Research tells us that we have upwards of 70,000 thoughts a DAY.
Are you aware of all of yours?
Perhaps you are most aware of your anxious thoughts: the ones about money, or work, or your relationship, your car, your kids. Worries about what might happen or did happen. Catastrophic thoughts. Or simply a thread of worry and unease.
Maybe, because it’s a particularly good day, you are focused on how blue the sky is, how light your step feels, how happy your thoughts are.... How nothing and nobody can squash your happy vibe. You’re floating on air. Maybe you’re in love. Again. Or maybe you’ve finally found the house of your dreams. Or your soul purpose. Ahhhhh.
But SEVENTY THOUSAND thoughts? Wow. You have got to know that many, many of these thoughts fall under the radar of our conscious perception. And how do they do that?
Well, they are ‘habit thoughts’. Ones that run on auto-play, auto-shuffle. The thoughts that run like background music OR like a reflex action when we encounter a particular person or situation.
And these ‘habit thoughts’ are wonderful when they are positive and self-affirming. But the ones that are not, well, they wreak havoc on our self-esteem, our self-worth, and our success in general.
Think about a situation like forgetting to send a work email. That might trigger a ‘reflex thought’ of “I’m such an idiot” or “I’m just SO forgetful” or “oh god, not again, I hope I don’t get fired.”
The ‘background music’ type might just be softly singing (so softly that we almost can’t make out the words): “I don’t deserve happiness” or “I’m impossible to live with” or “I never do anything right”.
Notice that these ‘thoughts’ have a few important things in common:
1. They all start with ‘I’*
2. They are all negative
3. They are all ‘absolutes’ (no shades of grey here!).
*Note: sometimes, our negative self-talk will sound like it is being said by someone else - often we will know exactly whose voice it is if we think about it (mother, father, other adult in our lives as a child, boss, etc.). Take note of this!
We’re calling these Mind-Gremlins.
Why? Because its an excellent way to EXTERNALIZE this insidious little habit: by visualizing it like a critter that tries to sabotage our success, happiness and JOY!
By externalizing - making this a thought or behavior that happens outside of us, outside of our ‘I AM’ status, a behavior or a thought - we now have MUCH MORE CONTROL over what this gremlin says, how often, and when.
In fact, once we become more OBJECTIVE to it, its really difficult to still feel powerless!
Now, we might have more than one mind-gremlin (most of us do), but we will always have a more POWERFUL one. The one who generally pushes the others aside. The one we cower under when it looks at us, and repeats it’s nasty messages.
So, when trying to identify our BIGGEST BULLY, let’s look at the FOUR MAIN TYPES of MIND-GREMLIN:
This fella is your strong, abusive INNER CRITIC. He generally barks nasty bites of SHAME, BLAME and GUILT. Drill Sergeant Dave loves to play the COMPARISON game: of course, you always lose in the comparison. He is disempowering and incessant - he just wears you down until you fall in line with your choices, behaviors and actions.
Examples of what Drill Sergeant Dave loves to shout:
Wilma is constantly thinking, her mind constantly spinning. She can tell you the possibility of failure for any type of suggestion in about 30 seconds. If you want to know what COULD go wrong, ask Wilma. She is so worried about the future, and fearful of the past, she is STUCK. Catastrophizing keeps her frozen in time, frozen in fear. ANXIETY is her constant companion.
Examples of what Worry-Wart Wilma hears whispering anxiously into her ear:
This guy firmly believes that if he CONTROLS everything and everyone in his life, then he will achieve happiness. Pressure-Cooker Patrick requires a great deal of structure in his life. PERFECTIONISM is his special-sauce, and the thing that keeps him spinning his wheels and prevents him from taking massive action. Perfectionist tendencies keep him SAFE but stuck. It also makes him hard to live with, because anything (or anyone) who is imperfect will constantly irritate his already fragile ability maintain a sense of zen. Because ‘zen’ comes from everything being perfect. Oh dear... A recipe for burnout!
Examples of what Pressure-Cooker Patrick has to listen to include:
Powerless Polly is everyone’s friends and savior. She spends most of her time making others’ happy, and generally feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. While the word VICTIM isn’t a label she likes (she likes to think that her tendency to be a people-pleaser is out of choice), it is one that fits the best. Powerless Polly whispers reminders of POWERLESSness, where life happens TO her, rather than FROM her.
Examples of what Powerless Polly hears on the daily include:
It is most helpful to identify the MAIN MIND-GREMLIN. The one that shows up most often, has the most POWER.
If you cannot at this time identify it from actual THOUGHTS (it is sometimes hard to recognize specific thoughts... they are often hidden under emotions and habits), then let’s work with your INTUITION.
Take a breath. Get grounded. Do a body scan so you can tell how your body feels (and release anything that is stuck before starting, if possible). Then start to read each of the examples for each of the types above. Pause after each and scan your body.
If your ‘feeling’ seems ‘ew, thats yucky’ but it feels outside of your body, then it is not likely a strong internal force for you. If you check your body and feel a little lurch in your stomach, a twinge in your heart area, a squeeze at the back of the neck - anything at all that wasn’t there before, then that is your subconscious resonating with that statement in some way.
Trust what you get. Go with your intuition. You won’t be wrong. Because there is no ‘wrong’.
Any one of these that you choose to focus on is something that will have a longer-term positive benefit for you in your efforts toward the goal of 'Self-Mastery'.
Woohoo. You’ve got this!
**Watch out for Part 2 in the Mind-Gremlin Smackdown series: Your Gremlin LOVES you (really!)**
Tanya Tinney is a mom of three beautiful girls (including fraternal twins), wife of an amazing entrepreneurial man, nature lover, wrangler of two large dogs and chaser of three bad cats. She is equally good at baking banana bread and whipping up a killer margarita.
Her passion is helping fabulous people get unstuck from their past so they can blast through current challenges and get really stuck into achieving their dreams.
With three University degrees and 14 years experience working as a psychologist, most of the time she knows what she’s talking about. The rest of the time she ‘wings it’ based on her own messy life experiences. Her approach is one of laser focus, empathy and intuition with a healthy dose of humor – along with a kick-in-the-you-know-what when necessary (and it often is!).
‘I Am’: Two Life-Changing Words
Spiritual Self-Care – 11 Easy & Fun Ways to Keep your Energetic Boundaries Clear (for Therapists & Mental Health Professionals)
What is my Soul’s Purpose?
A Different Take on Getting (and staying) Grounded.
Don’t just tame your Gremlin – REPLACE it!
Your Mind-Gremlin LOVES You (Yes, really!)
Why it’s NEVER somebody else’s fault (and why that is a GOOD thing)!
FACT: Patterns Rule Our Lives