Your Mind as Your 'Bad' Friend
We've all had an experience of someone in our lives who don't seem to be all that supportive. Someone who, when you confide in them proceeds to make unhelpful comments about what you 'should' have done differently, how you 'should' have behaved. This kind of person seems to highlight your flaws, doesn't seem happy when you are successful, and often takes the other guys side in a disagreement. Or they are always right and they don't seem to really hear you. Unfortunately, for many of us, our mind can be like this bad friend! Only your mind is there with you every moment, providing a never-ending stream of unhelpful advice in the form of negative self-talk.
Self-talk is that constant monologue going on in your mind. Every human being engages in self-talk in their mind. And your mind, of course, has a direct link to your brain. Imagine your brain as your body's 'board of director's' and your mind as the Chief Executive Officer, reporting directly to this board. Any feedback from your mind to your brain is taken seriously, even when it contains incorrect information.Your mind is amazingly powerful. And because of it's power, it has the potential to be dangerous.
If you were on the board of a highly successful organisation would you retain a CEO who was driven by power and control and continued to feed you misinformation? Probably not. Problem is, you can't just fire your mind and hire a new one!
It turns out that negative self-talk can even trick your brain into percieving your body to be different than how it is in reality. Check out the link to the article on negative self-talk and body image below if you are interested in the research.
So what can you do? Two things: you can learn to create the space to watch what your mind tells your brain rather than reacting automatically as though your mind were always telling you the truth, and you can work on changing your self-talk.
Developing mindful awareness can aid you to create a 'space' to step back and almost detach yourself from unhelpful thoughts. By doing this you begin to recognise that you are not your thoughts - your thoughts are just words - they really don't have any power.
Ask yourself "will thinking this way take me closer to my desired outcome, will it help me to be the person who I really want to be?" Notice how your mind is constantly providing you with reasons and excuses to behave in a way that directly oposes your desired outcome. It's like that bad friend whispering in your ear "no, don't go for a walk right now, you're too tired, do it tomorrow", or "yeah, have that extra helping of dessert, it's only this once, you can start eating healthy tomorrow".
The research article below also outlines some strategies for dealing with your unhelpful mind by changing how you think, for example: using non-evaluative language when describing yourself or your actions in your mind. Non-evaluative language means being more descrptive in a qualitative way, rather than using subjective, arbitrary measurememts like 'good' or 'bad'. You can even address yourself in the third person. That might sound weird right now however give it a go and see what happens! Apparently when we use the third person, addressing ourselves by name in our self-talk, we are far less likely to be negative and more likely to provide constructive feedback.
It's time to banish that bad friend, fire that destructive CEO, and learn how to be your own amazing cheer squad!
If you would like to learn more about any of these tools and strategies, give me a call today at East Qld Counselling & Psychology, 0404 248 576. I am passionate about helping people to learn to create space between their 'bad friend' and their chosen values.
Posted: Sun 03 Jul 2016