Do I have dust and scratches on my face? I should. I was recently in mortal combat with my head. Self-gaslighting is my abuse of choice. I was stressed, dashing around the apartment, a bit frenetic due to a million things in my head. Then I made a mistake on something (details unnecessary – no animals or humans were hurt in this process) – minor in the scheme of bushfires, war, imminent plagues. My face flushed and the nuclear war in my head was on. My speedball of punish:
“I am such an idiot. I am totally incompetent. I knew I was rushing too fast, doing too much. You suck. You blew it big time idiot.”
Just like that. Tanked and yanked down to the sunken place. Does this ever happen to you?
And as a graduate student of psychology, I should know better. It’s just effin incredible that after 45 years, the old distorted thinking is still there.
So what is the sunken place? The sunken place is the abundant land of automated and distorted thinking. Thinking styles, according to science, makes a difference in the health and longevity of your life. The sunken place is the land of negativity, generalization, over-personalization, disasterizing, labeling, and inability to see good. It’s the deep limbic ridges of trauma, fear, threat pathways in your brain. Sound familiar?
For me, my speedball is the old wound of worthlessness. The internalized garbage that James Baldwin says we must vomit up before we can reclaim our birthright as whole, divine, royal beings. It’s the voice of elite whiteness, patriarchy, did-their-best-tiger-moms, junior high school, society, dominants, authority and institutions that said I was less than, invisible, other, foreign and therefore hated, don’t matter. 1-down, checkmate! It’s servitude. It’s the enemy that called me chink, b***h, go back to where you came from, too loud, too short, too fat, bad girl, not good enough, chinita. It’s the spit that hit me at 16. It’s hierarchy – someone’s superior, someone’s inferior. The subjection is so down deep, embedded, that the laws of physics can’t access it.
But thank god there’s hope! If I can do it, you can do it. My miracle, precious, hard-won, recovery practice to re-stabilize and flourish is this:
- Name it. This is the observer eye, balcony view, the subject-object move. Only with practice (and I get lots of it!) can you build this reflex to see what is happening as it is happening. Meditate, journal, talk to someone – confess it! Somehow find your way to accessing these rushes. Reflection in action on action. Self-induced-inception. Don’t run because what you resist persists. Stay – the vulnerability will pay off.
- Find refuge. Immediately find a safe space. My container was my bathroom (I have a beautiful bathroom :). I went autopilot and started scrubbing the tub. 🙂 There is science and evolution in this. Hygiene and the act of cleaning has sublimal properties to help clean the mind. This makes sense as I find washing dishes quite meditative. Plus a quick distraction helps in the recovery process.
- Investigate. This is the hard work – this is the inception. You have to hack your way out of the sunken place to find out why you are feeling the speedball of self-annihilation. What’s your messed up algorithm? Luckily (weird word), I know my old enemies very well and looked them dead in the eye. Back off b***hes! You’re fake news! Find the counter-evidence, do the disputation on the distorted thoughts.
- Nurture. Now that you have named it and uncovered the old story, it’s pamper time. What do you need? Encouragement? Soothing? Reassurance? Cheerleading? Rest? You’re creating new ridges to counter the old ones. Elizabeth Gilbert says she just needs unconditional love from the big voice of Love: “I am never going to leave you.” Sandra Oh says she just needs the soothing words: “There there.” For me, I channel the voice of my warrior grandmother loving on Little Masa, holding me, and cooing, “Everything will be ok. Sh*t happens boo. You are amazing! Shine your lights! Be Who You Were Born To Be.” And then I take a bubble bath in my clean tub – water cleanses and is the source.
Don’t believe the fake news – just love on yourself. You belong, You matter. You are aurora borealis! This wave, this speedball will pass.
This public service announcement is brought to you by:
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- RAIN method of self-compassion and healing from Tara Brach
- positive psychology
- my amazing therapist Katie Kelley