Neutralizing the War Within

November 10, 2023

Welcome to Lessons in Alchemy The Blog! My name is Abigail Dean and I will be your guide today through this alchemic journey. If you’re totally new to Lessons and Alchemy, let me tell you a little bit about it. Lessons in Alchemy is my process of taking the shit that life inevitably hands us and turning it into gold – taking the worst moments of life, whether they’re dark, frustrating, disappointing, chaotic, or for whatever reason they just feel like shit and being able to turn that into something that is valuable. Whether it’s a valuable lesson or a valuable energetic shift or really turning something into gold outside of myself and manifesting beautiful things in my physical reality. These lessons can be applied to so many different areas of life.

What is Lessons in Alchemy?

There are 11 lessons that comprise Lessons and Alchemy. Through these 11 lessons, we are going to create a personalized practice for you to calm your mind, reclaim your power, and manifest the life of your dreams. Today, we starting a little bit out of order. We are actually starting with the second Lesson in Alchemy. If you want to know what all of the lessons in alchemy are, download them here.

The first lesson is Sit Down & Shut Up – basically meditation. I wish someone would have told me to do that very gently when I was younger – to really sit with myself in silence and listen. However today I really want to start with lesson number two, Neutralize.

How to Neutralize the War Within

Have your thoughts ever sounded like this:

“I shouldn’t have done that. God Why am I so awkward?”

“Was it too quiet? Did he think I’m weird?”

“I look so ugly today. They’re probably so grossed out by my breakout. I look like a monster.”

“They probably think I’m so rude. Maybe I shouldn’t have set that boundary.”

“God, I wish I would have said no. Why do I always do this to myself? I don’t even want to go.”

“Why am I so anxious? What’s wrong with me?”

“I feel like I can never win.”

Well, my love you certainly can never win when the warrior fighting is within.

I had been at war with myself since I could remember. Beating myself up over past conversations rehearsing what I wish I would have said over and over. Beating myself up over my very human imperfections that I believed were absolutely insufferable.

I wanted freedom. Freedom from my own mind.

I’m sure at some point in your life, you’ve had a war of thoughts within your own mind just struggling against yourself, battling between thoughts, stuck in mental turmoil. I spent so much of my life like that until I got to a breaking point where I realized how to achieve a neutralized space and why it’s so important.

There was a lot that happened before I finally got to that place of saying, “Fine. I don’t really care what is on the outside because I do not want to be miserable. Nothing is worth the misery of me constantly fighting with myself.”

I was so frustrated with it, so frustrated with myself. Growing up I learned to be over critical of myself. I didn’t have many healthy coping mechanisms. Eventually that war within myself manifested externally into a severe substance abuse disorder, self-harm, and self-destruction. After I got sober, I realized there was still a war within my own mind.

I realized the rhetoric playing in my own mind. I was so horrible to myself. At the time I was in college and when I would make a mistake like doing poorly on an assignment, I would start to really beat myself up over it. I would never say these things to another friend or any other human being. I was also hard on myself about my physical appearance. I had horrible Cystic Acne at the time. I felt like I really looked like a monster. And I thought I was socially awkward. I had zero self-esteem. I started to be very aware of these patterns, and even though I was miserable, I didn’t yet have the tools to transform these thoughts into anything else. Until I hit a breaking point..

Let’s take a look at the 7 practices that transformed the unbearable war of negative self-talk within my own mind. We will start with the breaking point that set my neutralization process into action and follow with the practices I used to expand my ability to hold neutrality and inner peace within this process.

1. “FINE.”

Eventually, in my healing journey, I found the self-help world, the modern spiritual manifestation gurus, and the motivational coaches. I was hooked. I was so ready to try to live life on my terms and manifest the life of my dreams. I saw all of these people on Instagram who were living the life I wanted and they were all kind of promising the same manifestation thing: if you can just get your mind, right, if you can just get your thoughts and your beliefs in order, then you can have anything that you want.

After many months of bingeing self-help books, taking courses from manifestation gurus and coaches, implementing rigorous positive affirmation practices, and sitting in meditation daily I found myself broker than ever.

After chasing solo travel dreams and the beginning of an entrepreneurial journey, I found myself in a new city not knowing how I would pay my bills in the following couple of days. My rent, car payment, and car insurance were all due and the clock was ticking. My mind started doing the thing it did where I beat myself up for having gotten into that situation at all. I was thinking the most horrible things about myself. I felt like a failure. I felt like the worst person in the world. I was tearing myself apart and had the tears to prove it. I looked at myself in the mirror, face beat red with tears streaming down my cheeks, and I finally realized something….

I was never going to win while remaining at odds with myself. If being over-critical and beating myself up were going to get me anywhere it probably would have by then. Afterall, that is where I spent most of my energy and all it was getting me was misery.

So I thought “FINE. Maybe I am broke. Maybe I will remain broke. Maybe I will lose my car and apartment and everyone will think I am a failure. Fine.” I let myself think all the worst-case scenarios that were possible. “But I am no longer going to fight myself. Regardless of what is going on outside of me, I refuse to continue this useless war. Even if things don’t go the way I want, maybe I never get it ‘right,’ I am not going to shred myself to pieces anymore.”

I made a treaty with myself.

A treaty I consistently came back to. From that moment on, every time I realized I was fighting with myself I would simply think, “nope. I am not doing this.” I didn’t try to force myself into positive affirmations or better belief patterns. I simply laid down my weapons. I refused to fight. I refused to engage with those old, worn out neurological pathways.

The relief I felt after the first peace treaty I signed with myself was enough to keep me consistent to this practice. We are naturally wired to pursue the direction that offers us the highest reward. When I was being overly hard on myself, I thought I was being rewarded with control. I thought that was the way of making myself better and controlling outcomes. Once I realized there was no reward down that road, I chose a new pathway and I kept walking the new direction every time I needed to.

Could you benefit from neutralizing the war within your mind? How could you start practicing this today?

2. Honor Both Ends of The Spectrum

Then I started to play with this idea of honoring both extremes when my mind still wanted to run down a war path. My mind was so good at running all the way to the worst-case scenario, to the darkest side of the spectrum. My brain was so clever and creative catastrophizing anytime I perceived a threat or a sense of danger, or that I was gonna fail or make a mistake. When I noticed this was happening, I started imagine an outcome in the completely opposite direction. I like to think of the two sides of this spectrum as constructive imagination versus destructive imagination.

What is the best-case scenario I can imagine? What if this is one of the best things that happens to me? What if this mistake needed to happen? What if there is an insanely magical miracle on the other side of this situation?

In my experience, life most often happens somewhere in between the two ends of the spectrum. Most of the time the outcome is actually something I didn’t see coming. At least many of the details were things I did not anticipate.

How can you start practicing this when your mind runs into destructive imagination?

Worrying is praying for things you don’t want.


3. “Exposure Therapy”

I am not a clinical therapist, so “exposure therapy” is more of a nickname for this practice than an explanation to true exposure therapy.

I found this practice to be extraordinarily transformative and freeing. I made it a goal every day to fail at something – to do something poorly, to feel awkward, to get something wrong, to make a mess, to absolutely bomb something – in order to teach myself how to internally hold neutrality regardless of what is happening outside of me.

My first drill was showing up to an audition for a commercial with no previous acting experience. I was so awkward and completely missed the mark. At one point that would have absolutely mortified me, but I left feeling so free because I knew it didn’t mean anything about me. I tell the full story of my first “exposure therapy” exercise with life in the podcast episode.

Some other ways I practiced this:

  • Making messy art and letting it be ugly
  • Having awkward social moments and letting it be
  • Not wearing makeup or cute clothes and letting myself feel free to feel “ugly”

I actively went against the things my brain told me I needed to be “perfect” at. I learned I would survive. I learned people would still love me. I learned I could still have joy and freedom and success even with “failure.”

4. Stay Curious

The fourth step in this neutralization process is staying curious and observing the mind.

I used to put so much pressure on myself in social situations. I really, really struggled with social anxiety. I started to be really aware of what was going on in my own mind when I would show up in a social situation. I’m a fairly quiet person, fairly introverted unless I found myself in an extraverted season of life. In average social situations I obersved my thoughts telling me, “You need to figure out the right thing to say because they’re thinking you’re super awkward. People think you’re boring. You haven’t said anything. You need to find the thing to say.” That kid of thinking sent me into spiral that went no where because I would feel even more uncomfortable and retreat farther into my quiest shell.

I started questioning why I was putting so much pressure on myself.

“Why am I at this event, if all I’m gonna do is sit here and rumble around in my mind about how other people are not enjoying my presence?”

“Why am I trying to force myself to be and do something I do not want to?”

I would notice these conflicts within myself and ask, “What do I even value here?”

This leads us to the next step.

5. What do I Actually Value?

I found that I was shoulding all over myself. I was in space I thought I “should” be in trying to force myself into behaving in ways that I thought I “should.” Sometimes that just didn’t feel right. I realized the presenting problem appeared to be this war fighting myself to be perfect, when the truth of the problem was that I was not in alignment in those moments, not in full integrity with myself and my desires.

This awareness, curiosity, and evaluation of my values really took me to deeper levels of neutralizing inner conflict. My mind had much less to chew on when I started honoring my truth completely. Even if it meant leaving an event early. Even if it meant speaking up for myself in a situation where that is seen as rude. Even if it meant dressing a certain way because that’s how I was more comfortable. Even if it meant not doing what was expected of me. Even if it meant not playing the nice girl. Even if it meant allowing myself to sit there and be quiet because I felt quiet and low energy that day. Even if it meant not engaging with people and places that stirred the conflict within me even if they were familiar.

Some of the questions I started asking myself cleared not only social anxiety and anxiety in general but also body image issues. Previously I had put so much pressure on my physical appearance. I felt uncomfortable without makeup because of acne and scarring. I also felt uncomfortable with makeup. The war I couldn’t win…. However, with my new awareness, I started asking myself questions like:

“Why am I so hard on myself for the way that I look? Is that Is that what I truly care about?”

“Do I need to go out into the world and just think about how ugly I am? And how other people are perceiving my physical appearance? Or do I value what I’m feeling here?”

“Do I just want to be the most beautiful thing for other people to look at or do I want to enjoy my life and enjoy my body?”

I chose the ladder. I am here in this life to feel, to live, to love, to laugh. Not much else actually matters to me.

What do you actually value? Why are you fighting yourself? Is it worth the fight?

6. Celebrate & Fortify

Moving on to the sixth part of this neutralization process is fortifying the work that has been done. Celebrating and Fortifying is also the final Lesson in Alchemy, lesson 11. I believe this is crucial when you’re working with yourself if you want to create sustainable change. When you’re building this new Queendom or new Kingdom or whatever you’re building, it’s imperative to fortify and protect the work you’ve done.

I found in my own experience with neutralization, that once I could feel how much more efficient and at peace I was, I naturally wanted to continue to deepen all of the practices that we’ve covered above. Once I realized how much more I could do when my energy was in alignment, rather than at odds with itself, I wanted to continue expanding my horizons into peace and freedom.

I celebrated myself and my growth. When I noticed I was sliding into old behavior I consistently and gently brought myself back to these practices. Every time I did that, I made the pathway back to neutrality shorter.

How can you celebrate your growth? How are you practicing consistency?

7. It All Adds Up

Finally, remember it all adds up. Rarely in life, do we have a major breakthrough where it’s one-and-done. I’m not saying that it never happens, there are moments like that, but for the most part, our huge shifts and transformations are made up all of the small moments and diligent work that we have put into this. Especially with inner peace, there is rarely instant gratification. It’s going to be a process. If you start to implement some practices like these, one day, you’re going to look back and be in awe of how far you’ve come. Sometimes it’s going to feel like you’re not really even making progress, but similar to watching a child grow, if you look at them every single day you’re not going to see their growth, but when you look back over a year you won’t be able to believe how fast they grew. Remember that working with yourself is like that, too.

I hope that you were able to find some of these practices helpful. I hope you’re able to bring some neutrality into your own mind and start to cultivate peace. As I mentioned in the beginning, Neutralization is only the second lesson out of the 11 Lessons and Alchemy, so make sure you come back here for more!

Book a Session with Me

If you want to work together to create a personalized practice for a calmer mind, reclaim your power, and turn shit into gold so you can finally manifest the life of you, book your first session with me here. I’ll talk to you soon.

Listen to the Full Story Here on Lessons in Alchemy The Podcast