The mental loop that’s been driving you nuts

Maybe there’s a failed system that looks like a vicious loop. A cycle of events in which we replay the very same inner drama that’s haunted us since we can remember.

Some of these loops are more obvious, such as marrying someone just like your parent of the opposite sex. Others are more mysterious, I suspect, as is the case with me below.

My vicious loop involves an alligator. Here’s the first-person version of it. If my looping theory plays out, I will have been unconsciously redoing this scenario over and over and over again in my life. As I type, I don’t know if this is the case.

He’s coming again…

I’m four years old and it’s time for bed. I resist. I don’t want to go to bed because that’s when he comes. The last thing I can do, however, is to tell anyone that he exists. They’d think I was crazy or bad somehow. This thought doesn’t cross my mind so much in this situation. Somehow I knew that my entire life came down to me and this alligator.

No one is coming to the rescue.

I hunker down by pulling the bedsheets over my head and laying perfectly still, arms at my side like planks of wood. And there he is, appearing in the half-light of the street lamp outside our house. He doesn’t have a name nor a conscience. He’s an alligator doing what alligators do, except for one thing. Most alligators don’t do home invasions in pursuit of terrified little boys who would do anything to just fall asleep in this moment.

Slowly, steadily he comes up the front porch steps, sauntering through the front door like a man on a mission. He’s just doing his job and, of course, no whiny little boy is going to stand in his way.

No one else in the house seems interested in standing in this beast’s way, either. In fact, they don’t even notice as he lumbers across the living room. They’re watching their show. As the giant lizard turns up the stairs toward my door off the top landing, my adrenaline kicks into high gear.

A moment later, I can feel the gator’s breath blowing across the top of the sheet. I feel its unlikely paws tamping down the covers, as if he knew I were there and merely wanted to torment me.

I feel the urge to throw back the covers and know immediately if the lizard is real. I know he isn’t. Even at my young age I know this. But I don’t trust my knowledge, not by any stretch of the imagination. Panic has me trapped in place, forever at the mercy of my unwelcome guest.

The spin…

As someone who’s given and received professional counseling or coaching for most of my adult life, you can imagine how many interpretations of this scenario I’ve heard. In general, I’ve been open to them all.

  • I was overwhelmed
  • I’d been abused in various way
  • It’s just childhood imagination
  • My psyche shattered
  • It never actually happened
  • Recurrent waking dreams of no apparent origin
  • And so on.

This little scenario, which only happened while we lived at a particular house for a few months, has been a defining scenario in my life, not for what I know of it because I do not know much about it, although I’ve been impressively open-minded to everyone’s point of view that I’ve sought.

It’s defined me because I’ve never known why it happened. A dozen theories – or any combination of them – might be true. But none of it is convincing to me.

Here’s why (probably)

None of the theories have resonated with me because this is something I simply need to discover for myself by looking within. Mind you, I’ve looked within a thousand times.

But this time is different than any other.

This time I’m seeking to understand and accept. That’s it. In every other attempt, I went down the rabbit hole on a mission to fix something. This is fine. To heal – that was my mission. Now, I understand that healing has more to do with accepting than fixing. Maybe not for 20-somethings but for me, it’s time to accept, even if that means acknowledging that I’m broken with no remedy available.

No one can free you

Only you can free yourself. And the definition of the word can is extraordinary in this case. It means that you not only can heal yourself but, if you take the right approach, you can’t NOT heal yourself. It’s what your brain and body do when circumstances are favorable.

If you want a scraped elbow to heal properly, wash it, keep it clean and protected for a few days and you’re all set. If you expose that scrape to germs and bacteria and reinjury, this little wound could end up killing you.

Acceptance is the right environment for healing emotional wounds and traumatic experiences. I’m counting on acceptance to help me connect some dots within me.

How the hell do we do this?


Only you can free yourself but you can certainly be given the keys to your prison. You don’t have to use them. You can chuck them and claim the keys aren’t real. You can do whatever you want with them.

Fascinatingly, I don’t have any idea if what I’m about to show you will work. As of this writing, 12/1/19, I don’t know if it will work for me. I don’t even know what it is!

For this purpose. I’ll announce the dates moving forward.

The process could look like this:

  1. Access the original mindset (visual, auditory, kinesthetic
  2. Accept what’s going on
  3. Be curious and compassionate and do NOT get overwhelmed
  4. Notice what you learn from this situation and write it down

A few things seem critical:

  1. You access the original mindset in such a way that you feel what you felt at the time but without getting overwhelmed. If you become overwhelmed, seek support. You’re not ready to do this alone.
  2. As you relive the past event, build bridges to the present so that this event no longer feels frozen in time. You want the event to track with your life today, to be a fitting part of your social narrative.