Friday, January 29, 2016

Challenging self talk

From birth, our minds are busy building connections, telling our body what to do, identifying and classifying, storing all this data that it is receiving and interpreting into the depths.  As we grow older, we don't recognize it yet, but we are actually seeing cause and effect and by extension storing assumptions or connections associated with actions or events that we have seen.  We may not be actually aware we are doing it, but our minds are wired to do this automatically so we really don't have to "do" anything for this to occur.  Every day, every moment of our lives is taken in and then recorded into our brains.  

Along the way we form "beliefs" about people, places, events, objects and all that is around us.  Often we don't even realize these beliefs have been formed.  These beliefs start to drive our behavior.  For example, if I believe that all flowers give me allergies because I sneezed a lot near a lilly, I might assume that flowers only bring me pain and miserable feelings because I'm already associating flowers with my terrible allergies and I hate how they make me feel.  I may not realize that I'm only allergic to lillies and not roses, and therefore missing out on the beautiful and fragrant roses because of my ingrained belief.  

These "beliefs" we have formed also feed the internal self talk running through our minds all the time, and without even thinking we are searing deeper these thoughts/beliefs into our little highways in our brain.  Over time, these little highways become super fast autobahns because they are really well paved and unobstructed.  We become on autopilot with some thoughts because they are flying through our brain so fast and so often we don't realize it's happening.  All along, our brain has been bringing in data, storing it and forming "beliefs" based on simple connections we have witnessed.  There was no fact checking this information before it's stored and repeated over and over internally.  

What happens when that "belief" is actually completely fabricated and untrue?  How do you know this? Sometimes it's because someone tells you or you learn it in school, or sometimes it's because you recognize it on your own.  Of course, often though these "beliefs" don't automatically get challenged each and every day, so we keep repeating the thoughts, behavior and decisions.  Fortunately,  it is possible to disrupt this routine and redirect the flow to a new factual highway that can change everything through changing the way we are talking to ourselves.  

This psychologist, Dr. Helmstetter, got interested in this phenomenon many years ago and decided he would try to see how well it worked himself.  He was struggling with his weight, and chose to create some new self talk.  He spent months creating a new series of self talk and recorded it onto tapes.  Each morning, when he was getting ready, he would play the tapes in the background.  In 10 1/2 weeks he lost over 35 pounds - doing nothing more than listening to these self talk tapes in the background.  What's more incredible, his wife also lost over 20 pounds - and she wasn't trying to lose weight!  He went on to write a book and create a whole program around changing self talk with great success.

One way we can treat ourselves better is through challenging our "beliefs" that are holding us back.  The most efficient and lasting way to do that is to build new superhighways in our brain so that we don't fall back to our old ways over and over again, and changing our self talk can do that.

To check out more about Dr. Helmstetter...


The book I reference in this post:

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