Let’s talk about self-talk – and why it’s important to monitor what you say to yourself.
The subconscious mind is like a set of eyes and ears constantly watching and listening to what is going on in the outside world, and also what’s going on in your inner world, especially your self-talk. It takes in what is essentially data, analyses it, gives it a meaning and then stores it, making sure it cross refers with other data stored elsewhere in the network of neurons that make up the brain.
Pattern Matching and Self Talk
This data storage is also used for pattern matching, which is how your mind makes sense of information. Pattern matching can be in the form of labelling specific things, ‘Oh, it’s got four legs and barks, so that must be a dog.’ But then pattern matching can also involve meaning, ‘Oh, I dropped my fork on the floor, that must mean I’m clumsy.’
Yet, the concept of ‘being clumsy’ has been picked up at some point, internally referenced and filed. Then something happens, like dropping a fork, and immediately the ‘being clumsy’ concept is retrieved and brought to the forefront of your mind.
The problem is that most meanings and concepts aren’t actually yours. They were taken in from the caregivers, adults, friends and others around you when as a child your subconscious took on board what they were doing and saying.
Self Talk learned during Childhood
As children, our minds remain in what is termed ‘alpha state’ brainwaves until around the age of six or seven. Alpha state (a hypnotic trance state) is the optimum level for the young brain to learn, hence why children absorb information like sponges. They learn quickly but don’t have the critical faculty to be able to determine whether what is being said is actually correct, since they are not yet in the beta (more adult) brainwave. The information is simply absorbed and stored, ready to be retrieved in less than a split second when a situation occurs that triggers the response.
So, if an adult calls a child stupid often enough, it’s likely the child will grow up believing they are stupid and will repeat that belief to themselves in the form of their self talk.
In a sense, the brain is like a computer that needs to be carefully managed. Otherwise, the result is faulty data in equals faulty data out. Self-talk is a form of data that is often faulty, resulting in emotions and behaviours that in turn can be considered flawed, as they do not support us. It’s been picked up as a child and runs like an imperfect computer programme in the subconscious mind, thus creating negative thinking patterns.
Change your ‘Stinking Thinking’
So, what to do about it? One way to overcome negative ‘stinking thinking’ is to become aware of your self-talk, and frame all of it in a positive way. This does take considerable time and effort, but the results are worth it.
Positive self-talk is not a new concept. Many theorists and therapists have noted the effect that positive self-talk has on the mind. Notably, Émile Coué, a 20th century French psychologist and pharmacist, pioneered the technique he named auto-suggestion, which helped his clients improve their mental and physical health. He used positive self-talk in the form of affirmations repeated over and over again like a mantra.
Coué believed that each person had the ability to create the solution to their problems, through the process of positive self-talk. His famous affirmation, acclaimed for being effective is the self-talk phrase, ‘Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.’ And indeed, in many cases, it worked.
Becoming aware is critical to the success of this method. It’s important to be a witness to your own inner mind and the self-talk you use. Because this enables you to notice what is happening and immediately counteract it with positive self-talk. But it’s necessary to do the work – and do it constantly!
High-Energy Words increase your Vibe
One way that I find effective is to use high-energy words instead of words with a low-energy vibe. Our negative self-talk doesn’t just affect our way of thinking, it also impacts our energy levels. Using high-energy words raises your vibe quickly. For instance, if someone asks you how you are, instead of saying ‘I’m okay, I guess,’ or ‘I’m not too bad,’ try saying ‘I’m brilliant, thanks!’ or ‘I feel fantastic!’
Uplifting words used about yourself are listened to by the subconscious, which uses the words as data and files them in the appropriate place. In this instance, how you feel in the present moment and about yourself is relayed back to the subconscious mind, which simply accepts what you say about yourself.
Every cell in your body is eavesdropping on your words. It listens to everything you say. Even if you say something in jest, it listens and takes it literally. Being self-deprecating or piping up with a putdown about yourself, should be replaced with a more positive slant. Otherwise, you’ll find you feel tired and fatigued, and find your get-up-and-go has gone off elsewhere! Negative words sap your energy.
Instead of saying ‘I feel absolutely livid with myself, I’m such an idiot,’ try ‘I’m a little disappointed that happened.’ Even small shifts in wording can make you feel calmer about a situation and better within yourself. Can you see the difference this can make?
If you berate yourself for not being able to do something, guess what – you’ll find it difficult to do. Instead of saying ‘I’m useless at this,’ try telling yourself ‘I’m in the process of learning how to do this well,’ and note the results.
Keep a Self Talk Journal
It’s useful to keep a journal or notebook and list negative phrases that you tell yourself, so that you can jot down a positive spin on the phrases, and have them ready to hand when you witness yourself beginning to go down that old train of thought.
To begin with, start with just three or four self-defeating phrases that you regularly say, and practice putting a positive slant on them. In your journal, note how you feel at the end of each week to monitor the results. And to make sure you keep on track, put reminders up to keep your self-talk positive.
Be prepared to wake up one morning a feel differently about yourself. More in control of your emotions. More positive about yourself. More able to change your life. That's the difference that raising the level of your self-talk makes. But don't take my word for it - try it for yourself. After all, what have you got to lose except everything that's holding you back.
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To discover more about the power of self talk, take a peek at these brilliant resources:
Shad Helmstetter is the guru of self talk and his book – What to Say When You Talk to Your Self – is a deep dive into the subject and a total ‘must read’ that is a worldwide bestseller which you can find here:
Another great book by Shad Helmstetter – Negative Self-Talk and How to Change It – is a handbook on how to overcome negativity and self-criticism:
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© Ruthy Baker 2020