So, I’ve recently figured out that my front door is wide open, the lock on my gate is broken and my Neighborhood Watch group has fallen asleep on the job; uninvited guests are running around my house like they own the place! OK… so, I’m speaking metaphorically… the front door to my house is always locked and I don’t even have a gate. Truth be told, there isn’t even a real person I’m trying to keep out. So, you must be wondering what locks and gates have to do with anything. Well, it’s a strategy I’ve used for keeping only well-meaning and productive thoughts in my head and the less-than-desirable thoughts out.
Back in the day, I would entertain all sorts of negative beliefs. I pretty much left my front door wide open. Sure… Come on in! Mi Casa, Su Casa! It was like every PG-13 movie when the parents go away and the unsuspecting teen has a party for a ‘few friends’. We know darn well that it’ll be a free-for-all sooner than later. That’s what happens when we don’t self-monitor our inner conversations and feelings. We end up entertaining all sorts of cruel thoughts. Once they have free reign in our head, it’s almost impossible to get rid of them.
Over the years I’ve learned to personify the negative thoughts. I began to see them as separate from myself. It’s so much easier to win a battle when you can ‘see’ what you are fighting. Once I was able to visualize that these attacks were coming from someone who was intruding on my peace, I realized that I no longer had to allow them the courtesy of space in my head. No more entertaining the unwanted guests! You know the saying: Party’s over folks… you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!
I realize that it’s hard for us to admit, but I’d wager that most of us have had negative internal conversations that no one else is even remotely aware of… unless, of course, you’re like me and you’re comfortable taking your comedy routine on the road (or on the page).
As I mentioned in my previous writings on depression, the negative thoughts in our heads can be dangerous and horribly mean! They say things to us that are completely false. They take our greatest fears and ‘perceived’ shortcomings and make them seem as if they are our reality! They pretty much ‘suck’! It is obvious by the abundance of memes available on this topic ~ that I’m in good company.
Keep in mind that these negative thoughts are not mutually exclusive to people with clinical depression. They can show up uninvited to anyone’s door just like those unwanted party guests. I consider myself a positive person. I am a glass half full type of gal. Keep in mind that just because you have negative thoughts running around in your head doesn’t mean you are negative. It simply means you have intruders!
I used to be well trained in spotting a negative intruder a mile away. OK… so maybe not a mile away, but at least 50 feet away. I had learned to spot the negative thought before it came anywhere near me. I learned to be ‘on the lookout’ for the mental and physical warning signs that told me that if I wasn’t careful, soon I’d be entertaining unwanted guests. I was so good at it that as soon as the negative thoughts came close to me, I’d feel ‘out of sync’ and I’d know it was time to protect myself by not only locking the front door, but also going a bit further to lock the gate that leads to the front door. I even made sure to have a good view of the street so that I’d spot these negative thoughts as they walked toward my house with their arrogant attitudes! That’s the trick ~ you need to see them coming. You need to be prepared and proactive!
Well, I will say that I believed that I had made it a pretty permanent habit to keep an eye on the comings and goings of the thoughts in my head. I should have seen the warning signs. I should have felt an unwanted presence tip-toeing its way back into my daily thoughts. But, sadly, I didn’t!
Apparently, I’d become careless and had let my guard down! It happens to the best of us. As time goes by, and we become comfortable with our surroundings, we forget that we need to lock the doors. Sometimes it takes a rude awakening to shake us up enough to bring back the ‘neighborhood watch’ mentality.
The other day I was at the gym when suddenly all hell broke loose both mentally and emotionally! Of course, on the outside, I just looked like a woman on the twisty Ab machine, but inside the battle of ‘me against them’ had commenced. The little negative voices in my head (we’ll call them Martha and Penelope) were having an all-out brawl to see which of them could break me first!
Honestly, if I look back now, I can admit that I’d heard them whispering for quite a long time. I guess I was too busy to pay attention to them. But today they did not speak in whispers and I had no choice. Today they were not trying to hide their judgment of me. They were going back and forth deciding my worth and my future! If I wasn’t careful, soon their opinion of me would be my dark new reality.
The first voice I heard was Martha as she yelled, “She’s wasting her time working out! Why does she even bother? It isn’t helping her at all.” Then Penelope chimed in and said, “You do know, don’t you, that she has actually gained weight over her 6 months of working out… look at her! What a pathetic mess!” Martha jumped back in to add two more cents, “For goodness sake, can she even see the girl on the treadmill in front of her. Now, that girl is obviously more dedicated to her work outs because she can actually wear shorts that are above her knee. LOL!!!” Of course, Penelope had to get the last word by saying, “She seriously just needs to go home and sit down with a bowl of popcorn and a glass (or two) of red wine because she’s hopeless! This just isn’t for her. She’ll just have to face the facts that it’s all downhill from here!” They went on for quite a while, but nothing else is appropriate to share right now.
So, there you have it!! BAM!!! They were back with a vengeance. Negative thoughts are pretty sneaky like that. They sneak in quietly through the back door. One minute you think you’re a champ at defending yourself against negativity, the next thing you know you’re knocked on your backside!
As I twisted back and forth on the Ab machine, I had a choice to make. It had to be now at this exact moment. This was nothing that I could wait to tackle later. I had to step up and fight them immediately. I had to find a way to stick up for myself and tell them they were wrong. But, they were so strong and it was almost impossible. I tried and tried, but they always had a snarky comeback! I was on the defensive, but if I wanted to beat them and send them away, I had to be on the offensive.
This is one time where fighting fire with fire wouldn’t work. Every time I defended myself against their words, they’d just throw more at me. It was a vicious cycle. They’d say something demeaning and I’d tell them they were wrong. That obviously wasn’t working. They had no conscience, and they were fighting for their existence. I had to find another way to get rid of them.
I decided that everything they said about me was either based on a past experience or something that hadn’t yet happened. That was their secret weapon. I had to fight them in the present. That was my secret weapon. I had to look at my own reality based on what I was doing in this moment. I had to be in the ‘present’. So, instead of defending myself against their words, I came up with my own. I shouted loudly at them (inside my head of course, because contrary to ‘their’ belief, I was NOT giving up on the gym or myself, so I had to hold it together). I allowed my inner voice to rise up and shout:
So, once again, the doors are locked. That’s awesome, right? I’m all set! Well, yes… in theory. However, it takes practice. You have to start small. You will begin by noticing how you feel throughout your day. Are you at peace in your own skin? If not, then it’s time to check the locks on the doors. Begin to pay attention to that which you allow to enter into your conscience mind. It’s great to evaluate which thoughts bring you joy and which thoughts bring you pain. Eventually, you’ll be able to fine-tune your ability to evaluate your thinking so you’ll be alert and proactive when even the weakest of whispering starts.
Keep in mind that the negative thoughts, your personal intruders, will always try their luck again. They want to catch you unaware! If the gate is not locked, they’ll smile as they walk (slow motion) up the sidewalk to your front door. What do they look like? What are their names? Keep in mind that they will not be all too happy when they realize that the door is locked. They can knock on the door all they want because you are not letting them into your happy place. Send them away! They will have to find lodging somewhere else! Only positive thoughts will unlock the doors!
With faith and belief,
Cindy Gagne Teixeira
Just like you, I wear many hats. I'm a mom, a teacher, a friend, a daughter, a sister, and a writer. I choose to laugh (and talk... and write) about my problems because crying takes too much time.