As long as I can remember, Jerk Brain has been with me. My earliest memory of it was in kindergarten where it pointed out how my coloring wasn’t as good as the other kids around me. This voice, coming as it did from inside at all hours of the day and night, I just took as being part of me. If I ever thought about it, I figured it was my very own demon Jiminy Cricket. A critical voice telling me like it is; keeping me honest and on task by reminding e that I had to always be on guard against my natural inclination to be lazy and a waste.
It hasn’t been until the last year or so that I have become able to treat the Jerk Brain as an entity separate from my person. Therapy helped with that when one therapist asked me to give it a name. My first instinct was go with “Adversary” or “Nemesis”. But I rejected those ideas as granting that critical, inner voice too much stature. I settled on Jerk Brain as the most honest label.
Giving it a name helped, but only so much. The voice is still there, quick to criticize and blame. I’ve come across other suggestions on how to diminish or weaken Jerk Brain’s prominence in my thought processes. There are techniques of changing the tone of Jerk Brain’s voice, making it sound like Mickey Mouse, or turning down the volume like on a stereo. Another suggestion was to minimize it like an annoying pop-up window.
None of those solutions worked for me. Having lived all those years with it, I have a hard time dismissing it. When I have tried, it fights back, accusing me of ignoring it not because it doesn’t have my best interests at heart, but because I just don’t like what I am hearing. I engage with that line of thought, get dragged into a debate on why I should be able to ignore Jerk Brain. It is exhausting to find my mind a hostile place where i have to constantly justify my existence.
Which brings me to the realization I had a few weeks ago. I needed a way to undermine Jerk Brain, to cut it off at the knees before I got treated to yet another chorus of “You’re not really depressed, you’re just lazy and here’s the proof.” And I thought to myself: if my Jerk Brain was a person I was actually living with, I would have moved out long ago. On the heels of that thought came the image of someone in my life who has been thoroughly unpleasant to me the entire time I have known them. This is a person who has said truly hateful things to my face and when called out on their unkindness responded with “But it’s true!”
In other words, this person is the Jerk Brain personified. More importantly, though, I know nothing they have said to me is true. I have no problem ignoring their words because I know they are calculated to hurt me. It was that realization that has changed how I interact with Jerk Brain.
For the past couple of weeks I have been able to tell Jerk Brain, “I didn’t ask for your opinion.” And because I can say it with confidence, it works. Jerk Brain, in the guise of this person, shuts up. It has been one of the most satisfactory feelings I have had in a good long while. I can picture Jerk Brain’s sour, puckered mouth, the hunched shoulders and crossed arms, just as I would see in the real life person who has been so nasty to me. I don’t even feel the twinge of guilt that would otherwise follow the satisfaction of telling someone off.
I don’t know if this is a permanent solution. Jerk Brain is a tricky creature, capable of evolving it’s tactics in response to my defenses. For now, I’ll take whatever respite I can get from my jerk of a brain.