In CrossFit they’re called “chippers.” These are unusually long workouts that can feel like they’ll never end. They’re called chippers because, in order to survive the workout, you just need to keep chipping away until you succeed.
It’s in the midst of these workouts where I tend to go to what I call “my dark place.” The corner of my brain where the ugly trolls live.
You have those trolls too, don’t you?
Mine tells me I should stop the workout. “What’s the point?” the troll asks. “Nobody cares if you quit. Who do you think you are, and what do you think you’re proving?”
The troll scratches at my psyche. Making it bleed.
I love these workouts. When they’re over, I find usually find myself lying on my back in a puddle of my own sweat. My panting finally returns to a normal cadence of breathing. The scowl on my face regains its normal state. And then, something magical happens.
I smile. Not a smirk, or a grin. A huge, ear to ear smile. Most times, I laugh. Truly.
Then I get up and go about my day.
The workouts are challenging on my body, for sure. Their real value is when they get into my head.
They help me build my scar tissue.
The workouts unlock the trolls from the dark recesses of my mind and set them loose on me. It’s like summoning all the demons I’ve ever encountered in my adult life. Intentionally.
Maybe it’s a bit sick. But I love doing it.
That’s because before I did workouts like this, I believed the trolls. I’d collapse from their incessant shouting. I’d agree. I’d stop, I’d complain, I’d lay down. I’d stop fighting.
Now, I laugh. Now, when they scratch at my psyche, there’s scar tissue there. They scratch, and scream and bellow, but they can’t cut me.
Now I know their little game. I’ve done it so often. It’s fun for me.
It’s like when I decided that wanted to be a public speaker. I volunteered to speak wherever I could. Terrified, I’d get on stage, and sure enough the trolls would come out of the deep recesses of my mind. “Who do you think you are?” They’d say. “Why would anyone want to listen to you?” I’d keep speaking, and I’d feel rattled to my core.
At first, it hurt, and I’d bleed. Then, after the fortieth time on stage, I would laugh when I’d hear the trolls. Because I’ve pushed myself to the edges, and come back with some great stories to tell.
They can’t penetrate scar tissue like that.
I love pushing my personal boundaries. Because I know that if I summon the trolls on my own terms, I can allow them to scratch and claw. They can help me build scar tissue. So that when real challenges come to me in my life, I have a protective mental shield.
But if I don’t practice summoning them on my own terms, I could get into real trouble. I could believe them. But because I summon them on my own terms, and regularly. I have deep scar tissue.
So when I found myself resting my head on my Father’s chest as he took his last breath, it hurt me, but it didn’t shatter me.
I survived because I have scar tissue.
I’ve built that mental muscle. I’ve pushed my boundaries, and I know what to do when I’m pressed physically, mentally and emotionally.
Create terrifying outlandish scenarios for yourself and build your scar tissue. Don’t let those little trolls loose, unless it’s on your own terms.