I have a Journal of Terror and Lies. (I know. I’m weird that way.) Years ago, I decided to act like a DIY scientist—and began recording my anxiety-producing thoughts in a journal so I could track the results.
And friend, let me tell you!
If my brain was a Jersey Cow and fearful thoughts were milk, I’d have a whole lot of butter and ice-cream! Because I’m wildly prolific when it comes to scaring myself.
The money's running out
There’s not enough time
I’ll never be able to balance it all
I won’t be able to support myself
I’m not capable
They’ll be disappointed in me
Well, guess what! I’ve been observing these gremlins and studying the effects they have on my body. And here’s a quick run-down of the data. Pounding heart
Tense facial muscles
Edginess and irritability Which, coincidentally, are some of the same signs of trauma. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? Because the sky’s falling, folks! Except . . . it’s really not. After years of documenting the outcome of these mind-stories, I can honestly say that the sky has NEVER fallen. Not even once. In fact, everything I worried about always worked out.
The speech went well
My friend understood
My sweetheart forgave me
The money came from somewhere
The parcel was found
(And the seam in the ass of my pants didn’t split during my presentation like I thought it would)
Sure, crappy stuff happened—a relationship ended, a job fizzled out, my briefcase was stolen—but the world never ended. In fact, it got better. Something or someone else came along and all was well. Hmmmm. Here's an example. The other day, I couldn’t find my cell phone and my first thought was: Oh my God, I lost it! And guess what my physical reaction was? That’s right. FEAR. So I tried a different thought. I told myself the mobile was somewhere in the house and that I’d find it. And my body immediately relaxed. I called my cell to test my theory, but didn’t hear it ringing. Uh oh. FEAR again. But why? Because of my thoughts, that’s why!
Maybe it fell out of my car and someone drove over it.
Maybe I left it at my in-laws house and they’re looking through my private pictures! Or reading my texts!
FEAR! FEAR! FEAR! I dug through my purse twice and found nothing. Crap! Maybe it’s out in my car. Maybe someone smashed my window to get at it. OH MY GOD! I’m going to have to replace my phone AND my windshield! FEAR! TERROR! PANIC! I pulled on my coat to go look, but couldn’t find my keys. Oh no! I must have dropped them in the grass! I’ll never find them! More FEAR! So I stopped, felt into my body and b r e a t h e d. Then deliberately chose a thought that felt better. As I relaxed, my rational brain came back online (did you know the neocortex gets switched off during the fight or flight response, leaving us to react from the survival part of our brain?) And it quietly suggested that I look in my purse one more time. Calmly. And yes, you already know how this ends. My keys and cell phone were inside my purse THE ENTIRE TIME.
Nothing had gone wrong and my inner wisdom knew this. So what’s with all the terror and lies? Is it the Devil whispering these thoughts in our ears? Nope. It’s the reptilian brain working overtime, trying to keep us safe.
This, my friend, is a normal part of being human. But here's the downside. When scary or hurtful (or embarrassing) things happen to us when we’re young, these experiences can program our brains to overreact to things that aren't really a threat. I wasn't just upset about losing my cell phone. I was responding to an old, triggered shame about myself—the belief that I’m scattered-brained and incompetent. And my fear was trying to alert me to a pattern of thought that’s no longer helpful. See how this works? Our emotions are our guidance system! As we become conscious and tuned in to our mind-stories (and the reactions they create in our bodies) we’ll be able to better understand the true message of our feelings. Don’t believe me? Then start keeping a journal of your own. See if your worries ever (really) come true. I have a feeling that you’ll discover the same thing that I have.
And help is always there when you need it.
If you don't fully believe this, let's chat.
I promise that your life is meant for more than just terror and lies. And there's a bigger truth waiting for you if you're willing to hear it.
Sending you so much love,