The Internal Bully

Everything we do or see throughout our life has had an impact on the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we act or respond.
There is an internal voice within us all, which we talk to and interact with. This is the internal narrative, which in many cases is the voice of something unresolved in our memory.
This is the whisper in our thoughts that creates doubt and concern. This is the idea that causes us to be overly cautious and overly protective of us to the point that we shut ourselves down or cut ourselves off from the chance of a new understanding.

Ever hear about people talking to their plants? Remember when we were in grade school and science class taught us that talking to plants is a good thing?
Plants give off oxygen and we give off carbon dioxide. Together, we make a good team. Remember any of this?
But words are words, right? And what’s in a word? It’s just a sound. So then any word to a plant would do the same justice.
Right?
If talking to a plant would help it grow, talk is talk, so then it wouldn’t matter what anyone said to the plant, right?

Wrong!

This has been an experiment for a long time now. In fact, did you ever hear about the store Ikea?
They took two plants, both of them were healthy, and both of them were fed the same nutrients and kept in the same standard; however, one was verbally bullied with constant insults and the other plant was verbally empowered with constant affirmations. Care to take a guess which plant thrived?

Now, the truth is not everyone is a cheerleader. Even if we are raised in a supportive and kind household, the fact remains that we live in a cruel world. And words, well, the truth is words are more than just sound. Our voice is more than noise that comes from our voice box.

In the beginning of this entry, I mentioned, everything we’ve seen, heard, experienced and felt has had an impact on our life. The internal voice, or thought, is based on our experiences—which, in some cases are not only inaccurate but frequently, we find that our internal voice or concern is based on an unresolved thought or feeling, which we’ve held onto for God knows how long, and as a result, we have created opinions on this behalf; we have jumped to conclusions because of the math we add in our imagination —we prepare for the fallout and the aftermath because of a mark left upon our memory.

Think about the plant theory, which has been proven, by the way. Think about the two plants, one was supported and the other was put down.
The bullied plant wilted and the supported plant flourished. These were just words, right? And what’s in a word, anyway? Apparently, there is more to a word than just sound.

Robert Fulghum once wrote, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can break my heart.”
This man is a hero of mine for several reasons. First, Fulghum is a hero to me because his book was by The Old Man’s bedside when he passed.
This was the first book I ever read on my own, willingly, without anyone telling me, “I have to.”
Secondly, I see Fulghum as a hero for the words above. I see him as a hero for being brave enough to write something so simple, so poignant, so true, so sad, painful, and so incredibly accurate.

Words do have en impact; especially the words we tell ourselves. What we say to one another does have meaning.
In the case of the internal narrative; in the case of our negative thoughts and of our own internal bullying system and furthermore, in the case of self-doubt, all of this comes from a series of experiences and past memories, whether accurate or misinterpreted, and all of them are based on some kind of unresolved idea or emotion.

Maybe you were picked on as a kid. Maybe you were bullied. Maybe you had the idea that you were never “Good enough,” or that there was something either physically or emotionally wrong with you.

Maybe this comes from a memory of deceit or betrayal, which hurt so badly you swore you’d never want to feel this way again. Maybe this comes from an unfair experience or an accidental incident that you were never meant to see—but yet, too bad, you saw this anyway.

Maybe the narrative comes from a family history. Maybe the narrative stems from years and years of neglect or abuse. Maybe all of this is just a phantom from the past, and again, whether any of this is accurate or otherwise, regardless, we’ve still internalized this to the point where we have sustained a moral injury.

This leads to sadness and depression, anxiety, insomnia, shame, regret, guilt and blame, as well as grief and alienation. I have seen this in several articles regarding moral injury; however, I can confirm the accuracy from a personal perspective. Moral injuries come from exposure to traumatic events or stressors. This can mean different things to different people; however, in the case of the internal narrative, the internal voice that won’t quit or let us rest can be linked back to this underlying tension

In the cases of our past, accuracy has nothing to do with our perception. In which case, the deception of our perception takes on an entirely different body; it takes on the shape of its own story, which builds and mutates to the point where the story and the violation becomes even worse than the occurrence itself, and in all actuality, our perception of the experience moves further from accuracy and more accurately supportive of our injured version or what happened.

So what do we do?
Isn’t that the question?

Maybe the struggle is a memory from something so terrible. Or, maybe the struggle we feel comes from guilt. This is not new to anyone; by the way, there are countless studies on this.
All studies lead to the dealing of unresolved tension — which creates anxiety because the mind only wants peace.
The mind wants to settle all accounts and solve the tension—but when the tension and the problems seem unsolvable —the question is what happens then?
Hence, the internal voice; or, hence the ideas that won’t stop spinning and the narrative that refuses to go away.

The fact remains that everyone wants to be at their best all the time; however the fact also remains that no one is at their best all the time. We all have bad days. We all have bad experiences. We have a life, which consists of our past, present, and our future. And in all three scenarios, all we want is peace.

I have been doing my own research for quite some time now on all the above. I have reached out to others that live with depression and anxiety disorders. I have sat with people that have lived with abuse and addiction, alcoholism, bullying, and come from split homes or violent homes.
I have spoken with people that have their own moral injuries, which they cannot seem to shake or get away from.
I have done this for my own personal data. I began this path because like the rest of the world, I have my own internal narrative, which has kept me awake for countless nights or triggered me in ways that prevented me from reaching my best potential. I began this journey because of my own pain. I wanted speak with real people about their lives. More importantly, I wanted to learn how to switch the “I can’t” dialogue in my brain to learn how to say, “I can.”

I have learned a great deal along the way; however, above all things, I have learned the effects of our internal voice and what this does to our spirit.
Again, Fulghum was right. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can break my heart. This is true.
This means I have to learn to resolve the unresolved tensions in my life. But how?

Step One: Cleanse your environment.

In my case, I had to step away from an old environment and create a new one. Just like plants need the right atmosphere to survive, so do we.
I had to remove people that had a draining effect on my life.
I had to change my interaction with myself as well as other people. Whenever I caught myself interacting with the narrative, I had to catch myself—I had to silence this and redirect my attention elsewhere.
I chose to eliminate certain behaviors.
I chose to stay away from people, places, and things that left me with unwanted or undesirable feelings or ideas.

Step Two: Create your own team

There is a painful fact that remains. Most people do not care. I had to stop telling people about my problems. Truth is most people do not care enough to listen and some just want to listen so they have something to talk about later.
I chose to limit my sources to a select and trusted few. I chose not to bleed out loud, so to speak, and instead, I gave myself the room to create a more personal outlet, which was helpful because I avoided the distraction of outside opinions. Choose your mentors carefully. Choose your support carefully and be mindful energy is like electricity —it just needs a direction. Positive support and positive role models allow us to choose to send our energy in better directions.

Step three: Create a routine and stick to it

So long as I was acting on behalf of my benefit, I found myself improving. Although humbled, and although my successes might have been small to others, to me, they were huge.
I gave myself the permission to create a personal commitment, which I have kept and maintained and held this as important as living and breathing.

Step Four: Acknowledge achievement.

It is important to understand where we come from and how we’ve moved forward. It is also important to accept our successes without distraction, honor them, acknowledge them, and continue to grow.
It’s okay to relax but relaxation and complacency are two different things. So, don’t allow complacency to create a false (or lazy) sense of comfort.
This has to become our mindset; otherwise, it becomes very easy to slip backwards into old, depressive ideas that will only degrade us and bring us back to where we were.

Step Five: Create a goal, a strategy, and a plan to pull this together.

Imagine a ruler. Think about the inches on a ruler from 1 – 12.
Each mark is a short term goal that leads to a long term goal. Now, consider the ruler, which has hash marks for the fractions of an inch. Consider this to be your daily incremental goals. The idea is to achieve this on a daily basis with no attachment to the outcome or the long-term solution—just move, just be, keep going, keep doing, and before you know it; you will turn around and be amazed at the things you’ve accomplished.

I will close with this thought and leave you with my personal story. The truth is I swing for the fences as best as I can. And I do this on a daily basis. An old friend of mine taught me to give myself a break and reminded me, “Sometimes a base hit is just as good.”

I had to learn to stop holding myself to unrealistic expectations. I had to learn this the hard way —and sometimes I forget this lesson, but the truth is it’s okay to let my past go.
It’s okay to not have the answers, to make mistakes, to live with depression, to live with anxiety disorder, and most importantly, I had to learn to allow myself the voice which says, “It’s okay to be me,” because after all, no matter how I tried, I was never good at being anybody else.

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