My Combative Brain

I notice that I occasionally wake with a combative mindset.

Those aren’t my best mornings. Not at first. At first I fight everything. Every thought, every person, every action, every stumble.

My brain chooses to take offense. Finds holes, pokes.

Identifying these mornings as early as possible in the cycle can help in defusing them.

I find that I can identify my moody1 mindset pretty quickly. Usually within 15 minutes of waking up, I can figure out if every thought entering my mind slants negative.

After identifying it, I can begin reconciling each thought by recognizing that it isn’t me presenting these ideas. I’ve learned to see that not every thought in my head originates within me.

When I’m in this state, I often have to remind myself that jerks will continue to exist out there, but I don’t also have to be one today.

I offer this cheat code in helping to identify these thoughts:
I notice when my brain starts talking to me with ‘you’ statements.

“You deserve better than this.”
“You shouldn’t let this pass without comment.”
“He’s mocking you.”

These you statements attempt to goad reactionary comments from my lips. Push me to impulsive action.

Thus begins the slow wear-down of my resistance to accepting these thoughts, and then acting on them.

But when I dare act on a sour thought, the voice suddenly turns on me. For being so stupid to act. And here I just acted on what appeared to be just a thought rolling through my head.

That’s when things can get dark. The foothold that performed actions provide my combative mindset can begin to feel overwhelming.

It basically turns me into a marionette for a while.

The part of me that remains races to apologize.

I want to mitigate the emotional pain by expressing just how sorry I am for pushing my ordeal on someone else, but I think that doing this can provide an opening for my combative mind to poke again.

The responses I get from an apology can often be a minefield. Especially if the hurt is recent.

My apology is always legitimate but the person receiving the apology might still be hurting, and often rightfully so. In that case, my brain can latch on any little thing said or done in that response to open a new line of combative thoughts. Poke. Poke. Poke.

It’s an awful cycle. It leaves me feeling helplessly stranded at sea. With my brain like God’s finger on the crown of my head, dipping me under the waves. Poke. Poke. Poke.

It’s exhausting, it’s unproductive, and it functions purely to hurt. Hurt myself and anyone within earshot.

America is grappling with a very visible national struggle with suicide, and we’re handling it in the worst way.

The national response basically asks, “Stubbed your toe, eh?” And then takes up a cause to ban ottomans.

It just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes our brains just wake up like this.

But for those lucky enough to not suffer like us, here’s what you can do to help:

Accept that some of us struggle with these combative thought patterns. And help to provide a cushion for us to fall while we are falling. That means, as hard as it is, please disregard any vile rhetoric that pours from our mouths in our moments of suffering.

We need to feel like our apology lands when offered, and we are heard as truly apologetic, even though there’s a part of us that’s still raring for a fight.

It’s unfortunate when I see that the widely-broadcast solution is to medicate ourselves 100 percent of the time for something that happens maybe 10 percent of the time.

I see this as a dismissive under-reaction. I find it rather dispassionate to permanently medicate someone for their entire existence because of something that might pop up occasionally.

Recognize that each person functions differently.

And remember, what I describe here is true for exactly one individual. And while I suffer less than 10 percent of the time, there’s no stopping someone else from suffering 50 percent or 95 percent of the time.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this crisis.

But the best first step I’ve found is to listen and accept that not every thought or action belongs to us, we anxious few.