I talk to myself
By Adam Woolard
I talk to myself… constantly. Sometimes it is inaudible conversation, but often it is out loud, in public, like a crazy person. Whether we realize it or not, we all have conversations with ourselves and we create stories in our minds to rationalize the things that happen to us. And you guessed it – studies have shown that these stories are almost always negative.
A personal example of how a mental story can have a negative effect on the direction of your life is a story that I’ve kept bottled up for a long time. When I was in my early teens, I had just taken some kind of standardized test that showed my above average mental capabilities. Later that week, someone who is very close to me and a person that I admire with every ounce of my being made a very innocent comment that stuck with me and affected my actions and thought processes well into my college years:
“You are smart like your brothers… you’re just a little bit slower to pick up on things.”
If I was told that today, that would have gone in one ear and out the other. It would have had absolutely no effect on the future direction of my life. Why? Because I have complete control of the stories that I allow to play in my head and I understand that the things someone else says is their perspective… It has nothing to do with you. However, as an insecure teenager who was highly influenced by the thoughts and views of others, this seemingly innocent declaration induced an endless pattern of negative stories… stories that had such amazing finality attached to them and ones that sealed my fate with a rubber stamp.
After The Comment came into my life, everything seemed to change in my thought processes. The Comment itself was not the thing that had a lasting effect… it was the stories that I continued to let play out in my head that affected my actions. I began saying to myself, “Why even try, you’re not quick enough to figure that out,” or “There’s no way you can become a Doctor, you have to be smart,” or “straight A’s aren’t even a possibility for me,” or “finishing this book will take a lifetime because I’m so slow.” My competitive spirit was shot to hell. I found myself giving up on things quicker simply because I felt new tasks would take me way too long to master. I simply wanted to be free of the embarrassment and feeling of inadequacy.
How we rationalize events and the stories that we associate with those events ultimately determine who we become.
The majority of negative ideas or attitudes that we have about ourselves are based on false premises. These negative attitudes only exist because we give them life and then keep them alive by replaying them in our heads over and over and over. Thankfully, you can change this vicious cycle by adopting the Law of Emotion, which states:
“A stronger emotion will dominate and override a weaker emotion, and whichever emotion you concentrate on grows and becomes stronger.”
All I had to do to break free from The Comment was to withdraw my mental energy from the negative stories, and start talking to myself in a positive way. I had to give more attention to my positive thoughts and less attention to the negative, which eventually allowed the negative to die away.
Let Go of the Past
Negative events come into our lives all of the time. Sometimes these events seem impossible to overcome and often feel overwhelming as they require so much of our mental energy. However, once you understand how to recognize negative thoughts creeping up, you can start replacing them with positive thoughts.
We keep the past alive by allowing the negative stories to continue to play out in our minds. To free yourself of the negative events in the past, simply begin by putting a positive spin on what those events mean. Let’s say you went through a tough divorce that ended in joint custody of your children, and subsequently, less time with your children. With such a life-changing event, it is very likely that you have stories constantly playing in your head to help you rationalize why it happened and all of the negative emotions surrounding the divorce. However, you can question the validity of the negative stories by asking yourself if the story is a Fact, or a Rationalization.
A rationalization is a defense mechanism that we use in order to justify our negative emotions. Here is a common thought progression: “I just went through a tough divorce” > “I am the worst husband” > “My kids will be scarred and negatively affected for the rest of their lives” > “This is the worst thing that could have happened” > “How did I let it come to this?” This progressive story starts with a fact (you did just go through a divorce), but quickly turns into rationalizations that are likely to be completely untrue. Try getting to the bottom of the thought by continuing to ask yourself if the thought is a fact… if it is not, then recognize the rationalization and replace it with a thought containing a positive spin. “I am the worst husband” quickly turns into “I could have been a better husband, but I now understand the importance of communication and will use this knowledge in my future relationship.”
The Cold Hard Truth
We become what we think about. If you think you have no chance of getting out of your current situation, then you likely won’t. If you think you are incapable of having a meaningful relationship, then you will likely go from bad relationship to bad relationship. Until you begin to feed your mind with positive stories and positive thoughts, you will continue to regress. Your mind is similar to your body… if you continuously put healthy, nutritious foods into your body, it will have a positive effect on your body. If you feed your mind healthy, positive stories, then your entire life will change.
Control your thoughts… and you control your life.
Adam Woolard is a personal trainer and boxing trainer at Title Boxing. He serves on the Board of Directors with Big Brothers of Big Sisters (BBBS) of Middle Tennessee (and is also a Big Brother in the program) and serves as a Committee Member on the Homeowner Selection Committee at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville. Adam Woolard maintains a blog via his Facebook page, where he writes on topics ranging from self-awareness and training, to meditation and personal anecdotes. A version of this article, “I talk to myself,” can be found there. If you are looking to acquire tools to make yourself stronger, get to know Adam.
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