Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back to March 29, 2010 — First Real Post

This is the first content-oriented blog posting on intelligentwomenonly.com. I'm getting ready to reorganize, recategorize, resummarize, maybe redesign, reconstruct, my blog. This original post will help new visitors to tune in to my tone, attitude, belief system about negative self-talk. I'll continue with Technique of the Week on Wednesdays while I'm fooling around and figuring out on Sunday/Mondays. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, criticism, comments and cheers!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Positive Thinking No Antidote to Negative Self-Talk

Women, from 13 to 60 plus, are experts at negative self-talk, or "overthinking" as Susan Nolen-Hoeksema Ph.D. refers to the NaSTy habit in her book Women Who Think Too Much. http://www.amazon.com/Women-Who-Think-Too-Much/dp/B0001LUGU2/ref=sr  Research shows that a larger percentage of women engage in negative thinking than men — and that it causes them to experience higher levels of stress.

In my opinion, personally and as a psychologist, intelligent women are even more likely to indulge; perhaps they're perfectionists putting themselves down, maybe they think rehashing, questioning, investigating all angles in their mind, reflects an analytic mind, a tenaciousness to fix everything and get relationships going well. It doesn't. NST is just a bad habit, like biting fingernails and chewing your cuticles, that wastes time and energy and produces nothing useful.

Positive thinking is also a bad habit, if you believe that thinking positively will make positive things happen. But recent research ( http://www.psychologicalscience.org/onlyhuman/2009/07/i-am-lovable-person-not.cfm) as well as Barbara Ehrenreichs's new book Bright Sided shows clearly that it's not what it has been cracked up to be for the last twenty plus years. Negative thinking wins out when the two are competing. If you get rid of the negative first, then some realistic positive thinking (" I can make a plan to solve this problem" rather than "He'll stay married to me and give up the girlfriend because he really loves me and the kids") will help.

I'd like to hear some opinions, for or against or in the middle, from smart women out there.
Back to March 29, 2010 — First Real PostSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, January 24, 2011

Negative Self-Talk on the Tennis Court

Watching the Australian Open Tennis Tournament begins to convince me that negative self-talk is not  just an American women's habit.
 Here's what happened. Maria Sharapova, originally from Russia, but now living in the United States, double faulted at one point in a match. The female announcer said something like, "Once Maria double faults, she does it in bunches." At the same time, the viewers see Maria shake her head negatively as she moves to the other side of the court. The male commentator says, " Yeah. It must be hard for her to get that thought out of her head," while the first agrees and asks, "Yeah, how do you do that?" The man doesn't know. Neither does she. The discussion ends.

Although we all know that what goes on in the mind affects all of us in all aspects of life, sports, work, parenting, relationships I had never before noticed how obvious the inner thoughts are to the public eye. So I started watching body language meticulously. Here's what I tentatively hypothesized after my brief research.

• Men's body language seems less observable and translatable than women's. Or the men are entirely focused on the moment and the match. Stragetic allocation of attention keeps them from thinking negative thoughts or positive thoughts. They only think of next shot, next point.

• However, there are some men, in the minority, who show loud and clear, without words, that their inner critic is beating them up. Andy Roddick seemed to be in that group a few years ago, but has definitely moved into the unscrutable majority. But when you hear him in an interview now, he sounds not so negative about himself as defensive about others' criticism of him. I guess that's better than the NST alternative.

• Many women show their NST clearly. These women also seem to lose early in the tournament. As the quarter finals approach, fewer women look, sound or behave like NSTers. e.g. Kim Clijsters.

• Men and women from different parts of the world seem to be negative self-talkers. I'm relieved to speculate that it's not just Americans. I'm going to keep stricter observation notes through the finals on Sunday and will report.

I'll be interested in your thoughts and observations of golfers, basketball players, co-workers, your kids and friends. Am I just seeing it everywhere even if it isn't?
Negative Self-Talk on the Tennis CourtSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Technique of the Week — Detachment continuing

Just found a book which elaborates on the topic of the January 4, 2011 WSJ  article, "Conquering Fear", which is connected to 2 past posts on intelligentwomenonly.com: 1/14 and 1/16 2011. Mindfulness and Acceptance, Expanding the Cognitive-Behavioral Tradition edited by Steven C. Hayes, Victoria Follettee and Marsha M. Linehan, 2004.

The book is dense (meaning hard to read and understand) and arcane (meaning in fact what I meant by dense). Here's an interesting  exercise proposed in the book. The goal is for the reader to experience the difference between looking AT thoughts and looking FROM thoughts. Looking AT thoughts is a more detached state than looking FROM thoughts.

1. Think whatever you choose.
2. Then imagine that there are little soldier, marching out of your head, carrying signs with each thought you are having written upon it.
3. Watch the parade, as if from a reviewing stand, and keep it going and flowing, emptying your mind of the thoughts.
4. If the parade stops for any reason, e.g. you leave the reviewing stand, you join the parade, you become a soldier, notice what happened immediately prior to the stop. Probably your detachment moved to attachment and you began looking FROM thoughts.

"The point is to begin to learn how to look at thoughts as thoughts rather than looking at the world through thoughts, and to learn how to detect the difference." p. 20

To me the point is to learn to have a thought without reflexive judgment, evaluation or reaction — just as you might see 27 books on a library shelf without judgment, evaluation or reaction.

What do you think? Too weird?
Technique of the Week — Detachment continuingSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit in 2011?

Intelligentwomenonly.com views negative self-talk as a habit, not a neurosis; a habit that needs to be broken in order to decrease stress, improve self-esteem and increase productivity. There have been lots of suggestions of what to do instead of negative self-talk and continuing focus on Techniques of the Week, but today I'll quote from a 12/22 WSJ article,  "How to Keep a Resolution."http://tinyurl.com/64n4mar

It's not quite the same as breaking a habit, but there are similarities: a plan, effort, time, commitment and energy are required. UGH. Daunting — always — for all.  "Keeping a resolution isn't a hundred yard dash. It's a marathon," says John Norcross a psychology professor from the University of Pennsylvania. I agree. It's always a good move to increase mental and physical stamina and resilience, but it's rarely easy.

The article proposes these steps, slightly altered by the blogger:

• Make a realistic plan in advance
• Reduce other life stresses if possible
• Practice exercising self-control in other areas of life before you tackle the "big one"
• Think ahead of time about potential obstacles and plan avoidance strategies
•  Plan rewards for successful behavior changes
•  Focus on the new habit, change rather than the old
•  Use positive reinforcement 80% of the time, negative reinforcement 20% of the time
•  Plan punishments to help you get started, such as denying yourself TV
•  Make a plan for bouncing back from setbacks and slips

I agree with it all, but it sounds as complex as sending a woman to the moon. Maybe best to go back to one step at a time. Make a plan that will work for you. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again. Here's the first step for NSTers.

Acknowledge without judgment,  “Yes, I have acquired the negative self-talk habit, like many other women.”  The key is without judgment; just as you might acknowledge that you have brown hair like many other women, you acknowledge NST without criticism, recognizing that you have control of your thinking if you choose to take it.
Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit in 2011?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Most unorthodox (So far) Technique of the Week

Before you go further with today's post, re-read the January 7th Technique of the Week post. The WSJ article mentioned discussed a new addition to the cognitive therapy protocol.  Cognitive theory underlies all the techniques described in Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit, the book I've been working on for the past year — and will be still working on in 2011.

Perhaps the most unorthodox technique that I describe in the book is detachment. It differs from the other main categories, problem-solving and cognitive restructuring, both of which require increased focus on the negative thinking in order to eliminate it. In contrast, detachment implies inattention to the negative thinking as a way to eliminate it. If you are a meditator or have acquired yoga mind, you may already have detachment skills. Following is a how-to suggestion for one form of detachment. It comes from an early article I wrote about banishing the inner critic.

            "The detachment approach is based on a mental technique described by Walter Mischel, Ph.D. as “strategic allocation of attention." The ability to purposefully pay attention, or choose to not pay attention, correlates highly with success factors related to education and career. By purposefully not paying attention to negative thinking, you decrease its influence. The detachment process results in better coping; disconnection from the negative thoughts and feelings allows increased feelings of well-being and self-confidence. Detachment also owes credit to the Zen Buddhist concept of bare attention, explained so well in thoughts without a thinker, a wonderful book by Mark Epstein.
1. Notice the voice in your head, without judgment or reaction. If it’s negative self- talk, say to yourself, “Oh, the critic is talking,” rather than, “What a jerk. I’m doing it again. When am I going to stop dumping on myself all the time?” talk, go to the next step. 
2. Remind yourself, without judgment or reaction, that negative self-talk which doesn’t produce problem-solutions can be discarded with no loss or harm. 
3. Reallocate attention from the internal negative thinking to the external moment and action. If you are walking or talking, writing or reading, staring out the window, cooking or care taking, purposefully and mentally feel yourself shift attention and maintain it on that external activity, just as you might move a book from a bookcase to a table and leave it there. 
4. When the voice of the critic arises again, demanding attention, reallocate attention back to the moment. Let the critic voice fade from inattention, and diminish as before. 
5. Practice the process at every opportunity. Allocate attention from self-doubt and self-criticism to here and now and an external activity.
The Most unorthodox (So far) Technique of the WeekSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, January 10, 2011

The King's Speech and Negative Self-Talk

The King’s Speech, awarded 7 Golden Globe awards for best picture of the year, is a movie the viewer “feels” — as advertised. In addition to my enjoyment of the acting, the story, the people, feelings, and relationship facets, I clearly and unexpectedly saw tie-ins to negative self-talk.

No one mentioned NST I’ll admit. If you’ve been reading this blog somewhat regularly and you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize that the Duke of York, later King George the 6th was talking to himself all the time. I imagine that he not only thought and felt negatively about himself, but also about others.

  About himself:
 “I’m a loser. I can’t speak without stammering.”
“I’m an embarrassment to my entire family.”
“I’m an embarrassment to the people of the British Empire.”
“I’ll never be able to speak publicly to inspire, persuade or inform.”
“ I cannot be King of England.”

About others:
“ My father has no compassion for my problem.”
“ My brother David is mindless and self-centered, thinking illogically, and behaving irresponsibly.”
“David was always the favorite. I was treated poorly and ignored by my parents. They never understood or seemed to care.”

The negative self-talk about himself, as well as his stuffed anger about his father, his brother, his parents, and even his first Nanny, contributed to his seeming inability to find his voice, to get rid of his stammer.

The very interesting point to me is that his inner critic probably had as much or a greater impact on his “disability” to speak than did his anger, frustration and other stuffed feelings about his family. In today’s terms, the former could have been fixed with self-help. The latter might require therapy. However, in the movie, the negative self-talk about self and about others was treated and cured in an unorthodox way by an un-credentialed mentor. What does this say about self-help for eliminating negative self-talk, reducing stress, increasing self-esteem and increasing productivity? You can do it! More on unorthodoxy coming up!


The King's Speech and Negative Self-TalkSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, January 7, 2011

Technique of the Week, Step 3

I'm slightly out of sync with Technique of the Week, which should happen every Wednesday. Because of snow, holidays, travel, some inner turmoil and transitions, I'm off schedule. But as often happens in life, things works out. A January 2nd Wall Street Journal article discusses the latest cognitive theory for dispelling negative self-talk, doubts, fears. It fits right in with the final suggestion in the December 22 Technique of the Week.

Acknowledge without judgment,  “Yes, I have acquired the negative self-talk habit, like many other women.”  The key is without judgment; just as you might acknowledge that you have brown hair like many other women, you acknowledge NST without criticism, recognizing that you have control of your thinking if you choose to take it.

Here's the link .http://tinyurl.com/37ccg67 

I'm quoting a paragraph from the WSJ article to tweak your curiosity and excite your neurons.

"Cognitive-behavioral therapy aims to help patients conquer their self doubts in two ways: Either by changing the behaviors that go along with it (I'm so fat—I need to get to the gym!) or by challenging the underlying thoughts, which are often distorted. (I'm 45-years old and I'm comparing myself to anorexic models. Get serious!)

Now, a third-wave of cognitive-behavioral therapy is catching on in psychology and self-help circles. It holds that simply observing your critical thoughts without judging them is a more effective way to tame them than pressuring yourself to change or denying their validity.
" 'Tame' is an interesting word," says Dr. Hayes, who pioneered one approach, called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. "How would you go about taming a wild horse? You wouldn't whip it back into a corner. You'd pat it on the nose and give it some carrots and eventually try to ride it."

H-m-m-m. Sounds interesting and familiar. Strategic allocation of attention? Mindfulness? Meditative? You can use these techniques in a self-help way — not just as therapy tools! More next Wednesday.

Technique of the Week, Step 3SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fat Talk

Fat Talk is rampant this time of year, with men and women, with young and old, with skinny and plump. As you can easily guess, Fat Talk is not positive or realistic self-talk. It's just plain old negative.  I quote from a teen-ager who was honored for "sparking a Feel-Good Revolution" for teen age girls; encouraging them to drop the negative self-talk and change their perspective. http://www.wsoctv.com/sponsors/26140806/detail.html.
“Like most women, I have struggled with negative self talk, including Fat Talk (negative talk about my body). There is so much unnecessary pressure in our society to be perfect and fit into a false ideal. It's time we change this perspective and focus on being healthy and happy."

I think most would agree, acknowledge and accept the beliefs of this young woman. But we're back to square one. How to change our perspective about our body? How to get rid of the negative stuff? How to find a realistic perspective that we can buy into? How can we break the NST habit for good, whether it has to do with our body, our education, our job, our parenting, our relationships?

Here's the link to a good article about negative self talk and weight loss success.  http://www.fitwoman.com/expert-advice/fitbriefings/changing-negative-self-talk 

Here's the article itself:

Achieving Weight Loss Success By Changing Negative Self Talk

Get Rid of Negative Self-Talk to Stay Motivated & Reach Your Weight Loss and Health Goals
We've all been there before. One day we feel like we can do anything – and we resolve to try. But a few days or weeks later, we wonder how we can get up the desire to even get out of bed. Well, maybe it's not that bad...but when it comes to keeping up with healthy eating and physical activity, perhaps it is.
Take a moment to review these three steps for staying with it – whether it's resolve to lose weight, get healthy or any other goal you have.
Step #1: Examine your thinking.
What's going on in your mind as you try to change your behaviors? Remember the connection between our thoughts, our emotions and our behaviors. The first feeds the second, the second the third. If our thinking is awry, so goes our emotions, and our behaviors reflect how we're feeling.
Consider these thinking errors common to weight-struggling women:
  • All-or-nothing thinking – The tendency to go to extremes, judging ourselves and our bodies as extremely good or bad. Challenge this thinking by recognizing that few things are truly black and white.
  • 'Should' statements – Trying to motivate yourself with 'shoulds', including comparing yourself to perfectionistic images in the media. Remember you have choices; look for them.
  • Magnification/minimization – An overfocus on things you dislike about yourself while minimizing your positive attributes. Thank someone who compliments you and skip the 'but...."
  • Scapegoating – Incorrectly concluding that a disliked physical characteristic is directly responsible for certain difficulties you encounter. Remember that making assumptions and taking things personally can be a big mistake; fat prejudice does exist, but it may not be responsible for all your troubles.
  • Mind reading – Projecting your own thoughts/beliefs onto others. Remind yourself that even though you are bright and perceptive, you still can't read others' minds.
  • Fortune telling – Predicting how your physical shortcomings will affect the future. Remind yourself that even though you are bright and perceptive, you still can't predict the future.
  • Emotional reasoning – Thinking it must be true if you feel or believe it. Identify what you are feeling and remind yourself it's just a thought – that doesn't make it true.

Step #2: Fine-tune your plan.
Do you have a clear plan about how you're going to get where you want to go? If not, it's time to turn on the computer (or get out the paper and pencil). Write down what you want to achieve and how you're going to do it.
Break it down into realistic, achievable steps, setting intermediate milestones that will take you to your final goal (example: walking 30 minutes a day instead of losing 50 pounds). Instead of negative goals, such as I won't binge this week, use positive statements: "I'll eat three balanced meals and snack when I'm hungry this week."
Remember to plan rewards along the way. There's nothing better than winning, then getting a 'prize' for it, too! This helps you celebrate your successes along the way rather than waiting for the lottery.

Step #3: Take action.

Having a hard time figuring out where to start? It doesn't really matter – as long as you start. You might want to start with something that's relatively easy for you to do, so you can experience success quickly. It's also important not to take on too much at one time, to avoid overwhelming yourself.

Top Tips for Success
  1. As you go through your days, stay aware of your thoughts and keep them supportive of what you are trying to do.
  2. Fine-tune your plan as you go. Your needs may change as you achieve intermediate goals.
  3. Get friends in on the action. Develop a support system to do things with as well as to turn to when things get tough.
  4. Take a couple of minutes every day to write down your successes. You'll build the habit of recognizing what you've done instead of focusing on what you haven't done.

This is the most important line in the article.

"Having a hard time figuring out where to start? It doesn't really matter – as long as you start."

Yes, as long as you start to stop your negative self-talk, whatever type it is.
Fat TalkSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend