Today I want to talk about the modification and manipulation of your inner and outer dialogue and how influencing it can have a profound effect on your life. Sound like a mouthful?
Let me make it easier to chew.
Basically, I'm talking about changing the way you talk to yourself inside your head, the way you speak out loud to others, and how tweaking those two things can help you to create a better life for yourself.
So, how has that voice in your head been talking to you lately?
Did you know, the way we talk to ourselves is believed to be created by experiences and conversations we have during our childhoods? The way your parents, close relatives and teachers spoke to you, and even the way you heard them speak out loud to themselves, were more than likely collected subconsciously by your developing brain. Then, through play, conversation and repetition, that dialogue (the language patterns and phrases the people around you used) became your own unique inner voice. You know that voice? The one in your head that is sounds exactly like yours? Yeah that's it! Your own unique inner voice. And that voice might be really great - if you were raised in a supportive, positive, encouraging and kind environment it probably is - but it might also be not so great. Especially for those raised in a difficult environment.
Fear not though.
If you were in the latter group, it is OK! You can change the tone and vocabulary of that voice. Through neuroscience, we now know that our brain is plastic... which sounds fixed or solid, but in "neuro" terms actually means it is able to be changed. In other words, we can rewire our brain and change our patterns and habbits. Even the ones in our subconscious brain... where our unique inner voice resides. But how do we change it?
The first step is noticing. Pay extra attention to the thoughts you are having and the way you talk to both yourself and others. Take note especially when you have something go awry in your day. Maybe a driver pulls out in front of you. Do you swear at him? Do you get angry and call him names? Or, do you take a breath, find your calm and say something like 'That scared me. Im glad I'm ok. I wonder what would cause that person to maneuver like that? I think I'll call traffic control with the details to make sure that everyone can be safe on the road today.'
While you may at first react in shock, the way you deal with the shock - and the feeling accompanies it - is the way you have been programmed to respond to a threat.
Let's try another scenario... When you make a mistake at work, do you call yourself derogatory names? Do you repeat the mistake over and over again in your head continue to beat yourself up over it for the rest of the day? Or, do you acknowledge your mistake and figure out what would help you do better next time? Maybe you might apologize to those involved and move on with confidence that you have learned something today?
For those raised in a critical and self deprecating environment, I'm betting you just got angry and swore at the driver mentioned above and probably beat yourself up over the work mistake too.
And that's OK. Remember, you can rewrite your brains current software program to one that will serve you better in the future.
The first step is to start noticing those thought patterns. When a driver pulls out in from of you, notice how you react. When you next make a mistake, check out what you do after. You can start making small changes to speak more kindly to yourself and others when things like this happen today.
Even tiny differences, like changing from "I can't be bothered" to "I can't be bothered right now", can make all the difference to your day. You could even try replacing "I can't" with "How can I?"
I often used to beat myself up internally with negative dialogue and I even spoke that way to the others around me. It wasn't very nice and it lead to a pretty crappy existence.
With a lot of time, persistence and patience, I have learned to take control of that voice in my head. When I messed up in the past I would usually have called myself "stupid" or "a useless idiot", now I have changed to saying, "Oops that was a mistake. I'll try that again".
Most of the time I've mastered my self talk but I admit I'm still a work in progress and I do slip into old habbits every now and then, but because I'm practiced at recognizing (being mindful of) my thoughts, I get back on track to being a better version of me pretty quickly.
As it turns out, it was mostly negative self talk that was keeping me stuck in old patterns and a crappy life. I was what I said I was. When I changed my inner and outer dialogue, my life really improved. I became courageous because I told myself I was. I became kinder because I was using kinder words on myself and therefore saying them more to others too. I've still got a long way to go till I hit any kind of Saint status... trust me. But, I am definitely a more positive person and I enjoy my life more because I changed the way I talked to myself and others.
So take notice this week of your dialogue. Is it helping you be who you want to be?