Be receptive towards the heavens, and active towards the earth.
— Chinese proverb.
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The great thing about negative self-talk is that when you really pay attention it can teach you a lot about yourself. Unfortunately, if you’re swamped by negative emotions or if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may not have the perspective necessary to learn everything you might. But if you can get some distance, your inner dialog can be a gold-mine of information. After all, your self-talk is not really ‘you’, it’s like a radio station you happen to be tuned into. The secret is to find a better station to listen to. Before you change stations however, listen well. Sometimes it may be like listening to a one-sided news broadcast. Even though you know it’s propaganda, you can still hear a lot between the lines. It’s the same with your own negative self-talk. You can find out a lot about yourself behind the drone of self-doubt, or the propagandistic stories you’ve been telling yourself. You’ll always find alternative messages when you listen well.
Like a mirror held at right-angles, negative self-talk can help you look around the corner of your conscious mind to take a peek at your hidden beliefs and negative emotional patterns. When I say negative emotional patterns I also mean those insipid states that may not be acutely negative, but which keep you constantly at half-throttle; as if you have resigned yourself to remain in perpetual discontent, unmotivated, and distracted.
This may sound like a sorry prognosis of the way we conduct the conversation we have with ourselves, but I have found, over years of working with clients and students, that many people, unless they have done serious inner work, tell themselves things that they would never say to their worst enemy. Once we had a student staying at our center who would wake people in the middle of the night with a stream of curses directed at himself. His self-talk had started coming out of his mouth.
Just noticing some of the patterns can be very helpful. Do certain events trigger certain emotions; or do you give meanings to certain events; and the meanings (the story) then triggers emotions? Are there things you tend to do or not do, based on a specific sequence? Does some kind of negative inner dialog kick in at some point? Or is it just the feelings? Sometimes the meanings we attribute to certain events are so consistent it’s hard to identify them as an actual dialog in your head. It’s like the six o’clock news on Groundhog Day, going round and round, over and over again.
You may not be able to track these patterns on your own. The good news is that you can break them, you can change them, and when you do, you can free up immense resources of energy. You gain access to clarity and creativity, and then you start to feel really good again. It’s not just a question of changing the station you are tuned into, though that’s part of it. It’s more like getting a whole new audio system.
Some years ago a friend lend us his little hut above a lagoon in the South Pacific. From the deck, even from the bed, which was just a platform above the single room of the hut, we could watch the fish in the lagoon, the islands inside the reef, and the beyond that, the ocean stretching to the horizon. You can imagine what sort of inner dialog goes on in a place like that.
How to get a new voice
1 Do what you love. At least some of the time, at least for a few minutes every day. Deliberately acknowledge it. Express your appreciation and gratitude.
2 Imagine and remember what you love. Remember the moments that gave you the most pleasure.
3 Be still. I’m not talking about meditation, because people often surround meditation with their notions and expectations. Do less than meditation, preferably in a place where you really like to be. Just stop for a few minutes and be completely still. Relax and look around. Stay alert for signs and reminders of who you truly are.
4 There are things you can repeat out loud every day, ten times or more, in front of a mirror, or in your car, or in a room which you can fill with the sound of your voice. “I like myself. I really like myself.” Ten times. Different intonations, different volumes, different facial expressions, different postures, different gestures.
Or, in the same way, “Life is a fabulous journey, and I’m travelling it in a way that’s leading me to new discoveries every day.”
Or, “I celebrate my life as a unique expression of human life on planet earth.”
Or .. make up your own. As before, play with the sound, and with your body language. Think of it as sacred performance rather than as Affirmations.
5. Engage all your senses. Stimulate your ears with music you enjoy, make your own music if possible. Stimulate your sense of smell with incense, essential oils, flowers, spices. Engage your sense of taste with food you love, slow down when you eat, so you truly taste the food. The same with touch. Feel the texture of things, touch the people in your life, hold them, hug them, caress them. Treat your eyes to what you love, and really look. Seek out what is beautiful to look at, and then really look at it. Stimulate you mind. Study what interests you. Make it challenging enough to stretch you a little.
6. Walk on the earth everyday remembering that it is round and that always you are under the huge dome of the sky, and that beyond it there are more stars and galaxies than you can even begin to imagine and that you are connected to all of it. Imagine that all of it would prefer that you were really happy within yourself, that when you engage in negative self-talk it all fades a little. Imagine the Milky Way regretting something about itself .. how would you feel? It’s absurd to even think about isn’t it. Be like the Milky Way, because that’s sort of what you are.
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Negative Self-talk Part 3, swamped by negative emotions, secret to overcoming negative thoughts, Mediation, NLP, spiritual practice, Neuro linguistic programming, Hypnosis, personal development, unconscious mind.