Monday, March 31, 2008

3 Steps To Change The Voice In Your Head.

The voice in your head.

I just wrote my monthly mentoring article on helping children develop good internal dialogue. You know what I mean, that voice in our heads. That voice can really lift us up or make us crash and burn. As I wrote that article, I was reminded of how much of an issue that is for us adults as much as it is for children. Let's face it, so many of us know how to pummel ourselves without even saying a word out loud. Phrases like, "I can't do this," "I am so stupid!" and "What was I thinking?" are prime examples. Do any of these sound familiar? Internal dialogue is a powerful tool. It can help us accomplish the seemingly impossible, or it can stop us in our tracks from completing even the simplest of tasks.

Take some time this week and examine your internal dialogue. What does the voice in your head tell you? Do you give yourself a quiet whisper of support throughout your day? Do you leave yourself hanging without any words of encouragement? Or worse, do you criticize and berate yourself? Take a close look. Pour over your thoughts and see where you are taking yourself.
Whether you do a good job of supporting yourself, or you find you are hard on yourself, here is a great tool for softening that voice in your head.

Thought Stopping & Replacement (TSR)

This tool has been around a long time. It's a cognitive tool that teaches you very easily how to alter your thoughts. If you will stick with it for a bit, it works like magic!

Before you start, hone in on one of the thoughts you have in your head that is unproductive. "I'm so disorganized," "I never finish anything," "I am so absent minded" are great examples. This should be something your inner voice feeds you often and something that is not positive.

1. Thought Awareness.

You have to find a way to recognize that negative thought as soon as possible. Here are some ques you can use to increase your awareness.
  • Put a note on your appointment book, fridge, dashboard, wherever, with a message for yourself....."What are you thinking?".....or "Thought Stopping," ...or "TSR."
  • Pay attention to your mood and body. Negative thinking will impact both your mood and your body(usually with tension) pretty quickly.
  • Be aware of your triggers, the things that set off your negative thought. An example could be that criticism sets you off.

2. Stop.

Okay, don't laugh until you try it. I have used this with incredible success with hundreds of patients. Simply close your eyes and visualize a stop sign. It would also be good to (silently) yell "stop" in your head. This sounds silly, I am sure. But it is very powerful and effective. When first starting this tool, it can take multiple efforts to make it stick. you may find yourself yelling "stop" 30 times in an hour. But if you hang in there, you will get a good result.

3. Replace.

After yelling stop, you really need to work your "B" plan. When I used to work with bulimic patients, we wouldn't just talk about ending purging, we would talk about what the patient would be doing "instead." That's what replacement thoughts are. They are the thoughts you decide to have "instead." It is important to pick your replacement thought in advance. It's unlikely for any of us to come up with something brilliant on the spot. Be prepared with your replacement thought. Here are some examples below.

Negative Thought............vs...................Replacement Thought
"I am never going to understand this." .....vs........."I am smart. I can get this."
"I will never get that promotion." ...........vs.........."I can work for that promotion and get myself there."
"I can't believe I did that.".........vs........."Everyone makes mistakes. It's okay for me to be human."

Trouble Makers
Every once in a while I have someone who tells me something like, "well, I KNOW I am not smart, worthwhile, good, etc." So, I explain that the thoughts and beliefs they have are linked to how they talk to themselves in their heads. Sometimes we have to modify the replacement thought for them. If you are one of those people, this is how to do it.

Simply add, "I can learn to believe that......" or "I can learn...." to your replacement thought. For example, "I can learn to believe that I am smart and I can get this," or "I can learn that everyone makes mistakes and it's okay for me to be human."

TSR is an amazing tool. How you talk to yourself can empower you to take on the world, or cripple you to be unable to do the simplest of tasks. Have fun trying this, try not to yell "stop" out loud and remember to...............make the moment happen!

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