The downward spiral: a few tricks for getting out of the mental blender.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”
Like our buddy Yorick up there ^, I can be a bone head.
You and I have this in common. Few topics are relatable as screw ups. We all do them.
The difference in having a dense moment or two, and letting your melon mess you up comes down to a fine line at times.
It’s been in those moments, especially, that I’ve struggled.
I’ve been trying out a new strategy.
In the past when I experience mental absences, act out of sorts, feel out of rhythm, I compound those moments with a negative though process.
This process is something akin to self criticism. I like to think of it as trying to coach my way out of the slump.
A Navy SEAL once detailed his mental routine while going through the notoriously gruelling BUD/S training. In order to keep himself on-track, and out of the downward spiral, he’d asign nicknames and monikers to the moods he’d go through and the thoughts that would enter his head.
For example, one of these “characters” was The Coach.
Coach was an asshole who would berrate the wannabe SEAL, filling his head with self-critical thoughts.
We’ll come back to this guy later.
Returning to me for a moment…
When The Coach entered my brain, it was the beginning of the end. I’m no Navy SEAL. I’d end up in a situation where I highlighted my own failures and discrepancies, while being unable to act upon them. It was as if trying to focus on the things I wanted to fix made them worse.
Instead, I’ve begun giving myself permission to be in that negative head space, feel those emmotions. This, I have come to believe, isn’t the same as encouraging the self doubt and criticism.
That tride and true method of recovery has always, for me, been doomed to failure. Anytime I tried to bounce back up by kicking off rock bottom, I just ended up living down there. There’s a powerful masochistic element to wallowing in self pity.
By giving into that feeling of insufficiency, that unworthiness, I’d fuel the spiral, only speeding the downfall. At least, that was how I first looked at it.
Allowing those mental lapses and difficult thought processes to occur, while patiently waiting for them to pass, and acknowledging their existence, has given me the ability to recognize my own mental state.
This is akin to the Navy SEAL’s strategy of labelling his inner monologue. By providing names for the feelings and emmotions, he recognized what they are.
Being patient and trusting that the turmoil will subside, lends a feeling of mental resilience.
Allowing myself to be out of sorts, giving myself permission to be off-kilter, for a few moments, has ensured I won’t lose track of myself as I progress down the road.
“Gotta keep the main thing, the main thing” — Erik Spoelstra
There’s a piece of me that stresses out in these moments. A visceral, immediate reaction. An alarm bell. A voice screaming to get my shit together.
It can feel like I am doing myself a disservice, not vanquishing the negative mental state immediately, like I’m sudrrendering. Going belly up to my emmotions.
The truth, I believe, is that these emotions, that place of being, only has power if you resist. Blocking it out gives it a force to work opposite against, it becomes more real.
It’s the ghost from Super Mario.
Fight it, it’ll hurt you.
Turn your back and ignore it, it’ll attack.
Watch it, and it just sits there. Doing nothing.
Allow it to happen.
Be a passive observer, and trust yourself to centre your own thoughts and emotions after the course of enduring the wave of difficulty.
Treat it as an event you go through on your way, as opposed to the obstacle that will make or break it.
Just a thought.