Whether you're aware of it or not, there is an incessantly chattering, judging voice going on inside your mind all day, every day. From the moment you wake up until you go to sleep, your “mind” is hard at work problem solving, planning, mulling over past events, forecasting future ones and everything in between.
This internal dialogue is far more important than many of us realise. With most people, the dialogue has a negative slant. It worries, berates and belittles us, affecting not only our emotions but our outlook and behaviour.
So how do you change the record on this internal dialogue? There are ways to hit the pause button and change how we “think.”
Let’s have a look at them.
What is internal dialogue?
As toddlers, when we start learning to talk, we speak to ourselves out loud.
We plan our actions, rationalise what we are doing and general chit-chatting. As we develop and grow older, this dialogue remains but becomes internalised.
Theories vary as to the nature of this inner dialogue, but basically, it is thought to be your ego having a conversation with itself.
Is internal dialogue bad?
This inner chatter can be useful. It's how you apply logic and reasoning to the world around us. And not only is this dialogue a way to filter the world around you, it also filters the way you see the world.
If your internal dialogue is optimistic, bright, supportive and positive, you see the world in a positive way and act accordingly.
If it's dark and pessimistic, your outlook will follow suit.
If your subconscious voice is constantly telling you to be afraid, that the world is scary, that you're not good enough and nobody likes you, then you are going to be filled with self-doubt and fear.
This translates into becoming less creative and productive. Generally, getting a lot less out of life...
How to Change Your Inner Dialogue
Become aware of it
The hardest part of the process is becoming aware of the dialogue. Because it's so deeply automatic (subconscious) you often don’t know you're doing it.
The key is to try and tune in every time you remember, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Don’t engage with the voice, don’t try to change it to start with. Just start listening to what it is saying.
If you practice listening regularly, you will start to pick up on thought patterns and gauge the general “temperature” of your inner climate.
When you've become a detached “witness” and are able to listen to the voice, you can begin changing it by challenging it.
You'll find the dialogue has a tendency to exaggerate, focus on the negative and create catastrophes.
When you hear broad statements such as “I’m not good at anything,” or “things always go wrong for me,” you can examine these false truths and refocus.
When that happens, ask yourself if the statement is true and give examples of why it's not. You'll start breaking the endless loop that causes you to act in a certain pre-programmed way.
Practising gratitude is a useful tool for many things, but it's especially effective at changing your inner dialogue. Once you start recognising the good things in your life, your mind starts to seek them out.
You'll then focus more heavily on the good things, rather than the negative aspects.
Practising affirmations is another useful way to reprogram your inner dialogue.
By overwriting the negative talk with positive reinforcement, you can make a gradual change. It takes time, attention and dedication. But eventually, you will be able to find an inner dialogue that's more supportive.
To sum it up...
Your inner dialogue is ingrained in you. It's not something that you can change overnight. So, the most important thing is to be kind to yourself.
Would you tell a small child the things you tell yourself? It’s highly doubtful.
Give yourself a break, challenge everything your mind tells you about yourself and manually reset those automatic thoughts.
You'll feel more empowered, more motivated and be able to gain even more control over your life.