I know I’m not alone when I relate to having a case of monkey brain. I know I’m not alone when I say that my thoughts can be all over the place. I can think myself into a million different directions. Whether in the past or the future, I know what it’s like to not be present because my mind is somewhere else.
Enter the thought machine . . .
Safe to say that our thoughts can lead us in the opposite direction. I can say that I have thought myself out of opportunities. Safe to say that I have thought myself into self-destructive patterns and that internal narrative has talked me into sad dilemmas. And safe to say, I’m not alone with this either.
My internal voice can alter my intentions and blur my focus. This can cause me to quit before I start. In the simplest term, my thinking can ruin a moment (if I allow it to). But why? And where does this come from?
As always, it is best to start with the beginning. For example, where does the need to “Fit in” come from? When does this begin? Does this start with the toys we have in kindergarten class? Why is there such a strong focus on status? Why do we give in to the hierarchy of financial, professional or educational achievements? Why are we so caught up with looks, wealth or culture and class?
Meanwhile, we are all internally equipped to be successful. Perhaps we are not equally successful in all phases but the fact remains, we all have the ability to learn. We all have the ability to improve. We have the right to create a path for ourselves. But this takes practice.
My best friend always tells me the difference between a black belt and a white belt in Jujitsu is a black belt is really a white belt that never gave up.
I love this saying. I don’t know where my friend got it from but I know this is true. I also know that people tend to give up on themselves when there’s work involved. But it’s not work. Life is practice. Life is a constant evolution. We are never still. We are always moving. However, in order to have a say in our movement, we have to practice heading in our direction of choice.
Did I ever tell you about my first recovery initiative? This is when I decided to make a switch in my life. I wanted to find a new role for myself. More accurately, I wanted to find a role that empowered me to be my best self. Plus, I decided that I wanted a career that I was happy with. I’ve had jobs my entire life. Now, I wanted a new path but like anything else, this was a path that would take practice.
I was told to stay in my lane. I was told that my part in this initiative was small and that I should let the professionals do their job. Meanwhile, I had a supervisor that told me “Don’t listen to them. Just be you.”
My job was to sit with people who were arrested for heroin possession. My goal was to speak with them and introduce a program. We offered them a chance to go to detox, get treatment, get clean and if the need fit, the program could offer them housing as well.
If the person agreed, I was to inform a clinician on site so that they can do the paperwork and start the process. And again, I was told that I was to stay in my lane, which I did. I was told my part was done, which it wasn’t.
I can recall believing the narrative that I was somehow less than. I believed that my part here was small and the true heroes were the clinicians. I can also remember the power struggles between the different foundations who led this event. I remember the low blows and the arguments.
I certainly remember my supervisor telling me to stop speaking about my role as if I am subservient or less important.
I ended up on the front page of the newspaper for this.
I was proud, yet humbled. I needed to learn how to process moments like this. I was forced to learn how to deal with this without pride or ego. In full disclosure, I have never been cool or a so-called popular person. I was used to believing in my limitations.
I subscribed to the labels I was given – in fact, I have not referred to myself as a “Junkie” since this time. I do not talk about myself as weak or less than. At least, not anymore. This initiative taught me to be better,
I no longer allow myself to be part of conversations that belittle me or my life. I do not lend myself to opinions that cannot and will not encourage me to improve, be better or feel empowered. Most importantly, I no longer allow myself the sway of popularity or the ideas of being “Cool” anymore because none of that really exists.
I decided to change my circle of influence, which means I do not surround myself with people whose first language is abusive or degrading. I do not allow my internal voice to put me down anymore. I had to stop the screaming whispers of insecurity.
Although some of this is unavoidable in life, I’ve learned to allow myself the freedom of limiting these interactions. I find that atmospheres can be contagious. It is clear that anger can be contagious. So is negativity, cruelty, sarcasm and hostility. Then again, other things can be contagious too. Like say, happiness for example. I’ve always liked happy people (except when I was miserable).
I have been around bullying my entire life. I have seen bullies in the sandbox and in the playground at grade school. I have seen them in the locker rooms in middle school. I’ve seen bullying at the high school and college level – and I’ve seen bullying at work in the working world. I’ve seen this happen from simple or low-level jobs that go all the way up the corporate ladder to executive positions.
Where does this come from? Where does the need to keep other people down come from?
Is this from someone who is insecure? Is this only about insecurity? Is this a challenge that comes from our egos? Or, is there a simple answer which, forgive me on this because it’s not very “Mental health conscious” or something a life coach would say – but maybe the simple answer is some people are just assholes . . .
Maybe this is a product of our investments.
Allow me to explain:
Everything we do is an investment of time. The people in our life are all investments. We invest time and energy. This is not about money. This is about emotion and energy.
There are people who we’ve invested in so deeply yet we fail to see any return.
I can say that there were times in my life when I was speaking to someone and I’d think to myself, “What the hell am I saying?” This is an investment.
There are times when I felt out of place or less than and to recover, I found myself talking and saying things and in my head I’d ask myself, “What the hell are you doing?”
Why did I keep investing when I could have stopped the loss before the hole was dug deeper?
Sometimes the last words I’d say would repeat in my mind or they’d echo in a reverberation of insecurity. What I mean is the last words that came out of my mouth sounded so stupid to me that they repeat in my head. I’d try to find something to say and dig myself out of that hole. But, the hole would only get deeper and the next words I’d choose would echo even worse.
Man, there were times like this when I felt myself sinking and literally shrinking in size. I couldn’t even stop myself. I didn’t know how. Besides, I was already invested. (See what I mean?)
This is all fear, by the way. This is all of my ego-conscious worries that someone would see me as stupid or worthless. And I’d invest in this style of thinking. However, investments like this can only lead to emotional bankruptcy.
There is no harm in not knowing or having the right answer. There is no harm in not having the right thing to say. Seriously, it’s true.
We invest in our image and wear these different hats (or masks) and we want to be seen as good and deserving. However, the truth is we are good and deserving.
The fact that I am not a clinician or the fact that I did not go to medical school did not disqualify me from earning a position as a recovery specialist. The fact that my education came from practical experience and my specialization as a peer-to-peer worker did not stop me from being helpful. But more, none of this stopped a heroin initiative that helped change the lives of several people.
I used to own opinions. I used to own what people thought or how they looked at me. However, after years of being uncomfortable in my own skin and after decades of social anxiety and personal awkwardness and after living nearly my entire life believing old narratives and being miserable because I truly believed I was less than and something was wrong with me – I learned that none of this is true. Most of all, I learned that other people are none of my business. My focus begins with me.
My monkey brain and my thoughts that jumped from one to the next was something internal. Not external. I had to learn how to work with this and solve this dilemma. Otherwise, there was no possible way that I could be my best self.
This took work. Or, better yet, this is a continuous practice that takes place on a daily basis.
As I see it, insecurity are thoughts and memories of discomforts. I used to keep these thoughts and memories alive and well. In fact, my thoughts would habitually return to patterns of shame or rejective thinking. This is a case of subconscious programming; however, my thinking became habitual, which meant my behaviors came from an unconscious or “Unaware” place.
Deep beneath the surface mind, there is a little factory of messages and memos that move and control us.
For the most part, the mind can only focus on one thing at a time, which is why our mind creates patterns and habits so that we can function while undergoing more than one task at a time.
For example, if we walk and we are talking to someone, we might not be paying direct attention to where we are going but our body still knows to put one foot in front of the other.
Or, for those of us who drive in cars, there are times when my mind is somewhere else and my body is on autopilot and it just knows when to brake, when to go and where to turn.
The mind is truly incredible. However, sometimes the conduits and our thought patterns are in need of a new direction. This takes practice. This is when we allow the strategic mind (or the adult brain) to step in and stop the child inside. And remember, there is no emotion in the strategic mind. There is no rejection or shame or fault and guilt. There are only plans and strategies.
I used to invest emotionally. I used to take everything personally. But investments aren’t supposed to be personal. It’s just business.
I would personalize everything and then what?
What was the benefit?
Rather than feed my solutions, my fear-based investments nurtured my anxiety, which in simple terms, the plant you feed is the plant that grows.
I fed the weeds in my mind for way too long.
But I don’t do that anymore.