As we get ready for the day, I listen to The Small Daughter as she goes about her business. I often listen to, and watch her because she is fascinating. I am particularly interested in the way she talks to herself. As we get older, we stop talking out loud so much to ourselves (well actually in our family we have a long tradition of talking out loud to ourselves, but we tend to do it when no-one is around). With The Small Daughter however I can still get clues at to the way she talks to herself. She declared to herself, as she walked upstairs, ‘I feel good today. Really good in fact.’
As a trainer and facilitator in mental health, I deliver a number of courses. One of them is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) principles. Or, as I like to call it, how the way we think is related to how we feel, what we do and what our body feels and looks like. This course is amazing. It provides practical tools to bring people the most powerful concepts in a simple and non-threatening way. One of the sessions addresses how we came to think about ourselves in the way we do. In other words, it looks at our internal dialogue and it asks us to think about where it came from. One member of my family who did the course was amazed to find that they are not the only person with a voice in their head.
We can walk around for years not being aware of how we talk to ourselves. Are we kind? Are we compassionate? Mostly, I have to tell you, people are not. I know I wasn’t. I used to say the most horrible and mean things to myself in my own head. And when your inner dialogue is like that, well, how can the world be a nice place. Would you talk to a person you love the way you talk to yourself?
The other interesting thing about it is to think about where the way we talk to ourselves came from. As we are all born blank slates, the message we receive start from outside sources. It can come from parents, siblings, teachers, and other people we come into contact with as our personalities form. If we get kind messages then we will tend to speak kindly to ourselves. If not, then we might not. And of course, I know for my generation, our parents definitely did not have access to free CBT based courses to develop themselves! Unless there is an intervention of some kind, we will do what we were taught to do. So it’s not about finding someone to blame as much as being aware. As humans we also tend to remember negative things that are said to us more than positive things. I would say however, that if there has been a trauma of some kind, or a person is struggling with childhood or early life issues, then I thoroughly recommend professional help. I believe greatly in the power of talking therapies. No, we cannot change the past. However, we can change how we see it, we can change what it means to us. Human beings do not operate, in the main, from facts. We operate from our perspective, from our stories, from our beliefs. So, we cannot change the facts, but the facts look different from everyone’s perspective and we can gain understanding and a different awareness. I know this freed me greatly as I went along my own path.
I am very pleased to hear The Small Daughter tell herself that she feels good today. And I am very pleased to report that so do I.