Friday, September 30, 2011

Brief Review of What Is, Why Is Negative Self-Talk — And How to Get Rid of It

Long-time readers from around the world understand the concept of negative self-talk and may already have taken the challenge to eliminate it. Other readers may know alot about NST from other sources or experiences. Here's the framework I use to think, speak and write about it.

As a psychologist and therapist as well as executive coach I quickly discovered that many intelligent, high-achieving women indulged in negative self-talk. It became a habit that they were reluctant to break. They were unwilling to accept that NST was harmful. It creates stress which then decreases productivity and self-confidence, which creates more NST, which creates more inner stress — on and on the cycle repeats itself. My work in progress book, Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit, addresses the issue in a very clear, direct, research-based approach. It's aimed at intelligent, thinking, high-achieving women, who "get it."

• What is negative self-talk?

It's the inner voice that tells you in many different words and ways that "I'm not OK," or asks "What is wrong with you?" A majority of women between teens and their fifties have the negative self-talk habit. By age 60 they have learned that it's a waste of time.

• Why do women start and continue the habit?

They may start it by imitating mothers, sisters, friends when they are in their teens, not realizing it's potentially an obstacle to their success. A secondary gain may come from saying the NST aloud and being reinforced. E.g. "I handled that conflict like an idiot. You'd think I'd learn." " That's not true Susan. I thought you dealt well with the group."

They continue the habit, because they don't recognize that NST is harmful and because it has become locked into their brain in the same way that any addictive habit develops a highly trafficked pathway with no detours or dead ends.

• How Can Women Eliminate the Habit?

• Determine if you have it
• Accept that it is an impediment to your success at work, at home, in all relationships
• Take the challenge to break the habit
• Use research based techniques work: not every technique will work for everyone, but one or more of the three primary categories will work., over time and with effort. It's a habit.

                 Cognitive Restructuring

This weekend, if this fits for you and you haven't yet started to get rid of your NST, just notice your inner voice and if it's negative self-talk, make a small, achievable plan to start dumping it. Hint: Positive thinking doesn't do the job, but realistic thinking is useful.

e.g NST. "I really don't know anything about how to move this project forward, but I'll stumble on I guess."

      PST. "I know I'll do a great job getting this  project completed successfully."
      RST. "I'll plan to ramp up the amount of time invested daily in order to get this project completed successfully."
Brief Review of What Is, Why Is Negative Self-Talk — And How to Get Rid of ItSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Newsweek's Report on Women's Progress, plus a Few Leftovers

Note re 8/22 and 9/26 bog posts

I thought Monday's information about "ego depletion" which I found in a NYTimes Book Review and a New Yorker article by John Tierney mentioning "decision fatigue" seemed similar in concept, but I didn't figure it all out until I checked back. Both are authors of a recent book, Willpower. They are both marketing the book zealously as authors must, and in the process are using different language to attract a bigger audience. It worked in one way. I read both articles in full. In another way, it didn't work. I don't now see the book as widely, innovatively interesting and I'm not planning to buy it. H-m-m-m. Makes an author think!

I'm also researching:

•  brain mapping related to emotion and logic related to 9/19 post
•  why the increased interest in Buddha and the brain from 9/9 post

I'd be happy to post your thoughts and name, if you're interested and have more expertise than I on these 2 topics.

Women's Progress According to Newsweek

Today's post, continuing the topic of high-achieving women in a slightly different vein than the Wander Women focus, borrows from Newsweeks's 2011 Global Women's Progress Report. The link provides interesting details about the criteria for determining best and worst.


I'll highlight information that I found interesting.

• Based on categories of Justice, Health, education, Economics and Politics, Iceland, Sweden and Canada were 1, 2, and 3 with the US in 8th place.

• Seven out of ten of the top countries for women are cold: top 3 above plus Scandinavian countries. Any ideas about causation or correlation?

.• A 2007 book, Dutch Women Don't Get Depressed notes that women in the Netherlands are happier because of their sense of personal freedom.

• Women in the US outpace men in college degrees and score 97.3 out of 100 in the general category of Education.

• US has first female CEO of a top-20 US bank, Beth Mooney.

Women are recovering less rapidly than men from the recession. They have lost 218,000 jobs. Again, cause?

Friday, there'll be more content/experience with problem-solving thinking OUT LOUD.
Newsweek's Report on Women's Progress, plus a Few LeftoversSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, September 26, 2011

No Negative Self-Tallk for Intelligent Women

A new book that's getting buzz reminds me of my book in progress, Handbook #1for Intelligent Women Only: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit. Roy Baumeister and John Tierney have a new book about willpower, titled Willpower, Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. The book review notes that the author's use of the metaphor of self-control as a muscle has a kernel of neurobiological truth. Specifically, as muscles can be energized by a sugary snack, so can will power: like muscles, frequent exercise of will power increases strength.
remember the source. The authors of Willpower uses the term "ego depletion" to describe a similar effect.

I blogged previously about "decision fatigue" which seems very similar to what Willpower calls "ego depletion." Both states describe a decreased ability to manage self-control. I'm wondering  if women who are having difficulty managing their negative self-talk (reducing or eliminating it) can pop a couple of M&Ms and their will power will puff up like a bicep.  Or if we're able to stop swearing, or smoking, or biting our fingernails if our will power muscle will strengthen enough to help reduce negative self-talk. Or even better, if we are able to reduce negative self-talk, will we be better able to manage ourselves in many other areas of self-control. e.g. habits like smoking that we don't want to continue or habits such as yoga that we do want to acquire as a regular practice.

I'd really be interested in other people's thoughts about will power, how to stimulate it, how to lose it. I've often thought that their wasn't such a real thing as will power and as I've discussed before self-management seems to have more to do with strategic allocation of attention than effort, sugar, or exercising my will power. But as we all have learned daily, we're all different and whatever works, practically or conceptually, is what we're looking for.
No Negative Self-Tallk for Intelligent WomenSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, September 23, 2011

Problem-Solve Out Loud and Alone — Even if It Feels Wacky

While writing an article about problem-solving for a magazine, I found some interesting research that applies to all of us.
• If you're already a problem-solver, try talking through the problem out loud instead of in your head.
The process puts you in a good position to hear yourself think. Apparently, a better outcome results as you monitor your own thinking. You are metacognating — thinking about your thinking. Those of you who are regular readers of intelligentwomenonly.com know that listening to your self-talk (neg., pos., or realistic such as problem solving) increases self-awareness and understanding of what actions to take.

• If our problem-solving skills are well-established, silently or out loud, parents and grandparents are in a good position to take advantage of the results of a 2009 study reported in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior,  “Development of Mastery During Adolescence: The Role of Family Problem-Solving.” The conceptual model proposes that effective family problem-solving interactions foster the development of a sense of mastery across and beyond the years of adolescence; mastery described as a sense of control and a major resource for weathering negative life events.

The findings of the study suggest that exposure to effective problem-solving between parents indicates to adolescents that difficulties and disagreements can be resolved in relationships, thus giving them greater confidence that they can control events in their own lives. Effective adolescent problem-solving interactions with parents increase mastery over time for older and younger siblings, who then continue to contribute to each other’s development of mastery. A reciprocal effect seems to take place as well: the more problem-solving, the greater sense of mastery, the more problem-solving.

Seems like an all-around winning situation for families — and perhaps also applicable to earlier stages of child development and other similar partnering or team situations. I have to acknowledge that I haven't tried the talking out loud problem-solving yet, primarily because I'm hardly ever alone except outside or in a public place. I'll start privately, even if I have to ask my spouse to leave me alone and not contribute his thoughts, before, during, or after — or lock myself in a bathroom.

Problem-Solve Out Loud and Alone — Even if It Feels WackySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If You're a Wander Woman, Let Go of Some Assumptions

Here's the next piece from Wander Woman by Marcia Reynolds. I wrote about it first on September 7th so you might check back on that post if you missed it. Reynolds, a psychologist, labels Chapter 4 of her book "R" for Reality as she hits high-achieving women over the heads with some alarming assumptions they generally have about themselves.

• There is a right answer and it is mine.
• Everything is up to me
• I will always be disappointed

If this fits for you, you're a Wander Woman. If it doesn't, you're fortunate because maybe you don't have to make all the changes Reynolds puts forth in this very wise book.

Here in brief are the actions she says will lead to greater contentment and clearer direction.

• "The key to shifting out of always being right is to consciously choose to learn when you think you already know the answers."
(OK, I'm saying to myself. That seems like a waste of time if I know I'm right, but I do understand what Marcia is advocating. It makes sense and I have a meeting tonight that might be sticky and tense. I'll give consciously choosing to learn a shot.)

• "In order to release yourself from your limiting beliefs, you need to first vision a successful life without them. Slowing down your critical mind is good practice for now."
( Maybe slowing down my critical mind, choosing to learn is all I can manage for now. Visioning a successful life without the assumptions that I have lived with on and off for years, up and down, more and less, seems way too complex at the moment.)

• "You can [choose] use your keyword to keep from choking when your boss ticks you off, your team seems clueless, and all you want to do is knock some sense into the people around you."
( Oh, yes. I understand that "knock some sense" comment too well. This may be easier than the visioning for me. I can think of some words that might help me. e.g. wait, breathe, detach, let go. If I hold off a bit, I'll be able to hold off for a long time. If I still feel like reacting, I can always do it an hour later, a day later, a month later.)

I'll read on and pass along my thoughts. This books hits me where I need to be hit — in the head. How about you?
If You're a Wander Woman, Let Go of Some AssumptionsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, September 19, 2011

Logical/Rational/Emotional Expressiveness?

Back to blogging and realizing a brief break from anything that you can break from, is useful. As I returned to my blog and reread the the blurb under the title I reacted to the first sentence. "Intelligentwomenonly.com targets smart women who want to think logically,
behave confidently, and handle their lives with greater intellect and lesser emotion."

I asked myself, "What does it mean to think logically and handle life with lesser emotion?" I used to bristle when men would say I was too emotional or "over reacting" — which meant the same thing.  "NO" I wanted to say and sometimes did, "You're too unemotional." I also saw logical rational and emotional positioned at opposite ends of a spectrum. Now I see it differently.

Here are a few brief definitions from my Mac dictionary.

Logical-sensible and based on facts
Rational-sensible and reasonable
Emotional-expressing emotion

Then of course you have to wonder briefly what "sensible" actually means. Dictionary says "practical". Who's to judge?

Logical and rational are almost synonymous and generally are viewed as "good" ways of expression. Emotional expression has often been viewed as "not good." Men's inner self-talk and outer talk is generally less expressive of emotion and more expressive of logic. Women's inner self-talk, at least the negative kind, is very emotionally expressive: frustration, anger, disparagement, dismissal, criticism of and with self.  That stuff is definitely not good regardless of outer talk.

I'm going to do more research into the neuroscience of emotion and logic, the brain, and communication. However, it seems logical
that both rationality and emotion are essential to good thinking, useful self-talk and, adaptive communication. Maybe I'll have to change that opening sentence to ". . . handle their lives with greater intellect and more emotion." 

I'm going to pay more attention this week, here and there, to see how much of my outer talk is emotional expressiveness, over-emotional expressiveness, and/or logical expressiveness, over-logical expressiveness — all depending on my own realistic evaluation. No negative self-talk.

Logical/Rational/Emotional Expressiveness?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Posting vacation for this week

Thought I could manage my life with family visitors for a week. I can't! In the interest of staying in the moment, avoiding negative-self-talk and other stressfl causes and consequences, I'm going to say focused on home and not on work this week. You might  check out some articles/posts that you haven't read. You can search by word at the bottom of the blog site. I'll be back Monday the 19th.
Posting vacation for this weekSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, September 9, 2011

Buddha and the Brain

Have you noticed lately a plethora of books and articles connecting Buddha and brains? Buddha's Brain and Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge are a couple of the books and here's a link to a PT article. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuro-atheism/201101/buddhism-and-neuroscience

I'm not sure why or how this sudden interest in the connection between Buddhism and the brain has come to the fore and I'll research some more. Guess I better read more of the literature on the topic. From my perspective the technique of detachment, useful in stress reduction, and particularly useful as an advanced technique for eliminating negative self-talk, shares some similarity to what happens in a meditative state. You're there but not there. You notice what's going on in your head, but don't react to it. Instead you just let it go without judgment or reaction, behavior or action. In a book that I like called thoughts without a thinker, discussing Buddhism and psychotherapy, the term bare attention is used to describe a form of detachment. 

In a different way, the articles about spending time staring into space with nature are essentially about detaching from the stuff that's getting to you, and focusing your attention instead on something else — anything else that distracts you from your stress, but especially the green, blues, reds and yellows, the smells and sounds, of relatively tranquil outside spaces.

Read more about detachment in June, 13, 20, and 27, posts plus August 1, 2011 intelligentwomenonly.com
Buddha and the BrainSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Being Perfect Versus Being Right — Wander Woman by Marcia Reynolds

Being perfect versus being right, a subhead of Chapter 4 in Marcia Reynolds' book Wander Woman, How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction, grabbed my attention. I had always thought that being perfect and being right went together but she pointed out, with a zing, that there's quite a difference.

A bit of background first. This is a business book for women, focused on "the new generation of high-achieving women: confident, ambitious, and driven, yet anxious, discontented, and above all, restless." Is that you intelligent woman reader? Or was it you and you have already figured out how to strategize accordingly?

Back to Chapter 4. Three assumptions keep the high-achieving women Reynolds is addressing, stuck in a repetitive cycle of ultimate dissatisfaction.

• There is a right answer and it is mine (what, are you blind).
• Everything is up to me. (this place is full of idiots).
• I will always be disappointed (nothing or no one measures up.)

She goes on to say, "When your mind is full of judgment it is using the mental resources you need to see opportunities.. . . Even if your judgment is justified in the moment,it doesn't serve you in the long run. It limits your choices. It reduces your power." Yikes, I thought as I read. This rings too loud a bell in my head. 

This kind of judgmental thinking is the opposite of negative self-talk: NST is a form of "I'm not OK." Judgmental thinking is "You, and everyone else but me is not OK." Each type of self-talk lead to a different outcome, neither so good.

 I'm intrigued with Wander Woman, even though I (judgmentally) don't think the title/subtitle aptly describes the concept Reynold's is addressing.  I'll write more later as I read on — particularly about what the judgmental thinking intelligent woman can do to abandon some of her obstructive assumptions, if she chooses to do so!
Being Perfect Versus Being Right — Wander Woman by Marcia ReynoldsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, September 5, 2011

"The Brain is Like Velcro for Negative Experiences . . .

" and teflon for positive ones," says Whitney Joiner in her 9/2011article in Whole Living Magazine. The brain tends to hoard the negative stuff forever, or until we take action to eliminate it, and lets the positive slip-slide away. I think of the negative thought as a woodpecker who flies in to our minds, makes a nest, raises her kids and keeps pecking away — while the positive thought is a a tiny hummingbird that flutters  in and out of our mind in a second.

If you've been a regular to this blog, you know that there are hundreds of ways to reduce or eliminate the nasty negative self-talk. Joiner suggests:

• Don't believe the negative self-talk. It's not reality.
• Staying focused in the moment.

She also quotes Schwartz and Gladding's book, You're Not Your Brain, which suggests:

• Relabel — notice  and instead of believing it, call it what it is — negative self-talk.
• Reframe — remind yourself the NST is just your brain acting habitually, not telling you truths.
• Refocus —  on anything that will distract you.
• Revalue — recognize that the negative thoughts have no value. They're worthless.

September is back to school month. I'm suggesting going back to school for getting rid of negative self-talk so 2012 can start with NO NST.
If you're still looking for the silver bullet that will do the job for you, check out any and all previous intelligentwomenonly.com blogs about negative self-talk, problem-solving, techniques, detachment or cognitive restructuring. And get yourself a new sharp pencil and a bright, shiny notebook to start anew on the project.

PS No link to Joiner's article because the online magazine availability only goes through 2010.
"The Brain is Like Velcro for Negative Experiences . . .SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, September 2, 2011

Unwinding Works Best in the Park

A friend told me a story a few days ago about being in Seattle with her husband after a difficult doctor's appointment. They had hoped for good news, a fun time after enjoying the opportunities of the big city. She was bummed, although not desparately depressed or gloomy but she wasn't upbeat. Her husband made a bunch of suggestions of activities: a movie, the museum, shopping, sightseeing, the Pike Street Market, but nothing was appealing to think of, or even to do, briefly, As they walked toward the water front, she saw the Aquarium and on a whim said, "I haven't been there in a decade. Let's go." Her husband agreed and they went in, emerging an hour or so later, with my friend feeling 100% improved, but not sure why.

The same day, I was in Seattle and by chance picked up an article in the WSJ about the benefits of "nature" for stress reduction.  I've written before on intelligentwomenonly.com (May 24, 2011) about the fact that women gain relaxation from exposure to the outdoors: water, wind, sun, trees, rain, flowers and bushes, mountains and meadows. The current article focuses, without gender differenitation, on "optimal mental refreshment" which addresses the relief of brain fatigue from intense concentration  or a repetitive task. "Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds." Even pictures of natural scenes in our offices work to help decrease mental fatigue, but not as much as actual exposure.

A real coffee break doesn't do the same. No surprise. Here's the link:

It works for me — even 5 minutes looking up at the trees and sky if that's all I can manage.
Unwinding Works Best in the ParkSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend