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My mom used to refer to Aunt Ninny, meaning the voice in your head that is always telling you what an idiot you are. Often I vocalize the inner voice, telling myself out loud such things as, well, "You are *such* a fucking idiot!" For the past week or so I've been falling into something related, and I'm wondering: 1) if there's a name for it, 2) if there's a cure for it.

Basically I'll be thinking about something, and it seems as though it can be just about anything. Let's say I'm thinking about a movie I just saw. What has been happening is that I will translate those thoughts into an imaginary scenario where somebody, often an imaginary person but sometimes a person I know, will start berating me for something related to the chain of my thought -- in the case of the movie, maybe they take me to task for liking the movie, or for interpreting it incorrectly, or for not noticing this or that about it. This is another form of Aunt Ninny, but the fantasy scenarios can get quite elaborate. They are all fantasies of humiliation and scorn as well, in which I'm helpless to reply, because the accusations are so irrational and absurd. Part of the elaboration is that I'll try to get away from the person, but they'll follow me. Eventually I get very wound up and start imagining screaming at and physically attacking my accuser.

These fantasies always leave me feeling tense and angry and awful, heart pounding, fists clenched, mouth snarling. It's something I've done my whole life, but it isn't constant and this past week or so has been particularly bad. I don't know what causes it. Is it it stress and anxiety that activates the self-harassment? I dunno, but I wish I could stop it. That's one reason I'm wondering whether there's a name for it. I'm trying to find suggestions on the internet for ways of countering this mental process. It really leaves me feeling like shit. Or is it that I feel like shit, and this expresses itself in these fantasies of emotional abuse?

Doing physical therapy for the tendinitis in my shoulder has gotten me thinking about mental therapy for these internal outbursts. Maybe meditation? Or maybe I just need some time to not think about all the things I need to work on. Maybe I need some mental time off.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2014 11:09 pm (UTC)
I love the idea of "Aunt Ninny", because giving a name to that voice, one external to myself, means I can more easily tell "her" to go take a fucking hike and leave me alone. Aunt Ninny. Yeah, I can just see the old bat.

Anything I think of to say here sounds trite. Many of us beat up on ourselves; you sound perhaps more vigorous about it than most; the solution probably lies in a lot of things taken together, but recognizing the problem is a HUGE first step. And so on. May you find your way clear.
Oct. 17th, 2014 12:30 am (UTC)
Well, as an immediate antidote, I've decided to take a mental health day tomorrow and just goof off all day. Aunt Ninny is not invited.
Oct. 17th, 2014 01:58 pm (UTC)
Was going to say more-or-less what Kate said. I think the mental health day is a great idea. I also laughed when I read about your hugging your imaginary accuser because defusing anger with love is such a healthy reaction, and such a clever one. Be gentle with yourself.
Oct. 17th, 2014 05:16 pm (UTC)
So far, so good. A think a long walk will be a good thing too.
Oct. 16th, 2014 11:47 pm (UTC)
I do that all the time, too. Sometimes pretty vigorously. Or I'll feel like I hate everything.

I've heard these referred to as "tapes" that we play, and can choose to not play.
Oct. 17th, 2014 12:32 am (UTC)
"Tapes" sounds familiar. On the way home I was thinking that these abusive fantasies are to daydreams what nightmares are to dreams, so maybe "daymare" would be a good term. Haven't checked to see whether it's already been used that way.

I also started going into one of these daymares and stopped it and gave the accuser an imaginary hug.

C U Real Soon Now.
Oct. 17th, 2014 02:29 am (UTC)
That's interesting. My offhand armchair psychiatric guess is that you have some kind of inchoate anger that's looking for a reason to burst forth.

I don't get that precise thing, though I've had the experience of feeling angry without a focus. What I get is words triggering an embarrassing memory - sometimes 40 or 50 years old; they don't go away - and making me wince terribly.
Oct. 17th, 2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
One thing I didn't mention is that I've been feeling exhausted the past couple of days. It helped just sleeping as long as I needed to this morning. (Which wasn't actually all that much longer than I usually sleep, but not being kicked out of the sleep cycle by the alarm clock seemed really useful today.)
Oct. 17th, 2014 12:43 pm (UTC)
"Is it it stress and anxiety that activates the self-harassment?"

I don't do it consciously, but what you've described is the *exact* recurring nightmare I have in times of high anxiety and stress. I'm not sure whether that's a helpful data point or not but, eh.

It's my (shallow and probably flawed) understanding that cognitive behavioural therapy, while massively over-used for things it has no way of helping, is actually very good at helping to train yourself out of this kind of cycle. So that might be something.
Oct. 17th, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
That's interesting. When I was googling yesterday with various phrases attempting to identify this problem I did stumble upon a page recommending cognitive behavioral therapy. I'll go take a closer look to see what it entails.
Oct. 17th, 2014 10:19 pm (UTC)
I call them brain weasels, and for me they're most active when I'm feeling stressed and unproductive. The common denominator seems to be that they occur when the mind is only occupied by things that are mostly automatic, like driving, walking, trying to sleep, and the conscious mind spins these fantasies. Why they should be so destructive is the question, and why they are so persistent. I wish you success with your weasels; I'm still wrestling with mine.
Oct. 18th, 2014 06:01 am (UTC)
Brain Weasels is a great term. Brain Weasels Ripped My Psyche.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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