What kind of internal voice self-talk do you have? Does it help inspire you to greatness, called ‘positive internal self-talk’. Or, is it cruel and stops you from achieving what you set out to do, which is called ‘negative internal self-talk’? Whichever you have, this automatic / unconscious response is a classic form of self-hypnosis.
The good thing is if you have negative internal self talk, is that it’s a habit that you’ve learned. And like all habits it can be changed and here I’ll show you how to begin to master the art of creating positive internal self-talk in just a few minutes. I’ve also produced the accompanying Infographic that will make it even easier to understand this very simple process.
Let me tell you what inspired to write this. I recently took a shortcut through Tottenham Court Rd tube station and on taking a wrong turning saying ‘you stupid f…ing idiot’ to myself. I was so shocked at how badly I was talking to myself that I stopped there and then and changed it.
As a London hypnotherapist I can genuinely say that a huge amount of clients have pretty similar experiences where they don’t talk positively about themselves, whatever the reason they’re coming to get help with. Here are some examples:
- Hypnotherapy for anxiety clients – ‘It’s going to be horrific’
- Hypnotherapy for confidence clients ‘you’re going to cock it up’
- Stop smoking hypnotherapy clients ‘I promise, just this last one’
Now, imagine saying that in some cases hundreds of times a day, it’s going to be more believable in its impact. And in some ways this negative internal self-talk becomes part of the soundtrack to that person’s belief system and ultimately their life.
It’s what Daniel Kahneman would call classic system 1 thinking in the amazing ‘Thinking, fast and slow’. This is because negative self-talk ‘operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control’. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get control.
Henry Ford famously said ‘whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right’. And with neuroscience showing that we have anything up to 35,000 thoughts a day, it’s pretty clear that if we devote a proportion of them to negative thoughts and self-talk that we’re not going to have a positive outcome.
Now the flip side is that when I work with high performing CEO’s, entertainers, leaders and people with a strong sense of who they are, they talk positively in their head. Put another way, when you watch Usain Bolt lining up, do you think he’s talking positively or negatively in his head..? The famous therapist Michael Yapko calls it the difference between having an ‘inner coach versus an inner critic’.
So, here’s a version of the two-step process that I’ve used with hundreds of clients about how to create positive internal self-talk. I was very inspired to use this when reading Steve Andreas’ amazing book ‘Transforming Negative Internal Self-Talk’ many years ago.
You may find having a piece of paper when doing this exercise useful. Enjoy!
Removing the old negative voice:
- Identify what the voice is saying e.g. ‘I’m xyz or you’re xyz’. Notice how it makes you feel, how it sounds and whose voice it is. Sometimes it can be your voice, sometimes it may be someone else’s.
- Imagine putting that voice inside a bubble inside your head. Now, visualise that bubble floating easily out of your head. Notice where it is. Notice, that you’ll feel more comfortable with the bubble outside.
- Now in your mind’s eye, get a picture a volume dial, like you’d see on an amplifier. Imagine that it has a range of 0-10 and allow it to belong to that voice and notice which number it goes to, outside of your head.
Now slowly imagine that dial turning everything down towards zero. As you do, imagine that voice getting quieter and quieter, slower and slower and notice that bubble moving further and farther away. All the way down to zero. By the way, if moving it as far away as the North Pole, or past the moon works for you, then totally do that!
Create your new positive voice:
So now, there’s no voice and as nature hates a vacuum, it’s time to create a new positive voice that you can have from now. This is one of my favourite exercises to do with clients.
- Decide what would be the most amazing thing you would want to hear e.g. ‘You will be calm, confident’ or ‘I am in-control’.Make the voice be in the present tense e.g. ‘I am’. Some clients initially have a tendency to want to make the words be based in the future e.g. ‘I will’. The future could be anytime, whereas making the voice based in the present tense means you can use it anytime, anywhere.
- Who would you want to say that to you? It could be you, Barack Obama, your best friend, Taylor Swift, anyone! This is a really fun part and the aim here is to create who you want to have in your head. So be very choosy and select the person you want who makes you feel amazing.
- Now, imagine that person’s voice being outside your head. Play around with the location and see where near you feels the best. Allow it to be now connected to the volume dial and have some fun playing around with the following variables:
- Use the dial to now increase the volume and make it as loud as you want it to be
- How do you want the new voice to sound e.g. kind, bossy, believable etc
- Does making it go on a loop sound better, or just hearing it as a one off? You take control
- Which word or words need to be emphasised the most, to make you feel the best
- Does adding music like the Rocky theme, or Pharell’s ‘Happy’ help improve it. Basically, be your own DJ here. Some clients also like the sound of rain, or any other sound from nature. Basically anything that works. And if the additional sound doesn’t work, ditch it!
- It’s time now to imagine putting that new voice (and sound if appropriate) into a new bubble. From here, imagine floating it voice into its new home. Allow the bubble to dissolve and the voice to get louder and louder until it’s reached the perfect level for you.
- Practice this 3 times right now.And now, notice what happens if you try and get the old voice back…That’s right, it’s different, isn’t it?
- Now, practice this new voice hundreds of times a day. Think about it, it takes probably just a couple of seconds to say this piece of internal new talk. You may walk 5000-1000 steps a day. Equally, you have anything up to 35,000 thoughts a day. Surely it’s time you started dedicating them to how you want to talk in your head
I’ve done this exercise hundreds of times and it’s brilliant as it really works. And what’s great about it, whether you’re in a meeting, doing a presentation, playing sport, you can use it. It’s one of the many tools we’ll use in a session that may encompass changing negative beliefs, letting go of negative experiences, neutralising emotions as just an example.
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And if you’d like to know more about how you can use an exercise like this, or any of the others that we use to help hundreds of clients every year, then why not explore what we can do for you. With over 55 5* reviews, you are in incredibly experienced and capable hands. At Fix My Mind, we offer a free 20minute consultation valued at £50, plus you’ll also get a free 1hr ‘Anxiety relaxation programme’ valued at £17.99.