My mind is in constant 100% capacity analyzing myself, my flaws, where I am, where I should be in the future, why I am alone and single, etc. I am sick of it. I am sick of being so bothered, introspecting so much and expecting so much from myself. How can I get my mind to just shut the hell up and allow myself to live life simply and happily?
I was sick of my mind too: that constantly condescending, criticizing, comparing mind. Actually, I wasn't even conscious of this continual thought-diarrhea ... I primarily experienced self-loathing, since, you know, I was a worthless weak waste of space.
At first, I thought the trick was to use this to my advantage. I almost made myself believe that the more I beat myself down, the stronger I become. The more worthless I felt, the more I'd strive, and the more I'd achieve.
This worked in the short run. I looked strong and acted the part. I achieved. But still I was not at peace.
Then, I thought the key was to resist this demon of a voice. That horrible voice, I was going to fight it and damn if I don't die trying. That's right, I was prepared to go to my grave battling this demon-mind. I read books, went to seminars, read more books, saw therapists, wrote prolific journals, read more books, went to more seminars. FEAR is false evidence appearing real! Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! I am Enough! I am OK and You Are OK! In the Final Analysis It Was Never Between Me and Them Anyway!
This worked in the short run. I knew the self-help quips. I had the self-improvement tools. But still I was not at peace.
One day my best friend asked why I kept fighting against my striving nature. Could this be how I was made, to always ask questions, to strive, to expect more of myself? Striving against striving--the irony.
This question planted a seed, and the seed grew into more questions:
- Where did these messages come from?
- Do other people get the same scripts?
- Why am I bothered by this when no one else is?
- How do I know no one else is?
- What did I expect being "at peace" to feel like?
- Do I actually believe I am worthless and weak?
- If I suck as a human being, why do I have many good people in my life, whose judgment of character I respect? (Can they be wrong about me? Have I fooled them all?)
Eventually, I stopped resisting the thought-diarrhea and instead, acknowledge that I "heard" the message.
By stopping the resistance, I give these messages no new energy to prey upon. Then I used the trick that I once read should work if a song got stuck in your head and wouldn't go away: sing that song through completion, instead of looping a segment endlessly.
So I listened to whatever crap-thought was thrown at me to completion. I will stop every other thought I held in my mind and focused on the crap-thought that wanted to be heard, and I would listen to it.
I found that these were actually quite short, since crap-thoughts were highly unoriginal and full of predictable statements like "You suck! No one will ever love you! They will find out you are a fraud! They will haul you off the stage! You are fooling no one!"--These got super boring after a while.
Sure, I had low self-esteem, but I also had the attention span of a hamster on crack. Hey, Demon-Mind, at least come up with something entertaining and original! I experimented being playful with it. Sure, keep telling me I suck, then get thee to a Starbucks and get us both a grande decaf mocha no whip will ya? or What's new? I still suck? Tell me something I don't know. Seriously, tell me something I don't know!
After a while I started to "co-exist" with the demon-mind, but its power over me seemed to lose its grip: it didn't have the constant supply of "fight" that kept me engaged in drama.
I began paying better attention the positive statements that people I respected said about/toward me. These statements became the "Profit" items against demon-mind's "Loss" items on my Self-Perception Balance Sheet.
Over time, I started contributing my own fair-balanced "Profit" items in my Self-Perception Balance Sheet. My striving led to achievements, and many of these I felt proud of. I learned to recognize hard decisions I made in the name of "doing right", and I learned to respect the strength/will I had to follow through.
I even learned to appreciate some of the positives of this demon-mind: I gained a high level of self-awareness, and acquired skills of self-analysis, that had crippled me in my 20s. This self-awareness and self-analysis helped me grow as a person in my 30s. This growth helped me like and respect myself as a person and--it happened in my 40s!--I am at peace with the person I am even as I continue to expect much from myself and strive for new adventures in personal growth.
Sure, I get into a vicious cycle now and again, but I can recognize what is happening, and I have learned the tools to catch myself wherever I was in the cycle and peddle myself out of it.
More importantly, I accept that this was part of being a fallible imperfect human, and my goal was not to "never get into that vicious cycle", but to "reduce the frequency of getting into the vicious cycle AND to reduce the amount of time I spend wallowing on that vicious cycle."
(I also started rock climbing last year, at age 42, and this has become my #1 "Moving Meditation". I am 100% focused on what I am doing every time I climb, and I really, really love the time I spend climbing.... on top of this, I have gained some new buddies who enjoy climbing.)
You are at the point where you are so sick of the "fight" with your own demon-mind, you know something has to change.
Maybe your change starts a similar way, and it starts with changing the dynamic of this "fight".
How can I get my mind to shut up?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:
- Psychology of Everyday Life: What is an example of something true that nobody generally wants to admit?
- Self Improvement: How can I accelerate my personal growth?
- Learning: How can you learn faster?
- Mind: What are some brain hacks that a neuroscientist or a psychologist knows that most people don't?
- Life: At what point should one give up on something that he considers his passion but yet not able to achieve anything in it?