In the spirit of Halloween and the fun of pretending to be someone or something other than ourselves, I’m writing this as if I were Glinda the Good Witch holding her magic wand. With just one wave of my wand, the option to engage in any of the self-sabotaging tricks described in the image below becomes an impossibility:
Try to imagine how a day, hour, or even a minute might feel if your self-talk took the form of affirming, hopeful, accurate assessments of yourself and others. The idea of this makes me think of the movie “Liar Liar” starring Jim Carey. In it, Jim’s character, Fletcher Reede, can’t lie for 24 hours. The premise is that prior to being transformed into a truth teller, he lied about everything – so much so that lying became as natural to him as breathing. I see the same kind of automatic pilot responses play out in my office every day. Without even thinking about the impact of their words, clients will call themselves or something they did “stupid” or “ridiculous”. All of a sudden, a bad day at the office, a heartbreak, or unsolicited feedback from a family member becomes the script for the story that controls the rest of their life: “I’ll never be able to make a presentation without fumbling over my words”; “No one is ever going to love me”; “If I don’t feel like I belong in my own family, I’ll never know what it feels like to be accepted.” Halloween teaches us that it’s way more fun to dress up and act as a demon than it is to be taken hostage by the ones taking up space inside of us.
What if you thought about your own demons the same way you do the ones you see on Halloween: temporarily disturbing, masking what’s real and true, funny in their distortions, and ugly reminders of our deepest hurts. In clinical practice, 364 days out of the year this exercise would be considered a cognitive reframe (helping clients look at something through a different lens thereby creating a shift in perspective or meaning). In celebration of Halloween, though, let’s just call it the art of turning a trick into a treat!