If you read the Dairy Queen Discoveries post from a few days ago, you may recall that I talked about the negative thought cycles that frequently take over when I’m experiencing anxiety and/or depression.
As mentioned in that post, those thoughts have little to nothing to do with reality or logic. But they feel very much like they do.
It’s like if I had planted a garden and it turned out beautifully – all sorts of flowers with their vibrant colours intermixed with greenery of various sorts. (I don’t have a green thumb, by the way, so this is definitely a metaphor!)
Some days all I see in that garden are the beautiful plants – they are a feast for the senses – and I love it. Most days I enjoy it for the most part, but I notice that a couple of the plants could have been placed more optimally visually. While I’m aware of that and it bothers me a little, I can push that thought aside and still enjoy the overall appeal and am mostly happy with it. Then there are the days when the beauty is completely quashed. My brain only points out those out-of-place plants and I’m convinced that that’s all anyone else sees, too. There are no vibrant colours. It’s all a big, blah mess. In fact, I shouldn’t have even bothered with the garden at all. I should just tear the whole thing up because it’s all ruined and blah blah blah.
That’s ridiculous, right? Tear up a whole, beautiful garden because of a minor “error” in placement?
When I was writing that post, and thinking about those negative thoughts and how ridiculous they are (from the outside), phone scams popped into my head.
As you must be aware (and if you aren’t, please tell me your secret!), phone scams of various sorts have become a more and more common annoyance the past few years. The “Microsoft” guys who want access to your computer to fix problems. The tax department that says the police are all but on their way to lock you up and the only way out is to rush out and buy a bazillion iTunes cards and give them the numbers on the back of the cards. The vacations we’ve all won. And so on.
I called them an annoyance and for most of us, that’s all they are. But for those who fall for them, they can be quite devastating.
When they first started, I felt so badly for the victims. Some of them lost tens of thousands of dollars. But, over time, there was more education about the scams – warnings everywhere – and, well, my sympathy diminished. I still felt badly for the victims, but I mostly wondered how they could fall for what seems so obviously to be a scam. I couldn’t help but wonder… What on earth were they thinking? How, in the name of all that is green on this planet, could they fall for it nowadays? iTunes cards to pay your tax bill?? Seriously? Come on.
Yet here I am. An intelligent, successful woman and I, on a regular basis, and despite multitudinous evidence to the contrary, fall for the phone scams in my own brain. I am all too often ready to trash that metaphorical garden because of any number of internal phone scams. That is ridiculous.
That comparative thought did two things:
- It made me go back to feeling super badly for the victims of actual phone (and other) scams. Who am I to judge those folks?
- It made me realize how ridiculous my own thoughts were, in the literal sense of that word.
The Cambridge dictionary defines ridiculous as “stupid or unreasonable and deserving to be laughed at”.
I had already realized the thoughts were negative, harmful, untrue and so on. But I hadn’t thought of them as truly ridiculous.
Thinking of them from that perspective – particularly the “deserving to be laughed at” bit – takes their power away. How can you be afraid of something that makes you laugh?
Now, that is not to say that I will always remember that they are unreasonable and laughable. But, it is another tool in my arsenal and if I can remember it while I’m at the start of a negative thought cycle, it will likely help to keep it from really spiralling to the point where nothing is laughable. And I call that a win!
Tear up the garden because of two “misplaced” plants? Ridiculous!