Tormented No More

I had an awesome session with a client yesterday. Really awesome. I was so pumped afterward that I was jumping around the office, looking for someone to high-five. There was nobody around, so I high-fived the air. Counselors do this sometimes… My client came in a changed man, and I did not see it coming. I did not expect it at that time. And it took me a while into the session to realize how major his shift was, too. So that made it even more cool for me.

Before he arrived, I looked at my notes from our last session, which was about six weeks ago. At that time, there were some major tests coming up for him that would affect which way his career went, including possibly changing jobs and moving to a new city. In all honesty, it hadn’t been looking too promising that he’d pass those tests. And since he called and made the appointment at the last minute, I prepared myself that the worst case scenario might have happened. That would’ve been okay, though, because we had prepared for that during several other sessions. If you just go there and get cool with the worst case scenario, then anything else is gravy (Maybe that’s not the best analogy for a vegetarian… It could be soy gravy, I guess. Wait, that’s kind of gross. Never mind.). And by getting cool with the worst case scenario, I’m not talking about jinxing it or wallowing or assuming a certain outcome is going to happen. We release the outcome completely, getting out of the “control the future” game. That game never ends well. Perhaps you’ve experienced that; I certainly have. We simply accept that this outcome might happen. “Yep, that might happen,” we tell ourselves. And we breathe deeply into whatever feeling comes up, like tightness in the head or chest or even a knot in the stomach. And it loosens up and moves on. And we know then that we will be fine if that “worst case” happens.

So he came in and the best case had happened. Excellent! There are tougher tests coming up, but he is a changed man. And he’s still cool with the worst case scenario. It might not be fun, but he will absolutely be fine if that happens. He’ll still have an excellent life. So how did he pass those tests? He got out of his head. Yes! You’d never know by looking at him, but he had a pretty rough past. His mother was extremely mentally ill and extremely abusive. His parents had divorced when he was young, and his dad wasn’t around until my client finally couldn’t handle living with his mother anymore. He called his dad and said it was time for him to step up and take over. His dad stepped up, and they’ve been very close ever since, still talking daily.

I mention the past because that’s what would constantly come up in the form of tormenting thoughts, tormenting mind chatter (read Thoughts 101, The Voice In The Head). Do you know what he finally realized in those six weeks leading up to this past session? He realized that he was the one doing the talking! If I’m doing the talking in my head, then why on earth would I talk in a loud, mean way?? That is crazy! And most people do it…

It’s literally nothing more than a bad habit, a painful habit. And habits can be broken. It might take some time, but it can happen much faster than you might think. He started the simple practice of letting go of that voice when he noticed it. And then there was silence up there. And then he would switch to his real thinking, which is calm, conscious, and active, as opposed to frantic, unconscious, and passive. It’s like a recording that’s always playing, unchecked. No more for this guy. He moves over to his real voice and simply looks at what the chatter was all about. Now he’s in control. He can look to gently see if those thoughts are true. He can look at what he can control in the situation versus what he can’t control. This is how solutions come up. It’s a different ballgame.

One of the thoughts that his mind would constantly bring up was a very old fear of abandonment and fear of being alone, which are pretty much the same thing in this case. He felt abandoned by his mother long ago, and he basically was. She was not a very good mother, and that was her best. I think she’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which can be pretty intense. Finally he had to leave, because his and his siblings’ survival depended on it. Literally. He’d been playing this abandonment sound track in his head over and over for years, and now he’s finally stopped to take a look at it. And you know what? He hasn’t been abandoned! And he is certainly not alone. He has a close relationship with his dad and his sister. And he has lots of friends. So that voice has been wrong for years. It’s screwed up some of his relationships, too, causing him to hang on too long for fear of being alone. He just didn’t know that he could stop, look it what that voice was saying, and check it out for truth. He had been treating it as if it were an external voice over which he had no control. That would suck!

No matter how loud your mind chatter is, it is not anyone else but you doing the talking. And you can stop it. And it’ll come back. And you let it go again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Over time, the volume gets turned down and it simply loses its power. Mine still talks all the time, but it’s a non-factor in my life. It’s like a little kid trying to get your attention. No big deal. This sounds simple, but for many people on earth right now, it’s literally the difference between living a tormented life or not. And your thoughts create your feelings, which we’ll be talking about more and more this year, so thinking this way means feeling much more terrible than you otherwise would. Anxiety, depression, etc. No bueno.

So take a look at your mind chatter and try to see for yourself that it’s you doing the talking! Then you have a choice to practice talking differently. Softer, gentler. And much, much less. Most of the time that chatter is totally useless, not accomplishing anything. This is 2014, and that’s an old habit from a bygone era. Take a breath and let it go. And don’t yell at it when it comes back. Don’t resist it or make a problem out of it. I’ve already tried that, and it doesn’t work too well… Of course it’ll come back. But you’ll see that that’s fine. And over time, it’ll become less and less a factor in your life. And your peace will go way up, for no reason at all. Now that’s pretty cool.