Criticism in Relationship

Shivani Prabhakar
A monk decided to meditate alone. Away from his monastery. He took the boat and went to the middle of the lake, closed his eyes and began to meditate. After few hours of unperturbed silence, he suddenly felt the blow of another boat hitting his boat. With his eyes still closed, he felt his anger rising and, when he opened his eyes, he was ready to shout at the boat man who dared to disturb his meditation, but, when he opened his eyes, he saw that it was an empty boat not tied up, floating in the middle of the lake. At that moment, he got a realization that the anger is within him. It simply needs to be provoked by the hit of an external object. After that whenever he met someone who irritated or provoked his anger, he remembered that the other person is just an empty boat. Anger is inside him.
Like-wise, we get angry or upset when someone criticises us. When someone criticises us, we react, we become defensive and angry. We should learn to take constructive criticism as feedback and try to learn and improve ourselves. We should also learn to understand destructive criticism and learn to respond then to react and get angry. We should also learn to let the other person know that we are not ready to take his or her destructive criticism and if that does not work, we should try to maintain healthy distance with that person. We should also learn that criticism is to be used to make improvements and not to dominate the will of others.
Constructive criticism given as a feedback point towards an area that needs improvement. We identify the things which we were ignoring earlier. Constructive criticism should be taken in positive stride. We should not take constructive criticism in a negative way that the one who is criticising us wants to show us down. We should not always take it personally and can use it positively and learn a lot from it.
Constructive Criticism if taken positively can make a lot of improvements and on the other hand, if we start taking destructive criticism personally and start reacting, it can ruin our lives. We need to learn to handle criticism to strike a balance and understand the other persons intentions and apply a balanced approach to handle criticism. It is not that we should always agree with the other person’s opinion but we have to judiciously use our mental abilities and balanced approach to understand the nuances of criticism. During the time of COVID 19, I watched a movie where a woman completely ruins her life and life of her family members by being stressed by mishandling criticism.
False ego and criticism have a very deep connection. People who have big egos are disturbed/irritated very easy. They cannot take feedback or criticism. They have a perception that they know all, are extra ordinary beings, and no-body have an authority to say anything to them. In a way, they are saying no to new learning and harming themselves by feeling bad when someone criticises them.
We should also be mindful that we do not fall on two extreme sides, either becoming egoistic or a person having no self-esteem at all. We have to teach others not to disrespect us by condemning others misbehaviour. We must raise our voice for ill treatment and on the other hand, we should also not become over sensitive and take every small/petty remark negatively because that can hamper our mental health. Our message to the person criticising should be very clear that we are ready to learn but we are not ready to be taught.
Research was conducted on few people. They were kept separately for few days with all the amenities. It was noticed over a period of time that at certain times, they were joyful and at other times, they were upset and during some period of times, they were angry and disturbed. From there, it was analysed that the feeling of anger, joy, sorrow, hatred, bliss etc. everything is within us. Outer situation simply touches and becomes the reason for all the above to come up. So, all we need to do is work on ourselves by living balanced and mindful life. By living life deeply, loving ourself and all that is surrounding us, that may be nature, our family, our children and by showing gratitude for all that we have. If we learn the art of living mindfully and upkeep our mental health and hygiene, we can learn not to react to the criticism because criticism is something external as per others’ perception but getting angry on such criticism is an internal matter.
We need to learn to differentiate between constructive and destructive criticism. We need to take constructive criticism as feedback. Constructive criticism is to be identified as something by use of which you can make improvements in yourself, your family life, business or work. Destructive criticism is to be identified as something which lowers your self-esteem, which is an attack on your personal space, preferences or habits. These differentiations are essential to be made, as, it will help you to understand who is your true friend and have good intentions for you and, who is trying to lower your self-esteem just to dominate your will.
(The author is a Psychologist and Life Coach at Sachetan-The Mind Gym)