Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity ~ T. S. Eliot
I hear voices. Thankfully the majority of the time those voices come from people who are actually speaking to me, or through the earphones I wear on my commute home. But there are times, when I hear the voices in my head. Not all of them are friendly. Some of them are encouraging, especially the ones that chime in when I’m attempting a hard hike or a fast run or a steep hill on my bike. Those voices are the ones who say “you’ve got this!” “nothing lasts forever” and “pain? What pain?” I also have voices of reason, or as I refer to them ‘buzz killers’. “Perhaps you don’t need to buy those shoes since you have ten other pairs” “a helmet would be a great idea since you are riding your bike in traffic” and “do you really think you need to eat another slice of pizza?”
But I also have The Mean Girl in my head. I hear her voice loud and clear. And she is just that…mean. She is young, thin, beautiful and oh so much fun! She wears the Cool Chick persona like it was made for her and she constantly points out how I’m an Impostor. She likes to tell me, voice dripping with sarcasm, that there is someone better (looking, fitter, smarter, funnier) out there and when (my partner, boss, friends) find that person they will realize what an Impostor I am. That I’m not that great and I will end up rejected, forget the fear of being picked last for the team, I won’t get picked at all. A permanent bench-warmer. When I re-read that, it’s pretty obvious that I’m hearing the voice of The Mean Girl. But when I’m in the midst of her rant, when my anxieties start grabbing hold, her words are misinterpreted for a “gut-feeling” and I manage to find all the proof I need to support her bullying.
We all have “the voice”. It sounds different to everyone. I refer to the voice, in the general sense, as the Gremlins and they can run rampant, seriously, do not let them get near water! Someone who was once close to me referred to these voices as the toys in the attic. He would try to ignore them, to not hear the constant internal negative dialogue, but try as he might, the toys would come out to play. And those toys didn’t play fair. Listening to him describe his Gremlins, it was obvious to me that what they told him were lies, yet he believed them. He believed them as truths. He believed those thoughts to be who he was, at his core, that those Gremlins were speaking his inner truth. They most certainly were not. They spun a story. Manipulating and praying on his insecurities and he would find proof of what they were saying around him and within him, only confirming the Gremlins, never challenging them.
I believe The Mean Girl too. She lives in my psyche, she knows me inside out, she must be me, right? No. Unequivocally and absolutely wrong. I am not The Mean Girl and she is not me. All of the literature regarding how to tame our Gremlins speaks of separating the identities. Give the Gremlin a name, The Mean Girl and personify that Gremlin. Describe it. With description comes differentiation. I found two very important points in an article:
We are not our thoughts, but we tend to identify with them. Similarly, you and the gremlin are two separate entities. Don’t identify with gremlin and his words. Don’t trust him.
You are creative. Your gremlin isn’t. Gremlin is created out of your repetitive thoughts, beliefs and patterns. He has only limited material to work with. You, on the other hand, possess a boundless creative potential. That is your main asset. That is how you can beat the gremlin.
We are not our thoughts.
Our thoughts also take the path of least resistance. When I hike, I stay on the trail, the one that thousands of other feet have pounded down and made into an identifiable pathway. I’m not much into bushwhacking a new way to traverse a mountain. My thoughts are the same. The Mean Girl always goes down the same path. But when she starts ranting and bitching, my awareness kicks in, sometimes (hopefully with greater and greater frequency), and I take that Mean Girl off-roading. She doesn’t like it. She’s a bit of a princess and the bumpy, messy, prickly-ness of the new path causes her to abort her mission and retreat. With time, the new pathway will become innate, or so “they” say. My fingers are crossed.
Noticing my thoughts is the first step in taming them. Just simply noticing them. Not analyzing, not trying to figure them out, but just simply noticing.
My cycling coach was telling a story about how he took his ten year old daughter on her first overnight, hike in, camping experience. He said that for the first hour, approximately every 5 minutes, he heard the question, “how much further?” The class chuckled, this was not a surprising story. Then he said, “after about the nine millionth time she asked, I stopped responding. I realized I didn’t have to respond to her question. And you know what? she stopped asking.”
It was one of those moments. A moment where my perspective completely changed. I can notice my thoughts, I can write them down to identify the patterns for which they take, I can challenge them with actual facts and figures, but I can also choose NOT to respond to them. I can push the ignore button. Acknowledgement fuels The Mean Girl. She wants to be heard, listened to, acknowledged. Without acknowledgement she might just shut up.
The Mean Girl still chirps and rants and makes her snide comments. And I still listen, sometimes. I’m working on it. I can still hear her voice and her monologue, and she really is a Mean Girl.
What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. ‘Who am I, then?’ The one who sees that ~ Eckhart Tolle
‘Taming your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way’ – Rick Carson http://www.tamingyourgremlin.com