As a creative mind with a personal history of deep trauma, I am highly susceptible to rumination, which is both a good and bad thing. Rumination can sometimes allow an ability to play with thoughts and understand various outcomes, but it can also have a very dark path, leading one into a labyrinth of painful memories and suffering.
To cope with the trauma, I have a technique to manage the painful memories, in order to continue working and remain sane. I have a Pandora’s box; it’s where painful distractions go into so that I can continue to live normally without being overwhelmed by pain. Pandora’s box has evolved over the years when the box alone wasn’t enough to keep it all at bay, and so the labyrinth emerged. This is the visual method for me to create more space between myself and my painful memories, and being a visual person, it is very effective.
Light vs Dark
I have two voices in my head, and no I’m not losing my marbles. They are inner voices, but I have identified them as light and dark. The light voice persona takes me into a positive mindset, the dark thrives on pain and self-destructive thoughts. They are both required to maintain balance, but I am prone to following the dark seductive voice.
I am profoundly susceptible to depression and anxiety, and nearly all of it starts in my head. 90% of the time, I can trace my snowball back to a tiny seed of doubt, planted by my evil inner voice. This voice likes attention, and on the occasion that I follow it, like an innocent child clutching someone’s hand who is leading them to danger, it takes me slowly down into the labyrinth. Now, if I reach Pandora’s box, which I have, nothing bad happens, it’s just a box. I won’t become overwhelmed with thoughts and images as I know it is all far in the past. It’s pretty empty lately, except for the few pathetic arguments that lockdowns have sparked.
When my dark voice takes over, it’s recently been after an argument with my partner or a rumination, drawing on a deep set fear or worry, dragging me into a negative thought train, and distracting me from getting work done, which then stresses me out. This is the conundrum I face several times a day, and like many people I am always working on this. So what do I do when the dark voice is in the driver’s seat of my executive function? There are two powerful ways to take control of the wheel and draw myself back to reality.
Back to the future
My dark voice says things like “you aren’t worthy,” or “you can’t do this”, and those are the words that automatically come out of my mouth, giving them power and slowly adding them to my belief system. But once I realise I am being led astray, I stop and think about the thought pattern and the scenario in question. I look to the past for where I was, and then look forward to a place where this thought has no place, where I am happy, healthy and where I want to be. The power to project a positive light on a dark thought is profound and powerful, and renders it innocuous.
The most beneficial aspect of time travelling into a future in your head is it creates space between yourself and your voice, allowing you to see the bigger picture and how insignificant this thought really is, because in the end, that is all it is… a thought.
Say my name, say my name
Have you ever been in the middle of doing something, or talking to yourself and stop and say your name out loud because what you’re doing makes little sense? It’s a very common occurrence, but what this actually does is allow you to realise that whatever you’re doing or thinking is borderline lunacy and you need to just stop and reset. Saying your name out loud immediately brings you back down to earth in an instant.
The dark voice in your head isn’t always bad either. It keeps you safe and in my case, humble. But too much of anything can be a bad thing. While my dark voice can seduce me down a detrimental thought path, it is not a frequent occurrence. I have had a few things knock my confidence and lately, it’s been the complete lack of human contact over the past year. COVID-19 has really messed things up for everyone, but for me, it’s removed the little things I used to do to keep my confidence in check, like yoga and pole (the ability to keep my body limber and joints stronger while conquering nemesis poses does amazing things for the mind and body). It has also affected my relationship, since two introverts who used to get out and do at least one thing together weekly, has reduced to nothing since March 21st 2020. I am counting the days until I can return to being the pretzel yoga pole queen I used to be and going to the movies weekly.
The dark voice pops up several times a day recently, and I have often forgotten the places that it can take me, allowing me to fall into a full on anxiety cycle to email someone I’ve never met but who might be significant. This is quite unlike me, and it was an instant notification for me to stop, take a shower, relax and realise that this isn’t as big as my mind has me believing it is. If I time travelled five years into the future, would that email have made a profound impact on me? Perhaps. Was the anxiety entirely necessary? Absolutely not. And these are the checks that I have to do.
Say my name. Acknowledge the lunacy of the thought. Time travel into the future. Maybe take a break, have a relaxing shower and reset.