Little by little it takes over, and you don’t even realize it.
You try to assess the situation, using what’s left of your moral reasoning. But soon, your mind becomes hijacked…by your emotions, by a whirlpool of nasty, excruciating thoughts — thoughts you didn’t even believe could be yours. You start to panic, afraid of what you’re starting to become, afraid that this could be permanent, but as you may remember, this only makes things worst.
And now, it’s too late. Everything’s spilling out, like a pot that’s been boiling with a lid, unsupervised, and you can’t seem to turn off the heat.
Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to experience these kinds of moments — to see how dark the mind can be when threatened, and to ask myself (before things escalate): Why? Why am I feeling this way?
It’s not easy when your mind is super sensitive and emotionally unstable, but I knew I had to question it — because how else could I understand my feelings, let alone the problem, if I’m always thinking about the worst?
That’s why, in this scenario, I took the time to reflect upon myself and to understand why I felt so upset when my boyfriend confronted me with a remark that made me feel as if I did something wrong.
“Hey, what’s going on in your head?”
I stared at the ground, unable to utter a sound. I wasn’t exactly sure what I had done to make him say this, but I had to tell him the truth: I wasn’t there. I wasn’t present.
I was stuck in the muddling of my thoughts, thinking about what I had to do for the day. It was very insignificant compared to what he was telling me earlier — “Oh, I just told my parents we’re getting married!” — and he felt hurt. My unenthusiastic face and avoidance of the conversation, because I was so immersed into what I was doing (thanks to my workaholism), had made him believe, for a minute, that I wasn’t interested in marrying him. And he asked me, in all seriousness, if that was the case.
Of course, it wasn’t. In fact, I was excited about marrying him, but for some reason, his response broke me into tears and I couldn’t stop.
Why the heck was I crying?
Embarrassed by my reaction and the confused look he gave me, I stormed out the room.
What exactly did I do wrong?
As my mind tried to craft a justifiable answer, a flood of thoughts rushed in:
Maybe I should just leave for a few hours and make him feel worried about me. Then maybe he wouldn’t act as rash as he just did. Or maybe I should tell him how annoying he is whenever he interrupts my flow when writing. Doesn’t he know I’m working hard to support us? Doesn’t he know I’m only trying to help? I mean, I did clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors, didn’t I? Don’t I deserve a little appreciation, a little respect, for everything I’ve done? Why does he have to be so emotional? Why does he always have to pick on my flaws?
The thoughts went on and on and on, lodging itself deeper and deeper into my head.
I was terrified.
Was this really me? Was I truly undeserving of his attitude towards me?
The more I kept thinking, the more emotional I got.
Maybe I am right. Maybe I do deserve better. I mean, it’s not like I’m trying to hurt anyone. It’s not in my personality to be mean or rude. Maybe he’s just being sensitive.
As uncomfortable as I was, hearing this other voice in my head, I quickly turned towards the ceiling, closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, slowly releasing every tension I had felt in my body, through my nose.
Suddenly, my thoughts quieted down. My heart relaxed. It became clear to me, after going through awfully similar incidents, that this was my default mode for escaping reality — the reality of being wrong, of being irresponsible, for my behavior.
It wasn’t my boyfriend’s fault that I was feeling the way I did — upset, angry and annoyed. It was me.
I was the one who couldn’t shift my attention well enough to see what was more important in life. I was the one who couldn’t express the same amount of energy and enthusiasm as he did when I got excited. I was the one who couldn’t feel how it feels to be brushed off.
I hate the feeling of being wrong, worst admitting it, but I’d hate it even more if I can’t think straight, if I keep letting my emotions rule my life, if I keep holding myself back from understanding the very flaws I need to work on.
After writing this all down in my journal (it’s proven to help you gain perspective on your experiences and find lessons in them), I realized there was something else I had learned about our minds: They’re flawed. We can’t discern what’s real and what’s imagined, what we’re thinking about and what’s actually happening. Whatever we choose to focus on — whether that’s an image or an emotion — we process it through our minds as real.
It’s why dreams can feel so real, why visualization helps athletes become world-class, why kids are more resistant to pain when they imagine themselves as Superman and why I almost believed my boyfriend was bad. Our minds are ingeniously built to adapt, and if we can guide it to see the good in the bad or to accept our flaws and fix them, we can change who we want to become.
And if my desire is to become a better person by being more aware, at shifting my focus and controlling my emotions, then by all means I’ll keep fighting with my brain.
…until I get there.
Note: My boyfriend never intends to hurt me or cause me pain. He always does things for my best interest and tries to help me out whenever I need it, as I do for him. The only reason why I summoned the thoughts I did was because when you’re emotionally upset, your mind tends to pick on the teeniest things that’ve bothered you in the past which explains how one negative thought can snowball into many others. This is part of human nature; our minds do this to protect us from those who we think have caused us pain when in reality, we’re usually overreacting.