How mentally healthy are you?
What is your bounce-back rate, aka resilience like, when faced with a set-back?
Do you lose sleep at night over-thinking, going over the same problems trying to fix them at 3am in the morning?
Do you have anxiety as you are about to go into meetings, or pick up the phone?
Do you get stressed at the sight of your to-do list, the next deadline or when you look at your KPI’s?
Do you have a panic attack when thinking about how you are going to make more money, get more clients or that you are going to have to work at the weekend because you have run out of time this week?
If you have answered yes to any of the above then there is room for improvement in your understanding of the mind and your resultant mental health.
So, to begin the conversation into a better understanding of your mind I’m going to introduce you to a few people to start to shine a bit of light on this. This is only a snippet of a conversation we could have but it’s a good start.
You already know these people intimately. They hide in the corners of your mind!
Jim Lawless calls them Tigers. Michael Neill calls one of them Bob the Homeless guy.
They are the voices in your head that offer a running commentary on your life.
I call them The Itty-Bitty Shitty Committee!
The IBSC that lives in your mind comprises of a group of helpers that you refer all your matters to for attention, investigation and analysis or resolution.
But, the important thing to remember about a committee is that it has no powers, other than those granted to it by the appointer- in this case, you.
You are the one, and only one, that can decide whether you are going to listen to the committee, whether you are going to take their suggestions into account, whether you are going to give them any credence for knowing anything about you and your matters based on their limited amount of information and biases.
In other words, you can choose to take them seriously or not.
You appointed each member for a good reason once upon a time. And they are all doing their best to fulfil the roles you gave them.
They each have their special areas to look after-
There is the controller.
Yours might be male or female.
Mine is called Mary. She is the Chair of the Committee.
She wants to know exactly what everyone is doing and why. She needs to know what the weather will be like, what to wear, what is expected of her, what everyone thinks of her, what is going to happen, what that look you just gave me meant! She wants to analyse what people are thinking about me. She wants to control outcomes to keep me safe.
Then there is Jane, the pessimist. She always looks on the dark side of life. She thinks people are out to trip me up. She thinks other people are better than me, she thinks I probably won’t ever make anything of myself, she has very high standards and I never quite live up to them; she thinks things won’t turn out well and that really I might as well not bother. In fact, to save my feelings it is probably best not to try and make anything work because, let’s face it, other people will always do it better and when it comes to picking up the phone- really? People will think you are wasting their time and won’t want to talk to you. Keep yourself small, don’t put your head above the parapet and then you will be safe.
The psychic, who I know as Sally, predicts the future for me. She has this amazing ability to see what’s coming if I take a certain action, she knows how everything is going to turn out. She works quite a lot with Jane and together they predict a future of doom and gloom where, when they really put their heads together, I am going to die old and alone! She always knows what my outcomes are going to be, and they are never good. She thinks it is safer to stay at home.
The fool is called Simon. He has Tourette’s and swears a lot at really inappropriate moments. He likes to tease and taunt me. He wonders what it would be like to jump in front of a train and what would happen if I took all my clothes off in the theatre or the queue for the bank. He has a very vivid imagination and conjures up the most bizarre scenarios.
By now you may be wondering who the mad woman is writing this article, but here’s the thing-
We all have these voices in our heads. They might whisper to you. Their presence may be imperceptible. They are often nocturnal and work at night time.
They are like the ring and run-away boy who presses the bell and then says, “It wasn’t me!” and then it looks like it was “our” thought and that it has something to tell us that we need to listen too.
There is a whole industry out there built on trying to help you get control over the committee. You might be encouraged to name and shame them, to turn their volume down, to shrink them, to change their voice, to put a cheer-leaders outfit on them, to sack them from their job and turn them from demons into angels. Tools and techniques to put their words into boxes, bound by a chain and thrown into the bottom of the sea.
But let me save you a whole lot of effort, time and money.
Mary, Jane, Sally and Simon all have one thing in common. They are all made of thought, trying in their weird and wonderful ways to keep me safe and avoid suffering.
They don’t want me to me feel disappointed, let down or upset therefore they come up with suggestions that they think will help. They are motivated by looking after me.
But what exactly is it they are trying to keep me safe from and why would they want to help me not to feel? Why are we all so god damn scared of feeling, as if uncomfortable feelings have some ability to affect us long term and won’t ever pass?
And isn’t it curious that in their efforts to keep me safe from an imaginary monster they are also creating my suffering via hesitation, lack of action, or even making a bold step, all based on insecure thought.
Do you recognize yourself in any of this?
So, here’s the thing.
The “imaginary scary monster” is made of thought.
The feelings that I feel, anxiety, stress, panic…..are the consequence of thought.
A thought knows nothing about my abilities, my future or what other people think of me.
Add more thought to thought and you will never solve a problem….and the chances are the problem is made of thought too- an imagined consequence that you have attached to a circumstance that hasn’t happened yet.
When Mary, Jane, Sally and Simon stop off on the information highway and come to visit don’t ask them if they would like to sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat. When they ring on the doorbell you don’t have to answer it! Let them drive on by.
Now, I am not saying that if I, or you, think to yourself when you are lying there awake at night, or sweating before a presentation “It’s just a thought” that they are going to magically disappear instantly. They are still going to turn up and try and get your attention.
But what I am saying is that when you understand how the mind works they don’t come to visit so often and a bit like the scary ghosts in Scooby-do, you see through the costume quicker and their power to have any power over you dissipates.
If any of your committee has been affected by this post please do feel free to get in touch, I am happy to talk to each of them in turn if necessary! …..and in the meantime Happy World Mental Health Day.
If any of this resonates with you and you would like to continue the conversation on the understanding of the mind and learn more then please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, call me on 07713626673 or come over for a coffee on me and let’s have a chat.