Eliminating Your Negative Internal Dialogue
In the video above, Dr. Phil examines the internal dialogue of a mom struggling with grief. "We don’t react to what happens in life," he tells her. "We react to what we say to ourselves about what happens in life."
Your internal dialogue powerfully programs and shapes your self-concept. If you believe you are worthy and strong, you will live up to that truth. The following exercises will help to focus your habits and patterns and hopefully set you free of some of your negative internal dialogue:
Pick a day for doing this exercise, preferably a day when you don't plan to be doing anything dramatic or out of the ordinary. Keep your journal or a small notebook and pen handy throughout the day. Make a series of appointments with yourself. Every two hours, stop what you're doing, take out the notebook, and simply jot down observations about the self-talk you've been having for the past two hours. Each of these eight or ten note-taking sessions need only take a few minutes. Write down what you've been telling yourself about:
- Your appearance.
- The work that you've been doing for the past two hours.
- Your intelligence.
- Your competence.
- Your skills and abilities.
- Your worth.
If you find it easier not to wait for the two-hour mark, but instead to jot things down as you hear yourself saying them, then by all means, do it that way. The point is to develop a thorough understanding of one day's internal dialogue, without completely upsetting your daily schedule.
Imagine that you are scheduled to make an important presentation at work tomorrow. A number of important customers or clients, as well as several of your coworkers and your boss, will be there watching. It's the night before. You're lying in bed, in the dark, thinking about the presentation. What are you saying to yourself?
Take whatever time you need to consider, honestly and thoroughly, the kinds of messages that would be going through your head. You'd be having a conversation with yourself, so what would you be saying? Write down as much of this conversation as you can.
Look back at the writing that you did for both Exercises 1 and 2. Do you see common themes or threads running through both sets of writings? If so, what are those common features? Describe them in writing.
When you look back over your writing for Exercises 1 and 2, how would you describe the overall tone or mood of your internal dialogue? Is it positive, upbeat? Or is it pessimistic, defeatist, self-condemning? If it is positive, is it rational? Or is it just some rah-rah self-con job with no substance? Are there particular areas where what you've written sounds especially harsh or critical? By contrast, does your internal dialogue as to some areas of your life strike you as particularly upbeat and optimistic? Circle any writing that you think illustrates especially positive or especially negative internal dialogue.
Again, glancing back over your writing for both Exercises 1 and 2: What does your writing tell you about your locus of control? Is your internal dialogue oriented externally, internally or in accordance with chance? Write down your answer.
As you look at your writing, answer this question: What kind of a friend are you to yourself throughout the day? If you were a friend whispering in your ear the messages you recorded in Exercises 1 and 2, what kind of friend would you be? You're the one who talks to you, all day, every day. What kind of friend are you? Are you actively creating a toxic environment for yourself, contaminating your experience of the world? Or are the messages that you send yourself characterized by a rational and productive optimism?