What to do when you are bullied by your own mind - The Self-Worth Experiment

What to do when you are bullied by your own mind

By Dr Berni Sewell | Transform your life

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Jul 20
What to do when you are bullied by your own mind

I was trying to change my life.

Escape my lack of self-belief and confidence. Find the courage to move forward, progress, follow my dreams. 

I yearned to leave behind the mind-numbing security of a 9 to 5 desk job. Start a business, help other people and follow my true path in life. 

The overwhelming desire to express my authentic Self tucked at my heart with such intensity that I struggled to breathe sometimes. 

I spent my days envisaging a life of freedom. I dreamed of worthwhile endeavours to light me up inside. Instead of having to force myself to do things I wasn’t passionate about. Struggling to motivate myself to care for what I had to do.

I was so sick of chasing one urgent deadline after the next. Never time to breathe or complete all my tasks. Suffocated by a to-do list that grew longer each day.

For nobody’s benefit.

I just wanted to be happy. Focus all my energy, time and creativity on what I enjoyed. Find fulfilment in my work. Make a difference.

But I was stuck. 

Like a racehorse trapped in a faulty starting gate. I knew I was right there at the starting line, but I was never able to cross it. Because the barrier wouldn’t budge.

For one simple reason.


The unsupportive bully that runs (and ruins) our life

I don’t know about you, but my mind never encouraged me to live up to my full potential. It didn’t cheer me on when I tried to embark on a new journey. 

And it never supported me when I wanted to pursue my dream life.

Instead, it erected barriers.

It hit me over the head with every fear it got its hands on. It struck me down with doubt, destroyed my self-belief, stole my courage. And handcuffed me to my oh-so-safe, but fruitless, comfort zone.

Toxic self-talk was all I ever heard:

“You want to change things? That sounds far too risky for us.”

“You want to be happier? Don’t you think that’s too big a demand for a loser like you?”

“You want to help other people improve their lives? That’s cute. But who would ever listen to you? Or buy anything you offer? You’d just get on people’s nerves.”

“You want to be an energy healer? Don’t kid yourself. You will never be special enough.”

“Sure, other people live their dreams. But you just don’t have what it takes. Just be happy with what you have and stay where you are.”

My mind spat me in the face with relentless degradation. Stopping me in my tracks with destructive criticism and doomsday prophecies of certain failure. Because, apparently, that was the only outcome imaginable whenever I started something new or tried to move forward in life.

I was being bullied by my own mind. And it had to change.


The hopeless quest of changing your mind

For years, I tried to change my mind. Convince myself to think more positively, to be kinder to myself, believe in my abilities. To see life from a different perspective. Embrace change and follow my dreams.

But my mind’s resistance to growth, change, transformation seemed unsurmountable.

I beat myself up for my lack of progress and flexibility. Blamed myself for my inability to break through the barriers. I relentlessly analysed my “not good enough” behaviour, criticised my lack of action.

Why was I too weak to get unstuck? What was wrong with me that I was frozen in place when everybody else seemed to move with ease?

And how could I ever get what I wanted if I couldn’t even change my opinion about myself? If I couldn’t even love and accept myself? Or was incapable of stopping the toxic self-talk?

Day and night, my mind spun in pointless circles seeking a solution to my struggles. 

On occasions, I believed I had found different ways to overcome my inner resistance to change, discovered the path to self-love and positivity.

Only to run into the same barriers again. Everywhere I turned, the same blockades barricaded my path.

It was hopeless.

And I was ready to surrender myself to an unfulfilled life. Prepared to accept what my mind had always told me:

That happiness and dreams were for better people. But not for me.

But then, one realisation changed everything.

 

The life-changing realisation that brought freedom and opportunity

I attended a spoon bending workshop as my final attempt to break free.

I guess I hoped that my mind would feel empowered to breach the barriers if it knew it could bend solid stainless steel.

But from the start of the 1-hour workshop my mind resisted.

While I turned the spoon between my fingers, my mind recited endless reasons why this was impossible nonsense.  It kept reminding me that failure and humiliation were the only conceivable outcome. 

“Everybody else will be able to do it, except you. Just you see.”

My mind was so insufferable that I became angry. And, for the very first time, I shouted at my mind:

“SHUT UP!”

My forceful tone, fuelled by rage and exasperation, took my mind by surprise. For a second, it stopped, stunned into silence.

And the spoon bent in my hands. As if it was butter.

Mouth gaping, I stared at the deformed piece of cutlery. I hadn’t bent it with the power of my mind. In fact, the mind’s resistance had been the only thing that stopped me from bending it.

My spoon bending exploits

And, in this moment, I understood why I never succeeded to become unstuck or stop the toxic self-talk

 

The 2 profound errors that had kept me stuck

All my life, I bought everything my mind said. I listened to its objections and abuse. I obeyed its commands, remained stuck when it forbade me to move forward.

I thought that, to stop the mind from bullying me, I had to become a better version of myself. To prove to the mind, to myself, that I deserved more respect and nicer treatment. 

And I had to retrain my mind to think positively and be kinder.

But I kept failing. 

The negativity never really subsided. The mind’s resistance never diminished. And my opinion of myself never improved.

I still stalled, procrastinated, turned back. Crushed between my overwhelming urge to move forward and the invisible wall of resistance and objections my mind put in my way.

And beat myself up for it. Because I believed I was too pathetic to change my mind, much less my life.

The thing is though that I had it all backwards. I had fallen prey to two of the most common beliefs in the history of humankind. 

And I suffered for it.

  

Error #1: I am my mind

At some point, us humans started to identify with our mind. We no longer distinguish between us and the mind. 

Which means that our thoughts are part of us. And if they are negative, if you are bullied by your own mind, we call it toxic self-talk, self-degradation, self-doubt.

Because mind and Self have become one and the same.

But it’s not the truth.

Sure, the mind is part of us. 

But it is merely a sophisticated tool that evolved to keep us safe and alive. It’s meant to ensure that we can evaluate risks. Find solutions to life-threatening problems. And avoid danger.

But it isn’t us. It isn’t what we call our Self.

The Self, the authentic You, is separate from the mind. And it is powerful, peaceful and joyful.

And completely drowned out by the mind as long as we are identified with it. As long as the mind churns out thought after thought after compulsive thought.

I experienced that during spoon bending. All my mind saw was problems, unmanageable tasks, failure. As long as it was in charge, opportunities and potential didn’t exist.

Change was impossible.

Only when my mind was gobsmacked into silence, could my true Self emerge and effortlessly demonstrate its power.

For years, I had tried to solve my problems with the same mind that had created them in the first place.

But trying to change your mind, attempting to force it to cooperate, be positive and kind is a fool’s errand.

For one simple reason.

 

Error #2: I can change my mind

When we try to overcome resistance and stop the toxic self-talk and negativity, we quickly run into a wall.

Because our mind is a survival tool hardwired to look out for dangers and threats. 

And part of its programming is to point out our weaknesses so we can improve on them. And hit us over the head with fear and doubt when we leave our safe comfort zone.

Imagine, our prehistoric ancestors decided to hunt a ginormous lion to improve their standing in the tribe. The mind, knowing this would be a suicide mission, was programmed to apply 3 sneaky tactics to protect them. 

First, it would instil fear of death. Hoping that they’d be too scared of losing their lives and abandon their mission. 

If that didn’t help, the mind would try to distract them. Maybe implant the urge to draw their stories on the cave walls instead of risking their lives in the pursuit of power and fame.

And, if they were still determined to pursue that lion, the mind would hit them with doubt.

Were they really strong enough to take on the beast? Would the tribe laugh at them if they failed? Could it ruin their chances of finding a mate if they got hurt?

The nagging doubts would increase in intensity and frequency until they decided to just forget about the whole thing and abandon all plans to improve their standing in the tribe. 

Better stuck than dead, right?

  

Why retraining your mind to think positively is a fool’s errand

Being an essential survival tool, the mind, when left to its own devices, will always focus on the negative. 

And we cannot change that. Our mind evolved to be negative, fearful and doubting. To keep us safe. It’s all it knows.

You see, positivity was a survival disadvantage back when the mind first evolved. Imagine our prehistoric ancestors’ mind would have said: 

“Go on! You can do it. I believe in you. You are strong and capable. Go and get that mountain lion to impress the others.”

The poor cave people would have got themselves killed.

Because positivity and being encouraging and supportive compromise the mind’s main task of being vigilant and expecting the worst at every turn. So, we can be safe.

And that’s as true today as it was in prehistoric times.

 

Our modern-day fight for “survival”

The mind sees danger everywhere. 

Because, for our ancestors, and many people still today who live in warzones and poverty, anticipating danger means ensuring physical survival.

But many of us are fortunate. Our life is no longer threatened on a daily basis. Yet, the mind still needs to do its job. Or else it would be without purpose.

So, the modern mind focuses on “survival” of the ego.

You see, the ego is a mind-made fictional character we tend to identify with. We believe that we are it. Yet, the ego is nothing more than a made-up ghoul, created by the mind from other people’s opinions about us, and our own preconceptions of who we are, based on past experiences, judgements and indoctrinated beliefs.

And because it is a theoretical concept, rather than a physical being, the ego is volatile and vulnerable. It constantly feels threatened. 

And the worst threat to the ego is worthlessness.

That’s why the mind spends so much time and effort on accumulating as much worth as possible. It is obsessed with avoiding rejection and failure. Which hurts the ego.

And compulsively accumulates approval and appreciation. Which feeds and strengthens the ego.

As such, for most of us, the need to ensure physical survival was replaced by the compulsion to perpetuate the ego. And the threat of losing worth substituted the danger of losing your life.

And to the modern mind, which is firmly identified with the ego as its illusion of “Self”, these two threats are equally real and important. 

And it will do everything it can to avoid them.

  

The enlightening reason why you are bullied by your own mind

Being a one-trick pony, the mind protects the ego using the same 3 tactics it employs to maximise physical survival.

As such, it will initially hit us with fear whenever we contemplate embarking on any endeavour that does not have a 100% guarantee of success and triumph (which is basically everything). 

It will instil fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of humiliation and disapproval.

Because the mind believes that failure and rejection will diminish our worth. And cost us all prospect of ever becoming deserving of  love, happiness and a life worth living.

And, because worthlessness threatens the survival of the ego within society, these fears are as urgent and real as the fear of death.

But, if we still try to move forward despite the fear, be it with a new business venture or job, a new relationship or even the attempt of life transformation, the mind will switch to distraction.

It will instil procrastination and self-sabotage. Encourage us to remember how much we loved jigsaw puzzles and shouldn’t we do that again right now. And, if that’s not successful, it will employ the ultimate distracting thought:

“What’s the point anyway?”

And it will season the whole emotional mess with a generous helping of doubt. Convincing you that you aren’t good enough to succeed.

And together, these three tactics are astonishingly successful. 

Just think about your life. How often has your mind stopped you from doing things that could have been great for you? That would have changed your life if you had gone through with them?

I imagine a lot. It sure succeeded in holding me back from any big leaps for most of my life.

But not because I was too weak to change my mind, to become a better version of me. But because my mind was in charge of my life. 

Instead of me.

 

How to stop being bullied by your own mind

The only true way to stop your mind from being a bully, a tormenter, the source of your suffering is through disidentifying with it. 

The mind isn’t you. But, despite its abuse, the mind isn’t your enemy either.

It is merely a tool desperate to fulfil its main mission of keeping you safe.

So, whenever the mind insults you, strikes you down with self-doubt and is unsupportive, it doesn’t do it because you are worthless, not good enough or too weak.

It simply wants to stop you from doing something it believes could be a threat. 

Either to your own or your ego’s life.

And the only way to make peace with our mind and live to our full potential, is to let our true Self take charge. Learn to lay the mind tool down when we don’t need it.

As long as the mind is in control, we will inevitably suffer. Because the mind’s focus, aims and objectives do not align with those of our true Self. 

They can’t.

Because the mind is not interested in happiness, love, joy and peace.

It’s just preoccupied with non-stop problem solving and the survival of our body and our ego. Because that’s its job.

How to stop being bullied by your own mind

But its ancient survival tactics do not define who we are. All the resistance, all the anxiety, self-doubt, self-condemnation and negativity don’t determine what we can or cannot achieve. 

They don’t really have much to do with us at all. They aren’t even self-judgement.

They are just the mind’s desperate attempts to be heard. So, it can keep us safe.

Which we mistake for who we are.

And you need to take 2 fundamental steps if you want to stop being bullied by your own mind.

  

The 2 crucial steps to stop being bullied by your own mind

 

1. Acknowledge your mind’s warnings

The mind’s intention is never to bully you. It just wants to keep you safe.

But, because we identify with it, we misunderstand its objectives. We mistake its behaviour towards us as a judgement and criticism of who we are. We believe that the mind’s bullying means that we aren’t good enough.

We take it personal.

And we assume that we deserve the mind’s abuse and punishment because we are worthless.

When the truth is that the mind just wants to be heard. 

It needs to make itself heard at all cost. Because it is convinced that survival (of the body or the ego) depends on you getting the message that you are facing a threat.

And, if you don’t understand that this is the sole reason why you are being bullied by you own mind, the abuse will always increase.

Because, as long as you don’t acknowledge the mind’s attempt to protect you, as long as it feels unheard, it will continue to use its protection tactics of fear, distraction and doubt. And they will become louder, more obnoxious and more painful the longer the mind feels you aren’t hearing its warnings.

Think about it. 

If you want to warn somebody who is about to walk off a cliff and they can’t hear you, you’ll shout louder and louder until they do.

So, next time you are being bullied by your own mind, take a deep breath. Remember that it is just a misguided attempt to protect you and say:

“I hear you, mind, and thank you for protecting me. But I am safe, and all is well.”

And then ignore it.

Because all the negativity is not your fault. And the mind’s words and thoughts are not a reflection of your worth or a judgement of your character.

 

2. Ignore your mind’s ramblings

So, the first action step to stop being bullied by your own mind is to understand the mind’s true purpose and start acknowledging its warnings so it feels heard.

But once this is done, we need to learn to ignore the mind. 

And we can only do that if we stop identifying with it. 

The mind isn’t us. 

And what the mind has to say is not the truth about us. It’s warnings, distractions, doomsdays prophecies, delusions and bullying based on the minds programming, past trauma and other people’s opinions and judgements about us. 

With the best intentions of keeping us (and our ego) safe.

So, stop wasting your time re-training the mind to be positive and kind to you. It won’t work. We cannot force the mind to forget its evolutionary programming.

But we can retrain ourselves to ignore the mind. We can practice using our mind as and when we need it as a useful tool to progress in life.

Rather than being used by our mind to strengthen the ego.

We need to put distance between us and the mind. Observe it from afar as a separate entity. Distance ourselves from its never-ending stream of repetitive, automated, conditioned thoughts.

And consciously focus on the voice of our true Self instead.

Which is naturally supportive, loving and positive.

But, because our mind is compulsively chattering non-stop, the true Self never gets a word in between. Its message of love and encouragement remains unheard.

Leaving us to believe that we are alone with the bully. Forever doomed to be subjected to its misguided abuse in the name of safety and survival.

When all it takes is a conscious choice and a little practice.

 

How to tune into your true Self’s loving voice of encouragement

You can decide, right here and now, to stop identifying with your mind. Take a step back from your thoughts and watch them. As if they were broadcast on a mental screen in front of you.

Observe the repetitive ramblings and recognise the survival agenda behind them, no matter how distorted it has become over the years. And understand deep inside that none of this is you.

Or has much to do with you at all.

Then, for one or two breath cycles, silence the mind. Focus all your attention on the silence that grows within you. Feel the peace that emanates from the depths. Enjoy the encounter with your true Self in the gap between the relentless thoughts.

And choose to listen to your true Self, if only for a moment while the mind is still.

Do this as often as you can. It only takes a few minutes to observe and stop your thoughts. And your true Self will emerge from the temporary vacuum more and more every time you practice.

After a while, the mind will become used to being still (for a little while at a time). And, even when it prattles, you will attach less importance to what it says. 

 

How to get unstuck with loving support from your Self

Last week, I caught my mind wishing I could have a stroke so I wouldn’t have to overcome my fear of change and move forward on my path into the unknown.

Previously, I would have been shocked by such self-harming contemplations. I would have ruminated about the reasons for the insane thought. Wondering what the hell was wrong with me. 

But now I know that it isn’t me thinking it.

It’s the mind panicking because it is losing control. Because I am moving forward despite its warnings and resistance, insisting that I am safe. I ignore the threat that potential failure poses to my ego. Knowing that the ego isn’t real.

And I understand that none of it is me. Neither the ego nor the mind even remotely resemble who I am.

I am not the I society created, not the I the mind spun from millions of judgements, preconceptions and assumptions of who I should and could never be.

I am not my mind.

My true I, the Self, lives underneath all the noise. Just like yours. 

And once you stop identifying with the limited mind, it is finally allowed to emerge and unfold. The voice in your head will become more supportive, more loving.

Its guidance and advice will be rooted in your authentic purpose, with the aim to create happiness and joy.

Rather than coming from a point of fear and doubt.

It will take time for the mind to get used to riding shotgun, instead of being in the driver seat. But keep practicing. Keep observing it from afar. With the knowledge that it isn’t you.

And you will become free to go wherever you want. 

Without being bullied by your own mind ever again.

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