Teaching Inner Trolls to Dance

If I’m not careful, my discourse becomes the opposite of caring.

It’s election day in Britain. 

I’m a staunch down-to-the-bones socialist and have been since I was a teenager. Looking after everyone in society and not just yourself seems to be self-evidently good thing. And since I have taken the Bodhisattva Vow to remain in the world till every single being has been liberated from hatred, greed and ignorance – then naturally the socialist option is a good fit for my ethics. 

However, I am increasingly aware that my inner discourse and my outer discourse is in danger of letting me down.  If I’m not careful it becomes the opposite of caring. 

If my mind is full of Twitterspeak and divisive hatred, then I am the problem

Politically speaking, the press, media and on-line world  we live in is a world of screaming echo-chambers. In the hell-realms of Twitter and Facebook, it’s increasingly acceptable to say the most dreadful things to attack your ‘opponents’.  Polite and intelligent  civil discourse has descended into playground bullying. Which I believe is a great catastrophe for Britain. 

But, uncomfortable as it is, I see the same thing quite clearly in myself. 

The one thing that meditative practice shows me is that the buck ultimately stops with me. I am the creator of my reality and if my mind is full of Twitterspeak and divisive hatred, then I am the problem. No one else. So I’ve been wrestling with the source of all this bile. 

I feel the Crown Prosecutor like a freezing-fire in my chest and throat

In my work on the cushion, I am increasingly aware of a ‘part’ that is very vociferous and relentless in its rhetoric. 

I call this part, (it’s a female part),the “Crown Prosecutor”, She is a relic, as so often is the case, of a childhood wounding where I needed to be completely ‘in the right’. Her job was to rehearse and re-rehearse arguments in my defence against a powerful and merciless other. She would run through all options and when she was done defending my position, she would set about destroying the other people. For hours, and days and years of my inner life, she has been devising killer put-downs, devastating arguments, annihilating speeches which reduce my ‘opponents’ to dirty dust. 

I feel her rise in me like a funnel-shaped freezing-fire up my chest and throat. And she can burn for hours in a very painful and hateful way. 

I grew up with the Daily Mail, live among Brexiteers, so there are triggers for her

For years, I was quite unaware of many of these parts, and they would rule not only my inner world but also my outer behaviours. I have driven away a number of people by acting out the Crown Prosecutor’s ‘perfectly logical, perfectly correct’ attack. I ended up “right” but I also ended up alone. 

I grew up in a Daily Mail reading household (that’s a very right-wing newspaper for the non-Brits) and I now live in a predominently Leave neighbourhood (that’s people who want to go ahead with Brexit). The newspapers I see in my local supermarket are almost all screaming anti-Socialist propaganda day and night. So there have been lots of triggers for the Crown Prosecutor of late. 

She dances along to Radio 6 Music in the kitchen

But if I am serious about being a Buddhist and giving up this whole cycle of hatred, greed and delusion, then I have to start with myself. 

Because when that white-hot freeze creeps up without my noticing, my mind becomes as divisive and hateful as the people I criticise. The same blinkered, ruthless menace emanates out of me. 

I have to sit down with the Crown Prosecutor and find her something better to do. She doesn’t actually like it. It’s exhuasting. She’s never really well-informed enough to win the argument, so she’s also insecure. Which creates a horrible brew of fury and futility. 

Whoever wins, the country needs some love

When we sit down in the open field of meditation, with the Self enaged with her in a loving way, she is desperate to give up her grim robes and go dancing. I’ve noticed she has really good dance moves and so have been dancing along to Radio 6 Music in the kitchen on a regular basis during this election campaign. 

However Britain votes today, it’s going to be a difficult few years ahead. Politicians of all stripes like to paint elections as magic cure-alls. But whoever ends up forming a goverment is going to struggle to get everything they want done. And as a member of the British people, I know that I’m goign to be bounced and torn and bruised by my emotional reponse to either a Conservative or a Labour term of office. 

All the more reason to keep the CP dancing and to refrain for harsh, angry and divisive speech. The country needs some love.  

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  • Socialism is not for kids says:

    Socialism is neither caring nor fair. You have never experienced its true dogmatic horrors. You live in a comfortable capitalistic country and love intellectualising on your iPad about utopias that seem nice in theory. In practice, people flee socialism! Have you spoken to anyone in Venezuela? Saying to people who actually experienced the injustice of socialism is like saying “I am a fascist” to a Jew.

    • alistairappleton says:

      Dear Alina, we are never going to agree on this point. But I would invite you to consider what I am saying in the blog about the inflammatory and painful urges of these inner parts. I can’t help but feel that they are behind the excessive rhetoric that you seem to favour. However irritating, I respect your different opinion. It would be nice if you could respect mine. All best, Alistair

  • This is very important Alistair, thank you, and just as needed on this (continental) side of the Channel. Probably one of the most useful tasks one could take on oneself would be to show people ways to talk to the other tribe. Just like there’s been efforts to bring people of different faiths together last century, now is the time to bring people from different political tribes together.

    • alistairappleton says:

      Thank you Sacha. Yes, it’s a painful task to talk to people with different politics (or ethical) positions with an open heart but it is also very instructive. Not least because it shines a light on our own narrowness and rigidity. Ultimately, we are all suffering beings trying to suffer less! Alistair

  • Ann says:

    In these uncertain and disturbing times it is so important that we remember we are all looking for a way to live that is not soul , mind or body destroying. Listening to the other person can be difficult but not listening and closing down one’s mind is worse. Thank you Alistair for providing a viewpoint that gives me a way to keep my mind open and stops the descent in anxious hopelessness which seems to affect many people.

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