Author: Ann Schiebert
In the deepest basement of our being is the prison of the mind. In it are all the outdated cassette tapes that we keep listening to. All the cruel things ever said to us are stored here. It is a total library of insults, put downs, functionally obsolete beliefs from our family of origin, wounds, memories of tragedy, failures, disappointments. Each prison cell contains one tape. Each tape is like a vial of poison. Every time we listen, our spirit grows weaker.
We have the occasional tapes that come to memory in certain circumstances. Then we have the tapes we can’t resist listening to. The ones we play over and over again, ignoring that they are lethal. We keep these near the top of the basement stairs so we can have easy access to them. We reach through the bars that guard each recorded devaluing memory with steeled care, and select a tape for the day, or hour, or minute. We can’t help ourselves. It has become habit to repetitively listen to the same tapes, until we believe them. And even when we are sure of their validity, we still keep playing them lest we forget their messages.
Our most listened to tapes have gained the privilege of automatic replay. They don’t have to be chosen. They have been heard so many times that they often self select. It appears that regular use emboldens our tapes, and they eventually gain the power to ooze off their prison shelf, squeeze through the bars of their containment, and magically connect with their receiver.
Sometimes our tapes get our attention and we consciously listen. At other times, a tape is a dull mantra in the background, like some encoded secret chant. No matter how our toxic tapes come to us, they deliver messages that erode the lithe spirit that once grew in us as children discovering the wonders of the world: “You are a loser.” “You are stupid.” “You will never amount to anything.” “You’re a lousy parent.” “You are ugly.” “Why did I ever have you?” “You are worthless.”
Strangely, most of the positive things said to us are not stored anywhere and seem to evaporate shortly after they are received. Our brightest moments become usurped by the negative self talk of our tapes. How do we change our listening? How do we replace the tracks in our memory? First, we must search for the tape we want to erase; the one that is the most grim. We must find it. identify it, and write down its message. Next we search for a positive affirmation with which to replace it. Something that feels authentic and will serve to negate our poisonous thought. Then, whenever our well played, toxic tape pops into automatic play, we replace it with our positive affirmation.
Breaking away from the prison of our mind requires courage, consciousness and tenacity. But what do we have to lose except the thinking that has caused us so much misery.