Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Monster's Under the Bed
Remember when you we a kid and you had that nagging concern that once the lights went off in your room at night, the monsters under the bed would appear? As adults, we experience similar fears that hold us back from stepping out of our comfort zones, but instead of thinking that they lurk under the bed, we learn that they really exist in our head. As with the monsters under the bed, we give these fears and anxieties life, nourish them by retreating or holding back, and allow them to grow and multiply, thus making them even harder to overcome. Here are 4 common types of “monsters” that haunt us as adults:
The Worry Wart- There are two kinds of worry: Constructive and Destructive. A certain amount of worry is important in our lives. We need a certain amount of questioning inner dialogue that serves to protect us from entering into potentially harmful and dangerous situations. Therefore constructive worry is quite helpful. Destructive worry is inner dialogue gone awry. It is when we begin to engage in negative self-talk and hyper-focusing on those thoughts instead of the solution to the problem. Common manifestations associated with prolonged contact with the Worry Wart include frequently questioning “What if…?”, insistent “I can’ts”, and the ever present “but…” as a counter to any and all solutions. The best tools to battle this creature are acceptance & assurance. This means accepting the fact that you cannot fully control everything and assuring yourself that you are a resilient, capable individual that can and will overcome challenges.
The Twins: Fear & Anxiety- Close cousins of the Worry Wart, Fear and Anxiety pack a strong punch. As with worry, there are healthy levels of fear and anxiety that are innate in all of us and serve a productive and protective function. However excessive fear and anxiety, especially that which is vastly out of proportion with the stressor itself, can be paralyzing. Keeping your physical and mental self at such a high state of panic for prolonged periods of time is unhealthy. When attempting to confront excessive fear and anxiety, it is important to figure out what your triggers are and utilize the same tools as with the Worry Wart. Additionally, adding self-regulation into the mix is essential. Self-regulation refers to deliberate attempts to calm down and return to a neutral state of being. Luckily, we are all well versed in self-regulation because we are forced to engage in it on a daily basis. It gets us through things like being stuck in traffic, waiting in long lines, and other annoying realities of life. Common types of self-regulation include deep breathing, reassurance, meditation, exercise, visualization, thought stopping, yoga, and affirmations.
The Green-eyed Monsters (GEMs)- Jealousy and Envy are tricky creatures who are often mistaken for one another. Jealousy has more to do with perceiving a threat or a loss of something that you already have. This can be a threat to one’s status (another pretty girl walks into the room and takes attention off of you), a threat to one’s relationships (a new friend starts to become very close to your best friend), and a general perception of possible loss. Envy on the other hand, has to do with longing to possess something that others have and that you do not. What GEMs have in common is that they are both masks of insecurity. This can speak to underlying uncertainty of whether or not we have what it takes to remain “on top” or feelings of inadequacy and inferiority if we cannot keep up. Anger, distrust, and resentment can manifest from GEMs and often cause us to damage relationships and/or tear others down to try to alleviate feelings of negative self-worth and insecurity. However, these tactics tend to have the opposite effect, briefly making us feel superior, but often leading to feeling worse in the long run. If the GEMs appear to be rearing their ugly heads frequently in your life, the best way to combat them is with self-awareness. Catch yourself in the act and ask what purpose the jealousy or envy is serving. You may want to ask yourself: Are there goals that you want to reach that have been on the back burner? Is it hard to relinquish control? Are you not getting enough out of a relationship? Do you expect perfection from yourself and/or see it in others?
From there, you can make a conscious effort to work on viewing yourself positively, changing your inner dialogue, and learning to accept yourself and others.
Hatred-Whether it be directed toward oneself, others, or both, hatred is an extremely broad topic and is probably the most difficult monster to overcome. Self-hatred can stem from feelings of shame, guilt, and inferiority. The difficult thing about self-hatred is that the loathing becomes so ingrained, that it torturing and devaluing oneself starts to be comforting and routine. Like the GEMs, hatred of others is also a veil used to disguise insecurity as well as grief. In the end, it ends up doing more harm than good and is responsible for much of the violence and intolerance in the world. C.F. Alford proposed that “Hatred is self-chosen bondage to another in order to give meaning, structure and connection to a fragile self.” Ultimately, the route to overcoming all hatred is acceptance---acceptance that we are all imperfect human beings and that we all have positive qualities to contribute to the world and flaws that make us who we are.
Facing the monsters in your head is not as simple as flicking on the light in your dark bedroom. They become habits that by nature are easier to fall back on than improve. It's not just you. We all have come head-to-head with these demons. But, we are all capable of creating change and it starts with making the choice to tame the beasts. Don't be afraid to enlist help and support from friends, family, mental health professionals, clergy, support groups, or an unofficial life sponsor or two. Make the choice, toss the mask, lift the veil, and confront the demons head on. The path to inner peace starts now, lovelies. You are worth the fight!
Photo Credit: Rosie Hardy Photography