“This person is just too ****ing happy to understand my life, let alone help me,” I thought, again, turning away from yet another self-help program.
Different things had helped a little over the years, but my gains were often fragile, and easily toppled.
Trying to “get help” can seem like yo-yo dieting for the emotions: initial rush of hope and enthusiasm, followed eventually by a return to the pits of despair.
I rejected one type of help after another, especially from people who seemed so cheerful it felt like we lived on different planets.
The more certain they were that they had a solution, the more certain I was that they couldnot help me.
“You’re so sure I can’t fail with your system,” I would think, “I failed PE in high school, Mr. Transcendent Smile, don’t tell me what’s not possible.”
By accident, and looking for something to help get me in a better frame of mind for professional success, I stumbled across a three-hour meditation loop of someone saying positive things to help your attitude if you listened to it before bed.
I needed a replacement for my music. I had previously picked music that matched my mood when I was feeling down, and that 30-year habit wasn’t helpful anymore. I started listening to that meditation during the day, when I needed to tune out a little bit while walking, exercising, or doing chores, and I had a revelation.
When I got a break from the negative, repetitive thoughts that tended to fill any void in mental exertion, it didn’t fix everything, but I felt so much better.*
I realized that one of the hardest things I was dealing with was listening to the regular background drone of my own, repetitive, negative thoughts. And I realized this by accidentally giving myself a temporary replacement for those thoughts.
If I could be free of those thoughts for half an hour, or an hour, during which time I’d feel better, maybe I could get them to go away for longer?
And when you’ve said something to yourself 100 times, maybe 1,000 times, is it really a thought anymore? It’s more like a tape loop. Like an old song. It might hurt to hear it, but it’s not original and interesting anymore. Was it still my favorite? Would I miss it?
Friends, I did not miss those things I had thought about 1,000 times or more.
With the high emotion drained away from them, they were mostly boring.
But that recording, and a lot of content that’s meant to help people improve their lives, was just so positive that I couldn’t quite suspend my disbelief. It was a little too much, and I wasn’t sure that all the spiritual ideas in it really worked for me.
I would find myself arguing with the recording.
At least it was something new to think about, so that was still better. Though by then, I’d started aspiring as to how maybe even I could spend more time thinking about things that were … hopeful? Nice? Soothing?
But that was later.
First, I’d needed to hush the thoughts that were crushing my spirit.
This is the recording that I wish I’d had to listen to then.
I hope that if my story resonates with you, it can also help you get enough space from your old habits of thought to believe that you — yes, even you! — could make some new ones.
And if you don’t believe that right now, believe that I believe it for you.
Better Mental Background Noise is a meditation for when the past is too much: for chronic worriers, perseverators, ruminators, people who feel more agitated when they sit still to meditate, and people whose heads are overcrowded with reasons why things are terrible, so they can try to get a bit of a break from their own thought habits.
* Disclaimer: This product is for entertainment only, and does not constitute medical advice or guarantee any result. If you need medical care or crisis counseling, please consult a licensed professional in the appropriate specialty.