Healing negative self-talk.

I have come to see a connection between self-hate and addiction. I have come to understand that negative self-talk is the same as eating junk food.

People know it is bad for them, but they keep doing it. Why? There has to be a payoff for any behavior we do, otherwise we wouldn’t keep doing it.

Children who misbehave do so because it gets them attention. Any attention is better than no attention. If the parents don’t make a fuss over them when they do something right, but yell when they do something wrong, the child will persist in the misbehavior. This seems paradoxical. You’d think the child would want to not get yelled at, but really the goal is attention. Getting negative attention is still getting attention.

There are plenty of people whose parents yelled at them all the time when they were growing up. They were constantly taught that they was bad, wrong, stupid. Their parents drilled into them how imperfect they were.

The bad part is that they often learn this lesson well. Even with their parents not around, they will often tell themselves the same things. They may hit themselves or curse at themselves the same way their parents did when they made a mistake.

Sometimes they will seems to set themselves up for failure. They will not plan enough time to do a project. They will leave things for the last minute. They are then constantly late and overwhelmed and making mistakes. It is a self perpetuating cycle.

The scary part – they are living up to their parent’s image of them. There is some odd negative validation going on. There is a strange payoff.

This self-abuse is the same as a person who constantly binges on junk food. Our bodies crave fats and salt and sugar, even though it is bad for us. We will overeat at a buffet and feel miserable, yet we will do it again and again. Why? We know we should eat less and eat better food, but we don’t? Why?

It is the same thing. We get a payoff. We like the feeling we get from overeating and from eating unhealthy food. We like feeling like we are bad, like we are rebels. We are rebelling against good by being bad. The “bad boy” is a hero.

We have to retrain ourselves to get pleasure from good things. Nobody gets excited about broccoli and lima beans. Nobody gets excited about going to the gym. The payoff is quieter. The payoff is slower. It is harder to notice.

Your brain works better. Your clothes fit better. Your knees don’t hurt. Your heart works better. Your health improves. These are pretty good payoffs, but you don’t see them right away.

The same is true with negative thinking.

Negative self talk is an addiction the same way that overeating and drugs are. And it is healed the same way.

We humans need habits. Instead of going on autopilot and living with bad habits running your life, fill up your time with good habits. Seek positive choices and do them. Leave yourself reminders. You’ll forget. That is a normal trick of the bad-habit brain. That isn’t you.

Sometimes our minds are like small children that just want attention. Just like with children, ignore the bad and praise the good.

Make an intentional choice to say good things to yourself. Know that it takes a long time to retrain your mind. Nothing is automatic or easy. It takes a long time to get well. Have patience with the process. Understand that you won’t have patience at the beginning. That too is part of the process.

When you do something good, notice it. Don’t dismiss it. Write up a certificate. Draw up an award. Write down a list of all the good things you did that day.

Don’t make a negative list (“didn’t wreck the car”, “didn’t get into a fight”). While those are good things, work on noticing the little things that you did right. They have a way of hiding at first. It will get easier the more you do this. Make it a daily practice to write down at least three good things that happened that day. When that gets easy, increase the number.

Give yourself easy goals to start with. You are taking baby steps, not running a marathon.

You have to choose to love yourself in a way you were not shown how to by your parents or the people who you were raised with.

Sometimes we have to re-parent ourselves.

Sometimes they broke us, because they themselves were broken. They didn’t know any better. That doesn’t excuse the damage they did. But it does explain it, a little. People tend to repeat bad habits. People who were hurt tend to become people who hurt other people.

You don’t have to repeat the same bad habits. You can heal that wound.

I’m not going to lie here – it hurts to heal that wound. Just like with a broken leg, sometimes it has to be broken to finally heal right. It is painful whether the wound is physical or emotional or mental. It takes a long time to heal.

But it is so worth it. Who wants to walk with an emotional limp all the time? Sometimes it is “the devil you know” so you stick with it, because change is scary. But trust me, press on.

That pain you feel from trying to make a good change is a sign of healing. Don’t run from it. Lean into it, breathe, and walk forward. It will get easier.

And know that you aren’t alone on this journey.

A lot of us hide our brokenness, because we were taught that our brokenness is shameful. It isn’t. It is part of being human, and being human is a messy thing.

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pain-notes-poem

Too much acid (stress) not enough sweet (soothing)

Pain is a symptom that the unconscious problems are about to rise to the surface. You are about to have a breakthrough. You are about to be born.

Take away the pain through counseling; the pain may come back in another way. The basic coping methods have not been changed. It is the same as a person who is an alcoholic who is suddenly deprived of alcohol. He may start smoking or over eating.

We have to have a way to fill those holes.

Quit digging them.

Learn to accept them and realize they will never be filled. You are human and holes are normal.

See the desire to turn away from getting better, from whatever positive change you are doing- is your unconscious mind trying to protect itself.

It doesn’t want these hard emotions to come out. It is afraid of being embarrassed. It is not wise enough to know that if they are cleaned out, the job is done. You aren’t embarrassed. It is over.

Or perhaps it is afraid – it thinks it won’t have a job anymore.

Our body craves sweets and fats when we are depressed, which only make us more depressed. If we stand up to it and impose our conscious will, we will choose good things and break the cycle.

The same is true of thoughts and actions.

Look for unconscious habits.

Add intentional good habits to counter them.

One size

I think we have lost something with not making our own clothes. We have tried to fit ourselves into a certain mold that isn’t us.

There is no such thing as one size fits all. Sure, one thing covers all, but it sure doesn’t fit.

Premade clothes don’t fit our style in any meaningful way. We are all different and special. We are all one of a kind. Our clothes are extensions of our personalities and show the world something of who we are. How can we possibly express our uniqueness by picking something off the rack at Walmart? Why does Target get to tell me what I want to wear?

Then there is the idea of actual fit. We all have different shapes. Some are taller, some are rounder, some have bumps in different places. It isn’t wrong, just different. When we try to put our unique shape into something off the rack, we are guaranteed to feel that we don’t measure up.

This is a lie. We don’t need to measure up to a generic standard. We aren’t generic. We are each different and that is perfect.

So realize that if the clothes don’t fit, it isn’t your fault.

Beaten

If you are a people watcher, working in the library is one of the greatest jobs ever. You don’t have to wonder about people’s stories. They come right up to you and tell you most of the time. But sometimes I get a real stumper.

Yesterday I saw a lady who had a sign taped on her bag with two-inch packing tape. It was a full legal sheet of paper where she had scrawled “John Smith had me beaten up”

Notice the verb tense. Not “John Smith beat me up.” It was something that was contracted out. So there was an extra party in this story.

Of course the name wasn’t John Smith. I don’t recall the name. Her handwriting was messy. The name looked like a Hispanic name, but that is all. I’ve chosen a generic name.

This confused me. Why would anybody do this?

Is she trying to shame him?

Is she trying to show she is a victim?

Maybe a little of both?

Or something else?

She was in her mid 50s, about 100 pounds and 5 feet tall. She wore sweatpants. Her hair was very black and very short. Her accent sounded like she was from New York. She was friendly enough, but a little jumpy. I’m giving you this information so you have as much to go on as I do.

Sometimes I only have puzzle pieces. I hope to see her again. This was the first time I have seen her. Perhaps I’ll ask her about the sign if I see her again. Obviously it isn’t a secret if she has it taped on her bag.

There are plenty of things I would like to ask patrons about, but I don’t because it seems like it is not my place. But the best part is, I usually don’t have to ask. They just tell me anyway. I have no idea if it is just part of the job or something they see in me that says “tell all your private information”. This never happened when I worked retail. Some days I feel like I’m in a confession booth or a counselor’s office. Of course, if I was, I couldn’t write about it.