“Your life is in your hands, but you must learn to gain control of your thoughts. All of your problems of fear, failure and doubts are because your MIND is ruling you. Your mind has taken over and you are the slave and victim of your uncontrolled negative thoughts. It is as simple as that. Take control of your mind and your thoughts. Every day, bit by bit, watch your thoughts.”
“Twizzle!” a good friend said that I should say it more often.
“Twizzle? What does that mean?” I asked, in all innocence.
For the past few weeks I had been stressing and worrying about other people’s thoughts and words - about me. There are certain things that I’ve said in interviews and written in online articles that don’t seem to agree with some intelligent folk. But I can’t alter my own point of view, or my own learnings, experience and knowledge. What’s done is done. What’s said is said.
It’s really not like me to worry overly much. I usually take on the positive point of view, irritatingly so. I've trained in the subject of psychology, so if anyone should know, it should me me. Right? But, of late, even with the skills I've accrued over the years, I’ve gotten myself through some awful anxiety attacks during the day and sleepless nights filled with horrible dreams that I really cannot hope to fathom.
So, where’s my problem?
I realise there are many ‘problems’ with my sex (or, to be more polite, gender), but there’s one in particular that jumps out at everyone:
We (women, yes, the weaker vessel) ruminate
We can’t help it. We think a lot. And as a writer, that's doubly so!
We worry a lot. In our writing, we write to express our worry about the world, fear for our kids, stress about our homes, jealousy about our men and possible 'other' women, feel inadequate about our clothes, dislike our shape, hate our hair, and even feel at odds about our place in the world. We also worry that we’re not going to fit in. We ask questions whether we are good enough. "Who am I to think I can write a bestseller?!"
More to the point, the reason for all of this tends to be that we are anxious that people are not going to like us. We won’t be accepted into the ‘group’ we want to belong to. We worry, constantly, about what other people think about us.
Why? It’s in our nature. It’s instinct. We use our ‘creative right brain’ to gather facts, to see ahead, and we use words to help us get through each day. Sometimes those words are not right, sometimes they are downright clumsy, sometimes they blatantly get us into trouble. Why? Because, sometimes, just sometimes, we don’t watch what we say. It just comes out – and once it’s out, that’s it. It’s out there in the big wide world for all to hear, see and read.
But, thankfully, there is a scientific explanation as to why women worry so much and why we chatter an awful lot. The reason is:
We are afraid.
It is an accepted belief that women have a very big need to feel safe. More so than a man. If you don't believe this small, apparently insignificant detail, then ask any man the following question:
"When was the last time you were afraid?"
He'll look at you with a quizzical expression. He won't know what you're talking about. He'll ask you to explain.
But, ask a woman. She'll know the exact day, date and hour. It may have even been this morning!
It’s a scientifically proven fact that a woman is weaker than a man. When compared to a man of similar stature, a woman’s muscles and bones are not as strong. So, it may be our lack of physical strength that determines we need to feel safety within a group – or with an individual who will help make us feel safe. When we don’t feel safe, we worry. What do we do when we worry? We chatter.
If you find this hard to believe, then think back, say 40,000 years, when we were called those oh so familiar ‘hunters and gatherers’. If women were typically the gatherers and men were typically the hunters, it would therefore mean that women were the worriers and men the warriors. While the hunters were away, the gatherers would need to survive in the bush, without the protection of the big strong hunter.
We needed to figure out a way to survive on our own. If some nice big cuddly tiger came after us (and our baby), there was no way we were going to cosy up and win that battle. So, we had the good sense to stay in groups. Big groups. Groups where we felt safe.
To remain part of the group, we had to chatter. Chatter scared the horrible beasties away from the bushes as we gathered the fruit and veg for that evening’s dinner. The chatter was a method we used to warn – to tell the beasties in the bush of our approach. From this, you can see why women’s lives (and the lives of the group we belonged to) depended on it.
Bring that chattering trait forward some 40,000 years – to today - and ask why we chatter and gossip now? We don’t have to be part of the group. In fact, we can live quite nice lives, all on our own-some. And we certainly don’t have to scare the beasties away anymore. Or do we?
There’s actually a scientific reason for the nature of chattering. Somewhere along the line, chattering turned into gossip and nothing bonds a group more than gossiping about something or someone else.
Forty thousand years ago, when we depended upon the group, not indulging in gossip was dangerous, whereas, taking part in it helped a women to survive. It still does (to a lesser extent) today. If a woman doesn’t indulge in gossip, or agree with another person within that group, what happens to her? She’s out of the ‘clique’. She’s not part of the group. You've got to admit, you've seen it. Maybe at school, or at work or in your neighbourhood.
Is this where the anxiety stems from? The worrisome ruminating that looks remarkably like depression? That awful stress response we don’t know how to deal with - except breathe? Maybe it’s because the animal instincts (our emotions) are telling us that we are frightened of something?
Anxiety, or stress, in itself is not a bad thing – if used wisely. Sports and business-folk use stress wisely when they are attempting to achieve a target or goal. Anxiety is the body’s chemical response to a stressful situation. Anxiety is most certainly not a sign of weakness. It’s the animal instinct that tells us something is not quite right. It’s a natural warning signal that we shouldn’t really ignore.
Therefore, worrying for a woman can be seen as a good thing. Part of healing. It can be seen as a way to naturally ‘offload’ anxiety. With the worrying comes the rumination or chattering.
Therefore, we have to ask, is there a point to the chattering? Yes. It’s an emotional thing - and women (in the main) are all about emotions.
As long as we are chattering, we’re offloading our emotional tension and helping the worries to ease – i.e. making sure the beasties in the bush are scattering fast and away from us. It’s that ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. It’s that gut instinct that helps us to survive.
The animal brain in our head can’t decide between a ‘real’ or an ‘imagined’ threat. So, it goes on the alert subconsciously. You may recall this as the Fight, Flight or Freeze reaction. If we are not aware of this – then we’ll use it till it tears us apart at the seams and causes all sorts of other problems.
And that’s what I’ve been doing of late. That’s where my problem is. I’ve been turning things over and over and over in my mind. Ruminating on imagined events, picturing horrible scenes and mapping out ugly pictures in my mind - ahead of the actual happening, worrying whether something is going to be said or done against me without having any solid proof.
Then I remembered my friend’s comment:
Twizzle? What does twizzle mean?
It means … sticking one finger up to the situation/person/event, or whatever, and basically saying ‘sit on this’.
In other words ‘LET IT GO’
As soon as I thought of those words, I eased up on my worrying. The fever in my head cooled, I breathed deeply and the sickening sensations in my gut calmed.
I released it.
It doesn’t matter what people think about us. That’s their judgement. It might be a judgement that is not necessarily right. We may have said something, but meant it in a different way to the way it was perceived. We may have done something that was meant to be a gracious act but received in a different manner. It doesn’t matter how another person receives or perceives our actions, thoughts, words or deeds. As long as you know in your heart that you are doing it for the right reasons and intend no harm.
After all, we’re not in the bushes gathering berries anymore!
Think about it. We are on this planet for only a short time. During that short time, there’s absolutely no point in wasting time wondering about what other people think of us. Why do it? What does worrying achieve? It just sends you round and round in never-ending circles and then you go and dream about it too.
We have to remember in this modern age, we all have a choice.
We can either spend hours doing nothing, holding onto our own self-made pain and sink further into despair, or
We can get on and do something that will make a difference – not only to our life, but to someone else’s life.
What I’ve said in this rather lengthy blog, Will Young sums it up neatly in his song “Let It Go”
Kaye Bewley MA