It was the worst experience of my life! Anyone’s life!

Oh, we all do this don’t we? Shouting out loud to anyone who will hear us that the event that has just befallen us is the worst in anyone’s living memory. The thing is, it’s seldom the case. Our ‘blurting out’ might easily be passed off as ‘letting of steam’ by ourselves, to continue the figures of speech, but someone’s been on the end of our monologue: if it’s not someone else with verbally spoken words it’s ourselves with self-talk language. (Self-talk language, by the way, can be more destructive to our emotional state. We self-talk at a considerably higher speed than verbal talk. After all, there’s no one else to interrupt us and correct our thoughts is there? Telling yourself in your thoughts that you’re such a useless person merely affirms to your unconscious that you are such a useless person. You’ve given your unconscious mind permission to bombard yourself with negative emotions and it will happily do so.)

What’s my point? What you speak is a result of what you have thought and what you think is a result of the paradigms or principles by which you live your life. Paradigms dictate your thoughts and your thoughts dictate your actions whether they be words spoken in your head, words spoken aloud or things that you go and do. Words spoken ‘in the heat of the moment’ to others can cause upset and disappointment: to others. It tends to be over fairly quickly though. Words spoken ‘in the heat of the moment’ to ourselves tend to go deeper, last longer and have a more lasting, negative, effect.

Being aware you’re negatively self-talking is crucial.

Recognising the danger signs is fundamental to habit change (yes, negative self-talk is a habit we could all do with ending; it starts with realising we’re doing it, and our emotional state when we do, and asking the appropriate questions to reduce or prevent it happening again). The website by The Extra Gear has some useful strategies for recording the occurrences of self-talk. I particularly like the paper clip idea.

So, if you find yourself saying emotive language statements, stop immediately and ask yourself, as a question, whatever was the key emotive word that you used. For example, in my opening, it said:

It was the worst experience of my life! Of anyone’s life?

There are a couple of words here to attack. Yes, we’re going to attack and defeat this negative talk! The words: worst and anyone’s both make suppositions (assumptions) so take the opportunity to ask them back to yourself as questions: Worst? or Anyone’s? This technique helps to reduce the emotion and, since it’s emotive language that we want to avoid, this is a very good thing to do.

Then, ask yourself in reflection, what someone else might say or do in the situation that you are in. Putting ‘someone else in our shoes’, or, indeed, ‘putting ourselves in their shoes’, is a powerful tool to engage the neocortex part of the brain: the rational, problem-solving, creative part of the brain. Emotional response involves little if any neocortex. It’s the ‘fight or flight’ protection part of the brain that deals with emotion and it needs taming, else it will ‘run riot’. Reflecting on how another might deal with the situation calms the emotional part of our brain and helps us use the neocortex, as we focus on solutions.

It’s also worth saying, as a reminder, to take out the emotion. This will help us to think more clearly, may well prevent us from saying, or doing, something that we’ll regret and lead to a happier and healthier state of mind, both for ourselves

and for others.

There you go! Easy isn’t it? [Ehem…]

In summary:

Challenge – It was the worst experience of my life! Anyone’s life!

OpportunityWorst? Anyone’s?

Reflection: What might someone else think in this situation? How might they behave?

Saying – Take out the emotion

PS I wrote earlier in the article that recording your emotional state when you say the emotional language is an important thing to do. To break a habit it’s vital to record what the habit is that we’re carrying out and our emotional state when we do. This greatly increases the chances of finding what the cue is for the routine (habit) so that we can break it by finding a different reward that is beneficial or far less damaging. The Habit Loop and how to break it has been written by Charles Duhigg in his excellent book: The Power of Habit. I highly recommend his book.

PPS As a bonus you might find the Self-talk Interrupt diagram below useful. Interrupting the negative self-talk will change how you think and thereby change how you see yourself, thereby changing what you tell yourself…

Self-talk Interrupt