When Your Mind Is Your Enemy, Where Do You Run?

mindDo you remember that famous hero who went through zero adversity, the one who got everything on a silver platter? No?

Nobody does. There is no hero who did not have to overcome a series of serious challenges.

By definition, a hero is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage or strength. Often, the greatest challenge is with ourselves inside, not with some vicious monsters on the outside.

Most of the time we are not a victim of our circumstances, but our conditioning. The way we see the world and how we behave are the extension of our internal dialogue.

Often our desire to be right about our limitations is stronger than our willingness to level up, and we are not even aware of it. Not only do we constantly fight our past, but we also live in the perceived threat of the future. Once we realize that our personality is mostly shaped by painful past experiences and the subjective opinions of authority figures that created our story we keep reinforcing with the choices we make every day, we can update and upgrade that narrative. There is no need to wait for anyone; there is no need to climb a mountain and hide ourselves in a secluded cave for months; the answer is here and now.

In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho wrote a story about Santiago, a young shepherd who travels from Spain to Egypt searching for treasure buried in the pyramids. He has to surmount some obstacles along the way so he can finally find the treasure exactly where he started his journey. The moral of the story: You can walk away from any relationship except for the one with yourself, so it does make sense to prioritize it and fix it if needed.

People come to our life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, as the saying goes. Maybe we had to learn a lesson. Perhaps a longer experience was about shaping our personality, and others are meant to stay with us for a long period of time. The common denominator in all these options is us. As the old proverb says: all roads lead to Rome — or in this case, all personal journeys lead back to us.

As a coach, I often meet clients who are held back by their painful experiences instead of realizing that those events made them heroes even if that is not how they feel at that moment. They have managed to overcome often unfair difficulties, and it is time to recognize others can hurt us, but healing is our responsibility. Those stories can give others hope — the ones who are going through hard times right now. They need to see positive examples; they need to be able to believe that it is possible to power through them.

When I started doing martial arts, I was embarrassed when I had a bruise. I thought it was a sign of weakness. When I became a national champion, I realized that I had more bruises than most of the opponents not because I was weaker but because I practiced harder than anyone else. Every hit I got was a lesson to learn — a milestone on the way to success.

Every mistake we made in the past, every hurtful experience, was a step toward becoming a stronger, better person or a weaker victim. The difference is in the narrative in our head: the meaning we attach to those events. We are in charge; there is no need to run away. The key is to learn about how to create empowering narratives driven by our purpose, not our personality. As Steve Chandler explained it in his book Reinventing Yourself, maintaining the image of personality is draining, but letting purpose drive you will help you find out how everything can serve you.

Well-known therapist Marissa Peers offers some powerful and practical insights and principles you can start applying even today:

• The mind rejects the unfamiliar and returns to the familiar. Repeating and reliving past experiences will create the same feelings and forces us to make decisions that are consistent with those stories. Have a clear vision and purpose so the vision of the future becomes more familiar than the past.

• If you use the wrong words, you create the wrong reality. The mind understands the words we use and the mental images we create. Luckily we are in charge of both. Are the words you are using empowering or draining you? What do you think about most of the time? Once you are aware of this, you have the option to change it.

• All our behaviors are driven by our need to find connection and to avoid rejection in order to increase our survival. That is great news. Our mind is not actually the enemy. It might have some outdated best practices, but it is not against us, so let’s work together and find more resourceful ways of meeting our needs. There is always a better way!

The pandemic has significantly aggravated mental health issues. Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities [and] can cope with the normal stresses of life.”

Now imagine a world where people learn about their own mindset as much as they learn about subject matters that are mostly outdated by the time they finish high school or college. Imagine if they realized that they have so much more power and control over their own destiny so they don’t feel helpless.

Am I pulled back to the past I cannot change? No. It is an invitation to start this journey now as it is never too late. The future is bright!


This article written by Csaba Toth was originally published on Forbes.com here.

Csaba Toth
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Csaba Toth

Founder at ICQ Global
Author of Uncommon Sense in Unusual Times, developer of the multi award-winning Global DISC model
Csaba Toth
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