In my last post, I looked at discovering the Oughta Pilots, or places where I was unconsciously being led down a path I didn’t choose. I only mentioned a couple of them for brevity’s sake. The thing to remember is that the past memories are always going to be there. They live in our hippocampus and barring dementia or a brain disease that affects them, will be there till we die. The difference lies in changing how they affect us, what meaning we ascribe to them, what emotions they bring up when they surface. I posit it is possible to change the charge on the memories so that we free ourselves from reliving the emotional trauma and pain when they show back up.
In this post, I will look at the internal conversations I was having within those memories and how identifying the conversations is the first step toward unpacking the fear and defusing the charge. I teach this process in the second segment of my Create Your Life Toolkit.
Watch Your Mouth, Your Subconscious Is Listening!
First – a little explanation. Your internal dialog can make or break you. We all have a personal DJ spinning old scratchy records and tapes we can’t help but listen to. Getting deep into our media library is half the battle. Once there, though, you can fire your DJ and get back in touch with your Original Song; the one only you can sing and the one you are here to contribute to the chorus of humanity.
Whenever we’re in a conversation, we speak at an average of 150 words per minute (more if you’re from the East Coast). We process about 750 words a minute, so where do the other 600 words come from? Our inner dialog that never shuts up. If we only pay full attention to 15 – 20% of what we hear externally and have the other 80% going on subliminally, it’s no wonder we get derailed occasionally since who knows what we’re being advised from our inner voice.
Your internal dialog can make or break you.
Let me tell you something about your inner D.J. This is the little voice inside your head that is never there to tell you you’ve done something right. Have you ever noticed just how negative those thoughts are? With every triumph you celebrate, there is always a little whisper in the background telling you that you could have done something a little differently to achieve an even better result. Am I right?
There was a minister at one of the churches I’ve attended who used to call it your “neener neener machine”. Fun, huh?
How do you talk to yourself when you’re not listening? What do you say to get your attention?
Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong in talking out loud to yourself; even in public. It’s been said, however, it’s when you begin to answer that you should have cause for concern. In fact, every minute of the day we engage in a continuous internal conversation or “self talk,” which is ultimately reflected in our moods, attitudes, actions and habits.
By monitoring and exerting control over this inner dialog we can begin to effectively control every other part of our lives. Facing and overcoming daily difficulties and recovering from setbacks are knitted into the fabric of human experiences. Likewise, striving to reach our goals and stretching beyond our perceived limitations, stepping outside our comfort zones, is also part of what it is to be a human being. To a large extent, much of our ability to succeed comes from our outlook on life. Success in business, building strong personal relationships, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle all stem from having a sunny disposition. As I‘ve heard it often said, “no one wants to be around a doggone, disillusioned crybaby.” It all comes down to how you talk to yourself on a daily basis.
Tune in to your self talk
I am sure you’ve heard it said before, “it’s not what happens to you but how you react to it.” The way you react to any situation is a direct result of how you explain it to yourself. We must learn to listen to the things we are saying to ourselves and change the languages from negative to positive. Whenever I find myself sinking into a low mood I immediately begin to ask myself, “What was I saying to myself right before I started feeling this way?” I then change my self talk. It may sound trivial to you, but another tactic I use is to eliminate certain words from my vocabulary.
For example, I chose not to use the word “problem.” A problem is something that is perplexing and burdensome. I prefer the word “challenge.” A challenge, on the other hand, is a test. It arouses and stimulates, you rise to meet it and it makes you stronger. Given the same situation, the two words will elicit totally different emotional responses.
I have also endeavored to erradicate the word “help” as in helping others. In my personal lexicon, helping someone is doing something FOR them, not giving them a hand up or support to do it themselves. I prefer to use the word “assist”. Helping someone learn a thing doesn’t work. You can teach them or let them learn. You cannot do it for them.
Your thoughts build self esteem
Self esteem and confidence are the foundation for competency and high achievement. It is impossible to develop any skills without first thinking highly of yourself and your ability to acquire those skills. Start your day in front of the mirror repeating affirmations such as, “I can do it,” “I like myself” or “I am the best.” These affirmations will build your levels of self esteem and self confidence. At first you may feel strange saying them.
Because, over the years, your mind has been programmed to believe otherwise. You may not believe you are the best right now and could construe saying this affirmation as lying to yourself.
I prefer to look at affirmations as telling the truth in advance. Additionally, since we were all designed for success, any self talk that causes us to be anything less than our potential is an even bigger lie. Your mind can only hold one thought at a time. Constantly repeating these affirmations will eventually replace the negative programming buried in your subconscious. Remember it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, so be kind to yourself and be patient.
Your thoughts manifest your goals
Buddha reminds us that “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.” Consequently, we need to keep our thoughts on our future and our goals. We should be constantly thinking about the person we want to be. By focusing on our goals, we will be guided to actions that lead to their attainment. Even when things go wrong, our attitude will not be one of resignation but instead, one of understanding that the path to success is paved with peaks and valleys. There may be setbacks, to be sure, but with FOCUS, we can reach the goals we set for ourselves.
Difficulties will be seen as opportunities to get stronger. The more you keep your thoughts on your goals, the more likely they are to be realized. As Henry David Thoreau says, “Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be.”
High achieving individuals are generally more positive, optimistic and resilient. They exert control over the small voice in their mind and as a result attract the goals and dreams they have for themselves. You too will be just like them as soon as you start making note of what you say when you talk to yourself.
Are you saying what you think you are saying when you talk to yourself and others?
I love the quote from Richard Nixon that goes, “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” How many times is that true of our conversations with ourselves. How do you converse with others? If you’re present in the dialogs you have with friends, family and acquaintances, do you listen to what is said? Is it positive? Do you internalize it or just let it go on by?
How are you describing your day? When someone asks you how it’s going do you tell them it’s great or do you begin the list of gripes you have stocked up from running out of coffee that morning to your boss telling you to do something you disagree with?
When someone asks you what you do, or why you do something, do you take a moment to listen to your Song and respond from your heart or do you launch into the well-rehearsed monologue of deprecating complaints you’ve used for years?
Here’s how my conversation with my coach went.
Coach DeB: Let’s begin with the first example you mentioned; being blown out of your home. Can you tell me about that?
DeB1: I was 10, Typhoon Karen had leveled the island. We had no water or power, and most of the houses had been blown away. I remember how weird it was, with no birds or anything. There was always something making noise, usually. Our car had been sliced open like a can by a sheet of tin and one wheel was wobbly. Mostly what was left of houses were toilets and bathtubs. So weird. Like the end of the world.
The sound of the waves was all I heard when we went to check on stuff. Our business building was fine; all hollow block bricks but with a hole in the roof easy to fix. But our home was thrashed. We lived in a quonset hut at the time and it had been lifted off the foundation and dropped 20 feet over. Everything inside had blown out and was gone. I remember looking in our above ground pool that survived somehow and seeing dead chickens and a couple of cats floating in it.
Coach DeB: Where were your parents at this time? Were you alone?
DeB1: No, but they were as stunned as I was. My dad was looking though debris to see what could be salvaged and my mom was just crying. I felt so alone. Like I didn’t even know them. I just remember standing there and not knowing what to do.
Coach DeB: So what did you do next?
DeB1: One of our neighbors came slogging through the mud and told us the Red Cross had hot meals and was handing out blankets. We got back in the car and wobbled down to where they were and got something to eat. There were a lot of my parents’ friends there who were all talking about how bad it had been, but by some miracle, only 7 died. Two of them had spent most of the typhoon hanging onto a coconut tree as their Volkswagen bug got blown away from them. It had hit the tree and split open throwing them against the tree so they just held on for dear life as they watched it roll around a few feet away.
I remember my mom saying, at least we have a place that’s clean and dry to sleep. Some others didn’t. Luckily it didn’t usually get below 80 degrees at night out there so we wouldn’t be cold.
Coach DeB: How did you get out of that situation?
DeB1: We slept at the plant (what we called the laundry) along with several of the people who worked for us who had lost their homes. There was lots of space in the back, and most of our equipment was fine. We ate our meals at the Red Cross until they flew in Coleman Stoves for some of us. Our home was a relative loss, but there was another nearby we could move into. It was hard getting food, but when they flew it in for the military, they shared as much as they could with the civilians. After two weeks, when commercial airlines could fly in again, my dad sent my mother and I to the States till water and power could be turned back on. We survived. We found our pool in back of where the house had been was a Godsend, it allowed the neighbors to take buckets of water to flush toilets so they didn’t have to dig latrines. My dad often said that kept disease down since we didn’t have the human waste to draw the nasties. It also allowed people to keep themselves clean by a bucket shower. It wasn’t potable water, but it could work for that in an emergency and this certainly was that.
Coach DeB: And so what is your inner voice saying about this?
DeB1: That this is just like that, and I’m alone, there’s nobody to lean on and I’m powerless to take control
Coach DeB: Is that Truth?
DeB1: No, I survived that, and I can survive this.
Coach DeB: And what did you learn from this?
DeB1: I learned how to pick up the pieces and start again with what was available. We didn’t have what we wanted, we had what we had, but it was enough to begin again. I think that was the first big lesson in starting over. And looking back now, I realize I was never alone. I always was surrounded by people who would help if I needed it.
Coach DeB: So, if you learned that, and you remember how you overcame such devastation, can you let go of the paralyzing fear you remember feeling?
DeB1: I think so, but I’m not actually sure I can. I still remember feeling that way and I’m still reacting to the memory of that first morning.
Coach DeB: So our next step is the actual disconnection from the emotion of the episode. Are you ready for that?
DeB1: The Meaning Maker Machine? Story Exercise?
Coach DeB: Exactly.
DeB1: Okay. Let’s do it.
Next in Part 3: Shake Your Meaning Maker – If you gave meaning to an experience, you can change it.
Where have you been telling yourself a story? Is that story true? I’d love to see your comments.