On some days, you’re tired. You wake up in the morning and have no zeal to even leave bed, let alone do anything productive. You’re pulled into a knot of negative thoughts and backlash.
If this only happened once in a while, it probably would be understandable. But for some of us, it happens for a stretch. For weeks. Having no energy nor will to do this life thing. That is seemingly a sign of depression. You wouldn’t be wrong if you think such a person needs therapy.
But this article isn’t about therapy. It’s about an odyssey, one that every human being will inevitably go through. For anyone who cares about about self-development, you spend your days trying to become a better person. You want to be better than the person you were the previous day. The trick here is that it’s not a straightforward journey. The road is filled with twists and turns, and on some days, you find yourself stuck in a turn that leads you nowhere.
Since I became an adult, and by this I mean when I became responsible for myself, paying bills and what not, I made the conscious effort to become a better person. I began to read books and watch videos on YouTube. It was practically a rabbit hole that I wilfully crawled into. One of the first things I learned was that I needed to change my pattern of thinking.
Where to start from?
I remember reading a book titled Mind is the Master. Actually, I didn’t read it. But the title stuck with me. What does it mean to say that mind is the master? It seems self-explanatory enough. Basically, your mind is a powerhouse. It is where your consciousness lies. I don’t think I need to explain how the mind works or what it does.
Using myself as a point of reference, let me tell you how my mind works. Which I suspect isn’t exclusive to me. And this goes as far back as my childhood. I have always viewed the world from a lens of negativity.
In any situation, my first instinct would be imagining that the worst has happened or is soon to happen. I guess it’s a traumatic response. And if I’m right about not being the only one with such as an experience, then you know what it means to navigate life like this. You’re always in a frantic state, trapped in a cage with the beast that is anxiety.
When you are the kind of person that thinks like this, you start to see yourself in a negative light. You start to talk down on yourself, and in doing this, your self-esteem is eroded. You lose confidence and when in a room full of people, your voice seems to be the lowest. Even when you have something to say, perhaps something helpful, you are unable to speak up. I have experienced all of these. I still do.
This is such a counterproductive way to live. When your response to everything is anxiety, you tend to seek problems where there are none. And in situations that are slightly stressful, your brain responds as if you’re in the middle of a world war.
The science checks out for this.
There’s a part of the human brain known as amygdala, which processes fear and threats. The amygdala literally grows larger the moment you’re confronted with any stressful situation.
What happens when your amygdala becomes overly active? You start to overthink emotional cues and your anxiety goes through the roof. Panic washes over you and it manifests through symptoms like shaking, vomiting, sweating uncontrollably, short breath, and dizziness.
The more ridiculous thing here is that our bodies respond this way as a means to protect us. Your heart beats faster because it is pumping blood to your legs to enable your run quicker. Our ancestors spent a large period of their lives hunting, killing wild animals, fighting clan wars and so they were nearly always in danger. The implication of this is that evolving from them, our brains respond to any sign of danger the same way, and in our current age, the wild animal can come in form of a text message.
Nobody wants to continue living like this. Sometimes you find yourself tempted by thoughts of truncating your own life as a way out. But for some reason you shove those thoughts back down. You think about the collateral damage and your heart breaks at the consequences to such a grave action. So, let’s say killing yourself is out of it.
Where do you go from here?
Changing the pattern of your thinking, as mentioned earlier. That’s the journey you have to embark on. You might be surprised to even find out that negative thinking comes in different forms. These patterns of negative thinking are known as cognitive distortions, where your brain is influenced to believe that the reality you’re experiencing is true, even when it’s clearly not.
I came across an article that highlighted these negative thinking patterns as well as steps to tackle any negative thought. It was such an insightful read, and it revealed how these thinking patterns keep us in a loop, barricading any positive thought.
You can read it here: https://www.usa.edu/blog/how-to-retrain-your-brain/
There’s a huge gap between where my mental (and emotional) state currently is and where I would like it to be. Retraining your mind is such a daunting task. It’s a descent into hell itself, with the hopes of getting redemption if you survive. There are moments when I gave up completely and just let the negative thoughts consume me. I have stayed under the heavy torrent of anguish and let it flood all over me. These moments span weeks, months even.
And yet again, I strive. Maybe not in the way that anyone who isn’t neurodivergent does, but I do. The consistency required to retrain your mind is staggering, and you’re required to put in the effort interminably. There are scarcely any breaks. I strongly believe that anyone would buckle under such weight.
A few days ago, I read an essay that put things in better perspective. It is one of the reasons I enjoy reading; viewing the world through the lens of another, particularly a bright person. The essay mentioned a term known as mirrored reciprocation. What is mirrored reciprocation? According to the person who coined the term, it is basically putting into the world what you expect from the world. You want someone to smile at you? Go first. You want someone to offer you something? Go first. It doesn’t seem that simple, yet it is.
Read the article here for better context: https://fs.blog/great-talks/multidisciplinary-approach-thinking-peter-kaufman/
So, I’m constantly reminding myself that I’m on a lifelong mission to get better. For myself and for the world. It is a battle, inescapable, that I have resolved to fight, regardless of the odds life stacks against me. And even on days that the will to fight is absent, I’d take solace knowing that I can fight on other days.