TWENTY SIX: Brain Gremlins

Instead of a swear jar, I have a negativity jar. Every time I have pessimistic thoughts, I put a dollar in. It’s half empty 😦

We’ve all done it, we all do it, we will all continue to do it, because it’s human nature. On more than one (thousand) occasions I have submitted to negative, irrational or illogical thinking, sometimes it’s just easier to concede. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say it happens a lot. I’m self-critical at the best of times, it leaves me vulnerable to illogical trains of thought.

Exhibit A-Z; my last relationship. It was the single biggest commitment I’d ever made in my life to date. Well, packing up everything and moving across to the other side of the planet was up there too, but I wouldn’t be here if that hadn’t have happened first. But more on that another day.

I exhausted every ounce of physical, emotional, spiritual and financial energy I had, completely tipped my spiritual cup upside-down until every last drop was spent, into my last relationship. I was committed and was very prepared to get down on one knee when the time felt right.

But that time didn’t come. It happens, things fall apart, and life inevitably moves on. I since moved overseas, started building a new life for myself. She since went on to meet someone else. That’s great, I’m happy for her, I hope it’s an opportunity for her to grow, I hope she’s happy and healthy. But, grief for the loss I felt still finds a way to encourage irrational thinking. More than two years on, I still catch myself doing it. Not every day, but on the odd occasion when I’ve had a rough day, or I need to have a good little cry and flush out some mental sewage from my brain, it rears its ugly head;

“I don’t think I have it in me to love someone the way I loved her”

“What if we only get one proper shot at this, what if that was it?”

“I don’t think I can recover from this”

I first considered this as a topic for discussion when I was having one of those times, and these were the three statements that sprung to mind. The logical part of my brain knows that it’s all ridiculous. Importantly, I do not reject my thought patterns from this point in time, because I do not need to punish or criticise myself. I felt what I needed to feel at the time, and bounced back just that little bit better off at the end. At the end of the day, I am super handsome, super charming, super witty and, above all else, super humble. If Shrek can find love then surely so can I…right? Right?! In a world where I could watch a reality tv show about a man with half a dozen wives, surely I can find my little needle in a haystack, my little diamond in the rough.

As far as relationships are concerned, I will say this; we don’t need a relationship to define us, I would hope that a relationship would instead compliment the life I work hard to build for myself, and that we would each find ways to bring out the best in each other. But I’ll go into that another day. Because illogical thinking spans far beyond the realms of romance.

It’s not just about relationships, you could look at how our thought patterns can affect other aspects of our life, like work, social or academic pursuits. In those times when the plan isn’t going as smoothly as we hope, or we aren’t getting the results we expected, that’s when the little devil on our shoulder gets smug and starts talking shit.

“Your grades suck because you’re not smart enough for this”

“You’ll never get a promotion”

“Your friends only talk to you because they feel sorry for you”

Uh, excuse moi, shut up pal. I ain’t got time for your crap.

The number one purpose the negative little gremlin in our brain serves is to deter you from overcoming any kind of adversity you encounter. Because, god forbid, if you ignore it you might end up proving it wrong. And one thing the little gremlin has in common with us is that they really, really hate being proven wrong. Don’t you? I mean, I can’t relate. It’s never happened to me…

I have learned to manage the irrational/illogical/negative thoughts in my brain by disassociating from them. I started identifying those thoughts as coming externally from someone else, like they really were being thought up by a little gremlin and not my own brain. Not in an imaginary friend kind of way, it’s not like I talk to it…I save that for Kenneth my ghost friend…

By disassociating from negative thoughts I began to give what I would hear less merit, the words began to have less influence over how I felt and I found it just a little easier to dismiss them. Because let’s face it, you’re less likely to believe crap that someone else says than when you say it to yourself. I, for one, know that I would allow a negative comment I made about myself take up more space in my thoughts than I would some moron who hasn’t a clue how I think or feel. One of the problems with that is that I am never wrong, so hearing something negative from me makes it hard to dismiss. Wise man problems.

So if I was to offer any advice about being self-critical, it’s to put a new face on the criticism. If those words were coming from someone else, and not you, would they carry as much weight? No one knows you like you, so if they do carry as much weight, I remember some super handsome guy talking about it in his post “The Weight of a Word”. But I don’t know, I ain’t one to advertise myself, you’d have to ask him…

So this week, I will be challenging my brain gremlin to a fierce dual. I implore you to do the same!

En garde! And Happy Mental Health Monday

One bad chapter doesn’t mean the story’s over

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