Dear Soul Engaged in a Mental Turf War,

Our mind can be our best ally AND our most destructive enemy. Optimally, our mind helps us solve complex problems, see possibilities, create a happy life, make assessments about people and things and continue to learn. Our mind can also   create problems, limit our possibilities, sabotage our hopes and dreams, make harsh judgments and keep us hiding in a foxhole.  Our mind is a masterful, over-achieving, take no prisoners, thought-generating machine. The personal turf war over our mind is not with the actual thoughts themselves, but in the attachment to or belief in the thoughts.

Gladys is the battle-hardened, all work and no play, thought producing gal who is a part of my mind. Because of our intimate, lifelong connection, we continue to negotiate an agreement that allows us to co-exist.  Gladys produces an endless supply of “keep Laurie alive, safe and out of pain” thoughts. I ultimately decide which thoughts to heed and/or dismiss based on the life I choose to create. Some of the most life-limiting thoughts she has generated for my believing displeasure include:

  1. “You SHOULD NEVER do anything less than perfect.”
  2. “You MUST ALWAYS be in control of your thoughts and feelings.”
  3. “Better SAFE then SORRY.”

I would cling to her thoughts as though they were my salvation. Because thoughts self populate, Gladys helped me cherry pick the thoughts that directly supported her position. This led me to interpret situations in my life through this “doom and gloom” mentality. Confirmation bias morphed into core beliefs, which negatively shaped my self-concept. I convinced myself that since I failed miserably at accomplishing her harsh dictates, “I wasn’t good enough.”

A profound, deep truth I learned over decades of living a life ruled by fear and avoidance of pain is that Gladys isn’t always right. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “don’t believe everything you read/Google.” My personal spin on this adage is “Don’t believe everything you think.”

As a means of primitive survival, we are biologically conditioned for worst-case-scenario thought. When we are in a situation and feel fear, we interpret this data “as if “ we were in actual life- threatening danger. Gladys applied this “stay alive/out of pain” logic very effectively to the “problem of my life.”  However, I don’t view my life as a problem to be solved, but as a life to be lived (and experienced wholeheartedly.) Gladys ultimate objective, to stay alive, safe and avoid pain, and my objective, to create happiness, explore, achieve and thrive, were at war over the turf of my mind.

At some point, after years of life-limiting beliefs and behavior, I recognized that I could step out of the perceived safety of the foxhole. I could walk away from the war-zone.  I have the power to surrender my weapons and choose my own agenda of peace, happiness and collaboration.  Since ultimately I am the thinker (producer) of my thoughts, I can become aware of the thoughts and aware of my awareness of the thoughts. This is a step toward loosening my grip on Gladys’ hyper-vigilant, “stay alive, avoid pain, win the war” thoughts. Through this awareness, I can examine and question my thoughts to:

  1. Seek out the objective truth of the thought.
  2. Assess if my ongoing belief in (attachment to) the thought moves me closer to my goals or helps me move in a valued direction of my choosing.
  3. See and approach possibilities beyond the thought war-zone.

Furthermore, just because Gladys admonishes that she is doing this “for my own good” doesn’t mean I am required to act on her advice. I can continue to imagine, design, create and build the life I desire, even when Gladys is screaming that I can’t, I shouldn’t, it wouldn’t be safe, I might get hurt!

Gladys remains the part of my magnificently complex mind that cranks out thoughts intended to keep me alive, in a world in which I am not at imminent risk of dying. I have become my mind turf’s Secretary of Defense. I know I can’t control and banish the endless troops of thought that infiltrate my mind. However armed with awareness, recognition, questioning and clear direction, Gladys and I have been able to negotiate a peace treaty.