Prisoner of My Own Mind

» Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Prisoner of My Own Mind

I disappointed a vendor I do work for. The details are not very important. What is important is the way I initially reacted and how I handled the situation.

I was on my way to the Mojave Desert to facilitate a workshop for the Navy when I received the call on the phone from my client. As soon as I heard the disappointment, I bolted off the freeway to find a place to park. It felt like I had been punched in the gut and I couldn’t breathe.

I listened, and did my best to stay open. Luckily my “polished” self was in full gear. I was asking clarifying questions, expressing my apologies, clearly stating my intention of providing amazing service to this client. I was able to convince the person on the line to let the provider of the feedback know that this news was a shock and that I wanted more specific information as quickly as possible.

As soon as I hung up the phone, my body was shaking. I felt a wave of shame and embarrassment flood over me from the tip of my head to the soles of my feet. My “perfectionist” was definitely in the driver’s seat sending me disturbing and familiar messages “you are selfish,” “you are too focused on your own needs,” “you have screwed up this relationship which you really need for your business,” and “you are rigid and need to be more flexible.”

I got back on the freeway and reached out for social support. I called my husband and was crying as I was talking. He tried to be logical but I wasn’t ready for this yet. I needed to find a way to surface the feelings and let them flow through me before my thinking brain could kick in.

I continued driving and followed a very strange route that my GPS laid out. I felt like I was zigzagging across the desert and was certain this was not the same route I had taken the week before. I wound up at what looked to be like a ghost town. I saw a building that had a sign that said “Jail.” I felt like I was in the middle of a tourist attraction. I was nervous and anxious. I later realized that this was a foreshadowing for what was to happen later. It was like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

I finally arrived at the Navy base and luckily once again my “polished” self was in the house. I politely and efficiently prepared the room for the workshop the next day.

I spoke to my mom on the phone before having dinner and didn’t dare mention this news to her. I was too embarrassed and ashamed.

I made it to my crappy hotel room on the first floor facing the main street. I felt uncomfortable and made sure my window and door were locked. I tried to distract myself but continued to hear the “perfectionist” voices rumbling inside my head. I knew what I had to do. I needed to engage in free form writing.

I took out a pad of paper and started writing whatever thoughts were in my head. The judgements, shame, unrealistic expectations, and embarrassment quickly surfaced. The tears started flowing. I continued to write whatever was present for me. I could feel the anger bubbling inside of me. I desperately wanted to surface these feelings and then flush them away.

As soon as I felt complete, about 20 minutes later, I tore up the 5 pages into tiny pieces and threw them in the trash. Too bad I was in a hotel room or I would have burned them for a greater sense of relief. I then reached out to my dear friend and shared what was happening with me. At this point, I was ready to engage my thinking brain a bit more. She let me vent and helped me put things in perspective. I was so grateful for her support and for her knowing me so well.

It was finally time for bed. I kept telling myself “you are safe” and glanced at the window praying I wouldn’t see any shadows trying to peer into my room. I felt very exposed in oh so many ways. I had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. so I needed to quiet my brain as best as I could and go to sleep. I tried to stop replaying the phone conversation in my head and go to sleep.

That night, I had a disturbing dream in which I was facilitating a workshop in a prison. I saw myself walking past the prison cells with women inmates behind bars screaming out at me as I was trying to find the training room. I was scared and very uncomfortable. I woke up remembering my dream and feeling exhausted. I did not sleep soundly.

As I replayed the dream in my head, my “performer,” my higher self told me – “the prison is in your mind. You have created your own prison.”  Wow – these words struck me hard as I knew this was my truth. I was tormenting myself because I didn’t please someone else. I recognized the old pattern of trying to fill the well from the outside instead of filling the well from within. I knew that I needed to believe in myself and take ownership that I had done the best that I could. I needed to love myself despite the fact that I wasn’t’ living up to someone elses expectation and that I wasn’t perfect.

With that important reminder I set out to facilitate the workshop for that day. Once again, my “performer” thankfully kicked in and I was grateful to facilitate a well-received workshop. I was even brave enough to sing for the group and received a standing ovation. I shared the message of the importance of being vulnerable it draws people in, versus building walls by portraying ourselves as perfect.

As I reflect upon this experience many insights and lessons stand out for me:

  • I was grateful that I was able to be a third party observer in my head and notice my “perfectionist” kicking in when I heard the initial news. I didn’t automatically allow the “perfectionist” to take the driver’s seat. I allowed the thoughts and feelings to surface without fully owning the messages I was receiving. I know that my brain lies to me all the time.
  • I reached out for support from my husband and friend. I was vulnerable with them and shared my deepest and darkest fears.
  • I engaged in free form writing, which helped the feelings flow through me instead of holding on to them.
  • I paid attention to my dream and listened to my “performer” when she illuminated the fact that I had created a prison inside my own head.
  • I allowed my “performer” to shine as she facilitated the workshop successfully and even was courageous enough to sing as part of a work event.
  • I was appreciative for the reminder that “school is always in session.” The goal is not to eliminate the old “perfectionist” tapes in my head. The goal is to build the muscle of letting my “performer” drive by giving her a voice. The more I do this the stronger she becomes and this allows me to consciously choose her over the “perfectionist.”

I hope this experience helps you consider different aspects of yourself. Who is in your driver’s seat? How do you nurture and support yourself when you become emotionally triggered? How do you surface and listen to your higher self’s messages instead of being dragged down by your gremlins?

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