When you sit down to write in your journal, after morning pages, what happens? Does peace flood into your mind, stillness settle in, and the sun rises just over the horizon of your deep inner peace? Liar. It does not.
Your head fills with yakking. Monkey mind starts right up with the to-do list, “Right after this I need to go shopping, but before that I need to stop at the ATM and get some money, I don’t write checks anymore. Where is that checkbook? I haven’t written a check in months. You don’t need to do that anymore. I must have put the checkbook in my desk drawer, and I’ll bet it slipped back, so the desk drawer jams. Or maybe I need to wax the runners. . .” On and on goes monkey mind, hopping from topic to topic while you are seeking quiet.
More likely, your talk is not neutral, but damaging. Journaling helps the negative self talk crank up. The critic or the judge, one in a red velvet jacket and one in a powdered wig show up and start in on what isn’t right, what hasn’t been right, and why you don’t have talent, dedication or time. If they are really active, they will ask how you will ever make enough money to support yourself as an artist if you spend time writing by hand.
So now you are poised over your journal page, frozen. You try to push monkey mind and negative self-talk from your mind, but they persist. Of course they do. Instead of pushing them from your mind, sit down and listen to them. What, exactly do they have to say after the first sentence? Repetition. Endless repetition until you cave in and believe them. You will probably find that there isn’t an original though there. You’ve heard what they have to say from your parents, a mean teacher, a thoughtless sibling. Monkey mind and negative self-talk aren’t original, they are simply persistent. The more you push the thoughts away, the more they persist. Sit down and examine them, and they are not only not original, they are often spoken in voices from the past. And you are animating them. The voices in your head are yours. Your fear. Your insecurity. You make them up. And as evil parents in all the TV after-school movies say, “I brought you into the world and I can take you out.”
On your journal page, draw the slide bar you use to turn the sound up and down on your computer. Take your pencil, drag it down to where it’s silent and draw the bar right there. It’s a lot quieter in your head now, isn’t it?
Start writing. . . what is it that you don’t remember but wish you could?
—Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. Her book, “Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art” will be published in July of 2011.
10 thoughts on “Listening to Negative Self Talk (and a prompt)”
We’re back in synchronized lives again, Quinn! I’m taking an online workshop where this week’s exercise is to draw a self portrait and then a portrait of my critic: I drew myself on both pages since I am my own worst critic! My monkeymind is the mantra repeating all the negative talk I absorbed either from thoughtless people or which I mis-interpreted from my own self-absorption. Love the picture!
As always, a thoughtful post. Thought you might enjoy a visual on the monkey mind–I made one out of clay! He sits above where I create and reminds me that he is just a silly little beast and I don’t have to listen to him.
Cute monkey, Staci. Great representation of monkey mind. How has the clay-over-newspaper held up since last October?
Actually the newspaper was a temporary hold until the clay air dried and was fired. Then the newspaper burns away in the kiln, leaving a hollow interior. 🙂 Sorry I wasn’t clear!
You were clear, I just interpreted it in a different way. For monkey-mind, he is really cute! I wouldn’t mind him watching me, he might even inspire me.
Quite amazing how the voices quiet if you listen once, and respond with an answer, instead of pushing all the noise away. It never goes away until you finally listen. And then you can tell them to take a hike. Funny, well not really “funny”, the things we let our own minds do to us. I alwys like it when you give prompts, too. They are usually quite thought provoking.
Oh that Monkey Mind. I sure know about that. Love your scrollbar on the side of the page…I’m going to do that and the prompt. Where will they take me????
That prompt is amazing. i use it often, and it’s always interesting. And a real monkey mind chaser.
By hand! AGH! LOL It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who can’t think unless she has a pen in her hand and paper before her. Bless you Quinn. Yes, the crazy monkey must be tamed. Let it go a while and chatter away until it can’t think of anything else. Then…remember. I am back to writing and thought of you. You are a wonderful coach. Missed you.
I used to chase them all around the room of my mind not letting them talk. When I let them talk, well, they run out of things to say fast. Good to see you here!