Angelique is the creator of FoodtoThink website. The blog was born out of a need to share the experience of surviving trauma. Angelique’s husband’s cancer diagnosis triggered PTSD as the intensity brought on childhood trauma experience.
My mind is constantly chatting away. I’m quite sure it is the same for you. Who is it that we are talking to and what is it that are we saying to ourselves?
One of my recent realisations is that I do have control over where my mind takes me and how I can converse back with the thoughts, I can discuss and bring logic into the conversation. Let’s face it, the mind chatter and conversation is going to happen, whether we like it or not, so with a little witness coming into the conversation, I started seeing how I can ‘watch’ what is happening. Witness/Watch: I like these words. I knew this to be true on a theoretical level, after all, if I am the Ay-Ay-Cap’n of my Ship, who else is going to direct the boat here? I have been a practising meditator for many years (no not mediator, but maybe meditation is a bit like mediation now that I think of it, mediating with the mind?), and this ‘witness state’ is spoken of in many scriptural texts. Although, sometimes when the penny drops, it can be the same penny that dropped years ago, but the penny has now dropped a little deeper. Also, for some reason, with the onslought of difficult times, I just kinda forgot.
Pain is seductive, personal pain has a sense of vindication about it, empowerment, especially when you really feel you have been wronged against. It’s satisfying, it’s juicy. It’s the basis of what we have built our society on, that sense of righting the wrongs. It is how we have progressed. Anger covers pain and pain covers anger. We stand up for what we believe to be right. We all love this story, many a Hollywood movie has this theme. Yet, everyone also seems to have the goal to move away from pain and toward happiness. There is a fine line between ‘fake it til you make it’ mental attitude (which can be a little Stepford-ish) and then really doing the work involved. If thoughts are leading to an emotional state (uplifting or degrading), and if the emotional/mental state is all that I have in the world (everything else in this world can be taken), then how do I attain THAT? More-so, how do I stop falling into that tunnel of despair that arises when something ‘unfair’ ‘not right’ happens? When I was reminded to check in with habitual thinking, which is often described as ‘unwanted memories and thoughts’, it was not as hard as I foresaw it to be, and the ‘unwanted’ element was actually still of my choosing, I am choosing the unwanted thoughts.
Just because it is unwanted, doesn’t mean I didn’t welcome them. Often my unwanted memories of trauma led me to a place where I wasn’t really feeling so fine. They reminded me of the helplessness of childhood, or the helplessness of a chronic illness. After all, there are times that being a victim is true and we really are victims. No matter how we kick and scream, the inability to have control over life is true. The deeper wound is triggered from an intense present event and those feelings and belief systems from that deeper wound emerge in full force. Childhood trauma, life trauma, health trauma, are all experiences that lead to the idea that we are getting the raw end of the deal. On some level, it seems that everyone must feel that they have been given an unfair deal. Is there anyone really who has escaped trauma and pain? Who are we comparing ourselves to when we feel we have been cheated? With facebook and instagram these feelings can be more isolating still. There are studies that show social media leads people to feeling more isolated. Perhaps it is this feeling that leads people to troll the internet and lash out at others in anonymous forums in some kind of self puffed way to balance what we see as being unfair? The thoughts that emerge increase our sense of duality with others. Look at how great their life is, look at what they have, they don’t have cancer and health concerns, they can drink and have fun like we used to do (leading to: what is there in life now for us except boring existence based around earning money, what’s the point anymore?). Their world seems to be so much better than mine. We are too young to deal with cancer (but not young enough for the youth cancer support groups) and “it’s not fair”. Nothing we used to enjoy makes sense anymore. Why do other people have parents who care for them and support them whilst they study and go to university? Why aren’t MY parents like this? Where is MY family? Oh yes, that’s right, my original caregivers were busy disinheriting me. For what? Oh yes, because I asked them to join me in therapy and I set out healthy boundaries hoping to heal with them. I was re-victimised by them thrice. More on that another day.
Following me? See where its all leading?
Sometimes its hard to hear what the mind is saying. I find a great way to start to listen is checking in with my emotions and my body. How do I feel? What are my emotions telling me? They inevitably lead back to the mind. I write it down too, that helps clarify. And then I open up the conversation. One of my favourite ways to do this is in a yoga class. It is a place without distractions. It’s just me and the class and the teacher. My mind starts to really kick in when it gets hard. Part of our journey these last 18mths has been to consciously not give ourselves additional pressure about money, obligations and success and to really take it eeeeeeasy. This was challenging for me as I was a push-it-to-the-limit kind of girl. So even taking it easy has been hard. At first I had the mind telling me how I wasn’t achieving anything and I am wasting time. I began working as soon as I could (yep! Selling spectacle cleaners door to door age 7! Milk Run age 8!) and worked to the bone to be able to ‘catch up’ to how I perceived other’s had it. In yoga it can be the same, especially when the teacher is saying ‘rest if you need to rest, but are you listening to what you NEED or what you WANT?’ The mind likes to dart off and away from what is going on right now, back to memories, back to pain, away from pain, push it, no don’t push it, etc. I started to see that I didn’t have to follow it every time. I started to see that I can question, and not even answer the question, just sit with the questions. The answers can lead off in all kinds of directions. Again haha, there it goes.
Who is it that we are talking to? What is it that you are saying? Who are you saying it to?