anxiety, blog, choice, fear

Latent Lollygagger: There’s a Monkey in my Boat

This week, I’ve noticed a theme lately in some of my writing, conversations, and work I’ve been doing: that of being carried along in life, directed by external forces rather than my own power and desire.

I’ve noticed that my chattering monkey brain, which produces runaway thoughts, can also feel like they’re being directed by forces beyond my control, being amplified and layered on top of one another until I’m practically paralyzed.

What are these external forces? They are the way in which I perceive the reaction of the global “they.” With some decisions, it may be one particular person or group. Sometimes, it feels like it’s a general “they” looking disapprovingly at me over the tops of their bifocal glasses.

I’ve always been motivated by pleasing people, by not disappointing people, by praise (even though I immediately get embarrassed and try to downplay my accomplishments). In my mind, that means doing things “right” and not rocking the boat; working hard and being disciplined. Not giving anyone any cause to have anything but a positive opinion of me.

That means my Inner Critic – that personification of the fear that arises whenever we want to do something new and scary and tells us instead to open Facebook and eat potato chips – is one of “them,” big time.

In noticing my chattering monkey brain (the voice of my Inner Critic), which is usually most intense after the alarm goes off and fills my head with thoughts that seem productive but really just cause me to keep hitting snooze, I wondered: Do these runaway thoughts find their way to the stream of information I think I’m getting externally?

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

I can see my Inner Critic as a ventriloquist, speaking through the mouths of those around me. Morphing the voices, like slowing down a record player until the words sound like something else. I’ll become convinced that other people are judging me, are telling me what I “should” do or not do. When really, it’s my own inner fear and uncertainty personified as my Inner Critic, which then throws its voice and makes me think that the pressure is from other people.

And then instead of being able to listen to my own deepest gut desires in order to direct the path I’m on, I can hear only all of this chatter and it seems easier just to throw my hands up and say, “Yes, you’re right, let’s go that way” and giving the oars over to my Inner Critic. That monkey brain is a terrible captain, though, and mostly wants to stay close to shore or in a smooth pool where it tempts me with ease and tranquility.

Which is a nice place to rest, to regroup. But then I notice my true self is eyeing the river rushing by, wondering what’s out there, telling me to steer myself back into the middle of the rapids and face potential capsizing and a rough journey. This is terrifying, but at least I won’t be stuck on shore.

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