What’s In Your Head?

What’s In Your Head?

Sometimes in life, we give away valuable real estate in our head to people, places, and things that don’t deserve to be up there. We rehash mistakes (or perceived mistakes) over and over and allow a negative thought loop to take hold. Ruminative thinking is a dangerous game. It’s been shown to exacerbate anxiety and depression and it doesn’t actually solve any problems.

Things that don’t help you in life:

  • Replaying that time in 6th grade when you fell in the hallway and everyone laughed
  • That time on a date when you had spinach stuck in your teeth for 30 minutes
  • Something nasty an ex said to you during an argument
  • That time when you stepped in a random puddle of epoxy on the AMC Theater parking lot and lost your shoe and had to hop to your car minus a shoe while everyone looked and thought you were nuts (yup, this happened to me– I looked like a stork going across the parking lot)
  • A bad performance review at work from 10 years ago
  • Allowing a past failure to color everything you attempt now
  • Nitpicking everything you’ve ever done

Some people think that if you forgive a person who mistreated you, it’s the same as saying what the person did doesn’t matter or that it wasn’t wrong. That isn’t true. Forgiveness– whether it’s you forgiving yourself or someone else– is a gift you give to yourself. Ironically, we often more readily forgive someone else than ourselves! We hang on to negative self-talk and replay embarrassing scenarios ad nauseam in our minds.

I very much like the analogy from Buddhaghosa, which you’ve probably heard before. In speaking about hanging on to anger and bearing grudges, he said:

“By doing this you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.”

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