The Perfect Life
I am living someone else’s dream,
where the sun rises every morning
and sets every night,
in someone else’s bed
with someone else’s wife,
in a beautiful house,
on this serene sea shore,
in another perfect world.
But I awake each day to my own reality,
and quickly cover it up
with hidden lies and frantic toil,
that churn without mercy,
stirring the chemicals in my brain
into a mixture of shame and self-blame,
convincing me that I cannot live a life that is mine,
but must obediently conform to a life chosen for me,
shaped by someone who says they love me.
And so I shake off the cobwebs of the morning fog
and try to build the courage to live another perfect day
Back to Sanity
In his book, Back to Sanity, Steve Taylor focuses on cognitive discord that he refers to as mind chatter. According to Taylor, human minds have two focuses – the inside and the outside. When our mind is focused on an outside task or activity we have what he calls positive mind flow. Our energy is focused and we experience a feeling of mental well-being. When our minds are disengaged, mind chatter begins. For the most part it involves absorption in negative thoughts and negative energy patterns that drain our mental energy and cause anxiety and frustration.
According to Taylor, western culture’s adherence to individualism produces a sense of aloneness and disconnection with each other and with the natural world. Our inner being is sealed off from others. This ego-isolation creates a sense of incompleteness. We are also disconnected with the natural world and see it as something that needs to be exploited rather that cherished. We see the world as malevolent rather than benevolent. Our sense of disconnection with our fellow humans can lead to constant anxiety and depression. We strive to stay distracted and occupied with things outside ourselves to avoid going inside ourselves. When we do, we fear we may catch a glimpse of a terrible inner truth that humans are not supposed to see – that life is random and meaningless. Taylor calls this ego-madness.
My personal experience with borderline personality disorder involved extreme mind chatter connected with self-loathing and obsessive feelings of shame. This resulted in a terrible sense of isolation and feelings of being completely alone. It was like I was trapped inside my own mental space, a place without love, a terrible truth that seemed impossible to avoid. I felt I had to find ways to escape the emptiness inside me or my mind chatter would take me to places my mind did not want to go, usually to a place of inner loathing that I had to avoid at all costs.
However, my mental disorder was a blessing in disguise. I had to learn to consciously shut down my mind chatter usually by vocalizing it or writing it down in the form of a poem so I could see it for what it was. Once I had clarity I could find a path out of the mind fog my mind had created. The key was to let it flow and embrace it and connect it to positive thoughts. I turned to mindfulness and a type of meditation that I refer to as grounding that has led to the point where I now have complete control of my mind and spend most of my days in a feeling of oneness with all life, free of the mind chatter, and the anxiety that goes with it.
My five suggestions
- Get clarity. Niggles are trifling complaints, disputes or self-criticisms. Make a Niggles List, all those things that pop into your mind as mind chatter. Do a five minute brain storm and keep writing for the full five minutes. Once things are down on paper you can find clarity. Divide this list into thoughts and actions. You can now use this list to form an action plan. Each day choose one thing you can do to wipe it off your Niggles List. While you work on this one you can ignore the others knowing they are on the list for future action. As the days go by, when a new item pops into your brain, write it down on the list for future action thereby removing it from your mind chatter. If it pops up again just refer it to the list.
- The thought list is much more difficult to deal with; you have to change the script. Engage in a modified version of Cognitive Behavioural Self-Therapy. Take control of your thoughts. Whenever you hear your mind chatter focussing on something negative about yourself, change it; find the positive side of that thought and let that positive thought lead to a positive feeling. For example, “I should never have said that” becomes “I said that because I was angry. What she had said was mean and I had a right to be angry.” The feeling then shifts from shame to self-empowerment.
- Learn to accept and cherish that space within. This is your sanctuary, a place to go to inside yourself to find peace, love, and purpose. It is not to be feared and shunned. Practise in mindfulness and meditation can develop this sense of the sacred self.
- Anchor yourself with a powerful default pattern – mindfulness, the feast of your senses – as you focus on nature’s life force that flows all around you. Embrace the reality of your senses rather than the shadows of your mind. Let these sensations free to create positive feelings that you can store as positive memories and mind states that you can recall and turn on whenever you feel down. Then anytime a negative feeling surfaces or when negative mind chatter occurs, simply enter into this mindful state and create a positive feeling from your inner self to replace the negative one. You can now use this positive feeling to quiet the chatter rather than engage with it.
- Develop a sense of awareness of the universal presence, the source of life and love that is in all living things including within your inner spirit. In time, if you practice doing this on a daily basis, this sense of a benevolent presence will consistently lead you back to self-love, peace, contentment, and joy.