I was home alone on Saturday night when a roach suddenly appeared out of nowhere. If you know me personally, you know how afraid I am of those evil bugs. After running out of the bathroom in distress, I ran back in and clobbered him with a box of epsom salts. I texted my husband the details. "Not today, Satan," I wrote.
The next day I was looking for a Biblical quote for my blog and came across a blog post entitled "3 Ways to Distinguish Between God's Voice and Satan's Voice." I found it oddly hilarious. I actually do go to church and consider myself more religious than most people I know, but still, I think we interpret the choices God wants us to make based off of Scripture and church and study and prayer, not because God or Satan, like, makes it easy on you and whispers in your ear. But some people who arguably aren't schizophrenic do seem to believe that, so okay. That blog post was intended for them.
But still, it sat with me. "Not today Satan" is a phrase my circle tosses around a lot on social media. It basically means that you're overcoming whatever shit is thrown at you that day in a brave and fearless manner. But the thing is, in a way, we all hear voices in our heads. In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron talks about an inner critic that constantly judges all of our choices to the point where we become paralyzed and unable to create-- or function. This voice, she writes, does not come from God. Whether you believe in God or not, you can probably agree that we all tend to hear both negative and positive voices in our heads. The key to longevity in this field is tuning in to the appropriate one at the appropriate time.
I am not a fan of endlessly positive thinking, by the way. I think that sometimes we end up ignoring warnings that should have led us down a different path because we don't want to be "negative." For example, if you find yourself thinking, "My agent hasn't called me in a month. What if he's going to drop me?," don't listen to the friend who tells you "not to be negative," that it's "just slow these days." No, fucking call your agent and have a convo. See what's up.
But sometimes we get too critical. We focus on the fact that we didn't get seen for this, this, and this, while forgetting that our agent did get us in for this, that, and the other. So it can become difficult to distinguish between the healthy and the not-so-healthy voices in our heads.
Which is why I found this little blog post so fascinating. Here's what writer Philip Kosloski suggests we do when figuring out which thoughts come from Satan. I will translate into atheistic theatre terms:
1. It [the thought] contradicts God's commandments.
I've never been so mad about an audition that I've actually wanted to kill someone, but I certainly haven't always kept the Sabbath day holy. Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments, and we know most of them don't actually apply to theatre. But keeping the Sabbath day holy, to me, is about setting boundaries. It's about saying, "No, I am not going to drop everything this evening so I can go in for that bullshit job tomorrow morning at ten." Not coveting your neighbor's spouse will probably apply more once you get the job, but making a point not to be jealous of your friends in general is extremely important. You need your friends. And sometimes you do just need to listen to your mother. So if you're willing to play fast and loose with the Commandments, check your behavior against them every now and then. (And no, it's not okay to steal--- not even elements of the costumes you love so much that fit you perfectly.)
2. It creates anxiety rather than peace.
Okay, Koskloski nails it on this one. If there's an issue with your career that's making you crazy, that's totally Satan. Some famous monk once said, "The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one’s heart, because he knows that God abides in peace and it is in peace that He accomplishes great things.” So if you need to make a big decision, sit down with yourself and see if it creates peace or anxiety in your fucking heart. Choose peace.
3. It accuses us and brings us down.
We all know the voices that bring us down. They aren't always in our heads.
Kosloski writes, "Another key aspect of God’s voice is that He always seeks to affirm us and tell us about our beauty as children of God."
Now, isn't that nice?
He goes on: "The devil will try to convince us that we are terrible, horrible, awful human beings. He will do his worst to tell us that we are worthless, sinful, wretched men and women."
Does this spiel sound familiar?
If you find yourself thinking along those lines, it's up to you to reframe your mindset. "Not today, Satan," you must say to yourself-- or to Satan, if you think he's a Thing. The point is, we have to fight this sort of thinking with all of our power. It's more than just preservation of your ego, it is What God Wants. We must operate from a place of peace and beauty as children of God.