Carol Northcut | Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about thinking and how believing a single thought can ruin your day, or believing negative thoughts over time can ruin an entire life.

There have been times, when working on long projects or practicing casting, the thought of failure pops into my mind uninvited. Sometimes it taunts me, either telling me that I can’t do it or that it will take forever. Suddenly I lose steam and pronounce, “I’m so tired.” This has gone on for years, but I’ve come to realize that believing the intrusive thought was the genesis of the sudden feeling of hopelessness and emotional exhaustion: it was my reaction to the negative thought. I’mlearning to deal with that thought and have given it the name “Wormtongue.” (A friend calls her negative ‘voice’ “MethheadMax” because the voice makes no sense. Now I realize it’s just Wormtongue whispering in my ear, and I declare, “I’m not tired” and push on. As long as Wormtongue gets a reaction from me, he will continue to haunt me.

This reminds me of my dog who thought chasing things was the best fun. He particularly loved chasing geese because he got such a noisy and flustered reaction from them. But if the animal ignored him, he had no interest in chasing it and would give up and go away.

Our students may also suffer with this type of thinking. They may continually express doubt or say things like “I’ll never get this.” We can encourage them a few times, telling them that so long as their body is capable and they put in the work, they can do it; the only thing in their way is their mindset. We can instruct them to ignore the negative voice, and say to it, “Yeah, yeah, what ever,” ignore it, and just keep practicing. We can instruct and encourage, but we cannot guarantee because (a) it’s up to them to realize that Wormtongue is a liar seeding doubtand (b) there are no guarantees. What we can guarantee is that if they practice with attention to the details laid out in the instruction, they will improve, and even little improvements compound. Most of our students ARE indeed capable, but they have to do the hard work with the flyrod and in their head. We can just encourage them to do it.