How Do You Know You Have to Listen to It?

21 May, 2016

“The way you talk to yourself is the quality of your life”.

In NLP, we prefer to understand how our clients are already using their brains (their unique strengths) and then we take those skills and teach them how to use them for their benefit, rather than their detriment.  As a very general way of understanding it, some people use the visual part of their brain and are skilled at making pictures and movies inside their heads.  You can use this skill of the brain to create hideous anxiety or post-traumatic stress, or you can use it to direct a movie or create amazing feelings inside yourself.  For others, it’s auditory, for others more kinetic, where touch and movement are crucially important.

For the majority of us we use a combination of all of these inner languages to create our world on the inside, and therefore our reality on the outside. Plus another very important one - Internal Dialogue.  

I’ve written about this so many times before I can’t bring myself to link to all the articles here!  To summarise: Internal Dialogue is the way we talk to ourselves inside our head in words, in our own language.  It’s that little voice that comments or predicts.  As far as I know, there isn’t another species on the planet that can do this.  It has evolved with our human brain in the pre-frontal cortex.  In terms of the inner-languages of the brain its the only capacity that we are not born with (i.e. a healthy baby is born with the ability to process all the other senses and languages of the brain - sight, touch, sound, taste and smell) and develops much later, as we begin to understand verbal language and begin to internalise that language so it becomes our very own inner voice.

Now, something I can’t explain for sure is why this inner dialogue seems to be wired as negative, rather than positive.  For most people it’s overly critical, overly cautious, would tend to hold a person back rather than encourage them forward. It can be depressive, or anxious, or even down right cruel - it tells us we’re fat, stupid, ugly, will never amount to anything.  For those of us aware of our own internal dialogue we can recognise some of the regular ‘themes’.  My main ones are “you can’t” and “who do you think you are?” and “nothing works for me”.  

We have many tools in the NLP toolkit to moderate and change internal dialogue and I can’t emphasise how important it is to do this.  There is a wide research-body that shows again and again how negative internal dialogue is a major player in anxiety and depression and self-esteem.  And even if it doesn’t reach that level, if you’re listening to thoughts about how crap you are all day, you won’t be able to do happiness very well - at all.

Something we also know from research is that people who can do happiness well, don’t necessarily do the opposite.  They don’t have a cheerleader inside their head giving them a high-five in the mirror each morning and telling them how awesome their driving just was (people who DO talk to themselves in this way are not in the business of authentic happiness, but more so in what we might term arrogance or over-compensating for a low self-esteem).  They still have the negative tapes playing - and - they have trained themselves not to listen to them.

Did you know that, you do have a choice about this?

If this article is resonating with you, practice this little sequence and notice what happens:

1.  Notice your negative internal dialogue.  You will do this in one of two ways, you will feel bad or you will be able to catch the actual words and tone of voice going through your head as if listening to the radio.

2. Notice the qualities of the voice/s.  Loud or quiet?  Masculine or feminine?  What’s the tonality? Scared, worried, irritated, mean?

3.  Ask yourself:  How do I know if I need to listen to this voice?  (There is only one answer to this: you don’t).

4. Dissociate from it.  Say, “thank you for sharing but not now” or “thanks, but no thanks”.  Imagine you could turn it down as you would a radio, or just stop it as you would a TV.

5.  Ask yourself:  What would it be like if I talked to myself the way I would talk to someone I love?  (There is only one answer to this:  much better/more supportive/happier).

6. Just talk to yourself in this way.  Say the words inside your head.  Imagine what kind of tone it would be, what it would say.  “Yep, that perhaps wasn’t your best work Charlotte, but, you can learn from this…”.  

As always, I welcome your comments, experiences and feedback.

Love, Charlotte.

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