Your Brain Suffers from Stockholm Syndrome

For starters, let’s just clear up a few things up. As a life coach, I am not asking you to hire me because I have all the answers. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I, my friends, do not have it “all together.”

I have, in fact, shown up to work at a big fancy law firm with my shirt on inside out or having forgotten to do my eye make-up on just my left eye.

Just like all other humans on the face of the planet, I am challenged every day to evolve, to learn, and some days it’s a challenge just to fix my face and be kind.

No, dear readers, I do not have all the answers. If you ever encounter a life coach who tells you that they have the answers, take a mental picture and walk away slowly. Any one who claims to have all the answers is either an enlightened being or a narcissist.

What I can offer you is a ‘how to’ guide to yourself. Did you know that your brain has between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts per day? I can’t even manage my ABCs if I have “wordy” music playing in the background. It’s a wonder we can get anything done with all those thoughts wandering around up there. But here’s the real deal. Those thoughts are choices. They are not facts, they do not necessarily represent the truth, and they do not just happen to you.

They are things you are choosing to think.

You control them. They are options and you are probably picking the crappy ones. If your thoughts are all choices and can be characterized as truth or falsity, don’t you think we should spend some time looking at those thoughts? I don’t mean the thoughts “that pen is pink” or “the sky is blue”. I am not challenging you to get all red pill, blue pill, matrix-style on me. The thoughts I challenge you to evaluate are those that have an impact on our daily lives. Those thoughts that drive our emotions, even if subtly.

Here’s the truth: your reptilian brain is stuck in a ‘thought routine.’ It is telling you, and you are believing, all sorts of things that aren’t true. And it is all happening without your awareness.

Here are a few of my own wonderful thoughts that required some challenging:

  • my boss has no idea how to manage people
  • my co-worker is a judgmental prick
  • I can’t be a partner and have a family
  • no one else works as hard as I do
  • I am a terrible public speaker and I hate doing it

These types of thoughts often seem like bare naked truth. We like these thoughts, we LIVE these thoughts, we snuggle up with these thoughts at night when we are mad at the world or burying our faces in a gallon of pistachio ice cream. Every time I see that boss at the water fountain, I can just feel the irritation boiling up in me. Inevitably, I end up in a mental argument with him about how incompetent he is and how he’s an energy vampire sucking the enjoyment out of work for all of us who have to work with him. And on and on it goes.

Your brain evolved to keep you safe. Your brain did not evolve to “damn the man”, buck the system or get uncomfortable.

Your brain evolved to keep you in the cave; safe, warm and sheltered from the elements and predators. In order to do big things, you have to experience discomfort, fear, and uncertainty. Those types of actions will require you to either ignore all those thoughts in your head (white knuckle resistance) or develop alternative thoughts.

For example, it’s certainly possible that all of the above thoughts about my career and my boss are widely held and could potentially be proven true in a court of law by a jury of my peers. But couldn’t the following also be true?

  • my boss is doing the best he can with the limited abilities that he has; no one ever taught him how to be a leader
  • my coworker is incredibly insecure and is hard on everyone but especially on himself
  • I can make my career be anything that I want it to be–with or without a family–because, after all, it is my career
  • I go to work and do my best every day. I work diligently and honestly and make myself proud every day and that is all that matters
  • I can learn to be a great pubic speaker

Maybe that boss is doing the best he can. Maybe he knows he isn’t doing a good job and spends all day long stewing about how he is probably going to get fired and then how is he going to support his kids and send them to college?! Is that true? I don’t know. Could it be true? Certainly. Are there things about that boss that you don’t know? Absolutely, 100%.

I’m not saying that you have to see everything and everyone with rose-colored glasses and you most definitely should not delude yourself or lie to yourself about anything. Ever. What I’m saying is that there are good things or unknown things about every person and circumstance in your life. Why not spend your energy thinking about those things instead or, at least, considering their existence? Because, after all, what you are thinking is truly a choice.

The reason this work is so important is because those thoughts elicit feelings that will drive your actions and ultimately your results. Your thoughts are the very root of your feelings, your actions, and your results. Period. Crappy thoughts = Crappy results.

If you spend every day thinking pissy thoughts about your boss, you are going to feel terrible–angry, annoyed, unmotivated. It’s your choice. But why would you choose that?! Do you want to feel angry, annoyed, and unmotivated?

Let’s test this theory. Spend 30 seconds, reading through each of these thoughts and imagining them applying to situation in your life. Sit with those thoughts.

  • my boss has no idea how to manage people
  • my co-worker is a judgmental prick
  • I can’t be a partner and have a family
  • no one else works as hard as I do
  • I am a terrible public speaker and I hate doing it

Now how do you feel? Truly? How are you feeling right now after sitting with those thoughts?

When I read through that set of thoughts and put myself in that head space it make me angry and indignant. I stew about the ‘old boys club’ and I get down on myself and my shortcomings. I certainly don’t feel motivated to do much to advance my career or better my work situation. I feel deflated and hopeless.

How about this — did your brain have a hard time coming up examples of how those thoughts had been true in your life? I doubt it. Your brain is a magical machine and if you give it a task (i.e., a thought) it will get to work coming up with proof to support those thoughts.

Now take a spin through the second set of thoughts and do the same exercise:

  • my boss is doing the best he can with the limited abilities that he has; no one ever taught him how to be a leader
  • my coworker is incredibly insecure and is hard on everyone but especially on himself
  • I can make my career be anything that I want it to be–with or without a family–because, after all, it is my career
  • I go to work and do my best every day. I work diligently and honestly and make myself proud every day and that is all that matters
  • I can learn to be a great pubic speaker

How do you feel? Lighter than before? More open to new possibilities for your career and life? Was your brain able to come up with some semblance of support for these thoughts? When I read through that second set of thoughts and think of them in a way that I can find some kernel of truth in them and believe them, I feel differently. Optimistic. From that space I can make better choices and take actions that are more consistent with my values.

For example, instead of crucifying my boss in my head every day, I could instead think “he is doing the best he can and I know that if I needed time off or needed to vent to him about things, he would be there and he would listen.” Or “I know my boss and I have never seen eye to eye but he would truly be disappointed if I left; he really does want me to succeed.” Those thoughts, even typing those thoughts, makes me feel better about the situation.

Here’s what I am trying to virtually show you…Those thoughts bouncing around up there create your feelings. Feeling upset up about something? Stop and take 30 seconds alone to sit down and write down every freaking thought in your head. Those thoughts are what are making you feel that way. Nothing else. There is no event out there in the world making you feel a certain way and there are no humans on this planet making you feel a certain way. Those feelings are all based upon your thoughts – your CHOICES. Take a long look at all those thoughts you just wrote down–are they all true? Are they things you want to be thinking? Are those choices you feel good about making?

That’s the magic sauce, my friends. If you can gain awareness of your thoughts and how those thoughts impact your feelings and all actions that flow from those feelings, you can change your life.

If that doesn’t click for you, let’s bring Bill Nye into this. Check out the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto and his experiments on how our thoughts and intentions alter the shape and structure of water crystals. For the non-science-y ones of us, Dr. Emoto studied the impact of positive and negative thoughts and how those thoughts impacted water crystallization. Where water was exposed to positive thinking, the water formed beautiful, balanced crystalline structures. In comparison, those exposed to negative thinking or words formed distorted and unshapely crystalline structures. Now consider the fact that up to 60% of our bodies are made of water and our brains and hearts are over 70% water.

If you think those negative thoughts are hurting your boss, think again. They are only hurting you. Literally.

They are physically altering significant portions of your body, especially your brain and your heart. What’s more, those thoughts are creating negative feelings and let’s be honest, negative feelings don’t often inspire us to become employee of the year. So here again, you are only hurting yourself – your boss does not feel those mental jabs you are throwing. We can’t all be Jedi.

My work is founded upon this truth: our thoughts create our feelings which create our actions and ultimately our life. I promise you that I can show you that any action or inaction in your life and your career are being driven by thoughts you might not even be aware of or thoughts that are simply untrue. This not easy work and I am not concerned that I am giving you the keys to the kingdom by telling you all this. This is basic truth that every human should know. I work with my clients to learn the sneaky ways our brains trick us and hold us back. You will be amazed at yourself, I promise you. If it was easy, everyone would do it and everyone would be living their dreams. That is not the case because this stuff is hard. Plain and simple.

Learning the skills to manage your mind and your emotions is a challenge, my friends and I want to teach you how to do it. This is work that will change your life, your relationships, and your career. Join me. Your best life is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. Carl Jung.