By John Dauer, LCSW, ACSW
You have a dilemma: a health problem, sadness, fear, problems in your marriage, anger, panic, anxiety, pain. “I’m stuck in life!” How many times do we hope that some external force will help us: someone’s love, God, a doctor, a pill, alcohol? Certainly, it is wise to use all legitimate and healthy resources possible to assist you in achieving health and well-being.
In mental health, you play the major part in changing your old self into the new, happy person you desire to be. How do you take charge? The way you think about some problems may determine whether you are passive and defeated, or you are active and determined.
In some cases if you think negative, and you are defeated. Think positive, and you get positive results. Would not you agree that all of us talk to ourselves? Yes, every thought is self-talk. We consciously talk to our subconscious mind.
The subconscious is our inner mind that guides us. It has also helped us through many emotional dilemmas so we could survive. That Inner Mind is our pilot that flies us through life. Our self-talk determines the direction our subconscious will take: the road of life or the road of death. Why not consider the subconscious as our friend, a powerful friend.
What you say to yourself is often what you get. “What a lousy day! I wonder what awful things will happen. I’ll never get through this.” Or: “No matter what happens, I am getting through it. I am finding solutions.”
Your self-talk is food for your Inner Mind. Self-talk is an active, deliberate method of feeding our brain. You can take charge of your destiny. The way you talk, however, is not a honey-coated positive thinking: “It’s a nice day. “It” never does anything. The self-talk is constructed with forceful actions and solutions. We become our own coach. Here are some examples:
- I am doing everything necessary to solve this problem.
- I am eating only healthy quantities of healthy foods.
- I am learning how to be a better partner.
- No matter what others do, I keep my focus.
- I find ways to distract myself from the pain.
- I will discover ways to heal quickly. I am taking care of myself.
- I will push myself to get it done.”
You do not even have to know how you will solve a problem. Trust in the wisdom of your unconscious mind: “Before I know it, this is behind me. I am finding a job I like that pays well.” You can also combine prayer with self-talk: “Dear Lord, with your help, I get it done on time.”
It is very important that you write out your self-talk sentences. Here are some examples of effective self-talk strategies:
My goal is realistic, attainable by me. It is not too much. The goal is not an exaggeration, such as “I am the best in the world.” It is also not too little which would underestimate my abilities and capabilities. A good example: “Every day in every way I am studying effectively.”
“I” language allows the subconscious to take the message personally. “I” affirms me. Generalities do not connect with the inner me. Not “Money will come to me”, but “I am making an adequate amount money to live comfortably.”
I compete only with myself and my own previous achievements, not against others. This prevents hostility. I seek the best I am capable of doing. Example: “I am earning more than i made last year.”
I state what I want, not what I wish to quit. Example: “I am eating only healthy quantities of healthy food.” vs. “I am losing weight.” Change any negative into its positive description.. The conscious mind is less likely to criticize the positive.
Future tense (“I will _____.”) is too easily doubted by the critical conscious mind. It is best to describe the goal as being achieved right now. “Every day in every way I am taking care of my health.” Make the verbs in the present continuous tense ( verb ends in “ing”) which means right now I am doing something to realize my goal.
Let the future be now as if the goal is already being achieved. “All days in all ways I am earning $________ a year, or, I am facing my responsibilities.” Speak as if the goal is already accomplished today.”
Words like try, hope are general and really mean maybe. “I will try,” has the hidden message of “maybe I won’t.” or “I can’t” or “I don’t want to.” It is best to be certain and put the goal into a measurable quantity. “I am studying adequately to pass the test.”
A mental image filled with emotion is very effective for the inner mind to generate energy to accomplish the goal. Allow yourself to feel the feelings of satisfaction, happiness, excitement, joy, celebration as one imagines the scene of self with the achieved goal. “I can feel the satisfaction of celebrating my new job.”
The more exact the goal, the better. It is important, however, not to be too specific because then it becomes a chance for the critical conscious mind to sabotage the goal. The subconscious mind does not perform magic. (“In three days I will quit smoking.”) This is better: “Every day in every way I am giving myself clean and healthy lungs.”
Once you have written out your sentences, you then repeat them many times a day, especially at night, because the subconscious never sleeps and works on getting your goals. It works best through repetition. As you notice progress, you can update your sentences, always creating new ones. Since we are always talking to ourselves, we get used to talking in this effective way all the time. “I am making today a good day.”