Monday, June 21, 2010

Less is More — At Least in Terms of Attention to Negative Self-Talk

The negative self-talk of most women who "overthink" focuses on relationships and appearance.

• "I'm sure Joan's mad at me. I gave her way too much advice. You'd think I'd learn."
• "This wrinkle looks like a canyon on my forehead. It makes me look ten years older."

And that's just the beginning. Negative self-talkers often take one seed thought and grow it into a tenacious vine, which sends out aggressive tendrils that grab on to other thoughts and produce bigger, expanded negative messages.

• "Joan will probably tell everybody what I did. Then they'll all be annoyed, if they aren't already. Maybe that's why I wasn't told about the coffee at Andrea's last week."
• "Actually, my skin looks gray and kind of dry and blah. So does my hair. And that double chin doesn't help either. I'm a wreck."

Once you're aware of your negative inner voice (demon, devil, critic, vampire), it's best to get rid of it as fast as you can. Rather than rewarding the undesirable NST behavior, by spending attention on it, focus your attention elsewhere — anywhere that will keep your neurons far removed from their self-criticism connections.

The new and desirable behavior can be any form of distraction that works for you; a work or house project, a book, TV, writing, painting, singing, walking, listening to music, playing solitaire on your iPhone, talking to friends about fun stuff. Whether the reallocation of attention works for 11 minutes or 2 minutes, it stunts the growth of NST, allows a pause in the action, produces a time slot for you to remember what you already know:

  •  NST won't help you feel good or perform well. It won't help improve relationships or appearance.
  •   The only useful purpose served by NST is to move you to problem solving thinking, when the situation is something over which you have control.

The less attention you pay to the negative self-talk, the more quickly it will fold, fade, and fail.
The more attention you spend on the negative self-talk, the faster it will bloom and send out runners.
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