H. Rick Goff
Are Your Monsters Real?
Updated: Oct 25, 2019
It was late evening and the branches of the trees were slightly swaying as the warm breeze blew. The sound of the invisible wind made the trail and the hike more enjoyable, I liked to call this experience the "sound of silence". I hiked this trail routinely and while I had seen many deer and even a red fox family once, it was usually just a pleasant hike through the forest. But today as I walked along the trail, I had this weird feeling that I'm sure the people in the horror movies get right before Jason or Freddie Kruger show up and literally scares them to death! I sensed I was being watched and sized up by the forest. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw something violently moving in the trees and I froze in my tracks (admittedly not my normal reaction). I quickly glanced over and that's when I saw the "monster"! It had a long bony neck that seemed to crack as it moved from side to side. Its face was pale with lifeless eyes and it had a nose that protruded out as if it was trying to smell its prey. Its mouth was opened, and it appeared ready to pounce. I resisted the urge to run because I was sure it would catch me anyway. I eventually slowed my imagination down long enough to see the monster for what it was; an oddly shaped tree limb being blown back and forth by the wind. I laughed out loud as I walked over and took a picture of what was just a few seconds ago, a "real" monster ready to take me into its lair and eat me alive. OK, I know that was a little dramatic, but the tree monster did scare me for a few seconds and almost made me run for my life! (BTW the picture above is of the tree limb I actually saw, just imagine it moving back and forth; I'm sure it would scare you too!)
This funny story made me think how, what I will call, our mental monsters can sometimes seem so real they make us freeze in our tracks with fear. The mental monsters are negative thoughts and negative influences that we allow to take hold and influence our thoughts and actions. They make us think we can't achieve our goals or realize our dreams.
They are insecurities that exercise so much control over us they eventually make us settle for much less than we can get out of ourselves and our lives. They are roadblocks that seem so impassible, they exasperate us, and make us stop trying to figure out ways to get through, over, or around them. Our mental monsters keep us from pushing ourselves to do better and more importantly to be better!
In the movie, A Beautiful Mind, Professor John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) allowed his mental monsters to become real and sometimes they controlled his brilliant mind. His mental monsters were a little girl, a college aged young man, and a CIA handler who he saw, acknowledged, and routinely engaged. He interacted with them to the point they convinced him he was a cold war spy locked in espionage with the Russians. At times his mental monsters were so real, he totally lost touch with reality. But in the end, while he still saw them, he realized he had the mental capacity to resist them. Professor Nash learned not to acknowledge or engage his mental monsters and no longer allowed their presence to separate him from reality. It's a classic movie and a true story that deals with mental illness and schizophrenia. While the movie is somewhat of an extreme example for the purposes of this essay, it does show how we all could allow our mental monsters to become so real they keep us from be being the best version of ourselves. But it also shows how we have the mental capacity to resist our mental monsters and not allow them to limit our ability to reach our full potential! (BTW Professor Nash went on to win the Nobel Prize in economics)
We can easily fall in the trap of our mental monsters and allow ourselves to become frozen with fear. But we have the mental capacity to overcome that fear and see our mental monsters for what they really are; usually just an oddly shaped tree limb being blown back and forth by the wind! Your mental monsters and the fear they cause are only as real as you make them, but if you don't control them, they will control you!