I’m not going to lie here and say how wonderful everything feels after a week of the positivity challenge. Instead, I realize and confess that it is going to take lot of hard work, patience and forgiveness to make lasting changes. For some people shifting their perspective is relatively easier. I’m currently reading The Emotional Toolkit by Dr. Darlene Mininni, and she goes over how our negative inner talk develops, and why it is so much more difficult for some people to change that.
Negative self-talk can be a habit which has “formed when a negative experience or comment from another is internalized and reinforced over time by a cue to respond.” Just like Pavlov’s dogs. We all certainly know from experience that replacing a negative thought with a positive one, or re-framing it into something empowering doesn’t work immediately. No matter how hard we try, and even if we know that the thought doesn’t have any truth behind it.
Temperament differences play a big part in our inner talk. During her teaching years Darlene noticed an emerging pattern when she read her students’ journals. Regardless of their circumstances, some women were more susceptible to having more negative thoughts and self-defeating inner talk. When asked, they described that they had always had those thoughts. Psychologist Jerome Kagan’s studies showed that “certain temperament types are hardwired into the structure and function of your central nervous system”, these differences can make some people more sensitive and vulnerable to negative thinking and worrying. When you know your temperament type and how you react to certain things it gets easier to work with your thinking. There’s a questionnaire in the book to determine your temperament type and to find out if your self-talk is related to your temperament you can ask yourself the following question: “do I say negative things to myself because they are fact or because it’s always been in my nature to see those things this way?”
When I started to record my thoughts last week it became pretty clear that I had a lot of those self-defeating thoughts, which dragged me down and ate up my energy. I don’t have any difficulty in recognizing them, but when I get into the pattern, negativity just keeps rolling on, and in some twisted way it feels easier to do so. Darlene also states that thoughts that provoke anxiety lead easily to another negative thought. When you have that one negative thought already going on, other anxiety-provoking thoughts pop into your mind more easily. That’s why the sooner you stop that pattern the better you feel. “Your body doesn’t know the difference between a perception and a fact. It believes that what you think is fact, so it responds accordingly to whatever you tell yourself.”
Don’t be too judgmental towards yourself when those old thinking patterns occasionally emerge. Just notice them and move forward. Be kind to yourself.
What kind of experiences you have had, has changing your thoughts been easy or difficult, where do you get stuck and how have you moved forward?
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