The Secret to Evicting Toxic Trespassers in Your Head

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

No, I don’t own a ton of real estate or have countless tenants, I just have a head occupied with unsafe squatters. I’m not proud of it, but I am human. Some of them make sense and come from significant chapters of my life — an ex’s sister, people who’ve passed away and high-drama friends I’ve lost touch with. Others are more random — the pastor’s Dad who closes every amazing service with an obnoxious commanding rant, a lady in my neighborhood who only reaches out when she needs something from me, or the lawn service worker who likely knowingly blows recently cut grass into my meticulously-maintained flower beds. Combined, they all take up a lot of space in my head that could be admittedly filled with more constructive things, like creating an outline for my next book.

To understand why I — and likely you, too — can’t evict people from our heads, it’s important to look at how they got there in the first place. Whether it’s a breakup, a work conflict or a heated family fight, people make their way in when I focus on those stressful and negative events, replaying them over and over, wondering how the outcome could have been different. This constant replay in my mind causes this event to become an unfortunate trigger for the future. A trigger reactivates a memory about something in the past — especially when high emotions were involved — and just like that, the thought is top of mind. But when I try to fight against that, or try to evict someone from my head, I end up thinking about the past more. If you want to change a bad habit, you have to change the pattern of it.

When wanting to change a pattern to your thinking, you first should label these unwanted thoughts more accurately for what they are — not a threat you have to fight against, but an unwelcome and negative intruder who should be avoided, and if necessary, kicked to the curb. The more you train yourself to stop arguing with them and instead disengage, the less distressing and obtrusive they become. And once you’re able to do that, it’s important then to occupy your mind or headspace with more positive, happy thoughts — such as a recent time you laughed incredibly hard or enjoyed a tender, intimate moment with a loved one. This is what I call the “magic elixir” — viewing life through an optimistic lens by making small adjustments to who and what you allow to occupy your mind. I’d rather let go of those toxic trespassers who enter without permission and instead focus my thoughts on people or things where I feel a sense of happiness, encouragement and inspiration.

Remember, no thought lives in your head rent-free. Each and every one will either be an investment or a cost. Choose to invest in you.