Our beliefs directly determine the way in which we experience life. What many of us don't realise is that we are engaged in an internal dialogue most of the time. We are constantly interpreting situations and telling ourselves stories based about what we perceive. If we wish to experience a state of inner joy, then we must observe the stories that we tell ourselves and question their validity. We must take a thorough look at our beliefs and ask ourselves whether these beliefs are serving us in the correct manner. Here are some strategies that will help you to observe your inner dialogue:
1) Be objective.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in our thoughts that we don't see the situation clearly. For a few moments imagine that you are an outsider looking in on the challenge. I often ask clients to imagine that they are watching a movie of the situation with actors playing out the roles. I ask them to consider each actor's feelings, and also the reasoning behind their actions. This exercise allows the client to practice objectivity and empathy - it allows them to step into someone else's shoes and try and understand their point of view, and also to see whether they themselves are perceiving the situation accurately. Based on this I ask them to reflect upon their internal dialogue. What have they been telling themselves about the situation? And most importantly, is it true - have they perceived the situation accurately?
2) Spend some time daily, in silence, observing your thoughts.
Perhaps one of the most useful features that we as Humans possess is the ability to observe our own thoughts. Consider this: there is a part of our mind that thinks the thought, but there is also a part of our mind that realises it is thinking the thought. Anyone who has had experience breaking free from an addiction will know that at times the mind can be very convincing in its quest to take us back to the negative behaviour. However, part of breaking free is recognising when the mind is doing this and then choosing not to engage in the addiction.
I have worked with many people in the past who have gotten into the
habit of reacting instantly to a situation. They become so involved in both the incident and their internal dialogue, that they don't stop to think about their response, or whether they are perceiving the situation accurately. This quite often results in further arguing, anger and resentment.
When we take some time out daily to sit in silence, breathe, relax and observe our thoughts, we open the door to awareness. Observing our thoughts means that we watch what is going on in our mind without any judgement. As we do this we become aware of what we really think about on a daily basis, and we recognise how many of these thoughts are not conducive to our wellbeing.
The more we practice observing our thoughts, the more we allow awareness into our experience; and it is awareness that shifts our perspective. As we start to question our actions and responses, we become better equipped to deal with challenging situations.
3) What role are you playing?
Along with Dr. Eric Berne, a number of other people in the field of Psychology have talked about the different facets of our personalities: the child, the parent and the adult. These are three different types of internal dialogues that take place within us.
The child is the part of us that seeks instant gratification. A child does not have adequate knowledge to make informed decisions, and hence when it wants something, it goes for it without considering the consequences. When the child aspect plays out in us, it takes action without having any regard for the consequence. It is the part of us that spends money when we know we can't really afford to, or indulges in sweet treats when we know that it will have an adverse effect on our health.
The Parent aspect within us is our authoritarian voice and is highly moralistic. This conditioning comes from childhood and is taught to us by the adults around us. As we grow older we experience this as the voice within which tells us what we should and should not do. For example, our internal adult often speaks when we go on a diet and choose to indulge in a "forbidden" food. The adult will say things like, "how could you have eaten that?", or "how stupid of you to consume all of those extra calories." This parent aspect is our critical, judgmental voice.
The Adult is the rational aspect. This is the part of us that thinks about a situation and looks at the bigger picture before responding. It weighs up the pros and cons of a situation and then acts accordingly. If we want to have peaceful and rational encounters with both ourselves and other people then we need to work on developing this aspect of ourselves. Start to observe and become aware of the different personality aspects that play out in you. The more you recognise these different aspects, the more you will be able to understand yourself and others.