Solcana blog

HUMPTY DUMPTY HAD A THOUGHT

By: Lauren Anderson

The other day I’m sitting in my dressing room at work, chatting with some friends before a show.

(I am an actor, so think of it as my “office” except there are a lot of mirrors, and it’s perfectly acceptable to take your clothes off… and put new ones back on.)

I’m doing my best version of a Degrassi High teen, and I’m sitting on the counter with my feet up on a backwards chair. It’s very cool. I’m sitting in a very cool way. (Ahem…)

We’re talking and laughing, and it’s an animated good time with people I adore. I’m in mid-sentence about to say something, and I look to the side and catch myself in the mirror that covers two thirds of the room. I think–

“Ah! Oh Gross, you Humpty Dumpty- looking asshole. Get off the counter, you’re gonna break it. And all the kings men won’t put it back together.”

THAT IS WHAT I SAID TO MYSELF IN MY MIND.

It happened in an instant. Just a vile, cruel, judgmental thought. Said in a mean way. Perhaps a relatively clever dig on myself if I’m looking for something positive maybe? But all in all, a pretty awful thing to hear.

Especially when I’m just trying to hang out with my friends and have a good time.

I am shocked for a few reasons.

One, I used to talk this way to myself ALL THE TIME. Not always Nursery Rhyme themed, but still cruel and judgmental. But I rarely do this anymore! Because I thought I had trained myself out of it.

BUT BLAMO. Here it is again. Like a Krakken rising up from the center of the Earth to signify End Times. (Anyone else watch Good Omens? So. Good.) I mean, I thought I was over this shit! What the FUHHHHH was that? The monster didn’t appear for so long, I thought it’s a myth, only to discover it quietly waiting at the bottom of the ocean.

And Two, there was a time in my life, I would’ve said this out loud to the room in hopes of getting a laugh. But I didn’t do that this time. Because A. I must know better by now right? This kind of stuff isn’t funny anymore. In fact, it never was. It was really my attempt to manage my own darkness.

And B. It wouldn’t get a laugh anyway, because the people in the room are professional comedians with hearts of gold, who know the difference between a good self-deprecating attempt and unkindness.

Lastly, can you imagine if someone else would’ve walked into the room and said that to me? I can’t think of anyone that goes around being that much of an overt asshole, besides evil James Spader from an 80’s rom-com trying to “neg” Molly Ringwald into sleeping with him.

It would be so wildly mean and un-called-for, that everyone would be shocked, revolt, pick up a pitchfork, and run that dickhole out of town.

So I can conclude some things.

Even though I don’t do this much anymore, that tendency to backtalk still lives inside of me. And I gotta remind myself that negative thoughts, are similar to habits and emotions. Over time, they can create neural pathways in our brains.

And once a path is created, it becomes the easiest route. And it’s hard to go another way.

Who knows why I thought this internal hate speak was ever helpful. But I know that habits form because at some point I thought it was useful and soothing to speak to myself in this awful way.

Maybe because I thought I was “telling myself the truth”? Or perhaps it’s what I thought I deserved?

*shudders

Yeesh. That’s a rough thought. But it’s good to know it doesn’t feel right anymore. And so over time, I started to speak to myself differently. It takes a lot of work, but I truly believe I can re-train my brain to chose a different path.

And for the most part, it does! So what happened?

THE COMMENT CAME FROM INSIDE MY OWN MIND.

It’s like, “Get out! The call is coming from inside the house!!!” It’s not safe in here anymore. What do I do? What do I do? Why today? Why now? Why Humpty Dumpty?

Well– I gotta be honest again. Training myself to make new paths is hard. And when I’m tired or stressed or experiencing a hormone flux, it’s easy to go back to those old dark alleyways.

But just like meditation, it’s important to not block these thoughts. It’s important for me to let them in, NOTICE them, and then replace that thought with something more useful.

My therapist and I are working on this right now. Teaching myself to notice things is often the first and most important step in training myself to “let go” of a habit that is not serving me, or to do something a different way.

FOR EXAMPLE: I have a tendency to clock people’s body language. You can tell a lot about a person from the way they hold themselves. It’s a soft science but there is a lot of usefulness to it. I started looking into it, because it’s useful in my job to be able to portray emotions and to read a room. But then I got a little too into it. I started to do extensive research on the subject, (like staying up all night reading FBI reports, and CIA interrogation tactics) because I found it so compelling.

At first it was fun and fascinating, but over time It started causing me stress. I was too wrapped up in it. I started to attach “stories” to the body language I would observe, and then this would cause me anxiety. Especially if it was someone I was interested in romantically, or a co-worker etc.

I had been doing it for so long, and gotten really good at it. So when my therapist suggested I stop doing that I was like “Okay, but HOW?” And she was like, “Start by noticing when you do it.”

And I was like, “And then what?” And she’s like, “That’s it. Just notice for now.”

A few weeks of “just noticing” started to re-train my brain. I would see someone sit a certain way, or cross their arms, and instead of habitually crafting a story about their body language, I would say to myself, “Anderson, you’re doing it again.”

The simple act of noticing, helped me stay present, and keep things factual.

And now it’s no longer a habit that was taking over too much of my brain space, but a skill I can employ if I choose to. And honestly? It’s like FREEDOM.

The same goes for negative body talk. I didn’t magically teach myself to not do it anymore. But when it does bubble up, I notice. And then I talk myself back into reality.

So cut back to the dressing room.

What I didn’t realize is that I was speaking, and when I saw myself in the mirror I stopped mid-sentence. And in my mind, I said the cruel thing,

“Ah! Oh Gross, you Humpty Dumpty- looking asshole. Get off the counter, you’re gonna break it. And all the kings men won’t put it back together.”

And then I said the next thing.

“Uh oh. Anderson. That was mean. You said something really mean to yourself right now.”

That was me NOTICING. And then I walked it back.

“You do not look like Humpty Dumpty. And we do NOT speak to ourselves this way anymore. It doesn’t help. It only hurts. My body is good. My body deserves love.”

And when I came back out of my mind, I noticed my two co-workers staring at me.

One was like, “Where’d you go?” And the other was like, “Yeah. You just stopped talking mid-sentence.”

I laughed and apologized. And because they’re good friends, who have supported me every step of the way, I told them EXACTLY what had happened.

They both congratulated me on backing myself out of harm’s way.

And since then, I can’t stop thinking about that moment. Because I feel like it marks a true difference.

A real and fundamental change. I am not exempt from negative feelings or language about my body. But now I can notice when I’m telling myself an old story. It’s not the truth, and it’s not a fact. The noticing helps me stay in a usable reality. And then I can replace that language with what serves me now.

I can’t block or stop negative thoughts when they come in. Because that’s inevitable.

Humpty Dumpty is a story, but it doesn’t have to be my story.

And if I fall off the proverbial wall of Positive Body Talk, it’s good to know that I can still put myself back together again. I don’t need king’s horses or men.  I can do it for myself.  And it starts with Noticing.

 

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