Saturday, January 23, 2010

Self Defeating Thoughts 3

It's the first weekend since I've been writing down self-defeating thoughts--as a way to get rid of them. This process of "therapeutic homework" continues to be an education.

Obviously, I don't have a big enough sample to claim I've discovered a pattern. But I do notice that I've written down many more of them today Saturday --and it's only 4 o'clock--than in several weekdays combined. What's different: I'm not at work today. I'm guessing that without the tight focus of work my mind can stir up more trouble. (And I just recently ran across the term "leisure illness," referring to getting headaches, colds, etc., on taking time off.)

What also interests me is the fact that I'm having a good day. If I weren't keeping tabs, I'd barely have registered most of the bits of self-sabotage. But I suspect that they have a cumulative effect anyway.

Another finding that surprises me: these thoughts are very diverse. Ranging from telling myself that I won't get a grant I've applied for, to remembering saying the wrong thing to someone about 15 years ago, to grandiose expectations of myself and what I should be doing. Also, a couple of times I've imagined someone doing something to make me mad, and then had an imaginary argument about it, the entire scenario a fabrication. I have to ask myself why I would take the trouble to manufacture that last one.

Just had another S.D. Thought--"What am I doing blogging about my mental health when I should be helping Haitians?"

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Debra W said...

Very interesting that you have begun writing down all of your S.D. thoughts as a way to get rid of them. I am curious as to whether or not this will be helpful to you. I was a bit amused by the fact that you had an imaginary argument with someone inside of your mind.(I know you were not trying to be amusing, and I apologize for my response.) I guess that standing as an outsider to your mind, it is kind of interesting to me that you are a writer who creates these kinds of scenes in writing, but that you are surprised that you went to the trouble to fabricate the scenario. In my opinion, this is part of the beauty of your very creative brain. That you can create conversations in your mind and that you do! I wonder if this is a trait that many writers posses?

I also notice that you tend to minimize your own entitlement to your very valid feelings when you feel there is something more important going on in the world. Isn't there always something more trying and important going on in the world than what we are experiencing? Does that mean that what we are struggling with, personally, should be dismissed? Yes, the bigger issues are very important, but so are the smaller ones that we deal with on a daily basis. Your mental health is important. Don't hold it up to anything else. Taking care of yourself does not take away from or invalidate the larger problems in the world. I feel like I am talking like a mother here, but these things are true, Peggy. One should not diminish the importance of the other. This is something that I have tried to instill in my own daughters.

Anyway, enough of the psychoanalysis. You just got my mind going! I do hope that you are successful in ridding yourself of those S.D. thoughts. They only make us feel badly about ourselves.

Gentle hugs,

Peggy Payne said...

Your thoughts are always so welcome here, Debbie. And ignoring or trivializing my problems by comparing them to the plight of Haitians is the kind of SD thought I'd like to lose.

I'm finding so far that this practice is extremely helpful. Not one SD thought today, and it's almost 7 pm.

You're also right that the imaginary arguments played out in my head is a part of the fiction writing habit. I try whole court cases in my head--and present brilliant closing arguments, if I do say so myself.

It's an example of how our weaknesses are the overapplication of our strengths. When I have a hammer, everything is a nail.

I mentioned this exercise and the mental arguments in my writing group today. Four of us there and one other person --a creative writing professor and novelist--said she also tries court cases in her head and makes political arguments.