by David Bohl
Do you ever have conversations in your own mind… to the point of utter distraction or maybe even obsession?
I was talking with a friend the other day who had agreed to take on some freelance work. The work was of the ordinary variety, maybe even a tad on the dull side… and so my friend confessed to me that during the task, his mind took him to a negative place.
Uncertain about this new client relationship, my friend said he became consumed with worry and anger. Instead of enjoying the task, he began anticipating that the client would try to screw him out of money. In his mind, he was having imaginary words with the client, arguing over future payment.
After all this exhausting mental anguish… my friend learned later that the client was pleased with the job he did, amenable to the agreed-upon price, and even ready with a tip for the extra effort!
Does this ever happen to you? Do the “voices in your head” psych you out for no good reason? Do they hold you back from trying new things, stifle your real voice, or tell you to be on your guard against people who might try to take advantage of you?
In the coaching world, they call this “self talk”. Self-talk can be positive or negative, and I think we all know when our brains have taken us to the Dark Side. Negative self talk is your runaway mind getting the best of you. It’s self destructive, it contaminates our relationships, and takes us away from our goals, hopes and dreams.
The question is, how do you escape from that place, where the tormentor and source of your own misery is actually YOU?
I say, start by examining the REASONS why your mind is taking you on a trip to Unhappy Land. Then, look at what’s REALLY happening and how you can shift your perspective to change your behavior.
What’s the source of the negative mental dialogue? It could be…
1. Events from your past that have shaped how you form opinions today.
Did someone or something once make you feel inferior – as though you were never good enough? If it happens frequently, the backlash from such treatment can put us on the defensive, not just in that particular situation, but in every situation. This can gradually erode our self-esteem to the point that in our minds, the entire world is against us. Of course, this can’t possibly be true.
If you feel (or if people have told you) that you’re an exceptionally mistrustful person, consider the reasons why. Of course, it didn’t take a day to become this way, and it won’t take a day to make peace with the feelings. But an acknowledgement of how you arrived at this unhappy state can open the door enough to finally release pent up, negative energy. Exercise and hard work can be a constructive channel for this energy, provided you have owned up to the feelings. In some cases, it may even help to talk out such issues with a coach or counselor.
Did you ever notice that when you’re being challenged and stimulated, there’s less room in your mind for those naysaying voices to creep in? Let’s say that every day, from the minute you wake up, your mental chatter is conjuring up unpleasant scenarios and possibilities at work. You’re fantasizing about telling your boss off. You’re imagining what it would be like to confront coworkers who make you miserable. You’re playing and replaying old tapes of past conversations – things that should be resolved in your mind, not ruminated over endlessly. The antagonistic scenes play on, in the back of your brain, through your day’s activities.
Now, as one might assume, this could point to a few professional relationships that are in disrepair and need mending. But it could also simply indicate that you’re no longer being challenged at your job. Take an objective look at your coworkers. If it will make you feel better, talk over what happened with an objective, outside third party.
In the end, you might conclude that your coworkers’ behavior is mostly acceptable (and that maybe you’re being exceptionally hard on them). And that’s when it might occur to you that the person who needs to change is you! A new skill, a new vocation, a new scene – something to engage your mind, give you the opportunity to solve meaningful problems, and burn some neural pathways. Anything but the dead-end road you’ve been driving every day!
3. Lack of autonomy.
Let’s say that someone – your boss, your mother, your teacher, or whomever, requests a specific favor or action of you. And let’s say that the request is politely delivered. However, instead of simply obliging this person, you get angry. The voices pipe up and run your mind in circles, pulling you away from what you need to accomplish.
Why does this happen? Well, consider the pattern of your thoughts as you react negatively toward what’s being asked of you. Is it that you feel controlled by the person who is doing the asking? Is it that you feel above the task… as though your mind could be better spent solving a more complex problem? Or, is it that the task itself is needless, and you see a better way of resolving the issue?
If it’s the latter, then you might just consider breaking free from the situation you are currently in. Maybe you work at a job that doesn’t excite you. Maybe you live with someone who doesn’t share a “live and let live” attitude. Maybe you feel that you have good ideas, but you aren’t able to exercise them.
I think that when people fall into a routine, they’re less likely to recognize when someone is impinging on their right to free will. That’s because they’re so used to doing the same things over and over, that the “wrong” things start to feel “right” because they’re familiar – and familiarity is comfortable. But if you listen to those voices in your head, they might just be hearkening you to the beat of a new drum – your own!
Maybe, just maybe, the “voices” in your head have a message to share. The message is… it’s time for a change!
What can you do or say differently, to get those voices to start laughing and singing and cheering you on?
Care to share a story about a time when the “voices” inspired you to take action in your life? Leave your comment on the Slow Down Fast blog.
NEWSFLASH: I’ve added another chapter to my life by joining C.A.S.T. Recovery, a Los Angeles based outpatient drug rehab program which specializes in designing highly individualized recovery plans with appropriate professionals to support a client’s health, accountability, and success.