Head trash. The mental landfill between our ears.
It creeps into the salesman’s mind after a blown presentation. It attacks the dieter after a prohibited cupcake disappears. It assails the recovering nicotine addict after puffs from the contraband cigarette. It torments the struggling alcoholic after the forbidden cocktail.
Is it real or is it the bogeyman? I happen to think that the veracity of Head Trash lies somewhere between the objective truth of Sean Connery being the most attractive man ever (a truth any idiot can see) and the subjective truth that red poppies are prettier than roses. Regardless of its accuracy, Head Trash can and does (on a daily basis) make failures of the most talented and the brightest individuals. Which leads me to this: the question isn’t whether or not it’s real. The question is: what do we do about it?
When I was little, I was convinced that sharp shooters from Gunsmoke were in the top of my closet. (No. Seriously.) I was so sure they were there, I couldn’t sleep if the closet doors were open. My mother insisted that there were no snipers in my closet; but, clearly, she just wasn’t looking in the right places. I could plainly see them; so, I was angry with her for dismissing my fear.
When my own son was little, he had a similar monster infestation. Remembering the Gunsmoke tormentors, each night, I sprayed water around the edges of the room, driving the monsters into a Japanese letter box which was secured with a brass fish lock (the very best monster containers, don’t you know). With the box of monsters out of the room, the sleeping Ginger Prince was safe for another night.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed my Japanese letter box; so, I no longer have it available for my own monster disposal. The brass fish isn’t around to contain those spirits who say that I can’t do something, that I’m not good enough, that I’m less than, unattractive, unable to do anything right, whatever lies the beasts are selling on any given day. I have to put on my big girl pants and deal with them myself. To do that effectively, I must do these things:
- Acknowledge that they are there and look at them closely. Closing my eyes left the snipers in the closet; however, turning on the light clearly and quickly showed no danger.
- Disassemble them to find the flaws. When I internally hear, “You can’t do anything right.” I make a list of actual accomplishments: performing a back flip off a diving board, overcoming a paralyzing fear of horses, baking good brownies. I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be good enough for the context.
- Pluck them out. Do not allow those negative thoughts to take root. Deal with them. Relentlessly. Mercilessly. See them as the destructive forces that they are and rout them daily, constantly. This is a battle for spirit, mind, body and success. I must fight like it is. Fight for friends. And (this is a big one) limit my time with those who would destroy me. Emotional vampires have no place in my life. Friendship doesn’t help them and destroys me. It’s a lose-lose.
- Finally, I develop a game plan. If sales meetings leave me feeling down, I have to review them with a coworker to find out why. A helpful colleague can suggest how to handle the situation better next time. When I craved cigarettes, I avoided coffee shops and bars. I don’t go to bakeries when I’m hungry. A game plan helps me win the battles before I face them the next time.
To be a successful parent, sober person, non-smoker (or non-smoking smoker like me), professional, student, dieter, athlete, or insert your own noun here we must clear out our minds, making room for positive things, good thoughts, good people and good experiences. To do that, we must first take out the Head Trash.