I saw my therapist today.
We talked about the past week, and focused on the few times the negative self-talk took over. Because I had blogged about one of those experiences here, I was equipped to remember in detail what I did to overcome the situation.
She wondered why it took me so long to install the positive self-talk to counter what my brain was feeding itself, and I didn’t really have an answer. The best I could tell her was that my brain was struggling with telling itself that everything I did and said was wrong, that I just needed to be right about SOMETHING, anything, and so I’d argue myself into complete irrationality.
She asked where that came from, and I told her that I was a hyper-intelligent child and while other kids were popular or athletic, I was smart, and didn’t know anything else to be but smart, which meant I was right about the stuff I was talking about. It’s all I knew how to do, and still to this day I crave learning anything I can. My self-worth was wrapped up in being smart and being right, and so when my mind is at war with itself it goes back to old habits.
She then asked me if I always had to be right in arguments with my wife. I told her no, I learned early on that being right wasn’t as important as being happy.
Then she asked why I can’t tell myself that when I’m argumentatively irrational.
And I didn’t have an answer, and I still don’t know why.
So that’s my homework. When I start arguing for the sake of arguing, one of us is to say “is it better to be right or be happy?” And that hopefully will defuse the situation to the point that I can install the positive self-talk faster with less downtime for distraction.
There’s something else that I didn’t discuss with her that I’m just now realizing. Almost every argument that we have starts with my perception of something being skewed from what a normal brain would perceive the situation to be. In the example from earlier this week, I made breakfast before coffee, and that triggered a panic attack, which led to the downward spiral.
I’ve been thinking this evening about the times that I get irrational, and almost every single time the triggering event is a moment of panic that I let get out of control.
Will the secret to getting this under control be more in the direction of addressing the initial panic, or the irrationality that follows? I don’t know, but there’s nothing wrong with working towards solutions for both.
I just know that for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like I’m on the verge of figuring this out, and that’s an amazing feeling.