Those bloggers are at it again.
Workout Mommy posted different categories of people who adopt a non-supportive role towards your fitness goals. (I love it that this post was inspired itself by Charlotte's post about Sabotage and how catty some people can get when they want to bring you down to their level.)
Damn both of them -- they got me thinking. (I hate it when people do that to me.) What do you do when other people try to drag you down? And what do you do when it's not other people who are bringing you down, but yourself?
Great Theories from D.W.M.s
John Stuart Mill, and a bunch of other 18th and 19th century
Great Theories from DVDs
I have a mini-theory that when you go to sleep, when your conscious mind clocks out for the day and your subconscious takes control of the night shift, you create a relatively blank slate.
Unlike Mill and the philosophers, I'm not basing this on years spent pondering deep issues in dusty libraries. Rather, I'm basing this on my years spent watching television. Ever fall asleep with the TV on? I don't do that so much now, but for years I'd wake up, after a dream of hair care products or great real estate investments, to find that while I slept a late-night TV show was pouring an informercial into my subconscious. Next time I fall asleep with the TV on, I’m going to make sure there’s an educational DVD in the machine. (Maybe one about great philosophers.)
In either case, I think these Great Theories have some validity. The subconscious mind often acts as a sponge, soaking up all the things that it hears over and over again and then repeating them back to you.
Trash talking to yourself?
Hypnosis, which is used to help people stop smoking or change other behaviors, tries to get past your conscious defenses and directly influence your subconscious. Methinks it works the same with things people tell you repeatedly in everyday life. Subtle insinuations that you’re Not Quite Good Enough will bring you down. Even if these insinuations are coming from that little voice in the back of your head.
An example: a few months ago I had to spend a week with a relative who's steadily grown more negative and nasty the older she gets. One day we went out to lunch. When we walked out to the car together, I pressed the Unlock button on the car's remote device, and nothing happened. The relative snatched the remote from my hand, said "what country are you from?" and tried it herself. When nothing still happened, she didn't apologize, she merely used the key to unlock the car.
After a week of incidents like that, all about how stupid I was, I found myself starting to say it first, just to stop her from saying it. A form of self-protection, as it were, but it was a hard habit to shake off when the week was over and I went back to my regular life. Hearing something repeated over and over was enough for my mind to make it into a recording that the little voice would then play back. I was stuck in a negative groove of trash talk.
Doggone it, people like me!
Next time I’m in a situation where someone’s trying to tell me how stupid (worthless/lazy/inept/insert adjective here) I am, I’m going to fight back. No, not physically. Not even out loud. Arguing with someone that negative is like riding a rocking horse – you never get anywhere.
Whatever the source, even if it’s a negative thought that comes from within, I’m going to counteract it by telling myself positive things. Something along the lines of Stuart Smalley saying ‘… and doggone it, people like me!’ Except meant seriously.
I don’t care if that’s simply a case of countering pointless negativity with pointless positivity. Positive assertions have at least as much validity as the negative ones, plus they’re a lot nicer company to have rattling around in your head.
Don’t try to reason with your subconscious; you can’t counteract negativity with logic. The negative thoughts bring too much emotional baggage with them. It’s like trying to reason with a very young, very tired child. Wah. Don’ wanna hear about dead white males talking dead Romance languages. Wanna lollipop.
Believe it or not, a positive fact about the phone company
There is a twist on this method that some people use to avoid thinking about something. Your brain can only hold so much information at one time. Supposedly, the reason that phone numbers in America were designed to be seven digits is most people can only hold on to seven thoughts at one time. If you think of an eighth thought, one of the others drops out of your immediate consciousness. (And then you usually going around thinking ‘now what was it that I forgot?’)
You can make use of this tendency to get rid of self-trash talk. To distract yourself from an unwanted thought, think of seven different things instead, as fast as you can. Try counteracting the negative thought with seven positive ones, no matter what they are. It works!
Don’t worry. Be
Don’t worry about becoming too annoyingly perky using this approach. If inertia doesn’t restrain you, other people will. With straitjackets, if necessary. Excessively cheerful people are as annoying as excessively negative ones. And negativity has its uses. When the cavemen encountered a saber tooth tiger, the positive one probably stood there and said “Oh, what pretty fur. I bet that’s just a play growl. Isn’t it cute the way it lashes its tail like that?” while the negative caveman ran away. It’s not always a bad thing to be negative, but it’s entirely too damn easy to let it become automatic. What I’m trying to fight is meaningless negativity.
How do you respond to trash talk? Does it ever hold you back from doing something you wanted to do?
I'm curious to hear what you think. I started to write this post a few days ago, but I stopped because the little voice in the back of my head said it sounded too stupid. Sometimes the little voice in the back of your head is talking negatively for a reason, but sometimes it isn't. (I don’t know why the l.v. is so concerned with me making a fool of myself. If I write up a post of incredibly silly fluff, as I have in the past, it just sits back in satisfaction and says “yep, I knew you were going to do that.”) And then I remembered this quote:
When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap. -Cynthia Heimel
Screw you, little-voice-in-the-back-of-my-head. I'm going to push the button marked Publish.
Quick, somebody! What are the names of the Seven Dwarfs?
[Etching of John Stuart Mill courtesy of flickr, as indeed was the cartoon.]