“Why do they hate me? What did I ever do?” Eric said to me yesterday as I grabbed a cup of coffee. He had spent the morning reading my reviews of Beyond Blue on Amazon.com.
“Who hates you?” I asked him.
“Your readers … Some chick said she wanted to throttle me at some points throughout the book….I think I came across as quite supportive,” he said.
“You did. You are…. I don’t know why she said that. Ignore her.”
“I can see why you get so depressed when you read that kind of criticism every day,” Eric said. “It can’t help but affect your mood.”
Writing and speaking publicly on such a controversial topic as depression is certainly good practice for thickening one’s skin and erecting a Berlin wall around the most vulnerable parts of your heart, all the while speaking and writing from that very place.
It always hurts most when sharp criticism comes from a relative or good friend, of course. That’s when I find it hardest to pick up the pieces and start writing or speaking again.
You need to summon the same kind of concentration and focus as when you are doing a satellite television appearance.
Even though there is a talking head on a TV screen next to the camera, you can’t look there. You have to imagine that the lens of the camera you are speaking into is the face of the person to which you are speaking. Like most things, it takes some getting used to because it’s counterintuitive. The first time I did it, I was extremely nervous and distracted. I was like Cindy Brady in that episode of the Brady Bunch where she was spellbound staring into that red blinking light. The last time I did it, though, I was finally able to put my imaginary binders on, and have an animated dialogue with the camera lens.
Spiritual author Henri Nouwen speaks of protecting one’s innocence, keeping the spiritual blinders on. He writes, “Your innocence as a child of God needs to be protected. Otherwise, you will easily be pulled out of your true self and experience the devastating force of the darkness surrounding you.” He advises us to watch our thoughts and feelings and identify which ones come from our true selves, and which ones come from the powers of evil. Says Nouwen:
Do not trust your thoughts and feelings when you are pulled out of yourself. Return quickly to your true place, and pay no attention to what tricked you. Gradually you will come to be more prepared for these temptations, and they will have else and less power over you. Protect your innocence by holding on to the truth: you are a child of God and deeply loved.
For me that means to begin each day in prayer, asking God for the guidance to write and speak from my heart and asking his protection over my heart so that it doesn’t get bitter, jaded, or too damaged by criticism. It means asking his help in hearing the voice of my true self, so that I don’t get pulled into the distraction surrounding it–and that I remain shielded by destructive feedback that could weaken or destroy my mission of hope.