The Little Voice That Says I Can’t Handle It

I have discovered that there is a voice in my head, a part of myself, that continually makes me panic at the thought of having too much to do.  It thinks I won’t be able to handle it.  It tells me that, as if it is a truth, and paralyzes me. At least it used to.  I also discovered I do not have to agree with it or act as if it is true.

When I look at my office, the smallest room in the house which also doubles as a “catch-all” for all of the junk in the house, I literally feel a sense of panic pass through my body. It is a body-wide shudder that makes me want to run away, but instead, as my body prefers, I freeze.  So I ignore it, walk straight to my desk and face my computer screen so I don’t see it.  If I don’t see it, out of mind.

I have lived this way for so incredibly long, I just thought this was a natural response to what I have always perceived as a source of overwhelm.  It never crossed my mind to challenge the thought – just to accept it as truth and succumb to it. But as I have been learning about and listening to the different voices in my head, the different parts of my soul, the different me’s from my past, I’m realizing that it is a lie, a bold-faced (albeit protective) lie from a part of me.

First of all, if it is true that our many parts are constantly trying to protect us, especially from overwhelm stemming from our suppressed emotions, then this makes total sense. When I feel uncomfortable, or feel a disturbing emotion, my Manager gets to distracting me from it, and the Firefighter has me ready to run from it (or eat a bag of caramel corn while I distract myself from it).  A part of me believes I will absolutely fall apart if faced with uncomfortable feelings and emotions, and it tells me so.

Another point of interest I learned in a TED talk about the Pleasure Trap is that there is a part of our brain that freaks out, panics, when we attempt to change the pathways in our brains by new and different behavior.  It resists us and even evokes fear in us to stop us from changing.  That is because doing things the same way without thinking is easier and supposedly safer to our mind’s way of thinking. Change is risky.

So if you combine these two factors – your soul screaming at you that you are a fragile flower who will fall apart if your emotions surface and you experience uncomfortable feelings, plus your brain trying to scare you into falling back into line and following the same pathways (even if they are unhealthy and unproductive) – you can understand why you have trouble modifying your thoughts and your actions.  You are discouraged by your thoughts, emotions and flesh from changing anything.

However, once we have prepared ourselves with the knowledge of the backlash we will experience, we can then steel ourselves against the ploys our body and soul will attempt, and take back our lives.  Like Toto pulling back the curtain to reveal that it’s just a little man who is controlling the very scary image of Oz, when we realize that it is just a soul and body glitch that is stopping us from moving forward, we can get past them.  Like the grown elephant who finally pulls away from the tiny string that has kept it attached to a post since it was a baby, we find that what was holding us back was simply our belief that we couldn’t move beyond where we’ve always been.

So I have started addressing my parts when they tell me I won’t be able to handle things.  When I get a text from someone who normally bears bad news, instead of getting sick to my stomach and shaking, I say, “I CAN handle this.  Whatever uncomfortable news they bring, I may feel emotions, but those emotions will NOT kill me. I CAN handle this.”

When I see my office with the piles of paper that require scanning and data entry, and I know that my assistant won’t be available for a while, instead of giving in to the gut wrenching reaction of fear of not getting everything done, I correct myself.  “I WILL be able to get this done eventually, even if it will not be enjoyable.  The fears that I will be overwhelmed by all I have to do are LIES. Having to do things I don’t like and that make me uncomfortable is a part of life, temporary times I have to push through it and just get it done. I have historically always finished everything I needed to do, so I CAN do this, and there is NOTHING TO FEAR.”

And voila – the fear passes. The panic subsides. It just becomes a room full of papers, not a torture chamber.  It is simply a text from someone, not an envelope with deadly white powder.   I have found the secret of not giving in to the terror – tell it I know the truth, and that it is lying.  And then I act accordingly.

I love the story about John Wesley (I think it was him) who was in his bed when the devil came into his room.  John Wesley sat up in bed, looked straight at the enemy and said, ‘Oh, it’s just you.’  And then he went back to sleep.

That’s what I have learned to do with these soul and body reactions that paralyze me. They mean well, they want to protect me, but they are hindering me instead.  So I am putting them on notice that, although I appreciate the intent of the message, I will have to ignore it, because it is not helpful nor true.

I CAN do all things through Christ who gives me strength.