I’m a bit in “Judgemental Crow” mode this morning.
Judgemental Crow is a part that lives inside of me and tries to elevate my own esteem by relative positioning. It’s the whole “well, at least I’d never do that” and “OMG, who would walk around looking that way!”. It’s sort of a horrible part, and I think we all have one to some degree or other. Most of us know better than to vocalise the Crow’s thoughts out loud, but it’s hard not to hear them in our own heads.
The Judgemental Crow has some value – as I see it, he’s trying to do two things:
- Make sure I stick to some kind of social conventions, because if I’ve got one in my head, then I’m pretty sure that other people have one in their heads too. So, Judgemental Crow can also turn his gaze on me and try to stop me going out dressed in nothing but cellophane and a tinfoil hat.
- To make me feel better and cope better with feeling Judged myself. All is required to appease the Crow when his gaze is turned on me is one other person in the universe who is performing even worse in whatever category I’m focused on: fitness levels, standard of dress and grooming, intelligence, children’s behaviour – mostly superficial crap if I’m honest!
It’s a bit like the joke about surviving an encounter with a tiger; you don’t have to outrun the tiger, only the person you are with.
So, for many years the Judgemental Crow could be happily directed away from my drinking bad habits, because I live in Ireland, so there are plenty of examples of people who’s habits are “worse” than mine were. Or at least partially worse. Or worse on a particular given day – you get the idea. So – I couldn’t really have a problem; if they didn’t have a problem, and I was better than them, then how could there be anything wrong with my behaviour? (a > b and b > c => a > c) I was normal! I was the same as most folk, worse than some, but most importantly better than some.
What I was failing to realise all along is that the only standard I really needed to compare to was my own. It’s a surprisingly hard thing to do, to constantly check if you’re meeting your own standards of behaviour. It’s weirdly not something we instinctively do – we’re far more programmed to meet society’s standard of behaviour, or the standard set by the small sub-group of society with whom we mostly associate.
As I said when I first started this blog, my drinking since I’ve started therapy has really come in line with what’s considered “normal” in this country. And that’s the problem.
Alcohol use (yes, “use” because it’s a drug; a strong, insidious, addictive drug) in this country is highly normalised. It is the one drug in the world that you have to defend why you are not taking it. (Well, maybe apart from cake!) And there is a huge stigma attached to not drinking as well – not just for people who’ve stopped completely (“Oh, they must have a drinking problem“) but also for people who’ve never started! I’ve been guilty of putting pressure on people who don’t drink, or don’t drink a lot to “join in the fun”. I didn’t realise it at the time, but in retrospect, I think it was all part of the push to normalise alcohol consumption. That way I could continue to sit firmly in that lovely 4-sigma wide “middle” of the normal curve, and Judgemental Crow would be happily appeased by the behaviours of the bottom 2.5%. Even the top 2.5%! Because clearly there was something “wrong” with them for not drinking at all, right?
Anyway, I do have to live with this Crow, who for all his good intentions about my inner self-esteem and coping mechanisms has a really fucked up view of the world. I’m starting by recognising when he’s present and trying to then figure out what I expect from myself and to live up to that standard. Much and all as the Crow is pushing for it, I don’t feel judgemental towards people who drink, but I do feel a bit angry at the societal systems that have set up drinking as the “normal” behaviour for humans in our country. I’m going to continue to battle with my own immediate feelings of shame and otherness when it comes to being asked if I want a drink and then probably challenged and analysed when I say “no thank you”.
I manage well enough with all the other ways I’m different in society, so why not this one? Time to be contemptuous of the courts in which all Judgemental Crows reside!