There’s a voice inside my head that makes me replay, analyze and question almost all the conversations that I have with other people. It’s like a little devil sitting on my shoulder, always there.
Was my funny remark taken the wrong way? Why did I use that word when a different one would have been better? I wish I’d said something else instead. They must think I’m stupid. Did they really mean what they said? Have I misread their tone? What if they don’t feel that way at all? Why did I say that? I’ve revealed too much. I haven’t revealed enough. I didn’t answer that question very well. I should have said more. I should have had a better response to their joke. They must think I’m really ignorant. I should have been funnier. What did that hug mean? Do they really like me? They were probably just being polite. They must be really upset with me.
And so it goes on. That voice chips away, niggling at my insecurities, picking them over like fresh pieces of meat.
Why do I do this, and can I make it stop?
In her book How to be Human Ruby Wax points out that although this internal thinking is just a small part of who we are, these thoughts are usually overwhelmingly negative.
She explains that such rumination is a by-product of evolution; in other words, because we evolved to think in order to survive, our brain is wired to warn us of dangers.
In this way, our brains have always been biased to focussing on the negative rather than the positive. Feeling happy that the sun is shining, for example, is of no use if a big snake is about to eat us whole. Worrying about stuff is just part of what our brain has evolved to do to ensure our survival.
I agree with Wax when she says “What a liberation it is to find out my negative thoughts aren’t my fault. Free at last!”
Read more about How To Be Human here.