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When Criticism Gets Complicated
by Stewart Blackburn

Whenever I find myself responding to someone's request for help, one of the main points I emphasize is the need to stop criticizing. Any form of criticism beyond critiquing, as in works of art, is harmful. It doesn't matter whether the criticism is of oneself or someone else, effectively they are the same thing. Not only does it harm the person making the criticism, it sends out a very low vibration that encourages others to resonate with that lower vibration and brings them down as well. In general, we want to maintain the highest possible vibration so that we can be both happy and effective (I use "vibration" here as a metaphor for the personal emotional energy that we project into the world).

However, what happens when we encounter situations where there are one or more people who have very powerful negative vibrations, as in anger or fear, and with whom we must interact on a regular basis. To be aware that we don't like being around them brings our energy down. To express our displeasure with them in any way is a criticism. On the other hand, to ignore our dissatisfaction with the situation is to do emotional violence to ourselves. So, how do we resolve this?

The answer lies in how we can best keep our vibration up while both taking care of ourselves and the situation in which we find ourselves. I see three parts to this.

The first thing is to hold our focus on the things we like. Simple gratitude works well for this and helps us to maintain the basic vibration we want to live in. This doesn't mean ignoring anything. It simply is taking some time to remember how wonderful things are for the most part. We might say that this is the background vibration or the context in which we will solve our problems.

The second step is to do something, anything, that makes us feel we are actively addressing the current challenge. This may involve trying to make peace with the person who challenges us. It may mean looking for ways to distance ourselves from this person. Or it may mean consciously changing the vibration around the whole room, office, building or city where this dissonance is occurring. This kind of intentional vibrational shift is just a matter of holding some intention for harmony or peace, finding a suitable symbol for that intention, like a fog of pleasantly colored good will or fairies dusting the whole area with joy, and then repeating that intention on a regular basis.

The third step is to look at what this situation is showing us. How is this challenge teaching us something about ourselves? For instance, we could be facing the challenge of a coworker who never stops complaining. This coworker may see him or herself constantly as a victim and that victimhood has become such a part of their identity that no suggestions to the contrary will have any effect.

How we react to this person is our choice. We can be invested in anger, disgust, sadness, or all three. Or we could choose something else. We could choose to react with pity and just ignore the person while holding on to an idea that he or she is pathetic. We could choose to say to ourselves that this person was put along my path to show me something and I'll look for that lesson in this situation. We might even choose to bless this person for driving home to us the importance of keeping our vibration as high as possible so that we don't end up just like this person.

There are plenty of situations where we can't see how we are responsible for their occurrence. But we are responsible for all of our reactions to those situations. Choosing the one with the highest vibration will keep us the happiest.

So how does that relate to criticism? At the most basic level, criticism brings us down and is a poor choice if we are choosing to be as happy as possible. However, at a more complex level, we need to acknowledge that some things are not working for us. We are unhappy or dissatisfied with our current situation. It is at this moment, the moment when we realize our displeasure, that we can use these feelings to motivate us to change things. Yes, it is a criticism to say, "I don't like that!" And holding this feeling will start to make us sick. But, if we can take charge, use our personal power, and start immediately looking for a better way, we can transform our objection into the seed for a new reality. This is the empowered way to deal with challenges. But without using our dissatisfaction immediately, we wallow in the negativity.

So the trick here is to be very conscious of how we handle the things we don't like. It is quite natural to not like some things, to no longer like some things, and even to never want to get close enough to like or dislike some things. But we want to change our focus as fast as we can without ignoring problems that we can do something about. And there is always something we can do. We do that something as efficiently as we can, and then move back into our joy. We swiftly get out of the energy of criticism and let it catapult us into a much better space.

And remember, the most powerful thing we can do in life is to be happy!

Copyright 2015 Stewart Blackburn

Stewart Blackburn is the author of The Skills of Pleasure: Crafting the Life You Want. His website is:; email:

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