Managing That Voice in Your Head
Let’s say, at a bus stop in frigid weather, you wipe your runny nose with a tissue and a man charges up to you and starts screaming that you’re unclean and spreading germs. He continues to harangue you until the bus comes, then finds a seat far away from you and shoots you dirty looks. What meaning would you make of the encounter? My guess is that you’d assume that he had some mental problems and would, hopefully, feel compassion for him due to it and his unwarranted agitation. Or you might be annoyed or anxious that this could happen again, seeing as you take the same bus every morning.
Now, let’s say you start taking guitar lessons in middle-age and are told that you have an exceptional talent by your teacher and others. In fact, people can’t get over your newly discovered ability. So you start to think about winning an American Idol competition, leaving your satisfying job and loving family, and joining a band to tour the world. What meaning would you make of these thoughts? My hunch is that you would recognize them as a fantasy which makes you happy to daydream about, but won’t be handing in your work resignation letter any time soon.
Last, let’s say that minutes after dinner, while checking your Facebook messages, you remember that there’s a piece of chocolate cake in the fridge left over from your daughter’s birthday party. The voice in your head insists that you must instantly get up and finish that cake. Would you view this thought as nonsensical, as you did the rantings of the stranger at the bus stop, would you recognize it as a wistful idea like becoming a middle-age rock star or, as you’re full and satisfied from dinner, would you take it seriously and act on it? After all, your cake thought is no less ridiculous than what you would think in either of the other two scenarios.
Many of our thoughts are ridiculous, unwise, nonsensical, laughable, unworthy of attention, and have absolutely no basis in rationality. Take a minute to digest this fact. Not every idea that flits through your mind (or mine) is something to take seriously. And many of you take your thoughts about eating, weight and body image far too seriously. Sometimes, rather than responding to unwise and silly thoughts with logic, we’re far better off recognizing them as nothing more than a brain glitch. You don’t need to mentally debate about eating the chocolate cake or not—or weighing yourself for the third time in a day or filling your shopping cart with non-nutritious food because it’s another lonely Saturday night. That act only gives credence and validity to irrationality. Simply call the thought what it is, a brain glitch, and think about something else.