“It’s bigger than Ben Hur”!
Anyone who knows the 1959 movie, Ben Hur, has an immediate understanding of this expression in terms of an epic story told on a massive scale with a cast of thousands …
I wonder, have you ever had a situation where there’s a task, a job, something to be done – but you keep putting it off? This scenario is an old friend to me.
Such an example for me would be writing this article! Actually, more precisely, the task of putting these words onto paper. You see, I’ve written this (and many other articles) in my head several times in the past year! I’ve made the task ‘bigger than Ben Hur’ because getting words out of my head, through my fingers into the laptop, has been the ‘bane of my life’ for some considerable time – or so I have told myself.
I want to explore this story and see what happens – I know the destination I wish to reach, but have no idea where this journey will take me. Come for a ride with me?
To begin: what does ‘bane of my life’ actually mean? I‘ve discovered that the origin of the noun Bane goes back to the Middle Ages where it meant ‘murderer, destroyer’1. Several poisonous plants have the suffix ‘bane’ which is a useful reminder of their properties (see footnote for an interesting article)2.
Hmm, I’ve not actually been ‘poisoning’ or ‘destroying’ my life in literal terms, but I wonder if by continually putting off what I know I should be doing I have been destroying my confidence around the task, undermining myself, taking a wrecking ball to my intention …. and amidst all this chaos, I stand still. Rooted to the spot like a deer in the headlights!
There I go again! The story that springs to my mind paints a vivid picture – one of fear, terror, danger.
- Undermining – meaning literally to mine or dig underneath;
- Wrecking ball – a large ball on a chain, swung from a crane to demolish houses;
- Chaos – a state of extreme confusion and disorder
- Deer in the headlights – a state of fear or surprise with no movement or thought
The power of these words is that the picture they paint really has represented my reality to this point! I have been unable to move past a perceived block in my mind around writing, sharing my thoughts, putting them into a form that can be accessed by others. “I’m no good at expressing myself; who’s going to want to read what I write; who am I to think I know something that can help others?”
Of course, now that I see the definitions written out it all seems so far fetched! I haven’t intended to poison myself or create a state of chaos, although that has been the result of my self-talk. I have quite literally been frozen.
So what has happened then, that enables me to write today?
I’ve been challenging the truth of my thoughts – AM I really useless? AM I really bad at writing? IS IT TRUE that no-one listens to me? No, No and No! I have searched my memories and found examples of being brave, of writing long letters to family, or emails and any number of different forms of communication, and also times when people have learned from me as their teacher.
So where on earth do these thoughts come from then?!
Two suggestions come to my rescue here:
1. THERE’S NO ORIGINAL THOUGHT
Scientific studies show that we humans have around 70,000 thoughts a day – and although you might be as baffled as I am about how this might have been calculated, let’s go with the flow here.
Of those thoughts, about 95% of them are repetitive. We think those thoughts day after day after day. Just like a software program for your computer, these thoughts are running our lives in ‘background mode’.
Apparently 80% of our thoughts are negative! We are accustomed to being way more critical of ourselves than we are of others. When I review some of the thoughts that I have during any given day, I would agree with this percentage.
So where do these thoughts come from? Chances are, I’ve been carrying around my negative thoughts all my life, since my early childhood. An exercise I began doing recently was to ask myself “Says who?” when I have a critical thought. For example, my thought about not being able to express myself clearly – when I explore where that’s come from it goes back to my very early essay writing at school when I struggled to find enough words to fill a page, and often had work returned with “insufficient” and “needs more work” as comments.
Am I really going to allow the comments of my primary teacher rule my life now? Time for a re-think!
Exploring other self-critical thoughts that pass through my head came up with other origins – my mother, my father, my grandmother. In other words, I didn’t put those thoughts in my mind myself – they were seeded by the grownups in my early childhood, and I’ve allowed them to grow into a full-grown forest of self-doubt.
If any of this resonates with you, I recommend that you have a go at this exercise yourself: take a specific regular negative thought and ask “says who?” and let your mind come up with the answer.
NOW I have (and you will have) a choice – do I accept this thought or reject it?
This is very empowering!
2. DANGER, DANGER!
In recent years I’ve been learning quite a bit about human neurology, a topic I find fascinating. Clearly, I’m not a scientist so my understanding of the topic is still quite basic, and even scientists are still discovering new things about our brains all the time!
Bottom line for me is that while mankind has made significant technological advances, especially in the last few hundred years, our brains haven’t changed much since the dawn of time! Our instincts and impulses derive from our ancient reptilian brain which operates to keep us safe . We needed it when we lived in caves, back in the days of sabre toothed tigers; back then our very survival rested on the ability to know if something was Safe or Dangerous.
Fast forward to today and this part of our brain is still active. Anything we’ve not tried before, any new experience or new environment still seems dangerous and life- threatening. It is only when we have pushed through our fear several times that the threat diminishes, as our brain starts to connect the dots, remembering that we survived and possibly enjoyed the experience.3
For me, this is significant progress! An explanation of where my negative thoughts have come from that I can understand. And extrapolating this further, it means that when I am more mindful of my mental vocabulary, more careful with what I tell myself or what I accept to be true, I can change my results. I like that.
My purpose with writing this article (and many others that I have in my mind) is to be able to push through the fear of ‘not getting it right/perfect etc’ and see exactly what I CAN achieve – imperfect as it is. I can clarify my thoughts. I can connect with you, my reader! And just perhaps I can help explain something that you have been searching for too.
So here, today, I am writing myself a new story – one that has me starring as an outstanding storyteller, weaving words together in a fascinating rythmn that draws my audience in; they love what they read, it helps them change direction in their own life. Together we march into the unknown, confident that whatever the twists and turns ahead, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And the light is good.
A new story
A new lease on life
I can handle this
You can handle this
We Are Enough