Today I want to share an excerpt from The Fear and Anxiety Solution by Dr Friedemann Schaub. There is a lot of great information in this book that can help you overcome and deal with fear and anxiety — and in turn you can improve your relationships. In my Love Accept and Respect Yourself program – we talk about handling inner and outer obstacles – which includes negative self talk. I invite you to take a look at the types of negative self talk that Dr Friedemann discusses in his book and see how the information may apply to you or someone you love…
Addressing Negative Self-Talk And Mind-Racing
We’re constantly talking to ourselves, but it might not be out loud. Some inner self-talk can be a way to consciously work through a problem, analyze what just happened, evaluate the pros and cons before we make a decision, or rehearse how we’ll act or respond in an upcoming situation. Conscious self-talk allows us to cheer ourselves on, listen to an internal mentor’s voice of reason, or review the kind words of a supportive friend. However, a large portion of our self-talk bubbles up from our subconscious mind without us being fully and consciously aware of its details. It appears more as background noise or mind chatter — like the humming of the refrigerator, which we try to tune out and ignore because we find it annoying.
And then there is negative self-talk, which plays a major role in how we create fear and anxiety. You’re probably familiar with that voice that rises from somewhere deep inside your subconscious. For some, it sounds worried and insecure; for others, it sounds nagging or whiny, critical or angry. At times it doesn’t even sound like your own voice at all; it may remind you of a scared child, a parent, or a teacher. You don’t seem to choose the limiting, anxiety-triggering, or self-sabotaging thoughts, nor do you seem to be in control of them.
Negative self-talk can also be more obscure than the previous examples. You know how every now and then out of the blue you can feel completely over- come by anxiety? You start frantically searching for obvious reasons for your worries, but nothing around you has changed enough to warrant this emotional tailspin. So how and why did you end up in it? You may be surprised to discover that, most of the time, a series of anxious, negative thoughts that were subtle enough to fly under the radar of your conscious mind preceded the feelings. In other words, you freaked yourself out without even noticing it.
The Three Types of Anxiety- Triggering Self-Talk
I distinguish between three different types of negative self-talk — three different subconscious voices — that trigger fear and anxiety:
1. “What if ” and “what was” talk
2. Self-bashing talk
3. Bashing-others talk
“What If” and “What Was” talK
This inner voice says history was a disaster that will only repeat itself. Or it tells you that, this time, whatever it is you’re doing or about to do will definitely go wrong. It lays out in painful detail why you or those you care about are destined to failure, pain, and suffering — and why it’s probably your fault. Sometimes anxiety-triggering thoughts can flash through your mind in terrifying images that are too incoherent to comprehend, too rapid to distinguish one from the other, and too many to escape from.
A client once told me that she often feels as though her mind is like a run- away merry-go-round, spinning faster and faster as if trying to outrun itself. As it spins, she becomes increasingly anxious and confused. Her mind stops racing only when she finally falls asleep after an exhausting day of circular and often catastrophic thinking. As soon as she wakes up the following morning, the ride begins again. Sound familiar?
Regardless of whether the negative self-talk races so quickly that we can’t catch the words or follow the train of thought, or whether it moves more slowly, its concerns, doubts, and fears usually circle and cause us to obsess about a fairly small number of topics. The chain of negative thoughts can start with a mere reflection on an event in the past, present, or future. This can be followed by a self-doubting “I should have” or “I can’t,” which creates a sense of unease. Fur- ther accelerating the downward momentum are deep regrets about things that already occurred and worried, what-if assumptions about the possible disasters and failures that haven’t yet happened.
The arguments feed off each other, confirming and expanding on the nega- tivity of the previous ones. And all the while, you’re losing touch with what is and getting lost in the “reality” of what if or what was. With every thought, the emotional charge increases, taking you on a slippery downward spiral of potential problems and limitations that ends in a dark pit of gloom and doom. By the time you hit bottom, you feel utterly inundated and deflated by anxiety about the fictitious facts that a part of your subconscious mind has just created.
As you probably know too well, self-talk, by nature, can be very judgmental. You doubt and criticize yourself, constantly wondering what faults and flaws other people may discover about you. Let’s be honest: how often have you been rude to yourself, calling yourself stupid, fat, ugly, a loser, not good enough? How often have you blasted yourself with derogatory insults that you’d never dare fling at anyone else because your words would hurt them or because they’d cut you out of their lives or would punch you? How often have you shown respect and consideration to others and treated yourself with contempt and disregard?
I routinely ask my clients to carefully listen to and actually write down their negative thoughts. Most of them are surprised to realize how frequently unfriendly thoughts about themselves flash through their mind. But what really shocks them is what they hear themselves saying about themselves. “How can I be so mean and cruel to myself?” is a very common reaction.
Another form of negative self-talk is judging and bashing others, which at first may appear less self-destructive than judging and bashing yourself. What most people don’t realize is that the subconscious mind takes everything personally. So when you’re on the road yelling at an obviously clueless driver or you’re at work contemplating the utter incompetence of your new coworker, your sub- conscious registers only feelings of anger and disdain. It is unable to determine whether you’re upset with somebody else or yourself. This explains the old saying, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Judging others doesn’t have to lead to anger to count as negative self- talk. Whether you’re judging others through comparison, gossip, envy, or Schadenfreude — a German expression describing glee in response to another’s misfortune (we Germans must be good at it to have invented a word for it) — from the perspective of the subconscious, you’re just bashing yourself. And when you consider that, in most cases, being judgmental of others actually stems from a deep insecurity within yourself, you can imagine the detrimental impact such a mental diet can have.
You might say, “Well, I just can’t help it. My self-talk is automatic, from some place in my subconscious and, therefore, out of my control.” But is that really true?
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