Plato remarked correctly that when the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself. Our internal dialogue (or ‘self-talk’) can help build a wonderful life or play havoc with everything we do – if we allow it.
One study revealed that continually using negative words and phrases can bring about a decline in our memory capabilities and an overall drop in our physical performance. In contrast, people who habitually use positive words report an improvement in memory and an increase in physical performance.
You can take control of your Self-Talk by carefully choosing the words you use. This is more important than most people think. Words are expressions of ideas, and ideas shape your life. But words shape ideas too, as anyone who has read George Orwell’s ‘1984’ will know. In this, his masterpiece, Big Brother deliberately restricts the choice of words available to the population so that ordinary people would be incapable of thinking a rebellious thought. The forces of ‘political correctness’ use much the same approach.
When you are careful about the words you use, especially if at the same time you you’re your chosen words some energy by, for instance, changing your posture, tone of voice and body language, you feel differently. You feel stronger emotionally.
You can remove or soften the impact of a negative thought, or change it to a positive. Positive words, backed up with positive physiology, have a big impact on the emotions. Try this:
Slump down in a chair and tell yourself you feel ‘miserable’. Notice how you feel.
Now look up and tell yourself you feel ‘a little low’. Notice how you feel.
Now smile and tell yourself you feel ‘cheerful’. Notice how you feel.
Empowering words and phrases
Here are a few words and phrases that really energise, and some to avoid:
The best sentences start with empowering words such as ‘I can’, ‘I am’, ‘I do’, ‘I have’. If at first they don’t feel right (for example, if you feel as if you’re lying to yourself), remember, you’re not trying to mislead yourself, but bring about beneficial changes in your way of thinking that will eventually manifest as new feelings and behaviour.
Change ‘I must’ or ‘I have to’ to ‘I choose’ or ‘I prefer’. This impresses on the unconscious that you are deliberately making your own choices.
Similarly, drop any phrases that make it seem you’re stuck in the past. So, ‘That’s just the way I am/it is’ becomes ‘I can choose a different approach’, and ‘There’s nothing I can do’ is transformed into, ‘Let’s look at the alternatives’.
Make a habit of using words that create good feelings – words like health, happy, loving, kind, relaxed, affectionate, beautiful, successful, enjoy, peace and so on.
Henry Ford famously said, ‘If you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you’re quite right.’’I can’t’ sends a harmful messages to the unconscious. It renders you incapable or less capable than you really are. Change to, ‘I can’ or, if this is too big a leap all at once, ‘I would find it difficult at the moment, but I can learn/improve.’
‘Shoulds’ and ‘Shouldn’ts’
Shoulds and shouldn’ts and their close relatives, ought, must, got to, and so on. These phrases infer that there are fixed rules limiting our options, or that someone else is making our decisions for us. Frequent use of shoulds and shouldn’ts is often a sign that a dominant parent figure or strong religious or cultural programming is controlling our thinking.
Shoulds and shouldn’ts come in three main forms:
- Shoulds related to ourselves, our capabilities and/or our conduct, such as, ‘I should do better,’ ‘I mustn’t do that.’ Change to ‘I choose,’ ‘I decide,’ or ‘I prefer’.
- Shoulds related to life and other people, e.g. ‘People shouldn’t behave like that,’ or ‘Things should be different.’ Such thoughts inevitably bring disappointment, irritation and even anger since the world is most unlikely to conform to our wishes all the time.
- What would XYZ think? This reveals a strong need for others’ approval. Obviously there is nothing wrong with wanting to be liked and accepted by others, but it becomes damaging when we feel we have to edit ourselves to win that approval. Let these thoughts go, centre yourself, and instead tune in to what you think is best.
- It shouldn’t be allowed.
- People should be kinder to each other.
- Children should have more respect for their elders.
- It’s not fair!
- They (politicians, the authorities etc.) should do something about it.
People use words differently. Everyone has their own favourite words and phrases, so come up with a list of words that create negative feelings in you, and write a list of alternative words and phrases that you could use instead.
Now make a list of words and phrases that make you feel good. Put your list somewhere you will see them every day. When you look at your list, breathe deeply and smile to yourself.
I promise you, put these ideas into practice and you’ll quickly notice your life changing for the better!
© David Lawrence Preston, 25.3.2016
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston
How to Books, 2010