What Do You Say When You Talk to Yourself?
by Floyd Wills
What Do You Say When You Talk to Yourself? By Floyd Wills
The Story of Two Wolves
Two Native American warriors were sitting near the camp fire on a cold, dark, winter night. The eldest of the two warriors said, "There are two wolves inside of me. One of them is a white wolf; he is filled with love and positive energy. The other wolf is gray; he is filled with negativity. The gray wolf is constantly attacking the white wolf." "Who wins?" asked the younger warrior. The elder responded, "whoever I feed the most."
What do you say when you talk to yourself? Are you even aware of the internal dialogue that goes on in your head? Do you give yourself words of encouragement and acceptance? Or, are you mentally beating yourself up? Do the words you speak to yourself support a positive self-image? Which 'wolf' are you feeding the most?
Words Have Power
I love what the Bible has to say about the power of our words; in James 3:4-5 it says:
"A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything - or destroy it!"
According to Shad Helmstetter (1990), our brain is similar to a computer. Our self-talk can be compared to a keyboard. Whatever we say about ourselves, be it good, bad, or indifferent, is like typing those words and phrases on the keyboard, which is entered into our computer center (the subconscious mind). Like a computer, the sub-conscious mind does not know the difference between reality and fantasy. It only accepts as truth those suggestions based on your past programming that it is continually bombarded with, those that are intensified by emotion, and those that are from outside sources such as authority figures.
Our self-talk creates the "mental movies" that we run in our mind. The subconscious will eventually act upon our specific self-talk and mental movies that it has been habitually exposed to. This does not matter if it is good for us, bad for us, true or untrue. The profound truth is you are the director of the mental movies and narration you give those movies. The words that you use and the mental pictures you hold in your mind on a consistent basis will determine how you behave. Change you’re self-talk and your mental movies and you can effectively change your behavior. If the task of becoming more aware of your internal processing might at first seem daunting to you, don't worry; like any other skill it takes some practice, but I can say from my own experience and those of the clients I have worked with doing this, that it will change your life for the better.
Changing Your Self-Talk
Step 1- Monitor your self-talk for a few days by writing down some of your negative self-talk. This simple process will allow you to notice how much you engage in this behavior and the specific negative thoughts you are having. You cannot change a behavior if you are unaware of it.
Step 2- Pick out a few of the negative phrases you use and change them to positive phrases using the 5 P's formula:
Positive- Use positive solution focused language. Say what you want to happen-not what you don't want to happen.
Personal- Use language that is real for you. You don't need to use fluffy "pie in the sky" language.
Passion- Put some passion behind your words when you speak or think of your positive self-talk.
Present- Use present tense language "I am" "I choose". The subconscious will not respond to phrases such as "I will" "In the future". Some people initially have a hard time with this step because they think they are lying to themselves because they are saying that they have already achieved their desired behavior when in reality they have not yet. Remember what I said earlier, the sub-conscious does not know the difference between what is fantasy and reality, only what is continually programmed into it. You must "Act as if" you have successfully integrated your behavior. Here are some examples of changing negative self-talk to positive self-talk:
Negative- "I'm terrible with remembering names. Someone tells me their name and a couple minutes later I forget it."
Positive- "I have a good memory. Whenever I meet someone new, I make sure that I hear their name and associate it with another name or image that helps me to easily recall it."
Negative- "I just can't seem to keep this weight off of me. Whatever I eat seems to add more pounds to my gut."
Positive- "My health is important to me. I eat foods that nourish my body, and I invest time in myself everyday to exercise. Taking care of my body gives me more energy to enjoy life."
Practice- Through repetition and a desire to make the changes, you will discover your sub-conscious mind will start to cooperate with you instead of against you. Write your positive self-talk phrases on note cards or sticky pads and place them where you will frequently see them. An excellent method I learned from Hypnotherapist Richard Nongard, is to write your positive self talk phrase or affirmation using a dry-erase pen on your bathroom mirror as this is one of the first things you see in the morning and one of the last things at night.
Step 3-Whenever you find the negative self-talk starting to fill your head, interrupt the pattern by saying to yourself "Stop! Cancel, cancel!" And immediately replace your negative self-talk with your positive self talk phrase you came up with. It is important that after you mentally cancel out the negative self-talk you use positive self-talk to counteract it. Shad Helmstetter, in his book "What To Say When You Talk To Yourself" used the analogy of living in a home with old worn out and outdated furniture. First, you notice that it is outdated (become aware of your negative self-talk). Then, the next step is packing up all old furniture and moving it to the storage unit (canceling out the negative self-talk). If you don't replace your old furniture, you will notice how bare your apartment is, and it won't be long before you start hauling out the old furniture again! Once the old furniture has been removed, you must replace it with new furniture (change the negative to positive self-talk) so you don't revert back to your old programming.
When you are consciously directing your self-talk, you are reprogramming your mind! The more you practice transforming your negative self-talk to positive, the easier and more natural it will become. Through repetition, the sub-conscious mind will eventually adopt the new programming . I challenge you to invest the time in yourself and develop this skill. The benefits of directing your sub-conscious mind puts you in control of the rudder of your own ship instead of allowing the strong winds of old negative programming to knock you off course.
Helmstetter, S. (1990). What To Say When You Talk To Yourself. Pocket Books.
Nongard, R. (2014). Subliminalscience.com
Taming Your Inner Gremlin by Rick Carson
The Self-Talk Solution by Shad Helmstetter
Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal and Sidra Stone (uses a different approach than I demonstrate in my article, but is well worth exploring).