In What to Say When You Talk to Your Self, psychologist Dr. Shad Helmstetter writes about the power of self-talk: what to say to ourselves every day, the power of affirmations, reprogramming our self-limiting beliefs and how to use self-talk for personal transformation.
The Human Brain
The human brain, that incredibly powerful personal computer control center that each of us has, is capable of doing for you anything reasonable that you’d like it to do. But you have to know how to treat it. If you treat it just right and carefully give it the right directions, it will do the right thing— it will work for you in the right way. But if you give your mental computer the wrong directions it will act on those wrong directions; it will continue to respond to the negative programming that you and the rest of the world have been giving it without even being aware of it.
THE 148,000 “NO’S!”
During the first eighteen years of our lives, if we grew up in fairly average, reasonably positive homes, we were told “No!” or what we could not do, more than 148,000 times! If you were a little more fortunate, you may have been told “No!” only 100,000 times, or 50,000 times—however many, it was considerably more negative programming than any of us need.
Eventually we believed what others told us and what we told ourselves most; we began to live out the picture of ourselves we had created in our minds.
Year after year, word by word, our life scripts were etched. Layer by layer, nearly indelibly, our self-images were created. In time, we ourselves joined in. We began to believe that what we were being told by others—and what we were telling ourselves—was true. No matter how innocently given or subtly implied, we began hearing the same words and thoughts repeatedly; hundreds, even thousands of times we were told, or we told ourselves, what we could not do, could not accomplish.
Whatever you put into your mind—in one way or another—is what you will get back out—in one way or another.
“In time we became what we most believed about ourselves. And in so doing, we created a wall, which for most of us will stand invisibly but powerfully between us and our unlimited futures for as long as our old programming remains in force. Unless the programming we received is erased or replaced with different programming, it will stay with us permanently and affect and direct everything we do for the rest of our lives.
The Human Brain – Computer Analogy
The brain operates very much like a personal computer. It’s not that simple, of course. For one thing, the brain is many times more powerful, in most respects, than the most powerful computers we have yet created. Even though the adult human brain weighs only about fifteen hundred grams, about three pounds, and looks more like a lump of gray cauliflower than a desktop computer, the brain functions in some important ways much like the man-made computers which are patterned after it.
In non-technical language, a computer has three basic parts: a screen, a keyboard or touch screen, and a hard drive or program disc.
- The screen is what we use to visually display what we are programming into the computer. The screen also displays the results—the information we want the computer to store for us.
- The keyboard or touch screen is what we use to type in the directions and information we give to the computer. And the hard drive is the storage device, onto which we record the information. Whatever we record or program will stay there forever unless someone changes it by erasing the old information and leaving it blank, or by typing in new information.
“In us, the computer’s screen is comparable to our appearance and our actions—what we “display” to the world around us.
- In a human being, the computer keyboard is the same as our five senses. Anything we hear, see, taste, touch, or smell—and anything we say to ourselves—is “programmed” into our brain through our keyboard: our five senses.
As much as seventy-five percent or more of everything that is recorded and stored in our subconscious minds is counterproductive and works against us—in short, we are programmed not to succeed!
Most of our self-talk is unconscious; we are not even aware of it. At times our self-talk comes in feelings that can’t quite be put into words. At other times it comes in little flashes, flickers of thoughts which never quite catch fire or glow bright enough or last long enough to become ideas, clearly thought out and understood.
The Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind does not see the difference between the statement that we are clumsy and the statement that we are graceful, well-coordinated, and in control. It does not know the difference between being told that we are poor, and the statement that we are wealthy. It accepts our programming just as we give it.
Our internal programming mechanism treats anything we tell it with equal indifference. As a result, when we casually state, “No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to make enough money to make ends meet,” our subconscious mind says, “Okay, I’ll do what you’re telling me to do. I’ll make sure you can’t make ends meet.” In turn, it will unleash its powerful control over our mental and physical selves to achieve the result it was told to accomplish.
The 5 Levels of Self-Talk
Self-Talk is a way to override our past negative programming by erasing or replacing it with conscious, positive new directions. Self-Talk is a practical way to live our lives by active intent rather than by passive acceptance.
LEVEL 1 SELF-TALK— The Level of Negative Acceptance (“I can’t…”)
The five levels of self-talk start at the lowest, least beneficial level. At the bottom of the list—and the most harmful self-talk we can use—is Level 1, the level of Negative Acceptance. That is self-talk by which you say something bad or negative about yourself, and you accept it.
This level is easy to spot. It is most always characterized by the words, “I can’t…” or “if only I could…” or “I wish I could, but I can’t…” and so on. All Level 1 self-talk works against us. And unfortunately, it is the most frequently used self-talk of all!
LEVEL 2 SELF-TALK— The Level Of Recognition and Need To Change (“I need to… I should…”)
This level is beguiling. On the surface it looks as though it should work for us. But instead, it works against us! In this level of self-talk we are stating to ourselves and to others our recognition of our need to change.
Level 2 self-talk is characterized by words such as, “I need to…”, or “I ought to…”, or “I should…” Why does that work against us? Because it recognizes a problem, but creates no solution. When you say to yourself (or to someone else), “I really need to get more organized,” what are you really saying? You are saying, “I really need to get more organized…but I’m not!
LEVEL 3 SELF-TALK— The Level of Decision to Change (“I never…I no longer…”)
Level 3 Self-Talk is the first level of Self-Talk that works for you instead of against you. In this level you recognize the need to change, but also you make the decision to do something about it—and you state the decision in the “present tense”—as though the change has already taken place.
Level 3 is characterized by the words, “I never,” or “I no longer.” In this level you say, “I no longer have a problem dealing with people at work.” “I never eat more than I should.” “I never get upset in traffic.” “I no longer put off doing anything I want to get done.
LEVEL 4 SELF-TALK— The Level of The Better You (“I am”)
This is the most effective kind of Self-Talk we can ever use. In our Self-Talk vocabularies, Level 4 is the kind of Self-Talk that has been used the least and is needed most. It is at this level that you are painting a fully completed new picture of yourself, the way you really wanted to be, handing it to your subconscious, and saying, “This is the “me” I want you to create! Forget all that bad programming I gave you in the past. This is your new program. Now let’s get to work at it!”
Level 4 Self-Talk is characterized by the words, “I am…” “I am organized and in control of my life. I am a winner! I am healthy, energetic, enthusiastic, and I’m going for it! Nothing can stop me now. I like who I am. I am in tune, on top, and in touch. I have determination, drive, and self-belief. I am living the life I choose, and I choose what’s right!
LEVEL 5 SELF-TALK— The Level of Universal Affirmation (“It is…”)
Often referred to just as “affirmations,” this level of Self-Talk has been used for many years. It is Self-Talk that often speaks of a higher level of spirit, or consciousness, than we might typically think about when we’re dealing with the demands of our day-to-day life.
Level 5 Self-Talk may sound something like this: “I am one with the true, healthy, qualities of my life, and they are one with me. Life, to me, is a place of joy…serenity…peace…and healthy well-being.
We are most comfortable with the thoughts we have lived with the most. It makes no difference if those thoughts aren’t the best for us—it’s what we know, it’s what we are most secure in keeping at our side
Our attitudes are determined by our beliefs—and if we believe we are less than the best, to us that is fact, that is reality—that’s the way it is! Of course, it isn’t true at all. It’s just true to the person who believes it.
Programming creates beliefs, beliefs create attitudes, attitudes create feelings, feelings determine actions, and actions create results.” Each of those steps—behavior, feelings, attitude, and beliefs—is the logical and expected result of our conditioning. It follows, then, that every attitude we have, good, bad, or indifferent, is the natural result of the programming that preceded it.
The key to all management, the management of others, the management of your resources, and the management of your future, is Self-Management.
Self-Management is the difference between living a life of fulfillment and purpose, and living out our years frustrated and incomplete, contained by the shortsighted limitations of our own disbelief. Self-Management is the final conquest. And its solution is within our reach.
“You are everything that is, your thoughts, your life, your dreams come true. You are everything you choose to be. You are as unlimited as the endless universe.”
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.