It's Sunita here.
This is a conversation we participate in around the clock. Sometimes, we are aware of our engagement in it, and at other times, it goes on without our conscious involvement. Even during our sleep, we are constantly talking, imagining, problem solving, healing and creating.
Freud was not the first to be mystified with the role of sleep in our emotional life and what our dreams meant. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud to this day remains a vital and important work in this field, despite being written more than 100 years ago. More recently, Rosalind Cartwright's work on sleep at the University of Chicago illuminates the connection between the REM cycle of sleep and healing.The Twenty Four Hour Mind is an excellent read on how she got into the field of sleep as a psychologist and a narrative of her role as a pioneering sleep researcher.
The content and tone of our self talk comes from a complex system of many contributing sources. Our childhood is the major contributor of this conversation. As is our inherent personality and ability to self reflect and edit what we hear.
How we grew up remains a big part of how we talk to ourselves. Did we grow up in an environment that was nurturing, caring, empowering and encouraging? Were our parents able to give us the confidence to overcome adversity? What were their response to our failures and their own?
For example, here are two different responses to a child getting a failing grade.
Parent 1- "I knew you would fail! You're stupid and lazy. You're never going to get this because you're a loser".
Parent 2- "Let's sit and look at this together. Maybe you need to understand the concepts better. And if you failed because you didn't put in the work, then this is a good opportunity to examine your study habits. I know you're smart and can do this. Better results next time. It's ok to fail at something as long as you learn something and progress from there. That's the important part."
What kind of self- talk do you think will develop in the mind of the child of Parent 1? How does it compare to that of Parent 2's child?
Just imagine the variations of these conversations that the children get over years of their life from their parents. As children, we mirror the feedback and responses of our parents, teachers and caregivers. We absorb the messages that they are sending us through their voice, tone, words, body language and even their unconscious ramblings. That is the foundation of our self talk.
That results in the development of a pattern of negative self talk. It gives rise to, or perpetuates a history of trauma that is transgenerational in nature.
How we communicate with ourselves is a huge part of how we take action in our lives. The words we use for ourselves, and to ourselves, are indicative of the level of regard, love and compassion we have for ourselves.
Do your words reflect judgement, criticism, impatience, hatred, contempt, disregard, helplessness, hopelessness or despair?
In Trauma leads to Treason, I discuss how "Attachment Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experience's, ACE's affect every cell in our bodies. The impact of such trauma destroys our sense of self that must be developed, nurtured, encouraged and be present in healthy amounts in order to be motivated to practice Self Love. When we are struggling with depression, anxiety and the many other mental and physical manifestations of trauma, we are unable to develop the necessary Self Care skills. Not only are we unable to practice Self Love Self Care First, but we engage in treason against our being."
A dominant portion of that treason is in the warfare we wage against our being through how we talk to ourselves. The conversations we have inside our head in response to our experience of others and the world as it relates to us personally may go like this,
"He is ignoring me because he hates me. Of course, he does. Just like everybody else."
"I can't do this."
"I know I'm not going to get this job. I never get anything I really want."
"What's the point of exercising? We're all going to die as it is. And I never lose weight anyway."
"I trusted her with my secret, but she betrayed me. I'm such a loser."
'Rephrasing' may not be enough to change how you talk to yourself. You may need to work with a mental health professional to address core issues and effects of your trauma, but it could certainly start a process of becoming aware of what you are saying to yourself.
For those of you who are just not conscious of your self talk, rephrasing is an excellent tool of changing how you think. It is a game changer, because your thoughts are the driver of the actions you take. Those actions add up to create the life that you live. So essentially, you control how you live by choosing your thoughts.
How can we practice Self Love Self Care First through Self Talk?
By hearing ourselves without judgement, and then rephrasing our words in order to compassionately move towards self improvement and growth. To be clear, the purpose here is not to shirk responsibility by deflecting our accountability. It is actually the opposite. It is about increasing our capacity to bear our deficiencies and failures in a positive way, without allowing them to define us. And then building our capacity to make up for those failures by acknowledging them, apologizing for them and making amends for them.
here's a simple example of rephrasing. You can plug in any sentence that you want and follow the process as illustrated in this photo.
Keep going. Practice this process. Follow all the steps.
The more you practice rephrasing, the easier it becomes. Until one day, you are aware of all your self talk. And are able to rephrase it.
And one day, you will not need to practice. Rephrasing will become a habit. I can promise you that.
What I can't promise is that there will come a time when you will never doubt yourself or feel down. That's part of the human journey. But no matter how desolate or discouraged you may feel, you will always have the choice to get up and try again. That's where rephrasing becomes an essential tool of our battle against despair.
I end with an incredible illustration in recent history of rephrasing an experience.
"Think of the beauty still left around you", said Anne Frank.
I leave you with this challenge.
Go through one entire day rephrasing every negative thought that pops up.
I did, and earned this cool certificate. It means alot to me. Because I had to work very hard to be able to let go of the manner in which I spoke to myself. And I didn't do it alone. I had professional help.
You can track your progress by checking out the fantastically cool stuff at Emily McDowell & Friends and getting this certificate of everyday achievement for yourself. Start small. Be consistent. Track your results. And don't forget to pause to party!
With my best to you,
And of course,