The Healing Power of Criticism


What if A behavior you considered dysfunctional is your unique healing gift?

Have you ever received feedback that something you were doing again and again was destructive, but you didn’t really see it yourself, because you were so used to it? Most likely, you grew up with it. Most likely, you got very good at it. What if, once you became conscious of it, you could discover it has been your superpower all along, and you could learn to use it constructively?

It took me years to realize how critical I was. That nagging feeling when one little detail stands out from the perfect flow, disturbing and distracting, and I just can’t seem to keep it to myself. The present moment is okay, but it could be better, and I can see just how to get there.

As a rebellious teenager, I used criticism as a weapon, mixing it with a generous dose of sarcasm for a truly explosive effect. Occasionally, I had to defend myself from bullies, so I learned to practice speaking their language and fighting back with whatever ammo I was able to gather in the moment. I had to learn be observant. As I was going about my day, I would imagine all sorts of sarcastic criticism coming at me from strangers, and then try to quickly come up with a powerful, equally sarcastic response.

As a young adult, I started realizing how dysfunctional these patterns were, especially when directed at those closest to me, but I still failed to become aware of doing it in the moment it happened. It took years of observing and intentionally altering my behavior to minimize their negative effects — first of all, on myself, and of course on others.

Later on, I grew to understand that my critical tendency, my ability to notice what is not working and what could be improved, when applied intentionally—with discernment, precision and care for myself and others—could be a true superpower that has endless applications.

  • As a writer and an editor, I used it for finding typos, missing commas, parts of a story that don’t belong and need to be cut out or moved.
  • As a photographer, I used it to compose and retouch my photos, detecting what is distracting or doesn’t add any meaning to the final image.
  • As a web developer, I analyzed the flow of a webpage and was able to viscerally feel when certain spacing or alignment didn’t work, or when copy interfered with the purpose of a website.
  • As a visionary with a passion for healing the world, I can recognize where the world is hurt and where healing is needed.

Ultimately, my tendency to be critical is a combination of my sensitivity and my creativity.

Through deep attunement to my inner and outer world, I can sense what is not working. I can visualize a “perfect” version of the situation where an oversight is fixed and a wound is healed.

And, most importantly, I can see a path of transformation from current state of imperfection to a state of greater perfection, and a combination of factors that are needed to arrive there.

  • A space of presence, intention and attention;
  • Input from deeply trained experts;
  • And a certain amount of grace, that upward momentum that propels our Universe towards greater complexity and beauty.

Through the years, I have applied this superpower to many areas of my life: from my own physical and psychological health to relationships, to greater global issues of environmental sustainability and overall direction of human development.

This blog is a collection of my ongoing discoveries.

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