When I’m REALLY in a mental funk. The torrent of negative thoughts shrouds any kind of hope for…well, anything, seemingly.
In March of 2017 I took up a new practice to help combat the depression; the residue of those defeatist thoughts.
This rudimentary technique was at the suggestion of my remarkable therapist. He’s not a sports guy, so I never expected him to be telling me baseball story marked with psychological assistance. And as big a sports
fan follower as I am, I was surprised I’d never heard the anecdote of Detroit Tigers star Kirk Gibson vs. his position.
Some of the details of account are a little foggy to me, and this may be more of a tall tale since I can’t confirm the details on Wikipedia, but here goes…
Gibson was struggling to play right field in Tiger Stadium. Something about the sun being a significant impediment. Again, I think. The moral of the story, how it helped me and why I’m blogging this will all makes sense. I promise.
So, I’m told, Gibby goes to a sports psychologist. And that person told Gibson you need to convince yourself you CAN play right field, in the sun, in Tiger Stadium. They (sorry, don’t know if it was a him or her, but I’ll surmise a him) said every morning before you get to the ballpark you need to repeat this OUT LOUD to yourself. Repeatedly! I CAN PLAY RIGHT FIELD IN THE SUN IN TIGER STADIUM. I CAN PLAY RIGHT FIELD IN THE SUN IN TIGER STADIUM. I CAN PLAY RIGHT FIELD IN THE SUN AT TIGER STADIUM.
The out-loud part of this is crucial! For some biochemical, neuroscience reason, negative thoughts need to hear positive words to be beaten down. I have no empirical data to back this up. Only my own experience. I KNOW when negative thoughts arise, they’re going to cause a deluge of mental and emotional trouble. Positive thoughts (thoughts) don’t seem to shove them back where they came from. However, out-loud positive words (words v thoughts) seem to be a helpful remedy. EVEN if you don’t believe they words, they still seem to work! SCIENCE!
This little mental parlor game worked for Kirk Gibson. Or so says my therapist. And who am I to argue. Call it a placebo effect if you’d like. If it works, it works!
This mental demon I was battling in March ’17 had me on the offensive. A lengthy PCP (he’s prodigious with meds) visit and TWO sessions with my counselor in four days. The second one to be one where I turned in homework on how I was going to combat my depression differently this time.
After that first session I committed to beginning my mornings, like literally IN THE shower, where I’m usually most thoughtful and productive anyway, to reciting I’M GOING TO HAVE A GOOD DAY TODAY. I’M GOING TO HAVE A GOOD DAY TODAY. I AM GOING TO HAVE A GOOD DAY TODAY! It sounded ridiculous. At first, I didn’t believe it. But eventually the funk I was in began to dissipate. I was even able to add a layer to I’M GOING TO HAVE A GOOD DAY TODAY to those days when I’m feeling really negative, down or just back into my cynicism of THIS. DOESN’T. WORK. I am going to have a good day today BECAUSE…and then I quickly peer at my day through my mind and see where I KNOW I can find some small victories to rebuild or just build even more confidence so that I can continue to keep the scary harmful thoughts at arm’s distance.
For example, this morning was, I’m going to have a good day today because…I’ve prepped a good show, I’ve beaten this cold back a little bit, and, if all else fails, I can be back and resting the sickness out by 11am. Oh, I also came up with this blog idea!
There’s genuinely something, at least for people like you and I, about HEARING words, rather than listening to thoughts. And I should know this, because my most successful sessions in therapy are when I do most of the talking. The mark of a good counselor is one that asks the right questions – of a bright, self aware individual like us – so that we pull the answers to our emotional troubles out of our own mouths.
I also chastise myself for letting those negative thoughts* beat me up because I’ve long subscribed to the aphorism, we need to talk to ourselves, more than we listen to ourselves.
*Though sometimes those negative thoughts are so overwhelming, words won’t do the trick. Maybe stressors have been environmentally amplified, or it’s a weather thing, or meds need changing, just some outside perspective to reshape the prism of my mind is needed.*
I’ve shared this story on the radio shows before, but the reason I decided to day to write this up is because as I was seven feet out of my door, with my cold, car warming up outside, I was walking down the hallway doing my I’M GOING TO HAVE A GOOD DAY TODAY, etc…and these words came out of my mouth.
If repeating words or a belief over and over again can help a Jedi-wannabe navigate a deadly open battle field of troopers (STOP!) trying to protect the emerging Empire, then it can work for us!