Traumatic Experiences - Part 2
When Tina experienced a sexual trauma, she also experienced repetitive thoughts and emotions that eventually became conditional mental patterns. Tina experienced these conditioned mental patterns numerous times on a daily basis. In fact, most of the time, these conditioned mental patterns were playing in the background of her mind. Because it was in the background, she didn't really notice it much unless something went wrong. Then the background voice would suddenly move to the forefront and round and round it would go. The repetitive thoughts were internally spoken in her voice. Because they sounded like her, she never questioned them. Tina regarded the thoughts and emotions as "her thoughts" and "her emotions". Because she experienced them, she assumed they must be true. But were they?
As we saw in Tina's case, those conditioned mental patterns were not true. In fact, they weren't actually "her" thoughts. (Reread that sentence again!) Although the thoughts went through her mind, they also went through the mind of countless other victims of sexual assault. Tina was one of many people who shared almost identical thoughts and emotions. If a conditioned mental pattern is almost universal among those who experienced a similar event, one can hardly take personal ownership. Rather, it would more accurately be described as part of the collective human experience. In other words, this voice in Tina's head was not true, it was simply part of what happens to humans when they experience a trauma of this nature.
It is interesting how in language we take ownership of some things and not others. We talk about "my weight" or "my blood sugar" but we never say "my flu" or "my cold". Somehow we never personalize or take ownership of those things. In the case of conditioned mental patterns, I am suggesting that we not take ownership of those either. In the case of flus and colds, they take on a relatively predictable pattern with only some individual variability. It is the same with conditioned mental patterns. In Tina's case, her conditioned mental pattern was extremely similar to the conditioned mental patterns of people who experienced childhood sexual abuse. As a therapist, when it comes to conditioned mental patterns, I can say "there's nothing new under the sun".
If Tina could take a step back, she could observe the conditioned mental pattern rather than simply react to it. By observing the conditioned mental pattern, she suddenly has an awareness she did not previously possess. Tina can realize she is not the voice, she is the one who is aware of (or listening to) the voice.
This may not sound like an important distinction, but it is life changing. What if you didn't believe the voice in your head? What if it was just a voice? What if you knew the voice wasn't always truthful? Have you noticed that voice in your head? What are your conditioned mental patterns?
If you are like most people, you may have noticed this voice in your head is not always the kindest or friendliest of characters. Quite frankly, at times, I find the voice in my head to be rather petty, extremely judgmental, and unbelievably impatient. Sometimes the voice is angry, sometimes it was sad. Sometimes the voice feels superior to others, sometimes it feels inferior. If I am the voice, well gosh, I'm in trouble!
If you are the voice, then you are believing and reacting to whatever the voice is saying.
However, if you are merely observing the voice, you don't have to believe it or react to it. You can take a step back and watch it, rather than being sucked into it. When you observe the voice, you become aware of two things:
1. That is one crazy voice in your head and
2. If you observe the voice, then it can't be you!
When you become aware the voice in your head is not you, the conditioned mental patterns begin to lose their power. When you are not the voice, you don't believe every dysfunctional thought it is saying. You have the opportunity to chose. You can evaluate whether this thought serves you. You can tell the voice, you don't believe him! You can tell the voice to shut up! Unfortunately, the voice doesn't like to shut up, even when you tell it to.
Voice: You're not really going to wear that! It makes you look fat! You really need to lose some weight girl. My God, how did you let this happen!.....
Does this sound like a friend? Does this sound like someone with your best interest in mind? Are these comments helpful?
The voice in your head can be vicious and destructive but you don't have to see it as true. If it's just "that guy" again, it loses it's power. You can respond with a productive choice.
You (talking to the Voice): Well, it's not my best look. I think I will try the blue shirt. I always feel comfortable wearing that.
Sometimes the voice in your head is loud and even with your best efforts you have trouble making a positive choice. I find that giving the voice an activity keeps it occupied so that I can carry on without the obnoxious intrusion. My personal favorite is to go through the alphabet saying as many positive words as I can think of that start with that letter. It goes like this:
Amazing, Accepting, Abundant...Beautiful...Centered, Caring.....eXtraordinary, Youthful, Zen
(Below is a more complete list to help you get started.)
I found this especially helpful when I was walking the dogs or cleaning my house. It is during those times of quiet when the voice was prone to it's antics. When I have gone through tough periods of my life, it has kept me from getting stuck in anger or sorrow. Yes, I experienced those emotions but I didn't get trapped in a conditioned mental pattern. Instead, I created a conditioned mental pattern of my choice.