By Lisa Manterfield
I’ve been spending more time than usual alone lately and it’s not good for my head. I’m beginning to talk to myself and some of those conversations aren’t good.
When I’m busy working, my brain and I get along just fine, but in the evenings, when I’m padding around the kitchen making dinner, doing dishes, or folding laundry, the conversations start.
You know the ones I mean. I pick up an issue that’s been bothering me, something someone said that stung, or some other injustice or conflict that’s gone unresolved. Then I set about solving the problem, confronting the offender, and getting into a big fight in my head. (Please tell me I’m not the only person that does this.)
Usually I gravitate towards the worst case scenario. I end up working myself into a lather over something that hasn’t happened, and may never happen.
Finally, I have to remind myself that my body can’t tell the difference between real conflict and imagined, and so it’s busy pumping all those stress hormones out into my blood stream, which isn’t doing my health any good. That’s usually enough to stop the arguments – at least for a while.
I used to do this a lot when I was busy beating myself up over infertility, trying to figure out why it happened – or more to the point, what I had done to make it happen to me. I’d think of all the choices I’d made along the way and imagine if I’d started earlier and had children with someone who wasn’t right for me, instead of waiting so long for Mr. Fab. Does any of this sound familiar?
Once you get that negative self-talk going, it’s easy to convince yourself of all kinds of things that aren’t true. And is that really going to help the healing process? Probably not. More likely it’s just going to create more stress and give you wrinkles.
So today, as you’re going about your business, listen to what you’re telling yourself. We all have plenty of real conflict in our lives; let’s not add to it by creating more in our heads.
Here’s a good article that explains more about the science of self-talk.
Well said! This has always been an issue for me, and I’ve thought about it (and written about it) a lot. I am getting so much better at being able to silence those voices. It helps a lot. (I write about how I do it on my blog.)
Lisa Manterfield says
Mali, do you have a link to a post you could share? It’s easier said than done, so I’d love to hear how you do it.
I have big fights in my head all the time – you are not alone! But you do have to check it because it can really wear you down. I have been struggling with this the last several months.
Recently, my cat got sick; he had stopped eating and was losing weight rapidly, but he did not act sick. He kept begging but everything I put in front of him, he would maybe eat a bite. It is still not 100% sure what is wrong – could be pancreatitis, irritable bowel, cancer – but then the vet mentioned that not only are cats sensitive to disruptions (and there have been several as of late) but also to our feelings and emotions. I thought ‘uh oh’ – because these disruptions have been a source of great stress and I have been doing a lot of emoting over the last few months –
tears, but also a lot of rage out loud – when I was home alone. But in reality I was not alone. With medication he is doing better, is eating and has put weight back on but it took this to make me take a step back. I know that my feelings are completely valid and justified and I was trying to honor that. But it took my cat’s vet for me to realize that it can get away from you if you are not careful – and potentially and/or unintentionally harm others around you.
A friend of mine at work came up with the idea that in tough times, you have to learn to recognize what is driving your reaction to X. Initially when we had the conversation, she had said that you need to distinguish between the koala hugging you and the snake wrapping its coils around you. I had laughed because who would have put the two together? Shortly thereafter, I printed a picture of a snake and a koala with the caption ‘whose got me today?’ to hang in our offices. It has actually been helpful though. We now have verbal shorthand (Snake’s got me today). 2018 was a very rough year for both of us and while it doesn’t eliminate the pain, the fear, the anger, sadness or whatever, recognizing the snake over your shoulder does help you take a step back.