From my experience with my own mental health struggles and interacting with others who also struggle, beating yourself up is a common characteristic among us. It is also one of the most damaging. Often we are chastising ourselves for having the feelings we are experiencing. Have you ever questioned your own feelings in comparison with others? I’ve got it better than that person laying on the street; why should I be so unhappy or discontented? Or, I make more money than she does, why am I struggling with my finances? And then there’s this one: I haven’t been through what he has in his life, I don’t have the right to be this angry! And we use exclamation marks in our thinking, while continuously hammering into our heads that we shouldn’t be feeling this way–whether it be unhappy, angry or fearful. And the hammering goes deeper. I’m bad for feeling like I do. I must be a terrible person to be feeling this angry, sad or afraid. Or, I’m less of a person because I feel the way I do. I’m not good enough. I don’t try hard enough. And the “shoulds” begin to bang away inside our minds: I should be able to handle this; I shouldn’t be so lazy; I shouldn’t be so scared…so ashamed…and so on. I’m sure you can fill in anything I have neglected to mention.
What’s really happening when we beat ourselves up for having the feelings we are having, is that we are actually comparing ourselves to others. Once you start “shoulding” on yourself, you are creating fantasies in your mind about how you think others are dealing with their battles when, in fact, you have no idea how they are really feeling. We play a guessing game inside our heads that becomes real instead of the illusion it truly is.
These Mind Games, I believe, are symptoms of mental illness. They are rapidly moving thought patterns that keep us from achieving our full potential. Recognizing them as such is a huge step in the recovery process. But it is not easy. In fact, it takes a lot of hard work and mental exercise to overcome the wizardry of our mentation. We seem to be extremely attached to the imagery that we conceive ourselves to be in. It is “our” perception, after all, and we find it very difficult to eliminate it from our minds. There is much more to delve into here, but I think it is extremely important to pause and consider our options. We are continually inundated by our thoughts. Our thoughts drive our perceptions. Our perceptions affect how we behave. Our behaviour drives our feelings which, in turn, propels new thoughts or, as is often the case, the repetition of old ones. What can we do, moving forward, with this understanding and knowledge as it relates to our mental health? Is there any new learning? Have we rehashed old lessons? Do we need to change in any way? Do we even want to change?
Up Next…CHANGE and ACCEPTANCE