My internal dialogue used to drive me crazy! Since 2001 I have learnt and discovered many techniques of how to drastically reduce the negative chatter in my head.
I now feel free in my brain, when for years that voice took up so much of my time and headspace.
As conscious creatures we have the huge advantage of awareness, we experience the world and create a questioning dialogue inside ourselves. We then silently (to the outside world) assess our environment, remember our past and consider our future. For many of us though, that little voice in y/our head can become a destructive mechanism that makes our day to day existence difficult and even unbearable.
Here in this blog, I will share some great strategies
that I have used for myself and with my clients
to treat the root causes of the overly noisy and questioning mind.
I used to struggle to manage the constant noise in my head. I was questioning and answering myself about so many details, that I found it hard to really be in the moment with anyone or anything. I would wonder:
If what I had said was ‘right’
If I had offended anyone
If I appeared stupid
If I seemed needy
If I was liked by people
If I was good enough
If I would know what to say to people
If people liked me
If people believed what I said
If I could make sure people understood me and liked me
I discovered that a huge part of the chatter was my concern for how others saw me, and how my behaviour and actions were being received. I wanted so badly to be understood and to engage with my environment, and yet I believed that I was picking up signals and body language that hinted at others not really liking what I said or did.
I would then try to work out how on earth I would allow them to see ‘the real me’- a good and likeable person. At times it felt as though I was losing my mind.
Living in a social world, means interacting with others, and unless you are a sociopath it is important to get on with people. I began to realise that the churning stomach feeling I was experiencing was born from my focus being on how others perceived me, rather than on saying or doing things that were aligned to my values.
So, I began to consider what sat well with me and what I valued, I then started to bravely share more of that. With the inner knowing that something sat well with me, I then felt less anxious if someone disagreed with me. I also began to feel more comfortable with the idea that if someone else did disagree with me, then that was OK too.
I started with the simple stuff, we’re not talking politics here, just things that I knew I liked or didn’t like. I stopped talking in absolutes, I began my sentences with ‘I think…’ rather than ‘This is the way it is…’ I felt I could more easily meet others in a discussion and even hear, see and understand their point of view. I was able to share my perspective, without it feeling like an attack or being on the defensive. I was beginning to see and have the experience of still being OK if someone didn’t always agree with me. I was seeing that it is possible to meet them and talk without fear and niggles.
I began to trust that the majority of people are the same; concerned about how others see them, wanting to be understood and liked and wanting to do the ‘right’ thing.
The practical first step I took to only say what I knew to be true for me. I began to Say What I Mean & Mean What I Say. I caught myself before I said something I thought someone wanted me to say, and just didn’t say anything. I remained generous and kind, I didn’t start telling people all the inner workings of my mind, such as if I disliked their new hairdo, but I did start being honest about what I thought.
Let’s have a little more honesty. Me with Lunaria annua (Honesty) 🙂
I noticed that the part of the voice in my head that sounded like this; ‘Why did you say that? That isn’t what you think, you were just trying to please them,’ all but went away! I became more honest.
I became much more comfortable telling people when I didn’t know the answer to things! When I was asked my opinion on something I wasn’t sure of, I wouldn’t fudge it, I would say, “I don’t know, but I will find out for you.” I started to be kinder to myself and others. I discovered that my standards for myself were so much higher than I had for others. I didn’t expect other people to know everything, I knew people were fallible and yet I had created this facade that I felt I had to maintain of always knowing stuff and being knowledgeable to lead powerfully, it was exhausting.
I was very aware of the fear I felt of allowing them to see the limits to my knowledge, or letting people down, I felt physically sick and vulnerable. But, I made a choice to be honest with myself and them, and I experienced something wonderful.
In the moment I felt vulnerable, but as soon as my words were out there I experienced a wave of relief. I no longer had to have the dialogue washing around in my brain of wondering if they had believed me, wondering if they’d have accepted the truth. My opinion was just out there and their response was also….fine!!!
The more honest I became about the length and breadth of myself, the more substantial I felt about the stuff that I felt I did know, feel and value. My self confidence grew and I had more and more open and honest conversations with people about how they felt worried about what people thought of them.
The other side of the Say What I Mean & Mean What I Say coin was that I also started taking other people’s word for what they said. It became very clear to me that another large part of the chatter in my head was wondering what people had ‘really meant’ in their interactions with me. I spend hours thinking that words of congratulations, praise or any positive comments were only said to be kind, and not really meant by them. I even worried that their less positive comments were covering up an even worse opinion of me. I did not believe that others were being honest, so why should I make myself vulnerable by being honest with them? But, I knew in my heart that that felt like a very very sad state of affairs! I dearly wanted to believe that it was possible for everyone to be honest with each other, but I was too scared to go out on a limb and be the one to begin.
Until, I made the decision. I felt inspired by making the choice to live from a space of love and compassion, rather than fear. What did I have to lose? My ‘ego’ might get a bruising, but there were bigger fish to fry. I felt inspired to give myself permission to just be me. I also felt hugely inspired by the idea of making a stand for those beliefs and inspiring others to do the same.
I felt a huge wave of creative possibility flow over me. It wasn’t just about me and my little brain anymore, it was about everybody. It was about connection, compassion, love and kindness. I wanted to align to that, rather than hold myself in the separate space of fear, anxiety and suspicion. So I began to take people’s word for what they said too. It began with the ‘easier’ stuff, if I offered someone something and they said ‘no, thank you,’ I would double check, ‘Are you sure?’ and then if they said ‘No, I’m fine thanks,’ then I would take that answer. My old thought patterns would jump in and say, ‘They are just being polite,’ but my new mantra was ‘Listen to what they actually say, not what you think they mean’. I just started to listen, really listen and be open to what they wanted to say to me. If that was their choice, I had to accept that. The alternative was a busy brain for me and I knew I wanted to move away from that, so slowly, but very surely I took people for their word.
So here is the first technique, do try this at home:
- Say What You Mean & Mean What You Say– do not rush to say anything. Use your consciousness to consider, ‘What do I think about this?’. Then say ‘I think…’ or ‘I believe…’ when sharing your thoughts. If you use definitive language, declaring the status quo of things, then you tend to find the need to defend your opinion. So instead of saying ‘This is how it is or should be’, simply begin a sentence with ‘I think…’
- Taking People For Their Word– the next time someone says ‘It’s fine, ‘ or ‘No, thank you,’ take that as their answer. Make it explicit to those around you that you would rather hear the truth. Also, following on from above, if someone offers you something you really want, take it, graciously and appreciatively accept! And don’t offer something that you don’t want to give, in so doing you make space for others to act in the same way. If someone wants to offer you something, trust that they want to give it, conversely only give when you want to, then you will believe it others do the same.