How to win the war of your mind
My experience in doing a TEDx talk was wonderful. Having applied a number of times in various countries, I finally got the opportunity just a few miles from where I grew up. The way it was organised was terrific, the audience were wonderful and it was a real privilege. The idea I shared was on the war that we all face with our minds. I did something I had never done before. I took a big risk. I performed the talk rather than presented it. The video is below.
For now, however, I want to explore a similar topic to the talk – what I call inner propaganda which we struggle to combat. The war in our heads. By this I mean the battle we have with the negative emotions we experience on a regular basis. We struggle, often, because of the negative thoughts and feelings which dominate our way of thinking. Often, we are triggered by something: a thought or something external and we find ourselves struggling with a bad feeling and a group of thoughts that come with the feeling. It is then necessary for us to fight against this bad feeling and these thoughts. Often, we don’t and the feeling and thoughts get stronger and more certain. The bad feelings last longer and it becomes increasingly difficult to overcome them.
Using the metaphor of competing voices in our head will obviously have its critics. From my perspective however, I believe that it fits for me and for many of the clients I have worked with over the years. In the talk, I described the idea of an inner bully or ‘hater’ who serves to attack us and undermine us in every way possible. We do not simply listen to him or her. Instead, we try our best to defend ourselves. Alas, the hater seems much stronger and more intelligent than we could possibly be.
The idea is that the hater uses certainty as their most powerful rhetorical device. They appear convinced all is doomed and we are trapped by such conviction. We struggle to overcome their logic not because it is flawless but because they are so persistent in their attacks. Our evolutionary need for certainty and for paying attention to what might go wrong saved us from predators in the ancient world. Nowadays, although it still serves us to an extent, it has a wider impact on us as we find ourselves being bombarded with an excessive amount of negativity.
In order to tackle such certainty, I believe we need to stand up to the hater and do so with as much force, strength and certainty as it does to us. I believe we need to ask questions of it and challenge it. I believe we need to change the stories we tell ourselves and position ourselves as the hero of our own journey rather than a victim or monster. I believe we need to recognise and realise the power we have in our head to refuse to accept the ideas of such a liar.
All of this is not to suggest that mindfulness or acceptance is not a practice I recommend. In fact, I believe that mindfulness is another tool we can use to dismiss the power of the negative inner propaganda that the hater presents. And, of course, first and foremost, those who struggle with their emotions should seek help and should let people know. I hope that my own openness about my struggle suggested that.
My TEDx talk explores a simple idea. But I’m hoping it can make a big difference.
You can find Owen’s TEDx Talk here.
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