The human brain is amazingly powerful. Without any conscious thought on our part it keeps our system humming along. And with very little effort we can make changes to our physical environment. Our brain accomplishes everything it does without using language to communicate with itself. For example, when the phone rings you don’t think, “sound”, “ringing phone”, “that means a phone call”, “need to answer the phone”, “arm, reach for phone”, “fingers, extend, close”, “push talk button”, “hold phone to ear” “speak”. If your mind needed that type of detailed verbal instruction a simple task would be very cumbersome. Instead, our minds are able to work in the abstract, taking input and feelings in the abstract and creating behavior.
The human mind’s ability to convert thought and imagery into physical reality has long been employed by elite athletes using visualization to improve their performance. Yet, with all that knowledge, many people are still surprised when I suggest that how they think about and talk to themselves is impacting their lives.
What is internal dialogue?
Internal dialogue is the running commentary of thoughts, feelings and ideas that is constantly going on in your head. The majority of the information that is not in words. At least not until we have to try to explain it to someone else.
In order to understand what kind of affect your internal dialogue is having on your life you need to notice what it is saying. If you had to put your internal state into words, what would they be? Self fulfilling prophesy is very real. If you believe you can, you’re right. If you believe you can’t, you’re right.
As a starting place to understanding your internal dialogue, ask close friends or family how they hear you describe yourself. Are you a “I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out” type? Or are you more of an “I don’t know and I’m not going to try because I’ll mess it up” type? You belief in your ability to do something new comes from your internal dialogue.
Generally speaking, positive internal dialogue is a good thing. However, I would caution that overly egotistical or narcissistic individuals typically have an internal dialogue that believes they are infallible and everyone else is a loser. That is certainly not healthy but outside the week’s topic.
If you find your internal dialogue leans toward the negative, now is a good time to ask yourself why. When I have asked clients that question I usually get answers on the variety of “life has proven I can never do anything right” (Really? Never?) Or “There are never any good options so I just don’t make decisions.” Not making a decision is giving up control that is yours and deciding to let life live you by default.
Start by noticing negative internal dialogue. Force yourself to think of a time when you did something right or made the correct decision (Trust me, you have done it. You just have to remember.) Tell yourself that you are not always failing and insert some positive dialogue.
We spend more time in “conversation” with ourselves than we do with anyone else. And as a quote I once read pointed out, we would never let other people talk to us the way we talk to ourselves.
So listen to how you think about yourself. Your mind is making those beliefs reality. If you don’t like how your reality is going, maybe it is time to consider how your internal dialogue is affecting it.
What does your internal dialogue sound like? Is it taking you where you want to go? Leave a comment.
Last week we look at how disagreements can be positive or negative depending on how they are handled. Read it here if you missed it.
Next week we talk about the stress it creates when your actions and beliefs don’t match.