The Enemy Within – Irrational Thoughts

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The Enemy Within – Irrational Thoughts

Hold up a mirror to yourself without fear and see what needs to be changed.

We have all at some point in our lives allowed irrational thoughts to cloud our judgement. It’s one of the most unfortunate parts of being human. For some reason the irrational part of your brain, the part where fear, anger, insecurity, jealousy and stupidity resides, carpet bombs the three places where your deepest and truest feelings come from, your rational and logical thinking brain, your gut and most importantly your heart. Perhaps out of fear you didn’t move away for a great opportunity. Perhaps out of anger you reacted to something without thinking. Perhaps out of insecurity you did something you wish you could take back. Perhaps out of fear you rejected something before it rejected you. Perhaps out of stupidity you didn’t think something through all the way and perhaps out of jealousy you in turn made someone feel bad for things that they and you should be proud of. It’s all so ugly. What’s worse is that it can drastically make all of the things your irrational brain is worried about happen. You become your own worst enemy.

Understanding and recognition of your own feelings is not something easy to do. Depending on your past experiences you may have feelings inside of you that you are not able to recognize and unfortunately these feelings may cause you to react or act in situations that are contrary to your real self. If you have ever seen a dog that was once abused and is now adopted by a loving family you may notice that they will still bark and be ready to attack at any minute. They still inherently feel unsafe even though their new environment is anything but. But in its vulnerable moments you know its a sweet and loving dog. Humans are extremely fortunate to be able to have self consciousness where as dogs do not. We are able to take a step back from situations and examine our behaviors where as a dog’s experiences are built in and they can only rely on instinct. We as humans can fix things, we can change.

But even with the gift of self consciousness everyone is different and everyones experiences are different. Maybe you came from an abusive home and have a difficult time trusting people. Maybe your were abandoned in your life and now can not get close to anyone out of fear. Maybe you went through a traumatic event, lost someone, were humiliated, were hurt, were lied to, were deeply insulted, were manipulated. Any and all of these things can cause a person’s irrational part of their brain to kick in and cloud your thought process and not allow you to live your life fully and allow yourself to be happy. We live in an interpersonal society and our relationships with people are extremely important. You do not want to be the one self sabotaging your relationships because of irrational thought.

Have you made mistakes based on irrational thought? Have your convinced yourself the worst in the situation and in hindsight and reflection realized that you were wrong?

I have.

The moment of realization is a powerful thing. Some people call it rock bottom. When you hit the bottom of all of your bad behaviors and see the light. The term is often used with alcoholics or drug addicts because many need to see rock bottom before they are ready to change their behavior. Rock bottom can apply to anything where you have consistently done wrong so many times that you have an epiphany where you know it is time to change. Where you know without changing you will never ever be able to live a happy life.

No one wants to live with regret and no one wants to lose something important to them if they can help it.

When you realize you have hit rock bottom what do you do?

You need to look and you need to listen. Have you hurt someone emotionally? Listen to what they say and accept your behavior. When they tell you that what you did hurt them you need to drop your defenses and receive their words with open arms and a completely open mind. See, your defenses were built up over the years to protect yourself from reliving past pain. If you are a boxer and you were hit, you learn to block so you can avoid being hit again. This is the same thing as the defenses people put up emotionally. If you had your heart broken before and were so devastated that the pain led you to lose a part of yourself, you may have built up an internal defense that you now subconsciously use whenever someone tries to get close. Were you screwed over financially or ripped off? You may now think that they everyone is trying to do the same. Did you act jealous and in turn try and make someone feel bad for their good fortunes or act suspicous. You need to understand the root of that jealousy. Let’s say you are in a relationship and you find yourself jealous of your partner. Look at the situation with a completely objective view and decide if your jealousy is really valid based on your partner. If your partner has never done anything to deserve the jealousy, you need to understand that it is you. Yes, you. You are insecure, you are in fear. You fear because you think less of yourself. You think there is no possible way your partner would stay with you because you have a deep-seated insecurity about oneself. I am not saying that there isn’s situations where distrust isn’t valid. People do cheat on their partners and sometimes a healthy suspicion is valid. But you really need to look at your partner and really think, is there anything they have ever done that would leave you to believe they don’t deserve your trust? Has your anger made you do things or say things that were wrong and harmful? It is all tied in. You have such an unhealthy set of fears and insecurity that your irrational brain almost short circuits when you hear anything that would make you angry. A big part of the problem too is that your defenses are so inherently strong that you do not even take a step back from the situation and decide rationally if there is really any reason to be angry. Let’s say your boss passes you over for a promotion that you really felt you deserved. You get angry and react in an illogical way. You quit, you say something you shouldn’t, you do something against the rules at work, it could be any number of things. But did you stop and think from their perspective? Maybe, just maybe, you didn’t really deserve the promotion. Maybe the person who got it is simply better equipped to handle the job. These are things that you absolutely need to consider before reacting in anger. Let’s say that you were passed over and you actually did deserve the promotion. What could you do about it? You could rationally and calmly look for a new job where your efforts will be better appreciated. You may feel as though you put a lot of yourself into the job, but anger is not the way to control the situation, change is.

It’s all about holding a mirror up to yourself. You can not make the necessary changes to fix your life if you do not even know what changes need to be made.

Once you have recognized this part of yourself there are absolutely steps you can take to fix them.

See someone.

Talking is good. Talking to an objective trained professional who has studied human behavior and has likely helped thousands of people through similar problems can guide you to behavior change. This will only work if you are ready to take the step and change but if you are, it can be accomplished.

Examine.

Examine the situations that led you to this point and take a egoless approach at it. You are human, you make mistakes and you are not perfect. You are not the greatest person that ever lived and you are not adverse to fault. When you really take all this in, when you really take that inventory and accept the issues you have, you will see astounding things that will help guide you to being a better person.

Apologize.

You should, without question, tell the people you hurt that you have realized your mistakes and are deeply sorry. And, you must really be sorry for it to mean anything. Being sorry is a great thing! It lets you know that you have felt the weight of your actions and you know it is real. Without feeling sorry, yet saying it, you are doing what you think you should be doing, not doing what you want to be doing.

Let go.

You must let go of what was causing you to be irrational to become the person you want to be. This may be the hardest thing you will ever do and the hardest thing to see will help but it is crucial. Forgiveness and acceptance is the key to your becoming a better person and not having to have an irrational reaction. If you were abused, let it go. Not everyone is out to abuse you. If you were ripped of, let it go. Not everyone is after what you have. If you had your heart broken, let it go. Not everyone is incapable of loving you and you still deserve love. If you were humiliated, let it go. It happens and it doesn’t define you. If you were abandoned, let it go. You can be loved and someone will stay. I could go on but I think you get my point. Don’t let your past experience stop you from having a future.

Your irrational brain and your defenses are not your friend. It is an extremely ugly part of yourself that everyone needs to address. You will find yourself doing and saying things that you don’t even mean trying to get something you want, but actually getting the opposite. People don’t always understand someone who is acting irrationally. They will believe you when you say hurtful things and they will believe you when you push them away, even if what you really want is for them to get closer. Your irrationality made you think that the situation was against you so you decide to reject it before it rejects you. This is no way to live. Your irrationality will let you justify things that are wrong. You will be the one who is sorry though. You will be the one who loses.

Love is the only thing that is important in life. Love of others and love of oneself.

Take a hard look in the mirror and allow yourself to see the enemy within.

Michael Taggart

Michael Taggart

Michael Taggart is a Managing Partner at Well Done Boston. In his spare time he writes music, eats pizza, and thinks about doing pushups. Please get in touch on one of the icons below.

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