Stephen finds that he is angry all the time and has trouble keeping friendships going though he doesn’t know why.
Last week, he wanted to go to a local cricket match and was going to ask his mate Jack to join him. But he remembered that the last time he asked Jack to go somewhere, he was busy and excused himself, saying he would love to do something ‘next time’.
Stephen spent the intervening week wondering if Jack really was busy or if it was just an excuse to get out of going somewhere with him. He built up these questions in his subconscious mind to the point where he was really angry with Jack though he didn’t really know why. Stephen was stressed!
When the chance came to go to the cricket match, he picked up the phone but never actually made that call. Instead, he saw a script playing – as if it were a movie or a television show. In this script, Stephen calls Jack, asks him to the match, Jack hems and haws and finally makes an excuse not to go.
Angrily, Stephen slams down the phone and says, “Bugger him! I’ve got better things to do than to waste my time on that joker. Him and his stupid excuses!” Stephen’s stress rises.
Another bridge burnt. Another friendship lost. Leading to an angrier and more lonely Stephen.
Who knows – maybe Jack would have made these excuses and begged out of going to the match. But maybe he wouldn’t have and Stephen’s second-guessing gained him nothing and potentially lost him another friendship!
Nancy is loved by everyone. Who wouldn’t love someone who is so accommodating; so very willing to please?
And she seems to anticipate your every need – nobody quite knows how.
Dying for a cup of coffee? There it is on your desk five minutes after you thought about it – thanks, Nancy!
Can’t quite finish your report on time? No worries! Just ask Nancy to help. Not only will she do the job and do it well, but she won’t even be angry if you take all the credit and forget to mention that the lion’s share was written by her.
What a woman! What a doormat! Some may even call her ‘nice Nancy’
Because while Nancy is all sweetness and light on the outside, on the inside, she is a roiling, writhing mass of resentment and self-pity. “Why me?” is the basis of her internal conversations. She can’t seem to figure out why nobody takes her seriously. Her cortisol (a nasty stress hormone) levels rise.
She feels that the only way to get someone to love her is to always do things for them and in the meantime, poor Nancy has lost track of her own feelings. Always living through and for others leads to never living your own life; knowing your own voice.
Do you know someone with TMS?
These are just two examples of what I like to call TMS (not to be confused with PMS). It’s not a real syndrome – not according to the medical profession, anyway. But I think that most of us have met our share of ‘Stephens’ and ‘Nancys’ haven’t we? Perhaps we have a bit of each of them inside of ourselves?
When we allow our thoughts, our history of interactions with others, to push us into these roles, the outcome is never positive and very rarely pretty. These behaviours place us in a constant state of ‘over stress’ and the body develops an over supply of toxic stress hormones and dis-ease is the result.
Please pay attention to your inner conversations. If you are anticipating what another person will say before giving them an opportunity to say it, you are not being fair to anyone – not to them and certainly not to yourself.
And if you are allowing yourself to be used all the time, to give your time and energy (both precious commodities!) selflessly to everyone while getting nothing in return and feeling resentful and angry, it’s time you tried to figure out how to bring back that balance of give and take.
We are in control of our thoughts – if not us, then who?
When our mind becomes toxic – just like when our bodies become toxic – disease and unhappiness are the inevitable outcome.
By being aware of this situation and by taking actions to remedy it (meditation, exercise, positive affirmations to name just a few), we can rid ourselves of mental toxicity and regain a more positive outlook on life.
Blog post written by Wynn Grossman
from the Stress to Strength team