How To Manage Your Negative Self-talk

Negative Self-talk

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by Jayaram V

In the epic Mahabharata war, Arjuna had the privilege of Lord Krishna serving him as his Charioteer, while his opponent Karna, a great warrior, had the misfortune of Salya acting as his charioteer. When Arjuna became confused and despondent about the thought of fighting the war against his own kith and kin and expressed self-doubts, Lord Krishna reminded him of his duty as a warrior and instilled in him courage and confidence. Throughout the war, He stood behind Arjuna, advising him what to do or not to do in a given situation. In end the Pandavas won the war, thanks to his moral support.

But his opponent Karna was not so lucky. When he was fighting ferociously against his opponents, the Pandavas, his disloyal charioteer kept on criticizing him constantly, expressing his doubts and disapproval of his master. Listening to the negative talk, in the end Karna lost his focus, his chariot and his life. His charioteer broke his confidence and his will to fight and contributed in no small measure to his downfall and the defeat of the Kauravas.

Here is an important lesson for us to learn from the epic tale of the Mahabharata, which has a great relevance, even today. In each of us, there is a personal charioteer, who talks to us every day and every minute. It is the inner voice or the self-talk, with which we all are familiar. Depending upon how we deal with it and how we respond to it, we are either happy or unhappy and confident or despondent.

Our self-talk runs in the background all the time. Whether we are alone or in the company of others and whether we are idle or doing something, it continues to make its presence felt through a barrage of judgmental thoughts and opinions. It does not necessarily communicate with you verbally, unless you are auditory by nature, but manifests itself as your thoughts, fears, doubts, opinions, feelings and emotions. It tells you what is right and wrong, what you can or cannot do, whether you did something perfectly or imperfectly or how you should feel about yourself or your actions in a given situation.

It is your inseparable twin with which you have to live the rest of your life. Through a constant burst of opinions and judgments, it subjects you to a wide array of conflicting moods and emotions. Whether you are married or unmarried, alone or in the company of others, it is your invisible but troubling partner. In extreme cases it develops a life of its own and creates split personality.

The trouble with self-talk is it is an integral and essential part of your consciousness and you have to live with it forever. It is a part of your survival mechanism, mostly on autopilot, which tries to help you when you don't want it or when you are least expecting it. You may escape from others, but you cannot escape from it. Being the most irreverent and unrelenting critic of our internal world, it has the power to take us to the heights of excellence or drag us down deep into the depths of fear and guilt.

However, not all self-talk is bad or unnecessary. Our self-talk is part of our self-preservation instinct. A great deal of our success depends upon the way we talk to ourselves. Self-motivation, enthusiasm, interest and perseverance are possible mostly because of the way we communicate with ourselves. Through self-talk we can manage our inner conflicts and assert our freedom and our individuality. When we are down and defeated, we can manage to rise from the bouts of depression through encouraging and uplifting self-talk. It is good to have some inner power keep us pushing against odds and move us forward, acting like our internal guide or compass. Great people and great leaders reach their heights by managing their self-talk. They know how to talk themselves into doing difficult tasks or resolving their problems. They know how to keep their sanity and lift themselves up, amidst controversy, doubt and despair.

We have the ability to control our self-talk and change our responses to what happens in our lives. We may not have control over the world or the events that take place in our lives. But we have the ability to change our thinking and regulate our emotions and responses. Here are some of the ways in which you can do it.

1. Examine your beliefs

You can change your self-talk and your self-image by understanding how your parents and peers influenced your thoughts and behavior and by attuning them to your current reality through a rigorous process of observation, analysis and adaptability.

Most of your opinions about yourself and your self-image are rooted in your childhood. To a great extent, your self-talk was shaped by your parents and your peers, when you were too small to think about anything on your own. If you are told repeatedly that you are incompetent or useless, very likely the thought will stay with you and influence you for the rest of your life. If you are told constantly that certain types of people are untrustworthy or unethical, you will have reservations about them even after you have grown up.

In a majority of people, their childhood beliefs and habitual thought patterns stay with them for the rest of their lives, unverified and unexamined, like a baggage left unopened. As a result, a part of them remains immature and childish even after they grow up and even manifest itself in their parental attitude towards their own children. Most likely, their children continue the same legacy.

So it is imperative to examine such beliefs, where our parents might have played a dominant part in shaping them, and cleanse them thoroughly through a rational and objective process. We have to verify the thoughts, beliefs, values, opinions and assumptions, which we might have inherited from them and subject them to reality check in the light of facts, reason and our own experience., ensuring at the same time that our consciousness is not contaminated by unexamined beliefs and unverified assumptions that may interfere with our ability to live normally and rationally. By doing so, we become sensitive to the reality surrounding us rather than the assumptive self-talk that sustains our parental beliefs.

2. Dipsute your negative thougths

Don‘t let your negative self-talk dominate your thinking, especially when you are in a vulnerable mood. Whenever you find yourself indulging in it, dispute your own thoughts, questioning their validity and demanding proof from yourself. By doing it you will weed out irrational thoughts from your mind and base your thinking and actions upon your current circumstances and your own experiences. As explained already, your negative self-talk arises mostly from unexamined beliefs and parental dictums. You should learn to dispute them effectively, so that you will not unnecessarily victimize yourself with biased thoughts. If you don‘t find proof for your own opinions, give yourself the benefit of doubt. Here are some of the ways in which you can dispute your negative thinking by asking valid questions and seeking realistic and rational answers from yourself.

Source: Reproduced partially from the book Think Success by Jayaram V. You may purchase this book from our online store

Suggestions for Further Reading

About Think Success: In 44 well written articles presented in this books, you are introduced to a treasure trove of transformational wisdom. By following the suggestions given in this book, you can achieve success and happiness and live. It is written by Jayaram V, author of several books and hundreds of essays about Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Spirituality and Self-help. This book is currently available at our Online Store (for residents of USA, Canada, UK and some other countries only).

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