Pat's View: Self talk
By Patrick Robinson
This isn’t an original idea, but everyone, including you, has that voice in their head. Sometimes we go on automatic and just perform tasks as routine without talking ourselves through it. But more often than not, and especially when it comes to learning something new, trying something unfamiliar, looking back at past mistakes, thinking about relationships, or just dealing with the cascade of chemicals that our own bodies produce in our brains… We talk to ourselves.
But as we are forming our personalities, science says largely before age 6, we pick up lessons about how to think, behave, respond, and interact. Those lessons, often in the form of words from our parents or siblings, stay with us and get reinforced over time. We are trained to be that way and those words, and the feelings that go with them become a well worn brain pathway.
That foundational view of yourself in the world is not easy to change because for you, that’s how it is and how the world works. Your place in it was made clear to you. As you grow into puberty, teen years and young adulthood some of those early ideas come in conflict with the real world and you can grow disillusioned with what you thought was true.
All this armchair, off the cuff psychology is meant to say is that you define the world largely through what you say to yourself.
We use words not just to speak to others, or to write down our thoughts using letters, words and sentences as symbols for what we mean, but they are literally how we define reality.
Some might suggest that music, or the certain smells, or the touch or even taste of something, and going further even an undefined spiritual awareness are just as worthy in forming our worldview. Ultimately however, when we recall it, or try to express it, we do so in words.
Which leads to the inescapable conclusion that what we say to ourselves (yes even in dreams) matters. We can be kind to ourselves, forgive ourselves, cheer ourselves up, rationalize why we did or did not take an action, make excuses, blame others, blame a higher power, or more commonly for many, express self hatred, regret, and shame.
Here’s something worth thinking about. Who’s doing the talking? Who’s in control? It’s not another person standing over you talking you down. It might have been when you were five. But not now. Who is defining your reality now?
What I can tell you is that your mind is just a lump of neurons, blood vessels and chemicals. It reacts to what you put into it.
If that’s booze or drugs, or fear or joy or humor, it produces chemicals in response. It fires electrical signals to reinforce those pathways. But it’s you who chooses what to feed your brain. Those choices are shaped by your early domestication yes. But you are not bound by those early experiences.
The whole point of mantras, and positive affirmations, and what every self improvement book from Psycho Cybernetics to Think and Grow Rich to the Magic of Believing boils down to one idea. You, talking to you in every moment of your life is the most powerful tool you possess to shape, direct and otherwise enjoy your life.
I’m not going to give you special techniques or a means by which you can do this. It’s not easy, and you already know what to do. Besides, you will only do what YOU choose to do in any case.
But taking control of what you say to yourself and directing it is likely the only way to live your life with clear intention.