keeping all of this pain locked up and the person is not abusing you but you just cannot show up in the relationship because you don't trust you. They've given you security but you will find it hard to receive love and care, finding ways to punish you. You might have money but treat you as if you have none. You might punish your body.

At work, assertive, passive aggressive and aggressive people can be very triggering, especially the latter two. If a bully has latched on to you, it will be incredibly overwhelming. It will be as if the original inspiration for this critic has 'found you' again, as if it has people working on its behalf.

Because you've been taught that it's safest not to exist, it's reflected in the way you treat you and how you interact - hiding out, keeping people at a really big distance. You may have people that love you and you them (or you want to) but might find it very difficult to allow them to get close to you. You might even blame you when things go wrong with people around you, seeing you as being 'bad energy' or 'bad luck'.

You are not beyond redemption - it's not you who needs to redeem his or herself.

You did not deserve any of what happened to you, any of it. Keeping The Chopper in your head has been a way of feeling love, because love is associated with pain and control but these are not love. You have always been a worthwhile and valuable person but you will have the chance to live as one when you begin to break ties with The Chopper, gently and carefully but nonetheless with intent.

JOURNALING: Note - this may have been emotional for you to read so if you're not ready to explore the subject alone, use the prompts with a professional or use what you've learned here as a springboard to seek one-on-one professional support.

Do you identify with The Chopper experience? Write about the ways in which this habit has manifested itself in your life – locate your specific habits of thinking and behaviour. Who is the person (or people) from your past that have influenced The Chopper’s tape and if so, who are they and what did they teach you about life? What were the reasoning habits that you used to explain their behaviour and outlook? What is it that you think makes them authoritative? Can you re-frame any of what you have perceived as strength and power in to what it really is - something very far from either of these?  Do you feel as if you've been looking for redemption from your experiences and if so, how has this manifested itself? e.g. trying to right the wrongs of the past via romantic partners.

Don’t forget to use the Resources to help you to work through feelings that come up – the Releasing Exercise is ideal for homing in on the memories that trigger shame so that you can understand the presence of The Chopper in your head. If you start to bring down the emotional charge, you will feel a lot less triggered and under siege. Unsent Letters are vital here so that you can start to gain support and perspective - you can start to have compassion for your younger self and begin the passage to freedom.

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