A friend called yesterday and left me a voice message.
It was a pretty straight-forward, not-at-all-detailed "Could you call me? I need to talk to you about something" message.
My brain did what I'm realizing it always does. It thought:
What did I do wrong?
Did I say something wrong?
Is she upset with me?
My instinct was to avoid calling her.
Stuff my fingers in my ears and sing, "Lalalalalalala."
If I don't call her, I won't ever have to find out (or deal with) what my brain says I did wrong. Because, you know, obviously I'm to blame for something.
But for the first time, I heard my brain as if it were separate from me. I observed this talk happening as if my brain were another "friend" berating me. And I thought,
Well, isn't that interesting?
Are you familiar with this pattern of self-doubt? Of self-questioning? Of negative self-talk?
I'm rather familiar with it. And I'm pretty sure it fuels and feeds bigger issues — such as my perfectionistic needs, and therefore my tendency to procrastinate. If I don't start something, I can't do it wrong. Of course, if I wait to start something (because inevitably at some point I do have to begin) and attack it close to deadline, then I drive myself batty because I know I can't produce "perfection."
So my brain turns that frustration inward.
Working last-minute again?
Now you'll never get it right.
I'm really tired of this pattern my brain and I have got going. We need a new relationship.
While I could spend hours (in or out of therapy) bantering about the reason why my brain does this, I'm not sure that's actually helpful here. No matter the "why," in the end, I have to make a choice to react differently. To relate differently.
As Sharon Salzberg wrote in her recent On Being blog post, "The Proliferation of All That Will Ever Be," it's easy to blame ourselves "for things we cannot control, rather than being empowered by what we can control, and how we relate to those thoughts that have arisen in our minds."
While we might have some control of our lifestyle choices, relationships, jobs, and more, we can’t actually create or stop certain feelings from coming up. The real sense of freedom and empowerment in our lives is not from the fact that we can think or feel whatever we want, but that we can relate differently to the things we do think or feel.
It's not an easy task. But for right here, right now, I think I'll start by calling my friend.