Playing old messages in my head makes me sound like a broken record. Negative messages I heard growing up rear their ugly heads when I am facing (mental) stumbling blocks or when I’m on the verge of greatness/accomplishing a goal. These ugly voices (I call gremlins) served a purpose for a time. Survival maybe? Protection from external thoughts? You see, if I think, say, or act negatively toward myself or my creative ideas, I’ve beat the naysayers to the punch. I won. So, I thought.
These negative thoughts no longer serve a purpose
Negative thoughts may have served a purpose at some point in our lives. As we breathe life into those negative messages, they grow bigger and stronger, and become the ones who are running our lives. There is a time to release those negative thoughts that no longer serve you. That time is now.
Life is filled with unpleasant, challenging, disappointing experiences along the way. There is loss and grief. The grief that comes from losing a loved one never goes away. For me, the grief of losing my mother when I was 25 years old seems to have shaped me who I am today. Grief has taken different shapes throughout my life. The loss of someone close to isn’t just a ‘negative thought.’ I’m referring to little negative, nagging thoughts that pop into our heads when we begin to doubt ourselves.
Those gremlins like to party
My gremlin thoughts seem to be waiting at the back door for just the right moment when I have accidentally left the safety latch on my positive thoughts unlocked.
They sneak in disguising themselves as helpful so I welcome them in. I let one or two in, thinking, “Oh, come on in. You’ve got some great ideas.” Then, the minute I welcome them in, they bring their whole group of family and friends. It gets pretty wild up in there! It’s like an out-of-control house party when the parents are out of town. But, hey! I’m still here.
Sometimes I am brilliant at taming the gremlins. Other times I am not good at taming them at all. When I have them lassoed and rallied, I feel empowered and am reminded that I am the one in control of my life.
How to tame those gremlins
When I’m in my head (where the gremlins like to party), I have the tendency to isolate and ruminate. I keep to myself and think about all of the possible horrible outcomes. Does that help me? Does that make me feel any better? No, it doesn’t. The gremlins say, “Hey. Stay a little longer and we’ll obsess about what will go wrong.” Then they snicker and say, “Ha! We do this to you every time and we win every time. You think you’re doing this to ‘be prepared.’ OK. Sometimes it helps you but mostly, it makes your whole body stressed, you don’t sleep well, and, you’re not laughing like you used to.”
Then, I thank my gremlins for reminding me that I have been stressed, I haven’t been sleeping well, and no, I haven’t been laughing like I used to. I realize I am worried about doing the right the thing the right way. (I’ve heard this called, “Analysis Paralysis.” Gremlins love this!)
Taking action in a positive direction
And, so I take action…
- I write a blog post. ☺
- I call a friend who understands my gremlins because hers and mine are very similar. (I think they might be cousins.)
- I go to a local networking event where I can interact with others and learn about them. (Learning about someone else removes me from obsessing about what I have going on or what I am working on.)
- I go to an exercise class at the gym where I can interact with others but mostly focus on the exercises. Physical activity gets the blood flowing and increases serotonin levels.
- I go for a walk on the nature trail near my house. As the trees arch over the path, they create a canopy of Mother Nature’s comfort. I’ll slow down a little bit and listen to the flowing creek. Seeing, hearing, or being in water always soothes me.
- I listen to a meditation.
- I seek out opportunities to connect with others and make them laugh. The connection and laughter always help me shove those gremlins out the door.
- I seek the humor in a situation. Here’s something funny (to me anyway)…I focus on humor, laughter, and improvisation. I write for this Positive Psychology People website and yet, I sometimes struggle with finding the funny or seeing the positive in a situation. Yet, after self-reflection or doing any of the action steps above, I am able to see my life from a clearer perspective.
With a refreshed outlook, I can see those gremlins as just little bumps on my road to happiness.
About the author: If you’d like to find out more about Julie Ostrow, please click here.