I listened to an interview a couple days ago with this woman who said that to walk with courage is to walk with fear. She said the two go hand in hand. You have to move towards fear to act with courage. That’s the deal. You don’t get rid of fear. You just lean in.
I think it’s the same with craziness.
You can’t be courageous without welcoming your inner crazy person.
She’s gonna show up. For sure. Because your inner crazy person is just another name for the part of you that wants to keep you safe. She shows up in all kinds of disguises.
I am being courageous a lot lately and I am also seriously crazy half the time.
Most recently on Monday.
One minute I was plugging happily away, creating amazing programs that will heal the whole world (I have small dreams) and the next I was sobbing and yelling about how I have failed at everything, how my child will not be cared for, how I’m losing my health, my business is ruined and to top it all off I AM OUT OF LEGAL PADS, on which my life truly depends (almost as much as I depend on Post-it notes) and it’s clearly ALL MY FAULT because I have done EVERYTHING wrong.
If you read this post two weeks ago, you know that consciously I don’t believe in focusing on trying to be good and right all the time, but my inner crazy person does not know this yet. She is ALL about RIGHT or WRONG. There is no grey.
Health psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal of Stanford says that change is difficult because when we are seeking to make a change there is a “competition of selves” going on – and different parts of ourselves want different things. Scientists can actually see these different selves represented as different systems in the brain!
The bad news is – your different selves are not going away. If you start moving towards what you REALLY want, instead of staying safe and small, you will freak some of them out. Get ready for crazy!
But the good news is that you can learn how to calm the crazy parts—the parts that do not want to move into new territory, the parts that think change is too hard, or don’t believe you can handle the challenge. You can make decisions from what Dr. McGonigal calls the “wiser self”—the part of you that’s willing to invest in change, that knows what you really want most in your heart of hearts and is ready to do what it takes to get it.
There are all kinds of different strategies that you can learn from mindfulness practitioners, scientists like Dr. McGonigal, life coaches, or other wise folks, but for today I’m going to share three of my favorites.
1. Become the compassionate “watcher.”
Instead of identifying with those crazy voices step back and observe. Notice that you CAN step back and observe, so you are NOT the crazy person. You are bigger. From this watching place, offer compassion to the impulsive/scared/struggling/addicted/crazy self. This is a HUGE first step that few of us take naturally. Usually we start berating ourselves up for being crazy/irrational/overreacting, but compassion is actually more effective. Scientists can now see this in the brain! Self-compassion for your crazy-self strengthens your wiser-self.
2. If your craziness shows up as a really critical voice like mine did (life coachy folks call this the “inner critic”) imagine a humorous character that might represent that voice.
One of my clients saw one of the characters from Monster’s Inc. as her inner critic. Another saw hers as her “mean lunch lady” voice (my favorite inner critic character so far!) When trying this strategy, it’s best if you make sure the character is not someone you actually know (even if the voice sounds an awful lot like your Aunt Harriet.) Once you have your character in mind, imagine sending them on a vacation or giving him/her a snack to keep them quiet and occupied for a bit, or even just turn down the volume on the voice.
Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and write stream of consciousness. You could even try journaling a dialogue with that inner part of you that’s being crazy. Don’t let the pen stop. If you get stuck, just keep writing the same word or phrase over and over again, but keep the pen moving. See what comes up – you might get to what’s underneath the surface craziness. You’ll feel it if you do.
Thankfully, when I started losing my mind about the legal pads that hadn’t arrived from Amazon Prime, the part of me that was observing this crazy person who had taken over my body was somewhat amused. She could see the ridiculousness of my “world is ending” reaction about notepads and was able to offer compassion for this “crazy” part of me.
That’s a huge step for me, not to start beating myself up for being crazy and “over-reacting”—when I’m crazy, and over-reacting.
But in the end, on this particular night, my attempts to access my wiser self didn’t help me snap out of the meltdown. Sometimes that happens, too, even for life coaches.
Which leads me to my bonus tip. When all else fails, sleep.
Sometimes that crazy person is just a tired and cranky toddler who needs a nap.
Here’s to thriving!
P.S. I’ve got some FREE calls coming up next week for stressed college students (on Tuesday) and parents of stressed college students (on Thursday.)
If you fit in either category follow the links to find out more and sign up! If you can’t get on the call live, I’ll send you a recording, but you have to sign up to get it! It’s FREE. What’s stopping you?