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Notes from an empath: Mascot of Mean Thoughts

Do you ever get a voice in your head telling you mean things? I’ve started calling mine Trevor.

Trevor is not a real person ... he is a compilation of bullies and critics that I have known in my life. His voice is a mash up of people who have said unkind things to me over the years, whose words have made me feel stupid or pointless or afraid.

He hangs around. A lot.

I’ll be going about my day, let’s say I’m making a cup of tea. I’ll be waiting for the kettle to boil, and an idea will pop into my head. It might be one of those ideas that hits like the strike of a match, lights a little fire in me and sparks up my creative energies. A poem I could write. A project I could start. A new venture I could try. And just as I start to stoke this fire and let the idea grow into a process of next steps, Trevor appears. His voice tells me all the reasons why this is a bad idea, how stupid the plan is, and all the ways that it will fail. The fire goes out. His presence looms large, like an oversized and badly designed sports team mascot. Except Trevor doesn’t bring cheer. He is my mascot of mean thoughts.

So often, when a creative idea comes to me, I will -- almost without realising I’m doing it -- think WWTS ... ‘What Would Trevor Say?’ Trevor quickly shows up, gives a rapid fire explanation of why the idea won’t work, shames me for being foolish to even think of it in the first place, and shuts it down.

How many Trevors are out there in the minds of my fellow humans?

How many great ideas are lost to the mascots of mean thoughts?

It can take a lot of work to deal with Trevor. I had to wrestle with him just to write this blog. However, I have come to realise something very important: Trevor doesn’t like it when I look at him. I mean I don’t literally look at him -- he lives in my mind, not in my flat … though if he did live in my flat, I bet he’d be the kind of roommate who leaves piles of his clipped toenails by the sink, doesn’t replace the empty toilet paper roll, lets dirty dishes grow mouldy in his room, and practices his bongos at 3am.

Trevor prefers to stomp around in my mind, throw insults at my thoughts, and hiss mean words into my ears. But, when I stop and pay attention to Trevor, he goes quiet and starts to squirm. In those moments, I look closely at Trevor and I realise that I have actually created him. I gave him a voice. I came up with the nasty things he said to me. I let myself believe them. After a few moments of giving him my focus he -- rather amazingly -- starts to fade away.

So here are a few suggestions for dealing with a mascot of mean thoughts:

  1. Give your mascot a name. They are easier to call out that way.

  2. Give your mascot some attention. Notice the mean thoughts barging in. Consider whether the mean thoughts your mascot is saying are true, or kind, or helpful. It is very likely that they are none of these things.

  3. Give yourself some grace. You might successfully wrestle your mascot one day only to have them show up again the next day. It’s okay. Mine is still around a lot. But I’m getting better at reminding myself to take a moment to listen to Trevor, decide that he is full of crap, finish making my cup of tea, and maybe -- just maybe -- let myself write down that spark of an idea.


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