Dear Dr. Norquist: I have this running voice in my head, telling me I’m not good at this or I’m gonna fail. I really hate it. I hear it often. It could be regarding a work project, a new recipe I’m trying, an activity at my daughter’s school or trying to keep a clean house. Often I tell myself I’m not a good mother, I’m not a good wife, or I’m lazy. I would never say these mean things to anyone else and it bothers me that I treat myself this way. When I’m saying it I mean it, I really feel it’s true. How can I get rid of this voice?
Dr. Norquist responds:
If someone treated your daughter that way, I’m sure you would do something to sooth and protect her – including teaching her to stand up for herself. This is what you need to do for yourself. Try giving yourself the same loving kindness that you would extend to your daughter, or anyone else who was being treated abusively. You are already more than half-way there; you notice when you are berating yourself and you want to change this negative internal behavior.
The goal here is to disempower these habitual negative self statements. You want to take the wind out their puffed-up sails and leave them powerless to affect you. There are many creative ways to do this. Start by recognizing that it is you who have empowered this negative self-talk; therefore, you also have the ability to rob these statements of their power. To some extent they are probably unconscious associations and habits that are on automatic pilot until you start paying attention to them.
Start by noticing the habitual negative statements as if they were a curiosity. Just by doing this you have disarmed them. If they are a curiosity, you are observing them and they are no longer an unconscious habit. Using your creativity, try internally turning down the volume, the intensity, the pace, or the tone of these negative thoughts. You could even imagine them in some way that makes you laugh. In your mind, you can make them very small, or very far away. You could also bat them, sweep them or blow them far away! Have fun with it. It is only serious if you take it seriously. Try playing around with this, then please write again to let me know how it goes for you.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken. Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2011 Chaitanya Counseling Services