Eliminating Negative Self-Talk

How much anxiety and stress is generated in our own minds? Stay open to this: it is basic Toltec wisdom, and quite widely known within psychology circles, besides numerous other sources-we are, or become, what we think!

Say you get a phone call from your boss, and you’re out of the office taking a long lunch. He calls and you don’t want to answer because you’re in an environment that’s ‘not the office’ and you feel guilty. You let it go to message bank. For a moment you think that he or she is upset with you… all because of how you see the situation; your guilt has produced feelings that they are upset with you.

Let us get one thing straight. You are NOT thinking what the other person is! This is a truthful statement. Yet, we think and behave as if this was not true, and figure that we not only know what they’re thinking, but also that they think similarly to us. Test this out consciously during your next week or two. How much opinion-making is your mind doing for you on automatic pilot?

We must be careful with this because not only will it mess with all your relationships, but it causes a huge amount of stress, anxiety and fear, and it is so unnecessary.

It is surprising to find out that most of the angst we deal with begins and ends within our own minds-yet it shouldn’t be. If you’re like most people you externalise the stresses of life when there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Sure, there are things that affect our equilibrium but how we “see” things matters enormously.

We’re inclined to “see” what we “see”. In other words, our perception in any given moment is affected by all our previous experience, held values and attitudes, and this explains why people get what they expect most of the time-the self-fulfilling prophesy.

How we “see” or perceive things is a choice. When it comes to choosing to change it’s not easy: The older we get the harder the choice is to go another way we’re not used to since our brains have developed such well-worn neural pathways-we go with habit and prior attitudes simply because it’s “in the groove”.

It’s the same with our minds and our thinking. We think all the time. We talk to ourselves ALL the time. Not all of it is positive. In fact, if we have a negative self-image we’ll be saying stacks of things to undermine ourselves. How do we break the cycle?

How do we stop our negative self-talk or internal dialogue?

1. Become aware of it: try journaling about it. Write about what you discuss with yourself in your mind, and what you decide your perception is going to be. Write when you do it and for how long, and what effect it creates (the emotions evoked) within you. It will take some time to master this step. Be patient with yourself.

2. Make an agreement with yourself to challenge it: This is not an easy process but it is achievable over time. Developing the habit to challenge your self-talk is not easy but it is the first step, and it must happen in order to succeed. You need to form the habit of screening your thoughts with the “sieve of truth”. Only what goes through the sieve (i.e. is found to be entirely truthful) should be believed.

3. Make a commitment to stop it: Again, this will take time and quite a lot of effort and energy. Focus only on this for the time, and don’t try to do too much at a time. Challenge and correct your thinking with the truth. If it isn’t based in objective fact, simply reject and divert your thinking. You will know when you’re mastering this. When you’re challenging and accepting and rejecting thoughts on a daily basis; everything through the “sieve of truth”.

Remember, people are not thinking what you think they are thinking. Be concerned only with what you’re thinking. Your thought-world can be controlled to a large extent. Give it a go.

© Steve J. Wickham, 2008.


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