I know by hearing the term ‘’Mental gymnastics you expect some workout regimen to work your brain to boost your mental abilities. No, this is not any close. But I am debunking the actions and load of words termed as mental gymnastics used to escape reality.
Mental gymnastics are actions and words from destructive thoughts that our brains spiral into when we want to make up excuses or arguments, shift blame or get away with our unjustifiable decisions and actions.
Psychotherapist Shemena Johnson calls them the thoughts within play to keep you from doing that very exact thing you need to do.
Examples of mental gymnastics.
So, Karen calls the cashier at the grocery store a nigga. People in the queue confront her and demand that she apologizes. Karen starts to defend herself claiming that she was just joking. That she is not racist.
That she has black friends. She gets out her phone to show the pictures. She accuses people around her of themselves being racist by not understanding her joke.
Karen knows the right thing to do is say sorry to the cashier but chooses to follow the destructive thoughts in her mind to defend her toxic words. This in turn results in her being ostracized and called a bigot.
A common one.
You compliment a lady that she is beautiful. Then she says, ‘’you are lying. You just want to make me feel good. I know you do not mean it. Please keep your compliments’’. This is a sign of low self-esteem and a lack of self confidence which one fails to confront but disguises as accusations.
In other words, because she does not feel as you say she fails to receive the comment.
Types of mental gymnastics.
Negative mental gymnastics.
These are negative thoughts that one’s brain spirals into to excuse unjustifiable decisions and actions. When one is nervous to do something, they start to think of excuses to not do that which they are nervous about.
Take, for instance, you are supposed to give a speech at a conference. You start telling yourself that you are not ready, your voice is not loud enough, people will not listen to you, your family is bad at public speaking so you can not be different, etc. You find all sorts of reasons to avoid admitting that you are just nervous.
Negative mental gymnastics can cause adverse consequences which are most times unavoidable. Once one fails to do the right thing, no matter what excuses one creates, he/she will eventually have to do the right thing or get punished.
Grey mental gymnastics.
These are thoughts that one’s brain spirals into to have excuses to do something less hectic or tiresome. Take for instance one can create excuses to run three kilometers instead of five.
They will benefit from just running three but would gain more by doing five kilometers. In others words, there is no punishment for not taking the best decision or action. It is more like an excuse to settle for less.
Why do people use mental gymnastics?
Behind mental gymnastics there lies a root cause that makes one use destructive thoughts and actions to avoid doing what he or she is supposed to do. Some of those root causes include;
The act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute or past the deadline is what describes procrastination. When one is inclined to procrastinate, he or she will definitely find excuses to justify their procrastination. This is done to perhaps not feel guilty or avoid being judged.
For example, given a class assignment, one will put it on hold reasoning that they are smart and fast at delivering assignments in time yet in reality they know they are not. The thoughts, words, and actions they use to justify their procrastination are what we call mental gymnastics.
Lack of confidence.
Some people will fear admitting that they do not have the confidence to do something so they instead come up with mental gymnastics to avoid confronting their reality or justify their failure.
So, you often go out with a friend to the club and always ask her to dance. Her usual response is that the DJ is not playing the right music to make her dance. The reality is she doesn’t have the confidence to dance but uses the DJ as a cover-up for it.
When we destroy ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, or deliberately block our own success and wellbeing by undermining personal goals and values we self-sabotage ourselves.
To some people, this is the root cause of spiraling into mental gymnastics. A lack of self-support to do some important things makes them use mental gymnastics to cover that reality. Rather than building that self-support, they lament how weak, slow, and incompetent they are.
Lack of motivation.
It is better to admit that you do not have the drive, enthusiasm, passion, or reason to do something than to avoid reality.
Many people go to work and complain about how unfair their boss is, how toxic the workplace is or how boring their work is yet the reality is that they do not have the passion or motivation for their work. Some challenges can hardly put one out at a job they love doing.
Dangers of mental gymnastics.
Mental gymnastics is avoidance behavior. Remember avoidance is not a solution. It lives issues, tasks, and any responsibilities pending. Confronting them head-on is a better solution.
Mental gymnastics cause instabilities in relationships. For a healthy relationship with your spouse, family, colleagues, or friends you have to reciprocate by meeting your responsibilities. You will not make great friends if you use mental gymnastics.
Finding excuses to justify not doing what you are supposed to do makes you unreliable and untrustworthy.
If you often use mental gymnastics to get away with not doing what you are supposed to do, you will soon enough be rendered unreliable.
You might get away with it, the first time but believe me, soon enough you will be figured out especially if you are in an environment with people who deliver their expectations.
Lack of inner peace.
Mental gymnastics give you a temporary numbing from reality. They never take away the consequences of failing to do what you are supposed to do and as long it’s left undone, you will hardly have a settled mind.
Take, for instance, you will not be at peace with your assignment undone yet the deadline is drawing closer.
Overcoming mental gymnastics.
Everyone supposed to do a task or activity that they find tiresome, boring, or stressful will get a hunch to not do it. Some people go on to do it despite whatever they feel, others spiral into mental gymnastics. Here is how you can overcome the latter;
Go head-on with any task you have to do. Make a plan for your time and follow it. To easily do this, weigh the cost of not doing the task with the benefit of doing it. That way your mind will have a clear insight into the outcomes of both options. Then it will most likely make the right decision.
Hold yourself accountable for anything that happens within you and your environment. No one can walk your life’s journey or achieve your goals for you. Mental gymnastics and avoidance will stagnate your journey and cause you delays. Do what you are supposed to do and let God.
One cause of mental gymnastics is a lack of self-confidence. Trust and believe in your abilities. You will hardly be able to do anything if you do not try in the first place. Do not fear failing. Your first try will not be as good as your tenth.
Do not try to be perfect on the first try. The more you do things small or big, the more confidence you get to take on other tasks, and then you will have no reason to use mental gymnastics.
Build a positive attitude.
Evaluate your thoughts and actions. Cultivate a positive approach toward the way you think, speak and act. With a positive attitude, you will be able to see the best in all situations and no level of self-sabotage will stop you.
Conclusion. Everybody on earth at one point gets inclined to spiral into mental gymnastics. However, what differs is how we respond to it. Those who follow its influence pay the consequences and those who resist it, go on to enjoy a peaceful life of no regrets, guilt, or stress.