In a previous post I mentioned how I had given my critical thoughts a name. Sylvia. Now, I don't want any Sylvias reading this thinking that I believe all Sylvias are massive negative nags. I've never even met a Sylvia. I am sure that you are all lovely. Now that that disclosure has been made allow me to introduce you all to Sylvia.
Sylvia came about from a conversation with my therapist around eight months to a year ago. "What does it look like in your brain? Could you draw it for me?' I had just experienced the worst migraine and panic attack I had ever had. I told my therapist how I tried to do my mindfulness practice or at least sit with some deep breathing and I couldn't. I felt dizzy and restless and in my brain if felt like there was static and boxes and boxes of material that I needed to wade through. I drew her my cartoon brain on a napkin. Grey and messy, sharp and overstuffed. I described the feeling of seasickness that accompanied even drawing what it felt like in my brain. As we left off the session she asked me to draw things that come to mind about how my brain works, feels and 'looks like'. At the same time I had also been working on a notebook of exclusively my negative thoughts. Any time my thoughts would throw a spanner in the works my notebook would pop out of my bag and I would write down, word for word, what my thoughts were saying.
It was during one of these negative thought writing exercises following my artistic impressions of my brain that suddenly a fully formed, impeccably dressed, woman popped into my head. Having written down my thoughts for so long, they had ceased to just be my thoughts. They'd taken on a distinct personality. I looked at this woman. Bright blonde, tall and slender in an 80s power dressing uniform of shoulder pads and stiletto heels thin and spiky enough that she could wield them as a deadly weapon. And as I looked at her, she opened her mouth and started speaking. What followed was the swiftest series of vitriolic statements that I had ever heard. 'Ah' I thought, 'Sylvia is on cocaine'. And just like that, she had a name. And just like that, I was laughing at my negative thoughts in a way that I NEVER would have had I just thought about them as my own words to myself.
In the months since her first appearance, Sylvia's image has gone on to become clearer and more defined in my mind. She works in accounting, for example, and has a corner office MILES away from everyone else in the office because they know if she starts talking she will LITERALLY never stop. She is the one in the office that is never included on the group WhatsApp or in general emails and she is only invited to meetings where they really did have no other choice than to invite her. Her higher ups don't sack her because she is really very good at her job, they've just had to work out how to tune her out when she starts down the rabbit hole.
Now, when Sylvia starts talking I don't laugh (okay...sometimes I still laugh. But when she's telling me that I'll never find a husband if I continue my obsession with pumpkins at Halloween I HAVE to laugh), I listen. I sit bolt upright and listen. And listen. I wait for Sylvia to exhaust herself with all of her chatter. And then I ask if there is anything else she would like to share. I thank her for her contribution and send her back off to her office. You see, sometimes Sylvia is bang on. She brings up cogent points that I can, and should, deal with to make my life easier and happier. So I don't cut her off at the knees every time she opens her mouth in case there IS a nugget of wisdom hidden amid complaints of my laundry pile and the stack of books I want to read taking up my bedside table. But my relationship with Sylvia has changed to the extent that mostly I thank her, she goes back to work and I get on with my life. We still have hiccups where Sylvia is much more hurtful than helpful (or entertaining) but accepting this aspect of my thoughts and taking the time to listen has undoubtedly been helpful overall.