An article by Dr. Heidi Lepper, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology: Reframing Can Transform Your Life

If Your Mind Had a Megaphone?

If we could attach a megaphone to your mind and its thoughts and blast it out to the world, what would we hear? Honestly now. What would we hear? Would we hear negative and undermining statements? Unkind or harsh words? I can't do this, I can't do that, I am too afraid of this, too afraid of that? Or are the words defensive and boastful? Or are they positive and beneficial?

There is a great deal of research on the relationship between inner self talk and emotional functioning and well-being, the quality of love relationships, physical health, perseverance in the face of difficulty, overall life stress, and finally the key concept of optimism.

The In's of Inner Self Talk

"Talking to yourself" has gotten a bad wrap in our culture. Somehow when we say 'someone is talking to themselves' we think they are crazy or schizophrenic. But that is not at all what I mean here. In order to learn to live a healthier, more balanced, and indeed happier life, you need to develop an understanding of what your inner dialogue sounds like and how to alter its words.

When is self talk occurring? All the time! Driving to work, cutting up cucumbers, brushing your teeth, attempting to exercise, eating that pint of chocolate ice cream, shall I go on? You are reminiscing about the past, you are planning for the future during all of these times. Our thoughts, which is your inner dialogue or self talk, have the qualities of daydreams or fantasies: you think about how a conversation will go, what you will wear, what you should eat, how yesterday went and how today will go, how you can get your way with someone, how things would be easier if you lost 20 pounds, and so forth. You think about that fight with your lover, the frustration you have with your kids, what it would feel like to have a bigger house, and how your life will really start once you graduate or get married.

Tweak Your Self Talk

Now imagine a megaphone attached to your brain and sitting in front of a computer transcribing what you hear. This is the mental imagery I use when I want to become aware of what my inner talk sounds like. This is the mental imagery I need when I want to reframe my thinking from negative to positive. Positive reframing is the tweak that the negative talk needs. This is the first step in the reframing process, mere awareness.

When you use the megaphone imagery it allows you to turn up the volume of your inner talk to first hear what it sounds like. And then with diligent practice you can learn truly to turn down the volume on the negative and turn up the volume on the positive.

Can you find ways to reframe your thinking in more positive ways? Absolutely! I am guessing that the most common and important negative self statement is the one: "I can't handle this (all of this)!" Once you say that to yourself you come to fulfill it. It is hard at first but you can learn to reframe that into "I can handle this!" and when you say that to yourself you start to see more clearly ways in which you actually can. "No matter what happens, good or bad, ugly or pretty, I can handle this, I know I will be okay!" (This relates to another piece I wrote for this website.)

The goal is not to be wholly absent of any negative thinking. That is unrealistic. We are constantly being presented with images of things we do not have, things we cannot do, things we need to do but do not like nor want to do, and so forth. What is realistic, however, is training yourself to think in more positive terms and doing so will absolutely transform your life!

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Copyright © 2009 Dr. Heidi Lepper, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.