I have a sticky brain.
At least that’s what I call it. I get thoughts and they stick to me, cycle in my head.
These can be good thoughts, like day dreams, planning for a big event or the outline for a new story. But these thoughts can also be bad; my mind riddled with negative self-talk.
The good obsessions are great. They fuel me, push me farther, inspiring me to do amazing things.
On the other hand the negative obsessions are awful. They’re like little gremlins that whisper in my ear, sucking me down. An inner dialogue emerges in my head, a thought loop, where a negative thought enters my brain, and I try “fixing” it by telling myself everything is fine. It’s like an alcoholic and his enabler wrapped into one head….yes, a little nutty.
It looks sort of like this-
Gremlin One: “Oh my god you’re so fat!”
Gremlin Two: “No. It’s just how you looked in that one picture.”
Gremlin One: “But you saw the scale. You gained two pounds in just a day! You’re a horrible failure.”
Gremlin Two: “Weight fluctuates. You’re fine.”
Gremlin One: No, I’m not. I can see the thickness on my thighs.
Thought loops never lead to anything good, because they’re just that. Loops. I’ve got dialogues for all sorts of problems. Each one embarrassing and torturous in its own way.
And so, after living with gremlins my whole life I’ve decided to try something.
Whenever I recognize myself in a loop I shout in my head “No!” That’s it.Nothing more. I know it sounds silly.
I’m not a black and white, wrong and right sort a gal, so this feels very odd. I don’t yell at my kids in this way, nor would I yell at a friend, or my husband like this.
But these little gremlins are not friends, they feed off of ambiguity. They love the realm of “not knowing”:“Am I a good friend or a bad one?”, “Am I doing the right thing or failing miserable?” ,“Do they like me or hate me?”
The truth is everything in life is ambiguous. I know that no amount of gremlin banter is going to find an answer to my fears. So rather than feed them I’ve decided to give them a short abrupt, irrefutable answer. All there can be in that single moment of my little wild brain is a single word. “No.”
No questions. No worries. No reassurance. No fail. No win. Just NO.
To keep me staying true to my bizarre plan, I’ve randomly left notes in my phone calendar. Every day or two I get a message from myself saying “Just Say No” or “Don’t forget! Say No.” or “Are you still obsessing”?
I’ve started small, attaching the “no” rule to just one obsession. So far, four days in and its working well. The thoughts still come, but they don’t stick. I hope to add a new obsession today.
My poor gremlins are bored. I’ve taken away their toys and they don’t know what to do. So, I imagine myself taking their creepy little hands, sitting them on the couch with me and saying “There, there, nasty little things. I forgive you. Now run along and please, leave me the hell alone.” Maybe one day with a little diligence I‘ll no longer be trapped in the quagmire of ambiguity and I’ll be able to step forward, confidently unafraid to say one simple word: No.