Jun 11, 2016

The Positive and Negative of Self-Talk

Imagine this scene:
You have a disagreement with a co-worker. Words are shared back-and-forth that may have been building for some time. You part ways, yet, your inner dialogue continues. The words you shared; the look on the face and behaviors of the other person become more intense, bigger, brighter, and more colorful. The emotions which were being kept in check are now growing exponentially; the distrust becomes deeper, the feeling of rejection becomes sharper, the hurt becomes expansive into all the past interactions you’ve had with this person.

You enact whole scenes of anger, resentment, and distrust in your mind! You envision yourself talking angrily, shouting, and saying all the things your emotions now cause to arise. You may even find yourself spending hours in such negative, destructive inner dialogues. Even when you are engaged in other activities that have nothing to do with this person, you find your mind wandering back to the negative self-talk and scenarios. If you’ve ever had your computer infected with Malware, then you can relate the feeling of helplessness of screen after screen of pop-ups cascading across your computer that you have no control over. The screen is dizzying because so much activity is happening so quickly.

There is a continuous conversation going on in everyone’s head. A lot of energy, time and attention are wasted on revivifying small and usually unimportant incidents. For most people, this conversation goes on from the moment of waking until falling asleep. The inner dialogue continues while working, studying, reading, watching TV, talking, walking and eating. There is a constant judging of people, commenting on what is going on, planning, gossiping, and mental conversations with people you know and, sometimes, even with people you don’t know.

These inner dialogues have an aggregation effect. The more you ruminate them, the more you anchor them to your neuropathways and emotions so that they become your new reality, your new belief system and new way of feeling. With each revivification, more power, more energy and more attachment are added. And, because you are creating a new belief system, this has an adverse effect on your behavior, judgment and general performance. The beliefs that you create are built upon your perception that those beliefs are true, so now you look for all the words and actions to support those beliefs and you negate all the words, actions, etc. that disprove them. Like having Mental Malware inserted into your computer programming, your new “infected” programming generalizes, distorts, and deletes critical information to which you once had access.

If you’ve ever read a Self-Development book, seen a Self-Development video, or attended a Self-Development event, then you’re familiar with affirmations. The idea of affirmations is to repeat a thought in your mind enough times so that it becomes your new belief and, supposedly, the old belief will disappear. 21 days of repeating a new affirmation is said to be the “magic” number of days to make this change. As you can tell, I have an issue with this, but that’s not important right now. What is important is that the process and effect of these inner conversations is similar to affirmations. Constant thinking about the same subject affects the neural pathways, which overrides old thoughts thoughts and words and creates a stronger affinity to the new thoughts and actions. However, it doesn’t erase them, as some would have you believe. You cannot consciously change the unconscious mind.

For instance, let’s go back to the beginning of this post. Fully consider what had to happen to send you into this negative mind-loop about the person with whom you had the disagreement. Most likely there was a sharp burst of anger, a threatening of your job, or some other dramatic or traumatic event. During this time something happened that was like “shock” to your mind so that your unconscious mind was opened up to change though an interruption of your neuropathways. Whatever happened next became your new reality. If you had been in good rapport with this person prior to the event, those thoughts and emotions were severed and instantly changed to negative thoughts and emotions. The previous concern, care, and empathy vanish and are replaced with distrust, scorn, and strong dislike. To appreciate the truth of this, think back to a time when you had such an altercation and remember that, even after the “fences were mended”, things just were never the same. This is because your unconscious mind had been accessed to create the deeper belief. Only by accessing the unconscious mind again can the relationship be fully restored.

Is there anything you can do on a day-to-day basis to help control your self-talk?

If you learn to become aware of your thoughts, you gain a certain amount of ability to control them. This is one of the teachings of Mindfulness. Once you make yourself aware of the thoughts going through your mind then you can make a choice as to what you will do with those thoughts. Neuroscience has shown that we have only up to 90-seconds to make this decision. As an example, suppose you have a negative thought occur and you are immediately aware of it, so now separate yourself out of the situation you’re thinking about and become an Objective Bystander. As an Objective Bystander, you now can see the bigger picture and make a wise choice as to what to do with the thoughts and feelings you were having. This is like the person sitting at a stoplight and a car runs through the red light of an intersection. They immediately become angered and begin yelling at the driver! Then, suddenly he hears and then sees the ambulance coming and realizes that the previous driver was in a hurry because a loved one was being rushed to the hospital. What made the difference in the thoughts and emotions? The larger context in which they saw the event. The situation was the same, yet the thoughts and emotions became different.
Be aware of your thoughts. Pay attention to your self-talk. Being aware of your thoughts and separating them from your emotions develops detachment and this makes it easier to control your mind so that negative mind-loops aren’t allowed to form. Rather than creating a mind-loop that says, “Every time I see that person I feel angry”, you can choose to create a mind-loop that says, “Every time I see that person I feel curious about how they think”.

For making changes at the unconscious level, there are a few ways that can be accomplished. Long-term meditation practiced in very precise way is one. Formal prayer is another. Experts say it take a person well-practiced in meditation or prayer about 6 months to remove an old belief and replace it with a new belief. Then there are Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnosis which, in most cases, instantly change belief systems. By the way, NLP, mediation, and prayer all fall under the definition of hypnosis.

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+++++++++++++++About Dr. Edward Lewellen++++++++++++++++++++

Dr. Edward Lewellen an expert in creating methodologies for people to learn to use their mind; their beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors, and put them back in control of their lives and become top-producers. He is a Master Executive Coach, leadership and sales expert, and keynote speaker for some of the largest global organizations.

Author of The 90-Second Mind Manager