Over the last year or so, I’ve started labeling negative thinking habits “the doubt-monsters”, both for myself and for my students. This weekend, I had a chance to use this idea to help my 12-year old son, Rafael, as he prepared for a musical competition today.
Just last night, I was listening to him do a last-minute run-through of his three violin pieces, and I noticed that he was having some difficulty recovering after a “mess-up”. Out came my story about the “doubt-monsters” – especially appealing to a young boy, of course, but just as appealing to me!
In this case, Rafael had stumbled over a challenging passage, and I could see his brow furrow as he reacted to the mistake with extra tension. I could tell that he wasn’t letting go of what happened, and his reaction was starting to color the subsequent passages, too. His frustration and worry started to negatively affect the quality of his performance,starting to pull him down.
I’m very familiar with the doubt-monsters, and I’m sure you are, too. They tend to say things such as:
“Oh, that was REALLY bad – so out of tune – really bad sound – ouch, I can’t believe you just screwed that up – you’ve never done that before! – oh no, you’re going to mess up the next passage now, too – you are SO not prepared for tomorrow – how come this isn’t working? – I have no idea how to fix this – I’m a mess – this is going to be awful – how come I can’t play better? – I’m a really lousy violinist – everyone is better than me – people are going to really hate this – you’re just hopeless – you’re a real fake – it’s never going to get any better – you’re never going to amount to anything – you’re never going to get anywhere – you’re a failure…” and …BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA!!!
It’s all habit, though, and this kind of thinking does not reflect the Real You, your Best Self; it comes from old voices from the past, especially from other people. It comes from the “doubt-monsters”!
So what do courageous warriors do when they realize they’re being attacked by monsters?
Do they run away? NO! Do they give up? NO! Do they freeze up? NO! Do they fight? YES!
….um, hold on just a moment….really? we fight? but I’m a pacifist…..isn’t fighting wrong??
(WARNING: do you hear that? that’s the doubt-monster spies, infiltrating the other side…!!)
Nope, even peaceful, loving people need to learn how to be peaceful WARRIORS. Actually, the doubt-monsters (let’s call them the “dm’s”) want you to fight them back, but in the OLD way – by creating lots of useless extra tension that interferes with everything we’re trying to do. But we’re going to spring a surprise attack on them and trick them: we’re not going to fight them in the old, expected way this time, by beating ourselves up for negative thinking. This time, we’re just not going to pay ANY attention to them at all.
We’re going to fight them with peaceful living in the HERE and NOW.
The dm’s want you to stay stuck in the past, remembering how you just messed up and it was so awfully bad, etc. They want you to magnify your mistaken 1 note so that you see it as much bigger than the other 100 notes that went well. They want you to distort reality. The dm’s also want to push you into the future, and they want you to WORRY. They want you to focus on everything that might go wrong LATER. What they really really don’t want you to do is notice that just about everything RIGHT NOW is going WELL!
They’re on a mission to sabotage your AWARENESS OF THE GOODNESS OF THE PRESENT.
Your job is to be aware of that, and to JUST SAY NO to the doubt-monsters, with absolute, firm, swift conviction. Just take the sword of discernment in hand and chop off their heads, one by one, as soon as you see them. NOW. (Are you doubting my words? This is your chance! Without a moment’s hesitation, go ahead and chop off your first dm head. Right now. Go for it, and appreciate the present moment of your beautiful life! 🙂 )
As Rafael and I discovered, you just have to add a ‘W’ onto ‘NO’, and you have ‘NOW’.
So, it is now time to access your peaceful inner warrior or warrior-ess (haha), God or Goddess, and wage war on the doubt-monsters. You can relax and love everything that’s right about your playing and your life, right NOW. And enjoy it thoroughly!
Rafael learned the lesson, and I’m a proud mother today. He had fun attacking the doubt-monsters, and he won the war. Whether he won a “superior” mark in the competition or not is irrelevant. What he won on the inside is worth infinitely more.
How’s your war on the doubt-monsters going today?
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