On my phone I have a game that I’m sure a great deal of you are familiar with: Bejeweled — a game where you match up jewels and blow things up and earn points. It’s a great way to pass the time waiting in line at the DMV or the doctor’s office. The game does not require a lot of brain power.
Recently, I noticed — while playing the game — my inner thoughts would say things like:
Some of you may be familiar with similarly somewhat engaging games on your phone or Facebook, like Candy Crush, Words With Friends, and (if you haven’t been on a phone or computer in this decade) Tetris.
“God, you’re so stupid, how could you have missed that?!?”
“Faster! Shit, you’ve got the fingers of an arthritic grandmother stuck in the Arctic!”
“Why the hell did you do that? You’re such a dumbass.”
And so on, depending on whatever ‘mistake’ I’d made during the course of the one minute Bejeweled Blast session.
Having fallen into a funk recently, I’ve been trying to think about how I think, just to see if maybe I’m being hard on myself for no justifiable reason. I’ve been paying attention to the words I use toward myself.
But, see, when you’re talking to yourself, it’s really hard to hear what you’re saying. You’re so used to hearing it. Does that make sense? So I hadn’t noticed anything rude or untoward about my inner voice.
Until I played that random game on my phone. Then certain things stuck out:
Those are just from the three examples I chose to share. These are fast thoughts. Thoughts I thought without thinking I thought them. By the time I noticed I’d thought them, I was thinking different things. Really, it’s surprising that I noticed how harsh I was being to myself.
Of course, Bejeweled is such a little game. It takes a minute to play. You only have to have a preschool education to play it. The world does not depend on you winning or losing. Yet, I was beating myself up over it. I spoke pretty darn hatefully in my mind.
After hearing the negative Nelly so clearly in the game, I noticed it in the other areas of my life.
Writing: The writing is going to slow. Why did you watch that TV show instead of working on your next chapter you lazy ass? You’re messing it up.
Acting: No one will cast you because you’re too fat/can’t do accents/have no training. Useless. Why are you doing this instead of writing?
Family: You’re a horrible mother, look — on a list of things you can’t do right, you didn’t even list them first. You’re selfish. How can you hate to help a kindergartner with their homework? It’s not like the homework’s gonna get easier Retard.
Again — thoughts that come and go like wind. (And trust me, these are some of the more mild ones.) They keep poking in, leaving a tiny, pinprick hole where the go in and out. Unfortunately, if enough of them come and go, your brain turns into this sieve. Things leak in and out and you have no control.
In an effort to stop these little bastards, I’ve taken to writing down at least three things I have done well during the course of the day. I started this reluctantly because it seemed a little too Self Help for my taste. But I’m glad I’ve started. Even after just a couple days I feel more positive and my funk is lifting.
Basically, what recording and catching positive thoughts does is give you ammunition — something to fire back at the enemy of negative thoughts. After a while, all those positive things you wrote down in a notebook become a physical thing: paper after paper of things you’ve done right. It’s hard to argue against thousands of positive words. I’m excited to keep building that evidence up.
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.