What Are You Feeding Your Pac-Man?

Woman looking in mirror

One of the key aspects of getting healthy again has been to see a therapist. The one that I see is great and has been immensely helpful to me during this bout of depression as well as my previous time. Therapists provide a supportive and objective helping hand as you work through whatever issues you may be facing. I am so grateful to have found her.

Last week we were were talking about how I am so much better than I was a few months ago, but in addition to the medication that I’m taking and things that I’m doing to take care of myself, there are still some things that I need to work through, such as misplaced core beliefs that I’ve had about myself for much of my life and why I’ve had such trouble shaking those beliefs. Most notable of these is the nagging “I’m not good enough”. I want to write about this here because as I’ve related what she and I talked about to people around me, several seemed to have some “ah ha” moments about themselves.

My therapist described this as the “reverse Pac-man” explanation and she drew a handy sketch on her white board, which I’m not sharing here because it was all about the specifics in my life. Anyway, picture Pac-man’s mouth as a rectangle as it chomps it’s way through your life and it’s body is filled with a negative core belief you have about yourself.  It digests every rectangle that it comes across because that’s what fits in its mouth. Let’s say you think you’re unlovable so Pac-man will seek out all those rectangles throughout your life that reinforce that belief, filling up with more of that core belief. A boyfriend broke up with you. The girl at the club wouldn’t speak to you. You’re fighting with your friends or family. Those are all potential rectangles that reinforce that mistaken belief you have about yourself and that Pac-man is only looking for those because that’s what feeds it.

What you have to do is look for triangles (or circles if you prefer) that are filled up with a counter belief and change Pac-man’s diet.  When you were sick last month, several of your friends rallied around you. Why? Because they know you’re a great friend. Your niece sent you a card she made in her kindergarten class because you always seem to be able to make her smile when she’s sad. Seek out these triangle and force your Pac-man to chomp on them. Do this enough and that core belief will change as the negative core belief is no longer being reinforced and a more positive one is growing in its place.

How do you do this? We talked about two things. In the beginning you may need to get other people to feed you some triangles. I’m very fortunate, I am a good friend so my friends did rally around me the past few months and seemed to instinctively know to feed me those triangles. At the time, those often got me through my days, but didn’t have any effect on my long-term believes. However, I held on to the texts and letters, made notes about verbal comments in my journal, and saved pictures, and now I have a bit of a collection to snack on until I can consistently find my own examples of my awesomeness without my ego  being too big to fit through the doorway (see, I’m trying to be a lot more positive these days). 

The second thing was something that I suggested. Some people have visions boards to give them a visual reminder of the life they want in the future, covering the various areas of their lives. For me, I want to take evidence from those triangles for different parts of my life and put them up on a board or something else that can to serve as a daily reminder to me about all the reasons why that negative core belief I have is just plain wrong and here are the reasons why. 

Anyway, I’m not a therapist, but this was my best effort at explaining this concept to you. If you’re struggling with only seeing the negative in your life, take some time to think about what’s feeding that.

Featured image courtesy of Clare Black under a CC-BY license.

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