Our Thoughts Don't Have to Consume Us

Voice of Grace_Kelley Flanagan.jpg

I’ve been thinking about sharing videos online for awhile now to accompany this blog, but I’ve been resisting. I’ve recorded a few here and there but never posted anywhere and sometimes I’ve found a glimmer of courage and posted a video to Facebook, but I’ve become quite frustrated with my stalling and have felt some anger toward the whole situation, so I finally did it. I took a small leap and I posted a very short video to my YouTube channel. I posted the video and felt slight relief and quickly moved on to leave to get to the gym.

As I was driving to the gym, I started having thoughts. Those thoughts that really scare the crap out of you. You don’t always connect the dots right away to why you are having these thoughts, they sometimes seem to appear out of nowhere and stop you in your tracks. Yes, those kinds of thoughts. My mind flashed an image of me getting into a car accident and this of course created instant fear and concern. I was beginning to follow my fear down the path, getting trapped within its grips and panic, but this time I stopped myself. I stopped myself and I started questioning these thoughts. Instead of getting swallowed up by that fear down the never-ending path of panic and self-loathing, I asked myself, “What do you want me to know about this right now?” and I played out the scenario. I opened to the thought with curiosity and leaned into my fear. I saw myself in the slow-motion chaos of my car spinning out of control, shards of glass flying around me, and my arms and head being pushed by the force of the crash, flopping around like a rag doll. As I envisioned my car slowing to a stop, I saw blood dripping down my temple, I saw my eyes close and I imagined what those last breaths might feel like and I asked, “What thoughts would I be thinking at this moment?” And my mind responded with, “You’re insignificant.”

This brought my image to a shuddering halt. Those words, “you’re insignificant” hung in the suddenly still air surrounding me: You’re insignificant. I’m working so hard to be anything but insignificant. I want so badly to have a place, a meaning, a significance in this world, just as we all do. But my darkness still has power. Those words were stated so matter-of-fact-ly. Like it was my greatest belief and there was no denying it. I often feel so desperate fighting against this part of me that seems to hold so much power, strength and conviction. It doesn’t seem fair to have to fight such a confident beast.

But through the past few years of this deep inner work, I realize that this seemingly confident beast is a façade. It’s really just the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, it’s actually a small and scared child holding onto some feeling of comfort she thinks she needs. She has learned to use powerful thoughts and imagery to try and protect me, but I know what is behind those now. It’s my six-year-old self, trying to not become harmed in this world. I used to get quite angry with this part of myself, but I realize that I’m only becoming angry with another part of myself. A part that so badly needs to feel love, belonging and safety.

In the grand scheme of things, putting a short video on YouTube is a pretty benign act but to that scared little girl inside me, it seemed like the end of the world and she felt afraid. It is in these moments we must remember to practice self-compassion and self-love. We mustn’t angrily push away that little person and leave them out in the cold, alone. Embrace them and let them know it’s going to be okay. Let them know you can and will take care of you, all of you.

Previous to opening to my heart with curiosity, I would’ve stopped short in my fear with the single image of that car accident. I would’ve let my fear paralyze me and I would’ve responded with fear and desperation, but by playing out the thought and asking myself what I should know about this situation, opened my up to the real issue of my inner child feeling threatened and afraid. My fear wants me to stay insignificant, so I don’t have to experience the pain of rejection; however, staying insignificant still leads to the path of loneliness and desire for more.

As Dr. Kelly Flannigan discusses in his book, Loveable, our fear speaks in half-truths and it’s our true selves that need to add the practical, and loving full truth:

I can post videos on YouTube, and be afraid and I am still worthy of love and belonging. I can feel afraid and I am worthy of love and belonging.
I may feel insignificant, and I can work to move beyond this belief and I am still worthy of love and belonging.