“Leading behavioral researchers have told us that as much as seventy-seven percent of everything we think is negative, counterproductive, and works against us. At the same time, medical researchers have said that as much as seventy-five percent of all illnesses are self-induced.”
“What we become a part of becomes a part of us.”
― Shad Helmstetter
I once broke one of the worst habits I’ve ever had. The relief was immense. It was a huge burden lifted from me and it changed my life.
However that habit is pretty insidious and over the last few months it has sneakily crept in and I didn’t even notice until I was caught up in a near deadly maelstrom and meltdown that was leading to destruction—and I mean that. Something that could endanger my very life.
The maelstrom? Fantasy. Un-reality.
The addiction? Talking to myself.
Not that talking to myself is a bad thing. Saying things like, “Not don’t forget the salt and the syrup,” as I go into the grocery story is a good thing. Saying positive things to myself is life affirming and that’s good. Mantras are powerful. Or maybe thinking through what I’ll say in a job interview or putting together the beginning of a speech—all that is good. Maybe even role-playing out a possible situation you are about to enter to prepare for what could happen—to put the best forward and to be able to stand strong.
The problem comes in role-playing out a situation with a person who isn’t there when it’s never going to happen. Endless scenarios that will never happen—for whatever reason.
Here are some examples in my life:
For some reason my ex has reared his ugly head into my imagination of late. I’ve talked to him endlessly asking him why he cheated on me, why—and this is after over fifteen years!—he still says horrible things about me, sometimes in public forums. I reason with him. I make long speeches asking why he’s still holding onto anger for me—especially when (of God!) I was the wrong party (and aren’t we always the wronged party?). I spend hours advising him about how to let go and move on and become a better man.
Then there’s my supervisor (and I am not even talking about the Evil Team Leader). I spent all day—a twelve hour shirt—explaining to her why I’ve so negative at work recently and how it’s all her fault and shy she’s a terrible supervisor and human being and (oh God!) how one day—if what she professes to believe in is real—then she’s going to have to look at her God on Judgement Day and explain why she did so many people wrong with the excuse, “It’s not personal—it’s just business.” In this same ludicrous scenario in my head I would say, “How much weight do you think that will have with your God? Do you think He’ll say, ‘Oh! Okay! It was business. That’s all right then.’”
I was so agitated by the end of the day, so caught up in these conversations that never happened, I couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep when I got home—snapped at my husband and even the dogs—and I couldn’t stop!
I was a wreck.
I’ve spent hour after hour after hour asking my no-longer best friend xxx why he, “Did me wrong!” I presented—as if before a court of law—the dozens of ways he’d hurt me and “wronged” me—I saw him standing before me! How he’d lied to me and twisted things and taken advantage of me (me! me! me! me!) and never once apologized to me in all the years we’ve been friends. Never so much as a, “Gosh Ben! Sorry! The time got away from me. I didn’t mean to be late.”
I bet I’ve spent hundreds of hours fraught and ensnarled in imaginary conversation with him.
Because I already KNOW that when I have had conversations with these people (and others) and they always turn it around and tell me the problem is me. They don’t take one iota of responsibility for anything that might have been their part of what happened. These people totally reinvent what happened (it won’t even be close to how I remember what happened), ignore my questions completely and then accuse me of such behaviors as “passive aggression.”
Passive aggression! Talk about a new phrase that is over used and misdiagnosed! It’s as misused as Ritalin. Passive aggression isn’t being wimpy about coming to someone and trying to fix what’s wrong because you are so emotionally abused you’re afraid to stand up for yourself!
And I take such satisfaction when other people who witness some of this stuff either take my side or at least tell me that these other versions of what happened aren’t even close to what happened. Like I need some kind of verification to keep living or something! Buddhism refers to this as ego. Or dogged need to be something, and especially “right.”
So if I know that if I had a real conversation with these people and nothing would be solved—even though I am a writer and my imagine soliloquies are pretty impressive (if I do say so myself)—then why would I use so much energy on these imagined conversations??
It’s not reality.
These all day “conversations” don’t relieve pressure, they increase it.
It’s not like having conversations with ourselves that we can never have in real life is all bad. For instance, having a little talk with someone that has died and we never had closure with has been proven to help—especially if we are asking forgiveness or giving it. Or a good idea is to set a timer and sit and have a one of the above conversations—but to STOP when that timer goes off!
A reason why these role-playing sessions is so bad for us is that is almost always detrimental to us instead of helpful. It causes tremendous pressure and stress has been shown to lower our immune system, make us sick, and all kinds of other problems.
Dr. Denis Waitley took a visualization process that was developed for NASA and instituted it in the Olympic program and called it Visual Motor Rehearsal. “When you visualize, then you materialize,” he states. The interesting thing about the mind was that when they took athletes had hooked up to sophisticated biofeedback equipment and had them run their even only in their mind. What they found out as that the same muscles fired, in the same sequence, when they were running the race in their mind, as when they were running it on the track. They concluded that the mind couldn’t distinguish if something was really being done or whether it’s some mental practice.
So how much damage have I done to myself having these useless conversations in my mind?
I decided it was time to stop. I had to!
How much energy had I wasted making up these conversations that did me no good—in fact they harmed me—that I could have used making up conversation for my characters to go into my novels? I haven’t written much fiction in at least a month. I’ve been using all the creative (re: destructive) potential on something damaging instead of inventive!
Because these conversations are NOT REAL! They haven’t been helpful. They’ve been destructive. My mind couldn’t distinguish if something was really happening or whether it was some imagined. The real conversation would have been a disaster—I know that from experience. Why did I think going over and over and over it in my mind that something might be better? It was crazy!
I thought it would be hard to break the habit.
To my surprise it’s been relatively easy.
Not that I don’t slip into it again and again, but quickly (and sooner each time) I hear myself doing it and make myself stop. Or I give myself five minutes and watch the clock. The relief has been stunning! The stress level has plunged! I’ve felt better. Happier. Gaining great amounts of positivity.
I am breaking a very bad habit.
And I think—no, I know—that this is getting me around another sharp bend in the road and finally sending me toward the gates that surround my dreams.
Look out! The fiction—the entertaining kind—is about to flood the world!