Disclaminer: this is one of those “for educational purposes only” posts expressing the ideas of an NLA ( non-licensed amateur ) and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice … and there’s spoilers ahead. )
One of the best portrayals of healing ( after an extended bout with mental illness ) is in a movie called A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.
John Nash, a brilliant academician, is diagnosed with schizophrenia and suffers with the condition for years until his physicians find the right medications and mental exercises to keep his delusions at bay—while they never completely go away.
Three of these delusions take on the form of a young girl, a college roommate, and an older gentleman who is a government agent. Throughout the movie, Nash fully engages these figures who take on a realistic life of their own. Over the decades, he realizes that these characters are not aging.
Toward the end of his career, he learned to stop interacting with these figures, who never fully disappear, but always seem to stay about seventy-five feet away from him. ( Of course, he can still see them ).
While they continue to watch Nash, they do not verbalize anything—they even look a bit resigned to the fact that he isn’t going to challenge them like he used to.
So they keep their distance and remain silent.
This scene has helped me understand that while certain annoying tendencies in our thinking can be hardwired into our brains, ( and, therefore, never really go away ), we don’t have to engage those insecurities—so eventually they become benign.
This can also be helpful with adults whose parents were ( and are ) emotionally & verbally abusive. Whenever these adults engage their parents ( in real life ), the harsh individuals eventually pick up where they left off, accusing their adult children of making stupid decisions, or not listening to them, or abandonment, or questioning their relationship choices. For some reason, these shaming personalities just can’t shut up, no matter how clearly reasonable boundaries are defined.
[ Here’s a link to a heart-wrenching display of this type of behavior portrayed by Sam Tarly’s father in a scene from Game of Thrones … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQPgfMbECzQ ]
In many cases, literal “no contact” with these abusive parents is the healthiest path to explore, but can be very difficult to do – again, given a person’s hardwiring ( or internal programming ), the incessant guilting, family events where paths cross, or the persistent calling and texting by these immature individuals who won’t take “no” for an answer.
( Even though it’s hard, this type of outrageous behavior should not be tolerated—even though the costs and losses associated with “no contact” can be significant ).
“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them” (Titus 3:10).
Here’s the ironic ( and tragic ) thing: Even when these abusive parents give up or pass away, their voices stay behind.
All of their dire predictions can play over and over again like a broken record until their meddling voices are internalized by the adult child, who eventually accepts these accusations as true.
( Occasionally I wonder if some homeless people are simply living out the self-fulfilling prophecies that were drilled into their heads by a soul-crushing mother or father ).
Here’s a mental exercise that might work for some people in this situation ..
When the malicious voice begins to be heard, picture the shaming parent ( or other abusive personality ) speaking the words. In your mind, put this person about ten feet in front of you.
Don’t argue with the ideas you’re hearing, don’t try to counter them with affirmative statements, don’t try to define yet another boundary …
Simply ask the talking figure to back up 15 feet.
( Since this is mental exercise, they have to do what you say! )
After they back up, put a hand to your ear and say, “I can’t hear you … please back up another fifteen feet.”
( Depending on the person you have in mind, you might imagine them rolling their eyes or giving you other types of condemning looks. )
If you can still hear their voice ( in your mind ) say, “I still can’t hear you … please back up another fifteen feet.” Keep repeating this exercise until they are at a distance where you probably couldn’t hear them, even if they were yelling at the top of their lungs ( maybe 200 feet ).
Imagine them giving up on trying to speak to you ( from 70 yards away ), even though they may never disappear in your mind’s eye.
See if this doesn’t help silence, or at least diminish, any non-nurturing voice that pulls you down …
Schmidt Happens …
Image from the movie A Beautiful Mind (2001), produced by Universal Pictures, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment