Everyone has an inner dialogue that runs day and night signaling what to do, what to say, and how to feel. Most of time, people just go through the day unaware of the impact their inner thoughts have on their everyday behavior.
Though, what we say to ourselves has serious ramifications, particularly if the thoughts are critical, worrisome, and victimizing.
You probably don’t notice many of the thoughts you’re reacting to because they’ve become automatic. They arrive spontaneously and can be tough to recognize. Thoughts can be like tapes playing over and over in your head, and when negative, can tell you things like, “you’re not good enough,” “you’ll never get over this problem,” and “what if something horrible happens?”
If this sounds familiar, it’s likely that these self-defeating thought patterns have been a part of your self-identity for a long time. They’re just like a bad habit you can’t seem to break, and maybe don’t really recognize you’re engaging in half the time. They seem to be a part of who you are, and how you interact with the world.
Don’t let your inner-critic control who you are and what you can become. These thoughts are often irrational, and don’t have much ground in reality. Think about how much of the worrying you do actually comes to fruition? For most people, it’s not much.
“I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” – Mark Twain
It’s time to tame your gremlin and manage that inner critic?
Separate thinking, feeling, and acting
Recognize when you have limiting and critical thoughts, and accept you’re going to feel anxious, inadequate, and uncertain at first. Begin to understand this connection between thinking and feeling, and break the identification with the feelings that accompany negative thoughts.
You need to recognize how these thoughts make you feel and pay attention to the physical sensations that accompany these destructive thoughts and emotions. This can mean paying attention to your bodily reaction first. How does your body change? Do you get butterflies in your stomach of feel nauseous? Does your heart rate increase and palms start to sweat?
This can be easier than noticing your thoughts, as thoughts can be automatic.
Most importantly, separate your behavior from thinking. Don’t let feelings of inadequacy prevent you from taking action and moving forward in life. Don’t immediately react to your thoughts. Be willing to separate the irrational thought from what is really going on, before reacting and jumping to conclusions.
Learning to recognize how thinking, feeling, and acting influence each other, helps you to develop emotional awareness, and to start monitoring and managing negative thoughts and behaviors.
Teach yourself a new way of thinking: “Challenge” negative thoughts
Use the ABC model to help manage your thoughts and feelings
A = Actual Event: State the actual situation that brought on the emotional state.
B = Beliefs: Describe your thoughts and beliefs about the situation that created these emotions and behaviors.
C = Challenge: Dispute the negative thoughts and replace them with accurate and positive statements.
It’s time to realize that the thoughts you have are driving you life. You have been habitually thinking yourself into your current situation, and probably don’t believe you can change the way you feel.
Though, this can be done by recognizing the thoughts you’re having and replacing any negative thoughts with more positive statements. When you start to notice your bodies’ reaction to anxious and detrimental thinking, you can start to become present, consider how you want to react, take a step back, relax, and rationalize what’s really going on. This is where the “Challenge” step comes into play.
Start to counter negative self-talk with questioning and supportive statements.
If you experience critical, worrying, or victimizing thoughts, ask yourself, “What is the evidence for this?” “Am I being fair and objective with this thought?”
If you can realize the foolishness in your previous negative thought, then provide a counter-thought, or positive statement to replace the negative thought.
Pay close attention to your triggers
Start noticing the thoughts you’re having, and write down any that cause worry, anxiety, or distress. You may have to keep a log or diary to gain the necessary self-awareness to make serious progress.
After you capture the thought in writing, consider:
What was the trigger for this thought?
How did it make me feel?
How did I react?
Pay attention to what you’re doing and who you’re with when the negative thinking emerges. This will help you gain insight into those people and places that can prompt self-limiting thoughts.
Again, provide an alternative way you could experience the situation, write down your counterstatement and REHEARSE!
Keep focusing on healthy positive statement and begin training your thinking patterns to change the way you feel. This will ultimately start to change the way you act and the activities you pursue. Notice how these new thoughts make you feel, and the new quality of life that is emerging.
It may take awhile, but eventually these new thoughts will make you feel more confident, assured, and resilient. With awareness and practice you can start to discredit your negative thinking, and recognize you were meant to feel good and be great.
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