I walk through the door after work and hear my three kids, ages 9, 11 and 13, and my wife, belting out at the top of their lungs...
I'm friends with the monster
That's under my bed
Get along with the voices inside of my head
You're trying to save me
Stop holding your breath
And you think I'm crazy
Yeah, you think I'm crazy
Well that's nothing
They are singing and dancing around the kitchen island, and then "the Bruce Lee of loose leaf," Eminem, starts busting his poetic and poignant rhymes. My kids see me and say with huge smiles on their faces, "Dad, Eminem is singing about the Worry Monster!"
It's true, even Eminem knows the monster well, and as a person who has experienced quite a bit of life, he knows that those "voices" can be persistent and haunting. He talks about the complexities and challenges of life, as well as the fragility of life and moments -- "cause you never know when it all could be over."
As Eminem (with Rihanna) tells his story about what the monster tells him and his "OCD... clonking me in the head," he wonders, "Where these thoughts spawn from?" That is a very good question and you will get different answers depending upon whom you ask. Neuroscientists say they emerge from electrical impulses or neurotransmitters, and mindfulness practitioners say they just emerge from "who knows where." These both seem reasonable to me. However, as Eminem explains, they also seem to come from the "monster" that I also know well.
The Worry Monster lurks in the shadows and bullies us with his words. He tells us things that limit our confidence and make us fearful to be in the world, or give ourselves a chance to fully experience life and see what we are capable of. The monster pounds on us and our children daily, and with only one goal -- to make us worried and scared.
Why do we believe the Worry Monster? Why do we listen to him even when we know what he is saying probably isn't going to happen -- or is it? He turns on the fear center of our brain, our amygdala, so our body goes into survival mode, making us "fight or flight." We feel as though we are fighting for our life when we are actually getting ready for a job interview, performance, game or new experience. It is an awful trick monster plays on us, telling us all the bad things that "may" happen.
Eminem is teaching us about one of the greatest and most powerful things we can do to fight worry and fear -- to become "friends with the monster." If we know who and what the monster is, and what he usually tells us to make him feel bad, we can outsmart him and even learn to live with him. The monster likes to visit me at 3:23 am to whisper a bunch of unnecessary things in my ear. It is annoying for sure, but I have learned to expect him and ignore him (most of the time).
We are built to survive and our survival responses seem to be overactive for many of us these days, children and adults alike. I don't know anyone who doesn't have a monster who messes with them from time to time. Eminem put his words and experiences out to us as an artist and said, "...if one kid out of one hundred million who are going through a struggle feels and relates that's great."
My goal for 2014 -- I will join Eminem in putting my experiences and thoughts out there so people can learn they are not alone in feeling worried and scared. We all deal with the monster, some more than others. It's time for you to become "friends with the monster..." and show yourself and world what you have to offer.
Follow Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drdanpeters