Sunday, April 11, 2010

Identifying negative self-chatter

Negative self talk for most of us, at this point, is sheer habit. We do it, and don’t even know we’re doing it. (You may even be judging yourself for doing it as you read this paragraph of me accusing you of doing it!) To some extent it's "normal," but that doesn't mean it serves us.

In the next few articles, I'll be discussing ways to handle the negative self-chatter in your head.

To start examining the issue of negative self-chatter, the first thing we need to learn how to do is to catch ourselves being negative. It takes practice (and patience) because it goes against what we've ingrained on ourselves for however long we've been hard on ourselves. But, luckily, there are ways to change all that!

The next time you catch yourself saying something negative about yourself– either feeling it, hearing it, or remembering it, take a moment and simply note it. You can commemorate the note in any number of ways – by breathing, taking a sip of water, jotting the thought down in a notebook, adding a bean to a jar… whatever works for you. The point of the exercise is not to punish yourself for having negative thoughts – we all do! – but rather to alert yourself to how MUCH you do it, and strengthening the muscles it takes to develop awareness around it.

To make it more bearable, have a little fun with it. Stay curious about how much you do this – if I asked you now, would you be able to tell me how many negative thoughts you have a day?

[This is NOT about punishment. I repeat: This is NOT about punishment!]

The objective is simply to hear yourself saying things. So every time you catch your saboteur saying something hurtful, you win. Even if you don’t do anything about the thought, or (bleck!) fall victim to believing it’s true. That’s ok! The point here is to work out the muscles that detect the voice.

The first step in being able to manage the thoughts you do have is to recognize THAT you’re saying things to yourself. When you've mastered that (ha!) then move on to hearing WHAT it is you’re saying.

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