Breaking the cycle of negative self-talk

How often do you seek out silence? Solitude? Are you afraid of it? Does it make you uncomfortable to be alone? Silence has become an anomaly in our high speed, digitalized world and we have become accustomed to distractibility that drowns out our own thoughts. Escapism via screen time, substances, spending money, pornography, food, and other means has become commonplace and has made embracing the present moment more and more elusive.

bighorns1

My recent attempt at solitude in the middle of the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

Many of us struggle with negative self-talk. Many of us avoid silence, being alone, and continually seek out ways to distract and temporarily pacify our negativity. We become accustomed to “noise”, chaos, and obsession, which are all often a means to avoid confronting deeper roots of discontent. The noise, chaos, and obsessive thinking is named as the problem; however, addressing underlying core beliefs, trauma, and the “inner child” may feel even more problematic and thus the pattern of diversion continues. Many of us have also been told the cowboy lie to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps. Healing is not accomplished by running from our feelings. The medicine for pain is allowing ourselves to feel the pain.

Perfectionistic attitudes, the superman/woman complex, and the belief that the means somehow justify the end can go hand in hand with this unrest. We believe that if we just push ourselves enough, endure an amount of suffering, deprive ourselves for long enough, then perhaps we will meet an end that finally makes us feel “worthy”. This is not to say there is not value in hard work but being attached to an outcome that somehow dictates our self-worth is problematic. Many of us are convinced that we must somehow punish ourselves to feel a sense of accomplishment. Sounds absurd, right? Well yes, it is.

When we reach societal milestones of success, we reach them with the same self-deprecating, punitive mindset that led us there in the first place. Frustrated, we often find another obsession or distraction to latch onto. We find convenient scapegoats…our weight, our job, relationships, as the source of our discontent, yet we are many times afraid to recognize ourselves as the common denominator. And by the way, this takes a lot of insight and humility.

Negative self-talk is learned, rooted often in childhood, and perpetuated through various life experiences, relationships, and socioeconomic circumstances among other factors. Confronting what can be traumatic is difficult and may demand professional help. It necessitates time to process, which means, yes, quiet, stillness, and space to be mindful.

Bighorns2

Cloud Peak Wilderness, Wyoming

Negative self-talk does not simply go away. We are all bombarded with constant comparison, societal expectations, and judgments that can make even the most self-assured insecure. We can however strengthen our “inner observer”- that voice or conscience that questions the value or necessity of a thought or feeling. It is this observer that can acknowledge a feeling- not run from it, not distract it away- but see it for what it is and question the value of identifying with it or not. The inner observer invites curiosity about our feelings as we look to ask why the negativity is there in the first place.

kiger gorge

Kiger Gorge, Steens Mountains

Your inner observer may be akin to faith or the divine. It can become an internal compass allowing us to see toxicities with greater clarity and emboldens us to seek that which grounds us. This may lead to crossroads as you contemplate old patterns that kept you stuck versus new possibilities.

Ultimately, connecting to your inner observer means becoming comfortable with “you” again and questioning the stories we tell ourselves about our feelings. It means recognizing the present moment and embracing the belief that perhaps simply because you are alive, able to breathe the air, and have the capacity to love and be loved might just mean that for right now in this moment life is OK and perhaps even beautiful.

With gratitude,

2017-09-09 Audry VanHouweling Headshots (2 of 2)

Audry Van Houweling, PMHNP-BC, Owner

She Soars Psychiatry, LLC

Sisters & Silverton, Oregon

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