So I’ve been working on a new skill lately that takes advantage of some of my easily-distractable tendencies. It involved issuing eviction notices when people or events that don’t make me happy, live rent free in my brain.
That’s the metaphor TikTok uses and I love it, this idea that we let people or memories or ideas bounce around our heads, destroying our ego or self-confidence or focus or happiness, and we don’t even get anything from them in return. Like that memory of the time you tried to impress a boy by acting all knowledgable about a subject they were into only to embarrass yourself by actually NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THE SUBJECT WHATSOEVER.
Sometimes that memory bounces around my head and makes me feel terrible even though it happened over 20 years ago. So now? When that memory pops up? I serve it an eviction notice. I force myself to stop thinking about it.
Eviction notices also get served when I think about a toxic relationships that I’m finally creating boundaries for, or when I think about things I took personally that simply need to be forgotten. This morning? I served one when I saw that a very lovely old friend of my Dad’s got tagged in a political post by someone I didn’t know, that was just asinine and I really wanted to jump in and say something but instead: EVICTION NOTICE.
Now…sometimes we need to work through negative incidents or toxic relationships with people. We don’t want to avoid thinking about things that might need to be thought about. Maybe they require a resolution or attention of some sort. Maybe you said something that was rude and you need to apologize to someone. Maybe someone you love said something hurtful and you need to talk to them about it. I don’t think all negative thoughts are living rent free. Some are popping in and are trying to pay their rent in the form of forcing you to resolve a conflict, or at least figure out how you feel about something. Sometimes we need to sit with those thoughts in order to some day evict them.
But we all know the thoughts and people who take over space in our heads that they don’t deserve and that are causing us grief with no necessary purpose. SO THEY NEED TO BE BOOTED.
Now, it sounds good on paper, but what does it look like in practice?
Well, this is still a new technique to me but the first is definitely recognizing when it happens. First you have to see these thoughts about these negative things in your head and say, “This person or memory or incident is serving no purpose in my head but causing me to feel bad or obsess over something I can’t do anything about. It’s living in my brain without paying rent in the form of anything positive whatsoever, so I need to kick it out.“
It may sound silly to have to “recognize” when you’re doing this, but I honestly didn’t realize how many negative thoughts and people I do allow to live rent free in my head before. IT IS A LOT.
Now, my responses are still growing and I’m still trying out new things but here are some things that work for me:
Talking to Myself
If I’m alone (or wearing a mask) I’ll start by just narrating the things I’m doing. The act of speaking and trying to narrate requires a couple different parts of my brain. The trick is to just KEEP TALKING. This morning I said, “Let’s see here, I need to make some coffee but first I need to get the creamer out of the refrigerator. Oh I really wish I was done with the vanilla flavored stuff so I could open the hazelnut flavor. But Kim? What is the rule that says you have to wait! You’ll drink it all before it expires and there’s enough room in your fridge for two open creamers! Just do it!“
Do you see? You just keep talking because it uses enough of your brain to kind of shake it loose from the invasive negative thought that took over. This one is honestly the best technique, unfortunately I’m not always in a situation where I can talk to myself to evict negative thought patterns.
Creative outlets are a good Go To but depending on your form of “creative outlet” – it may be difficult. If you knit and your invasive thoughts happen at work, it’s not a great resource. If you have anything you can do that is kinda portable, like writing in a notebook, see if that helps.
I always have my bullet journal at the ready if I need to use it for this purpose and sometimes I’ll just open it up and google a quote or a short poem I want to transcribe on a blank page. So first I’m distracted by looking for something to transcribe, and then I’m focused on copying it. So by the time I’m done, the invasive thought has faded.
I also have taken over our table painting rocks for some of my friends. And this is a low-energy, low-time activity and so this weekend I would just sit down and do another one. (REMINDER: GET MORE ROCKS TODAY.)
Headphones with Podcasts/Music
If you’re stuck in a situation where you can’t talk to yourself or break out the blanket your quilting, then I recommend sticking in your headphones and playing music or listening to a podcast. Now, this is not SUPER-effective for me because my brain can tune out audio and still continue focusing on the negative renter in my brain. So, for me, I have to either choose music I can sing along too (Not an option in an office) or I have to choose a podcast that can grab my attention. Sometimes this is the daily news, sometimes I’ll just do a search for someone I like hearing be interviewed like “Michelle Obama” and just listen to any podcast she’s been on lately.
This is my least effective approach but it has come in handy.
Forcibly Remove Them By Replacing Them With Someone Who Pays Rent
Sometimes it takes a little time coaching myself. Especially if it’s invasive thoughts about people. I’ll say, “Kim…why are you letting Suzy Q take over your thoughts when she doesn’t deserve it. Instead, let’s think about your friend from high school who just lost a parent. Maybe think about ways you can reach out to her right now because she brought you a lot of joy and you loved being at her house and maybe now is the time to remind her of that.”
Or something, I’ll basically just try to force myself to think about someone else who deserves my attention. This is hard and doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does so I’m putting it out there.
Using ADHD Powers For Good
It turns out, my pain-in-the-ass habit of switching my attention too easily comes in very handy with these techniques. I mean, I can forget why I walked into a room because I got distracted thinking about how hate the socks I’m wearing. So why not make that work to my advantage when I want to stop a negative thought spiral?
The downside is that it might not be long before my brain bounces back to the negative thought again. But even for a little bit of relief, these techniques are nice.
Which means if you don’t struggle with drifting and jumping thoughts, you may have to work harder to evict negative things from your brain. I don’t know how to help you there! But maybe give some of it a try and see what happens.