A Deeper Look at Personality and Relationships.
Often, we don’t understand how powerful our thoughts are about ourselves. That’s because usually we’re not aware of them. When other people give us messages about our appearance, abilities, performance, etc., we can actually hear them. Then, it’s easier to accept or reject them. But, our thoughts about ourselves are much older and much stronger because they’ve had years of UNconscious reinforcement. Plus, we’re not usually aware of them.
Why should our thoughts about ourselves matter?
- It is pretty important to get acquainted with what’s going on in our minds. That’s where our behavior comes from.
- When these internal messages are negative, they’re so damaging.
So, try this. If you’ll listen consistently to your mind for about a week, you’ll hear a recording that’s going on pretty much all the time. It’s talking to you, even though you may not be aware of it. This “CD” was burned UNconsciously a long time ago when you were young. Most of us aren’t aware if the CD has mostly positive or negative messages.
If the thoughts on your CD are positive, encouraging ones, that’s good. Your self-esteem is pretty high; so you behave in confident, self-respecting, non-defensive ways. Your relationships are healthy.
But, when the thoughts on your CD are self-judging, disapproving, critical, or they make you afraid, then you use defensive, disrespectful behaviors. Neither your self-esteem nor your relationships do well with defensiveness or disrespect.
Take Emily, for example. Yesterday we were talking about a home landscaping project that she and Dick, her husband, are having done. They had both walked the yard with Earl, the landscape guy, to make sure he knew where to place the bushes and flowers they’d ordered. Earl said he was clear about what Dick and Emily wanted.
Earl was about half-way through the job when Emily, who was home that day, noticed that he’d placed a few bushes in the wrong spots. But, she didn’t say anything to him. Why?
Emily has three very old and very strong messages on her internal CD. These three ideas UNconsciously (she’s not aware of them) direct her behavior:
- People, including herself, shouldn’t complain. And,
- I can’t speak up when I’m dissatisfied or unhappy about something because it will escalate to conflict. And,
- I can’t handle conflict.
When Dick came home that evening and saw the yard, he was disappointed and upset.
Instead of talking calmly and rationally with him about a plan to handle this problem, Emily became defensive. She viewed Dick as complaining needlessly. Even though they had paid Earl to do the work in a certain way, she couldn’t face the idea that she or Dick would ask to have the bushes replanted. She’d rather blame Dick.
The three beliefs that Emily UNconsciously owns direct her to be afraid. So, she can’t stand up for herself or her husband either. Instead, she acts out her beliefs even though the ideas are not rational. In the process, she cheats herself and her relationship with Dick. And, isn’t really aware it’s happening.
What’s the cure here? I asked Emily to:
- Start listening carefully to her thoughts on her CD,
- Even when her messages sound good, she must ask herself if they “work well” in daily adult living. For example: “I should never complain,” and “I must avoid all unpleasantness, no matter what,” simply won’t work in daily life; they encourage Emily to be fearful and that’s never good. And, there’s no way Emily can treat herself or Dick fairly with these ideas.
- As she understands that her ideas don’t fit rational living, she will confront them every time they rise in her mind. They’ll soon lose their power and,eventually, won’t come up anymore.
- Replace them with personally powerful messages that will “work” in the adult world.
Hey, how about you? Try this great self-awareness exercise. Promise yourself that you’ll notice any internal messages that put you at a disadvantage, like Emily’s did. That means you’ll be tuning into your thoughts and actually listening to them. Do this especially when you feel in a down mood. By doing this you’ll get intimately acquainted with yourself and you’ll have the power to change your thinking. You’re entitled to create positive thoughts that are based on the reality of who you really are, not who someone else says you are or who you fear you are.
Start now being a friend to yourself. Discard your negative beliefs and harmful defenses. Discover your positives and act on them. And, lastly, remember: this kind of practice is almost never easy; so, be patient with you.
Warmest wishes until next time,
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